Free at Last

I successfully endured a 14 day quarantine with a very bulky watch! After flying to Abu Dhabi, I was given a heavy watch to insure I stayed in my Villa. The laughable thing about these watches is that they did not actually tell the time, despite being numbered as if it could! Luckily, my villa was large with walled off outdoor space as well as decks off the bedrooms. I could chase the sun around my villa quite easily and the weather was perfect in December for opening all the doors and windows to let the outside in.

The watch was placed on my left arm at the airport immediately after getting off the plane. The lines were relatively short for me because I only had a carry-on bag. I have two homes, one in the states and one in Abu Dhabi. I keep each home intact and do not bring my closet everywhere with me when I travel. Having your documents at the ready speeds the process. For this particular trip I needed my passport, my UAE identification card, and a negative PCR Covid test that was taken less than 96 hours before boarding the international flight. My family was allowed to pick me up from the airport and bring me to the Villa. I was also allowed to stay with my family, even though they were also allowed to come and go as usual.

On the 12th day I PCR tested again at the Exhibition Center in Abu Dhabi. This place felt like I imagined Ellis Island would have felt to early immigrants coming to the United States. The lines were long but professionally managed with numbers and callers, as are most things in the UAE. Some of the local Emirates were discouraged by the lines and would voice their disapproval. However, all, and all there were extraordinarily little disruptions to the process. I do not know what the locals were saying to those in charge, but I must assume that things run so smoothly here because of the local involvement. I appreciate that the locals keep everyone on task and well organized. 

Two days later I was allowed to remove my watch with a negative Covid PCR result. This test is sent SMS to your mobile phone. It was the same Ellis Island feel at the Exhibition Center. All chairs placed 2 meters from each other and social distancing as well as masks were required. Several lines at various stations guided me through the process. My test and documents were checked at the first station, at another my watch removed, and the third station registered my UAE Identification ensuring that I had no quarantine violations.

I found humor in that many were joking about how much I would enjoy my freedom as if being released from prison. The relief is real. But I will admit, I was not even sure what I should do first with my new-found freedom. Quite honestly, it has been three days and I have not left the villa. The new Covid world has stepped up the ability to have everything delivered, so I have not really had much of a need yet. My first outing will most likely be to the mall to encounter people yet again!

Online Again

Upon our arrival our kids were transitioning to Gem’s American Academy in person school. The school is beautiful, and the staff is friendly, as well as helpful! The teachers work hard to connect with the kids, and some have a bit of a language barrier if you are an American English-speaking student.

Transitioning to a school out of the country can have its challenges, but when you add Covid on top of it all transitioning becomes even more complicated. Teachers and staff are tested every two weeks and the students were tested upon entry to school. The society at large moves freely to the mall and restaurants with masks and social distancing. At restaurants once you are seated at your table, your mask can be removed. The staff and kids then filter into a school that have more strict guidelines to adhere to, as well as enforce.

At Gems this week, a teacher or staff person has tested positive and all students were moved to online distance learning from home for 14 days. The school itself is new and highly technical already so the transition seemed easier than what I have witnessed in the states. The teachers are more organized and well versed in interaction with their students online at home. Every student was already required to have a laptop and was operating paperless in person at school. Teachers were utilizing the superior technology they were already amazingly comfortable with to bring to online platforms.

Tuition is exceedingly high but is often partially paid or completely paid by the employer here in the UAE. We have six kids, and some have or are currently enrolled in college back in the states. The Gems tuition feels like college tuition. But I must say for the quality of what my kids are receiving as compared to public education, it also feels well worth it.

I am a strong supporter of public education, but our teachers have not been able to keep up with technology in many of our classrooms. Part of the problem is simply the technology is not available for schools struggling to stay funded by the community and keep enrollments up for federal funding. The other issue is training. How can you train and use technology confidently if it isn’t available to practice and use regularly? Covid has forced the issue, at least it did in our little rural community.

As a parent, it becomes a real difficult decision to keep with what feels like a sinking ship by having our kids in public education and on top of that in a rural school that experiences even more difficulty. The technology gap is just too large now to be ignored. Adaption is key! These kids in rural schools are getting caught in the middle; especially for those who are forced because of financial issues to stay in a less technologically equipped system. Outdated technology is not the answer and does little for the rural kids having to compete in the real world with kids who have more advanced technology available and updated consistently.

For expat families, I consider the education a reason to be here. Your kids will have an advantage above the majority of publicly educated kids in the US and even around the world. Education is no longer a memory game for college and testing, it has become a race into teaching your kids how to work and be productive in a technologically advanced world. The world will not wait for your public-school kids to catch up! Education is another example of the UAE doing things right!

Run for the Border

After our family did their two-week quarantine in Dubai as tourists, we were able to cross the border into Abu Dhabi. This required another Covid PCR test with negative results. In this instance we did not have to endure both nasal cavities being swabbed, but just one. Prices for the test vary, so shop around before committing to your existing health provider.

The lines were long at the checkpoint and we had to produce our passport showing when we arrived in the UAE. Also, we needed our Covid results. I do not know what would have happened if our results were positive. Requirements seem to keep changing based on the number of cases. It is possible they would have turned us around and made us go back to Dubai or let us go to our villa in Abu Dhabi to start the fourteen-day quarantine process all over again. Fortunately, the border crossing went smoothly for us at the check point.

Interestingly enough, at the checkpoint only two passengers and a driver are allowed per car. Our family of four had to be in separate cars to cross. In Abu Dhabi itself, we can be in the same car together. However, we must all wear masks in the car, or risk being stopped by police and fined. A single driver does not need to wear a mask while driving.

Within six days of our PCR test to cross the border another test had to be administered, or a five thousand AED fine per person would be assessed on our residency visa (1,361.30 United States Dollars). At this time there are four of us who were facing this requirement.

Keep in mind this is the state of things only at this moment. Requirements are in flux. Yet as is always the case in the UAE, one must certainly adhere to the rules or face being deported and/or fined. This is how the UAE effectively controls their borders.

This time, I didn’t get sick from the Plane

I always get sick from flying, at least it felt like that pre-Covid! However, it has been a week and I am almost afraid to say this out loud. But I did not get sick from the plane!

As much as I hate face masks, I do like all the careful cleaning going on EVERYWHERE! I think I actually feel safer from the nasty little germs that usually plague us this time of year. I tried to comply with all the guidelines despite my personal beliefs and research about the guideline’s effectiveness.

I am sure at some point I will get Covid and probably should get Covid naturally. I trust evolution and I work hard to be healthy with a healthy immune system as a benefit.

If I do get sick, I plan to do what I always do with a flu. Stay home, get plenty of rest and fluids. In the meantime, I am living life without fear of every possible thing around me. I choose to live one moment at a time like I always have, hopefully soon it will be without a mandated mask!

How to Process as a Dependent

There are no homeless in the UAE. To be here beyond a month as a tourist, one needs an official visa. This is something I admire about the UAE! They have more effectively controlled their borders as compared to the States. Stiff fines are administered if one overstays their month as a tourist. There are ways to enjoy a longer stay, but it involves leaving the country and then returning as a tourist with the ability to stay for another month. Travelers insurance is required and makes sense with the concerns of Covid.

We have a lot to learn from the UAE in how they handle their borders and homelessness. Emirate citizens share the wealth of this country and are given homes, health care, and the best jobs. They feel immensely proud of their country. Anyone else who wants to be here must possess a work visa. There is a huge service sector of foreigners who are happy to do the menial work here. They send funds back to family members to places like Thailand, The Philippines, Pakistan, or India.

For our family coming back to the UAE, we are going through the visa process again. Dependent visas are discontinued within six months of not being within country. The process requires that we take current passport pictures from one of the machines found all over the malls here in UAE. These pictures are turned into the Human Resource departments of the hiring companies. The visas are processed through the working person’s visa as dependents (yes, this sounds a bit like the military). This too is another thing the UAE does right, in my opinion. It avoids the straggling family members that slip into our country undocumented.

These dependents are given healthcare by the companies, as its required. A person on a work visa in the UAE must have a residence for their dependents before the dependents can be processed. All very logical solutions to a huge problem in the US. Once documents are gathered, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, and current pictures taken here in the UAE; a health screening is scheduled. Once all has been addressed then an official government issued ID is offered to the dependents.

The process is incredibly efficient and is accomplished in only a few days! At that point one can enjoy all that the UAE and its citizens enjoy. It is a beautiful country that treats their expats very well. Our family is thankful for the opportunity to be an expat in the UAE!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑