Thursday, 30 December 2010

Oasis Living

There's a new edition of Oasis Living. Check out the online version here.

Last night in NZ




Well, the time has flown. After the Christmas rush and catching up with as many people as I could, tomorrow I fly home to Al Ain. I had a lovely day with Annie today at Sumner Beach, walking up the Whitewash Heads track then down again for a yummy coffee and toasted sandwichs. Seems like all I've done is eat, eat, eat and have the occasional vino. Like with Keri and Shirley last night.

We had a dinner catch up and are working on a get together at Lyn and Kerry's in Australia next winter, southern winter that is. I'm feeling sad to be leaving Noah when him and I are just getting to know each other. He beams when he sees me, loves to play on the floor and squeal with delight as he walks around the furniture. I hope to see much more of him on Skype, soon.

The photos are of the New Zealand Christmas tree the pohutukawa, lovely red flowers that are more common in the north; Annie smiling because she could sit down after climbing the steep hill; and the view of the beach and estuary with the city behind, a hazy view on a lazy day.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The aftermath



Well that's that for another year, peace and quiet reigns after a social few days. Number 2 son got his flights a bit muddled so only had two days with us, the early morning airport run getting me out of bed too soon. The little one was still willing after days of attention, smiley and cuddly and wanting to play. There was another earthquake or several in the night, one that woke me with aftershocks that rocked me back to sleep. How blase one gets in such a short time.

The Boxing Day shopping, a day of sport for many keen shoppers, was rudely interrupted at about 10.30 with a good shake. The town was cordoned off as glass and bricks fell into the streets. The most amazing thing was that the shocks were centred in the Christchurch CBD and surrounds, very shallow quakes that sent people scrambling and put the emergency services on high alert. Fortunately no one was injured, quite a surprise as we all stopped to look.

The two photos are of the firemen surveying the latest damage and my former local shopping centre, the best fish n chips came from one of those shops with some lovely gifts for special occasions from another. The chemist survived, for now anyway.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Day





On a much more pleasant note, Christmas day was wonderful. I got to spend the day with my family, all except Kieran and Sasi who were with her family in Cairns. Noah was fun, enjoying the wrapping paper as much as the presents. He was a delight, making a fuss of his four grandparents, uncle and extended family when they came to visit.

Noah had a great day. The pics are of his toy selection, Elmo causing us all some laughter as he waved his arms when Elmo did while squealing delight. He also enjoyed chewing Nick's pounamu toki, reading the book Kieran and Sasi sent and shaking the rattling ball his grandma bought for him. He enjoyed sitting up at the table in his special chair and eating as much as he could manage of Christmas breakfast and lunch. He held up for the day, amazing with such a houseful all making a fuss and wanting to cuddle and play.

Earthquake!

The shakey isles have lived up to their reputation. Last night at about 2am there was quite a strong earthquake, it almost tossed me out of bed and it was only a small one apparently. I'm not a great fan of the earth shaking, childhood memories of being terrified during a big one in the '60s I suspect. I lay shaking a bit, then came another and in the morning yet another.

Sitting having breakfast with Nick and Muzz there was a much bigger one, a jolt this time. The sizes are in the link above. I feel so sorry for the people of Christchurch, especially the kids who have by most accounts just settled after the big ones in September. I know that I didn't sleep much after the 2am shock.

I just hope no one is hurt and that there's not too much more damage in the war like zone that is the Christchurch CBD, such a lot of buildings either down or coming down under the bulldozers. The terrible waste of food stuffs shocked me with stories of loaders in supermarket isles scooping up the stock and transporting this, useable and unuseable dumped together in a landfill site. Such a waste when people are queueing for food parcels and eating a charity Christmas dinner.

I suppose I can understand why, the insurance companies have to be careful that people don't get sick but I'm sure that there would have been volunteers willing to sort through the piles of tinned food not spoiled. Anyhow, I know that I won't rest easy just in case I have to move quickly to a safe place.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Some home time


It's been a hectic few days catching up with people, some by phone others in person, some to make a date for next week. I've spent as much time as I can with Tim, Sarah and Noah. Noah's beginning to light up as I walk into the room, pleased to see this funny person who sits on the floor playing with him and steals kisses when she can.

Today we had lunch at Vic's Cafe, a place that has lovely smoothies and hunza pies, tasty New Zealand pies. When I walked in Noah looked at me, a bit quizzically but with a big grin, then looked at Sarah as if to say, she's here too how can that be. We had fun eating lunch with the fingers boy, he's really quick at grabbing things he's not supposed to.

I've been really enjoying having some time here, the summer weather helps. I've been tying up some loose ends and am looking forward to having things settled and sorted, a weight off my mind. The weather has been very interesting, just as it has been worldwide judging by the news reports. We've had very strong, hot winds then some rain then more winds. Colder this time. Driving back to Oxford from Christchurch, I spotted this rainbow so got out and in the cold rain to get a photo.

Tomorrow I hope to have more of an at home day so will hopefully catch up a bit on my writing, I have another one for Oasis Living due soon, and sorting my photos. I'm also looking forward to a sleep in.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Where in the world....

I'm in Christchurch, well Oxford just out of Christchurch to be exact. It's a little different to Oxford in the UK, slightly smaller and very peaceful. The Canterbury weather is true to form, 33 yesterday and chilly and wet today. It was lovely to hear rain on the roof, a novelty for this desert dweller.

The trip over was great, yes really. The journey of around 25 hours went surprisingly quickly. Where can you find a menu that would grace the finest of restaurants, service where everyone knows your name, unlimited drinks, interesting company, a comfy seat that turns into a bed and a big screen TV with good movies? That would be Emirate's business class, courtesy of an upgrade. I'm going to do it hard if I have to travel cattle class on the way back so I've put it out to the universe that I want more of the same on the return trip.

The very best thing about traveling in style is that I arrived rested and full of energy, needed when visiting a lively 10 month old. Noah is stunning, that is his grandma talking I know but it's true. He's a busy wee boy, crawling around, standing up and doing chin ups on the table when he wants what's up there. He's also very gorgeous, people say so all the time so it's not just me.
It was so lovely being able to lay on the floor and play with him, to bath him and see him off to bed. He's also a really good baby, sleeping and eating well and growing fast. A settled, happy, well loved little boy. I hope to get to spend lots of time with him, Tim and Sarah, to enjoy his first Christmas.

I'm heading to town soon to go shopping, finally doing my Christmas shopping. I suspect the city will be a bit crazy but from most accounts the Christmas rush has been quiet this year, possibly due to the year Christchurch has had. Driving through the streets yesterday I was amazed at the damage, streets still blocked of and empty lots where there used to be some lovely character buildings. It was difficult to keep my eyes on the road.

Right now I need to get moving, I've got an appointment with a small boy and his mum and dad. Photos will hopefully follow.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The drought

I don't know when I've had such a writing drought before, it's lasted a while too. I've just been so busy at work and socially. There's been heaps on, the Dubai 7's last weekend and this weekend I'm racing in my work team at the Dubai Dragon Boat Festival. I think I'm going to need all the down time that happens on the long flight from Dubai to Christchurch, that is if I actually get packed in time to go.

I've had comments so best I spend at least some of this weekend catching up. Just a quick last night story before I do. Gillie, Tammy and I went to Buraimi last night to go antique shopping. The shop I usually go to was not up to it's usual standards. We pottered in there for while before deciding to give up and go home. Three disappointed ladies headed for the border. We spotted the souk on the way and decided, why not.

I thought the man who was waving his hands when I was parking was telling me not to, not so. He was guiding me into the park. And so it went, we caused a bit of a furor wandering through the dark market with the brightly lit fruit and vege stalls. The men called out to us to come and buy their fruit and veg, we just smiled.

Then we found some dark and dingy junky shops, one in particular having some treasures. Tammy bought frankincense and a burner as a present. It smells wonderful and is one the smells of Christmas, wise men brought it so it must be good. Gillie found the necklace of her dreams, a traditional Omani design and a cool old walking stick.

Well the man in the shop said it was old when she asked. The only other customers, a local couple laughed and said that is was about 30 days old. We had a giggle, the shop keeper looked sheepish and Gillie bought a walking stick with a story. The fruit and vege man who helped me park lured us into his shop and I went home with some yummy watermelon and grapes from Iraq as well as some kumara.

We were wandering back to the car when we heard a boy yelling out to us. His mum was in the shop and looked at us, apologising. We just smiled and called his bluff, going over to the car. He was so funny, looking very embarrassed but we got to talk to the rest of his family, a very cute one year old as well as numerous other children. So very friendly. Their mum came over and we had a quick chat before we all went on our way.

The border crossing both ways was done with a cheery smile, no dramas. Last night I went shopping in another country, I never tire of saying that. Oh and I brought fruit and vege over the border, something I would be arrested for in my country. The watermelon was delicious tasting of sunshine and beach holidays.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bits and pieces

I've had some snippets to write about, the small things, things not quite worth an entry but worth saying so I thought I'd write about some of them now.

I've been doing some writing and taking some photos for the Oasis Living magazine and the second edition is out now. The magazine looks fantastic and gives an excellent insight into Al Ain, into the lifestyle here of the ex pats as well as the local people. My work life limits how much I can do but I love being able to contribute. The hard copies are in the malls of Al Ain, for the online copy, click the link. Your feedback would be appreciated.

On a completely different topic, I've always been amused by the fact that the UAE runs on Lipton tea, yellow label to be precise. There is a misconception that it's oil that runs the Middle East, I've discovered that's only part of it. There are huge signs on the top of the cafeterias advertising that yellow label is sold here, all cafeteria seem to have these signs. A cafeteria is like a cafe only it sells a greater variety of food, mostly fast food. They are usually cheap and alway have tea.

The supermarkets are full of Lipton tea, at school there is always a flask of Lipton's waiting for us in the morning. I like it, I look forward to my small cup in the morning. I can even ask for tea in Arabic. Imagine my surprise to go to Jordan and there was Lipton's again, everywhere. On one cafeteria and nut shop there was a sign that left me considering it's meaning for a while.

"Tourist best without taste" I suspect there was something lost in translation. More about my Jordan adventures tomorrow. I'm having a home and local travel long weekend. It was too hard to get back from Tbilisi so I'll have to visit Natia another time. I've got lots to catch up on including some pool time tomorrow, it's still just warm enough to lie in the sun and relax.

It's National Day tomorrow and the city is decorated beautifully. I hope to get some photos out and about tomorrow, another reason to stay. The schools all have had big celebrations and I was privileged to be able to join in at one of my schools. I have a lovely henna design on my hands thanks to two of the teachers. Both skilled artists, they quickly drew some patterns on my hands. The henna has flaked off and the pattern is getting darker as it sets. I know Keri will be envious.

Well, that's about it. I'm sure there was something else. That's right, last night we had a party on our roof. A couple of us have set up my outdoor table and chairs on some fake grass with candles so we can sit up on the roof with sundowners and watch the sun setting. Last night we invited others, had pizza and a bit of a chat, a laugh or two. The weather is nice for outdoor living at the moment and as most are away for Christmas this year, it was a good chance to have a small gathering before we all leave. The next two weeks are hectic so best I catch my breath this weekend.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Dilemmas

What a dilemma, where to go for a four day weekend. Natia and Tbilisi are very tempting but then there's getting the flight. It seems like I have to go through lots of places to get there or home or both. Then there's Kuwait or Oman or staying home to catch up on blog entries, I'm so far behind. What to do, what to do? I'm sure something will work, at least I have a long weekend. The dilemma is, do I stay home and catch up on my photographs and writing about the last adventure or go and have another? We shall see.


Friday, 26 November 2010

A Friday Adventure Part 2





I didn't get to finish my story about the Omani adventure so thought I'd pick that up now before I delve into Jordan. so many stories to tell so little time. My work weeks have been fairly hectic. I'm so looking forward to having a break in December, looking forward to going to New Zealand and spending Christmas with everyone. Especially with Noah. I spoke to him this morning, well he gurgled and squealed and wanted the keyboard while I talked to him. He's grown such a lot, a busy wee boy.

Oman, well it was a lovely day. Blue skies and excellent company. We travelled through the border, got the police escort and continued on to find a place to have a swim. We drove for ages, cresting hills with steep drops on the other side and stopping for photos ops along the way. We stopped at a small, walled cemetery and I got a nice shot of the crescent on the corner pillar against the brilliant blue of the sky. Looking up the valley we could see an oasis in a gully, a sea of green on an otherwise barren landscape.

Where there is an oasis, there is a settlement. The oasis provides work, food, social contact and where there are people there are mosques. There are some amazing mosques scattered in unlikely places, small community mosques that are at the centre of this isolated rural life. Driving along the dusty metal roads we were amazed to see these small communities perched on the side of a wadi, some dry and waiting for the winter rains and some with trickles of water.

We reached our goal, Wadi Madbah. We took the low road and drove straight into the wadi. It was very dry with isolated pools, light blue pools from the calcite deposits ringing the sides where the water had evaporated in the summer heat. It was cool in the wadi, it was by then later in the afternoon. We were a little disappointed, nowhere to swim? We wandered on and found an amazing pool fed by a small waterfall that seemed to come from no where.

The water was fresh, cool and soft, a different feel to the hard Al Ain water. I wondered where the water had come from so took of my shoes and climbed the slippery rocks up the side of the waterfall. A worthwhile climb as it turned out. There was a much bigger waterfall on the next level with a gravel apron. The water from the second waterfall must have been filtered under this apron, no wonder it was fresh and cool. The cliffs of the wadi were awe inspiring, towering high above us. Jane and I peered up, Bart took the photo.

Hot and bothered, we took the risk and got in the water. It was refreshing and the little fish made us squeal as they nibbled our feet. I wanted to stay there forever but it got a little chilly as the sun sank behind the hills and it was time to head home. We had found an excellent place to camp, a place for another adventure. The border crossing was interesting, the guards were not sure where we'd come from or where we wanted to go. We had no idea which road was the right one either. The sun set as we headed back to Al Ain.

I love this area, that I can go across a border into another country that has completely different terrain, a completely different feel, a different way of life. A simpler way of life. The only down side, and I'm noticing this increasingly as I travel, is the amount of litter scattered about. It spoils the natural beauty of the places I visit. The people I travel about with always take their rubbish with them, I just wish everyone would.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Thinking


Living away from New Zealand, there are often things that happen that are not reported elsewhere in the world. We are a small country, we have a small population but the plight of the miners from the Pike River mine was not one of those happenings. I woke to the news on BBC while in Petra, breaking news I couldn't believe.

As I've followed the story, watched it unfold from so far away, I've felt helpless. Those poor men and their families, the news so far does not appear to be good news. My heart goes out to them and I've included a photo I took at St George Church in Madaba, Jordan, candles of hope.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Jordan




It's been a hectic few days. I spent three days checking out Amman and surrounds on my own and really enjoyed spending time on the top of the hill at the Citadel. The Citadel is Amman's crowning glory, some amazing Roman ruins in various states of restoration situated at the top of one of the many hills. Watching the sunset over the city was magical and the light fantastic for taking photos, three of which are above. Hanging out up there for the afternoon I could imagine what it may have been like to live there when it was a bustling town.

Part way through the afternoon I realised that the UV filter on my main lens was broken, oh no what about my photos. After downloading them, I discovered that over half of them were ruined and had to be deleted, just as well I had plenty of others and didn't lose those late in the day ones.

Sue and I have just returned from 9 hours of sightseeing, our poor driver Mohammed had to put up with us all day. I'm sure he'll be pleased to be back with his family tonight so he celebrate at least a small part of this first day of Eid. Sue and I are really grateful to him for a fantastic day, more stories and photos on this to follow. For now, it's food and a nice red then a big sleep as we have another long day tomorrow when we head to Wadi Ram after visiting Mount Nebo.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Eid Mubarak

Eid mubarak to everyone, yes it's Eid and we have a weeks break. There were celebrations in school today, the boys very keen to get home and start this week of celebrations. Eid al-Adha is the festival of sacrifice and commemorates the trials and triumphs of the prophet Abraham (Islam.about.com). If you click on the link there is more detailed information but suffice to say that many goats will be killed and eaten this week.

This vegetarian will not be partaking in the eating of goats but will enjoy the other yummy food the Middle East has to offer. Sue and I are heading to Jordan, I can't wait. It's been my dream for many years to visit Petra so i will get to do that plus swim in the Dead Sea and see the rest of the popular sights. I'm also hoping to do a day trip into Damascus, will keep you posted on how that goes. So it's bye for now, I'm off to Dubai to catch a plane. Eid mabarak!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Friday adventure (Part 1)




Jane, Bart and I set off on an adventure on Friday morning. It was meant to be an early start but, well Friday's are a sleep in day so we set off mid morning after stocking up on supplies at Lulus. Lots of yummy picnic food, chocolate too of course.

Trying to get two Leos to agree on the route, even if this Leo had the map and the other the steering wheel, is quite a mission. Luckily we had a very good off road route book and a man to mediate. Off-Road in the Emirates II turned out to be a useful purchase as Buraimi is over the border into Oman but is actually a sort of no mans land that stretches the length of the border fence and quite a way inland in places. I'm not sure why but it's a bonus having access to Oman without having to cross into Oman proper.

That was what the discussion was all about between the Leos. Should we go around the whole route, meaning we had to go through the second Omani border or just visit Wadi Madbah and surrounds. I was out voted, was just thinking about our companion who doesn't have the special New Zealand passport Jane and I have. That's what the nice border man said, we were special to Oman. His smile lit up the room and Jane and I got the giggles of course.

The fun really began when we tried to find the turn off to Kitna, the first small village on our round trip. After a few discussions, some off roading so we could go the wrong way down a 4 lane highway, we found a police check point. We decided it was a man's job so Bart braved the road and the speeding traffic to seek help. We could see lots to arm waving and then had to go across to pick up Bart and get more instructions and, wait for this, a police escort to the correct turn off, only in the Middle East!

As the photo shows, the nice man in the police 4wd escorted us doing 120 plus in a 100 zone with us close behind until we found the right road. We stopped to thank him and he rolled down his window and gave us a beaming smile, wishing us good luck with our journey. I wasn't quite quick enough to get my camera out and take his photo.

We traveled down the road with the trees alongside into the rugged Omani mountains, through some tiny villages to find a wadi to swim in, it must be around here somewhere the map tells us so. We stopped to enjoy our picnic on the banks of an almost dry wadi, enjoying the fresh air so clean compared to the hazy air of the flat lands. The toads were interesting and the hornets scary but we braved them while we got ourselves prepared for our next adventure. Part 2 to follow.

A curious camel

Last week on my Oman excursion I took some photos of this lovely young female camel. She was really curious about what I was doing so came over and got up close and personal. This flock (yes, that is apparently the correct term: It is called a caravan or flock of camels according to answers.com) of camels seem to be very friendly and were not scared to come up and let us pat them. I find these creatures fascinating and although I see them every day on my way to work, on the backs of utes and trucks in town and at the track, I'm always keen to photograph them. Some camel facts from Wiki.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Another trip to Oman







I thought another adventure into Oman might be a good idea today. The weather is cooling making outdoor excursions really pleasant. A friend wanted some photos for his family so off we went to Wadi Damm with the aim of photos and a swim and scoping out the wadi as a camp site. The best laid plans, with my off road Oman book and a map in hand we headed for the border.

The wrong border as it turned out. The nice man at the border post took the time to show us our mistake, we need to go to the Mezyad border in the south. As always the border people were helpful. We laughed at his comment "I don't know, the tourists always know more than me!" Said of course with a beaming smiling while peering at my map book.

Once again I caused havoc at the border, holding up the cars while we talked then sounding a siren, much to my extreme embarrassment, and telling those waiting to go to another line. It was hilarious. We then got sent to the next office, of course once again driving the wrong way. My passenger is from Belgium so the cost of a visa for the afternoon plus the long wait to get served meant that plans changed yet again. He commented that it was lucky I was a woman as he wouldn't have got away with the disruptions I had caused, so true.

I was hungry, getting very grumpy, so we ate then went off exploring. What a fantastic place Oman is, there's such a lot to see. By just taking a side road we found some picturesque small towns, met a lovely camel drover who shared his camels, climbed a rock formation, found a fort and got to watch a game of cricket played by some very enthusiastic men who didn't mind us taking photos. I feel like I've had a holiday, well I did get to dine in another country today.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Busy!




I've been beyond busy in the past few weeks, hence the lack of entries. The problem with being busy is that I end up with lots of stories to tell, tales to relate, photos to share then don't have the time to write anything.

Where to start, well work has been flat out. That's good because I like to be busy and achieving what I set out to do and of course there's the people I meet in my work. They are the ones who make my job so special. There's a lot of new people in town, a diverse bunch from many different countries and I'm enjoying interacting with them.

One of my new friend told me today that she had heard that in New Zealand water was more expensive than wine. She was shocked. Apparently the article went on to blame this fact for some of New Zealand's health issues. I got the giggles of course. True the wine is cheaper than water and very, very good. Especially the Marlborough sav blancs and the Central Otago Pinots.

Water, on the other hand is necessarily expensive. The packaging causes major pollution problems so keeping it expensive helps to keep the waste down. The main reason that water being so expensive is a giggle is that in New Zealand, in every part of New Zealand, water can be poured into a glass straight from the tap and enjoyed. It's especially nice in winter when it's usually fridge cold. There are not many places that happens and I know when I go home for a visit, it's something I enjoy.

Last weekend Jane, a fellow kiwi, Fenola and I ventured into Oman late on Saturday afternoon. We negotiated the border, of course there were issues. Borders and I, well. Once again I ended up having to drive the wrong way back through no mans land to get a missing piece of paper. The border people were a little surprised at these crazy women going to Oman to take photos.

The people in the village where I took the mosque shot above were equally bemused. The lads followed us on their bikes practicing their English and an older one offered to take us somewhere, we lost him so will never find out what he wanted to show us. Oman is so different and just over the border, a nominal line in the sand. We drove to the back of Jebal Hafit and enjoyed watching the sun set over the mountain.

The other shots are the moon between the wires and shadows on the sand. Guess whose? More photos to come when I get time to do some work on them, not such a good collection really. I suspect I need some more tutoring with my new camera. When are you coming to stay Di?

Monday, 11 October 2010

Oasis Living

The magazine I've been doing some work on has hit the stands, here's the online version of Oasis Living . It looks fantastic and it's a great feeling to have been part of the team responsible for this new magazine all about the place I love. The hard copies are in the malls of Al Ain, enjoy!


Dragon boating





What a weekend! Dragon boating is such fun. Our team did really well, we threw the first race and then won the B final by over a boat length. Well that's what our captain said in jest anyway. It was more like we all stopped rowing too soon in the first race and then managed to cut 12 seconds off our time in the second. It's nerve wracking competing after such a long time away from competitive sport. Nerve wracking but fun!

I love being out on the water and that was made all the more enjoyable by being in a team containing many of my good friends. I got to paddle twice on Friday then met Mel who recognised my accent (not that we kiwis really have an accent) and wanted another kiwi woman paddler for the Wahine Mar team. Mel is a goddess, tall and athletic and an awesome paddler. I'm not sure how many races she competed in but she seemed to do this effortlessly.

I had a moment when I woke on Saturday morning after a late night. I wondered what on earth I'd done saying yes! I had visions of the other Amazon women goddesses who had been wandering around all day looking bronzed and fit laughing when they saw this rather small and unfit white girl joining their team. I nearly bottled out, but I had said yes so I fronted up.

Phew, to my great relief it was a team of friends and colleagues from other companies, some of whom I hadn't seen for a while so we had a good catch up on the news. We were all in the same boat, mostly inexperienced paddlers just out for some fun. Off we went, 4th in our race against some of the more professional teams. Not a bad effort. Talk on the beach turned to wanting more of this sport. There's now a group of us wanting to travel to Abu Dhabi to train once a week and compete on the UAE circuit. Hopefully we'll manage, more pics to follow if we do.

We stayed the night at Traders, part of the Sheraton complex, and had an enjoyable night out at the beach party. There were some funny things that happened there, they're another story for another day. I took my old camera and Gilly was an able photographer. Funny to be in so many pics when I'm usually the one behind the camera.

The pics are of the winning team coming in; the teams ready to to paddle to the start line (we're the ones in the black t shirts, what were they thinking in 40 plus degree heat!); the girls with the trophy and Ulas who loves being in photos; and the bows of the dragon boats waiting for their crews.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Suicide

Suicide is a word that strikes fear into the heart of a mother, of a father, of friends and family. Suicide is unfortunately all too common in the western world and particularly in New Zealand. As this section of a 2009 report into suicide shows, New Zealand has a shocking rate. Many people's lives are touched by this tragic event.

International comparison

A comparison of the latest age-standardised suicide death rates in 13 OECD countries26 between 2004 and 2006 shows New Zealand’s (2006) rate was the fifth highest for males (18.2 per 100,000 males) and the eighth highest for females (6.2 per 100,000 females).27Finland had the highest male suicide death rate (31.1 per 100,000 in 2006), while Japan had the highest female rate (12.7 per 100,000 in 2004). Australia (16.4 in 2005) had a lower rate of male suicide deaths than New Zealand, as did the United States (18.0 in 2005) and Canada (17.7 in 2004). The United Kingdom had the lowest male suicide death rate (11.1 in 2005). Canada (4.5), the United States (4.4), Australia (4.3) and the United Kingdom (3.8) all reported lower female suicide death rates than New Zealand.

New Zealand had the second highest male youth (15–24 years) suicide death rate (after Finland), and the second highest female youth suicide death rate (after Japan). New Zealand is one of a small number of countries which have higher suicide death rates at younger ages than at older ages.28 (http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/suicide.html)

I have now lost two friends to suicide, both men approaching middle age, both men leaving wives and families. I had the worst news on Friday, news of a friend who had suffered from depression for many years. I felt incredibly sad that his life had gone so far down that he felt suicide was his only way out. Incredibly sad for his wife and sons and for the rest of his family. Rest in peace my friend.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Flickr

Oh my goodness what a wonderful surprise to come on today and see my Flickr photos greeting me. Flickr has been blocked in this country so I had basically stopped using it, now I can and best of all the roll is back on my blog. On the to do list, update my Flickr photos.

My to do list is getting long but I have now ticked off getting my car reinsured and reregistered. That's been a weight off my mind. Now I can drive with an easy mind, very important on the road I'm driving a lot at the moment. Well all that said, I'm about to eat some yummy falafal for dinner and enjoy a peaceful evening. Much needed.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fine!

Or as Robyn would say; frustrated, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Well, my day has been a bit fine. More frustrating than fine really. Actually the frustrations started the day before when I realised that I had to re register my Toyota. The UAE have just bought in ID cards, to register a car you need one and I haven't got around to getting mine yet, plenty of time I thought. Wait until most people have theirs and there will be less waiting time.

Yesterday I chased around trying to find the place to get said ID card, then found they had shifted buildings and they may or may not have been open on a Saturday. Because I couldn't find them, I couldn't find that out either. Then Jane and I went to the licensing place, they were shut too. Plan B, tomorrow. That would be today, the day my registration runs out.

Or does it? Tomorrows date is on my new insurance papers so it seems that I have to go back again tomorrow to get my registration. No problems, they are open until 9pm and the lady was so helpful. She didn't ask for my ID card so fingers crossed I'll be fine without it. There's that word fine again, oh did I mention I had to pay my fines before I could do anything at all?

I sat there waiting, a little worried about how much it might be, prepared for the worst. With several, supportive friends looking on with bated breath to see my final total, to see my face when I heard it. It was not that relaxing really. The lovely man sorting out my fines was more interested in chatting and, as I like a bit of a chat, I obliged. I cannot believe how friendly and forgiving the Emirati people are, how welcoming and how the stressful job of paying fines is made a pleasure by the attitude of the people in the fines department. We had a lot of laughs when he tried to get one of his colleagues to charge my Visa, she was giving him grief about his bad handwriting. Behind my smile, I was hoping that she had put the decimal point in the right place.

All done, all paid it was Rau's turn. Hers were a little higher than mine. Mine topped the scales at 4370dhs or about 1620NZD. They halve the fines so I paid a grand total of 2185dhs, not bad for a years driving here where the speed limits are fluid and the speed cameras set at a variety of speeds regardless of the speed limit. Actually, since I got none in the first six months, that's the cost for the whole time I've been here. The traveling I do for work and pleasure means that I've put 25000ks on my car this year.

I also dropped my phone today, broke the screen, so that had to go in to be fixed. Somehow my contacts were not on my SIM so I have a limited phone with no contacts until mine is fixed. My phone account will be lower, but I'm not very happy about not being able to be in contact. I suspect the Apple company conspired to make me drop my phone. I just may have to visit with their i-phone 4 if my phone is too long getting back to me. No wait, my i-phone money just went on fines. There's that word again.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Dragon boating



Well, that was fun. I'm pleased I've been going to the gym and working on my upper body strength or it may not have been so much fun. Liz and Amy were in the front, Tracy and I in the second row. Mastering the technique was a little difficult, getting in sync was tough, getting a boat load of teachers and education related people quiet enough to listen to all the instructions and not give any themselves, well that was impossible.

We did manage to get going, get in sync and actually get some speed on, maybe we are quite a competitive lot. One more practice then it's race day the following weekend. It will be the first time in years I've actually competed in anything, I hope I'm up to it. Kurt, Tracy's husband was on camera duty and got these shots of us in action. Thanks Kurt!

Friday, 24 September 2010

A busy week

I've been a bit busy this week, flying from one thing to another and not getting much time at home. That's good on a lot of levels but tiring, especially all the driving. I'm still driving out into the country every day and although it is a bit a drive, I love the ever changing scenes. The camels wandering the dunes, the way the morning light falls on the orange dunes, the men working on the roads, the fast drivers who pass in blind spots. Well, I don't like that last one, I can see why there are so many accidents on that road. I don't get to stop, it's too dangerous or I'm in a hurry to be somewhere else.

Today I'm off to Abu Dhabi to dragon boat practice. Yes, in a moment of weakness, and some peer pressure, I signed up for our company's dragon boat team. Will keep you posted on how that goes! Today I'm learning the art of paddling in unison. A life lesson surely. I am taking my camera, hopefully my car load will also want to sightsee, so photos may follow. My camera's been quiet this week too, daylight hours are required to get the shots I want.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Another Saturday night

I'm totally shattered, something to do with a big gym session so I can lose those holiday pounds. So my trousers meet in the middle again and my skirts reach the ground. I'm hurting in places where I didn't know I had muscles! I'm using a personal trainer, she should call it torture training, sigh. She's really, really good and keeps me going with some interesting exercises. Variety keeps me from being bored by exercise.

I got back from the gym starving, as you do, and found a bag of chips in the cupboard. I deserved them, really. After the first soggy crunch I dug through the bag to see if the staleness had reached the middle, it had. Yes they had been opened for too long. Into the bin they went, I even had the cheek to feel a little virtuous.

My car went in for it's 20000 km service today, I chose to wait because if you go the hour service can take all day. I had things to do, places to go, people to see, so I took a good book and read and people watched. It was fun, one man was exploding about something, not sure what because it was all in Arabic. I did pick out words like car, and given we were at the car service place, I assumed he wasn't happy about something to do with his car.

I've got at least another two weeks of the exciting drive out of town, through the lovely desert dunes to the country schools. I love the drive but lets hope the fog stays away this week. Roll on next weekend, hopefully it won't be as busy as this one's been and I can get some pool time.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Further to my previous post

The accident on the road I wrote about in my last post had two fatalities. Here is the Gulf News article. My condolences go out to the families who have lost their young men.

Today's drive was much easier although the meteorologists tell us this fog will continue as "the sea surface temperatures are at their highest during this time of year, reaching more than 32C, which prompts large amounts of sea water to evaporate into the air" (The National, 16 September 2010). This air is apparently blown inland and forms into fog over the desert. I learn something everyday living here!

It's now late on Thursday afternoon and I'm looking forward to the weekend, to relaxing and catching up on my sleep. The early starts are tough for the first few weeks, until the routine kicks in. Hopefully that will be next week.

Driving in the UAE

I bought a 4wd, a big Toyota Fortuna, to keep myself safe on the UAE roads. You see people drive fast here, too fast for the conditions at times. I like to speed up too when it's safe to do so but know my limits. Today I almost got caught out and it made me realise what a wise choice my 4wd was.

As the desert cools with the approaching winter here, there are shamals or sand storms and fog. Both can be lethal on the roads. It's early for the cooling to happen and I noticed that it was much cooler last evening. This morning the 45 minute trip to work was slowed by thick fog as I turned off the main road onto the road to Sweihan, out into the desert.

The fog was as thick as I've ever seen it, a total white out with very little visibility. I slowed then it seemed to disperse. As it did we passed some emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. That's odd I commented to my passenger. She agreed. I drove on a bit further, more cautiously, and saw why the emergency vehicles were on the road. There was a massive pile up of cars a nose to tail just in front of us. As this emerged from the fog, I slowed as quickly as I could, stopping just before the last wreck. There were others parked there watching, no one down the road slowing the oncoming traffic.

I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a 4wd looming out of the fog at speed. He saw the wreckage and slammed his brakes on, blowing his left front tyre and hitting the armco. We were so lucky he did or he would have hit us. At this point I realised that departing the scene was the wisest thing to do so, shaking, I drove around the wreckage and on my way. It was horrible, my passenger counted about 15 cars involved. We don't know how damaged the people were and may never find out.

The UAE has a poor safety record on the roads with a high road toll, surprising considering that most of the cars on the roads are newer, therefore safer, than many other countries. There are also truck roads that carry the majority of the trucking traffic and the roads are mostly of a higher standard than in the other countries in which I've driven. I suspect it's speed and driver error, two things that are hard to fix quickly.

Tomorrow I'm off again on that road. Tomorrow I'm leaving earlier, driving slower and if there's fog I'm stopping until I can drive on safely. Today's was a good lesson learnt, someone must have been watching over me. As the road signs say 'beware of road surprises'.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

One balmy evening in Al Ain



I never say no to an invitation, except maybe if it's a same day one because you can say no to those according to Mary-Anne's mum. This has mostly worked out well for me and tonight was no exception. Rotana gym members were invited to a pool cocktail party, how could I refuse.

It was lovely to talk to people who I've seen at the gym but not really said more than hello to. I like a bit of a chat and got that in spades tonight, first with a South African couple one of whom works at a local university and then with Deborah and Ross. They are keen to explore mountain biking here so we're going to keep in touch. It would be really great to have some friends to go out riding with, so far there's only two of us and now there may be four. A respectable number.

There's plenty of riding in the Omani hills, it's just a little hot at the moment. It was actually quite warm sitting chatting by the pool, very humid. Walking home in my new heels may have been a bit ambitious but the people watching made it worthwhile. Al Ain comes alive in the evening hours, the parks are full of people picnicing and enjoying each other's company while their children enjoy being able to play outside. It's far too hot to do that during the day time.

It's been a good today, I got some time by the pool with Rau plus I managed to get some of the photos I needed. The late afternoon light is lovely here, much easier to manage than the morning light. I haven't processed any to include here, tomorrows job. The two I have included are from an earlier expedition. I also got to wrestle with a shoe rack courtesy of Ikea.

We visited Ikea when we were in Abu Dhabi. I needed a rack for my shoes, they're getting out of hand and I did add two more pairs yesterday. Shopping in Ikea is like being a rat in cage, I had the Smashing Pumpkins Rat in a Cage running around in my head. I suspect it might have got out at one stage because people were looking at me a bit oddly. I mostly shop like a man, know what I want, get in and out as quickly as possible with just the thing I went in for. Not easy in Ikea but I did also need some more pot plants. The last lot didn't make it.

For those who have never had the pleasure, in Ikea the things we need/want are on display then we have to find them in another form somewhere else in the shop by remembering the isle numbers, codes that made little sense to me. I found the model of what I wanted then spent the next 30 minutes trapped like a rat in a cage following arrows. I'm not good at following anything, including instructions, so I ended up going against the arrows hoping to put an end to the torture that is Ikea with all it's tempting baubles.

At last, with help from my support crew who were just ahead of me, always just ahead of me, I found the pack with the rack. Or maybe they knew I wasn't crazy about being in Ikea and stayed ahead of me so that they could enjoy their shopping. The shoe rack came in a pack that bore no resemblance to the shoe rack I'd spotted. The box seemed to be bigger than it needed to be and flat. Are you sure this is it, yes madam I am sure the shop assistant tells me with the sigh of a man who'd heard this story many, many times.

I got the rack home, unpacked the box and looked in wonder at all the pieces it took to make this essential item. There were rods and ends and screws, wait a minute. Do I need a phillips head screw driver? Yes it appeared I did. I also needed four or more arms to get the poles into the holes, the holes top and bottom had to line up and then the ends had to be screwed on. Ever resourceful, I used a kitchen knife and some tricky yoga poses to get it all put together. I did wonder, as I surveyed my shoes sitting proudly on the rack, if it all came with instructions. Who needs them anyway.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

More on the earthquakes

Keri added this slide show of the recent earthquakes in Christchurch to her Facebook and I really wanted to share it here, thanks Keri. The pics show some of the destruction, not the real human cost. That will unfold as time goes on. I know my son is part of the clean up and assessment team. I know this because he was up on a crane when I called him today. He couldn't talk to me, understandable.

Apologies this link didn't seem to work, will try to get this another way!

Sohar, Oman




We were given a 5 day holiday for Eid, a big surprise for us on Tuesday when we came to work. It took very little time to readjust our plans and look to what we might do to fill in the break. I did think of Egypt but it's been pretty hectic here lately and I felt like I needed some time at home.

Last night I spent time with Georgina and Philippa, Nina's kids who I spend time with when I need some kid time. We piled in the car with Heather and her girls early this morning and set off for an adventure. And an adventure it was. It all started at the first border post into Oman. I thought the man had told me to do something impossible due to the big metal ramp thing coming out of the road blocking my way so I went on a bit further and did a U turn over a low median strip. Sirens sounded, were they for me?

Well maybe! We then found our way to the Sohar road, onwards in the heat after misjudging how much time the first border crossing would take. There was worse to come. At the second border crossing about half an hour into the journey to the beach we struck a few difficulties. Apparently you're not allowed to take other peoples children out of the country. Go figure, we just wanted to go to the closest beach, that's in another country.

New Zealanders can come and go in Oman with no problems, no visa needed, a quick stamp at no cost. Those on UK passports, that is all the others in my car, had to fill in forms and pay for visas. They let me take Nina's two girls through after some fast talking and offering to call her to so they could check it was okay. Lots of smiling and shukrans and we were in the car.

Customs next, nope we don't have that piece of paper. Back we go to the first men, sorry they say heres that piece of paper. Through customs onto the final check, the police check. Did I mention that we ended in the wrong place, the truck lanes and I had to do a U turn then drive the wrong way down the truck lanes? I was rather hoping there were no trucks coming and that we wouldn't get arrested for once again breaching Omani border protocols. Heather was by this time giggling nervously, the kids just wanted to be there as kids do.

The nice young policeman and I had a conversation about insurance, apparently I needed all my papers to go any further. Nope, they were at home somewhere. After some time and lots of smiling sign language, I finally had to go back to the men in the immigration building, again, and buy a weeks Omani insurance. Done, and 80 dirhams lighter off we went through all the check points again, the men beaming after this silly woman.

Onwards to the beach which we found after driving along beside it for a while then asking at a Shell station. Luckily Heather had enough Arabic to do so. We pitched the tent on the beach as the girls raced to the sea. We thought we'd picked a good place, away from the main roads and houses. It's still Ramadan so we wanted to keep the fact we were eating hidden. Just look where we pitched the tent, when the call to prayer sounded we realised it was not the best spot but it is hard to miss being near a mosque in this place. The picture tells this story.

The other story was the amount of crabs on the beach, totally amazing really. They build these big sand piles as they dig out their holes. The beach was covered in sand towers and they scrambled out when we were in the water and ran down the beach, an amazing sight. I rushed as quietly as I could to capture this. I got some photos with my long lens, they hid when I got close.

The trip home was hot and uneventful with border man saying that we should stay longer than a day next time, I agree. I love Oman, it's so very different from the UAE and only a short drive away. We came back a different way, a different border crossing, didn't think I should show my face at the other one. It seemed quicker too so will go that way on future adventures.

Tomorrow I'm off to Abu Dhabi then onto Liwa to see Sue in the high dunes, looking forward to finally getting there.


The shaky isles

Lately all my spare brain space has been taken up thinking about my family and friends in the shaky isles. Christchurch seems to be being shaken and stirred then shaken again. Just when people seem to be able to relax a 5.1 shakes them up again. From talking to family, this seems to be happening so regularly that the whole city is on edge.

There's been some useful coverage in the newspapers and news channels in New Zealand so those of us who are away can get a picture about some of the happenings, the impact of which will be felt for many years to come as people lose their homes and livelihoods. Someone told me that the landscape of Christchurch is changed forever and that makes me really sad. The lovely old buildings, the garden city heart seems to have fallen to the earths thrusts.

The thing that makes me feel heartened is the stories of those helping others. The university students who manned shovels to clear the silted streets and knocked on the doors of strangers offering their help and support. The civil defense people who worked all hours to ensure that people were safe and those in the essential services who are still working around the clock to make sure my family have power to take the chill off the Christchurch winter.

Know that I'm thinking of you all, wishing I could be there to help but thankful I'm not there to add to the feelings of fear. I'm just very grateful that the quake struck when it did, in the early hours of the morning. The thought of that happening, of the destruction, in the daylight hours when people were going about their business just doesn't bear thinking about.


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Time, time, time

I've been very slack at writing here since I got back, too busy being immersed back into the world of work and my life here. There's plenty to catch up on, plenty of travel stories and photos from my new camera. I've got some new and different prospects, something very exciting, in the wings that will keep me busy for the next week or so but hopefully I'll get some writing time on the weekend.

Funny how busy one can be when living alone with a lovely cleaner coming in from time to time to save me from the dreaded housework. It really makes me wonder how I managed to get everything done that I did when I was raising a family, studying and working, maybe it was because I was younger then she writes with a wry smile.

I must go, really must stop procrastinating and leave my lovely sunny apartment with the smell of toast and marmite wafting from the kitchen and get to work. I promise there will be something more interesting when I write next, complete with photos.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Special moments

I'm an avid people watcher and sometimes this gets me into trouble as other don't always appreciate being watched. Somehow having a camera legitimise this, well to some anyway. It's Ramadan here, no eating or drinking in public as our Muslim neighbours are fasting. There are no eating places open either so it's eat at home or fast too.

Rau and I were breaking our fast just after Iftar on Thursday night, buying some yummy falafal and chicken shwarmas. While we were waiting I was fascinated by the man through the window making thin, crepe like Egyptian bread, totally delicious with honey. I watched as he took the pre raised balls of dough and spread this pliable dough thinly over a soft pillow like pad. He then placed this onto the hot plate for a short time to cook.

He had a pile already made and we watched him make several more. I wasn't sure if he knew we were watching, I was thinking what a wonderful photo opportunity it would be, until he turned and smiled at us. He then gave one of his colleagues a freshly made bread and he passed it out the window to me. It was really hot so, still smiling, he gave me a bag to hold it with. Rau and I were starving so we wolfed it down, breaking our self imposed fast.

They looked on appreciatively. I got to thinking about just how many people live and work here in Al Ain. People from all over the world. People who are employed in the supermarkets, the food shops, the souq, the salons. People who are employed in schools and hospitals. I may just continue my people watching with my camera and get some shots of everyday life here. The everyday that we tend to overlook as we go to and from work.

Later this afternoon I hope to get to explore the Jimi Oasis with the Emirates Natural History Group, photos will follow if I do. Now I'm off to Toyota to book mine in for a service, fancy having done over 22000 kilometres in just under a year. I'm also going with Jane and David to see if they can get new Toyotas. Introductions help here.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Interios, Paris



While wandering through wet and gray Montmartre Di and came across an oasis of light, the interior sighted from the gray street drew us in. Interios contained the most stunning pottery and ceramics. These were arranged in colour sets, very visually appealing, with many different items in each set. I thought I liked the blue/green until I saw the red set. The teapot is pictured on Di's site, the cups were stunning.

The two of us, both non shoppers, oooooed and ahhhhed over the red set. I was determined I was going to buy the teapot for Di as a gift for having me to stay and to also buy some bits and pieces for me. I had traveled so lightly that I had plenty of space for extras. Unfortunately we had not long begun our wandering and decided that carrying such things along with all our heavy camera gear was a recipe for disaster.

We made a plan to get back there, to make the purchases as last minute ones. Alas, time flew and while we were at Notre Dame taking photos of the birds being fed, we realised that we would most probably miss our train if we did. It was a horrible realisation but no worries, we'd order online. Apparently not possible. We'll just have to go back to Paris, that teapot is certainly worth the trip.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bang bang in the night

There's a building going up across the road from my apartment. It's in the stage Keri dubbed the toothpick stage, with lots of toothpick like scaffolds holding the concrete slabs above the floor slab while the pillars are built. Seems to be how they build them around here. Tonight I got up close and personal with the building and the men building it.

Last night I got very little sleep, there were bang bangs all night as they built the boxing to pour the concrete for the pillars in. Bang bang bang until well after 2am. Each time I thought they'd stopped and I relaxed, bang bang again. It was very reminiscent of Qatar, although here it was one site not several vying for the noisiest.

Tonight I went to dinner with friends, Ilene and Simon, who had returned from Aus today and were heading north tomorrow. It seemed like I might be the perfect person to keep them awake. When I arrived home the bang bang had started again. It's Ramadan and high summer so much of the work does get done at night so I do understand the need for it. Nevertheless off I went to talk to 'boss' on the site.

I suspect I was a bit of a novelty standing on the site in a skirt complete with hand bag and heels. The lads close by came over, young lads from the Indian subcontinent. Maffi English there and unfortunately I don't even have a rudimentary understanding of Urdu, where's Anne when you need her. I somehow made myself understood with gestures, very polite and obviously very amusing gestures.

I said in sign language "I live there (pointing to my apartment block) your bang bang (pointing to their hammer and making the motion) is stopping me from sleeping (hands to the side of my face, eyes closed, then opened)." The puzzled looks slowly changed to looks of enlightenment. After much amusement on both sides, by this time all work had stopped and most of the workers were joining in, agreement was reached. They would bang bang on the other side of the building tonight.

I'm not sure how that's going to help very much but I agreed and we all said goodbye and went back to our places. Them to work and me to hopefully get a good nights sleep. I may just have to resort to the Qatar trick of sleeping in my iPod by the sound of things as I write. There's no bang bang but there seems to be a jack hammer operating, oh well can't have everything my way.

Monday, 23 August 2010

London





A few of the London photos, more to follow with more stories. I wondered if I'd go up on the London Eye. Others told me it was cool, I convinced myself I must go and it was the last thing I did before heading to the airport. The light wasn't very good, a dull day with threatening clouds, but I did get a couple of reasonable shots.

The view from the pod looking up (or down) the Thames, yours truly outside the globe, The lovely Kim on the millennium bridge and one of the most impressive buskers I've ever seen, yes I gave generously.

Further to my previous post

Well, what a treat flying from Heathrow was. A cold hand gripped my heart when my name was called over the speakers in the Emirates Lounge, I suspected I was about to miss the plane but no it was a call to the reception desk. The nice man, the very, very nice man took my boarding pass and handed me another with those lovely words.

"Here's your complimentary upgrade, enjoy." He smiled as he handed me a boarding pass for 9E instead of 22G. Traveling business class is a luxury I could get used to. I was thinking earlier in the day that I was wearing the wrong shoes for flying, my walking flats, so I was worried about not being able to touch the floor. The thought was fleeting, in business class there's no worries about this small issue. The seats recline complete with foot rest, luxury on a night flight.

Then there was the food and drinks, on tap with an excellent selection. I wanted the flight to go on longer but alas we landed. I got off the plane first, got my bags then headed to my car. Never any problems getting anywhere in the UAE on a Friday. The traffic was easy and in no time I was home in Al Ain.

Work began today, an interesting day spent sharing holiday stories in the breaks. Last night we watched the All Blacks win while enjoying some good company at the Rugby Club. We took some of the new people, my neighbours and others, with us. It's always good meeting new people, interesting traveling people. Things are getting back to normal. I know that soon my holiday will seem like a distant dream, I hope that's not too soon.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Time to say goodbye....

Goodbye to Europe and the UK, hello to Dubai and then Al Ain. One of the good things about all the flying I do, my 'round the world trips' as a friend of mine calls them, is that I get to wait for planes in the Emirates lounges. This is a bonus as I get to use the down time for eating, sampling their wine and using the Internet. It's peaceful and there's always people watching if I have to wait too long.

Not today, I was at the airport early, checked in then tried to claim the tax for the good I'd purchased. Two things actually my camera and the flash bag I bought to transport that and my Mac. The queue was interminable. I waited with a lovely family from Ghana who really had had a world trip. The five year old boy found the wait trying so we chatted as you do with five year old boys. What a cute boy, gave me a run for my money with his questions. I suspect his mum was grateful.

After well over an hour, did I mention I don't do queues, I got to the front counter. Not sure I actually needed to be there as I had to take the paper for my camera through to customs while others were getting money in their hands. Go figure. Getting the twenty plus percent tax back made my camera a viable purchase so I suppose it was worth the wait, I just have to get the stamped receipt back to the shop. No worries, I'll just have to visit Di again.

She may not have me back as I suspect I broke her with all my chasing around. The wet outing to Paris possibly tipped the scales. Ops just been called for the plane....must go!!!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Ieper




Gert took us on a Sunday drive to explore Ieper or Ypres if you're speaking French. This was one of the main arenas for WW1. Here's some photos from a very special cemetery where Katherine Mansfield's brother is buried. There are also many New Zealanders there.

Okay, had to go and have dinner but I'm back to finish this post. Ieper is a place I've visited before, in 2004 with Muzz. It touched a chord then and this revisit reinforced that. I got to see some new places this trip as well as revisiting familiar ones. The cemetery above was a new place, Tyne Cot was a familiar one. It's changed, there's a new visitors centre that adds to the whole experience with graphic displays and explanations bringing the war closer.

The vista from the large window with the legend showing the battlefield, it looks very peaceful today. I always feel a welling of emotion as I read the names on the stones, the names of young men whose lives ended in mud, in pain far from their families. The war was advertised to them as an adventure, it became a nightmare. The young men are mostly the same age as my young men, but for an accident of birth they would be there.

I often think about accidents of birth when I'm in the UAE. The young men who come and work there in the construction industry, young men who come over from countries that are not as privileged as ours, are at such a disadvantage. They don't seem to be free to choose their fates, tied to those who recruit and employ them. When I compare that to my young men, that seems an untenable fate, there but for an accident of birth.