Thursday, March 20, 2014

Housing At Last

So moving here to the UAE means constant moving and living out of a suitcase for months.  You have to pack up your home and be ready at a moment's notice. For many, including myself, this meant living with family members, at hotels or a combination of both even before you leave your home country. Once you arrive you are sent to live in a hotel in Abu Dhabi since this is where everyone's journey begins.

My group was placed at the Ibis:

It was just okay for me.  The biggest issue was the super small rooms and the distance from everything. This meant that people who were from a whole different countrry had to spend loads of cabfare whenever they wanted to get out and eat, shop or just do basic things.  I was actually glad when I received my placement in Al Ain since it meant I got moved to the Hilton, which was much more comfortable.

It had a great pool area, great food and great service.  But for me hotel living gets old after awhile. I needed to feel settled and was anxious about housing.  I was advised to head down to ADEC and inquire about my housing options early, especially since my school is a bit outside of town. I had the greatest housing counselor I could've asked for. I practically stalked him into a placement.  I was extremely nice about it but I inquired several times a week.  I think he basically got sick of me and just handed me a key.  I still owe him a gift because I ended up just where I wanted to be; The Hili Complex.

Here's a picture of it:

Some people don't like the massive size of it and I've heard it compared to a housing project. Those people have clearly never spent time in a real housing project.  I'm from Chicago and spent many summers in housing projects where most of my family lived including my since passed on, favorite auntie Sharon and my grandmother, "madear". Those were some of the happiest days of my life but there is no comparison here. People's perceptions are their own, rightfully. I am thrilled with my new home!

First off, it's HUGE.  My husband and I have an extremely spacious 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment, a full kitchen and a living room that's large enough to function as a dining room too.  It's super-clean and relatively quiet so far.  Some people complain about the children playing on the playground but I love the sound of children laughing so it doesn't bother me a bit. Maintenance issues have been handled with lightning speed. There's a ton of other teachers and foreign expatriates living here and we're literally about 3 minutes (walking)  from a new mall being built, a grocery store and a ton of shops which I have yet to explore since I got sick a few days after moving here (that's another blog post; yes, I got pneumonia).   We're also in walking distance of the Rotana Hotel which has a fabulous gym, swimming pool as well as a sauna, jacuzzi and other amentities for club members.  Pics and video of the new place coming soon.

In the meanwhile,  here are some things you need to know about the housing process if you are considering coming here:

  • You will be frustrated at times. This is inevitable. You are in a new country and they do things differently here.  I darned near had a public meltdown trying to get my electricity turned on without my Emirates ID and I am NOT the type to meltdown.  If you do not look like this at least once during this process you're either very lucky or have the patience of a saint:
  • There is a deposit you must pay to get your utilities turned on. I hear they vary, but mine was 1000 dirhams just for the electricity.
  • You will have 5 days from the time you get your key (or your furniture allowance), whichever comes later to vacate the hotel; I jokingly called this the eviction notice because it sorta feels that way at the time. This is not a lot of time considering you have to check the new place for maintenance issues, take care of utilities and get basic furnishing and comforts of home.

  • Move-in condition means something different here; it simply means the place is vacant. More than likely you will have to pay to have it cleaned thoroughly and possibly painted depending on where you are placed (all within 5 days).
  • Start scouting out furniture and appliances early!  Yes, the hotel makes you feel like you're on vacation, but you will go into stress overdrive once you get your keys if you are not prepared.   Have some furniture picked out and start picking up little things for your place while you are the hotel.  That way, when you get your keys, you just need to make some phone calls and arrange some deliveries while you're working on utilities and everything else involved with getting settled.
  • Check out Dubizzle the various Swap-and-Shop groups and used furniture stores if you don't want to spend your entire furniture allowance.  We bought an entire bedroom set, as well as a gently used washer and a huge wardrobe using a combination of these sites and word of mouth. We decided to buy the rest of the appliances new and found great deals at Lulu's on refrigerators and ovens.  Carrefoure has many household items that don't break the bank as well. 
  • Remember, everything doesn't have to be perfect when you move-in initially. Get your utilities on, make sure you have the basics and get out of the hotel. If you absolutely cannot get out within the 5 days, kindly ask for an extension. Be succinct, explain why and give an estimate of when you can get out reasonably. I asked for an extension but only asked for 2-3 more days. I sent this to EMT support as well as popped by ADEC offices just to plead my case. Extension granted. No problem. 

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