Friday, 27 February 2009

Inside my flat

I spent some time cleaning this morning, tidying and of course the never ending dusting. It's amazing how the sand and dust comes in through any opening and coats everything. I thought I'd take a couple of photos while the place is looking good, it won't last long.

I went shopping this week and found a few treasures, the pictures on the wall, some good photo frames for the family selection and a couple of cushions. Amazing how the small things make such a difference. The red sets off the gold curtains and the beige everything else, the place needed some colour. The wall pictures were very cheap, about $18 each and look great. I intended to add my own photos to the frames but will leave as is for now.

I'm pleased with look, with the homely feel the place has now. It's important to me to have a space I enjoy being in at home. Having the door outside is such a bonus, even if it's way to hot to be out today, into the 40s I suspect. At least the washing's getting dry!


I've finally got my computer sorted. I now have my own internet connection, the techs called this morning to install my router. I also now have sound, such a bonus when listening to the news, checking out YouTube and most especially when using Skype. No sound means no conversation, kind of obvious that, so I haven't spoken to anyone from home properly for a number of weeks now.

Although I've been flat out getting my head around the job, keeping in contact with my family is really important to my well being. I have got heaps of company here, old friends and new, most of us experiencing low times where we miss those closest to us. Things happen at home, the bush fires in Australia and news of family problems just two recent examples that highlight how far from home we are.

It's Thursday night here, must change the time and location to Al Ain, and we had a full staff meeting today. It was great to meet some new people and engage in some good discussion about our role in this part of the world. I'm not sure how many nationalities were present but I met a Palestinian, several South Africans, many from the UK and of course the ever present ANZACs.

We gathered for lunch in one of our favourite watering holes, Trader Vics and chatted the heat of the afternoon away. I looked longingly at the pool, Rau and I have been planning to join the gym so hopefully will get that organised this weekend so I can swim.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Some more from the hood

Add ImageHere are some other photos from the area. One is Al Jahali Fort which is next to the park, one is of our local shops, one our apartment building and finally down town Al Ain.

We haven't eaten at Mohammad Ali Restaurant yet but are regulars at the one on the right and the supermarket at the other end. I buy my water there as well as my Etisalat phone cards and bits and pieces.

My apartment is on the other side of the building pictured, on the ground floor and has an outside area, a luxury for this kiwi girl. I have a new chair, a wooden rocker with red cushions, I can carry that out to relax with my coffee or wine.

I have my apartment quite well set up now. I bought a set of four tables from the Home Centre, dark wood and sturdy. I use them for my bedside lamp, my ipod, digital photo frame and a general one for coffee etc. I also got some pot plants on the weekend and a couple of coloured cushions, all to make the place a bit less bare, a bit more homely.
Will include some indoor photos soon. For now, I need an early night with a good book. My work is up to date, unusual, and I'm off on a trip to the fruit and vege souq with two bus loads of girls tomorrow. Will need to be very alert for that, looking forward to the fun!

The hood

We are really lucky that we live close to many amenities including a really nice area called Jahali Park. Jahali Park has some lovely water features, one of which is pictured here. It has large grass areas and shade trees. Any time I have gone to the park there have been families out enjoying the greenness of the lawns, gardens and the palms. Most importantly they seem to be enjoying time spent with their children.
We are also really close to the city centre and many excellent local restaurants and shops, all within easy walking distance. When Sue, Annie and Nicole came to visit I took the time to take some photos of our neighbourhood and to sample some of the local cuisine. The Indian across the road is worth a revisit, although we couldn't eat all they served up.
I live in a diverse area and I noticed that one of our school bus drivers lives nearby. He's Indian like many here. We also have a group of young Filipino's who love to karaoke; some Palestinians and Jordanians who hang out at our local shops and love a chat; and assorted others whose children play in the streets around.
It's a family area with lots of primary and kindergarten aged children in the neighbouring apartments. I had a game of basketball with a group of boys one morning and had a laugh today at the three children on the one bike clicking along the road. I resisted the urge to get my camera out for that one.
We still have fun giving taxis the directions, go to Al Ain Mega Mart, Al Jahali then ceda (straight) to the next shops and then right. It's great when we get the same driver, such a small place that we often do. We have a regular driver each morning to school. Raul costs us about $5 extra each morning but saves the headache of flagging down a taxi. Cheap at twice the price.
All in all, Al Ain is a relaxed, easy, pleasant place to live. After visiting Abu Dhabi, I feel I feel like I'm in the right place. Sue, Annie and Nicole might just become regular visitors, they enjoyed the peace and quiet. We enjoyed the company.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A day out

Sue, Annie and Nicole arrived at Al Ain MegaMart just as I was finishing my groceries, not bad for a Friday. I cleaned my house, yes I can hear those who know me well laughing. I don't clean as a life style choice, I would much rather be doing other things but with guests coming needs must. I got washing done, beds made up and was there to meet the girls from the taxi. And all before lunch.

We went out walking after lunch to Al Ghali park and watched the families enjoying the afternoon. We took heaps of photos, the one here of Annie, Sue and I under the shade of a big tree. We found a cafe and had lemon mint in a tall glass, relaxing in the shade. A good way to spend the afternoon.
We found two willing taxi drivers to take us up Jebal Hafeet. They got a laugh out of the mad New Zealanders and one Canadian walking in the hot sun and wanting an expensive taxi ride. They cheerfully waited for us and took us back down. Sue and I talked cricket with our Pakistani driver to distract him form passing on yet another blind corner and tail gating the poor person in front, an exciting ride down the hill.

He enjoyed me taking a photo of him, checking it out to see it was OK. I'm sure the drivers here know us like they did in Qatar. We catch taxis all the time, everyday to school as well as around town.

Friday, 20 February 2009

TGI Friday

I love Fridays. Friday is the first day of my weekend, the day after Thursday night drinks at Traders followed by Indian for dinner.

Traders is a bar in the rotana and a crowd go there for drinks most weeks. I haven't laughed so much in ages, or had such strong cocktails. Mine was a tropical treat in a tall glass, a welcome drink after a long week. Maryann regaled us with tales of love and loss and everything in between. I'm sure she was a stand up comedian in a past life.

The kinas (kiwis in Nord Anglia) talked about home, those present all came from Christchurch so we had a bit in common. We're planning a kina dinner soon, a roast of course. We might even invite the Aussie, make her an honary kiwi for the night. I'm almost ready to forgive her for her comments about how we say punk sucks for pink and six.

I have friends coming for the weekend so looking forward to a social one, again. I hope to post more photos now I can access Flickr. I also have Skype, thanks to a VPN so things are looking up. Next thing to do, get a sound card for my new computer so I can use Skype.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Meanwhile, back in Al Ain

We caught the bus home, thanks to Morag getting us to the bus station. I couldn't believe it only cost 10dhs to get from AD to Al Ain, a trip of around 2 hours. Well, most times I'm sure it takes that long. This trip the driver sped along at around 140 kph for most of the way, until we had a stop around 50ks from Al Ain. He needed a cuppa apparently.

Rau bought a camera, a cool Canon, so went up on the roof to get some shots. I had a play with hers and will get some to add here soon. The two I've added are of the pink mosque in the early morning light and one from our roof over the neighbourhood on dusk. Note the dust haze.

I took the first on the way to school. Three of us catch the same taxi each morning so I got the chance to get the photo while Christine was getting out, a quick shot. I'm really missing iPhoto, can't seem to get my photos edited on this computer so what you see is what I took.

Pub with no beer....

People wondered how we had got to stay at the Beach Rotana for such a good price, after all it's close to the Abu Dhabi Mall, has a beach to swim at, a pool, bars and restaurants. We discovered the reason when we arrived at the Rotana Apartments. We weren't actually staying at the Beach Rotana, rather we were staying in a pub with no beer.

Rau and I had been hanging out for a drink and were talking about the mini bar amongst other things on the way. Imagine our surprise when the Bloody Mary was called the Virgin Mary on the drinks list, that's right a mocktail not a cocktail. Yes, the kiwi girls were being mocked all right, much to Morag's delight.

The trip to Abu Dhabi began in a sand storm so we were extra thirsty, a cuppa didn't quite do the trick. The day was dusty in Al Ain and got progressively worse as we headed to Abu Dhabi giving the trip a surreal atmosphere. Morag showed us the main sights and I got a photo of the new mosque peeping out from the whiteout. Being white, it doesn't look nearly as impressive as it does with a blue sky backdrop, maybe a photo for next trip.

We decided to set out for the night life, after the cuppa and a nana nap so walked through the wind and dust to a Hilton hotel, yep the wrong one again. A taxi ride fixed the problem and we arrived at the right Hilton and Hemingway's for a hard earned drink, I mean for a meal.

On the way to Abu Dhabi I told Morag that I had two friends there and wanted to catch up with them. I'd mislaid their contact details so had little idea where to start. While Rau and I were waiting for a table, I heard the cry, Madge and who should almost bowl me over but Sue and Annie, yep I caught up with them alright. It's such a small world.

We had a great night out, dancing and yakking to the small hours, what fun. We met the next day for a touch of shopping and then some more socialising. An enjoyable weekend, good to get away from Al Ain, although it's left me a bit behind in my work, I'll catch that up soon I'm sure.
Sue and Annie and others are coming to stay next weekend, should be fun!
The photos are parking Emerati style and Rau, Sue's friend, Morag and Sue at breakfast. I didn't get many photos, the light was not right.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

I'm back......

I've had a few comments from others about how quiet my blog has been. There's been heaps to do getting my head around a new job, a new place to live, a new lifestyle and of course meeting the many, many new people who have crossed my path in the last fortnight.

Yes, my second week in Al Ain is almost at an end, funny it feels like I've been here forever. I hit the ground running at work, the only way it works around here it appears. I have remembered my limited Arabic words and the teachers have enjoyed that I'm willing to learn more, nothing like immersion for that. The girls noticed my necklace with my name in Arabic on the first day so most of the older ones know my name.
Rau, pictured above near the top of Jebel Hafeet, and I have explored and shopped and socialised. We took a taxi to the top of the mountain to get the lay of the land only to find it was a bit hazy to get good photos. The view is amazing, the mountain higher than I expected and there's a hotel with a pool and restaurants at the top.
This weekend we're heading to Abu Dhabi for a look. We only landed there in the wee small hours so have not seen the place in day light yet. One of my colleagues commutes from there so kindly offered us a ride. I hope to have my new computer tomorrow so will be more willing to put time into computer work. I've lost much of what I write on this one and have to save it all to a memory stick, very frustrating and demotivating.
Watch this space for photos from the weekend, I'm sure I'll have more time next week to catch up on my emails and blog. In the mean time, know that I am thinking of everyone back home and enjoying the emails you are taking the time to send me.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Out and about in Al Ain

Rau and I went for a walk after doing the usual Friday morning things; washing, housework and groceries. We thought it would be good to explore some more of our walking distance surroundings so we turned left instead of the usual right to Lulus.

We found the city souq. What a disappointment after the lovely Souq Wakif in Doha. There was no sitting with a coffee watching the people go by, meeting with friends, enjoying sorbet or even shopping. The goods mostly looked like junk. I had hoped we were in the wrong place but when we checked the map, it seemed we weren't.
We also found the Al Ain Oasis. This is a lovely, cool place full of palms, very peaceful. We wandered a bit, took some photos and headed for home. We are really lucky with the amenities we have nearby. There are two big supermarkets, lots of local shops, the main city centre, the Rotana Hotel, two parks and the little pizza shop.

We had pizza for tea, yum. Fancy getting great pizza, Italian pizza here. Couple that with a nice red in my new gold rimmed wine glasses and good company, all good really. I'm chillin tonight, turned down a social invitation as I need some down time to relax. I've got a comfy bed and a book calling me, luxury.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

While I have access.....

I lost reliable Internet access soon after writing my last post. Since then it's been intermittent or non existent. I suspect that will be the case until I get my own connection so while I have access right now, I will add some photos. I'm a bit tired to add too much else.

Actually, later after wine and shopping I write, the photos I've got need some work, trimming and sorting so I won't add any yet. My current computer, which is going to be changed on Sunday after I complained, is not able to support any programmes to edit photos. It also doesn't play DVDs or have much spare hard drive space and is the older model of the one that crashed on me in my last job.

Not one to complain about other things, give me bad ICT equipment and you will hear about it. I am looking forward to seeing what else is on offer. Who knows I might even be able to use Skype, not holding my breath though.

I'm shattered so off to my nice comfy bed for a long sleep and a lay in tomorrow, luxury. I'm not a morning person so early starts kill me, especially five days in a row of early starts. I am starting to get into a morning routine, a routine that means I do actually get dressed and take the right pills before I leave my apartment. I so need the red ones to get through the day and the blue ones help too.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Almost the weekend

It's been an interesting week. I finally feel like I have my bearings after getting lost going to school this morning. The taxi driver went a different way but we got to one of the schools then couldn't find the other. Tracey and I ended up walking a bit then getting into another taxi and calling someone. Imagine our surprise to look across the road and, you guessed it, there was the school. The very helpful driver laughed and drove us around the roundabout to get there, much relief all round.

Tracey and I have an interesting history and we have only known each other a few days. We both got on the plane in Brisbane and ended up sitting together for some of the first leg. I bailed to give her some room as the plane was far from full so we didn't really chat.

Getting onto a full plane in Singapore we got chatting with the lady in front and realised that not only were we both going to Al Ain but we were also both working for the same company. We live in the same building on different sides and work in the same school, how bizarre is that.

We had a chuckle about this set of coincidences today over coffee and Cinnebon buns. The great thing is that we get on so well, similar cup half full philosophies and similar ways of working.

We got a ride to Al Ain Mall with one of our colleagues and that was when things started to fall into place. I realised how close we are to the city centre, the mall and other amenities, all walking distance for weekend shops. The map's making sense, hope we don't get lost going to school tomorrow.

Monday, 2 February 2009

From the roof

A couple of photos from the roof. Because the buildings are four levels or less, there is no jagged skyline in Al Ain. There are some interesting rocky outcrops near where I live that look interesting to explore.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

I'm here!

I arrived in Al Ain from Brisbane on Thursday night, or rather the early hours of Friday morning after a long flight via Singapore. I was picked up at Abu Dhabi and driven to Al Ain through the fog, arriving about 1.30am.

Raukura was waiting with a cuppa, the building guy gave me a run down on my flat in my jet lagged state, didn't take much in of course. The flat is so much better than the Qatar one, no comparison really. It's huge, airy and although not as light as I like, I do have an outdoor area. This is a long skinny area but still great to sit outside.

We also have a great roof top from which to watch the sun set, a bit cleaner than the Al Hitme roof. I had to laugh, the ones who arrived earlier than us have planned a roof top dinner to welcome us, sound familiar!

I took a sunset photo on my first day and will add photos of the flat and surrounds soon. For now, I have to get some groceries and celebrate our first day at work and having a lap top again. Thanks to whomever has the open connection I'm using right now. I have to get residence before I can get my own.