Friday, 30 July 2010

Travel

I've always been a bit lucky with travel. I seem to be able to organise to get where I want or need to be with the minimum of fuss and without it costing over the odds. There has been one notable failure in this and a couple of close calls.

The failure was not my fault. How could anyone know that a simple trip from Auckland to Doha via Dubai would end up with us camped on the runway in Karachi for hours and spending hours in Dubai's notorious Terminal 1. That trip took over 40 hours, not so flash when my bag went missing for several days as well. I learnt a lot about the nature of people from that, those who were wonderful and those who were not so. I also learnt that when using an iron to quick dry your only pair of knickers you need to keep the iron away from the lacy bits. They melt and are not too pleasant to wear after that.

The close calls range from misreading the flight time, yes 12.05 am is just 5 minutes not a whole day after today, to having my name called because I had a good book and was oblivious. This trip my good luck was pushed a bit. I booked the connecting flight from Sydney to Melbourne a bit later than I thought I might on good advice. Sydney is a pig of an airport to get through and planes are often late leaving in the afternoon.

Yes, mine was about 90 minutes late and as I sat at Christchurch I smugly thought that it really was a good idea to book that later flight. I didn't take into account the time difference, two hours late at night really does make a difference or poor Sue having to come out so late to pick me up. I had a dream run through customs and found myself quickly outside looking for the bus to the domestic terminal.

My bag weighed in at 26kgs and the allowance for my next flight was 23. Unpacking the bag was an option but I took it to the transit place just in case and the lovely man put it through there. He charged me $15 for the privilege. I thought it was a good investment, carrying that bag would have been a trial. It became a better option when he had no change for my $20 and gave it to me for nothing. Then there was the almost three hours to wait in the domestic airport. Not such a good idea. I managed to find a comfy seat in a cafe and with a good book, a couple of cups of tea and some raison toast managed to while away the time.

That was nothing compared to today's or was it yesterday's effort. Checking in was a treat, the plan was very late due to technical difficulties. Oh well, I thought. Nick was with me so we had pizza and beer, a chat and a lesson on his i-phone (I really, really need one). When he left the hours dragged and over 4 hours later, we were hurried onto the plane. It was very reassuring when the pilot shared with us that the problem was with the engines. He had to start two of them while we were stationary to make sure they went, I'm assuming. Didn't really fill me with confidence and there were a few nervous giggles from others.

There are two types of planes that travel the Dubai-Australia route. One is comfy the other is not. This one was not. I'm not very short, 5'3" is not short okay, and I couldn't reach the floor when seated. I usually wear shoes that have some elevation to fix this but even these didn't reach the floor. There's nothing more uncomfortable than sitting this way for 15 hours. Than trying to sleep when the circulation is cut off below the knees. I was so pleased to land at Dubai, to get onto solid ground and to feel the humid heat.

I got back to Al Ain only to find that I had been locked out of my apartment building. Someone had locked the bottom door and I don't have a key for that. It was getting warmish so I called people and the lovely Marilyn came to the rescue. There are very few people here at the moment, I'm the only person in both the apartment blocks in my complex, so I was very lucky. I was thinking that I might have to head to the Rotana for the night.

That thought had it's advantages but I'm over living out of a suitcase and am really looking forward to a couple of nights in my own bed before the next adventure. I'm feeling a little jet lagged and tired but am making the effort to stay awake until a reasonable time. Tomorrow it's gym time, I ate far to well in NZ and Aus, and a chill out in the sun later in the afternoon when it's bearable.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The snowy foothills of Oxford. The mountains are under the cloud, white and chilly. Well I suspect they are given the foothills but there have been no clear skies for a while. It's bleak and gray outside now, 5c at 4pm and it hasn't got much above that all day. Most say it's colder than usual, I can't help but agree but it is winter.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Brunch mmmmm




I'm staying out in Oxford for a few days, out in the country close to the high hills. This morning there was snow but the intrepid photographer slept through the good, early morning light reflecting off the new whiteness. By the time I surfaced the cloud had lowered and all was hidden for the day. No worries, by the feel of things, a clear frosty day will mean some good shots tomorrow, fingers crossed.

We lunched in Christchurch today, a yummy brunch in true kiwi style. There were some nice sights and I captured a few shots of the garden city deep in winter. The bare trees, the gray sky, the chill wind and the warmth of the cafe contributing to a good day out. Noah joined us, he's such a cool little boy. He sat and watched us eat, he had had his after all and is not on grown up food yet. We got the four generation shot and I'll add this soon.

I'm now enjoying a nice warm fire with a crisp white and a big plate of roast yams and kumara. I'll need to do some serious gym time to knock off the extra pounds I've needed to add here to keep warm. The photos here are of the Bridge of Remembrance in the city centre, a NZ lion and a church turret on Madras Street.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Christchurch

It's hard to believe I've only been here for a little over a week, funny how I slot back into the lifestyle. My life here has changed. I no longer have my home to return to so I'm dependent on the generosity of my family and friends. I've been staying with really good friends, enjoying their two young ladies and remembering a time when my own house was so full of noise and fun, sleep overs and midnight pick ups, sports and cultural events on the calendar and of course the endless meals and dishes.

I'm really enjoying the coffee and the quality, if not the price, of the food. Eating out for brunch is a treat I've had a few times since I've been back. Although Ruby's French toast with maple syrup and bacon has been the highlight so far. It's become very expensive here and I suspect I notice it more because of my infrequent trips. Luckily pineapple lumps, those little pieces of sunshine wrapped in chocolate, were on special so I've got 8 packs. Well, down to 7 now as we sampled some this afternoon, just to check the quality of course. I've got several orders for these and not just from my NZ friends.

I went for a long walk in the hills this morning, along the paths I used to walk regularly. Winter makes it all look so bleak and it was freezing. It took me a while to warm up but once underway I really enjoyed being out in the fresh air and seeing the sights. I suspect I've become a little unfit because I'm a bit sore tonight, either that or the cold has taken it's toll.

Tomorrow I'm house sitting and then going out to the country to stay for a few days. I've been trying to work out how I can fly home via Melbourne so I can see Nick and think I've got that sussed. I'll just have to go and talk nicely to the Emirates people at the airport. I've had some luck with that lately so fingers crossed they agree to my plan.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

On holiday




I can't believe it's Thursday already, time certainly flies when I'm on holiday. I still haven't caught up with many people yet, that may be next weeks job. It's taken me some time to get myself fully here, to get my time zones into kilter but I think after a couple of good nights sleep I'm back to my old self now.

I'm back to drinking coffee in large quantities again. I'd actually weaned myself off coffee having only two or three a week, now I'm back to that a day. There's nothing like Italian coffee and NZ coffee, made well, comes a close second. I'm off to have coffee with my mother soon so should really get organised. I've just hung the washing out and boy it really is cold out there, makes one appreciate the heating inside.

I suspect I'll have to rug up for today's outings. I do have a car so that's a bonus. Fancy going into the company I used to use for work and the man at the counter recognising me. He gave me a good discount so I have wheels. That makes such a difference when catching up with family and friends.

Here are some long promised photos of the very gorgeous Noah.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Chilly

Back in the cold lands, what a drop in temperature. This morning it was -4, a crisp Christchurch morning. Luckily jet lag kept me asleep until 9 so I missed some of the freezing sting. Funny to stand outside and be able to see my breath steaming out of my mouth. I'm feeling a bit disoriented after feeling fine when I arrived. Jet lag is an odd thing, it affects me differently every time.

It was a long flight and I learnt a lesson. One should read one's itinerary carefully before booking the Emirates limo. My flight left at 8.50 not 8.15 so a 4 am start was not really needed. On the plus side, I arrived to no queues and had a nice breakfast in the Emirates Lounge. The good thing with all this flying is that I have heaps of airpoints, enough to get me ungraded, use the lounges and be able to board the plane first. As if I'd want to do that!

Tim, Sarah and Noah met me at the airport, so fantastic to see them all. Noah is very cute, he smiled at his gran and we've had lots of cuddles. He's such a good baby, contented and social. Try getting him to sleep when there's someone different in the house. He sat on the table in his Bumbo and watched us eat pizza for dinner. A Bumbo is one of clever inventions that you see and go, why didn't I think of that. It's a soft plastic seat that supports a child to sit and be part of what's going on. Noah loves it.

This morning he was full of smiles and when Kieran and Sassi arrived, the good idea that he needed a sleep went out the window. They've gone off for a coffee, a walk in the pram just what was needed for the grumpy boy. I've got my camera so will add some photos as soon as I can get some. For now, I'm going to make another cup of tea and another piece of Molenberg toast to have with marmite, yep back in the land of yummy bread and marmite. I've also found patch of sunlight so I'm feeling sleepy again, might just have to doze off in the peace and quiet first.

Friday, 9 July 2010

1 more sleep

Not quite one actually, about 4 hours is all I'll get if I hurry to bed now. Somehow, I'm not ready for sleep, I keep thinking about what I may have forgotten to do. There's plenty to do before going away for so long, things like putting my candles and skin care in the fridge and turning all the water inlets off in case of flooding. I've had a few floods in my time so don't want to risk that again.

I'm also feeling a little annoyed. I took my ring in to be fixed weeks ago and they told me it would only take 4 or 5 days. I also wanted some earrings made out of two peridots I've had for a while. Tonight, after a lot of chasing including finding a park at Al Ain mall on a Thursday evening, I finally got my ring and earrings. It cost me a lot more than they had said plus the stone in my ring is a lot smaller than I wanted.

I'm over it, really, well maybe not quite. I have my lovely ring back so that's the most important thing. I'm ready to fly but I can't say I'm looking forward to the long trip. It's such a drag but I know it will be fantastic to see everyone and get some time in winter time. It rained here today, not a common occurrence. It was wonderful to have the oppressive muggy heat we've been having disperse with the earthy smell of rain on a hot pavement drifting up to where I was hanging out the window enjoying the moisture and watching the children outside celebrating.

Now it is time to see if I can catch any zzzzs, i really do need to get some because I can be a little cross when I'm tired and that's wouldn't be a good start to my hols. Catch up again soon.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Photo drought



I can't believe how few photos I've taken lately. I've taken heaps for work but none for myself. I was asked to photograph the 3 days on Yas Island and spent time on the weekend getting these to a state fit to share. The boss was very happy with them. I seem to be asked more and more for my photos and that leaves me with dilemmas, one all budding photographers are faced with I'm sure. How do I get others to acknowledge my photographs? Is there payment required for the use of many for essentially a commercial purpose? How do I go about asking for these things? It's a subject I have broached recently so will keep you posted on the results.

Anyhow, after looking at the work photos, I have been reflecting on friendships with so many of my friends leaving this place. I've formed some special relationships with others, relationships that have taught me much about the different ways others live, different cultures and beliefs. These may be very different collectively but not so different individually. Take the lovely Mohammed, a young man in his early 30s who taught me a lot about what it means to be a young Muslim man, a new father and a teacher in this environment.

You see Mohammed and I have discussed all sorts of things, once we established that we were okay with each other. The drive to Abu Dhabi is a good one for conversations and we did that a few times. He is wise beyond his years and has a quick wit and I couldn't help but wonder that he and Nick would have gotten on famously. We did get offside a little after I called his 4wd a lunch box, I'm sure he's forgiven me by now. I will miss him enormously when we resume work agian.

I've got many friends here who are Muslim. I went out to dinner with Dima last night and we shared a meal and a shisha and Christine's company all the while chatting about the things women chat about. Salima is another who I'll miss, she's going back to the UK. I'm sure she won't miss me, the 20 questions lady but I also learnt a lot about the different aspects of Islam Muslims practice from her, another wise lady.

It's only 3 more sleeps until I'm on a plane again and then there'll be heaps of photos again, holiday time always inspires me. The first photo here is of the humidity in Yas Island with Phil, Nina and Laura in the murk. I couldn't believe how long it took my lens to clear. The other one is the front of Cleopatra Spa in Dubai, very OTT.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

4 more sleeps....

I've been growled at for not writing and actually have a bit to catch up on so here goes, promise I'll stop before I start to ramble. It's only 4 more sleeps until I head back to New Zealand. It's really funny because I used to say back home but now I think of this place as my home. I've had this conversation with a couple of others lately, where is home when you're an expat?

As a child I moved around a lot so didn't always have the time to become too attached to people, places and things, to develop the sense of belonging that is so innately human. Many here have been expats for most of their lives and don't have a strong sense of belonging to one particular place. I can see how this affects people, how it actually makes them more willing to welcome others to the place where they are at the time. The downside is that there is often no place to go home to when others are off on their holidays, families scattered and fragmented living in other parts of the world.

I have an exciting holiday planned racking up the air miles with a flight to New Zealand, then back here then on to Heathrow with Sarah and Olivia then off to see Di and then Italy. I suspect I may need a holiday when I get back. I have six glorious weeks, much needed after the long semester we've just had. It's my third long semester in this part of the world, from February through to July is far too long without a break.

I've spent some time in Abu Dhabi lately, well just outside of Abu Dhabi is more accurate. I went to three days of leadership training and a conference on Yas Island last week. Yas Island is where the F1 track is and the hotels to accommodate those watching the big event. It's a lot quieter these days. Yas is not really an island in the truest sense of the word, although we did compare it to Atlantis as we were trying to find it.

You see Nina, Laura and I got horribly misplaced getting to Yas, an hour and a half misplaced. Now that's not so bad really except when the temperatures are soaring into the high 40s, you've run out of water and need the loo desperately because you've drunk all that water. The thing with this place is that signage is intermittent and unreliable, especially on the roundabouts and the roads are just plain confusing at times with few landmarks.

It was team building exercise, Nina and I taught Laura a thing or two about how colourful the English language could be. Laura taught us about being calm and patient, not exactly traits that Nina or I excel in. We learnt not to trust the man who had said to follow the brown signs, we learnt that asking someone, anyone was not practical.

Then breakthrough, out from the dusty murk, did I mention there was a dust storm blowing, loomed an Adnoc. An Adnoc is so much more that just a service station with coffee, more water, a loo and the man had a map and could show us where to go. Once we got on the right road, had gone around the roundabout a couple of times and negotiated the trucks it was only 15 minutes to our destination. We arrived a bit frazzled only to see another sitting outside the training. He grinned sheepishly at us and confessed he'd just arrived too. Seems like many got lost and we swapped our stories by the pool later in the day. Yep we all felt a little silly, nothing a few quiets couldn't fix.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Christine Kane

I get emails from Christine after subscribing to her website. They are often timely and relevant and this one made me laugh so thought I'd share it here. Check out her website and other articles, definitely worth it. Oh and I'm back from Yas Island feeling just a bit exhausted so will catch up on the news tomorrow, inshallah. Mmmmm think I could add some other things to the list.

56 Things You Can Toss Out Now
by Christine Kane

We hold onto our stuff for two reasons: Love or fear. We either love things. Or we fear letting them go.

We cherish them and know they have value to us.

OR...

We fear that we'll need them someday. We fear that we wasted our money on them. We fear what others will think if we let them go. We even fear making the decision to release our mistakes, so we don't make any decision at all. Instead we passively hold onto stuff out of guilt.

Well, guess what?

When you begin to make choices from a place of LOVE and EXPANSION, then your world will change. Love is the clearest reason to do anything.

If you don't love it, toss it. Give it away. Your abundance and energy will increase when you begin to live by love, and not by fear.

Here are 56 things you can toss out (or give away) right now...

1. All the hotel key cards you forgot to turn it when you checked out.

2. The doilies your Aunt Missy crocheted 45 years ago that got handed down to you.

3. CD's you haven't listened to in three years or more.

4. The boxes of cassettes you've been meaning to transfer to CD's.

5. The bread maker you haven't used since 2003.

6. Your wedding dress.

NOTE: You can say you've been saving it for your daughter, but here are three signs that your daughter doesn't want to wear it:

a] she's already married and wore her own dress, b] she's been roommates with a woman named Pat for nine years, or c] you don't have a daughter.

7. Credit card bills from 1995.

8. The Allen wrenches from every piece of IKEA furniture you ever assembled.

9. The jacket you spent way too much money on and never wore.

NOTE: Keeping it around just to punish yourself for your bad choices is like going to parochial school all over again.

10. Every scratching post or toy your cat doesn't like.

NOTE: Your cat didn't go to parochial school so there's no sense punishing him.

11. House plants you no longer love.

12. The stacks of O Magazine you swear you'll re-read.

13. Every little zippy bag that came with a Clinique purchase.

14. Every unopened perfume that came with a Clinique purchase.

15. Leftover scrunchies in case you grow your hair long again. (Or in case the 90's return!)

16. The "Cherries Jubilee" flavored lip balm that makes you nauseous.

17. Every single regretful lipstick color you bought on a whim. ("Cherries Jubilee" is probably there, too.)

18. Your last four cell phones and all their chargers and blue teeth.

19. Single socks.

20. The Spode Christmas plates and mugs you don't like. (Along with the Christmas bath towels and welcome mat.)

21. The framed posters you had in your college dorm room.

22. Old stereo wires.

NOTE: If your husband refuses to let go of any of these mysterious wires, try this: Put them (not him!) in a bin and label it "Random Cables and Wires." After two years, bring it out of storage and kindly note that no one has thought about it in two years. Ask if it would be okay to let go of half of them. Repeat process until all mysterious cables and wires are gone.

23. The nails, screws, anchors, and cup hooks rusting in the bottom of your tool chest.

24. Remote controls that don't remotely control anything you own.

25. Lamps, toasters, blenders, coffeemakers that no longer work.

26. The notion that you will ever be one of those moms that makes beautiful scrapbooks.

NOTE: Put your photos in boxes. No one will judge you.

27. Old blankets and linens you keep in case you suddenly have 27 sleepover guests.

28. College text books.

29. Any boring decorative item that does little more than fill space.

30. Vases you don't loveor use.

31. Candle holders you don't love or use.

32. Picture frames you don't love or use.

33. Class notes from college.

34. The idea that you have to save every last piece of your children's artwork and school work because it might mean you don't love them if you don't. (Save your favorites that have meaning to you!)

35. The "good silver" you don't use that was passed down to you.

36. Old VHS movies.

37. Unlabeled VHS tapes. (And don't waste your time watching them just in case.)

38. The stationary bike that got even more stationary after you got it.

39. The fabric pieces you've been collecting in case you ever become a quilter.

40. Flashlights that dimly light up only after you bang them over and over on your thigh.

41. Old keys that open some door somewhere in the past.

42. Suitcases you don't use.

43. Old computers.

44. Old stereos.

45. Promotional duffel bags with ugly logos and bad acronyms stitched all over them.

46. Anything that makes you say, "But I got such a good price on it!"

47. Anything that makes you say, "But I paid so much for it!"

48. Half-full cans of paint.

49. Extra baby items/Old baby items.

50. Record albums.

NOTE: Don't spend your extra hours in a day trying to figure out if someone will buy them. Really. They won't. They can buy the BeeGees on iTunes.

51. Gifts you never liked.

52. All the cross-stitch, knitting, or sewing projects you never finished.
53. Any glassware or dinnerware that is a "memorabilia" item from proms or sororities or sports events.

54. Old information packets you no longer need or that you can easily find on line.

55. All the hotel soaps that you took with you. (And stop taking them. You've got plenty of soap!)

56. The belief that you only have to go through the de-cluttering process once and won't ever have to do it again.

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Christine Kane is the Mentor to Women Who are Changing the World. She helps women uplevel their lives, their businesses and their success. Her weekly LiveCreative eZine goes out to over 12,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://christinekane.com.
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