Some Things Changed, Most Things Remain — Navigating transitions in the UAE

We have relocated to Abu Dhabi, UAE, in the middle of October.

After the first month of living in a junior suite in Grand Millennium Hotel, our family of four have finally moved to our new apartment in downtown Abu Dhabi last week.

Needless to say, how thankful I was for the first month’s hotel living that included three meals, laundry service, swimming pool and spa, all sponsored by my husband’s new company. The staff there were very kind and helpful. That junior suite was the softest cushion for us to land on this tropical country for the first time.

Our 4-year-old started school about two weeks after we arrived. It was a good idea to have begun the school registration process while we were still in Geneva. Caleb loves school but is always exhausted after picking him up at about 2:40 pm. Napping in the 17 mins taxi back home has become his new routine.

It took us about two weeks to find this apartment. We started with an agent we found online and visited about 15 flats and houses with him. But none of them felt right. The more we saw, the clearer we knew what was required of the new home with our budget. We wanted a master bedroom, a guest room, a kids’ room and an office. We wanted a clean and relatively new apartment, close to a mall to avoid the heat in the scorching summer, and excellent security and maintenance.

The apartment we chose has all that we looked for, plus some bonus surprises— 7 mins walk away from a great park with a playground and a beautiful artificial lake. It’s about 20 mins walk to the beach.

And, how big is our new home? If you remember our Geneva apartment, this one is over four times bigger. Yup.

The change of my husband’s job has increased our living budget. Now we could afford furniture that is not Ikea or second hand, though I don’t mind either. It feels nice to have more options. When the leather sofa from West Elm arrived and was placed on a beige carpet in the living room, I felt like I was living in a dream. I have never dreamed of having a brand new leather sofa before.

The truth is, I’ve never dreamed of living in a grand apartment in the UAE one day. It will take a while for me to get used to it if I ever get used to it. It’s quite a walk from the living room to the master bedroom. More often, I run when the kids need me.

I was greeted by the gentle morning sunshine the first time I sat in my green velvet armchair before my height adjustable desk in my office with tears of gratitude. I couldn’t believe that I finally had a space with a door to do the work I love ( though I haven’t quite got the time yet).

We are waiting for our other stuff to arrive from Geneva. We are slowly but surely putting our new home together.

While I had longed for a bigger home when I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Geneve, I didn’t think we would have the budget for a four-bedroom one. Now that we’re blessed with one, besides being super thankful, I’ve soon realised it’s not an easy job to decorate and run it well. But I suppose it’s a good problem to have, another level of growth, a new dimension of trusting and depending on God for the ordinary days.

In the past week or so, I have learned that no matter what kind of home you live in or how much you earn, whether it’s in Buckingham Palace or a one-room apartment, life isn’t meant to be always easy. The more you are given, the more is required of you. Personally, now living in this “mansion”, I need God just as the same, if not more, as I lived in a tiny home with my husband and two young children, too crammed to straighten my thoughts.

Our circumstances may have changed, but our spiritual needs remain the same— we still need a local church family, God’s protection in every taxi ride, His strength to discover the neighbourhood and His perspective for the many nationalities.

My friend, if your season of life is in a place where you desperately want to get out, I get you. I’ve been there too. I had envied those people who drove expensive cars and lived in nice houses while my daughter had to sleep in the living room. I was angry at God because I thought I deserved a better home as a good Christian who reads her Bible every day.

But I was wrong. The truth is, I deserve nothing. Every breath I take is grace. Everything in life is a gift.

My dearest friend, no matter how dark your days may seem to be today, there will be a tomorrow that comes with new mercy and grace for you.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

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