Thursday, 31 December 2009

The silly season




The silly season has arrived, well it hasn't really not in the same way as it does in New Zealand. But winter has arrived. I broke out the merino today, wore several layers to school. It was cool, not quite crisp, but cool enough to have heater on in the car on the way to work. The sunrise was lovely, I must get up early enough on a weekend to capture this although I'm more of a sunset girl, especially on the weekends.

It's hard to believe that it's next year in a couple of days, hard to believe that I'm working through. It doesn't really feel like the festive season but I'm sure that our camp out in the desert for new years eve will be festive. I bought my tent last night, that and an airbed. I need all my comforts. There's a heap of us going, there's a big fire already built by the advance guard so it should be fun. I get to sand drive again this time with Mary-Anne for company.

Christmas day was interesting, talking to the family and missing them, having a lovely brunch complete with bubbles with friends in the same boat. It was a good day all up, a social day where we swapped stories of Christmas' past. Of the family traditions, the foods eaten, gifts given. We swapped gifts, thoughtful gifts that made Christmas more real. It would have been good to have had more than a weekend but at least we didn't have to work Christmas day as others had to last year.

I took another excursion to the camel track the other evening, this time with some friends I met through Di. Lotte is from Berlin and is moving to Beruit and Nele lives in Buraimi, Oman just across the border from me. We met for coffee and ended up going for a drive, me enjoying the company of two interesting and motivated young women. Both speak Arabic and understand this part of the world through their university study and as well as living in various places here. We're going to meet again for a meal before Lotte heads back next week, I'm very much looking forward to that.

The photos are Nele and Lotte on a sand dune in the cool wind, a grumpy camel (I respect him too much to post the next photo of him bearing his teeth and roaring at his trainer) and said camel and his trainer totting down the track. The photo I missed because I was too astounded, wasn't quick enough, was the same trainer releasing his group of racing camels, complete with robots, to race fast down the track. They are really fast, surprisingly fast for such a big animal. And Rau's Christmas tree complete with pressies.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas eve

I sit here alone, knowing I have a place to go but not being able to quite get up out of my red chair. December must be my quietest blogging month ever, although I've had heaps to say. I just haven't managed to find the energy to write. The winter fug has set in, too cold to lie in the sun and swim but not cold enough to be real winter.

Tonight Mike's band is playing at the sand golf club and I'm going out soon to join my friends in a fun night of dancing and socialising over a few cold ones. Tomorrow is brunch at Rau's, for the waifs and strays, and hopefully I'll get to talk to the family in the morning. It feels strange being away for Christmas, away in a place that doesn't celebrate this. Although the commercialism is alive and well and the shops are decorated to get us in the mood. I did my last minute shop a little earlier, braving Al Ain rush hour.

So for now, I'd better get ready. I hope to add some photos soon. The internet is still not great but the main issue is that to connect my Mac I have to use a cable, not ideal especially as my cable's too short to be effective. My work computer on the other hand is connected wirelessly, don't need that on the weekend.

Have a merry Christmas and watch this space for more posts soon.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Al Ain

There are times I truly love living where I live, in the Middle East, in a small and peaceful city, in a small, quiet flat. Tonight was one of those times. I opened the door out to my newly swept courtyard and looked up to see a new moon rising gloriously in the sky, the clear, crisp sky. There was a slight breeze wafting over the wall. The dust has settled with the recent rain, a calmness after the mad heat of summer.

The call to prayer started close to me then echoing from across town came calls from other mosques. There's something special about the call, something that resonates, something about the way our neighbours wander down to the mosque to pray all the while chatting with each other. After prayer they sit and chat some more, peacefully. The shoes at the door attest to the amount of men inside, for the mosque is the domain of men.

We live amongst many expat men, mostly from the east and the Middle East, men often away from their families working in this place to give their families the financial support they need. They work driving our taxis, packing our groceries, selling us our fruit and veg, serving us in shops and hotels, working on the roads and buildings, guarding us in our schools, driving our school buses, fixing our internet and computers. They also shop at the same shops, the local supermarket, the corner shop. I suspect they are used to us in their neighbourhood as they no longer stare and some even nod in greeting.

Some have gotten to know us a little and chat when we see them. Our corner shop man is one of those, the fruit and vege man in the supermarket and Khalil at our local restaurant others. Tonight I went back to the supermarket to get some more of the lovely pumpkin I made into soup last night, the fruit and vege man smiled at me buying such a lot and commented that it was very good pumpkin. It certainly is.

People often say to me that it must be great living here, very exotic. Yes, that's true it's very different, perhaps exotic but the what makes it special is the ordinary stuff, the amazingly ordinary stuff that makes life worthwhile. Small things like being able to get the pumkin needed to make good soup, like being greeted by your neighbours, like being able to sit outside with all the doors and windows open listening to the happenings in the neighbourhood, like having a good book and crisp white joining you.

PS (A PS so as not to spoil the mood) I got an impressive burn while making the soup. The stick mixer thingy went out of control and splashed me with boiling soup. That'll teach me for making soup when very hungry and not waiting for it to cool before mixing. I ate it one handed, ice on the other. The blisters were impressive, the soup delish.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

It's on again

I'm feeling a little clever, I just reconfigured my router. The light that was red is now green and after months of intermittent Internet, I think I now have it sorted. It took a trip to my provider; a begging smile when the young man at the counter told me I had to come back tomorrow before 3pm and it was a bit after 6pm; an obliging customer service man who bent the rules a little and lots of patience from me as I waited for the new password to kick in. My apologies to all I owe emails, I will get caught up over the weekend. For now, I'll just enjoy being able to check if there's more. Normal blogging will resume very soon.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Talk about the weather

Well it's such a topic of conversation at the moment, why not. You see it's raining in Al Ain, storming in Al Ain. Heavy rain I would have more expected to see on the West Coast of New Zealand. It's 4.30ish, almost dark outside, very wet and cold. I struggled to find warm shoes to wear this morning with the winter woolies I dragged out from the top shelf of the wardrobe. I thought about Keri and her need for boots and wished I'd listened and brought mine with me.

Yesterday I went driving, out to the Jebal with a friend to take some photos. Driving to get out of the house after spending the past few days unwell. My social weekend turned into a sleeping weekend, not doing too much. We were heading for the walk I went on with the ENHG, nope there was a river there. I tried the 4wd but as the water was rising, thought we'd have a wander on this side of the river. The roads were flooded, the kids enjoying splashing in the puddles. The locals were zooming through the floods in their 4wds.

In one place a man was sweeping, he looked up to see a large 4wd powering towards him pushing forward a wave of water. You guessed it, it hit him hard. I'm sure it caused great hilarity in the 4wd, I know we laughed so hard I nearly ran off the road. We waved and smiled to the wet man, he grinned back, enjoying the novelty too.

My photos aren't very good, too busy trying to keep us alive on the way home in torrential rain and deep surface flooding so here's a link to Amer's blog. He managed to get some excellent photos of this very dry place trying to absorb such an amount of rain. Thanks Amer. Apparently this rain will bode well for the spring growth as it will soak in and not evaporate as the summer rains do.

There was more havoc this morning. Schools closed due to flooding and the roads impassable in places, even in a 4wd. Very surprising, very chilly. As Clair said, a good night to curl up on the couch in the duvet and watch a DVD. Think I might add a hot toddy and do just that. I don't even think I have the energy to go shoe shopping, although I did see a nice pair of boots the other day.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

And some more





The photos are of a child monk at Swayambhu enjoying a lolly pop an adult had just given him, as any child would; a loo with a view and what a view over the Kathmandu Valley from beyond Bhaktaphur; the view beyond a temple to the vast foothills that line the valley and industry at work through an open doorway.

It's really tough choosing photos. There are so many that show the journey, too many to include here. I'll do my best to give coverage of the trip, including those from the beautiful Pokhara.

Photos





The photos are of trekking story footprints, some interesting stories; Mount Everest from the plane window on our scenic flight and a monkey family and a flag from the monkey temple, Swayambhu.


At home

I've slept for most of the morning, the flu that's got others finally got me. I suspect it was the flying, planes full of people are such fertile breading grounds for bugs. Helen used to call it plane flu, I go into denial until I can't lift my head off the pillow. That doesn't happen very often.

I think I picked a good day to be sick, there's a shamal blowing. Dust and sand everywhere disturbed by the strong gusts of wind, the sun blotted out and generally a day best spent inside. The dust gets in, coats the furniture with a layer of grit. At least I have the Internet to keep me company, so I can catch up on emails and things.

Where to start with the stories of the past two weeks, I think an upload of photos is in order then some new entries. For now, I'm going to leave the photos uploading and slip back to bed with a cup of hot ginger and lemon tea. That's about all I'm good for today.

Nepal

Kate's video camera, a small unobtrusive video camera, documented our Nepal trip. Luckily she edited a lot of the footage. Here's the edited version.

Internet


I'm back, she shouts with glee! Being without the Internet is rough when you're living in your own country and can keep up with family and friends easily, living without when away from home is torture. Mines been down for ages, intermittent at best before that. What did we do without the net, seems difficult to remember a time when it wasn't around. When computers were massive walls of whirring machinery that needed lots of men to keep them going. We saw them in high tech movies, not in real life.

But anyway, there's a lot to catch up on. The trip to Nepal and the associated photos and video, the afternoon spent at the Dubai Rugby 7s watching New Zealand win the tournament and the other more mundane things that make up life here. The social calendar is looking a little stretched with the Christmas do's coming in thick and fast. This weekend there's a baby shower, a house warming, a ball and something else I know I've forgotten to take into account.

The photos from the celebrations at the end of the Dubai 7s. I thought it was appropriate given the celebration I had, a small dance around the room in fact, when I discovered I was once again connected.

This will be my first Christmas away from New Zealand, away from my family and friends. Another first in this year of firsts, one I'm not really looking forward to. I'm a bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas so I suspect I'll be spending my day lazing, reading a book and generally chilling out. I'll catch up here sometime tomorrow, for now I need to get some sleep. It's been full on lately and I need to catch up, not to mention that I have a head cold and feel a bit miserable.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Pokhara

Nepal is full of surprises. The first surprise is that my cell phone won't work here. A very small surprise but thought I'd mention it just in case anyone was trying to get hold of me. A much bigger surprise, a delightful surprise was getting a second mountain flight today on the way to Pokhara. Kathmandu domestic terminal is a bit of a treat, a hub of noise, people coming and going and callers calling for the next flight.

Mine was delayed so more time to people watch and to get to know others, this time a very friendly family from Dubai but originally from Kerela. Yep, after the conversation I really must visit there. We sat on the bus in the warm sun while the congested airspace cleared then up we went alongside the high range, past Mt Everest. I got a couple more photos of the majestic peak rising above the clouds, very special to see up close.

Pokhara is a lovely place, very peaceful. Even more peaceful because my travel companions have gone home and I'm on my own. Solo traveling is not something I've done very often, my jury's out as to how much I enjoy it, especially after having such fun with my friends in Kathmandu. I walked along the lakeside and had chia (tea) with some young American girls, one of whom had traveled overland from China through Tibet. She had some stories to tell, made me want to travel that path.

Clair and I went for a wander yesterday starting after a dramatic drive up a very bumpy road through some spectacular scenery. The Toyota bumped it's way over roads more suited to a 4wd and dropped us at a monastery high in the hills above the Kathmandu Valley. The view was outstanding, the inside of the monastery stunning. It's a new monastery, the painting inside was still being completed. 23 men including a couple of monks were busy at work painting the intricate patterns, the traditional stories of the place. Clair and I took heaps of photos but were not allowed to inside.

The walk down the valley was restful. Through the rice paddy's and small villages where the families were doing what families do later in the afternoon of a working day. I will add to this story when I can upload the photos, photos of the place, the people and my travel companions. An excellent day out topped off by some Nepali chia in a local cafe. Clair and I dined in style at the Thai restaurant just down the road from out hotel, sharing a treat to warm us up, a hot toddy of spiced rum. Delicious and warming. A perfect end to a perfect day.

We were sad to leave our friends at the Ambassador Garden Home Thamel's Finest Boutique Hotel. It certainly was the finest, made fine by the people. Anything we wanted, they provided including flights, trekking guides, hot water bottles at night and the yummiest breakfast. I took a photo of the crew and will include this and more information in a post soon. Needless to say, if you're looking for a haven of peace and tranquility in down town Kathmandu give them a call.