Friday, 29 April 2011

Ellie is singing at the royal wedding. I like her and had heard this before without knowing who sang it, a remake of one of my favourite Elton John songs. Check out her other songs on YouTube. Congratulations to Kate and William, a lovely wedding, a beautiful, elegant dress. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

New stuff, important stuff

There's plenty to learn when living in a new place. I didn't imagine that I'd need a car so urgently but getting around here is difficult without one. I'm really lucky, I've had lovely people who have helped me and run me about when I've needed it. I have also mastered the bus service, small mini vans that toot at you as you walk along and stop where ever to pick up and drop off passengers. This $2KY or about 9DHS ride has saved me a few times.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough so after looking at apartments, I went to the local car yard. Unlike car yards all over the world, this one didn't seem to have a salesman. Just as well because I probably would have been in jail by now, the proud owner of a sporty little convertible but behind bards. You see one must have insurance and a Cayman license to drive here, a key piece of info. My international, NZ or UAE ones would not do. No insurance is an offense for which one does time. After managing to not be deported in the UAE or Qatar, imagine my humiliation to be deported from here!

Another very important consideration when buying a car is Ivan, pre and post Ivan are terms I've been hearing a lot. Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004 and as you can by the photos in the link, cars who are pre Ivan may not be good buying. Ivan's destruction needs to be taken into account when looking at apartments too. Those pre Ivan are shown to have been hurricane proof, flooded usually but still standing. Those post Ivan should be hurricane strengthened, not yet been tested though. Getting a place on the second floor or above or that has a second story is also important, just in case higher ground is needed in a hurry.

The place I had really liked before I came turned out to be very nice but very isolated and right in the hurricane path, the remains of the house in front a stark reminder. Nope not for me but I did sigh a little as I looked out at the fab view. The one I'm keen on at the moment is for sale so a month by month rental. It's right across from the beach, has a great pool, is light and bright, has an upstairs balcony and is walking distance to the local's local so all good. Suits me to have it month to month as I have some freedom to choose something else at my leisure or stay put for as long as I like until it sells. It's also quite close to work.

My bank account is all organised, just waiting for the set up so I can sign the papers. I needed just one more piece of paper on my first visit, a bit like the UAE I needed a letter from my employer. In the mean time my UAE card is working, long may that continue. My goods arrive next week, inshallah! Most of my work clothes are in the freight so I'm not as well dressed as I might be, not that people here seem to care too much. So things are getting organised, hampered by having two long weekends. I never thought I'd say that! 

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sunburnt Knees

I have sunburnt knees, burnt below the line of my shorts as they hung over the side of the yacht as we tacked our way along Seven Mile Beach, out to sea, in through the reef to the sandbank and then home through the sheltered waters enclosed by the reef to the mooring. What a day out, fantastic!

Jo asked if I wanted to join them returning the yacht to it's mooring after they had raced her on Friday and left her off Seven Mile Beach. Bruce and his dad and son Alex who is 8 welcomed us on board. Jo is a seasoned sailor and I just kept out of the way where possible as ropes were pulled and sails were hoisted. When we tacked, we dashed over to the other side as the sail swung and the yacht turned, zig zagging to our destination. I got a little wet at times, legs hanging over the side, as we hit the choppy swells. There was good wind and plenty of swell so the trip was exciting.

It was great to see the Island from out a bit further. It gave me a good perspective on where I was and how it all fitted together. We sailed into the reef through the channel and Bruce carefully steered us over to the sandbar, a treat for the tourists on board. Nicholas, a Canadian on holiday from Montreal and his friend who lives here were the first in the water when we stopped. The treat was swimming with stingrays, enormous stingrays and small stingrays in fact whole families of stingrays who come to be fed by the tourist operators, attracted by squid, so tourists can swim with them.

I watched others touch them but I must confess that I had a few moments of panic as they made a bee line for me. I may have squealed a little, I certainly lifted my feet to the surface so they could swim past. It was amazing to see them so up close and personal and Alex kindly loaned me his mask so I could see the rays underwater. This made me less afraid for some reason and less disconcerted when they rubbed up against my legs. I thought about the ones in the Atlantis Aquarium, these stingrays certainly have a better life. Fed and petted by tourists.

Stingray city is a huge tourist attraction. I'm not sure about some of the images in the link, it seems immoral to lift these magnificent creatures from their home for a snapshot. Underwater they are graceful, gliding along the sandbank, flying. We spent enough time there to have a swim and to experience the stingrays, very special and very generous of Bruce as to travel there risked running aground on the coral heads and sand just below the draft of the yacht.

After mooring, Jo drove us home and I got to see the different areas of the island. I had seen some houses to rent on the internet, now I was seeing the big picture and the pitfalls and pleasures of various places. Jo has been here 8 years so knows the island well. There are some lovely apartment blocks, some with a beach, some with a pool too. Her advice is to rent on the second floor or higher in some areas as they are prone to flooding in the rainy season and when there are hurricanes. Reassuring.

So my second day on the island has been very eventful. I just may go to the bar and have a beer by the pool while the sun sets, sorry but does that sound like a wonderful idea or what. It would be better if I had my friends here to join me, maybe this story will inspire them. Oh and Jo is looking for crew for her yacht, think I might just volunteer although I'd need some work on my upper body to do the winding. 

First day in the Caymans

As I walked back from the supermarket in shock from the prices, I glanced over towards the sea and spotted these wonderful clouds. I got my camera, crossed the road to the beach and joined others taking photos as the sun set. It was lovely, a warm breeze caressing my bare arms as I stood ankle deep in the clear water. There were still plenty of people swimming, I haven't done that yet. Yesterday was one of those days when anything is an effort, I suspect I was a little tired. The journey was stressful at times, launching into the unknown via the US of A. More on that as I regain my energy.

Today I've had an invitation. Yesterday I met the person here I've had the most contact with during the employment process. Peter and I enjoyed a beer by the pool, talking about my new job and all that it entails. I came away excited, I truly am able to begin at the beginning. That's much easier than picking up the pieces. When I got back to my room, Jo from HR had called with a welcome and an invite to go yachting. Would I like to? Yes please! So I'm writing as I'm waiting for Jo. It's been a while since I've been yachting so I'm really looking forward to a day out on the water, wetting my bikinis in the warm, clear Caribbean waters. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Old Mill, Bath

I booked the Old Mill Hotel online, what a treat it turned out to be. My sat nav Cardiff Kate, named during my last UK adventure in Wales, was invaluable in finding our way out of London and on through the countryside to Bath. The hotel is just before town, down a narrow lane on the banks of the Avon River. The hotel has an interesting history and I'll write about that a future post. Pictured are the weir and another hotel across the river, sunrise mist on the Avon from the Old Mill and ducks on the Avon.

I've landed in the Caymans and am feeling a little jaded after some very busy weeks and an interesting flight over. Grand Cayman is a lot busier than I thought it would be, it is Easter weekend so I suppose that's part of the reason. I've had a wander, found the local wine shop. Next stop will be the beach for a swim, although the temperature is at the very limit for me to get in the water, a fresh 26C.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

My computer is now fixed, a small setting glitch a nice young man at the Apple store in Bath fixed really quickly without making me feel somewhat diminished. He also ran through the features of the iPad and had me convinced. I would have walked out with one except that they didn't have any in stock. The next step is to try in London although I suspect that's going to be a wild goose chase too. 

I'm still using Di's computer to write as the hotel we are in won't let you connect more than one computer to an 8 pound connection, may have to buy another today to upload some photos. Time is the factor, we're off sightseeing in the big city after breakfast. One more sleep and I'm on a plane to the Caymans for the next step. There are stories to tell from this hikoi, photos to add but for now I'm heading to breakfast.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Oh no!

I'm having computer issues so normal transmissions will resume as soon as I've been to the Apple shop to get it fixed and to hopefully buy another way of communicating. It was an excelent choice of accommodation, an old mill on the Avon River. A more picturesque river than it's namesake in Christchurch. Photos and stories will follow soon, for now please check out Di's site in my links section.

Monday, 18 April 2011


I'm in London, even better I'm in London with Di staying with Claire and enjoying a lovely meal, wine and chats. Plenty of chatting of course. I've been up since 5am UAE time so am wilting fast and now need to get some sleep. Will write more tomorrow, sat nav and finding Di stories and probably finding Bath stories too.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Last days

I've just had a special treat. I was given a voucher for a deluxe foot spa and I used this tonight, my last pedicure for a while I suspect. The deluxe part was sitting in a massage chair, with the remote control. With my attention span, that kept me occupied for about 10 minutes as I played with the settings and got pummeled by the mechanical thingys in the chair. It was quite nice for a while as I'd had a gym session and needed a loosen up.

The young woman who was looking after the feet end was from Vietnam, a very pretty young woman with a nice smile. She conducted the pedicure ritual, with extras such as a leg scrub and massage. We chose the colour carefully and I now have lovely shiny new red polish on my nails, smooth feet and relaxed legs, what more could a girl ask for.

So I'm home now after saying goodbye to another friend over coffee, sitting in my bare living room and soon to go to bed in a bed half covered with the clothes I'm packing to take with me. Warm clothes for the UK and work clothes for the Caymans. The movers still haven't fronted so I may have to go to plan B and pack it all up myself and air freight.

I'm so lucky that I have a friend in the company I work in who is the fix it up chappie. I knew when we talked about my moving dilemma today that he would say, no problem just let me know what you want and I will organise this. He is the ultimate organiser, mover and shaker and font of all knowledge of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done in this part of the world. I'm hoping we can collaborate on an article for the magazine on the how to of leaving the UAE.

It's only 5 sleeps, counting the one I'm about to have, two more days at work. I feel like I need a holiday and booked this place in Bath for Di and I. It will be our base for exploring, I can't wait although I hope the weather is not too chilly. Might need a hot bath in Bath.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The rain in Al Ain

Ahh the smell of hot rain on a hot road, an earthy smell that defies description. One of my favorite smells as  it reminds me of hot summer childhood afternoons when it rained at about 3pm to relieve the heat of the day. Hot, fat rain to dance in. When no one was watching.

Well, tonight the heavens opened up in Al Ain. The rain is late this year, I wonder if it waited until my last week. You see, every time I go to leave the UAE it rains. I leave soon, this time for a long time. I heard the thunder, saw the flash in the sky and retired to the roof to watch the fun. Deidre, another storm chaser, was already there, enjoying. As we watched the humidity changed, the wind picked up, the dust was flying so we had to run for shelter. Then the clouds burst and the hot rain fell, big wet drops soaking us.

It was all very sudden from the noise to the rain. Great sheets poured from the sky, we hoped for floods and maybe an unworkable day tomorrow. The sirens began as we watched through the open window, driving conditions treacherous with this twice a year downpour. It's sticky now, hot and humid, 35 plus at 9.30pm. Through the open window I can hear the slosh of tyres in the puddles, the toots of horns from the main road. I'm so pleased to be in my safe house and not out and about.

I will sleep with my window open tonight listening to the novelty of rain, dusty hot rain washing the sand from the clouds. The hot wafting, muddy smell of hot rain on the hot road. Ahh I should sleep well tonight.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Up on the roof

We had a nice evening up on the roof, a small gathering of friends. The evening flowed with laughter, music and conversation, as well as the odd drink and some local food. The warm wind made for a pleasant temperature. We have had shamals for the past few days, the north wind that picks up sand and dust on it's way across the desert and deposits it in my kitchen and bathroom as well as everywhere else in Al Ain. I almost changed the venue but on cue, just as asked, at 5pm the wind dropped so the roof was the best place to be.  Friends pictured are Jane, Nola and Belinda; Debbie and Kate and Gillie and Liz. More photos to follow when I get some space to look at them properly. My new flash has been an excellent investment. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

12 more sleeps

To be able to leave the UAE, your work visa needs to be cancelled. This has now happened in my passport and best of all, I have my passport back. There's nothing holding me back now apart from the 12, soon to be 11 more sleeps. I've got heaps done and my apartment is looking bare with much gone and the rest sold and ready to go. It helps being one of the first to leave.

My cleaner had her last visit today and went off with some bags from my cupboards as well as a few clothes and bit and pieces. She was really thrilled to be given my drag bag, the suitcase that housed my computer and resources as I travelled about. To me it was past it's use by date, I didn't need it and it was beginning to look tatty. To her it was a means of carrying her clothes home when she visits her family on her biannual visit in July/August. She told me it would save her having to buy one.

You see Cora and I are the same age only we live very different lives. Her life revolves around working to send money to her family in the Philippines. She works in a school and gets paid very little so this is no mean feat. Living here can be expensive so picking up work from people like me is the best way for her to manage this and send money home. I am amazed at how industrious these women are, many work 12 hour days then clean for others. Cora is one of the luckier ones in that her hours aren't that long and she gets some time off.

Many of the things that I see here, many of the stories I'm told, shock me a little. Well it actually shocks me more that I have come to accept this as the way it is. I suspect I've been here long enough and a change to a place that seems at least to be more egalitarian is a good idea. Maybe I'll write some of the stories I've been told when I am at a distance, I know I have a couple of travel ones to include. Keep watching this space. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

It's April

Already! I've only got days left in the UAE, the time has flown by. I had a lovely weekend in Abu Dhabi catching up with friends, saying goodbye. I'm not very good at goodbyes, prefer not to have too much fuss. Besides everyone that I saw this weekend are in my life for a lifetime, or at the least a season, so I expect to see them in my new place some time.

Friday evening was well spent, socialising and photographing Mike and Gavin's band. They have a young Lebanese drummer and he is amazing. They kept the crowd happy with their acoustic covers and even had an adventurous group up dancing. There was a man behind us, he sang harmony really well. We got talking to him and his wife and it seems he had a band in his younger years, a similar band. He certainly had a great voice and could dance.

Today, the grandmas braved Baby Gap and stocked up on a few bits for the babies. It was fun shopping with another grandma, a kind of excitement. Kate's also a great shopper, gets what she wants and gets out of there quick smart. The way I like to shop, well for clothes anyway.

So tomorrow is the beginning of my last two weeks of work, then a break, then off to the Cayman's. I'm getting excited, especially when I got the information of my home for the first week. It looks fantastic, on the beach and, I suspect, close to where I need to be. I am getting a little excited.

The photos are of the band, three very talented musicians. Mike and I had a play with the pics to make good poster images. I like them, good action shots!