Friday, October 8, 2010

A little Q&A

“I'll show you a place, High on a desert plain, Where the streets have no name” – U2

As you can imagine, friends and family have been asking us a lot of questions since we’ve been in the UAE. We haven't always been great at keeping in touch and responding to people’s questions. So, I decided to compile a list of a bunch of the questions that have been answered and post them all together here in one place.

These are just some random questions mixed with some comments and are not in any particular order or organized in any way. They do, however, help paint a picture of some of our experiences and a little bit of what life is like over here.

So a few things here that are against the law:

  • Public displays of affections - you can actually go to jail for kissing
  • Swearing, profanities, insults and all kinds of vulgar language
  • Spreading false news, statements or rumors
  • Taking photos of people - especially photos of women and families - without their permission
  • Spitting
  • Public drunkenness
  • No carrying or doing drugs - punishable by death
  • Begging
  • We were also told never greet anyone or hand somebody something using your left hand - I think that is a cultural thing and not law

Are you comfortable going swimming in your swimming suit?

We can wear our regular swimming clothes in our swimming pool. No one except for the three other families that live in our fourplex can see the pool. If it offends any of them, no one has told us. I've seen three of the other six kids that live here swim in the pool. One little girl always comes out and gets in the pool with us when we are out there. She is always wearing a bikini (from a Muslim family) and we are more modest than that so I'm not really worried about it. Now, we definitely couldn't go for a stroll down the street in our swimming suits or there would be trouble. We have yet to go to a beach but there are many that allow western style swimwear - by the water only of course. You must be covered up walking to and from your car.

Are there restrictions for what you can wear?

As we enter the Mall it feels a little bit like we have stepped onto a BYU campus. There are big TV screens that have signs like "please dress respectfully" and then show pictures of "respectful" clothing. Although, we have seen several people in the malls around here wearing tank tops or short shorts. The mannequins in the store windows could also use some modesty. We have actually been a little bit surprised by some of the skimpy clothing being worn by them.

I’ve heard that PDA’s are outlawed… is that true?

We have seen several couples holding hands - I am guessing we could get away with it in the malls (if we did that kind of thing, right? SMILE). But, kissing would be out of the question.

Do you have church on Sunday?

We have church here on Fridays because that is the Muslims "Holy Day" (not sure what they call it). I don't really know what they do differently on that day from other days. Maybe there is greater attendance at the Mosques for praying on Fridays. We'll have to ask. We actually hear the "call to prayer" during every sacrament meeting. We hear it a lot during the day but for some reason it seems cooler to me to hear it then.

What is your address so we can send you something?

Well, we will not be sharing our address on the blog. But, even if there were not concerns about privacy issues, we still would not be able to. It is strange, but there really are not addresses here like in the U.S. We were wondering about it, and asked…. the response was that if we wanted to receive some type of mail or package, we would need to have it sent to my work, or we would have to go get a PO Box. It makes telling people where you live a little difficult. The streets have numbers, BUT, your street may not be the only one with that number, and there is no organization or reasoning (that I can tell anyway) to the numbering system. Basically we live in villa #3, Mirdif. Good luck with that ;)

So, tell us more about your trip to Oman?

As was mentioned, we had to take a road trip out of the country to Oman to renew our visitor visas (Thank you Hawaii and Idaho for being so difficult to get "official" documents from). We don't have a car yet so we rode with an Iraqi family from Matt's work that also had to renew their visitor visas. They kindly offered to let us ride with them when they found out we needed to go to. We squeezed nine bodies into their seven passenger vehicle and left at 4:30am so that we could get there and back before it got way too hot with that many bodies in the car. It was a fun little adventure for us and we appreciated having Arabic speakers with us even though the guards at the checkpoints could speak some English. Matt and I were laughing later about how we never would have thought we would be traveling through the deserts of the Middle East with an Iraqi man and his children that we don't even know when our country his waging war in his country. They were incredibly nice. I got a big kick out of his five year old girl when I was passing marshmallows all around and before she ate them she stopped and said in her darling British accent "wait, have these got any pig in them? We aren't allowed to eat pig you know."

For those "Lost" fans out there - It was like the full Republican guard manning the Sultanate building...I was even helped by a very large man named Sayid. It was a little intimidating. I was worried if I didn't produce the proper paperwork I might end up being tortured.

Can you read your scriptures in public?

Nobody has told us that we can't. I asked a lady from church and she said that she read her Book of Mormon at the Dentist's Office just the other day as she sat next to a Muslim woman. No one said anything to her

How many children are in the ward?

There are actually more children than we thought there would be. The nursery has about 4 or 5 other kids. The primary probably has 15-20 and the YM/YW probably have about 10-12 total

What kind of currency do they use?

They use the Dirham (bills) Fil (coins). It reminds us a little bit of play money. It doesn't always feel like we are spending actual money when we buy things. That can be a very bad thing.......

How expensive is it to live?

The cost of living seems very similar to Hawaii. Some things are more, some are less. Overall more expensive than the Mainland but about what we were use to in Hawaii. Although everything seems more expensive if you look at the price tags because our brains are thinking in dollars and the price is listed in Dirhams. The exchange rate is 3.67. Matt just bought some hair clippers and they were about 145. It's hard to not think, "Man $145, that's a lot for hair clippers, We are NOT buying those!" In reality they're only about $39.50. I am sure after awhile our brains with automatically think in Dirhams instead
What about groceries, etc?… Depends on what you are buying. Again, most things are similar to Hawaii - although meat, American cheddar cheese and the good kind of ice-cream are much more. A lot depends on the brand and if it is packaged in the UAE or shipped in.

Is your stove gas?

We don't have a stove yet. When we get one it will be gas (I am not excited...NOT a fan of gas stoves). They have two sizes here. Small and big. We will get a big one 90x60 because that is the space allotted in our kitchen (ed: We now have a stove, it is gas, and Yvonne is adjusting very well to it…. from the opinion of my taste buds ;)

Do they have dryers there?

Dryers are not the norm. We don't have one. Most people don't. In our back area we have a clothesline strung up and we also bought a dryer stand. The clothes come off the line as hot as if they had just come out of the dryer. Our washer only has a hookup in the kitchen...that's annoying

Can you get most everything at the grocery store or is it limited?

We can get fresh fruits and vegetables, Flour tortillas are very expensive and only sold in some stores. We haven't tried to buy a lot of things yet seeing that we don't have an oven. But everything we've wanted we've been able to buy. With the exception of applesauce...that is rare. I think eggs can be bought in 12 and 24. I've seen packages but haven't paid attention. We have yet to buy any. I am sure when we do real shopping, we might have a difficult time finding things we are use to. We have a shelf full of Cream of Chicken soup just waiting to be used...I guess we are lucky on that front. Everything is labeled in English and Arabic so we are lucky in that regard to. Cheese is super duper expensive if we buy the good ole cheddar that we are use to but we found a white cheddar from New Zealand that is reasonable and tastes nearly the same.
We've mostly been living off of oatmeal, cereal and sandwiches. We have discovered Arabic bread that is cheap and good. (basically a pita bread)… (ed: we now have a stove and have purchased a lot more, including eggs. As mentioned, we can find about anything we need with the exception of pork products. Things taste a little different and some cost more, but it hasn’t been a problem)

Is church in English?

Yes, church is in English. Every sacrament meeting is actually webcast for the members of our ward that live in other countries like Yemen, Oman etc. We'll have to pass along the link for those of you who can't sleep on a Friday night and our interested in what our church meetings are like. Matt and I were the sacrament speakers this past Friday.

What other languages if any do your ward members speak?

Our ward is about 75% Filipino. So most people speak Tagolog as their native tongue, We also have French speakers, Arabic speakers, Spanish, Portuguese, Some African languages, Urdu etc.

How often do you see your neighbors and do they speak English?

All of our neighbors speak at least some English (In our fourplex, I mean). The kids speak English very well. We see two of the neighbor girls just about everyday when they knock on the door to see if the our girls can play. We see the others as we are coming and going but don't really have a lot of interaction with them other than saying hello. I was just thinking this morning that we should invite each family over after we get some furniture so that we can get to know them.

How do they react to the twins beautiful blondness?

Our girls get a lot of stares and people here have no qualms about coming up and touching your kids - even picking them up. I have had it happen more than once. They don't ask, they don't say anything to me or Matt, they just pick them up . I personally don't like it one bit.

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