x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Burning question: in case of fire

If you house were burning, what would you save? We posed this question to nine UAE residents - all of them expats, whose possessions may be few here and thus are all the more treasured. The results proved as varied and entertaining as they did revealing.

Alp Eke, 37, would save his 160 pages of Japanese notes.
Alp Eke, 37, would save his 160 pages of Japanese notes.

Alp Eke, 37, from Ankara

A senior economist at National Bank of Abu Dhabi

WOULD SAVE The 160 pages of Japanese language notes he compiled during 14 months living in the country.

WHY "My first job was as a statistician for a private consultancy firm in Japan. I arrived in 2004. I didn't go to language classes but taught myself. By the time I left I could speak to the standard of a 10- or 11-year-old. The language notes are pretty yucky. They're covered in coffee stains and it's a long time since I've added to them but I go through them every so often to refresh my memory."


Monique Tibbs, 34, from Atlanta, Georgia

A sign language interpreter by training, now a stay-at-home mother to Thomas, 7, Lucas, 5, Helen, 4, and Jack, 1. Husband Sam, 38, is a finance professor at Zayed University.

WOULD SAVE The family albums for the fragments of history they offer Helen, who was adopted as a toddler from Ethiopia.

WHY "The first time we saw Helen was in a photograph. That's in the album along with every document from our referral, to our first visit to Ethiopia, to bringing her home. The process took about two and half years. We don't have much by way of family background for Helen. What history we have is there. She looks at it often."


Julie Ebell, 41, from Chicago

A kindergarten teacher in Bani Yas, Ebell has lived in Abu Dhabi since September.

WOULD SAVE A box of letters from her maternal grandmother and mother.

WHY "My mother died 15 years ago and my grandmother seven years later. I was close to my grandmother all my life, which is why I keep her letters. I wasn't close to my mother. She walked out when I was five, leaving my father to raise me. But she wrote. Over the years those letters were our relationship. I wouldn't want to lose them."


Sonya Edelman, 34, from Pacific Grove, California

A musician, freelance multimedia producer and music teacher at Brighton College, Abu Dhabi

WOULD SAVE Her flute - an instrument she has owned since college.

WHY "It is desperately in need of repair but so very mine. I love playing music and hate it at the same time. The lows are low; I wonder why I even bother taking my flute out of its case. But the highs are so high I feel in my entire soul that playing music is the thing I was put on this earth to do."


Savannah Pincura, 18, from Edmonton, Alberta

Recently graduated from the American Community School in Abu Dhabi. She is due to enrol as an undergraduate at Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland, this August.

WOULD SAVE A glass heart pendant given to her by her mother following the death of her grandfather.

WHY "When my grandfather died my mother bought two heart pendants - a small one which she gave to me and a larger one which she had tucked into his shirt pocket and buried with him. The pendant is very special to me because it makes me feel we're always connected and that he's watching over me."


Sandi Herman, 43, from Hobart, Tasmania

A senior hairdresser at Sisters Beauty Lounge, Abu Dhabi


WHY "I've only been here eight months and don't have many possessions that I would risk my life in a fire to save but my iPad goes absolutely everywhere with me. It is my lifeline to family and friends in Australia, my photo album, my entertainment with all my movies and music and it has all my contacts. It's like my best friend. I'd be lost without it."


Susan Ward and Norm Labbe, both 54, from Ottawa

Susan is the director of training and development for the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi. Her husband, Norm, is managing director of the Emirates Institute for Health and Safety.

WOULD SAVE Their "Get out of Dodge" bag, designed for just this scenario.

WHY "I always had a version of this bag but it's more sophisticated now. Norm has seen to that. It includes a charged phone with emergency numbers, prepaid debit cards called cash passports and a hard drive with scans of important documents. The only sentimental element is the photos scanned there, too. If we had to leave with nothing but this bag and each other we could re-establish our lives pretty quickly."


Shreyas Phadnis, 31, from Mumbai

A manager in corporate finance division of an investment company. Has lived in Abu Dhabi for six years. He and wife Nivedita, a graphic designer at Abu Dhabi Men's College, are expecting their first child, a son, in August.

WOULD SAVE His laptop and external hard drive.

WHY "This has my trading diary on it which I have kept over the past three years. It's a working document always being updated. I learn from it, sometimes through my mistakes. Most of my documents - marriage certificate, birth, ID, passport - are scanned in and all my work data. Other people have versions of my photographs and I hold all those images all in my memory anyway. Saving this laptop and hard drive would be saving my work and my identity, which nobody else can keep for me."