FRIDAY MARCH 4
“Hello” – Text message
“Hello” – E-mail
“Hello” – FaceTime
“Hello” – Skype
Within the first two hours of arriving into Abu Dhabi, I attempted every means of communication back home. The overwhelming feeling of walking through the apartment doors and seeing your bedroom is something no one could ever prepare me for. The anticipation of coming, mixed with the emotional goodbyes, and lengthy travel time come to a large peak when you are left in an empty apartment bedroom alone.
. . . Let’s take a step back to the hours leading up to these moments though. Two words that made the 18+ hours of travel manageable : business class.
Having never flown anything more than economy plus before, it was even better than I imagined. Priority lines at security, boarding the plane first, free liquor, great food . . . and most importantly, chairs that fully recline into beds. Although I was not able to sleep from Calgary to Amsterdam (very friendly seat-neighbour), I managed to catch Z’s from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi.
As I was promised, I was taken good care of as soon as I set foot on the plane in YYC. Upon arriving to Abu Dhabi, someone met me (with my name on a sign), took me through immigration (had to do an eye scan), to baggage and onto my transportation to my apartment. I arrived into Abu Dhabi at 8:00PM local time and was inside my apartment by 9:30PM.
So now we pick-up where we left off . . . me sitting in an empty room with three packed suitcases and a bundle of emotions. I was ready to head back to the airport and catch the next departing flight out. Fortunately, my [amazing] support systems and ability to speak with them got me through those first 30 minutes.
I should now mention my incredible, caring and kind roommate, Jes. She is from Canada as well so you already know she’s going to be great – from the East Coast, so even better! If I did not have her, I likely would still be sitting on the edge of my bed crying four days later. The moment she came into my room with a fresh homemade banana muffin offering her ear and her stories, I felt a weight lift from my [tear stained] chest. Knowing that someone else has been exactly where you are sitting and seeing them stand there with positivity is a sure way to know yourself that you CAN do it. I was able to unpack a little and have a freezing cold shower* and sleep about six straight hours (thank you melatonin).
SATURDAY MARCH 5
I woke around 7:00AM and Skype’d home (FaceTime does not work in UAE). Jes invited me out to an island with her friends visiting from Finland (I told you she was nice). Jet lag is a very similar feeling to coming off of a stretch of nights, so although I’ve never experienced jet lag, I recognized the heavy-eyelid, nauseated and tired feeling. The best decision I’ve made so far is going to the beach. Sand, salty air and sunshine will cure nearly anything.
I think the entire day I was still in shock that I actually made it here – the details are a little fuzzy from Saturday (and no I did not have any alcoholic beverages). The day ended with red shoulders, sandy feet and a full belly of homemade dinner.
SUNDAY MARCH 6
First day of work! I promised myself I would be awake with enough time to ensure I would not be late like my first day of college. That being said, nothing ever goes smoothly. On the bus to work (45 minute ride one-way) and realize I’ve forgotten my passport and Visa which need to be submitted for my Emirates ID card. Spoiler alert: it was o.k. The bus dropped myself and several others off at the drop-off spot. My orientation is in a building separate from the hospital, which I did not know at the time. Thankfully, I’m a good observer and followed others dressed like myself. The other orientees in my group all started the week prior, which means I had less material and did not quite know what to do or where to go. Again, thank goodness for kind people . . . although I’m not sure if they just felt sorry for me or actually wanted to help.
The hospital is breathtaking, bigger and shinier than photos.
The grand finale of the first 48 hours was spent grocery shopping. Jes took me to Géant (a lot similar to a super-Walmart or Superstore) and I cried in the aisle when I saw a brand of raspberry jam I recognized.
Most of the malls and grocery stores are attached and heavily air-conditioned for the extreme heat in the summer months. Walking through the mall felt just like home (in an odd way). I walked past a coffee shop with a menu I recognized, and it wasn’t until I saw the green mermaid logo when I realized it was Starbucks (the signage is written in arabic).
It has been a two-day emotional roller-coaster, but with more ups than downs. I have continued to remind myself why I am here and how grateful I am for this opportunity. I have read and re-read all the letters, cards and poems given to me from home as my constant reminder that the people who love me also support me, I know I wouldn’t be here without that. 48 hours down . . . many more to come! [I managed to write this entire post without any tears!]
* More on this later – I will begin to catalogue “Lisa’s blonde moments in Abu Dhabi”
- The city is incredible beautiful, with a mix of history / culture and the newer & bigger & better buildings.
- The driving is wild – still unsure if anyone actually has to pass a road exam to drive (kidding . . . kinda).
- There is a sports centre close to my apartment complex, so gun shots are a regular background noise (the first three shots were a little alarming).