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.