Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Licence

I've got my drivers licence! And without being asked for my passport, very lucky as I still don't have it back. It was surprisingly quick and easy. I had heard stories otherwise but i always think that a smile and a willingness to chat helps, especially in this part of the world. There is a women's section and I suspect the ladies there get a little bored. There was one other woman there. We congratulated each other laughing when we got handed the card, much to the amusement of the locals behind the counter.

today I'm off on an adventure, a break from routine. I'm heading to Sharjar north of Dubai to attend a conference. One of my teachers is presenting so I get to go and support. Her presentation is awesome, much better than I could do and she's promised to give me lessons on powerpoints. I get to leave a little later than I start school, am traveling with some lovely people and they've promised to stop for coffee on the way, life's good!

I'm taking my camera so hopefully I'll get the chance to take some photos. I can't wait to get a car now, think I might lease for a month while I look to buy. I have friends looking for a car for me. I've looked at one of these beasties.......not sure it fits in my limited budget.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Slackness and weekends





Sorry, I've been a bit slack writing the past month or so. A combination of things really. Firstly I've been busy at work and secondly I've not had much to say as I've settled into a routine of work, socialising, rest and recreation. I have also been slack with taking photos.

All that could change as I again try for my license next week, this time with all the right bits of paper. Thelma and Louise already have wheels. Rau's rented a car and drives like a local after only a day or so of being on the road. I can't wait to get a turn behind the wheel, could be dangerous with my lead foot.

This weekend I broke the routine and went to Dubai for a girls weekend to celebrate a birthday and someone leaving. Thursday night in Dubai rocks. There were quite a few of us and we descended on bars like a rent a crowd crowd, complete with feather boas. Yes, chickens died for our night out. I love to dance so spent the night on the dance floor. I also love cocktails, especially free ones.

We ended up at a bar called Double Decker and danced till the wee small hours, the lights came on too soon. The birthday girl had a great night, as did we all. On Friday we were a little subdued at breakfast, we had some laughs about the night then off out to do our own things. Sarah, Michelle and I went to the mall and wandered around, nothing like food court Chinese for a hang over.

We spent most of our time in the big bookshop, Kinokuniya. I've never seen such a selection of books in one place. I got trapped in the self help section, rows and rows, until I found some steps down to the fiction. I managed to escape the shop ages later with only a few books, surprisingly few. Think I might have been a little overwhelmed by the selection. Luckily my shopping companions are book lovers too.

Today Maryanne joined us and we laxed by the hotel pool, went to lunch at the Lime Tree and then headed home, music blasting. A quite different ANZAC day to last year. Although there were some celebrations in the UAE, it was much more subdued than in Qatar. The Lime Tree's a NZ cafe so we thought there might be something there. But no, just good food, coffee and NZ butter.

I feel like I've been away for a week, a good long break to recharge the batteries. Excellent company, lots of laughter, goss, relaxing and shopping. What more could a girl ask for.
The photos are from Dubai Mall, the giant water feature, layers of shops and the girls.
PS Happy birthday Tim, 30 tomorrow......... Wish I was there to celebrate with you.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The news

I enjoy reading the newspaper here. I usually buy The National as it has interesting local news as well as international. It's good to read the news from another perspective, that is from the Middle Eastern perspective rather than the western one. In NZ we tend to get news dominated by the American perspective. That news only tells one side of a very complex story.

In yesterday's paper there was an article on the closure of the West Bank border by the Israelis. Usually during Easter, Christian Palestinians are allowed a permit so they can go and celebrate this important holiday in Jerusalem. This year they have been denied this basic right. The stated rationale for the border closure is that Easter clashes with Passover, the Jewish celebration of their delivery from slavery in Egypt.

Omar Karmi believes there is another reason, a more fundamental reason for the closures. He writes that Christian Palestinians are granted passes where Muslims are not and that this "disciminating system of permits is a tried and tested control mechanism, one that has been used by colonial regimes across the world."

The same article shares the views of Ray Hacohen, an Israeli academic. He believes that, "the coloniser's gains are clear. Divide and rule; destroying national coherence in favour of separate, conflicting local interests; making the colonised too busy with survival to oppose their oppression."

Perhaps the closures over Easter might do the opposite and unite the Palestinian Christians and Muslims, as 23 year old Jumana Dabis states, the "Palestinians are aware therefore able to be vigilant at attempts to create rifts among them".

I am in awe of the resilience of the Palestinian people.

While I was writing this entry, I got an email from Annie. Here's an extract, thanks Annie.

"A paragraph in today's newspaper made me think of you. It’s about a British pacifist named Emma Sky who loves Iraq and speaks Hebrew and Arabic, and has ended up as an important adviser to the commander of US troops in Iraq. She tells him things that no-one else dares tell him and puts a human face to “the enemy”. Anyway, the bit that really caught my attention was what she said of Iraq:

“It is a fascinating society. They have got things here that we have totally lost in the West: the appreciation of each other, whether it is the family, the clan or the tribe; values that aren’t capitalist.”

Yes, that's just what I noticed on my first visit and continue to see now. I hope the new malls opening and the invasion of fast food outlets don't ruin this for the people here. Although when I see people at the malls, they are usually in family groups enjoying each others company. Long may that last.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Mondays

On a Monday night I meet Ann at the Hilton for a yoga session, two hours of bend and stretch, relax and chat after. I usually also walk there and back a good walk of 30 odd minutes each way. The sights I see make the walk a pleasure, although I miss the company I used to walk with in Qatar. Not quite the same really.

Last week I watched a large group of men, most probably from India and Pakistan, playing cricket on a vacant lot. They were wearing their traditional clothing, mostly in their whites, very fitting. There was also a game of soccer going on next door. I didn't have my camera, unusual for me so missed some classic shots. I was disappointed earlier in the week to drive past and see piles of dirt and trucks on the site.

I was really surprised tonight, also minus camera thinking the opportunity was lost, to see a game in progress. The men had moved the pitch a little to the right and the fielders were in the foundation hole, hows that for resilience. They had a big audience and there were plenty of cheers. The soccer game was a no go, the trucks were parked on that pitch.

I've had lots of discussions with the Pakistani taxi drivers about cricket. They get quite animated and know the New Zealand cricketers very well. There's talk of moving the cancelled tour of Pakistan to Dubai and there's lots of excitement here about that. Might struggle to get a taxi those day because, as one of the drivers told me, he drives everyday except when there's cricket on. That's dedication for you.

There were heaps of New Zealanders at yoga this week, a takeover as the instructor suggested. Great to have a catch up with others from home and I'm sure we'll catch up again next week.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

It's been a really busy week with assessments to be completed at work and lots of socialising. I seem to have had something on every night this week. I'm enjoying the lifestyle here. Take today.

Rau and I went to the gym around lunch time and got home at about dinner time. We'd had a social night with some bubbly and good friends so I was wondering how I'd manage a big workout. No worries, once I got started. We spent the rest of the day lazing by the pool in the sun, reading and chatting and having a dip when we needed. We felt like we'd been on holiday and laughed about the reality as we got a few groceries on the way home.

I've been thinking heaps lately about where to from here and the plan always comes back to the dream of running a gite, a home stay, in the south of France. That and traveling with the guests to exotic places. While I was on the treadmill what should I find on the TV but a highlights package of the Paris-Nice cycle race.

I watched as I walked, and walked and walked, watching the tour travel through the small villages in France I love so much. Watching as the riders raced through the beautiful scenery and the places where Muzz and I camped when we followed the Tour de France in 2004. Watching this reinforced to me that mine is a good plan.

So I'll work here with the aim of buying somewhere in France, near the Medit and the hills. Near where the big tours go. This July I have to go back to NZ. The plan for next July just might be an extended trip to France.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Found the cord!







Well that is, Tracey gave me hers or ours if she finds hers at home. Hope that makes sense. What happens in our school is that the cleaners come and move stuff after we've gone home. Tracey and I suspect that they moved my cord onto her desk, other things have been found there afterall.

The photos are of Anne taking photos, dare you to stand still when I have my camera out; a local on his bike and the sign outside the Oasis. Given the message, we shouldn't have been there. We are locals not tourists these days. Although once again I don't have my passport due to an error in my job status. I hope to have it back to go to Oman in the next couple of weeks with the error fixed.


I met up with some people I knew in Qatar last night after yoga. They were surprised to see me here and we talked about our Qatar times. This place is certainly easier to live in, much easier to drive in but a little more expensive. Susan invited me to join the Hash, a running group. Think I might just do that.

Monday, 6 April 2009


I still haven't found the cord to download the photos but I did find a rather large cockroach while I was looking. He was down the side of one of my spare beds. He looked at me, I looked at him and decided to pretend we hadn't seen each other. It was late at night and I was a little scared of what else I might find lurking.

I captured him in a jar this afternoon and deposited him over the wall. Did I mention he was large? Luckily when I checked further he didn't have any friends visible.

I've had a day of being social and engaging in some interesting professional development. David Vale works here with teachers to develop stories from an Arabic context and then produce lesson plans to compliment these. He is a humble and engaging man, a man who practices what he preaches about equality. He recognises the value of others, of team work and empowerment.

An inspiring yet tiring day. Perhaps I've just hit a low point after a stimulating weekend. Perhaps I need to be a hermit this afternoon instead of working out. Yoga tonight so zen might follow.

The photo is one I took in February when the sky was blue and the air temperature a bit cooler. Wish I could find that cord.....

Midday at the oasis

Ann and I went for a wander to the oasis to test out her new camera. The main oasis is a short stroll from my place on one side and hers on the other. I took heaps of photos but have mislaid my camera cord so I can't add them here yet. I tidied my flat so guess I've put it safely somewhere.

It was late morning when we set off and usually we would have been out in the midday sun but Saturday dawned damp and cooler than usual after a stormy night, an ideal day for exploring.

I've noticed quite a few people on bikes here lately, mostly the Indian men but on Saturday I saw two mountain bikers on flash bikes. I've been told by others that it's not appropriate for a woman to ride a bike here, the proof of my eyes and discussions with locals tells me otherwise. I will bring mine here when I come back after the break so I can explore further afield.

But I digress. Ann and I walked into the oasis and along came a smiling local in a Merc convertable, a lovely green one. I admired his car, he admired us. He told me that we had to take care walking on the raod into the oasis, or at least that's what I thought he said. I nodded and smiled.

He grinned back at us looking very dignified as the roof came down on his head and in his surprise banged his chin on the window. We kept straight faces as teachers can and kept talking to him. We had a giggle later of course.

Imagine our surprise when he returned, still with that lovely smile, stopped his car and handed us a green bag with two cans of lemonade. Very welcome ice cold leomonade. It appears I might have said yes to his offer of a drink! I really must brush up on my Arabic.

This is typical of the generosity of the people here. I suspect he thought we were tourists given the cameras and my NZ tee shirt.

I must get going. I'm off to some PD today so a later start. What a luxury an extra hour is.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

I had a heart stopping moment on Friday, one of those moments that something slowly dawns on you and the panic sets in. The night before I had played with my blog trying to change my location and add Al Ain weather. The blog didn't seem to load properly. No worries I thought, I hoped, as I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning when I checked, my blog was gone. After some searching and technical help I recovered it by adding a new entry, the one about technical difficulties. After that I saved it just in case it happened again.

The feeling of panic and loss was overwhelming and made me realise how important this outlet is for me. I started my blog as a means of communication to share my travels and photos with my family and friends and while it serves that purpose, it's also an outlet for me to download my thoughts and observations.

My mind is constantly working, those who know me well will smile here. I'm very observant and notice what goes on around me, I like to share that. Often I've held back in capturing some of life's special moments here because, well I suppose I feel like what I say isn't nearly as interesting as what others have to say. It's the small stuff, the people stuff, the emotional stuff.

When I'm out and about with others, I people watch and give them a running commentary on what I observe. Tonight at the mall I saw an Omar Sharif look alike chatting to someone, smiling; a young dad lovingly holding his son and gazing at him in wonderment. I remember that feeling very well. He glanced up and saw me smiling and smiled back, proudly.

I saw a group of young women dressed in abyia wandering around looking at the clothes and shoes and handbags as young women of most cultures do. I saw a young boy in a yellow thobe with a bag of candyfloss walking alongside his father and mother. He looked over at me and I smiled, he smiled back and showed me his bag.

I saw a lovely silk kilim and was tempted to buy after the saleman's best efforts. I talked to people from many parts of the world, people buying and selling. I shared a meal with two friends, one from Tunisia, in a Chinese retaurant in the Middle East surrounded by laughing families of many different nationalities.

Mostly tonight I saw people happy to be with each other, chatting and smiling and sharing their time. People relaxed about their lives. People who may not have a lot but make the most of what they have. I think we could learn a lot from that.