Yes, I admit I’ve been procrastinating. For a while I was depending on urges to write and record our stories in the middle east. And then something happened – nothing. Life took on a sense of normality and apart from working and shopping, I didn’t store up good stories for sharing. Then by the time lots of exciting things started happening again, I was already out of the writing routine and somewhat ashamed that my commitment to blogging was shaken.
Now it’s February and we’ve celebrated Christmas in Germany, rang in the New Year in freezing temperatures, and learned a new thing or two about living in Abu Dhabi. My list of topics to write about seems too daunting to tackle, so for now I’ll just tell you about what happened Wednesday afternoon. The experience was ridiculous enough to make me break out the proverbial pen, so I hope my lamenting over lost blog posts hasn’t lost your attention.
To start my Wednesday night story, I’ll go back to November because you should know that’s how long I’ve been waiting to receive my residence documentation. In November we started the long and odious process of submitting paperwork, paying money, and waiting with ticket numbers crumpled in our hands in DMV-like settings. I say “we” but really Dear Husband did the majority of the grunt-work, for which I am ever so grateful. Getting to the good news – a few weeks ago I received my official residence visa, and although it states my occupation as “house wife,” (boo) I’m as happy as a clam that I don’t have to worry about walking across the border any more (ah yes, let me add that to my list of topics to write about: “The Walk to Oman…”). After my visa was issued, I received my Emirates ID. Now we’re all done, right? Well, almost. As a visitor in this country, one is free to rent a car with just a passport and US driver’s license. Once a resident, the UAE driver’s license is required. Right now we taxi everywhere, and while that’s okay, I’d feel much more independent if I could drive around and explore the city on my own. With the expectation that we would at some point want or need a car, we decided to get it over with and obtain our driver’s licenses.
Dear Husband learned that an American driver’s license could simply (ahem, simply?) be transferred to acquire the UAE license. Step 1 – translate the American driver’s license into arabic. Dear Husband had already accomplished this step before I arrived in Abu Dhabi, so I went off to the mall to wait an hour and pay about $35 for the translation. Step 2 – head to the Department of Transport to present all sorts of documentation like copies of IDs and passports and, of course, the paper with our driver’s license information translated into arabic which, by the way, certifies “that the enclosed translation is correction and identical to the original text.” (Italics are mine.) This instills confidence. Step 3 – take a number and wait.
Okay, that’s really all the steps. Next we go to the counter and hand over our stuff. The lady muddles about for a bit and enters some things in the computer. She then confers with a co-worker before turning to us and declaring the translation “no good.” What? Really? What’s wrong with it? (the language barrier was really a problem in this case.) Her: It doesn’t say what car you want.
Us: Oh we don’t want a car right now. We just want the license so that maybe we can get a car in the future.
Her: It has to say what kind of car. Big car. Little car. Truck.
Us: (with very quizzical looks on our faces) We want to be able to drive any car. Or just, you know, a normal car. Like any car on the road.
Her: The paper has to say. This no good. (pointing to our translated copies) Please go see Yosef (pointing to a co-worker)
Him: (reviews our papers) This doesn’t say what kind of car you want.
Us: (frustration mounting) Any car?! Maybe a small car? If it doesn’t say it on the translated paper, it’s because it doesn’t say it on our original driver’s license. Why would an American driver’s license say I can only drive a big car or any sort of specific automobile?
Him: The paper has to say. Go see translation services. That way.
Us: But this is the translated copy. Wouldn’t another translation just say the very same thing?
Him: Please go that way.
Le sigh. Off we go to see someone else. By this point, Dear Husband has figured out that they’ve interpreted the “Class: None, Endorsements: None” on our licenses to mean that we can’t drive any car. He explains this to the translation man and he takes us back to the original counter while he has a chat in arabic. That must have been the issue because they seemed to have resolved something among themselves. We follow the translation man back to this office where he begins typing up new papers, but in the middle of the process, he stands up and excuses himself. Dear Husband peeks at the screen and sees the man had been looking at an arabic Wikipedia site. Not a good sign. However, he returns, types types types, prints and voila! now we have new papers that are certified exact copies of our licenses but actually say something somewhat different since these were okay and the previous ones weren’t. IDK. (Are you confused? At least a little? I hope so because I surely was.) Back we go again to the original counter, and this time we have success although the lady again asked me what kind of car we have. We. Don’t. Have. A. Car. We need a license first. She didn’t really like this answer but continued about her business anyway. The result? Two new shiny licenses. I shouldn’t complain; no eyesight tests or driving tests required!
After all that fun, we decided we still wanted some more and headed to the utility company to get our electricity and water bill account set up. Now, don’t look at me funny. I know we’ve been living here for months, but up until a few days ago, no one told us we needed to have an account or even pay for these things. I won’t drag you through that whole story too, but in a nutshell: we waited, we discovered that one of the papers from Dear Husband’s employer had expired because it was printed in April 2013 (??!!), and we were told to return home, call a phone number, wait 2 days, come back, and try again. We don’t know why, but we do as we’re told! Most of the time.
I don’t have a picture to share with you from that whole experience, so here’s us back in January bundled up in the freezing German weather. I look at this and sympathize with all our American friends back home who have endured this cold, snowy winter!