I made it! I am now writing to you from my apartment in Abu Dhabi!
It’s been an interesting few days, as you might imagine, but (knock on wood) no major problems have arisen so far. The flight was long and boring, and Delta/Northwest has absolutely horrid international service. Compared to other long-haul flights I’ve taken on Lufthansa, Emirates, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, and Korean Airlines, it was just substandard all around; poor food, service, and entertainment options. KLM from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi was somewhat better, but not particularly good either.
I went through immigration and customs without issue, even though I don’t have a work visa yet and had to enter on a tourist visa. The only problem I had in this section of the journey was that one of my big duffel bags was going around the carousel with the zipper open and one of my bras hanging out! Fortunately nothing seemed to be missing, although those duffel bags were certainly cheap for a reason–I doubt I will be able to use them again after just this one trip.
One of the high school assistant principals was there to pick us up at the airport–me and two other Americans who will teach at AISA, Chandra and Wes, arrived on the same flight from Amsterdam (their blog, if you want to read about it from their perspective, is http://thepikespublished.blogspot.com). We all walked out together into the oven-like heat; it was around 8pm but probably degrees and very humid. Then we drove off to the apartments.
I was given an envelope containing, among other things, a key to my apartment and my 2000 Dhs (around $) settling-in allowance. They helped me with all my stuff up to the apartment, which is definitely nothing fancy. I posted photos on Facebook at http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=&id=&l=aaac so you can see for yourself. On my bed there was a large bag containing one small towel, a set of sheets, a blanket, some hand soap, and a few snacks and drinks.
I do have a flatmate, Bronwyn, but she was out of town when I arrived. It’s good though that I have one and that she has been here several years, because except for my room and bathroom everything was already set up, including internet access, which of course was one of the first things I used. My room and bathroom were filthy (mostly just dust, and lots of it, because they hadn’t been used for some time) but the rest of the place is fine but by no means luxurious. There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living/dining area, plus a small balcony which has the washing machine (which doesn’t work very well).
Since then I have met Bronwyn (aka Bronny) and she seems great, I think we are going to get along very well. She is from New Zealand and has been teaching here for years. Other things I have accomplished in the last couple of days are locating the Khalidiya Mall, which is literally a -minute walk from my place and has almost every store you could want; buying a SIM card so that I can make and receive cell phone calls here; purchasing a shower curtain and some pretty, dark red towels which I later realized are going to need several runs through the wash before I can be confident they won’t get red dye all over me after a shower; getting Skype working on my computer and calling home on it (much to my mom’s surprise); and finding a couple of stores that actually seem to carry clothing in my size! I am pleased about that because it is often difficult to find plus sizes outside the US, and I’m relieved that I will not be stuck with just the clothes I brought for the next year.
School doesn’t start until August 31, and new teachers’ orientation doesn’t begin until Tuesday the 18th. I’m glad I asked to arrive a few days early, because this way I’ve had a little time to recover from jet lag and get my bearings before plunging into the organized activities.
By the way, they have Diet Coke here, and it’s cheaper than at home at a little over $ for a dozen roughly -ounce cans. I think Abu Dhabi and I are going to get along just fine!