Archive for the ‘service’ Category



May 4, 2009

Friday we went to the theatre to see XMen Origins: Wolverine. This was my first theatre experience here. Daddybird went to see The Watchmen, but I boycotted due to the fact that it had been substantially censored and I want to see the original as intended enough to wait until we get back to the States this summer or it comes out on DVD. But, I digress.

The theatre experience was quite pleasant. The seating is assigned when you buy your ticket, not general seating. So, we got the aisle seats in the third row, which sounds like it would be too close, but they don’t put seats right up to the screen like the theatres in the States. It was actually just right.

The corker is that the concessions don’t cost more than the tickets, as in the States. We got a large popcorn, water and a large Pepsi for less than the price of one ticket.

We, of course, stayed until the end of the credits, because we know there is usually a little extra, often important, scene at the end of the credits in these types of movies. I disdain all those who complained about Prof. X being killed in the last movie, because I know they didn’t have the good sense to stay to the end of the credits. This time the scene wasn’t very revealing or surprising, but it did open the possibility of a sequel set in Japan and involving Deathstrike, perhaps??? (Those of you who are not fans are probably not even remotely interested.)

As we left the room, I noticed that there were six men cleaning. It wasn’t that big of a room, but that is what cheap labor will get you.

It was nice to once again celebrate our anniversary with an XMen movie. They really should time them so there is one every year the first weekend in May, just for us.


The best part of yesterday

January 30, 2009

Before we moved here, we decided that we were going to be big tippers because the service industry workers here don’t make very big salaries and we want to spread the wealth around. (When the standard tip is about $0.55, it’s not hard to be a big tipper.) I usually leave the decision of how much to tip to Paul and sometimes he is a VERY big tipper.

Paul’s favorite restaurant is Aroos Damascus, a Syrian restaurant a few blocks from our apartment. We have eaten there together about four times. Now, the waiters see Paul coming and herd him into their sections. There is a main waiter who takes the order and oversees the section and there are assistant waiters who bring the dishes, food, bread, etc. Our assistant waiter brought out the usual plates, silverware, bottle of water and plastic cups. Our head waiter saw this and told him to bring out glass glasses. No plastic for us. I looked around at the other tables to see if glass glasses were the new policy. No, everyone else had plastic cups.

It was a moist night (there was dew on our car when we got back to it – weird) and I was having trouble with the salt shaker because it had gathered moisture and the salt wasn’t coming out. I tried to solve this problem inconspicuously, but that was impossible, so the waiter saw what was happening and brought me salt from another table (which had the same problem unfortunately).

The bread is pocket bread baked fresh on the premises and the bread they were bringing us was almost too hot to eat. It was literally right out of the oven. At one point, our bread waiter collected the “old” bread from our basket and put in fresh hot bread even though the “old” bread had been there about 3 minutes.

They clucked over us and saw to our every need. When Paul’s meat entre arrived, the head waiter set it down with a flourish and said “Special, for my friend!”

A little good will goes a long way, especially in the Arab culture. Diplomats could learn from this.

We basked in the v.i.p. treatment then tipped big and went home.


Continuing difficulty adjusting

January 26, 2009

Let me start with another [contrite hanging of the head] confession. We shopped at IKEA last night. In my defense, let me say that it is often difficult to find what we need at all, let alone at a reasonable price. We even found something close to drapery hooks which we have been seeking since we moved in. We bought a mess of kitchenware. Up ’til now we had been getting by with a couple of malmac plates and some cheapo silverware. We also bought two office chairs.

When we moved in here we inherited a few leftovers from the previous tenant including 4 plastic patio chairs that had been out on the balcony all summer long baking in the sun. This made them brittle, so two of the chairs quickly shattered (while we were sitting in them) and we have been babying the other two as Paul sits at his computer and I do my sewing. Knowing that they might shatter at any moment motivated us to look for something better. We resorted to IKEA only after looking in a store that was exclusively chairs and finding that the price was thousands of dirhams. They were nice chairs, but really!

So, on our way out of the store, I was pushing the cart full of kitchen stuff and Paul was pushing the cart with the two chairs (in boxes). An IKEA employee whose job it is to hang out in the parking garage and help customers like us offered to take the cart for Paul, who being an independent American said “No thanks, I’ve got it.” The man did not accept this and followed us reaching for the cart handle until Paul gave in. He then helped us put our stuff in the car and we thanked him.

We get home, where we have basement parking, and now have the challenge of how are we going to get all this stuff up to the 8th floor? So, we take what we can carry for the first load and head up. I pulled my suitcase wheel thingy out of the closet and suggest that will be useful to bring up the chair boxes. Paul takes it and heads down to the security/reception desk on the ground floor where they have a grocery cart that we’ve seen others use to bring up groceries, etc. Paul asks if he can use it. The man asks “downstairs?” Paul says “yes.” The man asks if he should help. Paul politely declines. The man says “Respect me, sir.” … How can one not accept his help after that.

Being from America where everyone is supposed to pull their own weight (bootstraps, or whatever), clean up after themselves and make their own way, it is difficult for us to make the shift to a culture where letting someone do our manual labor is respectful. Service jobs are anything, but respected back home. These people take pride in toting someone’s groceries. It beats what they come from, which makes me shudder to think what they come from.

It’s a whole different world.


Living the Travel Channel – Residency visas

September 9, 2008

After very annoying and troublesome additional medical falderall, I received my residency visa. Almost in the knick of time, since for the first 30 days we were on temporary visas and those were about to run out. As of this writing, however, Paul’s remains a question. We have all the necessary paperwork, except the duly processed marriage certificate. Now, by duly processed, I mean a legal document obtained from the Oregon office of vital records, then sent to Salem to be authenticated by the Oregon State Dept., then sent to Washington DC to be authenticated by the US State Dept and then sent to the UAE Embassy in also in Washington DC for the final authentication. You can imagine that this process takes a while. Unfortunately, I do not know exactly where in this process my certificate it, but I know it ain’t here. So, hopefully, the director of immigration will take pity on my situation and sign my application to sponsor Paul’s visa anyway. I suspect that the plan B is to send Paul out of the country for a day (to Oman) and back in with a new 30 visitor’s visa. Hopefully, this will turn out to be another tempest in a teapot.

(Post script – we met the deadline and Paul can stay in country, however there is more to the process. Paul has to go through the medical exam process and then he should get his residency visa following that.)

In order to get a residency visa, you have to be sponsored by someone, either an employer or family member. Hence, the college sponsors me and I sponsor Paul. Seems like a reasonable way to control immigration, otherwise everyone would be coming here! However, it sets up some employment problems, because so many of those who do manual or blue collar labor are dependent on their employers in order to stay here. If you don’t like your job, you can’t just quit and get a new one. It also opens the door to blatant exploitation of those lower level workers. Many of them work 12 hour shifts 6-7 days a week for what we would consider low wages (better than what they could get in their home country, which is why they put up with it).

The thing that is probably most uncomfortable for us here, is being waited on. It’s one thing to have busboys in a sit down restaurant, but they have them here in mall food courts. People look at you strangely if you bus your own table. Also, even the juice kiosk in the mall has a seating area and they may take your order at the counter (if you don’t have the good sense to sit down first) and then you are expected to sit down and be waited on. There is a security guard in the entrance to our building. He is actually more than that, sort of a manager as well, although he wears a blue uniform. Whenever we come in from the store carrying bags, he offers to help us by carrying the bags up to our apartment. We always refuse and thank him for the offer. We are so used to being self-sufficient Americans, that the offer still surprises us. The people in
service type jobs also seem very eager to serve and a little put out if you don’t let them. They differ from the surly American busboy who would much rather be doing something else, somewhere else. The American idea that anyone can be president, a star, rich, etc., makes a service job a negative thing. I don’t know enough about the cultures of the people in service jobs here to know how deep their positive attitude goes. Are they eager to please because they are genuinely eager to please or only because it is the demand of the job.

On days when I have to take a taxi home from work, I wait in the lobby of the college administration building. It is large round area with granite flooring. And, regular as clockwork, there is a man mopping that floor (apparently everyday) at 5:30 pm, whether it needs to be mopped or not. When he comes by where I am sitting, I raise my feet so that he can mop under them and this seems to amuse him. He may very well be saying to himself “crazy American.” Who knows.