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.