Sunday, December 7, 2014


Dear Friends & Family,

By the time you read this Doug and I will have been living in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) for almost 14 months. As it stands now, we'll be returning to the U.S. sometime in late Spring/early Summer 2015. I have this feeling that once I'm back in Hoboken and unpacked, it will feel like that "dream episode" in the TV series Dallas - as if we'd never been away at all. As if those almost two years in the UAE were all a dream....

It's been an amazing 14 months. In that time we've lived in three places: one downtown apartment for 3 weeks, then an apartment in the 50-story Sama high rise with views of the sparkling Arabian Gulf, and since May 27th in a lovely, bright and spacious apartment on the new NYU Abu Dhabi campus located on Saadiyat Island. Saadiyat Island is being developed as the cultural center/island of the city of Abu Dhabi with the Louvre Abu Dhabi opening in the Fall of 2015, followed by the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Doug was brought in to get IT up and running on the new campus by the move in date of June 1st. Things were not in good shape (understatement) when he arrived, but he and a dedicated team were able to pull it off. There is still much to do with challenges every day, but as I type this  the students are finishing up classes for the first semester on this new campus , so his main mission was accomplished. 

As for me, since I initially thought our stay would be less than a year I had no plans whatsoever to find a job. I wanted my time free to explore. I've never lived overseas before, and I'd traveled only a little, so I wanted to take full advantage of this unexpected and unanticipated situation. After awhile, however, I found myself needing to find a way to fit in, to participate, to be part of the NYUAD community. I wasn't content to just be an observer. Call it luck or being in the right place at the right time or whatever, but a part-time job with the Office of Community Life came my way. For those of you who knew me in Ithaca, the job is pretty much what I did at St. Paul's minus the religion: helping new staff, faculty and their families find their way around Abu Dhabi and their new campus home; making connections between individuals and among families; organizing and running programs, events and tours for all ages. For example we have a weekly Coffee Morning that brings people together at a different cafe every week for casual conversation over breakfast - simple and fun. On the other end of the spectrum, we are in charge of the Annual BBQ which will involve hundreds of people - not so simple but still loads of fun. We also empower and help people to organize their own groups, be it a book club or a dinner club. Most of you will know what a perfect part-time job this is for me. I've met SO many wonderful and interesting people from all over the globe, and I most definitely am involved and participating in the NYUAD Community! 

In spite of our busy-ness, Doug and I made a commitment to travel as much as possible while in this region. Abu Dhabi is centrally located with many fascinating destinations only a (relatively) short flight away. Thus far we've traveled to:

Muscat, Oman - You can drive to Muscat through the Hajar Mountains, but we chose to take the 55 minute flight and maximize the time of our weekend visit. This is one of our very favorite places - more "old Arabia" with low-rise buildings, crenelated rooflines, blue-tiled minarets, and beautiful views of rugged mountains on one side of the long and narrow city and the Gulf of Oman's turquoise waters on the other. The people are warm and friendly, and we plan to go back for another visit before heading home to the US.

Istanbul, Turkey - we went here for 5 days and loved it. The city has thousands of years of history spread out over an area larger than NYC. We stayed in the old section of the city, just below the Blue Mosque and the Hage Sophia. We strolled cobble-stoned streets, sampled lots of Turkish cuisine, shopped (I splurged on a genuine Turkish carpet), visited historic sites and took a boat ride up the Straits of Bosphorus. The highlight, though, was rendezvousing for dinner with our Hoboken friends, Mary Jo and John, who were in the city for a week. 

Spain (Seville, Grenada, and Mallorca) - In June Doug was super busy on the new campus, so I spent two weeks in Spain with my NYC friend, Mary Catherine. We spent a few days in Seville, and then we took the train to Grenada where we toured the breathtaking palace/fort of Alhambra. The second week we flew to Palma on the the Island of Mallorca where we boarded a 50' sailboat and took off for 7 days of sailing around the island. There were ten of us in total on the boat, so we all sailed and cooked in the galley and kept things ship-shape. We sailed about 4-5 hours a day, and then we'd find a small town where we could moor or drop anchor, then we'd explore or go swimming or just hang out. I learned to sail and I didn't get seasick - both huge accomplishments. 

Kathmandu, Nepal - In November I somehow talked Doug into going to Kathmandu for a long weekend. I'd heard this was the best time of year to go, and I was seeking "green" and relief from the hot and humid summer weather of Abu Dhabi. The country is very poor, the city is noisy and dusty and dirty with all manner of people, vehicles, and animals in the streets, but what a fascinating place! We explored Hindu temples including the Monkey Temple (which was home to hundreds of monkeys), Buddhist stupas, and we even drove up into the foothills that overlook the Himalayas. Our driver, Gurga, was charming and friendly and had us laughing. It was a trip unlike any other.

We've also gone on local weekend getaways: 
Qasr al Sarab, the most luxurious, amazing resort we've ever stayed at, located in the Liwa Desert nestled in huge, rust-orange dunes. Breathtaking. 
Bab al Shams, a desert resort located outside of Dubai. Among its many amenities are three pools, all of which have a different temperature. In the UAE you don't heat your pools - you cool them down. Seriously. 
Arabian Nights Village is a very family-friendly place, so my office, Community Life, organized an overnight trip there. We had over 40 people sign up, including young families with babies, which I thought was great. Unlike the other resorts, this place caters to an overnight stay only and offers an Arabic BBQ under the stars with sheisha (water pipes), belly dancing, and oud music. Guests can ride camels, go "dune bashing" in 4x4's or simply relax pool-side. Doug went dune bashing, and I stayed pool-side. 

For me the highlight of 2014 was having our son, Jeff, fly out for a 10-day visit over the Holidays. Instead of buying him "stuff" for Christmas, we gave him Adventures: an all-day trip to the Rub al Khali (the Empty Quarter) where we all went dune bashing, kayaking in the mangroves, a day trip to Dubai (went to the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and explored Old Dubai), visited the Falcon Hospital (fascinating!), toured the Grand Mosque, and walked around the city. It was so much fun exploring the country with him.

I was also thrilled to have my friend, Linda Swanson, fly all the way from San Francisco for a week-long visit at the end of January. It is no small thing to travel that far, so I was beyond happy and grateful that she did this. She is my "birding friend", so of course we had to spend a day birding which we did at the Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary smack in the middle of Dubai at the head of the Dubai Creek. We saw hundreds of birds: flamingos and spoonbills, ducks, herons, cormorants and all manner of shore bird. We saw a marsh harrier, but that sighting was eclipsed when a spotted eagle swooped down and landed amongst some reeds. He stayed put for quite some time, so we were able to get a nice, long look at him (or her). I took Linda all over Abu Dhabi, but her very favorite place was the Falcon Hospital.

More recently Doug's colleague and my friend, Laura, visited from NYU (NYC). Her visit overlapped with a visit from Doug's brother, Bob, so all four of us took a full day to explore Dubai. One day Doug and Bob went to the Formula One races on nearby Yas Island followed by a Who Concert, so Laura and I met up for dinner at Hakasan at the Emirates Palace. That place is amazing!

I've left out a lot, but this is enough to give you an idea of our 14 months in the UAE. If you want more details and lots of photos, you can browse through my other blog entries if you like. 

For Christmas we'll be in Denver at Leah and Jorge's house, and Jeff is flying in as well. I am SO looking forward to being together with "the kids"!  After Christmas Doug and I will return to Hoboken - he'll be staying for just a few days, but I'll linger a few days longer and am hoping to catch up with many of my friends.

Doug and I send you our love and best wishes this Holiday Season, and we hope to see you in person this coming year,

Kathi (scribe) and Doug

Monday, September 15, 2014

Birthing Pains

Marhaba Week has passed, the traditional week of "welcome" for the freshmen, and we're two days in to the second week of classes. Everyone involved with this new campus knew going in that we'd have growing pains. It's a large and complex project, after all. But I don't think anyone anticipated just how rough things would be. We're not having growing pains - we're having full-blown labor pains. With no anesthesia either.

I haven't posted much recently because along with the rest of this campus, I have been busy. I've not been sleeping well. I fall asleep thinking about what happened during the day and what I need to do when I wake up, and then I wake before the alarm goes off and immediately start planning my day. And I'm only dealing with the "fun stuff"!

There are people like Doug who are dealing with operational issues which include such things as getting the A/C to work properly (some spaces are too warm and others are like an ice box); water (pipes have broken around campus causing minor flooding and some damage); and doors seem to randomly lock or unlock (today, for example, I cannot open the refuse room door). These problems will be taken care of over time, of course, but some people are getting a bit cranky. 

Many of the classrooms were not quite ready for day 1. Or day 2 or 3.....  A/V equipment not available or not working; lights that are motion activated, which is a good energy saver but annoying if you're teaching a film class and can't turn them off; and so on. 

Of greatest concern has been the discovery of mold in a number of the faculty and staff residences. Families have been moved to a nearby 5-star resort while their apartments are being checked, cleaned and repaired. Some people have been out of their homes for a few days, but at least one couple I know has been in the hotel for a month, and even though it is a luxury resort and they are very patient people, "it's getting old" as they tell me. So there is a lot of frustration going around. A lot. 

It's interesting to observe everything that is swirling around me. But then again I am not just the Observer anymore, I am part of this. My twice-weekly stint at the OCC desk has put me front and center to hear and deal with people's concerns.  I also sit on the NYUAD Campus Advisory Committee, and boy do I hear a lot there! I chat with people in the campus restaurant, along Broadway (the walk that runs the length of the campus), and at the weekly Community Life Coffee Morning. Everywhere I go people are buzzing with stories about things that aren't going exactly right, from the simple and absurd to the very serious. The tone ranges from apoplectic, to frustrated but hanging in there, to calm and resigned.

And in all these venues I also hear the positive and lots of it. For every person who's staying at the Park Hyatt and tired and upset, there is the person such as Jessica who wrote me yesterday that "it is just what a tired mother needs" and then went on to list housekeeping taken care of, half a dozen roses in the room every 4 days, free gourmet meals, child care, and a lovely beach with turquoise waters. For every person whose classroom is problematic there is a person who speaks with enthusiasm about their students and coursework. 

And of course there are all the feelings that fall in between, which is the majority, and that includes me. 

Some of my best friends roll their eyes at my Pollyanna attitude at times (I will confess she was a childhood heroine, so I take that as a compliment), and yes I am unabashedly positive..... most of the time. Because I choose to be. I don't see anything good that comes out of being cranky and miserable - it's just a downer and solves no problems whatsoever. But even I have had my moments of frustration and just wanting to get away for a bit. Not far away. Just away. Off campus. Off the island. The generators that were promised to go away in June still thrum loudly beneath my windows (and they've multiplied from 3 to 5 since I've been here), and I've had a heckuva time figuring out who-does-what when it comes to my job with Community Life, resulting in my running around in circles and wasting time. So yes, I've had my share of frustrations.

But I AM a positive person, and I do believe that once this campus is fully birthed things will settle down, we'll get down to the business of educating bright young minds, and faculty and staff will settle into their offices and be able to work and then head home afterward to a comfortable apartment just minutes away. The pool will be open, the restaurants and other retail venues will open, the gardens on the High Line will be in bloom, and temperatures will have cooled. Tempers will have cooled. 

I have no photographs for you today. This post isn't about images so much as about emotions. Color them mostly red and orange.

Birthing is painful. It's not easy, and more often than not there are surprises. But the process does come to an end, and then once things have settled and healing takes place (including getting some sleep) then comes the fun part. Then we get to watch what we've birthed begin to grow and learn. And grow and grow and grow. 

Then we'll have some growing pains. But for the moment, friends, we're still in heavy labor at NYUAD. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'VE LOST TRACK OF THE DAYS: Marhaba Week - and the curtain is poised to rise

This morning I don my sunglasses, pop my iPhone in my purse, and head out for a stroll around campus. The first year students are trickling in today, but by tomorrow they will be here in force for Marhaba Week, a week of orientation for them and their parents to this new campus and the city of Abu Dhabi. Marhaba means "welcome" in Arabic. There have been four Marhaba Weeks in NYUAD's short history, but this coming one, which starts Monday, will be the first on the new Saadiyat Island campus. After years of planning and building and no small number of growing pains, THE day is almost here, it feels like the day before Opening Night to me.

I can't help it. It's because of my recent years associated with actors and the stage in NYC that when I think of this experience at NYUAD the metaphor that naturally comes to me is "theatre". For me this beautiful new campus is an enormous stage. The sets are the classrooms, the library, the arts center with its three performance spaces, the research center, the conference center, the dorms, the dining venues and even the Starbucks kiosks (let us not forget them!). The "set designers" and builders have been busy all Summer putting the finishing touches on everything in the residence halls, the administrative offices and the classrooms. Lastly the final props are being put in place: desks and chairs in the classrooms (I can see them through the ground-level windows), banners welcoming the students, plants in entry ways, and even welcome mats. 

Now all we need are the players - the students and faculty - and tomorrow they arrive in force.

I head down the elevator in my apartment building and am ready to go out the front door when I hesitate. I walk over to the Children's Play Room, hold my card key to the lock and enter. Lily, a Director in the Office of the Vice Chancellor, had stopped into IKEA a few times and picked up toys which I'd placed about the room a few weeks ago. I take a few minutes to straighten up and move the little elephant sit-upons so that they look like they are playing with the toys. I don't know if the children will notice when they come in, but it amuses me to add this touch of whimsy to the room.

"What are you waiting for? Come on in!"

"What's happening outside?"

When I open the door to the outside the hot air and humidity envelope me, but my sun glasses do not immediately fog up. Good, the humidity is relatively low today, emphasis on the relatively. I glance at the plexiglass on the light wells protruding from the shrubbery. When Doug and I came home last night from dinner at a local restaurant I observed a crew of workers washing them, and today they do indeed sparkle. 

My apartment building, the West Apartments, is to the right. The entrances to all residences are on the High Line level (shown). Below the walkways and gardens throughout the campus are classrooms, offices and meeting rooms. To bring in natural light to these interior spaces the architects designed light wells such as this one to the left. They are open at the top, so birds fly down to the trees in the courtyards below. A very nice touch in my humble opinion.

I walk along the High Line and come upon workers doing last-minute fixes - tiles lifted on the walkways so they can access electrical cables; off-loading materials into The Campus Center where the future and much-anticipated Markeplace is still under construction. As I stroll along the winding path I admire the plants and shrubs which have matured considerably since I moved in just 2-1/2 months ago. In another lifetime I would have been a Landscape Designer, so I appreciate that the plantings are not just visually attractive but that species were selected to provide a lovely and soothing rustling sound when the breezes blow. And there is always a breeze blowing. The shrubs and trees also attract birds, and I delight in observing small flocks flitting from tree to tree and hopping along on the lawn. 

For some reason the phrase "shimmering in the heat" floats into my consciousness, so I walk until I come to a place where I can peer between the buildings to the city in the distance. Sand and turquoise water separates the campus from downtown Abu Dhabi, and the skyline is blurred in the humid haze. They definitely do not shimmer. I decide "simmer in the heat" is a better phrase for this part of the world, at least during the Summer months.

Several staircases lead down to ground level, and I always opt for these rather than the elevators - part of my stay-in-shape agenda. I step down onto the Central Plaze under towering palms brought here from Egypt. Stands have been placed here with "Marhaba Week" and "Marhaba 2014" on them. I see a small crew washing windows, and a small sidewalk cleaner is busily humming its way along the main entrance.

The main entrance to the campus sweeps up from the street and is flanked by two cascading water features. I am so tempted to put my toes in there, but I am sure the water will be anything but refreshing. I stroll down the walk toward the newly-opened Welcome Center which sports a veritable forest of banners out front. There is no missing it, which is the point. I pull out my iPhone to take a photo and the guard moves to step out of frame. I walk up to him, extend my hand and introduce myself and ask if I can take his picture.  His name is Stephen, and he is happy to tell me about the Welcome Center and his role there. Students are already arriving, he says. 

Stephen in front of the Welcome Center

I walk across the entrance to the new campus bookstore and pull on the door. It is locked, and I am not surprised. I'd hoped for a peek, but I imagine they are scurrying to get the place ready to open this coming week. This book store will be considerably larger than the one on the interim downtown campus, so I am excited to see what it will have to offer. 

I didn't bring any water with me today, so with the heat starting to get to me, I decide to walk to the Campus West Restaurant. I know it is not yet open for lunch, but the Starbucks kiosk operates all day. 

I do love my iced skim mocha, hold the whip.

The campus is still quiet, and it's not yet lunch time, so the West Campus Restaurant is mostly empty. I walk up to the Starbucks kiosk near the front door and order my iced coffee. Over the Summer the barristas have learned to mix the drinks, so in no time it is ready and I plunk down my fourteen dirhams.

14 dirhams ($3.81) will buy you a Starbucks iced mocha. 

I've seen this barrista before, but I've never really chatted with her, so I introduce myself and ask her name. "Memory" she replies. "Memory. I've never heard that name before. It's just beautiful" I say, and her face lights up. The people who work on this campus are so nice and friendly. They come from all over the world, and when asked they love to tell you about their home country and what brings them here. This may sound corny but I think it's really true - I get such a sense of pride from these people. Each in their own way feels like they're part of the team bringing this campus together. To return to my theatre metaphor, they feel that they're part of the ensemble, and they very much are.

I walk out the door and decide to head back to the apartment but not by the most direct route. I walk up a staircase, past some student residences, and through the gardens in front of the West Apartments. A flutter of wings catches my attention, and as I draw closer I see the shiny white patches that identify this small flock as white-cheeked bulbuls. I pull out my iPhone, but I cannot get close enough to take a photo before they flit off. Indian House Sparrows, pigeons, and common mynas are always present, but the bulbuls are a bit more shy. 

I pull open the front door to my lobby and step into the cold. After walking outside it is a shock to come inside. I see a new guard at the front desk, and since I've been on a roll meeting new people on campus I stop, extend my hand, and introduce myself. His name is Collin. I remark that I imagine a lot more people have been passing through the lobby recently as staff returns to campus, and he says yes, but that I am the first person to stop and say hello. He says most people just walk by, and he is so clearly happy that I've stopped and said hello that I resolve to be even more intentional about greeting people, not just here but wherever I am. 

I sit now at my desk and mull over the morning's walk. I feel very calm, much like I do the day before Opening Night. When the work's been done, and the stage is set, then you can take that deep breath and be ready for when the curtain goes up. 

To be continued.....

Saturday, July 12, 2014

DAY TWO HUNDRED FIFTY FOUR - A Quiet Morning "In Command"

It's Saturday morning and I am sitting at a table in the main foyer of the NYU Abu Dhabi Campus Center. Behind me is a large TV monitor which scrolls through campus announcements: the Iftar and Suhoor schedule (the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast and the pre-dawn/pre-fast meal), the IT Walk-In Center hours, and upcoming community events such as tonight's FIFA third place play-off which is being televised in the Conference Center. The table in front of me is full of hand-outs: the shuttle bus schedule, a campus map, a list of resident services and more. The only people out and about appear to be the workmen who get much of their work done in the evening and morning hours before the heat of day. The sun glares outside the full wall of windows in front of me, and the palm tree fronds in the courtyard are dancing in the hot breeze. Beyond the towering palms I see the city skyline. The humidity has not yet set in for the day, but once it does, the skyscrapers will disappear into the haze. 

The OCC table in the Campus Center. Behind the partition is an office with phones.

This is Transition Time for the new campus. There is a summer-long, very orderly schedule for moving offices over from their temporary downtown location in Abu Dhabi out to Saadiyat Island. Residents are moving here at the same time as their offices so that they don't have to manage the commute between downtown and Saadiyat. And while all of this moving and setting up is happening, the workmen continue with the finishing touches to the campus. Daily I see progress being made as I peek through windows and wander through corridors and into rooms. Two days ago I heard water splashing and was delighted to see the falages, the water features on campus that are inspired by traditional Arab irrigation "ditches", were being filled. 

The view from my OCC table as people work on what looks like wiring above the door. You can see the main courtyard beyond. The palms were grown for several years in Egypt before being transported and planted here. 

For the Summer transition time it was felt that NYUAD should have a place to handle questions in person and on the phone because surely there would be questions and lots of them. Everything is new here. Everything. The idea was that many questions could be answered on the spot and the rest would be directed to the people or office that could provide assistance. It was named the Operations Command Center, OCC for short, and volunteers were recruited from the NYUAD staff. And so here I sit in my very official NYU purple polo shirt, neatly embroidered with the new NYUAD logo on the front and the words Operations Command Center on the back. 

But..... it's Saturday morning and it's quiet. Many people are away on vacation - this is the perfect time to leave this hot and humid country for cooler, greener places. And I assume the rest of the people are relaxing at home or have headed out for brunch or shopping. I am supposed to have a second person working with me today, but there was a schedule conflict and she couldn't make it. Just as well. If I have any problems Doug said he'd come down and help me. 

Finally one young woman stops by my desk looking for the Fitness Center. It's upstairs, I tell her and give instructions on how to find it behind the gymnasium. We introduce ourselves and when I learn Brittany moved here just this past week, I offer to share any and all tips I have with regard to settling in and finding things. 

Then Joe appears. He's the consultant-person who designs all the office layouts - a really nice guy.  He needs help geting a taxi. so I call one for him. As I watch him stride down toward the front entrance I cross my fngers that the cab actually finds him. Most cabbies still haven't a clue as to where NYUAD is located, so I am forever giving instructions over the phone. "You're coming from the city, right? Take exit 11 and then bear right. No, I'm not calling from the St. Regis. This is NYUAD. It's new. Go in the opposite direction from the St. Regis and you'll come to a guard booth. Pass by and continue to the front entrance". 

One of the guys from the IT Help Desk walks over and calls me by name. Oh dear, I can't remember his name! He wants to know where the men's prayer room is located. I know the women's is to the left of me around the corner, so I guess the men's prayer room is to my right and around the corner. He heads in that direction, and I tell him to let me know when he returns if he found it because this is something I realize I should know. 

It's quiet again. Across the courtyard I see workers carrying ladders. The only sound is the hum of air conditioning. Two and half hours down and the same yet to go. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

DAY TWO HUNDRED TWENTY SIX - Heading off to Spain!

I am very fortunate in that Doug has no issue with me taking Girl Trips. Not that I think he should, but I have known women over the years who needed "permission" from their husbands to go someplace or whose husbands resented the time they spent with friends and/or family. Doug and I have never had that kind of relationship. We spend most of our time together, but we both think it's healthy and natural that we do some things apart, either on our own or with friends. 

Still, taking a two-week trip to Spain is stretching it! Especially since I'm leaving on our 40th Anniversary.

Here's the thing - we knew in advance that he'd be very busy this Summer getting the NYU Abu Dhabi campus all set for the Fall when students and faculty arrive in force. The campus had a "soft opening" on June 1st, and we're all working out the bugs. The "hard opening" will be at the end of August, and Doug wants to be ready. We knew months ago that our Anniversary Celebration would be delayed till September or even October. 

So when the opportunity came up to meet up with my friend, Mary Catherine, in Spain, Doug could not have been more enthusiastic. "Go, go!" he said. And so I am going. First to Seville and then to Granada for a few days. The final week we depart from Palma, Mallorca, on a 50 foot sail boat with 8 others, and we'll sail around the entire island, mooring at a different port every afternoon so we can explore. 

This is the kind of sailing yacht I'll be on, a 50 ft. Bavaria. I've never done anything like this before! I'm excited and nervous all at the same time. 

I take nothing for granted. Not my family. Not my friends. Not the amazing opportunities that have come my way. I am blessed.  

I shall return in two weeks or so with Tales of Spain!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

DAY TWO HUNDRED TWENTY - On Being a Very Willing Guinea Pig

There was never any question that we would be one of the very first people to live on the new NYUAD campus, and in fact we were the very first. Doug's mission here was to get the campus IT network up and running by the June 1st opening date, so he wanted to be here before people started moving in to be sure that all was working as it was supposed to work. We were to be the IT Guinea Pigs. As it turned out, we (quite willingly) became guinea pigs for much more.

One of the many challenges with this campus is that while it was under construction, no one but the contractors could have access to it. So while you knew that thus-and-such a system or doo-hickey or gadget or appliance or whatever was supposed to be in place, no one actually knew for a fact that it was till they were here and looking at "it" with their own eyes. There was not a lot of time to test things out. Mere days.

While Doug deals with all the campus technology, I have been dealing with the more mundane perhaps, but very important issues of "livability." Just how does one get along on this campus? Where is everything? How do I get to the parking garage from my apartment, for example? Or even more basic, how does one dispose of one's trash????

Our trash chute. Seriously, have you ever seen one like this with all the buttons? 

On our first day here I stepped out in the hallway in search of the trash room, or Refuse Room as it is called here. I opened a door and found this. Now I am used to a simple chute - you pull the handle, drop in your trash, and away it goes - but instead I found this.  I pulled the handle - it wouldn't open. I pushed some buttons (which were NOT labeled at that time), and they lit up but the chute still did not open. Stymied I left my bag on the floor but felt very guilty about it. I also didn't see any bins for recycling and wondered what, if anything, was recycled on campus because it's not universal in this country.

I looked up the email for the Help Desk and sent an inquiry asking about the garbage and recycling. About two hours later Louise, the manager in charge of housekeeping, was at my door with laminated signs in hand. My inquiry prompted her to make signs and labels which she put in each refuse room. In her very strong Irish brogue she explained how the chute works: green is for plastic, white for paper, and black for general refuse. If I have plastic to recycle, I press the white button on the right. A red button remains on while the chute shifts down in the basement somewhere and lines up with the proper bin. When the green light goes on I can open the door and drop down my plastic. Then if I have regular refuse, I press the black button, the red light goes on (door cannot be opened) and about 10 seconds pass while the chute chugs along and aligns with another bin. The green light goes on, I can open the chute, and there you go. Honestly, if Louse hadn't shown me how the thing works, I never would have figured it out, and I am quite sure most other residents would have been equally baffled.

One of my happy discoveries in our new apartment is that it has an excellent quality stacking washer/dryer. The real deal. Not one of those funky combination washerdryer machines like I had in the previous two apartments and which took half a day to do a minuscule load. I got in the habit, out of pure necessity, of taking all my laundry - clothes, sheets, towels - to a local laundry where they did it quickly, brought it right to my door, and it cost very little. Here on the campus I can now do most of my laundry, but I have decided I am done with washing and ironing Doug's shirts and trousers. So I pulled out my handy manual, looked up laundry services, and noted that a pick-up/drop-off service is available or laundry can be dropped off at the convenience store before 5:00 pm daily with a 72-hour turnaround.  

I am being very intentional about doing as much walking as possible these days especially since the campus is a pedestrian campus - no vehicles are allowed. And it's just so pretty out - I love walking and taking in the landscaping and seeing what there is to see. So I pulled out a large plastic bag and loaded in a bunch of Doug's shirts and some of my tops which needed dry cleaning, and off I marched to the temporary Convenience Store. 

I walked in and was greeted by the two, very friendly clerks, but when I presented my bag of laundry I could see their eyes widen. By the glances they exchanged, I just knew. 
"I'm the first person to bring in laundry, right?"
"Yes, Madam," (accent on the second syllable) the young woman replied. Then she shooed her assistant outside so he could call their manager on his cell phone and find out what to do.

The female clerk pulled out an order form which was half in English and half in Arabic, and we scrutinized it together. I could see it was the usual form listing shirts, trousers, t-shirts, skirts, and so on, but it looked like you could have shirts washed and ironed or ironed only..... but it wasn't entirely clear. The clerk also knew nothing about payment - could I pay on the spot if I wanted or only upon pickup? This did not surprise me because when we first went to the campus dining hall, the cashier was clearly learning the ropes as he consulted his chart for every little item. And the people at the little Starbucks kiosks are still learning how to make their drinks. It's a learning experience for everybody on campus, and everybody who is here (well, most everybody....) is being very patient and handling things with good humor. We're all in the same boat together. We figure the goal is to work out the kinks and glitches as much as possible over the Summer so that everything is up and running smoothly by the time the faculty and students arrive in mid-August. 

Finally I wrote down all my contact information and left my bag of laundry with the two clerks. I told them I'd stop by this afternoon and find out the story. I trust by then they will have spoken with their manager and learned how to handle a laundry drop-off. I know some people can be cranky and impatient (I've encountered enough of them in my lifetime!), so I am actually happy to be the first person to bring in laundry. I'm not in a rush - let them learn the ropes with me. I'm sure when the next person comes in bearing laundry, they will handle it quickly and professionally. 

I think for everybody who chose to live on campus over the Summer - and it was a choice - that this is part of the mission, one of the points of  being here. Yes I do get frustrated now and then, but mostly I am having fun trying out things, and seeing how they work. When I chat with the other residents here, we share stories and we laugh. We're all very willing guinea pigs. 

And fussbudget that I am, I think I make a darn good one. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

DAY TWO HUNDRED FIFTEEN - We move into our new apartment on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus

Thursday was moving day. The movers arrived as scheduled at 9:00 a.m., and I had everything except the items in the fridge packed and ready to be loaded onto their truck. I could not get out of this place soon enough! Living in an apartment of boxes is not fun.

Our old apartment at Sama Tower - all is packed and ready to go!

Doug was frantic with meetings and getting all the IT "stuff" ready on campus, so the move was left to me. Once everything was out of the apartment, I got into our little rental Jetta and took off for the campus and what would be my first look at our apartment. You may recall that I'd seen the floor plans but not the actual furnished apartment.

It's kind of funny sometimes how you get an idea in your head and then things turn out completely different from what you expected. Case in point: I envisioned the movers carting over my boxes, dropping them off, and then I'd have all afternoon to myself to unpack in a focused but leisurely fashon. I saw it as a Zen kind of day, actually. But in fact when I walked into the apartment I found a small army of facilities guys making adjustments to the blinds in the windows. Moments later a maintenance worker came in with a step ladder and began patching a small area above the kitchen island. Apparently there had been a leak (repaired), but now the ceiling needed patching and painting. I barely noticed this chaos because to my chagrin I saw NO furniture - not a stick! After the workers left more people started stopping by - the guy in charge of the furniture (it was on its way), a cleaning crew who told me they would provide a complementary cleaning (I told them to wait till the next day when my boxes were unpacked), the guy in charge of the facilities team making sure all was well and who handed me an enormous 3-ring binder with emergency contact numbers, manuals for all the appliances from the fridge to the toaster, and even take-out menus. 

Yet another person dropped by with the Welcome Basket shown above which contained Tide, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, garbage bags, tissue, toilet paper and more. Nice touch. By the end of the day I estimate a good 50 people had breezed in and out of the place. My day was anything but Zen, but it turned out to be fun, exciting, and beyond anything I could have imagined. Everybody was incredibly friendly, welcoming, and they bent over backwards to welcome us and make us feel at home.

Doug and I were literally the first residents on the campus by several days. He wanted us to be his IT guinea pigs so he could be sure the WiFi, phones, and TV were working in the apartments before other people moved in and, well, freaked out.  We turned out to be guinea pigs for the Facilities people too and in a fun way. They wanted us to let them know if we found any issues so they could make corrections in the other units too if needed.

I worked like a crazy person and unpacked almost all my boxes before I hit the proverbial wall. The furniture was delivered and set up, and I made our bed so I could fall into it and sleep. The next day the unpacking was complete. Now I need to decorate - hang pictures, buy accessories like toss pillows, and I definitely need a tree of some sort in my sun room of a living room. 

More pictures will follow when the place is together, but this will give you a sense of our apartment...

In this shot the place is still a mess as I try and figure out where to put things. The new apartment has an open-concept layout as did the Sama apartment, but the cabinetry, the appliances, the finishes, well everything is so much nicer. The quality is excellent, and there is such attention to detail such as under-the-cabinet lighting, and the dishwasher that is faced with a cabinet door so it "disappears".

Doug didn't realize we had a dishwasher till I opened the door and showed him.

Now I've cleaned the place up, and I am standing in the living room with my back to the window. The door on the back wall is our front door, and the double doors to the left open to a small room with a stacking washer/dryer and enough extra space to store things like my vacuum, mops, and step ladder. The cabinetry in all the rooms goes to the ceiling, so I absolutely need that step stool! Out of frame to the left is the hallway which leads to two bedrooms and two full baths.

The view of the kitchen from the hallway. I like the little bookcase on the end of the island. See that thick, white notebook? That's the one with all the appliance manuals and information. And you thought I was exagerrating ;-)

I really need to figure out how to take a better picture of the living room/dining room. Even though the light-filtering shades are pulled down, the light is still strong enough that it back-lights my photo and makes things look dim. Trust me, with all those windows, I have plenty of light! As for this room, I have already purchased a replacement coffee table (yet to be assembled) as Doug hates this one, and I am in search of an area rug. One was provided but it was in shades of brown and black, and I really want something different. I have yet to hang pictures.

Looking down the hallway: the master bedroom with en suite is straight ahead, the guest room/office is on the left, and the second full bath is on the right.

Here's a corner of the master bedroom, and you can see the hand-tied rug I purchased in Istanbul. 

Each bedroom has this desk area, but there are no drawers. It's the one very puzzling omission to the apartments as far as I'm concerned. In any case, I decided to use the smaller desk area in the guest room for my home office space and am using the one in the master bedroom as a vanity. I repurposed the empty gift basket to hold my hair blower and curling iron.

The guest room is almost as large as the master bedroom, but the closet space and desk area are smaller. That is not a problem for me at all. As for the desk, I bought a 2-drawer unit from IKEA which will slip under the counter/writing surface (still needs to be assembled). I bought a small book case as well which I assembled all by myself, and you can see it to the right of the photo.

We have two full baths, each of which is larger than any bathroom we've had ever. The sink and toilet area look the same for both. This is mine (the en suite).

I claimed the en suite because of this. I dearly love to soak and relax at the end of the day. And boy this tub is deep!

Doug's bath (the one off the hallway) has a large shower stall plus a small linen closet. Opposite the linen closet is a very wide and very deep closet where I've stored a whole host of things including our suitcases.

And that's the tour! Like I said, now I need to accessorize and add some character to the place. But it has great bones, and we already feel very comfortable and at home. 

Next time, I'll walk you around the campus......