Archive for the ‘living abroad’ Category

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The Bad Thing About Living Abroad

January 12, 2013

Posted by Kanga.

bright yellow trumpet shaped flowers

The bad thing about living abroad is the transient nature of the expatriate community. One makes friends and then some of them move away, either going back to their home country or to another country. We’ll miss them when we gather with friends at our favorite restaurants. They will miss out on board game tweet ups. We’ll be watching for their cat and baby photos on Facebook. Consolation comes from the fact that we still have friends who have been in country so long that we can count on them staying.

The good thing about this is that we now have friends in multiple countries that we can visit during our vacations.  I wish we had more vacation time.

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Happy at Last!

August 14, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

This is the only form of social media that I am allowed to access at work, so instead of expressing my joy on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, I’m doing it here.

My visa transfer and new employment visa are FINALLY completed. It has been over two months of misery, frustration, and financial precariousness (or is it precariousity? spell check says “no”).

Of course, I may be crowing too soon, since my final paycheck from June has not actually hit the bank account, yet. There is no reason that it shouldn’t, but if there is one thing this whole process has taught me is that there is always room for a catch-22 and it is more “probable” than ‘possible.”

So, again, for any readers looking for “living abroad” advice – NEVER DO A VISA TRANSFER!

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Unnecessary Tree Death

August 1, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

two thick printer manuals

These are the tomes that came with my printer/scanner. Why so thick? Because they are in all the languages listed on the front cover. The instructions contained in the “Getting Started” manual would have fit in a single page, if it had only been in English.

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For the Love of Paperwork

July 29, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

heading of the U.S. attestation document stating to all to whom these presents shall come, greetings

Governments love paperwork, or so it seems. There is no end of forms to fill out and passport photocopies and handwritten log books, etc. The workflow of any organization could be improved 400% by the reduction in unnecessary paperwork.

My advice to anyone embarking on a living/working abroad adventure is to get your documents (marriage certificate, children’s birth certificates, and your college transcripts) “attested” before leaving your country of origin. It is a lengthy process, so start early. It also wouldn’t hurt to get multiple copies of each attested, while you are at it.

For Americans, this involves getting an official copy of the document (from the appropriate state’s vital record department or from your university). This document must then be attested by the Secretary of State for the state in which it is issued and there will be a fee for that. Next, it must be attested by the United States Secretary of State in Washington, D.C., again for a fee. Next, it must be attested by the embassy of the country to which you are moving (in Washington, D.C.), again for a fee. So, if you have done all your living (marrying & birthing) in Washington, D.C., this could be a fairly easy errand involving driving from government office to government office. However, if you married and gave birth in a state 3000 miles away from Washington, D.C., it will be more difficult. Also, if you had the audacity to live, marry, and give birth in multiple states, you are very nearly screwed.

It is possible to do this process by mail, but it will take MONTHS. In fact, the U.S. Department of State warns on its website that the paperwork won’t be processed until 4 weeks after they receive it. Anything received by mail must be irradiated in case it contains bio-hazardous materials (anthrax, etc.).

I recently had to get my college transcripts attested, which I had not done three years ago before leaving the states. To do this via mail was going to take at least 3-4 months. Not viable. So, I went in search of (Googled) paralegal services that might do this for me a bit quicker. A paralegal in Washington state offered to do the state attestation for $250 plus fees & postage. I found a couple of services in Washington, D.C. that do this on a regular basis and were willing to do the complete process for $265 plus postage. They assured me it would only take 2 weeks. We sent it on the 14th and received it on the 28th, so not bad.

Back in 2008 when I had the marriage certificate attested, I didn’t really look at it closely, but now that I’ve gone through this horrendous process again, I actually read the attestation documents.

The marriage certificate is signed by the state registrar. The Oregon Secretary of State then attached a piece of paper which states that the person who signed the marriage certificate is indeed the Registrar of Vital Statistics. It also gives our names and says that the marriage certificate is authenticated. Next, the U.S. Department of State attached a paper which states that the other attached document has the seal of the State of Oregon and is “entitled to full faith and credit.” There’s an asterisk referring to a comment at the bottom of the document “for the contents of the annexed document, the Department assumes no responsibility.” Next, the UAE Embassy turned over the State Department document, affixed a paper stamp, two rubber stamps, and a handwritten signature. One of those rubber stamps states “we certify stamp and signature of US Department of State – not responsible for the contents.”

So, the Registrar of Vital Statistics “signed” the marriage certificate, thereby certifying the contents. (Her signature is printed out, not actually handwritten.) Then, the State certifies the name of the Registrar and that if she signed it, it must be okay. Then the U.S. State Department says, “yep, that’s the seal of the State of Oregon alright.” Followed by the UAE Embassy saying “yep, that’s the US State Department seal/signature alright.”

The university transcripts are a little different. The state attestation was skipped. The transcript is signed by the university’s registrar (again a printed signature, not handwritten) and it has a raised seal impression. This document was then notarized as original by a notary public. Next, the District of Columbia Notary and Authentication Section attached a paper stating that the person who notarized the original is indeed a notary. Then, the U.S. Department of State attached a paper saying “yep, that’s the seal of the District of Columbia, alright.” And, the embassy followed suit with their stamps, etc.

(Governments don’t actually use words like “yep” and “alright,” but you get the idea.)

Considering the amount of fuss, stress, and expense involved, I find these documents rather disappointing. This is just government “make work.” However, one must have these signatures/stamps/seals as was so clearly illustrated recently in the news. A woman gave birth in hospital while her husband was out of the country and because she could not prove that she was married, she went from the hospital straight to detention with her newborn until her husband could produce an attested marriage certificate to get her out.

Seems quite antiquated to be shuffling and rubber stamping these papers in the age of telephones, internet, and comprehensive databases. Couldn’t they just call Big Brother and have him check my dossier?

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The Long Bathroom

July 1, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

We are now the proud renters of the world’s longest bathroom. Okay, probably not, but it is certainly a contender.

long, narrow bathroom, toilet & sink

We had many trials and tribulations in getting our moving arrangements ironed out, but in the nick of time, things fell into place. We still don’t have our new electricity account set up, so further trials may be in store.

If Americans change jobs, first of all, they do not also have to change where they live. They do not have to cancel their phone/internet line a month ahead of time. They do not have to go back to the phone company five times to get a clearance certificate to satisfy their employer. They do not have to give their government id cards to their employer. They do not have to turn in their health insurance cards. They do not have to give their employer money to cover their final electricity bill. They don’t have to cancel or transfer their residence visa. They also don’t have to wait weeks or months for their final paycheck. In fact, if one were to do some of this in America, it could be done with a phone call. Suddenly, I miss America.

American rent is also paid one month at a time. The worst case senario is that you will need first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit. The rent in the UAE is usually paid in one annual lump sum. At best, one can pay in four payments.

So, Americans count your blessings.

On Tuesday, the nick of time, we were able to finalize the apartment and on Wednesday at 8 am the movers came. We had packed up much of our belongings ourselves, but the movers finished packing everything else (including stuff I would have thrown away) and dismantled the furniture and wrapped it in plastic or pads. Once they arrived at our new apartment, they reassembled the furniture. I think is was about 7 pm by the time they finished.

I had left Dubai in the morning with the cats in the car. Oliver vocalized his distress all the way to the car, but settled down during the drive. He again howled horribly during the elevator ride to the new apartment, but once there, went nearly catatonic and didn’t loosen up until after the movers had left. Bert was distressed and wandered around the empty apartment meowing piteously when he wasn’t hiding in the litter box. As I had hoped, once the familiar furniture and belongings arrived and they inspected everything and every room, they have adapted. Oliver is back to his overly vocal self.

white cat laying on floor

As Oliver demonstrates, moving is very tiring.

Now, for those who want the details, we have a 3 bedroom, 3 1/5 bath apartment with a kitchen, living room, two small storage rooms, and a maid’s (cat’s) room. It is a nice layout. More pictures will follow. Perhaps after we get things unpacked and arranged.

kitchen

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R*E*S*P*E*C*T

April 16, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

There is one thing I miss about living in America – a higher percentage of genuine respect for women and lower percentage of misogynists. What brings this on? A brief, but illustrative Twitter exchange. It went like this:

“Joker”: Wives are funny. They don’t have sex with their husbands for weeks and then they want to kill the woman who does. (I don’t follow this guy. It was repeated by someone I do. I usually let this stuff go without reply, but not today.)

Me: Husbands ignore the needs of their wives & then think the lack of sex is the wife’s fault.

“Joker”: its was just a joke.. dont be so serious now 🙂

Me: But it is not a joke.

“Joker”: thousand apologies if i’v hurt ur feelings or so.. but it was purely unintentional

Me: It isn’t about my feelings. But, if you don’t get that your joke isn’t funny, you won’t get what my objection is either.

“Joker”: was just trying to be nice.. but i see there’s no point.. and yes I dont get it.. moreover dont wanna get it.. kappish.. bye

End of transmission.

So, let me recap. He blames men’s infidelity on women’s disinterest in sex. I call him on it by pointing out there is a reason to be disinterested in sex. He doesn’t like being called on it and tells me it is just a joke. But it is not. THEN he “apologizes” by blaming my tender feelings which he did not mean to hurt. (I wish I could record my tone of voice when I type that.) [At this point I took a look at this guy’s profile which states that he “thinks like a woman.” Wow, you gotta be kidding me.] So, yeah, I insulted his intelligence with my next remark by which he gets his feelings hurt and departs in a huff.

Now, what really spurred me to respond in the first place. Stupidity. I really have no tolerance for stupidity.

Twitter exclamations are ephemeral. 140 characters – people may or may not glance at it – people may or may not respond to it – life goes on. Unfortunately, this often results in people saying things that are, or ought to be, socially unacceptable and getting away with it. They may get a reputation for what they say and it might even be considered positive. This sort of thing happens to some extent on American radio and television, but there are laws to keep it from going too far and when it does dipping ratings or outright complaints spur consequences. There is very little law to provide boundaries on the Internet. (I’m talking social, not political. That’s a whole different ball of wax which can result in jail or worse.)

Free speech is a double edged sword. I believe in free speech and I believe in social boundaries. It is a balance.

But, here’s the problem. If stupid things are said repeatedly without reprisal, they become embedded into society. That is how things like female genital mutilation, honor killings, sexual harassment in the workplace, etc.,  came to be and continue today. Words are not really ephemeral and they do have consequences.

ADDENDUM: My proofreading husband warns me that people will read this and assume that our marriage is in trouble. Therefore, I am stating explicitly that none of the above is about our marriage. We are approaching our tenth anniversary and are doing just fine. We happen to enjoy each others company and occasionally finish each other’s sentences.

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A Reminder

November 17, 2009

four men outside a mosqueEvery once in a while I see a scene like this that reminds me that we are living in the Middle East.