I cannot believe we are finally here!
After a spring of excitement, a summer of preparation, and an August of frustration it finally happened — Tony received his marching orders from his recruitment agency. We were driving up to the airport in Detroit for our return flight to Phoenix after a wonderful trip home to see family and celebrate Tony’s cousin’s wedding — an email came through with his work visa and the directive that he would be leaving at 5:30 am the following Sunday — less than 4 days away.
When you’ve been waiting for something, like he’s been waiting for this ticket, the excitement is palpable. Once in the airport, he double checked that the details on his visa were correct and responded as such, also asking his recruiter about next steps for Matteo and I. By the time we landed in Minneapolis for our layover, we knew that we had a choice — Matteo and I could travel with Tony on Sunday and enter the country on 30 day tourist visas, or wait “a month or more…” to be sponsored on Tony’s work visa. We didn’t want to be separated if we could avoid it, so we decided to accept the Sunday flight.
The next few days were a blur. We had the rest of the house to pack — thankfully, it went under contract the last weekend in August with an October 1st close date. We have been preparing for the move for months, shrinking our belongings and getting rid of furniture. That kicked up over the weekend as we trashed, packed, and donated all of our belongings. Many, many thanks to our Arizona family members for their help in this process, and their continued help wrapping things up at the house before its officially sold.
On Saturday night, Tony’s dad Carl drove the three of us to a hotel near the airport so that we could minimize having to getting up any earlier than necessary for our early morning flight. Sunday morning, excitement woke Tony and I ahead of our 3 AM alarm clock and we quickly got ready and were out the door by 3:30. The flights were better than we could have hoped for — and Matteo was a champ. What can I say about flying with a nearly 3 year old on a 13 hour flight? The day will end eventually. That’s important to remember, but honestly, Matteo did better than I did on the flight! He was a champ, and got a good amount of sleep. Tony and I were another story, but like I said, no one was looking forward to the flight.
Once we landed in Abu Dhabi, my anxiety started to increase. All we knew is that someone from he travel agency would meet us and take us to the hotel where we’d be staying. We made it through customs very quickly, had to wait for a little while for all of our bags (but thankfully we have ALL OF OUR bags!), and then found the representatives from Nirvana Travel. They were meeting all of the teachers/admin arriving that day (about 50 total) and quickly gathered all of us and our belongings for the drive to our hotel, the Hilton Capital Grand. We’re not far from the Ritz Carlton, where we stayed on our trip last spring.
Once checked into our room, all we wanted to do was sleep, but we held off as long as we could — which wasn’t very long. Unfortunately that meant we were up most of the night (from 11 until about 5 am) with a chipper, fresh-as-a-daisy-off-of-his-rest-on-the-airplane Matteo. Oh well! That boy was amazing through a hard day of travel, so we couldn’t begrudge him his playtime.
Tony received his itinerary for the week Sunday overnight/Monday morning. It started on Monday morning with an orientation session. Each day this week, he will have orientation — going over things like housing, visa information, medical examination, school culture, etc. He found out today that we can stay in the hotel for up to one month before we need to be in our own place — once we know his school location (should find out tomorrow), we can start the house hunting process.
Thankfully, we’ve already met some helpful, friendly people, including a few Abu Dhabi veterans. Two of the other new administrators in Tony’s orientation group have lived in Abu Dhabi for several years and are making the move from working at private schools in the city. They’ve told Tony some nice areas/neighborhoods to look at, once we know where he’ll be working and can start apartment hunting.
Transitions are hard. I am so incredibly proud of Tony for taking on this challenge with the heart of adventurer. Where I would typically be a nervous mess, he is confident and self assured and that does wonders for me as I trust him to guide us through this next month or so of settling in to life here. We wanted adventure, we wanted change. We got it! Now its time to embrace it, every part of it. Please remind me of that in 3 weeks when I’m sick of washing our clothes in the bathtub!
I promise to write more regularly, now that we are here and I *should* have more time available. Just know that for now, we’re here, we’re happy. We miss our family and friends, but we are so excited for the months ahead as we live out our expat dream.
Love to you all,