Month: August 2014

It’s Only A House

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(Warning: Mel, you are sleeping while I write this, so I hope you get my text before reading blogs today.  I’d like to give you proper notice that this post is going to be rough.  If you’re on your way to work soon, just stop.  Read it later.)

Sometimes my ceaseless list-making comes back to bite me.

listA few weeks ago when Dwayne and I were packing up our house and preparing to move, we came across this list.  It was written 5 years ago when were in the process of dreaming about the future with our friends Mel & Jeff.  Longing to create intentional community.  To live side by side, to be a part of each others every day lives, to share a yard and belongings and meals together.  We actually hoped to do this with a number of families, but we couldn’t seem to convince anyone else to join us.  Weird, right?  I guess it sounded a little too close for comfort to most people.  Our culture places such a high value on having our own privacy and personal space, so this arrangement all sounded a little risky.  What if I want to sit on my deck and my neighbour comes outside and wants to talk?  Or what if they just drop by unannounced?  Or what if their kids keep coming over to play?  Doesn’t it all just seem a little too close?  I have to admit, I had moments of reservation myself, because I am a recovering extreme privacy valuer.  I wondered if it would be more than I bargained for, but trusted our vision and knew I was mature enough to deal with bumps in the road.

So we persisted.  We were convinced this was our preferred way to live.  We searched out different options, looking for one we could afford in the right school catchment for our kids.  And in the process of dreaming, I wrote this list.  The list was about a house.  A dream house.  If I could dream big and envision exactly what I want in a house, this is what it would look like.  I was very specific, as you can see.

And amazingly, we found a feasible option, and we built those side-by-side houses.  And boy, did I ever get more than I bargained for.  More, in all the best ways.  If you’ve never really experienced community with another family in this way, it’s hard to fully explain the joys and benefits, but once you’ve lived it, it’s hard to imagine living any other way.  The multiple daily encounters between each of the members of our families.  The hundreds of little parts of each others lives we shared that we wouldn’t have if we’d had to arrange get togethers.  The ease of access our kids had to play with each other, all day, every day.  The back up when we needed an egg, a cup of milk, extra forks, extra chairs, an extra oven, an extra bed.  Sharing a garden and a sandbox and a trampoline.  Having grown up time while the kids sleep in their own beds, without hiring a babysitter.  Never having to mow my own lawn.  Way more than I bargained for.

So, back to the list.  We found it in a folder of brochures and samples and invoices from when we built the house.  Dwayne opened up the folder and asked me what I wanted to do with it, and the grief washed over me.  I read the list and realized it perfectly described the house we were already living in.  The house we had just sold and were packing up.  This house was everything I wanted.  So I cried.  Pretty hard.  And after a couple of minutes of crying I walked out my front door, across our shared front lawns, through Mel’s garage and into her house with just the usual quick knock.  I found her in her kitchen and through my sobs I passed her the list.  I fell onto her bar stool and asked her what on earth I was doing.  I was living in my dream house, so why, oh why would we leave?  With my face down on her kitchen counter, Mel just held me and rubbed my back and let me cry.  I remember she also said something encouraging after a couple of minutes, although I can’t remember now exactly what that was.  Because here’s the thing – the big thing: what I will miss more than the house is that short walk into the arms of my friend.  I didn’t have to plan it.  I didn’t have to call her.  I didn’t have to arrange to drop by or ask her to come over after work.  I took the 15 steps to her house and found her there.  I didn’t usually take those steps to cry.  Most days, I took the steps just to say hi.  Or to show her something funny.  Or because I was unmotivated to work.  Or I was looking for my children and knew where I’d find them.  Or because I figured she’d probably just baked scones and I felt like a snack.  There were plenty of reasons to take those steps, and I took them often.

So yes, I was living in my dream house and I loved it.  Really loved it.  But it’s true, it is just a house.  And although I feel the loss of it, that’s because it’s all tied up with something much bigger.  The loss of shared daily living and shared space with friends.  The loss of the future we thought we were building there.  I find myself grieving the loss of the house right now, because the bottom line is, the thing that made our home so valuable to me, besides who lived in it, was who lived next door.


So, When Are You Guys Leaving?

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leavingI was thinking that I should start wearing a sign around my neck that says, “We don’t know when we leave yet.”  It seems to be the burning question everyone wants to know about these days.  Including ourselves.  Even though there is very little we do know, I thought I’d write an update about where we’re at.

ADEC (Dwayne’s employer) brings over between 700-1000 teachers every year, which, as you can imagine, is a colossal undertaking.  They bring teachers over in waves, provide a week of orientation, then bring over another wave.  In the past there have been 4 waves each year, but we’ve been warned that no two years are the same.  The first wave of teachers just went over this past week and are currently in their orientation sessions and being assigned schools and housing and such.  This is a couple of weeks earlier than previous years, so perhaps things are becoming more streamlined.  Or perhaps the first wave just got lucky.  It’s hard to say.

The next wave of departures is rumored to start August 15th.  There will likely be another wave at the end of August, and if necessary, another in mid-September.  ADEC has no control over this, as they are waiting for each teacher’s visa to be processed by the UAE government.  As they are approved, they are booked on flights.  Teachers go back to work in the UAE on August 24th (that’s a Sunday, which is the first day of their work week) and students go back to school on August 31st.  Ideally, ADEC would love to have all the teachers over there by the time school starts, but I understand this has never happened.  It’s very much a matter of waiting for visa approvals.  All of Dwayne’s visa paperwork was officially submitted in early June- almost exactly 2 months ago.  Word on the street is that visas take 2-3 months to process, so this means we could hear anytime…or a month from now…or longer.  It’s hard to say.

When Dwayne’s visa is approved, he will be emailed a copy of his flight itinerary, at which time he will reply with copies of mine, Josiah’s, and Abby’s passports and ask for us to be added to the itinerary, and we should all be booked together.  We have been told that we may have as little as 48 hours notice of our flight’s departure, so we should be very ready to go, but so far the teachers who have been booked have had between 5-10 days notice.  This may change as the bulk of the teachers will likely go over in the next 2 waves.  It’s hard to say.

When we arrive in Abu Dhabi, ADEC will put us up in a beautiful hotel for orientation and as long as it takes to be assigned to Dwayne’s school and our housing.  Some years, teachers have lived in the hotel for upwards of 2 months.  Some have only waited a couple of weeks.  It’s hard to say.

Abu Dhabi is one of 7 emirates in the UAE (similar to a province or a state).  It is the biggest emirate, and Abu Dhabi city is the capital.  There are, however, other cities in Abu Dhabi and Dwayne could be assigned to a school in any city within the emirate.  The majority of schools are in Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain, which is about 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi.  There are much smaller centers in the western region of Abu Dhabi, but we have been told most teachers with families are placed in either Abu Dhabi or Al Ain.  But, it’s hard to say.

ADEC provides housing for teachers, but the types and locations of housing are endless, and depend a great deal on which city you are placed in.  In downtown Abu Dhabi, we would most likely live in a 3 bedroom apartment in a very busy urban setting.  In the suburbs of Abu Dhabi, we could be in an apartment or perhaps a villa, which is more like a townhouse.  Most housing in Abu Dhabi is newer and swankier.  In Al Ain, we would most likely be in a more spacious villa, with less of the congestion of Abu Dhabi.  Housing in Al Ain is said to be a bit older, but lots and lots of housing is being built every year.  Some apartments and villas have shopping and such nearby, some don’t.  Some have a pool and gym, some don’t.  We could have a tiny space or a huge one.  It’s hard to say.

Dwayne applied for a job as a middle school math teacher.  His interview included a lot of questions about this position, but he has been told that he needs to be flexible, as it’s possible he may teach science or English, and he could be assigned to any grade.  We’ve heard that they need math teachers, so it’s most likely he will get the subject he wants and applied for, but, it’s hard to say.

We sold our house!  I won’t go into the emotions of that right now, but what that means is that one detail in all of this is certain.  We move out on August 18th.  If we have not left the country by that point, we have many gracious friends and family members who have agreed to host us until our departure.

So, here’s a list of some of what we do not know:

  • the date we will leave Canada or how much notice we will have before departure
  • the hotel we will stay in or how long we will stay there
  • the city we will live in
  • the kind of housing we will have or how close we will be to amenities
  • the school Dwayne will be assigned to or the subject and grade he will teach

But here’s a list of what I do know:

  • God has called us to give up everything familiar to go and be his witnesses in a different country
  • God will orchestrate every detail of our lives for his purposes and with our best interests at heart, even if that is through difficulties
  • God is both powerful and good so we can trust him

We made this one decision to follow God’s prompting down this path, and as a result, all the remaining decisions are now out of our hands.  We have control over nothing.  But I have to say, it’s strangely not scary.  It’s actually quite liberating.  I didn’t really have control over my life before.  I was just comfortable, which gives us the illusion of control.  But life can change in an instant.  And I rest in knowing that no matter where I am, my life is in the hands of my faithful God.