Thursday, 31 December 2009

The silly season




The silly season has arrived, well it hasn't really not in the same way as it does in New Zealand. But winter has arrived. I broke out the merino today, wore several layers to school. It was cool, not quite crisp, but cool enough to have heater on in the car on the way to work. The sunrise was lovely, I must get up early enough on a weekend to capture this although I'm more of a sunset girl, especially on the weekends.

It's hard to believe that it's next year in a couple of days, hard to believe that I'm working through. It doesn't really feel like the festive season but I'm sure that our camp out in the desert for new years eve will be festive. I bought my tent last night, that and an airbed. I need all my comforts. There's a heap of us going, there's a big fire already built by the advance guard so it should be fun. I get to sand drive again this time with Mary-Anne for company.

Christmas day was interesting, talking to the family and missing them, having a lovely brunch complete with bubbles with friends in the same boat. It was a good day all up, a social day where we swapped stories of Christmas' past. Of the family traditions, the foods eaten, gifts given. We swapped gifts, thoughtful gifts that made Christmas more real. It would have been good to have had more than a weekend but at least we didn't have to work Christmas day as others had to last year.

I took another excursion to the camel track the other evening, this time with some friends I met through Di. Lotte is from Berlin and is moving to Beruit and Nele lives in Buraimi, Oman just across the border from me. We met for coffee and ended up going for a drive, me enjoying the company of two interesting and motivated young women. Both speak Arabic and understand this part of the world through their university study and as well as living in various places here. We're going to meet again for a meal before Lotte heads back next week, I'm very much looking forward to that.

The photos are Nele and Lotte on a sand dune in the cool wind, a grumpy camel (I respect him too much to post the next photo of him bearing his teeth and roaring at his trainer) and said camel and his trainer totting down the track. The photo I missed because I was too astounded, wasn't quick enough, was the same trainer releasing his group of racing camels, complete with robots, to race fast down the track. They are really fast, surprisingly fast for such a big animal. And Rau's Christmas tree complete with pressies.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas eve

I sit here alone, knowing I have a place to go but not being able to quite get up out of my red chair. December must be my quietest blogging month ever, although I've had heaps to say. I just haven't managed to find the energy to write. The winter fug has set in, too cold to lie in the sun and swim but not cold enough to be real winter.

Tonight Mike's band is playing at the sand golf club and I'm going out soon to join my friends in a fun night of dancing and socialising over a few cold ones. Tomorrow is brunch at Rau's, for the waifs and strays, and hopefully I'll get to talk to the family in the morning. It feels strange being away for Christmas, away in a place that doesn't celebrate this. Although the commercialism is alive and well and the shops are decorated to get us in the mood. I did my last minute shop a little earlier, braving Al Ain rush hour.

So for now, I'd better get ready. I hope to add some photos soon. The internet is still not great but the main issue is that to connect my Mac I have to use a cable, not ideal especially as my cable's too short to be effective. My work computer on the other hand is connected wirelessly, don't need that on the weekend.

Have a merry Christmas and watch this space for more posts soon.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Al Ain

There are times I truly love living where I live, in the Middle East, in a small and peaceful city, in a small, quiet flat. Tonight was one of those times. I opened the door out to my newly swept courtyard and looked up to see a new moon rising gloriously in the sky, the clear, crisp sky. There was a slight breeze wafting over the wall. The dust has settled with the recent rain, a calmness after the mad heat of summer.

The call to prayer started close to me then echoing from across town came calls from other mosques. There's something special about the call, something that resonates, something about the way our neighbours wander down to the mosque to pray all the while chatting with each other. After prayer they sit and chat some more, peacefully. The shoes at the door attest to the amount of men inside, for the mosque is the domain of men.

We live amongst many expat men, mostly from the east and the Middle East, men often away from their families working in this place to give their families the financial support they need. They work driving our taxis, packing our groceries, selling us our fruit and veg, serving us in shops and hotels, working on the roads and buildings, guarding us in our schools, driving our school buses, fixing our internet and computers. They also shop at the same shops, the local supermarket, the corner shop. I suspect they are used to us in their neighbourhood as they no longer stare and some even nod in greeting.

Some have gotten to know us a little and chat when we see them. Our corner shop man is one of those, the fruit and vege man in the supermarket and Khalil at our local restaurant others. Tonight I went back to the supermarket to get some more of the lovely pumpkin I made into soup last night, the fruit and vege man smiled at me buying such a lot and commented that it was very good pumpkin. It certainly is.

People often say to me that it must be great living here, very exotic. Yes, that's true it's very different, perhaps exotic but the what makes it special is the ordinary stuff, the amazingly ordinary stuff that makes life worthwhile. Small things like being able to get the pumkin needed to make good soup, like being greeted by your neighbours, like being able to sit outside with all the doors and windows open listening to the happenings in the neighbourhood, like having a good book and crisp white joining you.

PS (A PS so as not to spoil the mood) I got an impressive burn while making the soup. The stick mixer thingy went out of control and splashed me with boiling soup. That'll teach me for making soup when very hungry and not waiting for it to cool before mixing. I ate it one handed, ice on the other. The blisters were impressive, the soup delish.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

It's on again

I'm feeling a little clever, I just reconfigured my router. The light that was red is now green and after months of intermittent Internet, I think I now have it sorted. It took a trip to my provider; a begging smile when the young man at the counter told me I had to come back tomorrow before 3pm and it was a bit after 6pm; an obliging customer service man who bent the rules a little and lots of patience from me as I waited for the new password to kick in. My apologies to all I owe emails, I will get caught up over the weekend. For now, I'll just enjoy being able to check if there's more. Normal blogging will resume very soon.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Talk about the weather

Well it's such a topic of conversation at the moment, why not. You see it's raining in Al Ain, storming in Al Ain. Heavy rain I would have more expected to see on the West Coast of New Zealand. It's 4.30ish, almost dark outside, very wet and cold. I struggled to find warm shoes to wear this morning with the winter woolies I dragged out from the top shelf of the wardrobe. I thought about Keri and her need for boots and wished I'd listened and brought mine with me.

Yesterday I went driving, out to the Jebal with a friend to take some photos. Driving to get out of the house after spending the past few days unwell. My social weekend turned into a sleeping weekend, not doing too much. We were heading for the walk I went on with the ENHG, nope there was a river there. I tried the 4wd but as the water was rising, thought we'd have a wander on this side of the river. The roads were flooded, the kids enjoying splashing in the puddles. The locals were zooming through the floods in their 4wds.

In one place a man was sweeping, he looked up to see a large 4wd powering towards him pushing forward a wave of water. You guessed it, it hit him hard. I'm sure it caused great hilarity in the 4wd, I know we laughed so hard I nearly ran off the road. We waved and smiled to the wet man, he grinned back, enjoying the novelty too.

My photos aren't very good, too busy trying to keep us alive on the way home in torrential rain and deep surface flooding so here's a link to Amer's blog. He managed to get some excellent photos of this very dry place trying to absorb such an amount of rain. Thanks Amer. Apparently this rain will bode well for the spring growth as it will soak in and not evaporate as the summer rains do.

There was more havoc this morning. Schools closed due to flooding and the roads impassable in places, even in a 4wd. Very surprising, very chilly. As Clair said, a good night to curl up on the couch in the duvet and watch a DVD. Think I might add a hot toddy and do just that. I don't even think I have the energy to go shoe shopping, although I did see a nice pair of boots the other day.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

And some more





The photos are of a child monk at Swayambhu enjoying a lolly pop an adult had just given him, as any child would; a loo with a view and what a view over the Kathmandu Valley from beyond Bhaktaphur; the view beyond a temple to the vast foothills that line the valley and industry at work through an open doorway.

It's really tough choosing photos. There are so many that show the journey, too many to include here. I'll do my best to give coverage of the trip, including those from the beautiful Pokhara.

Photos





The photos are of trekking story footprints, some interesting stories; Mount Everest from the plane window on our scenic flight and a monkey family and a flag from the monkey temple, Swayambhu.


At home

I've slept for most of the morning, the flu that's got others finally got me. I suspect it was the flying, planes full of people are such fertile breading grounds for bugs. Helen used to call it plane flu, I go into denial until I can't lift my head off the pillow. That doesn't happen very often.

I think I picked a good day to be sick, there's a shamal blowing. Dust and sand everywhere disturbed by the strong gusts of wind, the sun blotted out and generally a day best spent inside. The dust gets in, coats the furniture with a layer of grit. At least I have the Internet to keep me company, so I can catch up on emails and things.

Where to start with the stories of the past two weeks, I think an upload of photos is in order then some new entries. For now, I'm going to leave the photos uploading and slip back to bed with a cup of hot ginger and lemon tea. That's about all I'm good for today.

Nepal

Kate's video camera, a small unobtrusive video camera, documented our Nepal trip. Luckily she edited a lot of the footage. Here's the edited version.

Internet


I'm back, she shouts with glee! Being without the Internet is rough when you're living in your own country and can keep up with family and friends easily, living without when away from home is torture. Mines been down for ages, intermittent at best before that. What did we do without the net, seems difficult to remember a time when it wasn't around. When computers were massive walls of whirring machinery that needed lots of men to keep them going. We saw them in high tech movies, not in real life.

But anyway, there's a lot to catch up on. The trip to Nepal and the associated photos and video, the afternoon spent at the Dubai Rugby 7s watching New Zealand win the tournament and the other more mundane things that make up life here. The social calendar is looking a little stretched with the Christmas do's coming in thick and fast. This weekend there's a baby shower, a house warming, a ball and something else I know I've forgotten to take into account.

The photos from the celebrations at the end of the Dubai 7s. I thought it was appropriate given the celebration I had, a small dance around the room in fact, when I discovered I was once again connected.

This will be my first Christmas away from New Zealand, away from my family and friends. Another first in this year of firsts, one I'm not really looking forward to. I'm a bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas so I suspect I'll be spending my day lazing, reading a book and generally chilling out. I'll catch up here sometime tomorrow, for now I need to get some sleep. It's been full on lately and I need to catch up, not to mention that I have a head cold and feel a bit miserable.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Pokhara

Nepal is full of surprises. The first surprise is that my cell phone won't work here. A very small surprise but thought I'd mention it just in case anyone was trying to get hold of me. A much bigger surprise, a delightful surprise was getting a second mountain flight today on the way to Pokhara. Kathmandu domestic terminal is a bit of a treat, a hub of noise, people coming and going and callers calling for the next flight.

Mine was delayed so more time to people watch and to get to know others, this time a very friendly family from Dubai but originally from Kerela. Yep, after the conversation I really must visit there. We sat on the bus in the warm sun while the congested airspace cleared then up we went alongside the high range, past Mt Everest. I got a couple more photos of the majestic peak rising above the clouds, very special to see up close.

Pokhara is a lovely place, very peaceful. Even more peaceful because my travel companions have gone home and I'm on my own. Solo traveling is not something I've done very often, my jury's out as to how much I enjoy it, especially after having such fun with my friends in Kathmandu. I walked along the lakeside and had chia (tea) with some young American girls, one of whom had traveled overland from China through Tibet. She had some stories to tell, made me want to travel that path.

Clair and I went for a wander yesterday starting after a dramatic drive up a very bumpy road through some spectacular scenery. The Toyota bumped it's way over roads more suited to a 4wd and dropped us at a monastery high in the hills above the Kathmandu Valley. The view was outstanding, the inside of the monastery stunning. It's a new monastery, the painting inside was still being completed. 23 men including a couple of monks were busy at work painting the intricate patterns, the traditional stories of the place. Clair and I took heaps of photos but were not allowed to inside.

The walk down the valley was restful. Through the rice paddy's and small villages where the families were doing what families do later in the afternoon of a working day. I will add to this story when I can upload the photos, photos of the place, the people and my travel companions. An excellent day out topped off by some Nepali chia in a local cafe. Clair and I dined in style at the Thai restaurant just down the road from out hotel, sharing a treat to warm us up, a hot toddy of spiced rum. Delicious and warming. A perfect end to a perfect day.

We were sad to leave our friends at the Ambassador Garden Home Thamel's Finest Boutique Hotel. It certainly was the finest, made fine by the people. Anything we wanted, they provided including flights, trekking guides, hot water bottles at night and the yummiest breakfast. I took a photo of the crew and will include this and more information in a post soon. Needless to say, if you're looking for a haven of peace and tranquility in down town Kathmandu give them a call.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Nepal

It's taken me a while to get to the Internet point alongside our hotel, I've been too busy out and about, there's so much to see here. One of the good things about going with a group, there are seven of us on this trip, is that things are easy to organise and cheaper when split. We have done some serious sightseeing including flying past Everest in a small plane; driving over some exciting roads to get to Bhaktapur via another amazing temple higher in the foothills of the Kathmandu Valley; walking around the Bouda Temple, clockwise of course; shopping, haggling for goods in the narrow streets of Kathmandu; riding in a rickshaw up to the base of the Swaymbhunath Stupa or the Monkey Temple; climbing the 365 steps to the top and enjoying an amazing view of the city and beyond.

Of course I have photos, I'll be able to add some when I'm home on Thursday after sleeping for a while. Today I'm off trekking, just Clair and I left so we decided on a day out including a three plus hour climb to a monastry high in the foothills. Tomorrow we both go to the airport, Clair to fly home and I'm flying to Pokara, the trekking mecca according to all I read. It will be good to get out of the city again and closer to the mountians. I'm hoping to meet some other friends there but if not, join a couple of day treks. Got to get the most out of my new walking shoes.

I'm so enjoy this adventure, the people are amazing. Very friendly and accommodating. I do see the tourist footprint stamped heavily within the city and lighter out in the countryside, that's progress I suppose. TTFN from chilly Kathmandu.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Eid and National Day

I'm off, got 10 days holiday with only one leave day used, a much needed break after some stressful weeks. Eid Al Hada begins tomorrow, a time of celebration here. The parks have been decked out as have the palms and roundabouts. There are festivities in the air, festivities and celebration at school.

I got to join in on Tuesday, so many photo opportunities but as I am new to the school I didn't bring my camera. I also wouldn't post any of the photos. Children in national dress, children in fancy gowns, faces painted and henna applied, boys with wooden guns and walking sticks twirling and throwing just as they have seen their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins and older siblings do. Excellent photos but ones needing permissions I don't have.

There have been many things that have impressed me this week; the national fervor and excitement about these celebrations, especially with the children; the conversations with the children, teachers and sometimes parents about the celebrations; the inclusion of us westerners in the celebrations; the relaxed and easy times; the environment being prepared. I can only liken it to the week before Christmas in NZ.

I was watching some girls having henna applied, telling their teachers that they wanted full arms done not just their hands. Mashallah, remark the teachers as they share this with others, laughing. Good natured, smiling banter respecting and enjoying the children. I was delighted when the teacher asked if I wanted henna. Oh, yes please I smiled. The others laughed and told me to go to the other teacher as she was better, more laughter as they called out to her and I joined her queue.

I sat quietly as the henna was quickly applied in a very cool pattern up my arm, down onto my hand and fingers. The henna dries into a crust after an hour or so and starts to flake off, I was keen to see the result so helped it a little. Since yesterday the colour has darkened and the pattern looks amazing. I got comments when I arrived at school this morning, got comments from Emirati ladies as I brought a smaller suitcase to travel with at Megamart. All smiles and mashallahs.

So now I'm sitting resting before packing. I have new Merrills, new jeans, a new case to put them in. I'm so excited as are my travel companions. It's an early start tomorrow, leaving home about 3.30am to get to Sharjah in time to fly, then onto Kathmandu for a few days, then up to Pokera to the mountains to go trekking. I can't wait. Mmmm small hitch, how exactly do I get to Sharjah Airport? Might have to make a few calls to check, tried a couple of people so far to no avail. I will make it, inshallah.

Watch this space for photos and stories when I return, it will be quiet for a week or so.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Just one more, OK

Some of the promised photos



I had a small melt down this morning when thought I'd lost most of my photos after trying a late download then canceling so I could get some sleep. Lucky Macs are much, much smarter than me and all I had to do was be patient, not my natural state when it comes to technology. The second half of the day are loading now, might have to add some more later but for now here's two. I had fun with the sails, there's a photo of me lying on the seat getting an up shot. That's in the next batch.

A fun day out

It may be getting chilly but that makes it all the better for getting out and about. We could sit on the top deck of the catamaran as we cruised just off Dubai and the sea water was refreshingly cool. Three friends were celebrating a significant birthday so we thought we'd help them out. What an excellent choice of activity for the day, a cruise around the world, swimming off the white sandy islands, banana boating, a BBQ, drinks, excellent company and New Zealand music.

We set out from Al Ain in the morning, I drove, negotiating Dubai's every changing roads to get to the Marina almost on time. Rau and I were pleasantly surprise to see our plush ride, a lovely big catamaran awaiting us, the first of many good surprises for the day. Dubai from the sea is lovely, much better than from a car trying to negotiate the way in, or as we later found, the way out. Yep, misplaced again. Although being lost is only when you don't really know where you are or how to correct the situation. We at least knew we had gone from heading to Sharjar to heading towards Oman.

I'll write more tomorrow, add more photos, but for now I'm pleasantly tired so heading off to bed and hopefully a sleep in in the morning. Thanks Belinda, Jenny and Rianne for a lovely day out, what you up to next birthday?

PS Note to self, don't start downloading 188 photos shot on raw after midnight....... Sorry will add photos tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Almost winter



It's getting colder, the kids are wearing coats and hats to school, the cold water in the tap is cold, there's a cool breeze in the evening, the shops are full of winter clothes, we can now walk outside later in the day. It's lovely out, Al Jahili Park is full of picnics, laughter and friendships with the kids playing together while the adults lay about watching, chatting, enjoying each others company.

Eid and National Day are fast approaching and it looks like Christmas here, the decorations are up all green and red reflecting the colours of the flag. The houses have fairy lights, the neighborhoods competing for the most lit up house. The children are having special celebrations at school, celebrating their strong culture and heritage.

I was reflecting on this with others yesterday. In my country we have lost this sort of celebration of who we are. Our national day on 6 February is one of conflict as it is marking one culture's colonisation of another, perhaps of good intentions by most of a treaty between peoples that mean equal partnership. Not a real celebration for everyone while grievances are still being redressed. There have been suggestions that we change the day, not one that has been taken up by the powers that be.

The others came from the UK and Canada, such is the mix here. The UK are like us, no real whole country celebration and a sensitivity to what might be perceived as culturally insensitive. Canada has a day of celebrating all cultures, a non denominational day of celebration. I was wondering where their indigenous culture fitted into that.

More reflection is needed to find some sort of solution, if there is one to be had. ANZAC day is big in NZ with many people taking the time to celebrate our war fallen, many take the trip to Galipoli to remember our fallen, many visit the war grave yards in Belgium and France. I know I have and felt the fingers of time reach towards me, telling the story of a time of loss and strength, of young men going on an adventure never to return to Aotearoa, regardless of culture.

We got the news yesterday that we have a longer holiday so the trip I've booked to another place where New Zealander's contributions have been appreciated can be extended. I can't wait to get to Kathmandu, to see Mt Everest and meet the people who took our Sir Ed into their hearts. I might even get to go trekking, will need to visit the shops to get some warmer clothes and those tramping boots.

The photos are from my Belgium trip, the sculpture park in Antwepen.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A slow learner

I find it hard to learn some lessons, I have Homer Simpson syndrome when it comes to finding cars in mall car parks. It was tough with rental cars, surprisingly tougher with a white Toyota Fortuna. Today I thought I remembered where I parked, was in a bit of a day dream as I walked down the isles pushing the lock/unlock button.

I eventually found it, it peeped, the lights flashed, ah there it goes. No one noticed this time. Another time in the same car park I was busy peeping away when I heard two women laughing and speaking in Arabic, the laughter got louder the nearer I got to them. They looked over and saw me, still pressing the lock/unlock button, and fell about laughing. The final realisation that I was the cause of their mirth was the hand slap, yep they were right.

I went over to them, smiling of course. I told them my car was new and I was having trouble finding it. They shared with me that they had been watching the car lock and unlock, peep and flash and had had a bet on who the owner might be. Seems they were right when they guessed a woman, that I was an expat woman had surprised them and caused more mirth. Apparently what I was doing was more common with locals, as was the choice of car. I smiled about this for the rest of the day, didn't learn anything from it but smiled about the lovely ladies who so willingly shared their joke with me. I had made their day, they had made mine.

I've just booked my flights to Kathmandu, still don't know the break dates but have made the same reservation the others in my group have. I hope we hear soon, I want to make the second booking and get on the road, so ready for a trip away.

A quiet weekend


A quiet but very good weekend. I feel like my batteries have been recharged, sleep caught up on and work demands answered, for now anyway. I feel relaxed as I sit here eating the remains of the pizza from Thursday night reheated, enjoying a cold one and reflecting on the weekend.

The planning has begun for my next trip. The holidays have yet to be called but I'm hoping that Eid Hada and the National Day holidays will be set from 26 November to 6 December. They are only a couple of days apart, the schools are closed, we're just awaiting confirmation that the company is going to include these two days in our statutory holiday allocation.

Sue's had her dates confirmed so is off to one of my favourite places, Turkey. She has the full week so will get to visit Capadocia as well as spending some time in Istanbul. Our trip to Kerela is on hold, I'm heading to Kathmandu with a group of others. Flights permitting of course and we can't confirm these as yet. Some of us want to head to Agra, Jaipur and Delhi for a few days after Kathmandu. It's an easy flight, a round trip from Sharjah to Kathmandu to Delhi to Sharjah. If we have to work the days between it's not so easy.

What I'm most looking forward to is being able to trek in the lower Himalayas and hopefully fly over Mt Everest, a pilgrimage of sorts for New Zealanders. I'll get to photograph this amazing place. I've tried to buy some tramping boots today with no joy, the mens ones start from size 40, way too big for me and there doesn't seem to be women's ones available. I'll also hoping to get to see the Taj Mahal up close and visit a part of India so steeped in history. All is dependent on the holiday dates, I hope to get these as soon as possible so I can book my flights and accommodation.

The photo is another from Thursday nights outing to the camel track. Can't wait until the racing season starts, we'll be there.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A different Thursday evening




Fridays are quiet days. Thursday evenings not often that quiet. Yesterday afternoon, after a meal and drinks at the Rotana, I took some friends out to one of my favourite places in Al Ain. I must have hundreds of photos of the camel track, some as the sun sets, some in the late afternoon light. The light is perfect out there late in the afternoon.

Kate and I were supposed to be going out to the track, Anne heard us talking about it so she joined our expedition. Eddie, Elaine and Salima had never been so also decided to join us. We went out in convoy, adding to the experience. As always there was plenty of action and one thing I'd never seen before, a group of camels free grazing. There was a herder sitting on the sand dunes watching. The single camel in the shot above was staring into the distance, looking towards the camels training on the track.

Kate was brave, stood on the track with a group of camels coming fast towards her to get the perfect shot. I stood to one side, not so perfect. The last one is of the sun sinking into the desert dunes, a sun on fire. I'm always amazed how quickly the sun sets here. There is no twilight, the door slams shut on the day. A very satisfying day on so many levels, pizza and a nice red with a friend later in the evening finishing off a good day in style.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Anyone for a 3 day weekend?


I've found a new pastime. Another new pastime, one I can do indoors when it's too hot outdoors. 10 pin bowling is fun, I've only ever watched it on TV shows so didn't know how it all worked. Luckily I had a couple of experts on my team, experts who groaned inwardly when I shared that I'd never played before.

It seems that so long as you stay upright (I failed this one) can keep the glasses on your face (not too successful there either) and make a big heavy ball roll down an oiled alley with enough force to knock over some pins (yep, managed that one OK some of the time) then you can bowl. And it's fun. I suspect it was especially fun because we were in teams from work competing against each other. The lanes are slippery, I found that out the hard way. I did manage one strike, several where the pins all fall on the second ball and a top score in one game of 95. Apparently that's a good first effort. We've talked about doing it on a regular basis, I'm keen.

Rau and Diedre dragged me to the mall shopping after. They didn't have to drag me too hard, I needed shoes and knew this mall had my shop in it. The mall was packed with families, the car park interesting to negotiate and finding food a priority. Fudruckers to the rescue. I can see Keri and Lyn laughing at this, we had fun with the place in Qatar. Try saying Fudruckers ten times, fast........

I got shoes, two pairs, one for dancing and one for work. Yes, I can justify both. I had to throw out my former dancing shoes last weekend, heel issues from overuse. We also managed some clothes, Ikea (shudder), a juice to placate me after Ikea, a traffic jam and ending up at the airport by mistake, twice. I missed the tricky slip road with no sign in the dark, one way the airport the other Al Ain. It was a late night so feeling ready for bed and a good book now. Weekends are too short, I missed all the ENHG outings this one. Will have to catch up on that next weekend.

I took the photo on the way home, when I wasn't lost. It's the back of the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque and we came on it quite by surprise after leaving the bowling place. I put on the hazards and stopped in the lane to get the shot, Rau got some excellent ones too. I'll have to seek permission to use the bowling ones so will add one later if I can.

Friday, 6 November 2009

TGI Thursday

It's not often I have to put my reds in the fridge, tonight is one of those times. The cupboard where I keep my supplies is a little warm at the moment, yes there is such a thing as a too warm red. I've seen Sue microwave one to warm it a little on a cold Wellington day, I've seen Madeline drop an ice cube in hers on a warm Al Ain evening, I've sat mine in warm water to take the chill off the bottle. Tonight a very nice one French one is sitting in the fridge to cool a little so I can have another glass.

It's Thursday night here, the last day of work and the afternoon we have a gathering at the Rotana after work. Tonight's gathering was impressive, the best for a while. The after work wind down is especially important at the moment with the shifting carpet on which we are working. Change is afoot, rumors abound, the stress and tensions palpable at times. We are awaiting the dates for Eid and the National Day holiday, some are telling us one thing some another. Officially nothing as yet.

I plan to go to Egypt and Kerela in Southern India, two lots of 4 days break with two days work between. I'm hoping I can book the tickets soon, so keen to see a bit more of this part of the world. When I was in Qatar, my driver Feros came from Kerela. He sold his home place to me, sharing his stories of this green and beautiful part of India. It sounds like a wonderful place, definitely the first choice for a visit to India.

This weekend the plan is 10 pin bowling, a work outing in Abu Dhabi and maybe a night out, we shall see. Other than that, a quiet one catching up after a tough week.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

More photos



Just a couple more photos, the view from the track out to the windblown sand. Apparently the hill we were on the night before on the moon walk is one of those in the background, such a variety of terrain. This donkey didn't make it, there are herds of feral donkeys out where we were. Hiding from the mad people in 4wds this day I suspect.

Desert driving





There are some outings where I really struggle to chose photos to share here. There are too many that capture the people and the place, too much choice. The photos from this weekends desert outing are no exception. I got to drive my new, less than 2000ks, Toyota off road. What a blast! I'm still smiling.

We headed out into the wilds of Oman, past the moonwalk place into some rocky and sandy terrain. It all went well for a start, I can do this I thought to myself quietly. We drove in convoy, then we stopped and I got a few instructions from the experts. Worrying instructions. No turning back now, no turning at all so I was a little stuck. Nowhere near as stuck as I became later on.

It was the first time I'd had my truck in 4wd, the first time I'd driven in 4wd since the '90s when I had a similar Toyota. Driving in the sand is something quite different to driving off road in NZ. You can sink in sand, quickly, and get stuck. The trick, I learned when I did sink, is not to let up on the acceleration, pedal to the floor and hang on until back on firmer ground. Trying not to over correct was a challenge and made for some interesting tracks behind me.

The photo with Walter watching is my third and successful attempt at that slope, the first one I got stuck on. It was a little embarrassing having all those who got up first time cheering me on. I really enjoyed the challenge, began to learn a new skill and most of all enjoying the company of the people in the ENHG. I know the hard work that goes in to making sure the trips are successful, thanks to all that made this one such a blast.

The other photos are of the convoy, me heading into the distance and the beauty of the desert in the late afternoon light. Thanks for taking the ones of me driving Roberta, much appreciated. There is a vid, might leave that until later.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Moon walking in Oman

Nope not the Michael Jackson kind, a real walking by the light of the moon moon walk. Up hills and into wadis, down scree slopes sharp with chert. My shoes took a battering, my knees hit the rocks once. But it was fun, an awesome achievement to get to the top of the hill in semi darkness, an even more awesome achievement to get back down.

The familiar terrain takes on a whole new perspective by moonlight. The hills seem bigger, the tracks rougher, the perspective of distance altered. It all adds to the challenge. I really enjoy the company of the natural history group. The company is most often different each time but I never worry about going by myself.

Others are friendly and welcoming, all having an enjoyment of the outdoors in common. Tonight there were Australians, one originally from Croatia, Texans, a keen hiker from Colorado, English and others I didn't get to talk to. We chatted as we shared this wonderful experience, a tough walk that took around 3 hours. I suspect I might be a little sorer in the morning than I am now, even after having a lovely hot bath.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Missed the boat

Another week has passed in a blur, a blur of work mostly. I've been struggling to get some writing head space, and head space for writing is exactly what I need right now for work as well as for pleasure. I'm a little out of practice with paperwork, something that shouldn't last long as I get up to speed in my new job.

This kind of sums up my life at the moment, thanks Christine and Sharon a very appropriate Thursday afternoon funny.
Will write more soon and add photos, hopefully tonight after the ENHG moon walk. Right now I'm off to enter some photos in a photo competition. It was hard choosing three from the multitudes, two were easy the last one not so. Wish me luck.

PS Thanks for all the email comments about my new truck. It certainly is cool truck, a bit bigger than my red Peugeot 106.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Introducing........my Toyota


A photo for those who have asked. My Fortuna has done about 1200kms already, a little overdue for it's first service. It's really good to have a safe vehicle, one I can take most places I want to go. The windows are tinted, like the locals have them, so I get some road respect. Well, that is until others look closely and see a skinny white girl at the wheel. I've caused some looks of disbelief, laughter even, with the more local drivers. I got a speed camera ticket last weekend, my first I think. I was only a little over in the town 60kph area. I suspect the police have reset the camera tolerances as they push to reduce the horrific road toll.

I find it a little ironic that there has been such a push here for protection against H1N1 flu when kids ride around in cars without seat belts, faces pressed to the front windscreen or sitting on an adults knee. The money spent on this campaign could go a long way towards educating families on the importance of seat belts and car seats for children. Families love their children, they are raised by the whole family, yet this simple safety measure is not used.

All in all though, there are many good things about living here. We were talking last night about how peaceful Al Ain is, how friendly everyone is. People say hello, take the Emirati man who was wondering why I was looking up into a tree last night. I could hear the bats flapping about, I wanted to catch a photo of them. He laughed at (with?) me and we had a talk about how I was finding living and working in his country and where I come from. A gracious gentleman, a gracious people.

Friends





I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and kindness of friends. The friend that calls on a Friday morning just to check you're OK; the friend that drives from way out in the desert, brushes off the sand and puts her dancing shoes on; the friend that brings hot soup when you're sick; the friend that reassures you everything is fine when you have one of those days; the friend that helps you to complete a seemingly impossible task at work; the friend that makes you laugh when you're in need of a good one; the friend that loans you a whole series of Boston Legal; the friend who takes you out when you're getting cabin fever; the friend who sends something special by email; the friend who opens her home to you when you need some family time.

There are many people who play these roles in our lives, different people at different times as well as those friends who are always there for us. One said to me once that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a life time, that seems to be true. Some come and go, some come back, some are only ever a call or email away.

This weekend has been a social one. We had a good night out on Thursday, Sue was in from Madinet Zayed, out in the Empty Quarter, a girl needs a night out after living there for a while. She headed back this morning and my house seems empty. I've been neglecting the gym lately so the plan for the rest of the afternoon is to finish the work I'm procrastinating on, get some exercise and a swim. It's the first time in a couple of weeks I've felt up to exercise and swimming, a good sign the bug that's been haunting me has run it's course.

We went out to the camel track to watch the sunset last night, the photos are of the sunset and Sue and Mary-Anne my weekend companions, my close friends.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

An evening walk

It was lovely out tonight. The breeze from the hills of Oman promised moisture, the clear sky with stars twinkling made the promise of rain a passing thought. I walked to the post office through Al Jahli park, posted some papers back to NZ and then walked home. Good relaxing exercise.

The evenings at the moment are lovely, cooler with a soft breeze. Walking through the park is a treat. Families come out in the early evening to sit on the grass, to picnic and to play with their kids. Dads and sons kicking a ball around, mums on the grass chatting while watching the little ones on the playground equipment.

It's a very relaxing and peaceful scene although men well outnumber women and families. Men sit in small groups, talking , laughing and horsing about. Women in abayia and sports clothes walk together around the paths, exercising, talking, laughing. There are security guards scattered around the park, it must be the easiest job.

For the first time in my life I can say I'm looking forward to winter, I'm a summer person and usually suffer through the cold winters in NZ. This year I'll be enjoying a more temperate climate. I'll still be able to swim and relax by the pool, I'll still be able to wear summer clothes, albeit perhaps adding a layer or two.

Having Tuesday as hump day has it's bonuses. Tomorrow I'm off to Abu Dhabi for work, the next I'm here in Al Ain and then it's the weekend. I intend to have a quieter weekend than the last, one where I get far more relaxation and sleeping in time.

PS Thanks Annie for the article on Tim from The Press. I'm not sure how to add it here but I was a really proud mum to see my son so well portrayed in the local paper. A whole page with photos and an interview about his mountain biking career. Fantastic, made my day!

PPS My other plan for the weekend is to catch up on my outstanding emails. Sorry it's been a bit like that lately, no time to sit and write, no head space. So if I owe you a mail, expect something soon.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Monday


An update on the last entry. I went to the shop on Friday, yes the dress was on sale. The lady looked surprised when I told her I had one put away, a little suspicious perhaps. I just smiled sweetly. Her suspicion passed when I spent my saved 330 dhs plus a bit on other clothing. I'm not the world's best shopper, browsing endlessly is not my favorite pastime. Making a quick hit into one shop, getting good service and having things fit then buying them is more my shopping speed.

The dress needed shoes, pink or purple ones with impossible heels were in my head. I tried on many pairs including one or two for fun, 20 plus cm heels with a platform to match. Bling shoes, totally impossible to walk in. I ended up with elegant black heels, ankle straps with bling. A perfect match, not pink or purple but still perfect dancing shoes.

The night out was all I expected, excellent company and excellent music. It was great to see friends from different settings on one place, catching up. One of my yoga friends dared me to wear my shoes to the next session, think I'd get holes in my mat not to mention disapproval. Many of those I caught up with I hadn't seen since I'd got back so we had a lot to catch up on.

Mike's band was a huge success, Kate's birthday topping off a great night. Rau and I were tasked with getting others up to dance, we succeeded. Many of my favorites were played including, and you might expect this from a mostly NZ and Aus band, Mark Seymour's Throw Your Arms Around Me. It was a late night, a good night where we all looked fine in our cocktail dresses, hair up and fancy.

Today I've got the flu that kept Belinda from partying this weekend. I've been brewing all week, today I gave in and am having a day at home with hot soup, thanks to my lovely friend Rau, lemon drinks and the like. I'm really too busy at work to be sick, my body's telling me to slow for a bit. My friends agree so for once I'm listening. It's been a hard couple of months, three of the most stressful things that can happen in life coming one after the other. Things can only look up from here, inshallah.

After publishing, possibly because I'm feeling and looking horrible today, I decided to add the photo Rita took of me before we departed. I promised mum I'd get one for her when we had talked about the dress earlier in the day, this is it.

Friday, 16 October 2009

It's Friday, at last

And I've got a horrible head cold. That'll teach me for working too hard. It's been a week, one I'll never get back. The weather here is changing, much cooler in the evening and mornings. It's very pleasant but means the bugs are out and about. This is a big weekend socially, not a good one to feel like I do.

Last night was Mary-Anne's birthday and Shona's farewell party. Sharon hosted and we had a great time; a BBQ, a few drinks, music and conversation. Perfect for a Thursday. BBQ season is on us and as in any place, the men cook and the women chat and do the salads. As it gets cooler camping is on the agenda as well. Now I've got a 4wd, I'll be able to reach those far away camping spots, I can't wait.

Tonight is Kate's birthday and Mike's band launch, a cocktail party with live music. I've got sangria to make and a dress to buy, oh and of course shoes to go with it adding to my ever growing collection. I found the dress earlier in the week, today I need to go and pick it up.

You see, the dress had two prices. One was half the other. The conversation went like this:

"660dhs," said the man in the shop.

"Oh, it says 330 on the tag," say I.

"No madam, it is 660 today 330 in the sale."

"Mmmm so when does the sale start?"

"I'm not allowed to say madam," said the man.

"Ok, so if I put the dress aside while I look for matching shoes, when should I pick it up?" I ask carefully.

"Oh madam I could put it aside, pick up at 11am on Friday," he says with a big smile, crisis averted.

So it remains to be seen if a) the dress is still there waiting for me, and b) if it's 330 or 660 dhs. It's a lovely dress, one necessary for a cocktail party, especially as my other dress is a little tight at the moment. I think I need more gym time, Rau agrees. That's our goal for next week, can't be having to buy a new dress every week. Mind you if that means I get to buy shoes......

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Dragon Boating




We went to the Dragon Boat Festival on Friday, a fun event in Abu Dhabi. My work had a team entered. Over Eid we lost one of our colleagues in an accident in Germany, a terrible loss for his family and friends. The team was named in his honor and marked his passing in style by coming second and third in their two races.

The day was hot and sticky as Abu Dhabi days can be, not ideal for taking photos as my lens kept fogging up and I've lost my light shield. It's somewhere in my nightmare of a spare room I suspect. We didn't make the after party, Sue and I joined others for a quiet evening at the jazz bar instead. The music there is amazing, we enjoyed a few quiets then home to the hotel.

I like Adu Dhabi. I can generally find my way around, well at least to the places I like to go. There's good live music to be found and the shopping is OK too. This weekend the Corniche was shut so it could be fixed up for the big race in two weekends time. This meant a main route was not available, there was traffic everywhere with some interesting driving behavior.

I made it home safely thanks to the CDs Di and Gert put together for me. I love new music, especially eclectic compilations. These don't disappoint, thanks guys. The photos are of our team in at the end, note the looks of relief, the next race lined up and the backdrop.

Note the team in black, yes a NZ team. Belinda was in this team and they won this race so went on to the finals the next day. For such a small country we were well represented in the teams racing on the day, as we are in most sports.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Normal transmission will resume ASAP

I can't believe how slack I've been at writing and taking photos this month. I've been very busy with my new job, it's still too new to give me much head space, and dealing with things at home. The house sale confirmed today. Part of me feels sad about this but I know it had to happen. The grandchild is growing, the scan pictures are totally amazing. I'm hoping to be home for their birth, to bond with the newest family member.

Grief takes time and although my fathers death was a blessing in a way as he was suffering, it takes time to come to terms with the fact that he's gone. I had a talk with my mother yesterday at about this time, saw her online and called. She's been so staunch it's amazing, yesterday she wasn't. This is the beginning of a new life journey for her, a journey she will complete on her own, with support, but on her own for the most part. It's a big deal when you've been with someone for over 50 years.

Life goes on, today I've got a presentation to do, tonight I'm cooking a meal for a friend who's in plaster. I'll add a post with photos tomorrow, I promise.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Me again

When I was looking for the fossil article in the Gulf News, I saw that there had been a major crash on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road. A multiple car pile up with many deaths and injuries. Please let me assure my family and friends that I have never driven that road, and don't intend to in the near future. The roads I drive are safer as the fog isn't such an issue. Fog and haze are part of the change of season here. The desert cools and the hot winds pick up the dust and sand and the humidity cools into fog.

There's been a noticeable change in the weather lately. Now is a good time to be out and about enjoying the cooler breezes, especially in the evenings. Last night we enjoyed sitting outside at one of the Hilton's bars celebrating Eddie's birthday. Kelly was over from NZ and I showed her the sights. We wandered the palace, visited the camel track and had a good night out. Hopefully she'll be back, I'm looking forward to seeing the photos.

This weekend is the Dragon Boat Festival in Abu Dhabi as well as Mary-Anne's birthday and Hana and Phil's house warming. I'll hopefully get some good photos at the dragon boating. Mary-Anne, Sue and I will be cheering on our friends from the sidelines, should be fun.

It's evolution baby......not

I knew it was only a matter of time before the truth came out. I smiled as I read the article, peered at the pictures and smiled. In the Gulf News on Saturday 3 October 2009 (Shawwal 14, 1430 if you are Muslim) there was a front page article about a fossil that has "shed new light on (the) evolution of humans". The next line is the one that I smiled at:

"Early ancestors looked nothing like chimps or other large primates."

Apparently scientists have found 4.4 million year old fossils in the Ethiopian desert, including a near complete human skeleton that bears no resemblance to primates. The article continues to outline how the skeleton was four foot tall, walked on two feet and lived in groups where males cooperated rather than fought.

I've never quite subscribed to Darwin's theory of evolution. While there are some aspects of it that are logical, the evolution of man from primates didn't ring true to me. My thoughts on this are very simplistic. I can hear any scientists who may read this groan and shake their heads in disbelief. What I want to know is how an evolutionary process can have the species that another had evolved from living in the same time as the species that evolved. Now that doesn't seem logical to me.

I await further stories from Ethiopia, who knows I might get to visit there soon. One of the cleaners at my work is from there, as are some of our taxi drivers. They all tell me how beautiful their country is. Besides, it's on my list. The article can be read in the Gulf News online although it's not the full one and doesn't have the pictures, sorry about that.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Marmite

Don't give me cake mum,
Don't give me scone,
All I want's a piece of bread with Marmite on.

Spread it on thinly,
It doesn't take a lot,
There's so much flavour in the Marmite pot.

A small poem I remember from a childhood book given to my by my Uncle Peter. I bounced around the kitchen this morning thickly spreading this black gold on my toast over a layer of butter with this poem running through my head.

I can be so generous with my spreading because Rau bought me a jar when she was in London last week. Apparently the NZ shop there has a good supply, must visit soon. She also managed somehow to get me some Lady Gray tea and a big box of liquorice all sorts. We munched these together over a bottle of Mt Difficulty pino gris, a good mix of flavors.

Work is taking up most of my time at the moment, just how it is with a new job. Unfortunately it's taking most of my sleeping time along with my waking time. I've got a NZ friend Kelly here tonight, can't wait to show her the sights and take her to Eddie's birthday celebrations so she can meet some of my friends. Right, enough procrastinating........hi ho hi ho it's off to work I go!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

A walk in the heat




I've missed being out in the wilds with the Emirates Natural History Group so when the weekly email came and suggested a walk in the vicinity of Jabal Hafit, I was in. There's something about the Jabal that fascinates me. It's the highest point in this area and a mix of geology that's astounding. I also knew that Brien, who was leading the walk, would know the answer to some of my questions regarding the geology of this place.

An extract from the email that explains better than I can where we went:

Wadi Nahayan is a remarkable geological feature on Jebel Hafit, one
that was threatened by a development project. In recent months, we
have been supporting initiatives to have some hiking trails
established in the area. It is also an area we have used for field
trips for students.

The hiking trail will follow one of the ridges over to a hidden bowl.
From there, we will head for one of the 'waterfalls' , a geological
feature created by water streaming down the northern face of Jebel
Hafit.

The field trip will be of interest to those interested in the geology of
Jebel Hafit. Wadi Nahayan extends along the boundary between two of
the key geological plates in the area.

Al Ain has some amazing rock formations, razor back ridges seemingly pushed up out of the ground. Alongside these run the wadis. Google Maps shows this clearly. I've written earlier about the abandoned restaurant on top of one of these ridges, it's now gone and there's apparently going to be a hotel built in it's place. It will have a commanding view of the surrounding area, although I wasn't sure of the stability of the site.

One of my questions was about how these ridges were formed. My thoughts were that they had been pushed up by some long ago earthquakes and plate shifts. These thoughts were supported by the fact that Al Ain is on a fault line and there is geothermal activity at the base of the Jabal. Not so Brien tells us. The ridges were left when the mountain that sat where Al Ain now sits eroded away. Similar to the fairy chimneys in central Turkey. This happened when this part of the world was still under the sea, evidenced by the amazing fossils littered about the area. Maybe the ridges are more stable that they look.

We drove to the Green Mubazzarah, a man made green area where families gather to picnic and enjoy the geothermal pools. It was packed as we drove through as the days are getting a little cooler, just right for a late afternoon picnic. My new 4wd came in handy as we bumped along a metal road to the start of the walk, under 80 kms on the clock and it's already dusty and been off the main roads. No self respecting New Zealander would call it 4 wheel driving, but it was fun.

My coffee table bowl now has some additions, quartz crystals and some chert of different colors. I suspect I'm going to need a larger bowl quite soon. The photos are from the start of the walk looking down over the Green Mubazzarah; a rock with fossils, mostly shells; and the terrain.

After several failed attempts, I'll load the photos separately. I must get my connection sorted, another job for today.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

New wheels


I got to ride in a taxi back from yoga after walking there in the subtle but sweaty dusk heat. The taxi driver and I went via Toyota. I've been trying to organise my new car for weeks now, something always gets in the way. I'm not sure if that's a sign or just sent to try me. I've now got the bank papers, all I need to do is catch Toyota open so I can get them to register it and wave as I drive away.

It's my first new car, an impressive Toyota Fortuna 4wd. The first car purchase where I've had to go through the process on my own instead of leaving it to the man of the house. I know when I get it will be awesome. I'll be able to go off road, I'm even getting some lessons on desert driving. There will be photos, promise.

I was talking to Sarah, a fellow foodie, about my time in Belgium and my favorite flavor. In Italy it was the cherry galato, in Qatar it was raspberry sorbet, in NZ it was pineapple lumps and in Belgium it was Kriek beer. Cherry beer, yum! Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, I sampled it on my last day and we were on the bikes so I had to make do with one bottle. I took the photo so I could convince our local supplier to buy some in for me, otherwise I'll just have to visit Di again.

Sarah also drank Kriek when she lived in Belgium. Her excuse was it was the only beer she could pronounce easily, I suspect she actually liked it too. I'm missing the lovely company I had in Belgium, being part of a family again with all those family things like plenty of cooking and dishes. I particularly miss Sahara. I was reminded about her today on the long walk to yoga. I'm sure the men out front were wondering what the mad western woman was doing smiling in their direction. The cause was a sign, Lulu Sahara over a small dairy.

The plan for the weekend is to do some driving, might go to see Sue in Liwa. Liwa is just east of the middle of nowhere and Sue has not long moved there fro work. I have chocolate for her from Belgium, yes I love that too and the pastries for breakfast.......yum yum yum. Tomorrow is another work day, a day of planning and meetings. By the end of the day I'll have my new wheels, Inshallah.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Friday



Fridays are days when I spend the morning talking to family then go out and about in the afternoon, this afternoon to the Rotana gym and pool with Sarah. We had a quiet workout, it wasn't that many hours since I'd left the Rotana after Thursday drinks. Nina, Mary-Anne and I made a night of it, fun with excellent company.

I've missed lazing by the pool. It was nice to chill in the water and bake in the sun, very relaxing. Anne and I were doing the Natural History Group tramp, we both piked out. It was going to be a mission, a long hard walk in the heat and I certainly wasn't up to that. Anne agreed.

I still don't have my internet sorted and I'm trying to upload a couple of photos, may take some time. The photos are of a previous trip to the desert, the sun setting through the branches of one of the sparse desert trees. Jess helped me improve the clarity of the original. The other is of my traveling companions, Jess and Sahara, in Brugges.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Back in the hot lands

Well, not as hot as when I left. I had to turn on the electric hot water last night as the sun is no longer heating the tanks on the roof enough for a warm morning shower. A bit of a shock to get a cold one yesterday. It's nice though, being back and catching up with everyone. Being in the bone warming heat again.

The Belgian chocolates made it home intact, thanks to Rau's eski and have been appreciated by all who've had a sample. I've been immersed in work, trying to catch up on all that's happened and needs to happen while I've been away. Good news is the weekend's coming. Todays jobs are to to get the internet sorted, it's intermittent and very slow, frustrating after Di's high speed. I've also got an appointment at the Rotana after work.

The weekend promises to be a quiet one; walking with the natural history group, catching up with friends, food shopping and cleaning my dusty house. There's a few sand dunes that need to be removed mostly due to the storm the day I left. A very impressive storm with thunder and lightening as well as wind capable of tearing trees to pieces and forcing the sand through my window seals. The rain was the best, that hot rain that falls on the hot ground and releases the earth smell. Rain is so rare here, a bit of treat, and my neighbors made the most of it. Children laughing and running through the puddles and the adults standing watching, laughing. A good sight as I left to catch my plane.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Middelheim Sculpture Park





Di and I rode to the Middelheim Sculpture Park along the cycle lanes in the warm afternoon. There were bikes out everywhere, I had to remember to keep out of the way as others came through faster than these ambling women. The park is amazing, treasures scattered through the trees, tree lined lanes, sculptures of the serene, surreal and bizarre. I took heaps of photos and really want to add more, but for now, here are a selection.

Tomorrow I head to Dubai via Amsterdam. Rau and Sarah are meeting me and we're staying the night before heading back to Al Ain, via a shopping mall or several knowing my companions. Eid is over and I'm back at work on Wednesday. Part of me can't wait, there's heaps to be caught up on. Part of me will miss the family who have so generously included me in their lives through this tough time. Thanks Di, Gert, Jess and Sahara. Thanks Marco for the loan of your bed. I've really enjoyed spending time with you and appreciated your support. As you know, there's always a bed at my place.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

In action



Not often I like photos of me but I liked these ones Jess took of me in Bruges. The horse and I were obviously looking at something important.