Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Come for the ID renewal; stay for the henna!

I spent the morning at two separate branches of the Center of All Bureaucracy, getting Sterling's Emirates ID sorted. UAE National Day is on Tuesday, and I thought that by going today, I would be ahead of any holiday disruptions aside from the days off work we're all getting on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Wow, was I wrong! I walked in the first office and was greeted by an impressive spread of sweets on a long table running the length of the waiting room. There was the national anthem playing in the background. There was red/white/green/black bunting hanging from the "Now Serving Customer Number __" signs. There was an aged man standing at a podium, giving a speech about the UAE. A clerk boy came over to me and Sterling and handed us a bag of UAE swag - a pen, a fridge magnet, and a keychain. Not what I expected from a trip to a government office.

But then, THEN, I had to fulfill the rest of Sterling's ID card business at another government office across town. And that place was in full-on carnival mode: balloons, popcorn, bouncy castles, two people dressed up in oversized Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes, and a clown. A CLOWN. At the UAE's equivalent of the DMV/post office/county clerk's office!

Upstairs in the women's waiting room, they had juice and dates for the customers, and a women's majlis with free henna tattooing. So this morning, while I waited for a woman to process Sterling's ID paperwork, I had both hands henna'd. FOR FREE.

Of course, then there was the part where they wanted to take a headshot of Sterling, who, as you may recall, is 14 months old and cannot be still for a moment because it's against Toddler Code. And there was me with my wet-henna hands, unable to wrangle him to look at the camera at all. But I tried, which is why I have a nice smear of henna brown across part of my left hand's design, and why Sterling has a nice (but faint) smear of henna brown across his cheek. I mean, it was only ever extremely unlikely that he would hold still and look at the camera, but once I had henna all over my hands, it was downright impossible. I ended up going home, retrieving an old passport photo of his, and bringing it in for them to use on the ID card.

And I ate free popcorn while I waited for them to finish.

Putting camping on hold

November 2014 books