Tuesday, 25 January 2011

An inside out day

It's been an inside out sort of a day, a day of lessons and trials, a day where I learnt that there's not much I can't handle. Calmly. The problems started with the early start. When I'm working in the boy's schools, I have to be there at 7am. No problems usually, today the school was 45 minutes drive away. I got up on time, left on time. I needed petrol so I called into the ADNOC that was on the way. As I did I noticed another 4wd coming out a side road.

It was still dark, he didn't notice me and we had a meeting of bumpers. His front connected to my back with an impact that sent me a little sideways, luckily nothing else was around. Flaming brilliant start to the day. I got out ready to call the person an idiot and other things, my poor truck was all dented with the bumper displaced. Out of the 4wd emerged not one, not two but three policemen. My third encounter, things come in threes so they say, was about to begin.

"I'm sorry," said Ahmed the driver. "It was my fault, I didn't see you."

Words I wanted to hear, words that made me smile and be the gracious lady that I am. He called the police, the traffic police, while his friends oooed and aahhed over my bumper. So much for getting to work on time, I gave that up and made the appropriate calls, then texts. Nothing to do but to wait for the police to come and write their report. I wondered if policemen got a discount from the usual fine for that sort of thing, I didn't feel I could ask.

Over an hour and a half later, the policeman arrived, did the paperwork and took photos of the damage. We all parted company amicably. I wasn't happy driving out to the school with my bumper half off so decided I should head for home and sort the getting fixed stage of a damaged car. I didn't realise that I was a bit shaken, had kept my cool and calmness all along, until I went out into the traffic again. Home was definitely the best option.

After a couple of cups of tea and getting my mojo back, I went to Toyota. They are amazing here in Al Ain. They told me what I had to do with my insurance, assessed the damage and took photos and best of all managed to temporarily reattach my bumper so I could use my car. The clips were all broken and the mud flap was hanging off so I'm not sure how they managed that. They also ordered a new back bumper and cleaned my car for me, fantastic service.

One good thing, I got caught up on some urgent paper work at the office, something I usually have to do in the evening. Tomorrow I head back out the school, I'm known to speed so can imagine I'll get a hard time about this slower incident. Back to the inside out, I realised at some stage of the day that I'd dressed oddly. Just goes to show that when your mum tells you to always wear clean knickers in case you have an accident, you should also check that you have them on in the right way. Who knows what might have happened today if I'd managed that simple first thing in the morning task. I'm so not a morning person.


Saturday, 22 January 2011

Children

Paulo Coelho shared this poem on his blog. It struck a chord with me and I'm sure it will with all mums and dads.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Khalil Gibran

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Hot water!

It's been a bit chilly lately with the need for a warm blanket over the duvet and a jacket in the mornings. I've even taken to wearing leggings under my skirts to keep myself warm enough. Tonight there was no pilates, not so bad as I was still recovering my dignity from zumba. Joanne suggested we go up Jebel Hafit and then for a swim in the hot pools at the Green Mubazzara. Excellent idea.

It was trying to rain as we left and there was a very cold wind at the top of the Jebel. The gate to the top was locked so we piled back in the car to make a quick descent to the pools. Jane and I got chatting to some visitors from Mumbai, four ladies and their husbands all beautifully dressed. Jane took a group photo for them, they included us in another. One of the men lived in Al Ain and told us to be careful because the ladies were terrorists from Pakistan. There was much hilarity as we bantered.

The hot pools are my new best favourite place in Al Ain. The ladies at the door told us the many rules. Two were linked, no camera phones and we had to wear a shower cap. We purchased one from the shop, very fashionable and certainly not something I'd like to be photographed wearing. The water was bliss for my sore body, the heat going through to my bones. Very relaxing. The pool is indoors and is a rectangular one with a ramps and steps down into the neck high water.

And hot, man it was really hot. I managed a half hour or so, I was well cooked. I talked to a German lady who was there as we were wondering about the water. She told me that the water comes directly from the geothermal springs at the base of the Jebel and has to be cooled so we can soak in it. She said that it has been too hot to enter some of the times she had been out there. It's definitely a place I'll revisit, especially at this time of year when a hot bath is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Exercise!

Jane has organised our exercise programme for the week. An oasis walk and home via the fruit and vege market on Sunday, my choice of exercise; Tai Chi on Monday; Zumba on Tuesday; pilates on Wednesday and one arm weight training at the Rotana on Thursday. Which of these activities do I enjoy?

Well, Zumba tonight had me using more f words in one sentence than I have in a while, Tammy was amused. I managed to avoid the leotard and the associated aerobics classes all through the '90s, what on earth was I thinking agreeing to this form of torture that makes aerobics look civilised. All that grinding of hips and gyrating. The crowning glory was when I tried one move and ended up slipping and almost doing the splits instead of shaking my bits in an impossible way. A sneaky look around showed that others were suffering as well, cold comfort.

Jane said it was just that I couldn't do it well the first time, it was indeed my first time. Very true, I'm a poor loser. If I can't do things well the first time I give up, am I that shallow? Maybe. I did give Tai Chi a second go. It's a bit slow for me, a bit needing to know your left from right and be coordinated. I will persevere, I've paid in advance.

Pilates is okay. I get to lie on the floor and wave my legs about, I can manage that. I'm not sure why my stomach muscles were a bit sore after. I must be doing something right. I think I could actually do pilates, succeed at it. It's not yoga but it will do. I so miss yoga. I miss my yoga friends as much as the exercise. Our instructor and his family had a bad car accident and their world has very much changed.

The one armed weight training while relaxing with friends, that's my sort of exercise. Sitting outside on the balcony overlooking the pool chatting and relaxing is an important part of the week. This weekend promises to be a quiet one, unlike last weekend. I'm off to Abu Dhabi on Saturday to finally meet Natia in person, I can't wait to show her the sights and maybe get some pics to add here. It's been a while since I was out and about in Abu Dhabi so watch this space.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hatta Pools





Last Saturday we continued our series of explorations of Oman and surrounds. After getting a little waylaid, map issues or should I confess map reading issues, we wended our way the long way to visit the Hatta Pool. In the process of getting waylaid, we did a full circuit of the area I had visited with the Natural History Group. It was a good because now I know where to go for some great day and overnight trips. Getting waylaid also meant another Omani stamp in the passport and we got to travel a road I'd only traveled part of.

We finally arrived at Hatta late in the day and caught up with the Adu Dhabi crew who had arrived a little earlier. The AD crew are a bunch of kiwis, newish arrivals who are working in the boat building industry. They are up for an adventure too, keen to explore and see what there is to see of the natural beauty of this place. The Hatta Pools did not disappoint.

Jane had fun on the 4WD road as we all piled into her car. The boys had a rental and while rental cars can usually go more places than your own car, this was some Chinese made car. It wasn't so sure on the bumps, we weren't so sure of it's brakes. Jane took us off road negotiating some big bumps. The waylaid theme continued and after retracing some of the bumpy bits, we were ready to wander down to the pools.

It was beautiful, the light was perfect, there was no one else there. I was surprised at the extensive system of pools, big, deep pools that were nestled within the rocks and wider shallow pools on the flat. It was late in the day, too cold for this warm weather person to swim but the others enjoyed a dip while I ventured further up the wadi with my camera. The water was refreshing, the upper canyons full of pigeons roosting on the sides.

We wandered home feeling like we'd had a holiday. Definitely a place to revisit, maybe for an overnight camp when it gets a bit warmer. We stocked up on some very local food at Burger King, nothing like hot chips and a burger after a day out exploring. One good thing about having traveling companions is that we can get get a group pic. This one is on the top of the Hatta Dam, a very impressive wall holding back a scenic pool.

The other pics are of the swimmers from the top of the wadi walls; the sun low in the sky over the dam; and a shallow pool with the explorers in the background.

The fine print

Further to the policeman story. I'd heard a few stories about fine getting bigger and black points meaning people lose their license so I thought I'd better get one of my teachers to translate my ticket. She looked really concerned, did you hurt someone? Hit them in your car? She asked.

No, why? It seems that 8 black points are a lot to earn on one go, I'm a bit afraid how many more I have from my las ticket and how many more I need to lose my license. But wait there's more. The fine print also said that if I hadn't gone to the fines place and paid, after the month of the offense the fine gets 10dhs a day added to it, a day! I did a quick calculation and if I'd left it until my registration time it would have ben about 4000dhs. Worth the drive across town then a job for today.

She couldn't see where a cost had been listed so that might be a bit of a surprise as well. When I told her what I actually did, she was highly amused and suggested I talk to the man at the fines place to see what he could about reducing the points and the fine. Will do.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Hello Mr Policeman

It's happened again, another real live encounter with a policeman, a traffic policeman to be more specific. I had my first encounter with one of these in the 1980s when I was apparently driving without one headlight. I would have got an Oscar for my surprised look, I suspect that even Meg Ryan would have struggled to look that surprised. No officer, I didn't know, I lied through my teeth. The bulb had blown months before and I wasn't sure I could afford a new one. Got off the fine with my fine acting.

My next encounter was much later, about 2004, when I was regularly driving a route for work. A three hour drive through the mountains on a relatively quiet road. I enjoy Top Gear so given I had a much faster rental car than usual i decided to do a small speed test. Now New Zealand has a strictly monitored speed limit of 100kph on the open road. I thought 100mph may have been achievable in that car on this road. It almost was, I was slowing down when caught at 134kph.

Again the surprised look, this time it was actually a relieved look to see he had not got me going any faster. We had a bit of a chat, he was away out from civilisation and there was no point in me being cross at him. He was quite kind, telling me that if I'd been going a few ks faster I'd have been walking. Phew! That cost me a bit and slowed down after that because of the points on my license something I couldn't afford to lose.

While in the UAE I've had two such experiences. The first was on my way to work very early in the morning. I was in a queue of others also getting ticketed, the road is one you have to keep to the speed of others to keep safe. The officer asked for my license and made small talk. He wanted to know if I had a family here, a husband here, all the details. He asked if I wanted a husband here when I said I didn't have one. No thank you, I don't think so. That cost me 800dhs, I did smile and chat hoping he'd be kind, to no avail. Apparently I was on the computer so it couldn't be changed, damn technology.

But last nights effort really took the cake. I was out doing some school shopping and I pulled around a group of trucks and cars thinking they had parked. I went to the turn in and no they were not parked, there was a bit of a traffic jam. Okay, I'll turn the other way at the turn in. The policeman waved, I waved back as you do and carried on. He banged on my truck, I stopped. License, registration? Well I suspect that's what he asked because my Arabic was about as good as his English. We worked that part out but not why I was being ticketed.

The ticket writer and I had the same issues and a pantomine followed that drew a crowd. There was much gesturing then they found a man that spoke some English, oh did I mention that I was the only woman in sight and I was in my walking gear? This man explained to me about what I knew I did, fair cop really. I did mention, as I would have in New Zealand in the same situation, that they should be out on the road I drive to school catching the real criminals who speed past me in the mornings. Luckily no one understood. I duly got the ticket, all in Arabic so I have to get it translated so I know how much. Whatever the fine, the sheer entertainment value of the situation was worth it, I giggled all the way home, driving very carefully.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The weekend

Don't you just hate it when you can't sleep in on the weekends. I have to be up bright and early every day for work, on my Fridays and Saturdays it seems I've lost the ability to sleep in. I suspect it's because there's so much to do. Take today for example. I have a trip to the Hatta pools and hanging gardens with friends planned, I have to finish my Jordan article for the magazine, I've got work shopping to do plus groceries to feed myself for the week and then there's the washing.

I've also got photos to upload and sort, once I've got my new terrabite (yes, that really is a word, a new one for the English language I suspect) external hard drive set up for my Mac. My poor Mac is full and sick of me uploading more photos so it wont let me at the moment. A major sort and delete is required, that takes time.

So why am I writing here? I need a brain break from the article I began to write at a bit before 5 this morning. Odd to write to have a brain break from writing I know but I don't have to think, remember or research here, I can just burble on and no one cares. Back to the photos, I've got some of the football (aka soccer for my NZ readers) match between the Socceroos and the UAE national team that I'd like to add here. Taking photos was the most interesting part of the whole evening, the football was dead boring.

I went to the football with friends, it was a big occasion for the Al Ain Club and the first time I've been in the stadium I see lit up most evenings when I drive past. We wandered from the compound nearby, under the road tunnel and into the stadium. I know quite a few people here, Nina often comments that when I go anywhere in the world I know at least five people. Often true, but there were crowds of people I knew at the football. It was quite a social occasion and showed me just how many Aussies there are here. Photos will follow, I promise, but for now I must get back to that article. Brain break over, time to make some tea.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A nice evening

Work has kicked in well and truly. The early starts, non stop days and late finishes with the drive into the desert means I have little time and energy for much else. Jane and I have managed to enjoy this spell of cooler weather and go for walks in late afternoon. Actually it's a bit chilly for me at the moment. I even wore my boots to work the other day along with a merino jumper.

The mornings are chilly, chilly enough for me to go and buy a cosy red dressing gown to wear first thing. I happen to be wearing it now but don't tell anyone. It's just so soft and warm. I tried for a hot water bottle tonight, I may as well of been speaking a foreign language, wait yep I was actually speaking a foreign language to the workers at the local Carrefore supermarket. My description left them wondering, trying to find something similar to no avail. They were highly amused when I told them of the purpose. I suspect they thought I was a little crazy.

I also went to a very special baby shower tonight. Hana and Phil are having a baby soon and they are both over the moon. Pam and Rabih already have their gorgeous Liam so they hosted. It was lovely to get together with some old friends and talk about our Thursday afternoons at the Rotana, something we haven't done for a while. It was just great to catch up as life has been really busy lately and I've not had time. It was also fantastic to eat Rabih's famous chocolate pie, a yummy very chocolaty pie that's become quite famous in the baby shower circle.

We've decided we should have an evening out, maybe at the soccer, opps I mean football, game between Australia and the UAE tomorrow night. That sounds like fun. I will, of course, be cheering for the UAE. I'll also take my camera so shots may just follow.

Monday, 3 January 2011

London fireworks


Because I spent new years eve up in the air, I missed the celebrations. Not many as spectacular as this one from London. Being able to revisit a place I enjoyed made this all the more special. Yes, this big kid loves fireworks!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Home to my other home

It's 5.36am and here I sit, writing while listening to the call to prayer, usually my back up alarm. I have missed this punctuation to my day, the call that reminds me of the parts to my day. It makes me feel at home, this rhythmic chant welcoming the men to the mosque, the women to pray. If I look out my window now I'll see my neighbours heading down the road, chatting in small groups.

I had the novelty of being driven from the airport so could look around at the countryside, the ever changing scenery that are the road works on the Dubai to Al Ain road. I was amazed to see how much more had been completed while I was away, amazed at the sights on the way I had not been able to enjoy because of the barriers but mostly because of having to keep my eyes on the road.

The trip back was pleasant, I upgraded with my air points and enjoyed being able to lie down and sleep for a bit. I got off the plane, saw some friends and a new one I had made while getting my upgrade, we shared a taxi together. It was no problem because we were all going in the same direction. When I got home I wandered off to the local supermarket and didn't get very far before being hailed by Christine and then Gilly came along and, just like our neighbours, we stood around chatting outside the shops.

Then it was time to join others at one of the local hotels for a buffet lunch complete with as much smoked salmon as I could eat, profiteroles, chocolate mousse, a hot lobster dish, turkey and all the trimmings. There was also free flowing bubbly. There were two large tables, we knew the others there as well so it was a very social time, all of us catching up on the holiday news. I tried to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon but at 5 I gave up and twelve hours later I feel ready to tackle the day.

I didn't expect it to be so cold when I arrived, luckily I was dressed for the plane cold so was okay. My flat was freezing, it's my first winter upstairs and the flats are colder for some reason. I suspect I may have to buy a small heater and a hot water bottle is top of the list, it's not quite electric blanket cold. So it's off to work I go, out to the one of small towns as the sun rises over the desert. Hopefully there will be a camel or two, wandering. Must jump in the shower or I'll be late.

PS Happy new year!