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Thursday, February 13, 2014


When John finalized the deal with the folks in the UAE, we pretty much thought that he’d be on his way to the Emirates within a week or two. Little did we know that we were just overcoming one of many hurdles ahead for us in order to get to Abu Dhabi.

John started the process with the company he now works with by being interviewed during Ramadan. This is not something I’d particularly recommend to anyone, if for the lone reason that you could bet that the interviewers were hungry and probably slightly crabby. It might be hard, in that case, to make a good impression. What ensued were not only interviews at strange hours, but lots of mis-communication, and non-communication, resulting in John learning that he had an offer on the table by a mere offhanded comment made in passing to the executive recruiter.

When John made the usual inquiries about the status of things with the recruiter, (all the while interviewing and considering other options), the headhunter shared with us a term that, should we get to the UAE, he felt we needed to understand. The term was ‘Inshallah.’

‘Inshallah’ generally means ‘God’s will’ and is used when speaking about future plans and events. The idea behind ‘inshallah’ is a kind of bow to God (or Allah), in that we are all in his hands and whatever his will and plan is for us is what is meant to be. This doesn’t mean you don’t work toward a goal, only that if one succeeds or doesn’t, it’s because it’s part of God’s plan for us.

“What kind of voodoo is your headhunter talking about?” I wanted to ask John. But the reality is that I kind of like the idea behind ‘inshallah,’ it reminded me of my mother who used to sing ‘Que Sera, Sera’ to me whenever I was wanting of something she didn’t have the power to make happen for me herself.  

But once John had a contract in hand, there was the hurdle of security clearance to get over. I’m not entirely clear about how the security clearance process works, but it seems to me like once you have a work opportunity, that’s when the UAE government steps in and begins a thorough vetting process.

Now I’m not for a second criticizing the security/vetting process, because it’s probably a big part of what keeps the Emirates safe for people who come there to work. But the process has very little rhyme or reason in terms of timing. It could take three days. Three weeks… Three months… and in the end it seems the only way to explain the how and if and when one will get their clearance is ‘Inshallah.’

Despite my mom’s crooning of Doris Day songs, I am, in fact, the relatively non-spiritual daughter of two Atheists who has lived in New York City for twenty-five years. This means that when I have a question, I want an answer. Simply, directly, and now.  Not to mention preferably served up with a Starbucks Mochachino to go. But sure, if you want to sprinkle a bit of fairy dust on top or serve it up with some divine intervention, fine. Whatever gets the job done.

And so we waited. A week. Then two. Then three.

And John ever-so respectfully inquired if anything had progressed.

And the response was…


And we waited some more.  Another week. Then two. After awhile the waiting almost feels like unwrapping a Wonka Bar in hopes of finding the golden ticket that would get us inside the doors of some amazing, far-off place or following the yellow brick road and being just outside the city of Oz, looking for a way in.

So I took to the Ex Pat forums which are littered with posts from people all over the globe trying to get their way into the UAE and going through the same, seemingly interminable wait as we did. “I’m coming from Ireland!” “I’m coming from the UK!” “I’m coming from India!” “I’m coming from America!” But they all ask the same question, “How long will it take to get security clearance?

The posters on the forums get an air of desperation about them. Some even give up. "I can't wait any longer," they say. They sign contracts in other places. They hang up their hopes. They go back to the dole. I understand. They are barely holding on to jobs, or they are out of jobs and they just need to get IN, to start working, to start cashing in on all that the UAE offers… this new land of opportunity!

The ones who have made it through, who read the forums and are so kind and giving with their advice say, “Hang in there, mate!” “It takes as long as it takes!” “Be patient. It takes time. No one knows how much." "Don’t try to figure it out.” And yes,


But suddenly, the security clearance came. We thought we were home free. We weren’t.

Because next up, came the ‘visa process.’ A process that was supposed to take three days at the most, but lagged on for John for one week, then two, then three. And when we were both pulling out our hair, not understanding what was going on… what overcame us was a weird kind of semi-paralysis. 

We didn’t know what was going to happen, we didn’t know if this last approval would happen, so we didn’t do much to take care of the business at hand to get ready to go, because we just really didn’t know. And so you carry on, and John started interviewing again, because really, we were getting worried that we were just getting jerked around.

That’s when it suddenly occurred to me that it might be time to test this ‘inshallah’ thing out for myself.

“What if we give this Allah fella a deadline,” I asked.

John’s eyes went wide.

“November First. If it’s God’s will that we do this, then let his will be known to us by November First.”

John shook his head slowly, agreeing. We hadn’t even left US soil and already it felt like we had been through a lot. We needed the Universe to fish, or we needed to cut bait. 

Allah had ten days.

During those ten days, we hiked in the Taconics and enjoyed our house in the country. We watched movies together and hung out with the kittens. And even though we tried not to think about it, we were thinking about it. All. The. Time.

At first, each day that nothing happened was a day closer to me not having to make such big changes in my life. It was one day closer to just being able to go back to the way things were.

But it wasn’t, because here’s the rub: once an opportunity like this presents itself (and I like to say I didn’t choose this, it chose me), it’s very hard to just shrug it off and get on with things. Because if you don’t grab an opportunity like this, there will be ‘what ifs’ and the potential for looking back with regrets. And I can’t live with that. Neither could John.

So as scared as I was (and am), this lifetime New Yorker found that ticking down the days toward keeping things status quo quietly turned into sending hopeful thoughts out there, to the angels, to the universe… and yes, to Allah himself.

“Inshallah,” I said to myself when making the bed in the morning.

“Inshallah,” I said, as I took a shower.

“Inshallah,” I thought, as I laid in bed unable to sleep from the stress and worry of what would happen in the future.

On October 29th, two days before the deadline, John’s visa came through.


When the word came, I don’t really remember if we were jumping up and down about it. I think it was more of a quiet realization… sh*t was really going to change now. Probably not for the worse. Hopefully for the better. Definitely for the different.

On John’s last day before heading out to the UAE, we went for a walk in Fort Tryon Park, located on the Northern tip of Manhattan and home of the famous Rockefeller-built Cloisters  museum. It's a gorgeous spot with views of the Hudson River and while we were there, I took a photo of the trees, in all their glorious peak colors of fall. Taking the photo, I was thinking, “Remember this. Everything changes from here on out.” 

Fast-forward three months and today I went out for a walk, feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of finishing things up, worrying about finding new work for myself, and making money, and our future and of throwing all the pieces of our life up into the air to see where they landed.

It’s a beautiful winter day, and I’m about thirty days away from ending my own limbo… busy breaking down the apartment, closing up my work, getting the cats sorted, making last round visits with friends and family and all the other things you need to do to wind down a life in one place to start a life in a new one.

There, I took this photo… of ice floes on the Hudson and remembered back to that day with John, taken around the same spot.

I took a deep breath and was grateful for the moment, the sun, the crisp air and the beauty. And I thought about how different the views would be, from our very own apartment two blocks from the Corniche with its own totally different yet (strangely) somewhat similar water views: 

I thought how lucky I was, that here I was in one beautiful place and in one month I would be in someplace new, and also beautiful, and exciting with so many adventures ahead...

And I made a wish.


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