What's the Latest?

Well, we're still alive! There is just too much to catch up on that we've been up to over the last year, but here's the gist of what we might include in a super personal up-to-date Christmas letter that we never have done:
We still live in Abu Dhabi.
We spent Christmas here alone in the desert with starry nights, full-moons and camels; so of course it didn't 'feel' like Christmas to us, how ironic is that? Oh well, memories for the girls.
We're having baby number three in April.
We're trying to plan a trip back to Michigan in July.
We've all acclimated by now and wear jackets and long pants in this 85 degree weather and the girls say they're 'cold' all the time. ooooh kids, don't you remember just a couple months ago when it was 125 degrees with 95% humidity?! I'm not looking forward to that again...
I've been super busy with the kIDlets business, as well as numerous non-profit freelance projects for ministries across Abu Dhabi, when I have time (cough, cough) I'll let you know all about them. :)
Ben's job is going well.
Bina is in pre-school and will start kindergarten next September. Her favorite things are anything from 'Frozen', arts and crafts, riding her bike, playing outside and being extra sweet to her new 'baby' in mummy's tummy. She's sensitive and shy, but when she opens up she's a total goofball with a contagious laugh and excitement.
Brielle is my tag-along and is high spirited, outgoing, funny, a complete tom-boy, loves trains and dinosaurs and dressing up in this obnoxious princess dress every day. She's obsessed with necklaces and climbing, well, anything.
That's it from our end!


Q&A Part 1

Here's where I will answer a few questions I've received since moving to the UAE. There are many, so I will do them in parts throughout our journey here, as I'm sure some of the answers will change with time.

Why do you live in Abu Dhabi?
Ben's work with Bechtel transferred us here, they have a job that will last 1-5 years that he has been placed on. I will not be working as it is an entire other painful visa issue for myself without a sponsorship company. My position with Bechtel was completed the day we moved to the UAE. Our working visas expired on the 17th of September in Australia and we left on the 16th, less than 12 hours before being 'kicked out' by immigration, so there was no possible way for us to stay in Australia at this time. Perhaps in the future we will return.

Is it hot all the time?
No, the summer is sticky hot. 110-120 F on average for a few months with 100% humidity coming off the Persian Gulf. However, we are in the middle of winter now, complete with long pants, sweaters and slippers as the evenings begin early and our desert nights bring very very cool air.

Will you see your relatives from Israel often?
No. Israel is not recognized as a nation here, so we will not be seeing Anis in the UAE ever and Allie can come only if she obtains a second passport. We will make plans to visit Jordan with them sometime hopefully next year. Ben and I had a lot of red tape to go through with the US government in order to live/work here and extra/secondary papers and other documents to show we don't travel to Israel. It's complicated.

But...didn't you just travel to Israel?
Yes. We were there the week before we moved to the UAE for Allie and Anis's incredible wedding that took place over 6 days throughout the entire country, more parties than you can imagine, more food than could feed a country, more dancing than any shoe is made for and more love than you can fathom. We left the girls in Australia under the care of numerous friends and came back to sell our entire house in a garage sale the next day, pack a few belongings and wish Brielle a happy birthday by moving into a hotel room and onto a plane to our new home. It was exhausting and I wouldn't recommend it. ;)

Do you follow Sharia law?
Yes and no. I personally don't. The UAE does on paper. I don't have to wear an abaya or cover my hair. I'm not forced to go to Mosque or say any Islamic phrases. My kids don't have to go to Emirate schools, and in fact, can't go. I do have to respect the laws in place: cover my knees/shoulders when in public, no holding hands or kissing Ben, not being drunk in public, not using the 'F' word in public, etc. There are oh-so-many laws, but basically just be moral, modest, polite and respectful and you won't find yourself ending up in jail. Honestly, it's not too hard. Yes there are stories of people going to jail, being flogged or even stoned to death for things like adultery and big crime. It's rare, very rare, but why chance it when you know you're living in a middle eastern country that expects more of expats? There are loads of hotels throughout Abu Dhabi and Dubai that offer day-long buffets including all you can drink and string-bikini private beaches that welcome anyone...so there is still a large party crowd within the expat and tourist areas which is completely legal and expected...just don't go wandering across the street or you might just get yourself into big trouble.

An American was just killed in a mall, aren't you afraid too?
Have you read the news lately? Oh right...while America is oh-so-focused on issues like 'race' and health-care and pro-athletes breaking laws, the rest of the world is still focused on things that really 'ah-hem' matter? Take Isis. They're still a threat. They still drive groups to hate America. America will still fall at their hands because we stopped listening and caring and feel we're so far removed and so far above that we cannot be touched. It's sad and I pray it's not in my lifetime, but this is one lone-wolf attack, while large-scale destruction is being plotted before our government's very nose. No, I'm not afraid. God brought us here. We are supposed to be here for such a time as this, no matter what that means or what that looks like. This is a safe country with wonderful people. I would be more afraid to live in the US right now, ignorance is much more of a threat than knowledge...

Can you drive?
Yes, no problem. However, I could not drive while my visa was being processed, which was delayed due to silly complications. So I did not drive for 8 weeks. This is difficult. This is so difficult with toddlers. This is impossibly difficult with toddlers who are used to driving to playgrounds. This is oober impossibly difficult with toddlers, used to driving, living in an apartment with no walking access to anything except more sand. I have a license, visa and Emirate ID now. Thank God!

Can you celebrate Christmas and other Western/Christian holidays?
Absolutely! The Emirate palace boasts the most expensive Christmas tree in the world, complete with thousands of diamonds hanging on jewelry, watches and other extravagant items on the tree. There were larger Halloween and Christmas sections in the malls and stores than we had in Australia (they even have nativities). There are winter-fests, Christmas markets, and so much festivity around, it's wonderful. However, it's not a public holiday, so that's a bummer, but it's still fun and festive!

Can you go to church?
Yes, we attend a church at a zoo. Church gatherings are legal, but no land can be sold as church property, so churches are held in various places such as schools, parks, theaters, malls, etc. Street evangelism is illegal, but meetings and Bible studies in public places are ok.

That's all for now. Keep asking questions!

Christmas 2014

Tis the season!