Saturday, April 3, 2010

Take my stuff ... please!

I went to a party last night and came home with a cookbook, a DVD, a dictionary, a box of maps ... and a new bed.

It was a "Take My Stuff" party, a clever and necessary concept around here, where people come and go all the time and the cost of shipping your things back home, wherever that might be, is usually more than they're worth.

Try as you might to avoid accumulating stuff while you're in Abu Dhabi, it's hard not to. Even if you get by with basic furniture (Ikea is one of the most popular places in town), over the course of a couple of years, "stuff" is going to find its way into your flat. Books, pots and pans, furniture, televisions, DVD players, candles, lamps ...

A "Take My Stuff" party solves the problem of disposing of all that. The person who's leaving provides the beer and snacks and invites everyone they know to come pick over the bones of their Abu Dhabi life. Most of the big stuff is priced at a fraction of its original cost, and the small stuff is free -- unless two people happen to want the same thing. Then, much to the host's delight, a bidding war starts.

I hadn't planned on taking anything, but it was easy to get into the spirit. I'd been thinking about getting a new bed; I bought a twin bed when I moved in, thinking my flat was too small for anything else. But after six months, I'm starting to feel like a monk every time I see it, pushed into the corner, very small and simple and spartan-looking.

So I jumped at a chance to pick up a like-new full-sized bed from Ikea, complete with mattress and matching nightstand, for 500 dirhams. (That's $136.15.) It will make things a little cozier in my already cozy flat, but I'll sleep better at night, and that's worth a lot.

Here's what else I took home:

-- "Asian, One Step at a Time," an illustrated cookbook that starts each recipe with a photo of all the ingredients and includes photos of what the food should look like during each step of the cooking process. First recipe I want to try: Bun Cha, a Vietnamese pork dish.

-- A "Pulp Fiction" collector's edition DVD. Someone came behind me and put in a claim, too, so we had to bid for it. It took 20 dirhams to win ... still not a bad price for a classic, right?

-- A set of seven "UAE Off-Road Aerial Maps." The one that shows Abu Dhabi island and the surrounding desert will soon become wall art in my flat. (You don't want to invest a lot in art that you probably won't be able to take with you. I have a camel tapestry from Dubai, a small water color from Muscat, and a poster of the Burj Khalifa that was printed in the newspaper. The map will be a nice addition.)

-- An Oxford Dictionary that must weight five pounds. I love dictionaries.

The bed will be delivered this week, and soon you won't recognize the place: new "art" on the walls, Bun Cha cooking on the stove, a Tarantino flick playing on the laptop, and, hopefully, just enough space left for me to squeeze over to the bookshelf and pick up the dictionary and solve that last stubborn clue in the Sunday crossword.

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