Graham crackers and Quebec maple syrup. Can't find either of them in Abu Dhabi. You know how hard it is to make a decent cheesecake without a Graham cracker crumb? Sorry, my British friends, but digestive biscuits (great for teething children) are not the same. And as for maple syrup, if it's not from Quebec, there's a good chance it's not real.
I am not alone among expatriates in the UAE who miss items from home. From Filipinos to Aussies, Indians to Americans, we all have a fondness for particular items, or even a particular way of doing things, in the kitchen, in the workplace, on the road - and in the body shop.
Take my windscreen. Please. Three years ago I got a ding, the tiniest of holes, in the screen, just below eye level and to the left on the driver's side. It was small enough not to worry about, but I knew that from acorns oak trees come, so the next time I was at the Honda service centre in Musaffah, I asked about repairing it.
The service centre itself doesn't do that type of repair and I was referred to the nearby body shop. There's no fixing this, I was told.
Really? No silicone? You just drop a little liquid inside the hole and in 10 minutes the resin has vitrified and the damaged area is hardly distinguishable from the rest of the glass? No?
Nope. No silicone. That's not done here.
OK. I didn't want to impose my western notions and values on anyone in particular, so I kept myself to myself and monitored the hole.
Sure enough, two weeks ago, the hole spawned a crack. A couple of inches, nothing significant. The next day it had doubled in length and turned upwards. It was now quite visible; soon it would be long enough to also cause worry. Time to call the body shop, which then referred me to the insurance company, which then referred me to the police. Armed with a police report - when did this happen? where did this happen? (darned if I know!) - and with authorisation of the insurance company, I waited until a body shop called.
When it did, the guy wanted the car immediately but couldn't promise when the work would be done. Overnight, two days, four days: it's hard to know. After some negotiation and much questioning, I was told the windscreen had to be ordered. I persuaded him to allow me to take the car in for yet another inspection and allow me to take the car home while we waited for the screen to come in.
After he looked over the car I asked Arif, the body shop manager, if he used silicone to repair windows. He looked at me blankly. "You should import it. You'd be a rich man," I said.
Heck, I should import it. I'd be a rich man, I thought.
Getting the glass in took more than a week. I'm glad I didn't leave the car "overnight".
It turns out the silicone treatment I got back home in North America (free, by the way, totally covered by insurance) was not some special operation you have to have had glazier training in. There are easy-to-use, silicone-based windscreen-repair kits available on the internet. If only I'd known: no three-year worry, no police report (which is gonna cost me a few hundred dirhams when I renew my registration), no insurance company, no deductible to pay, no week-long wait, no taxis to and from Musaffah, no repair shop.
But with vitrification kits available on the net, unless Arif orders in bulk and his body shop corners the market, that means no riches.