Saturday, 26 February 2011


At the altar of the unknown
You must put on your gloves and leave
Ride the wind on your bike
Travel under God's skies
And play your own tunes

Saad Jumaa

Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage February 2011 publication

Friday, 25 February 2011

Images of Christchurch

The photos and video clips are distressing, heartbreaking, a once beautiful city in ruins. A city of parks, hill walks, excellent coffee and restaurants, old stone buildings to remind us of the past, new buildings showing progress. Most importantly a place of people living their lives. Working, loving, families with children privileged to grow up in this place. A place where my family are beginning to pick up the pieces. They are all safe and well, thankfully. Their stories telling me the close calls they had, seconds in the balance between safety and damage.

My heart goes out to those waiting the long wait to hear about their loved ones. Hoping beyond hope as hope fades that they will be found alive. My sympathy goes out to those who have had their losses confirmed. My thanks go out to those in the front line, especially those who have come from overseas to support New Zealand in these days of need. The police and search and rescue teams doing a tough job in stressful conditions. I only hope the reports I've just seen of more massive after shocks don't lead to any more death and destruction.

My city will look very different next time I see it so here are some photos I took on past trips.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

And the earth shakes again

The scenes from home are horrific, I can't imagine the terror as Christchurch shakes again. My family are safe, I hope they leave the city soon before there are more shakes. It's horrible being away from home at times like this. Horrible not knowing what's really going on. The news reports and TV clips are not comforting. My heart goes out to those who are trapped and those who have lost their loved ones. Buildings and things can be replaced, people can't. Lets hope the morning, New Zealand time, brings some good news and that the shaking stops. Kia kaha, thinking of you all.

Monday, 21 February 2011

What to do

Leaving a job can be stressful, negotiating the next position and moving country takes time. It's the small stuff that tends to get to me, the details. Job one today is to write the list I keep in my head on paper so I can tick off the jobs as they're done. I did my police clearance check yesterday so that's a big one ticked off.

Leaving the UAE there seems to be a lot of paperwork. Without that all completed I can't leave so I do need to get everything sorted out. Selling the car, closing my bank accounts, canceling my residency, sending all that's needed to my new employers and giving back all that's needed to my current employers. I have a flat to pack up, freight to organise and friends to say goodbye to, not a final goodbye because I'm not very good at that. Just a masalama, see you when you come and visit me or when I'm back over this way or in your home country.

So the day begins, well it began at the call to prayer, my morning alarm that I will miss, with my head full of thoughts and ideas and the need to write a to do list. Guess I kind of just have.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I wish you enough

Well this brought tears, Paulo Coelho has a way with words. Below are words from someone else he has shared, very special.

(today a received an email from a very close friend of mine. I asked her if I could share it here, and she agreed)

Feb 14, 2011

Dear Friends,
Amongst all the activities I enjoy in London (shows, galleries, big parties etc…), the moment I enjoyed and cherished most was spending time with my 86 year old neighbor, who always took time to make me his own special coffee with a plate of cookies so graciously served to me on a white linen We used to spend hours talking…primarily me talking and he listening… with his advice whenever I asked.
Yesterday, I sent an email to him (the text is not mine) which was bounced back to me, and after having my husband (who is presently in London) check on him, I received a call to tell me that he had passed away on Jan 28th. My message of appreciation to him was a bit too late…
Below you find my message

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure.
Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the father said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’

They kissed and the daughter left. The father walked over to the window where I was seated. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but I could not refrain from asking:
‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?’

He began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.’
He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more.
‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’
Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more..

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting…
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A new direction

While I was writing the last post, I got a phone call that rings in some changes in my life. Another job, in another country, in another part of the world, completely. I haven't seen all there is to see here, a weekend to Egypt is in my plans but may have to wait until things are more settled. I promised my father I would get a photo on a camel in front of the pyramids like his father did during the war. It's a promise I want to keep.

I did a little dance, as you do when exciting things happen. I wondered if the job offer may have been withdrawn with this small piece of madness but the man on the phone just laughed. I'm off to the Cayman Islands to work for the government on a reform project. I didn't realise where I was going until I saw peoples faces and listened to their comments when I shared my news. It seems I'm going to a Caribbean paradise, the photos tell me this is so. I suspect I may get many visitors, some have asked me to make sure I have a large house so they can bring all the family. Looks like I might be in just the right place to achieve my diving goal that I had put on the back burner.

So for now I'm going to explore as much of this place as I can before I go. There should be plenty of photos coming up. I have to sort my stuff, not much to pack really so that's good. I still need to finish the Liwa story, maybe tomorrow night as it's been a big weekend. I went to the Waitangi Day ball in Abu Dhabi. Imagine a room full of kiwis, mix with some good food, a few drinks and lots of singing and dancing, it was a good night.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


It's been a busy month so far, too busy out and about to write much. The first weekend was SANZA, an afternoon event where New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans do what they do best. It ended up being a slightly messy but a very enjoyable afternoon with my good friends. I even met one who I knew in a past life, we had lived and worked in the same place in our youth. It was fun catching up, we both look a little older of course.

Last weekend it was Jane's 40.5 birthday weekend in Liwa. Yes, on 3 February Jane was halfway through her 40th year, worthy of celebrating. Heading to Liwa was a treat. I've always wanted to go out into the empty Quarter, out to where Sue lives at Madinet Zayed and to where Wilfred Thesiger explored in the days before oil changed the demographics and landscape of this place. His photographs are stunning and the BBC link also tells some of his story.

The journey did not disappoint and the hotel was stunning. Tilal Liwa Hotel sits on it's own in the middle of a stretch of sand that includes a well used camel race track and is the site for the annual camel festival. It rises from the sand like a mirage, complete with infinity pool. When I checked in and the man at the desk said to me that I had a desert view room, I had a small giggle. Is there any other view, I asked with a smile.

The hotel was quiet until the contingent of kiwis and honorary kiwis arrived. We had a lovely evening complete with pizza, celebrating with Jane and each other. Breakfast was a treat, I can eat heaps at breakfast and managed to have a social first breakfast with Debbie, Julie and their families and then second breakfast with others as they arrived. I may even have managed third breakfast but who's counting.

It was chilly outside, after a week of unpleasant weather the wind still remained, so we lay by the pool until it was time to explore the area. Sue was our guide, this is her patch, so we headed to Liwa and the largest sand dune in the UAE. The story and photos will have to be in part two, I need to get some work completed, procrastinating at the moment.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Oasis Living

The February issue of Oasis Living is out. Check out the story and photos on page 32 about my trip with Sue to Jordan during Eid. I'm in the process of writing part two now. Enjoy the magazine, there are many people who work really hard to get it published on time every month. It's free in all the malls in Al Ain as well as online. I can send a copy if anyone wants one.

Visiting friends

I met Natia through this blog. We have a lot in common and have written and talked for some time now, modern day pen pals. Natia is from Tbilisi in Georgia, a very beautiful place I hope to visit one day soon. Natia and her friend Nana came to visit a week or so ago and I had the privilege of showing them some of the sights of Abu Dhabi.

I love showing people around, especially showing them places I've been saving to show to visitors. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of those places, it is spectacular. For more information read and follow the links below, the photos show just some of the wonderful architecture. We had to wear abaya in the mosque and cover our heads, all part of the experience for us. It was interesting how much part of the experience it was.

There is an anonymity in wearing a cover the same as everyone else, sort of a uniform but one that covers all except the face. Many woman also cover this, with just their eyes visible. Working here in close proximity to the local ladies, you get to know them with only subtle clues. The henna design on their hands, their handbags and shoes, the design of their abaya and most importantly their eyes. We have discussions about this with our local friends, in depth discussions on what it's like to be a Muslim woman, an Arabic woman, and the perceptions of the west on what that's like. Inaccurate perceptions at times.

Back to Natia and Nana. We wandered around taking photos, enjoying the peace of this place, a peace undisturbed by the amount of people present. The marble shone in the sunlight reflecting light and highlighting the amazing patterns etched, carved or inlaid into the various types of marble. We wandered until we were hungry then met with another friend for a late lunch. Many photos were taken, including some in sombreros while eating Mexican.

It was wonderful to finally meet Natia in person, an added bonus getting to meet Nana too. I need to plan a holiday to their part of the world world very soon.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Information
The majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is probably the most imposing religious and national landmark in Abu Dhabi to date. It is also arguably one of the most important architectural treasures of contemporary UAE society - and one of the most beautiful in the world - initiated no less by the late president HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is fondly thought of as the father of the UAE.