Saturday, 24 April 2010

Lazy me

I'm procrastinating. I'm good at that, I could even call myself an expert. I've got work to do, grocery shopping to do, phone calls to make, emails to write. The issue is I just don't feel like doing any of it. So here I am uploading my photos and playing with them after spending time reading a very good book. I'm feeling uncharacteristically lazy.

That could be because it's 40c+ outside, could be that I've had an excellent weekend and I've got that Sunday afternoon feeling. Well, here it's a Saturday afternoon feeling. Womad in Abu Dhabi was more upbeat than in Al Ain. The beach and corniche were packed with people. The two stages meant that people circulated. It was hot and very sticky, fun to share with friends.

We sat on the sand and enjoyed the Persian drummers as well as Abri and others. The photo is of Abri performing in Al Ain. The skill of the drummers was amazing, I'll have a look on YouTube to see if I can add a clip here soon. For now enjoy these photos, two of the few that worked from Thursday night.

Friday, 23 April 2010

A Child's Christmas in Wales

I was looking on Youtube and a conversation I was having last night at the Rotana came back to me. We were talking about poetry, in particular Dylan Thomas' poetry. A Child's Christmas in Wales came to me from my English teacher in 1976. Barry Metcalf was a published author and one of the few people who really encouraged me in my writing, encouraged me and had faith in me. He gave me a record (a round black vinyl thing that plays sound when used with a record player) of the poem read by Richard Burton.

I loved it and was hooked on Dylan Thomas' work from that time on. I found these readings, not Richard Burton but still showing the wonderful prose that Thomas is famous for. That Bob Dylan took his name from him is further cause for me to like his work. I can remember sitting in my small bedroom in the Coromandel listening over and over to this wonderful story. I used to know it almost by heart. I was surprised to find it on Youtube.
It's been that sort of morning, a chill out one. I finished reading my book, I'm getting ready to go to Abu Dhabi to catch some of the Womad acts. Rau and I went to Womad here in Al Ain last night at Al Jahili Fort but we were too tired to enjoy it much, that's what happens on a Thursday. I took photos so will add some here soon.

Monday, 19 April 2010


Things are changing here, I might get to move into my own place with some good incentives to do so from my company. Where to live, where to live? Al Ain or Dubai or Abu Dhabi and commute? I like the idea of living near the sea again. I miss being able to swim and the ever changing vista that is the sea. Apparently Dubai's cheap at the moment.

Today it rained a little in Al Ain, a surprise when Mary-Anne and I saw some drops on the pavement at school. We talked about dancing naked in the rain, decided a few spots did not quite constitute enough rain for that sort of carry on. It's been cloudy all day, clouds coming over from Oman where it is no doubt raining. It's hot and sticky too.

Anyway, lots to think about at the moment. I have been wondering what the next year might hold, I suspect today's revelations might add to the mix of the pros and cons of living here. There are extra incentives for sharing, especially with 3 or more people, and the villas can be big enough to do so. Not for me though, I've done enough sharing in my life so far so will choose the solo option. There are also constraints on this legally.

So tonight as I bend and stretch at yoga, I'll be mulling over some of the issues I'm now facing. Or not, as yoga frees your mind so those sorts of thoughts are kept at bay for a bit over an hour. A good and much needed respite.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The universe conspires

This weekend I decided to go on the Emirates Natural History Group's outing. It's been a while since I've been able to, the timing hasn't been right for me. I was hoping to have photos to share and a story to tell tonight. Alas, I didn't read the email as well as I might have and got the day wrong. So instead of going out on an off road adventure today, I got to go shoe shopping with Mary-Anne. A rare and seldom photographed event. Might I add a very successful event.

Kate was keen to come on the trip too, into Oman and off into the wilds. We were both disappointed, although she chuckled at my small error. I've actually done this once before but don't tell anyone. That time I got to the meeting place a day early and sat there awhile before I realised that maybe I had it wrong. I could redeem myself, I went the next day and enjoyed the outing without confessing.

So the weekend consisted of some really good R & R, good company, both much needed and some lovely conversations with others. I love a good chat so Di obliged me for sometime until her Belgian breakfast called about the same time as my Al Ain lunch did, the wonders of modern technology. I do think that we don't talk enough to others. Sometimes assumptions are made because we think we've been understood but really haven't. That's when the art of good communication becomes vital.

I've had this happen recently, spectacularly. I've been feeling like the universe has taken all the toys in my toy box and thrown them up into the air. It's been that sort of week on all fronts hence my silence here. I've always somehow been able to share myself through writing more effectively than talking, surprising as I do talk a lot apparently. Writing is a permanent way of being heard, a way that broaches no argument. Someone always has a copy somewhere of what's been written so it can be revisited. It's irrefutable.

I'm hoping that my troublesome and stressful situation will be fixed by some good communication. I'm hoping that the good communication will be mine, it's begun and I need to be patient to see where it will lead. I've been reading a book on transference. In When the Past is Present, David Richo makes perfect sense as he explains how we take the things that have happened to us through our lives and transfer them to another person, another event. This can be a healthy thing to do, so long as we can recognise that we are doing it. Sigh and say, oh yes, I can see where that came from. Acknowledging what we are applying to a situation is important to allow clear communication.

In making that acknowledgement, we get to deal with the things that may hold us back in our lives. It's like hearing a piece of music from a past time in your life and remembering, associating those past events and feelings with the music. Saying 'I remember when' and transferring those feelings to the present time. That's mostly good and a conscious transference. I started taking notes as I was reading then realised that this is one of the few books I've read where I need to highlight statements, passages that resonate. One quote I reflected on for a while is this one:

I know I'm not seeing things as they are. I'm seeing things as I am.
Laurel Lee

So true for all of us I suspect. I'm hoping that the seeds I've sown in the universe this week will come to germinate, will enable some understanding and will mean the toys will be gently placed back in the toy box. Here's hoping because as Di shared recently on her wonderful blog:

it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
ee cummings

Monday, 12 April 2010

Expat life

It's been an interesting and stressful day, some news from home not reassuring. Living away from home, missing out on special occasions and missing the significant others in your life is part of the expat package. I hear this a lot from others, I feel it for myself.

But there needs to be a balance. A balance of self and family, of self and societal expectations. It's interesting to see just how many there are here around a certain age, leaving children and grandchildren at home to follow a career adventure. We talk about this, us grandmothers and grandfathers. It's tough to just see and not touch, not breath in that special baby smell.

Lyn and Kerry have set off on their new adventure, Helen's heading off again, Mike's back in New Zealand and Kate's getting set to join him, many of my current friends and colleagues have resigned their jobs and are moving away in the next three months. Life here is fluid, an ever changing shifting carpet. Family demands may lessen as children grow into adulthood but they never cease. It's 11 or 12 weeks until the next break, Who knows what might happen after that.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Up on the roof

Rau and I had a good night out last night, a roof party for Will's birthday. Although Will's from the mother country, he's been made and honorary kiwi. He still needs some training, for example in his taste in music (not much kiwi stuff on his iPod) but he sure fitted in with the large contingent of kiwis on the roof celebrating with him.

The guitars were out, waiata were sung, drinks flowed freely. A good old kiwi party, a bit like Mike's farewell a few weeks ago minus my strawberry delights. Being on the roof reminded me of our times on the roof of the Al Hitme hilton aka the slums in Qatar. We had some fun times up there with our coffee cups smelling suspicious, sharing big bags of Lays chips. Helen's leaving Qatar, leaving before I got to visit. I've had over a year but somehow haven't made it.

It was a late night but not wanting to waste any of my precious Friday, I was up quite early. Actually I woke up starving and realised that I had kind of missed eating for a large chunk of the day yesterday. I really enjoyed the evening, out with my good friends relaxing and enjoying each others company.

I kind of remember inviting them all to my house warming when I move into Kate and Mike's flat upstairs in May. Rau will be across the hall and she suggested we could open both doors and have a stairwell party, sounds good to me. Margaritas all round I say.

The photos are from my Qatar collection, sunset over Doha from our roof and Shirley, Lyn, Keri and Helen having a laugh on the roof, as we often did.

In the process of loading my Qatar photos, I got a disc jammed in my disc drive. Any ideas how to fix that would be appreciated. The nearest Apple shop is in Abu Dhabi so I might not make it there this weekend and I've got series 4 of Boston Legal to watch, very important to get this fixed soon.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Oh boy, what a day!

You know how things just happen, not out of bad intentions but out of the very best of intentions. Today I had to be on my best behaviour and the problem with that is that I struggle at times to do the expected things. I've been like that since I was a child I suspect from the recovered memories I've had throughout my adult life, the ones that make a grown up cringe. Today was no exception. I don't usually talk about work but will depart from that for this entry. It just needs to be shared.

We had some very special visitors in our school today, ones we had prepared for for a while, ones who will write a report that may well decide the future of my employment. It was all going well until 7am, yep barely arrived and it turned to a small but telling drama. My wee faux pax this morning, it was actually a bit before 7am so I can be forgiven, surely.

I was setting up a slide show for the visitors, the VIPs, with the librarian and could hear this impossibly loud music outside. Very bad loud music. I could barely hear my lovely librarian when she showed the me the volume control on her slide show, yep blaming others, very sad. I asked her who was making such an awful racket outside, she looked at me quizzically. I thought it may be the slight language barrier, given my lack of Arabic.

Of course it was me, broadcasting on loud speakers through the school wide intercom. The VIPs decided to arrive in the midst of this, one colleague looked at me as if she'd swallowed a frog, uncooked of course (read she looked extremely surprised, showing she doesn't know me that well). The other had a smile and pointed out that it was time to turn the music off because our visitors had arrived, all said using my name in the patient way adults use with very young and miscreant children.

At that point I realised the noise was me, oh no what to to do! I muted the racket, it really was an appallingly loud racket, and greeted the visitors with a broad smile saying I was the schools IT expert. Sheepishly with a "can you please forgive me and forget I did that" look on my face. We all had a laugh and I went on to redeem myself by responding to an interactive whiteboard emergency.

I called one of our IT experts (a real one apparently) and all 5'7" (if that) of him proceeded to tell me to get a very tall chair, hooting with laughter down the phone. OK so I'm on the shorter side of willowy, I'd look silly tall with my frame so I took the ribbing like the gracious lady I am. All was fixed with me on a table and the teacher giving me feedback, she was very grateful.

Suffice to say, I did redeem myself with my high levels of nodding and agreeing and horsing around in the playground with the kids at break time. I was slightly exhausted by the end of the day and one of my favourite kids gave me a much needed hug obviously sensing my need for one. She may also have been sensing a kindred spirit, she's a wickedly miscreant child herself and may expect favours tomorrow. I'm so onto her.

I decided to head to the gym and pool for some R & R and guess who was there, yep the VIPs are staying at my local. On the walking machine beside me, laying on the deck chairs by the pool, swimming in the same slightly too warm water. And that was very OK. It gave me a chance to engage in lovely conversations with two very personable women and I love a bit of a chat. What tomorrow will bring I can only guess, it's the second day of their visit. I suspect I'll need a wee sip of something strong in the evening.

YouTube time, offsets all the boring writing. I was looking for some accommodation in southern Italy for my August break and this tune was the background music for an accommodation blog. I found the clip on good old YouTube and have included it here. Katie Melua has a special voice, hearing her singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow as a duet with the long deceased Eva Cassidy brought tears to my eyes, amazing the technology that makes that happen. This one's a little less emotional. Enjoy and think of me tomorrow. What can I do to top that one? I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Reflections on the weekend

There are some things that I find hard to accept in this place. There is a huge difference in the salaries of the expats who live here. There are layers of poverty and wealth amongst these groups, layers of long hours and families they only get to see once a year and shorter, more family friendly working conditions. I'm lucky, I fall into the more wealthy strata.

I get weekends off, except when I have work to catch up on; I work a reasonable day meaning I can go to the gym and pool after work; I have the disposable income to be able to do that and to get the beauty treatments provided at the salons. I go to my local salon across the road for a pedicure and to get my hair done. The ladies know me well, they do a good job so I keep returning.

It's important for them that we do. Important that they can earn enough in tips to cover the costs of living in this place. It's not a cheap place to live, most of these ladies share very small apartments. Many have children back in their home country looked after by relatives. They manage to send money home on their meagre salaries.

Coming from a minimum wage, egalitarian society, I struggle with these inequalities. After all it's just an accident of birth that prevents me and my family from being in the same position. I look at the young men from Nepal and India who work on the roads and in the construction industry. I see them, at least when they are new to this place, stare in wonder at the variety of shops and people. Just as I stared in wonder at the way the Nepali people live when I was there.

It's Saturday afternoon and I have that Sunday afternoon feeling, not many more hours until I have to go to work. The weekends pass too quickly. Yesterday Nina and Martin invited us to a bbq at their place, a family home I love to visit and get my kid fix. There were others there as well as this kiwi, a Canadian, South Africans, Australians and some from the UK and Scotland. A good mix, excellent company.

Some of us ended up at the rugby club watching the UAE Barbarians playing another UAE team. Debbie, Mary-Anne and I ended up watching from inside with our drinks and food and holding court with those who came to the bar. So many kiwis there, kids out playing small games of rugby on the sidelines, mums nattering and dads standing around talking, could have been a rugby club anywhere in New Zealand. Surprising just how many people we knew in the crowd.

Nina and Martin and the girls joined us, the photo is of Nina and Mary-Anne. Note the pounamu (greenstone) necklace MA's wearing. It was a gift from Anne, recently departed back to NZ. It's a special gift, the gift of friendship. We had a drink for you Anne, missing your dry humor and telling Anne stories in this very kiwi place.

Friday, 2 April 2010


Well, I didn't get to Egypt. The days of mourning were called but not for schools, go figure. It was business as usual. If I had of gone I would have missed out on many things including one of my double adaptors not adapting to having two plugs and bursting into flames spectacularly in my kitchen. The explosion blew all the fuses including the one that keeps the fridge cold. Luckily I know from past experiences how to reset such things or I might have had to drink warm tonic this evening.

I also got to battle with large 4wds for my share of the road on the way to Dubai. Reminder to self, don't book appointments in Dubai for a Thursday afternoon. The traffic was horrendous both to and from Dubai and in Dubai itself. I met Christine and her son for dinner, a welcome distraction sitting in a posh hotel engaging in some fine dining. I suspect I should have stayed in Dubai the night but as Sarah's in New Zealand I decided driving home was a good idea. On what level I made that decision is beyond me, it was not such a wise one.

I do like Dubai, it's one of those places that grows on you. I excelled myself in the getting lost stakes this time. I managed to get to my appointment, then to the Mall of the Emirates (the ski slope one), then to the Costa's Coffee overlooking the ski slope to meet Christine. I'd been there once before but was still pleased that a) my parking genie worked and b) I got there with no false turns from a different direction than before. We had a lovely meal, I found Borders and Virgin Megastore and bought books. Luxury to browse and find two to buy.

Then the lost thing began, it's the east west thing. I get north and south in this hemisphere now, but when the sign gives the choice east or west I'm stuck. I followed what I did last time I left the mall. The road I was meant to be on was in sight, it took me a while to wend my way there via internet city, I know where that is now. I finally got there after a few false turns and headed home. The good thing is that I knew how to get myself unlost and I didn't panic, just kept backtracking until I found the mall again, and turned the other way, the correct way.

I think this is how life works. Sometimes we get lost, we have to backtrack to find out where we got lost then forge ourselves a new path. A path that feels right. We can help ourselves do this by becoming self aware, knowing ourselves well enough to know how to interpret our road maps. Making choices and knowing intuitively when these are working. Having the courage to take the steps we must to move forward.

The photo is of the ski slope, taken through a thick and dirty window hence the distortions. It's amazing to look through the window and see a whole other world, a bit like Alice.