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!

A Watched Quarantine

Upon entering the UAE in December, I was Covid tested again right at the airport in Abu Dhabi. Of course, it was negative as I just got one prior to getting on the plane in the States. As an extra precaution I was given a tracking watch and asked to self-quarantine in my Villa for 14 days. Luckily, in our Villa there is plenty of room and a walled courtyard that I can get outside and enjoy the weather.

After the 14 days I will be retested. Then in another three days if my test is negative, I will be allowed to remove the watch. I chose to quarantine in Abu Dhabi because my kids wanted to stay at home verses vacation in Dubai. In Dubai tourists can roam freely during the 14-day quarantine with masks and social distancing.

I feel like I have been Covid tested so often and traveled with others who have also tested, so there was truly little anxiety on my part.

Its good to have a plan to navigate Covid as we navigate the world. Being an expat and traveling is still possible!

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!

Our Favorite Way to Travel Locally

Careem has become our favorite way to get around the UAE. First download the app to your phone from the Google Play Store. You should already have the app preinstalled on your phone. Apps are the preferred way to navigate UAE expat life.

Our family likes Careem because you can earn free rides, the cars are nicer and cleaner than your average taxi, and are heavily managed by their app. Not only can you follow the progress of your trip on the app itself, but you can enter your destination and even change it mid travel. This solves a lot of confusion about your destination that can occur with a language barrier of any given driver.

At pick up, your driver looks for you which is nice. A tip as well as a rating can be given after your trip. All financial exchanges occur by card. During Covid, it is prudent to have as little exchange as possible.

Another nice thing is that your driver can communicate with you directly to clear up any confusion that may be associated with the booked trip. Also, free-wifi is available. Long trips can be used to keep working or communicating with friends and family. The ride is incredibly smooth in the upscale cars.

Enjoy your travel!

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!

Restaurants and Covid

The UAE is like most of the US in that restaurants are hungry for business. The shut down hit the hotel and restaurant industry hard. Take out (or take away as it is referred to in UAE), as well as delivery has been the go-to for most of us. Our family uses Zomato (Picture from Zomato) and Deliveroo most often.

Just like the states it is accepted behavior to wear masks to enter the establishment. Once at the table masks can be removed to enjoy the items served. In some parts of the US, there are maximum allowances of people per table. The UAE is no different and sets guidelines at eight per table. Often sanitizing wipes and or liquid sanitizers are offered at the table. Restrooms are serviced and cleaned well.

Restaurants offer a bit of normalcy for many of us who felt isolated in our homes with only our screens to socialize with others. As a tourist, restaurants and hotels are necessary to travel. The more open, inviting, and accommodating the establishment, the better the experience.

Live music is beginning to make a comeback in the UAE with some restrictions. It may take some time to revive, but live music is a much-missed part of the dining or clubbing experience. Collectively, many of us have learned to appreciate the ability to enjoy hospitality in public and long for those freedoms to return completely unrestricted by Covid. All in all, most Americans will feel comfortable as well as familiar with the new Covid etiquette of dining out in Dubai.

Covid on the Beach

After flying into Dubai, our family is required to quarantine for two weeks before going to our Villa in Abu Dhabi. This is the case even with a negative PCR test that allowed us to get on our flight to enter the UAE. By choosing this option we do not have to wear a tracking device that would keep us confined to our Villa for two weeks.

We have chosen the vacation responsibly option with social distancing and masking in Dubai. An Air BNB was acquired by Jumeriah Beach for the two-week quarantine period. So far this has been a welcome reprieve from the conditions in Washington State in the United States.

Tourists can enjoy the beach without masks. Amazingly, the social distancing is an advantage as families are not fighting for space on a crowded beach. Restaurants and fun tourists’ attractions are open.

The UAE was already an exceptionally clean country. Attendants were at the ready to tidy up, clean and sanitize bathrooms and public places the second one vacated a table or bathroom stall. It was always very impressive to me that so many workers in this country are employed just for sanitation purposes of public space even before Covid. The good news is they have upped their game, if that could have even been possible.

Dubai is open for tourism and they are doing it responsibly! So, come enjoy Dubai as a tourist or to wait out a quarantine. The weather is great this time of year and the water is warm and inviting! The cuisine is the best in the world and your kids can even count on their American standby’s being delivered right to their door.

Our family for one is thankful to begin living an even better version of normal life with the care given towards cleanliness and hygiene! Dubai is waiting for your family!

Covid 19

The world is dealing with a pandemic and traveling is more difficult. Yet, Dubai is open for business again! Yes, you need a Covid 19 test within 96 hours before you board your Emirates flight. But rest assured, it is possible and fairly easy to do!

The test involves a swab that is put up your nose and swirled around while a medical test person counts. It feels a bit like getting water up your nose. Your eyes may tear a bit, but that is the worst of it! One, two, three, until ten and you are done!

Los Angeles offers direct flights and rapid Covid testing. Make sure that it is a PCR test, as that is the only one accepted. Many places give you free tests and they are getting faster at obtaining results.

What happens once you test negative? Its then time to get travelers insurance, as some insurances will not cover Covid once you decide to travel. Dubai requires that you have it.

Get your negative test, your insurance, and come enjoy Dubai! Hotels and restaurants hard hit by the virus are open and ready for your business! It has never been a better time to travel if you want to avoid crowds! Just continue to be careful with social distancing and wash your hands. Like most places, masks are required in public.

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