Friday, December 24, 2010


Just when I thought I was getting into a bit of a routine, they transfer me to a new campus and my mom comes for a visit. The last two weeks have been very full and exciting which also means that's it's been a little exhausting too, but sleep is such a small price to pay.

After missing one connection in London, they were able to get in around three in the morning. Having seen some of the travelers stranded for at Heathrow this past week, I can't help but feel that we dodged
a bullet there.

On Thursday night we all went to see Tangled at the theatre around the corner. It was a great film, as good as anything Disney's done even if it was in 3D (if that novelty doesn't wear off soon, my days as a patron of over priced theaters are numbered). I felt a little bad because I was kind of hoping that our first night out together would be a unique cultural experience. Little did I realize that
a full theater on a Thursday night qualifies as a cultural experience. It's hard to describe, but if I could use one word it would be 'heightened.' The talking was louder, the gasps from the audience were fuller, and the reactions bigger. Even the use of cell phones was one a much grander scale.

Friday was church and its accompanying echo. It was also the day where Mike learned about how we dry our clothes in this part of the world. It's a full day affair.

On Saturday, we took the big bus tour of Abu Dhabi. It was a great way to see the city and the accompanying narration filled in a few of the gaps in my knowledge of the city and the region. The highlight was definitely the little Bedouin village at the end. How can you beat the experience of watch James cling for dear life to the hump of a camel?

In the final couple of days with us, the crew went without me to tour the Grand Mosque. Mom said she felt like it was a privilege to be able to go through that building. Sunday night, I was trounced by my mother at Scrabble (I have since been practicing). Monday, everyone went without (again) to see what an eleven million dollar Christmas tree looks like. I guess it looks like most other fake massive Christmas only with solid gold watches and diamond necklaces hanging from its boughs.

For our last night together, Mom and Mike took us to Benihanas for the food and the show. For nearly the first hour we were the only ones in the restaurant. We were the center of the staff's attention which meant our glasses were never empty. It was a little unsettling to watch as strangers met every need of my children--from engineering manageable chopsticks to supplying festive headgear. My children wanted for nothing. The sight brought out more than a few of my insecurities as a parent. The food was great and the company was even better. Grandma and Grandpa definitely went out on a high note.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I guess I don't get to complain about my commute anymore

I was transferred to the city campus this week to take over another instructor's classes. My students out at the Khalifa campus were sad to see me go, which, I have to admit, was a little gratifying. It was hard to leave them and many of my colleagues, but those extra twenty minutes I get to sleep in the morning were just too seductive to resist.

I've only had two teaching days at the city campus. It feels a little more sedate (carpet will do that to a place) and I do like the feeling of being in the middle of somewhere. There'll be a little bit of catch up to play this week, but I think the additional time I'll get to spend at home will make it all more than worth it.

Julie's been under the weather for the last three weeks and the echo in the apartment only makes her cough sound worse. She's been soldiering on and I've been trying to act supportive. Consequently we've been eating out more than normal this week which Julie feels a little guilty about (she shouldn't!). There's a little Chinese restaurant next to our building and it's always a good sign when the clientele are almost exclusively Asian. shwarmas have been on the menu more than once (they're practically a staple here) and we've visited the deli counter at one of the local grocery stores, which makes for a more exotic meal than you might think.

Below are some pictures from UAE national day. All that walking merited some ice cream which Lucy savored as only Lucy could.

After we came home from the festivities we watched "Prince of Persia." It was a fairly mediocre movie. It opened with the line, "A long time ago, in a land far away..."
"Hey," Lucy piped up, "it's not that far away."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lest you think it's all perfection and paradise

We've been here long enough that I think it's OK to admit what I miss without it becoming about homesickness. I miss my father’s spaghetti (and all that it implied), donairs and the bulk shopping experience of Costco; I miss a church a block away and a temple just a bit further. I miss the color green, and I even miss the rain. I miss the sense of personal space I enjoyed on public transportation and I mis how easy it is to find canned tomato sauce in North America. I miss having a yard, but I don't miss taking care of it (so that's kind of a wash). And there's something they don't tell you about marble flooring down at Home Depot: it amplifies tantrums.
After about three months, I’m able to sleep through the 5:00 am call to prayer, but it did take three months of restless sleep to get used to it. I've been able to mitigate a lot of my traffic and cab concerns by walking more, but that'll only last for as long as the weather holds out. Did I mention the parking yet? I'm sure I mentioned the parking.

Fruit Loops shouldn't look this anemic!
There are the obvious issues with new foods and new customs. People have a practically uncontrollable urge to reach out and touch my children’s hair. However, I do feel safer here, in the heart of downtown, than I have felt anywhere that I’ve lived before and there is something exciting about all of the languages and cultures that surround us, but it's not quite home yet.

The Two Abu Dhabis

There are two kinds of experience the expat gets to have when they come to the middle east. You can have the walled in, resort like compound living where you're surrounded for the most part by other Westerners, there's usually a pool or two to lounge around, and if there's a Mosque around the corner, the calls to prayer aren't quite as insistent, or you could live like us, what I like to call the authentic experience, surrounded by a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. It can be a little jarring, and not all of the sights or smells would be considered exotic. You also get cockroaches and rats with this package, but if given the choice between vacation and adventure, I'll always choose adventure, though it is nice to go on vacation every now and again, but that's what friends are for.
Lucy night swimming in our friends' pool.

The real Abu Dhabi, more or less.

Karate Lessons next door are one of the luxuries.
And now that a shoe outlet opened across the street, we really do have everything we could need within a city block, and what we don't have delivers. All of the conveniences of city living combined with all of that yard work that I no longer have to do (thanks Pillings for continuing to take care of that monstrosity of a lawn on Hardisty Court--that is a debt that will stay on the books into the enternities.), I don't know if I'm cut out to return to the subburbs. I've been spoiled.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Miscellaneous ramblings

The weather here has finally cooled to a point where you can go outside without guaranteeing to break a sweat. I'm walking the first leg of my journey into work now and I enjoying the quiet time to reflect before I hit the bus from the city campus to Khalifa campus. It's a little odd commuting from the heart of downtown to the barren yet budding subburbs of Khalifa City A. You might think that it would be a breazy ride going against the traffic. You'd be wrong. There really is no logic to the traffic congestion here. One day it might take 30 minutes to get from the city campus to where I work. Another day it could take an hour or more. And the route we take is completely dependent on the bus driver we have for the day. I, being the odd duck that I am, don't really mind the ride. I just got a Kindle a couple of weeks ago and I've got to say that I may like it even more than my iPad. Obviously it doesn't do as much, but reading on it is incredible (I think I may have to order another one or two to address the contention that's arisen out of its presence). The Kindle makes the drive fly by. 

The location of the campus where I work reminds me a lot of the sprawl we witnessed while living in Arizona only with bigger houses and fewer amenities. Eventually the city will catch up with the sprawl, but right now it feels really remote. I don't mind that much because when I'm not in front of students, I'm at my cubicle until punching out time. The days I work are full and pretty tiring, but it's a good kind of fatigue and I find myself falling into a bit of a routine. The long days are also forcing me to take more care with the time that I'm home, so that even though I'm spending more time away from home than I ever have, I feel like I've never spent better time with my family (the close quarters are also playing a role in all this bonding).

"Just one more ingredient and my plans for world domination
will finally come to fruition. Bwahahahaha!"
Liam, Lucy and Miranda started an on-line home school program a couple of weeks ago. The amount of work and the level of accountability was a bit jarring at first, but now that they've started toget into the swing ofthings, they're really loving it. It's a lot of work for Julie, but she's definitely rising to the challenge. Liam, Lucy and Miranda also started Karate about three weeks ago. There's a dojo in the building next to us and all of them have been enjoying the challenge. It also gives James and I a couple of hours a week to hang out just the two of us which is nice. 
Lucy decimating the competition at a Robot Battles Exposition.
I opened a bank account here, but I still felt like a bit of a tourist. We bought a piano, and still I felt like we were only visiting Abu Dhabi. It wasn't until I bought a 300 dirham drill and mounted a magnetic knife holder from Ikea in the kitchen that I felt like I was really committing to the place. There nothing like a few small holes in concrete to anchor you to a place. After the knife holder, I mounted a small carriage for the Iron and then put up some curtains in the girls' room (us and the boys are still living exposed to the world). We're really beginning to turn the apartment into a home. We got a carpet to match the curtains and sofas in the living room (Julie's got a great story about the carpet that she'll share if she gets enough pressure to do so). It took us five years to put up curtains in Nova Scotia, and those only went up because we didn't think we'd be able to sell the house without them. We're regulars at the little produce place next to our building, the shwarmma place around the corner and at the little grocery store a couple blocks down. We've never been regulars anywhere that we've lived, not even in Moscow, ID. so I guess in some ways we're more rooted to the place than we've ever been. There are still the language and cultural barriers, but those aren't as great as you might think.

You can tell that's the tallest building in the world because it's the only one
you can see!

We've got a bit of a robot theme here.