Saturday, 28 March 2009

August Rush

I could feel the music in this movie.......



Rau and I saw Duplicity yesterday, a bit disappointed although I didn't hold out great hopes for Julia Roberts as a CIA agent. The plot was convoluted and at times difficult to follow. Could have been because we were freezing in the air conditioning after gyming and swimming.

The good thing is, we found the Rotana theatre and it has a great selection of movies so we will get to see the latest. It's also walking distance from home, a bonus.

Where the Wild Things Are

Nick sent me this movie trailer when we were talking on Skype..........



He wondered where I was reading the story from as I watched it. I know it by heart because it was his favourite book when he was little. I read it to him hundreds of times, no wonder he's excited it's now a movie.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Blog gone it! Having technical difficulties!

It rained here today


It rained here today, a few drops on the car window on the way home but rain none the less. Last night there was quite a storm. Booming thunder and sparkling, crackling lightening disturbed my Skype conversation. At first I couldn't believe what I was hearing so went out to check, in time to see Christine wrestling with the outside door as the gale blew the sand full force into her face.

I ran to shut all my open things and then watched the spectacle. When it had calmed a bit, I went onto the roof to watch the show and get some photos. The lightening was off in the distance and so no clear shots but it was fun to watch the locals outside dancing, shouting and playing in the wild weather.

Today I hear that parts of Al Ain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi copped a massive hail storm, winds and dust caused heaps of accidents on the road and everyone had a story to tell of the stormy night. Manal and Sarah got hail and a whirlwind of sand and dust. Sarah watched the locals quickly vacate the shisha cafe where she was eating and run inside while she sat and ate. The sand in her food defeated her so she beat a dignified retreat home, only to get caught in the hail storm.

It's going to be quiet at work next week. Morag and Sarah are on holiday, one at home with her family the other off to the UK for a family wedding. I'm hoping to get some down time this week, more time for the gym and pool as well as yoga on Monday night with Anne. Anne's another KINA along with Kate who arrived last week.

Anne and I went to the Hilton for a yoga session, mmmmm can I bend THAT way, really? It was good to meet others from here outside of work and talk about things not work related, difficult at times with a large group who live and work together. After yoga I walked home camera in hand and took some night shots, not very successfully. I need some more tuition Di, would love you to come and stay. The only shot I was remotely happy with is here.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Of sand storms and things

It's sand storm season here. We've had a couple of beauties lately, ones where my kitchen bench had small dunes of red sand and my whole place was covered in a layer of dust. One of the worst things about the sand storms or Shamal is that people go a bit crazy in the winds and heavy, humid heat. The kids at school are no exception.

One of the teachers told me today that summer has arrived as we walked across the courtyard in 40C plus heat. I agree, summer appears to be here. Everyone seems a bit tired and cranky and ready for a holiday. Alas, there's no break until July for the new ones in the team, the teachers or the kids. The ones who have been here longer get this week or next off and it doesn't help to hear about where they're going for their hols. Wonderful, we say enviously.

At least the sand storms here are not as fierce or frequent as the ones in Qatar. The storms there were more dust than sand, sticky white dust from the construction and destruction in the city. I can remember walking through a dust storm to the supermarket one evening with a pashmina covering my whole head, difficult to see but a necessity. I had a guest coming to share my last bottle of red and wanted cheese. Despite being covered, I got covered in dust.

I'm busy at work, enjoying working in Arabi again. Enjoying the teachers humour, conversations with them, meeting their families, learning more of the language and the sharing of our cultures. I learnt a lot from the teachers in Qatar and have had their philosophy reinforced here. For the teachers, their families come first; they enjoy interacting with each other over food and they don't worry about the small stuff.

This is a culture of hospitality and friendly inclusion, and I feel privileged to have been made so welcome. I think that New Zealanders seem to be more accepting of the differences we find in other cultures and therefore we tend to be more readily accepted by others. This perhaps comes from our history of colonisation, the imposition of one culture onto another. We are aware of the issues. I take care not to do that here, to value what the teachers know and do and to work alongside them to improve our practices.

I had the loveliest conversation today on our way to a book fair in a bus full of chattering girls . The teacher is one who speaks a little English and she asked about where I was from. Near Australia? She knew that NZ had heaps of cows and sheep. Now she knows it's also a small country with few people compared to other places around here. I have promised to bring some photos, the KINAs who have been here awhile are keen to see some of home too. A job for the weekend.

I've really appreciated the flood of emails I've had in the past week or so. It's great hearing the news, the goss from home. Kez and Sasi are now home owners, Nick and Courtney have a new flat and I got to talk to Tim and Sarah on Skype. I hope to catch up with others on Skype this weekend and get some replies written.

Later I write, I've just been out to admire Tracey's car. When we arrived, Tracey declared she would never drive here. A couple of months later, she has a car. She's our taxi for the morning, looking forward to another adventure! At least we know the way to school between us.

I'm thinking now that I might need to get my licence organised so I can drive too. It'll make life easier although less social as I share a taxi everyday and get rides home via Scalinis or La Brioche, both of whom have very good coffee. They also know how I enjoy mine.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Of seagulls and things




It's Friday again, the weeks here fly past. I think it's something to do with the fact that Wednesday is no longer hump day, that's Tuesday's job. So when Wednesday comes, it's almost the weekend!

I don't normally write about my work but Thursday was so special it needs a mention. It was excellence day at school, celebration day for the kids and teachers and of course we were invited to be a part of it all. I really appreciate that the teachers do want us to be such a part of the school culture. We sat and watch the ceremonies unfold, the entertainment, the presentations, the speeches. And the tug of war competition.
In our translated programmes it said computations, little did we suspect that we were part of said computations. The kids had a tug of war against the teachers, much hilarity, the teachers had one against each other and then it was our turn. Not sure why the teachers were so keen to have little old me on their teams, I'm hardly an anchor!

We tugged and tugged, very competitive with sledging from both sides. The other team won, no one was badly injured but wait, someone mentioned a rematch so it was all on again. One of the teachers told me to take off my heels, no I don't think so!

The kids and their mothers enjoyed the day and it ended with a huge meal, a buffet only possible in this country with an amazing selection of food and Fanta. the teachers laughed and chatted with us in a relaxed social setting where the sharing of food and stories of the celebration day overcame any language barrier, a relaxed inclusion into the sisterhood.

We were stuffed full by the end and ready for another Fanta or several at Trader Vics. We went later to sample the seafood buffet at the Intercontinental. I managed to get through a lobster and other delicacies washed down with a lovely Italian white, perfect for the sea food. Nothing better than good food and good company, washed down with a smooth vino.
Oh, about the seagulls. They managed to get into most of my Dubai shots so here are two shots I dedicated just to them, one watching me eat and the other the early evening sky alive with gulls. I also have Jonathon Livingstone Seagull moments quite often here. If you're not sure what that means, read the book.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Milestones

I have reached an important milestone. I now have residency. This is a huge milestone because now I can open a bank account; have a post office box; go in and out of the country at will; hire/lease/buy a car; get my drivers licence; join the gym etc etc. Actually all the things that make me feel that important sense of belonging. And finally, I have my good old NZ passport back in my safe keeping complete with the residency document inside.

I've always wanted an interesting passport and looked longingly at other passports with multiple stamps and visas while mine only had Australia, soon to be a place we don't need a passport for. Now mine looks interesting, and sure to get more interesting as I explore both this part of the world further and return to Europe.

I opened my bank account today, with Rau watching longingly. Her residency is still on it's way. I said no thank you to two more credit cards, I do enough damage with the one I already have thanks. Once again the person at HSBC was very helpful and stayed on late to open my account and answer my 20 questions. It was great to put my cash in the bank out of my sight, too tempting to have so much handy.

I have really enjoyed the emails I've had from home lately, from the friends who miss me and take time to write. I have been a bit slow in answering at times and plan to write to all over the next week or so. In the meantime, please read this blog as my news and keep your emails coming, I love to hear from you!

Right, back to work. I'm procrastinating while writing a PD session so best I get it finished now.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

And this weekend

Time to catch up on some pool time and relaxation at the Rotana. The pool is lovely if a little warm for me at 31 C. There were quite a few families out enjoying the day and it was fun to watch the kids and listen to the variety of languages they spoke. They managed to find some common language so they could engage in the universal language of play.

The Rotana gym's well equipped and not too busy on a Friday afternoon. We've had a couple of workouts since we joined and a bonus is the TV screens on the walkers. Austin Powers is always good for a giggle while walking.

We caught up with Hayden and Sarah for a BBQ and a few quiets, a fantastic BBQ with all sorts of yummy food. We listened to NZ music and yakked the night away. Maryanne regaled us with tales, I'm sure she was a stand up comedian in a past life. A lazy weekend spent with good friends.

The night was not yet over

We decided we'd go out for a drink a bit later and thought the Jazz Bar in our hotel was a good place to start. It was quiet and there was good reason for this. They had Barry Manilow live on the large TV. We stayed a while with our cocktails and then began to lose the will to live.

There were only a few very subdued people in the bar. The only active person was a lady in very tight clothes and very high heels. She seemed to be coming and going a bit along with some of the bar patrons. The waiter came over and I asked him if there was any other music, music that was good to dance to. He looked horrified.

"There will be none of that dancing here. You tap the foot but under the table" he said shaking his head.

"So, no dancing here then" was my comment.

"No, no just the tapping of the foot." He replied gravely.

He went on to tell us that it was too dangerous because the bar was too small for the waiters with their trays and people dancing. It was one of those conversations you could bottle.

I asked if he could possibly change the music, not sure he really understood about how we were losing the will to live. We were deciding on BB King when into the room burst a Scotsman complete with kilt and all the trimmings. He eyed up what was happening, noticed Barry on the screen and pushed back through the doors with a flourish and a laugh.

Rau and I were speechless for a minute, then burst out laughing. Things were looking up but that was as looked up as it got. We never saw the Scotsman again but we did get BB King and another cocktail while quietly tapping our foot under the table and people watching.

Travelling home the next day was a treat. After a stop at the Gold Souq we made our way to the bus station courtesy of the best taxi driver we'd had on the whole trip. The bus looked packed and there were people in the queue by the door. We stood back thinking we would have to wait for the next bus.

But no, where there's a will there's a way. The bus was a smaller one, two seats on one side and one on the other but the bonus was the seats that folded out into the aisle. Yep, we got two of those. We also had to have our bags on top of us and get out whenever someone got off the bus.

It was an interesting trip, cramped and hot but we had a laugh with the other women, mostly Filipino, squashed into the front with us. The young driver was obviously enjoying having one of the girls up front with him.

It never fails to amaze me how tolerant and cheerful people here are about things that would twist our knickers in NZ. The health and safety considerations that are ignored, the comfort people go without to get from A to B, the acceptance of others like us two Kiwis they had to accommodate in an already crowded bus. They shared drinks and offered food, talked to us in English and one helped me with the Sudoku I had found in the paper.

I was pleased to be home after a good weekend break. A long weekend that helped remind me that it's not all work here, I'm here to holiday and see the sights as well. To experience living in this very different culture, to learn some more Arabi and meet people from other cultures and other walks of life.

PS We didn't find out who won the Rugby 7s until we got back to Al Ain, apparently no one in Dubai knew and it wasn't on the telly. Go Wales!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

More from Dubai









Our second day in Dubai was full on, up early to catch the all day bus and make the most of hopping on and off at the places we chose. The bus is 200DHS but worth every penny for us to get our bearings in Dubai. A dhow ride was also included and we managed that on sunset. The sunset photos are taken from the dhow.


We checked the usual tourist spots and took photos from the bus. These weren't that successful and I ended up almost sitting on someones lap when the bus took off unexpectedly! We drove down the palm to Atlantis, along Jumeira Beach stopping at a market there and managed to ride the bus around most of both routes.

We ended the day at a buffet, we were both fainting with hunger. It'd been a long time since breakfast and rushing around we missed eating. I could see the locals watching these two strange women filling their plates and scoffing the food, inhaling the food, without talking then sitting there laughing at ourselves.

The photos are of Lucy Jordan in her sports car with the wind in her hair (Ok, so it's Rau on the bus!); sunset on the creek, Mina A' Salam and the Burj Al Arab from Jumeira Beach.

Friday, 13 March 2009

A Dubai Friday








It was difficult to choose photos from the ones I took in Dubai on the first day. One, there were plenty and two, they didn't really seem to capture the excitement of this first visit. The tall buildings, the bustle of people, the sights, sounds and smells. Some days are like that. We had a magic time with Hayden and Sarah guiding us around their favourite part of Dubai, the bustling and multicultural Dubai Creek area.

Friday afternoon, anywhere in this part of the world, is when people come out to socialise, to wander, to shop, to have chai and a shisha. We just joined the crowds. We rode an abra (the small boat in one of the pics) across the creek. That was fun, packed on with others and bouncing our way across competing and playing dodgems with other abra, lots of shouting and shaking of fists. Lots of fun for only 1DHS or about 50cNZ.

On the other side were the souqs, similar to the ones we had in Doha only not as flash, not as many places to sit and people watch. We got accosted as we walked by the usual back room knock off handbag sellers and enjoyed haggling for the pashminas (OK, so I have a few now) and spices.

I got a good selection of spices so I can make some of the dishes here but best of all some cardamon for my hot chocolate. We sat and enjoyed a shisha and a coffee in a cafeteria beside the creek. I had to laugh, I ordered my usual espresso and he smiled as he said "double". I nodded of course.

When the coffees came out, well I should add the photo. There were three red Nescafe cups complete with the sponsor's product and Rainbow milk plus one small cup with two spoons of Nescafe and a little water, yum! I should have know but coffee withdrawls make me do stupid things, much to the amusement of others.

The shisha was OK but this non smoker had to put up with the ridicule of those who could make heaps of smoke while I only managed small dragon puffs. It was a great day out and we were shattered and ready for room service and TV, something neither of us have so a novelty. We could even have a beer with dinner, luxury and a step up for the last hotel we booked.
The photos are of the shisha girls, the abra on the creek and a wind tower and sails in the cultural village on sunset.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Camels








We had a great trip to Dubai last weekend. Hayden and Sarah took us saving a long bus ride. Hayden drives like a local so so it was much quicker than the bus! On the way we saw some camels in the distance and because Rau hadn't been up close and personal with a camel, we stopped in the dust to get some photos. Much to the amusement of the locals.

Rau got some offers in Arabic from a local gentleman. Not sure if he was offering a ride on the camels, asking her to come for a drive with him around the camel track or whether he just wanted Hayden and Sarah's flash 4WD. Hayden came to the rescue and chatted with him, as blokes do.
The photos are of the group of tethered camels; one who wondered what these mad people were doing taking photos; Sarah showing us the race camel we were buying to race at the track; and the trainers coming back from a session on the track.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Deliveries

Getting furniture delivered is a mission. There are no street addresses. We live in Al Ghali near Al Ain Megamart, delivery trucks get to Megamart or nearby and call us for further directions. Given the language barrier, this can be fraught with miscommunications.

The best option is to tackle this in a team, one standing on the street corner and the other running down to Megamart to find the delivery truck and show the way. Here's an example of a typical delivery.

"Hello" says Rau.
"Hello, we at Megamart. Where you" replies the delivery man.
"OK. Drive along the main road, past the lights three streets and turn right at the next shops"
"OK, we know"
10 minutes later.
"Hello, we at Megamart. Where you."

Re read line 3, 4 and 5 several times and you might get the picture, hilarious if you're not waiting in the dark. This happened last night as the last of Rau's furniture was delivered. I was the one who ran to Megamart to look for the truck.

The call came late in the evening so Rau grabbed me and off I went minus my glasses, a bad mistake when looking for trucks in the dark. While Rau was waiting she got several offers from a couple of young men in a car so needed the old girl with her to help fend them off, yep they drove off when I arrived all right.

I ran down to Megamart looking everywhere for the truck. I must have looked like a crazy woman having to peer at the all truck like vehicles because delivery trucks come in all shapes and sizes so we've found. I'm surprised no one called the police. Maybe they're used to our strange ways by now.

In the mean time while I was searching the phone call above continued several times. Then the penny dropped, to the right of Megamart on a back street there's a small block of shops. Sure enough, outside these was a yellow delivery truck with a man talking on the phone. Their faces lit up, big smiles all round when they saw me, the only pale face in the area.

After some discussion, they opened the cab door and all moved over to make room for the ace navigator. So here I was in a small truck cab with three smiling Indian men directing them to our place. Round the corner by our shops.

"Oh" laughed the one who spoke the most English. "You say Alamah Supermarket, then we know." The others all laughed and nodded their agreement repeating the name of our very small, hole in the wall supermarket run by the friendly Jordanian man. Of course everyone knows where that supermarket is!

I'm pleased we have this information now, it might save a few headaches for future deliveries. That is if we buy anything else. I'm set for everything I need now and hopefully we'll get a car soon for any other bits and pieces.

We have the same fun with the taxi drivers. I got one the other day who laughed when I got in. He remembered picking me up and me telling him to slow down in Arabic. He shared a few more words with me as he dropped me to the door, no directions needed.

Going to Dubai

It's the weekend and I'm going to Dubai! What's more it's a long weekend so Rau and I have some time to have a good look around. I have only been to the airport at Dubai and had dubious experiences there so I didn't have much of a hankering to go to the city proper.

But there's a long weekend, I have no passport to go to Oman so Dubai it is. We're planning on doing the on off city bus tour and hope to catch some of the 7's, probably on the telly at the hotel given that the tickets are sold out. Sarah offered us a ride today, she's going to the 7's. Bonus, no bus ride with the driver talking on two phones while smoking and driving with his knees at 140kph. Not to mention all the stops, we've already had that adventure.

Most of all I want to go for a swim, no I haven't had one yet. Rau and I walked to the Rotana in a wicked dust storm to join the gym last Saturday only to find that they were full and there was a waiting list. I would have loved to see our faces, all dressed up in the gym gear and no place to exercise. And no swim.

Plan B, check out a post box, the bank and the Home Centre sale and get a walk in in the process. Off we went, blown about by the strong wind and having to cover our eyes to stop them being sand blasted. We looked a sight, two wind blown chicks from down under bursting into the Post Office then the bank.

I can't believe the service we got in both places and this has been my experience here so far with all the services I have contacted. We got forms to fill in, had to provide information about our work and residency status and were treated with total respect. The men and women we dealt with couldn't have been more helpful and personable. We even got a post box number without all the proper papers, just have to take them back to get the key.

We had a quick look at the Home Centre sale, very dangerous. I got some more frames for my photos and we checked out the delivery of our goods set for the next day. Sure enough there was a mix up and we needed two deliveries. Oh well, might as well add something else to the pile already being delivered. How they deliver is another story.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The KINAs

We had our first KINA dinner last night. A kina is a seafood delicacy in New Zealand, KINAs are kiwis in Nord Anglia. We are getting to be a large contingent with the arrival of Anne making five in Al Ain.

So what do KINAs have from dinner when they get together? A lamb roast of course, complete with mint sauce, proper gravy and all the vege. Kumara, potato, pumpkin, broccoli and cauli in garlic cheese sauce and honey glazed carrots, a feast. We even had pud, a chocolate number with ice cream.

But best of all was the company, the conversation, the laughter. We've promised to do it all again, next time at Sarah's for a BBQ.

Another work week has begun. It began with the taking of blood and xrays that are a part of the medical check needed to get residency. I hate needles, do my best to avoid them and today I was a bit pale and shaky after the test. Did they really need they really need to take that much blood? Well, it's all over for now and the bruise doesn't look as fierce yet as the one I got from the Qatar tests.

I just hope our residency is all done and dusted so Rau and I can take the trip we are planning to Jordan towards the end of March when we have a week off. If not, it might be a week spent looking around the Emirates something we haven't done properly yet, we shall see.