You’re Moving Where?

Our life has been a bit crazy since May. In a matter of 5 weeks our whole life kind of flipped on its head. That is when I applied and accepted a job at a new school…in Abu Dhabi UAE.

You read that right…Abu Dhabi. Half way across the world, a 10 hour time difference from home.

Now when we told people we were doing this, the common response was “Where?”

We would go on to explain that it was in the Middle East, on the Arabian Gulf and (this is when everyone understands) only about an hour from Dubai. **Ding! Light bulbs turn on**

We really didn’t know what to expect. I mean you can look at pictures on the internet, read blogs and travel sites, and stare endlessly at a weather app that doesn’t really seem to deviate from 40 degrees this time of year, but until you get here…you just have no idea.

So we packed up all we could carry in 5 suitcases and 2 carry ons, hopped on a plane and arrived in our new home 30 hours later.

On our first day exploring our new neighborhood. It is so sunny and bright here…

I fully expected that I would get here, sit down on the couch in our new apartment and just cry. Thankfully that has not happened yet. We haven’t had a moment where we thought What are we doing? Why did we move here?

Our apartment building

We have been (pleasantly) surprised throughout this whole process.

Let me give you a little taste of life here in sandbox as it is so lovingly referred to:

The people are incredibly kind- We first experienced this as we were leaving the airplane. We were talking with a couple behind us who lived in Abu Dhabi but had spent many years in Calgary. We chatted about what life was like as we were waiting for the plane doors to open. We parted ways and they wished us luck as we settled into our new life.

As we were waiting for our luggage to arrive the husband came over and handed Andrew a business card. “Feel free to call us anytime” he said. “If there is anything we can do to help you settle in to Abu Dhabi, we would be happy to help”

It’s hot here- The weather at this time of year is no joke. It is hot, pretty humid and incredibly sunny. You drink lots of water…which is good because you sweat a great deal. But here is the neat thing- you acclimatize very quickly to the heat. We have only been here 10 days and I really don’t leave the house without a sweater on (for modesty reasons as well as because it is much more comfortable in the ac). I’ve worn pants many days and in our apartment, we’ve had on our hoodies.

The condensation is on the OUTSIDE of the window. Yep…needless to say it was a humid day outside.

I believe I even remarked to Andrew the other morning on our way to catch the school transportation, “That breeze is a little cool today…”

You know you are beginning to get used to the heat when you think 34 degrees is “cool and beautiful”.

Just cause it’s dark doesn’t mean it’s cool- This is one of the most surprising things about Abu Dhabi. Once the sun goes down, my brain equates dark with cool. This is not the case in the UAE because when you walk outside you are hit with (an often more humid) wall of heat. But that doesn’t stop people. They are out in droves after dark to walk, jog, play (and sweat buckets) outside.

Things get started late- This is fascinating to me because I am an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl. But here in Abu Dhabi, things just get going when I am often ready to pack it in for the night. The other evening, we were at the mall and as we were getting ready to leave around 9, things were just starting to get busy (it’s open till midnight…sometimes during special holidays it is open 24hr a day!)

They have everything we have back home- need a new Joe Fresh top? Well you can’t find a Superstore, but you can find the store. They have literally everything! We decorated our house exclusively in IKEA…and had some killer chicken shawarma before we left.

We furnished our place from IKEA and Carrefour. I think the other teachers on the bus thought we were crazy…

Driving is a defensive art- When you drive, you really are taking your life into your hands (or wrapping it thinly in a tin box with zero power and hoping for the best). Driving here is fast and a little crazy. Rules of the road are more like suggestions. And the traffic circles (of which there are many) are just a free for all. I actually said to Andrew yesterday “Maybe it’s better to just stay in the outside lane no matter what exit you need…it seems safer”. On the way to work the other day, someone passed us on an exit ramp…yep just drove right beside us, half in the lane, half on the shoulder. And what is more interesting is that people aren’t passing you looking in your window with an angry face…they are simply just going faster than you, so pass you they will.

You can have ANYTHING delivered- Food from any restaurant, your groceries, laundry. Seriously, if you didn’t want to leave your house ever, you wouldn’t have to.

One of the greatest things about Abu Dhabi is Daiso. I have been to this store more times than I can count since we moved here…Daiso is my weakness…

Since school started it no longer feels like we are just on holidays and we feel like we are settling in to our new routine and reality.  We are so pleased with how this adventure has begun, and we can’t wait to see where it takes us next.

Maui

We visited this beautiful place for the first time 5 years ago.

Now when I travel, I love where I go, but as the holiday comes to a close, I am happy to head home and get back to the day-to-day routine of life.

Maui was the first place where I wished we could stay longer…stay indefinitely actually…it is one of my happy places.

Maui

So I was excited to return and see the island that holds such a special place in my heart.

We arrived early in the morning and did what I think most tourists do in Maui: had a pineapple fritter from Krispy Kreme and waited for Costco to open.

We got our groceries and headed off to our home for a week.

The last time we were in Maui, we stayed in Kihei on the southern part of the island. I swore I would never stay anywhere else unless I could stay in Wailea (I love Wailea…I think I want to retire there…) but budget and time of year just didn’t allow for us to stay there. Instead we stayed on the Northwest side of the island between Kaanapali and Napili. Little did I know that this was a big resort/condo area too and would have lots for us to explore.

Maui

And explore we did! Our days quickly filled up with many activities, old and new.

We visited the blowhole on the northern side of the island.

I love the little sign for this place…this is what most of the signs on the islands look like. Blink twice and you may miss it.

Maui

It was a little hike down, but you got a neat show when you got there!

Maui

We snorkeled Honalua Bay.

Over the years we have come to love snorkeling. (Andrew even more so than I) so when we heard this is where all the tour boats take you, we knew we had to check it out. It was only a 15 minute drive from where we were staying so we went numerous times.

Maui

This is not a great beach place (as it is all rocks) but if you love to snorkel, you will be rewarded with beautiful corral, tons of fish and even some turtles.

We visited the Kihei/Wailea area.

I think this is where I am most happiest on the island. In particular, I think I could spend my whole week just at Wailea beach. It is a busier beach because it is right in front of many hotels, but the sand is soft, the water is (relatively calm) and there is lots of great snorkeling right off the beach. A perfect marriage of all the things we love. In fact, while Andrew was out snorkeling one morning I was in the water and was greeted by a cute little turtle who popped his head up to say hi as he swam by. Does it get any better? I don’t think so folks.

Maui

We drove the road to Hana.

Some people say this is only something you need to do once when you visit Maui, but the road to Hana offers some incredible views and breathtaking scenery if you are willing to put in the time. Prepare yourself- it is a long day in the car (I think we spent 6-7 hours driving) but you will see something completely different from the rest of the island. Beautiful greenery and stunning waterfalls around every turn (and there are LOTS of turns…hairpin…single lane bridges…it’s not for the faint of heart or easily carsick. I must ride in the front seat and Andrew has to promise to not take the corners too fast)

Maui

When you finally reach Hana, you can drive a little farther to the state park and see the 7 sacred pools. The day we went, the pools were closed for swimming so we didn’t stick around, but they were pretty to see and we didn’t get all the way last time (funny…3 small children did not want to be in the car for more than 5 hours. I distinctly remember a conversation with the youngest in the back of the rental car. “Can we go home?” he pleaded “Just look out the window buddy…it is so beautiful” I responded. “It’s not THAT beautiful, Auntie Melissa!” was his quick response)

Maui

We went to the summit of Haleakala.

Haleakala is the inactive volcano that sits in the middle-ish part of Maui.

The sunrise at Haleakala is world renowned. Now because we were about 2 hours from the summit we decided that getting up and driving at 3am was probably not something we were going to do….but we did get a chance to drive up our last day and look around.

Maui

Though it was cloudy, I can imagine that on a clear day, the views from 10,000 feet up would be absolutely breathtaking.

We walked around, took in what we could and enjoyed the long drive up and down the volcano.

Maui

If you are in Maui and planning to go to Haleakala, make sure you are prepared for the weather. We had on our sweaters and jackets for part of the time and at one point driving up the wipers could not even keep up with the rain. I’ve heard that the sunrises and sunsets can be particularly chilly so make sure you have what you need.

We had numerous beach days.

Maui

You cannot go wrong with a beach day in Maui. A few of our favorites are Wailea beach, Black Rock beach and Charlie Young beach. On our last day we drove through Kapalua and wished we had more time to explore that beautiful area too.

We ate at one of our favorite spots.

Coconuts Fish Cafe in Kihei is one of our favorite restaurants. Their fish tacos are amazing! They are messy and flavorful and filling. I made the mistake of thinking I could eat a whole order (2 tacos) and french fries…

Maui

Needless to say Andrew had to help me finish my tacos and we left quite a pile of fries when we rolled ourselves out of there.

We sussed out our favorite new treat.

In Kauai, Andrew happened upon this delicious treat called a malasada.

Malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts filled with custard and rolled in sugar. Basically the most wonderful fried thing you can get.

Maui

Every since that first malasada it was our mission to find more.

I researched and researched and finally found a little cafe in Kihei that makes malasadas. The Home Maid Cafe, a little dive-y restaurant, fresh fries their malasadas to order and they were incredibly delicious. Maybe I’ll have to try to recreate these at home…or find a place where we can buy them.

Unfortunately our week ended and we had to come home…after 3 weeks away you kind of get used to the ocean and beach as a part of your everyday life.

I guess we can’t be on holidays forever…though I did consider it for a while.

Now to get ready to go back to work.