Monday, 31 August 2009

Coffee Machine

I'm now the proud owner of a coffee machine. It came to me the funny way things do when you put out to the universe your wants and needs. It began like this.

I talked to Melbourne Sue about getting a coffee machine; she told me her friend Kay had researched and found one that worked well; I got Kay's number off Belinda at yoga so I could give Kay a call; I come home the next day to find an email from Kay who found my email on my blog after talking to my brother in law in NZ and getting my blog address.

Kay is Muzz's cousin, second or some such removal, but still related. She's also good friends with my good friend Sue and another friend of mine from Qatar. I suspect we've walked past each other many times but have never connected until today. We had a lovely catch up and it seems Kay, as well as liking good coffee, is a keen photographer. Another for our group.

So the upshot of it all, I now have a coffee machine, fantastic. Rau sampled the first cup tonight, not bad. Thanks so much Kay, I'm sure I'll get to make you a cup in the near future.

A weekend outing

A word of advice, make sure you've shaved your legs before you get stung by a hornet or better still, don't get stung by a hornet. I know this from personal experience. Kind people want to see said sting and help you out with ice and anti histamines. Not nearly so embarrassing when your legs are smooth. Hornet stings really sting and go on stinging. Over 24 hours later and it's still stinging, stiff, swollen and bruised for a large area around the sting. Looks quite impressive really.

I got stung while walking through Khutwah Oasis, an extensive and lush oasis with an interesting and rich history. I took Nina, Martin, Phil, George and Raukura on their first Emirates Natural History Group walk, or rather I was a passenger in Nina and Martins 4wd. We ventured into Buraimi and gate crashed the air conditioning in the hotel to wait for the others. It was a little hot out at 3pm. The convoy gathered and we drove into the late afternoon through the sun burnt barrenness broken by the occasional oasis.

The view from the hill descending into Khutwah Oasis was breathtaking and unfortunately not able to be photographed without causing an accident in the convoy. The barren surrounds erupted into greenery with the forbidding Omani hills as a backdrop. The date trees formed a curtain over other useful plants, tropical green and lush.

We walked though the oasis with the usual knowledgeable commentary from Brigitte and Brian, without which we would have missed the key features of the place. We would most certainly have missed the grave sites, possibly trampled unknowingly over them, and the hand printed clay. The history goes back further than I can imagine.

The biodiversity of the Khutwah Oasis is amazing with the tall palms shading the lush herbs and flower stocks growing in a green carpet underneath. Use is made of all parts of this area of green in the wider barren planes of the area. As we walked through I saw some familiar sights, although it took me some time to click that the concrete steps on the other side of the wadi were the very ones that we had climbed some weeks before. Yes, we were on the other side of that oasis.

We wandered down into a section of the wadi where there was a pool so the kids to have a paddle. Of course the adults got in as well. Nina was up to her thighs when someone pointed out the water scorpion and the other bugs in the water. I didn't care, I was trying to cool the recent sting. Surely lightening wouldn't strike twice.

We wandered back to the car, drank as much water as we could find, still not quite enough, and started the journey home discussing what we'd seen. Walking makes you hungry and in Ramadan we are not supposed to eat and drink in public. Iftar had passed, the fast had ended so we also discussed food and how hard it must be to fast from sunrise to sunset. Not sure that I could manage that.

I always find the ENHG trips refreshing and enlightening, I'm really pleased my friends are also keen to come along. We are all card carrying members now so are looking forward to the weekend outings, next week another moon walk. Maybe we can convince Mary-Anne to join us too.

The photos show the biodiversity of the oasis, Nina and the girls and the herb beds with the workers coming in from weeding and harvesting.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Week 2

It's hard to believe that it's only the end of the second week in my new job. I actually argued with Rau that we'd been here longer, she was right. I am occasionally wrong, but mostly just slightly mistaken like this time. The reason it feels like longer is that I feel like I've known my new colleagues forever, sound familiar?

I think the key with the team is that they are positive people, confident in what they do and not afraid to take a risk. That's the sort of people I like to work with. Five of us have had some extra bonding time, traveling the almost 2 hours to Abu Dhabi several times. A car full of women, yep no one gets a word in. Funny, none of the blokes have suggested they travel with us.

It's also been fantastic catching up with friends. Friends who phone and text and email, usually just when I need some local or home contact. The Qatar crew have been chatting, as we always did so well. Helen's hoping to come and visit me, can't wait to walk her around Al Ain. I know she'll be up to it! Remember there's always a bed for you and a willing tour guide.

I was feeling like I'd been a bit tardy with my emails so wrote to Annie. As good friends do, we both had the same thought at the same time. My email arrived as she was halfway through hers. Lyn and Shirley had a similar experience.

Tonight Rau and I are off to a KINA (Kiwis in NA) barbeque at Sarah and Haydens. Hayden's on leave from Afganistan, it sounds like an interesting place to be. I must stop rambling and get organised, I'm procrastinating. I've got a large Shari fish to get ready to bake. I love the faces of the men at the fish stand when I tell them not to cut the head and tail off the fish. They usually think it's a misunderstanding so we go through the charades until we understand each other. Their smiles tell me all is well.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Toyota shopping

Toyota Fortuna's are the SUV of choice. Well they are if you get the 2009 model just before the 2010 model hit the shelf and if you buy in Ramadan. I've been car hunting for a while, content with a smallish car because I was mostly tootling around Al Ain. Once I started on the Natural History group's trips, I decided I needed a 4wd. When I got my new job, it came with a car allowance that covers the payments of said Fortuna.

Rau and I went Toyota shopping last night. One of the things I've noticed about Ramadan is that the shops have very different opening hours. Take our coffee place Scalinis. They're now open from 7pm until 3am. So no coffees during the day, in fact all the food outlets are shut during the day. I really must buy that coffee machine.

The Toyota shop opened just after we arrived, the men inside finishing their prayers. I always feel like I'm intruding on something private and special when I observe Muslims praying, especially when there is a group as there was last night. I tend to distance myself from their prayer space, difficult for this curious people watcher. When I have come across teachers praying and apologised later, they don't appear concerned. The men last night certainly weren't.

Back to SUV shopping. Sami has talked to Rau many times as she's been in to ask the questions needed for such a big purchase. He greets her as an old friend. It's only my second visit but Sami has me down as the cheap skate I am. Maybe because I asked for his cheapest finest last visit. This time he doesn't disappoint. A 2.7l Fortuna for dhs 80k. There are extras thrown in to sweeten the deal. With the exchange rate that's around nzd 31k so not bad for a new Toyota I suspect.

Now to justify, well I'm not sure I need to. The two main things I'm looking for are safety and the ability to go offer rides to others when we go out exploring the wilds of Oman and the UAE. I'm traveling a lot more in my new role, around Al Ain and to and from Adu Dhabi so I need something safer than a 1.3 Yaris. I think if one of the speedy Patrols and Pradas hit me, at least I can hit back in a Fortuna.

As their ad says, Toyota cares. And I think I care for Toyota. I also think I'll check out the used car market before I buy, a job for this evening.

Locked out!

Mary-Anne came for dinner. She didn't want to come for dinner but she locked herself out of her flat. It all began with her 4wd Harrison getting a flat battery. Guess what sort of 4 wd, nope not a Ford but a red Jeep Cherokee, go figure. When she removed the house key from the key ring to give it to the mechanic, she promptly lost the single key in her house. The building man locked the door, oh no locked out!

Well, it was my good luck. Excellent company, vege frittata and Corona, the perfect mix. I suggested she checked her hand bag, hence the picture. She did manage a smile, quite an accomplishment under the circumstances. In her words:
I just want to put this day to bed. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Moon Watching

Moon watching was the plan, the haze got in the way but the evening was one to remember. Ramadan has been set for 2009, a month of religious celebrations for Muslim people from all over the world. Days of fasting from dawn until the sun has set, nights of feasting and celebration. It's a big deal, especially here in the Middle East. Even as an expat.

I'm really looking forward to experiencing my first Ramadan. I'm not sure how I'll manage not being able to eat or drink in public, including at work, from sunrise to sun set. I'm hoping I won't forget and dig into my handbag for the ever present drink bottle. I'm sure in this place of peaceful tolerance that someone will gently remind me.

The moon sighting last night was special as it would set Ramadan for the UAE. On top of Jebal Hafeet the elders were watching for the same phenomenon we were, the new crescent moon rising and setting as the sun does, very low on the horizon.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar and the holiest of the four holy months. It begins with the sighting of the new moon after which all physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, any kind of tobacco use, and any kind of sexual contact between dawn and sunset.
The end of Ramadan is marked by a three-day period known as Eid ul-Fitr, the "Festival of Fast-breaking." It is a joyous time beginning with a special prayer, and accompanied by celebration, socializing, festive meals and sometimes very modest gift-giving, especially to children.

Read more about Ramadan here.

The photos are of the camp fire, a primeval ritual when out in the wilds; the mosque dome at Buremi; the group waiting and watching and the sun setting through one of the few trees around.

A busy week

I suppose it's to be expected that this has been a busy week, a week with a lot for me to get my head around. It seemed to me that I've been back for ages, this morning when I woke I realised that it's only been a week.

Starting a new job is often stressful. Not this time. I'm really enjoying engaging with familiar colleagues and others I'd not yet met in a job where I understand the context. It's stimulating and challenging, just what I need to keep me interested. I worked in Abu Dhabi for a couple of days so got to catch up with Sue.

The week has been a social one, catching up on the travel stories of my friends. I'm really looking forward to seeing Anne and Rau's photos from Turkey. They both loved their visits. Mary-Anne and I caught up today and I got to play her new piano, well tinker with the keys. Anne and I went out tonight with the Natural History group on a moon watch spending an evening out in the wilds of Oman. I will load photos when I find my cord, it's temporarily mislaid for now.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Back to work

Typical, first day back at work today and I woke at 3am with a raging head cold. Sleep ran away from me so I read for a while then got up and took what I had in the cupboard for a cold, not much given my aversion to conventional medicine. I blame flying, being shut in a metal tube with hundreds of others. I'm possibly still a little jet lagged given that I've only been back a day or so. I'm looking forward to going back to work, catching up with the holiday stories of my friends and colleagues.

One good thing about waking at 3am is that I got the chance to finish an excellent book I bought in Auckland while waiting for my connecting flight, bought it because of the summary on the back:

"We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it"

Made me want to read The Other Hand. I was engrossed as the story unravelled and no, I'n not going to spoil it by saying anymore. I'll let you read it for yourself. Mines going to Rau now I've finished it.

Another good thing is that I've managed to download my Melbourne photos and have included some here. I had a great time in Melbourne catching up with Sue and looking around this city I'd only flown through before. Landing at the airport doesn't count as a visit. It was also great to be able to break the long journey back.

Melbourne is a lovely city and I saw the sights as we walked along the river from Sue and Neil's place into the city . There's heaps to see. Big sports stadiums, the botanic gardens, the tall buildings, the markets, the rowers on the river but our main mission was lunch. We found an outside table in the sun at a small Italian restaurant, ordered a bottle, breads and risotto and whiled away the afternoon catching up and people watching. Perfect.

I must get ready for work, I'd much rather crawl back into bed and snooze for an hour or so.

Friday, 14 August 2009

I'm back.....

Back in Al Ain taking a break from unpacking, cleaning and foraging for food and drink. There are stories to tell and photos to share of my travels over so watch this space. For now, I have to get back to the chaos that is my bedroom. Somehow 30kgs of baggage and a bike need to be put somewhere, not sure at this point where.

Monday, 10 August 2009

People, places and things

Sorry I've been a bit quiet lately. The past weeks have been a whirl of people, places and things. People I've really enjoyed catching up with like yesterday's coffee with Shirley and Keri. Places, the many where I've visited others. And things, packing up the house revealing treasures that made me sad or smile as I revisit earlier times in my life. Earlier people, places and things.

A good examples of this are the many photo albums and loose photos yet to make albums that are in boxes in the top cupboard. I nearly did myself a mischief pulling down these heavy boxes. But that's what you have to do when sorting out what's important and what's got to go. I'm good at throwing out the dross, many years of moving house adding to my skill.

Today I'm cleaning, yes laugh as much as you like I know I hate cleaning. Actually I hate housework of any kind and tend to live in a bit of a mess, a clean mess. I lack the finishing ability needed to be a good house keeper, as was said on many school report: Tries hard but doesn't often get the task finished. Not that gives me any sense of failing. I just got creatively side tracked. Anyhow, whose rules set what's finished and what's not?

Well today I have to get the useful stuff to the City Mission so it can continue to be useful, continue sorting the boxes and get the house up to real estate agent cleanliness for tomorrows visit. Know anyone who wants to buy a well loved home full of sunshine with an orchard and a garden that's enough to feed a family or two and herbs to garnish any dish?

The photos are of the girls having coffee and Christchurch in the evening.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Hear that.....

It's the sound of silence, not the song, the sound of an empty house after almost a week of having a full house. We dropped Kez and Sasi off to fly home to Brisbane this afternoon, it felt strange that I won't see them for ages. We did the same for Nick on Sunday evening.

One of the down sides to living where I live is that I don't get to see the kids very often. They have their own lives, their own homes, jobs and wives and partners so don't rely on contact as much as they used to. It often amazes me that they are off out in the world, those small boys who took up so much of my time for the past few decades. Amazes and delights me.

I am also delighted, when we all manage to get together, how well the lads get on with each other. Granted they turn from 26-30 year olds to 7 year olds in a very short time, especially when alcohol is added. They push each other around at the smallest provocation and end up laughing, chasing each other around and of course arguing, nothing changes that much.

Sasi really wanted it to snow while she was here, a novelty when you're from Northern Queensland. Tim to the rescue. He and Sarah drove the crew to Porters Pass as some sticky nor'westerly snow was falling. It was carnage of course, one pushed another, the other threw the snow balls. The girls could just shake their heads and I'm sure Sarah had a passing wish that the baby would be a girl. They descended on us wet and cold and of course ready for the next meal.

Well, that's that over for a year or so. I'm hoping to spend next birthday in a warmer place, gather the family for a holiday in the sun. By then there'll be a new addition I'll be looking forward to meeting. The photos are one of the crew taken by Ruby. Yep, a 12 year old had much more luck than I did at getting them all in one spot, thanks Ruby. The other is Sam getting in on the act, looks far more fierce that he really is.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

I'm old........

It's official, I'm old. Well almost, I'll be old tomorrow. Until then I'll enjoy almost being old. It's been an excellent weekend of the four f's; fun, family and friends. I'll write more soon, right now I'm enjoying time with Kez and Sassi and a packet of dark chocolate toffee pops, yum.
The photos are of the lads, many photos to get one passable one, and my birthday cake with the candles Tim and Sarah bought in Canada. The cake was a yummy chocolate one.