Sunday, March 29, 2009

First Weekend... First of many purchases...

Yes, a weekend without the In-teh-webz and I survived!  Only just though lol!  I moved out of Al Raha Beach on Thursday morning, went to work and then Thursday night drove to my new home in the Green Community in Dubai.

There was me, my toaster, a pillow and foam mattress and my novel and PSP to keep me occupied...

By the end of the weekend, I had a sandwhich maker, some basic food stuffs (Vegemite and Tim Tams for some Aussie home sickness) a borrowed fridge and washing machine and some bar stools to sit up at the kitchen bench (again borrowed).  The weekend itself went well but it was actually overcast and we had some thundery showers... in fact I would go close to saying the lightening show last night was close to the most spectacular I had ever seen!  With Dubai being so flat, you can see lightening going for miles without interference from trees, buildings and/or hills.  I tried to take some pictures, but failed miserably...

As for what I did, well shopped of course... the local supermarket got a work out and I was happy with the quality of the food (they did sell the above mentioned Vegemite!) and I went to the Mall of the Emirates on Friday night and the Ibn Battuta (sp?) Mall last night.  Everyone seems to go to Malls as part of the social fabric of the city and its not just shopping, but movies, theme parks (there were people skiing in the Tube at 11pm on Friday night) and socialising via coffee shops thru to restaurants.

I personally bought yet another iPod (my 2nd one went AWOL when Niki was here... I think I dropped it out of my pocket along the way) and I also looked for some new shoes but was too tired to buy any (all that walking!).  I also bought some more novels (Dean Koontz one and Bill Bryson's latest)

During the day, the weather wasnt great but I still swam both days and (oh yeah, bought a beach towel and sunscreen) and lazed on the banana lounges and went walking around my estate.  There is alot of villas still without grass but I am think thats because alot of Arabs dont like grass and also the Brits dont know anything about lawns :-)

So, no internet, I did get bored in some stretches (and so I got in the car and went shopping) but made some progress re furnishings... (oh yeah, I bought Brookies bed which will be delivered next week).

Next on the list is a stove, a BBQ, a TV and at least one lounge suite... plus I keep thinking about stuff to buy, so I bought a notepad and pen too!  LOL!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is Facebook?

Hehe... very funny...

* Taken from the 0ddness blog... kudos to Dan.

BAM! Its Hot...

Today is the hottest day so far... forecast is for 41 and possible thunderstorms (really?!).  The wind is blowing, the sand is flying and it is very hot outside.

I am spending one last night at the Al Raha Beach hotel tonight and I will check out tomorrow morning with the view of spending Thursday night in the new villa!  Whilst Power & Water are connected, the air con is run via a chilled water system and I have to connect myself at the plant just outside the Green Community.  I have to front up with my visa, passport and associated letters to get connected... will be a right pain I bet!

So, I will try and do that on Friday morning (which is the weekend)... otherwise I could be sweltering.  Having said that, the pool is right next door! YAY!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back to the Organised Chaos...

OK... had a long weekend, did heaps, spent some great quality time with Niki and then sadly took her to the airport this morning...

Then, I return to work to find that my area of the building has been taken over by some head office people and I have been bumped out into what is referred to as "Block 4".  In short, my gear had been boxed and moved into a building that is today still under construction.

To get into my office, I had to shoo some Indians who were taking a power saw to a piece of timber whilst using my desk and chair as a "saw horse".  All my gear was in a box in the corner and that included my laptop docking station and monitor and phone.

To also put Block 4 into context, there are NO footpaths to get here and NO steps into the building.  I had to walk thru sand (which can drift into ankle deep dunes) and then climb into the building!  I dont think I will wear a suit tomorrow?

So, I put in a call to "help desk" to basically set me up in construction site and turned my laptop on and worked away.  Had to make some calls and then my pre-paid mobile ran out... then I noticed my battery was getting flat so I grabbed the power cable from the box and plugged it in.  No Power!

To sum up a long story, power was on by 3pm and my battery lasted (just) but only because I had a couple of meetings and I turned it off.  Managed to get the phone on and rang the girls at home but other than that my day has been shot and I have been re-dunked into the pool of UAE Chaos Theory.

All good fun!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend In Dubai

Well, no posts for a few days as we have been driving around the UAE and giving Niki the full tour of the place. She landed early in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night and she was able to have a lazy day around the hotel whilst I had to go to work on the Thursday... a bit of a bummer, but it was good for her to get over her jet lag.

Thursday night, I drove her into Abu Dhabi where we went all the way into town and down to the Corniche and across to the Marina Mall. We checked out some furniture shops and browsed around and it was Niki's first taste of the mall-centric Arabic night life. We drove around the city on the way back and cut across town to give her the full experience of the heavily Indian population here.

Friday was Dubai day and we drove up to first our house at the Green Community and I was able to show her what her new home looked like and where it was in relation to everything else - the shops, the school, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. She loved it and was gobsmacked at the 7 toilets, 3 baths, 4 showers, 2 living areas and 2 dining rooms... its pretty big when you put it all together!

After a drive around the Green Community we headed into "The Address" which would be our home for 2 nights... the place was amazing! We were truly impressed and the views of the pool areas, the Lake around the Burj Dubai and the massive Burj Dubai itself was amazing.

The view from our room... overlooking the magnificent pool deck

Me in front of the 820 odd metre high Burj Dubai... Niki couldnt get it all in the shot (the building, not me!)

After we left, we went on a drive around to the Mall of the Emirates where Niki saw the Ski Dubai for the first time, we also drove along Jumeira Beach (but didnt get to the Palm) and took some shots of the Burj Al Arab (the big sail like hotel)... we were in a rush though because we had an appointment at the girls' future school for a bit of a tour and a discussion on their enrollment.

It was whirlwind, but it gave Niki a real flavour of the area.

Tomorrow, Niki's final full day, we will relax around Al Raha and perhaps look to buy me some furniture!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The least of your problems...

Just diverting from the UAE latest...

I read this article just now.

Let me paraphrase... complaints are being made on why a warning label on swearing wasnt included on the box of a computer game.

If this was Bambi Chases Butterflies, then yes if Bambi drops the F-Bomb well you'd be upset.

But no, this game is a MA 15+ Violence riddled game called "House of the Dead: Overkill" and you can see what a wholesome game it is from the screenshots.

Seriously, if you let your kids play this and THEN complain about the swearing, you're an idiot!

24hrs Until Niki is Here!

Well... its like Christmas and I am 6yrs old!  Niki is coming for a visit and lands at 11pm tomorrow night.

By then, I should have the keys to our villa and I have booked into one of the fancy hotels in Dubai for a couple of nights and we'll do some sight seeing and some shopping in prep for me moving into the villa.

So its a combo of showing her her new country and more "prep" work... Between work and getting ready for Niki and the girls to relocate, I am really frazzled and I am looking forward to perhaps having a week of downtime with her.

I think we have also decided that I will come back to Australia in late May / early June to bring her and the girls back to Dubai... so to all my Aussie friends, be on the look out for me on a flying visit.

On the banking front, I got the pin numbers to my accounts... which is nice considering I dont have the ATM cards... but I think they are coming tomorrow!

I just have to keep telling myself to be patient... ;-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Heat Is On

Today is the first day here where I have said "geez!  How about this heat!!".  It's getting warmer here and the dreaded Arabian summer that everyone seems to talk about is just around the corner.  I keep saying "Yeah, but I'm an Aussie - all you Poms are whingers" but they just laugh... perhaps it will test my patience for the heat.  (Which is none, because I much prefer winter!)

But that aside, I had one of the UAE's great mysteries uncovered for me yesterday.  Speaking to a Lebanese Arab who has been in the UAE for 4yrs, we got talking about houses, cars and loans... he then revealed why all Emirati's are so rich and don't need to work.

Essentially, the good Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE who ruled and was loved by everyone from say sometime in the 1960's through to his death in the early 2000's would approach the countries banks at the same time every year and clear the debts of Emirati citizens.  Yes... Every Emirati had their mortgage, car loans and personal loans PAID FOR by the Sheikh.  Every year.


So each year, Emiratis would take out as many loans as they could for houses, cars and other luxuries and the Sheikh paid for them.  Then using their new 100% owned assets as collateral they would then get bigger loans the following year and the Sheikh would pay for them.  As long as the Emirati could meet the repayments during the first 12mths there was no real cap on borrowings and hence the Sheikh's benevolence.

This explains why the mail boy who drives between Abu Dhabi Headquarters and the construction site drives a US$500K Mercedes and it also explains why Emiratis have no concept of money.  They pay speeding fines like road tolls and they right off cars left right and centre.  They will bash your car in the car park rather than take a 3 point turn.  As a westerner, we just have to live with their decadence.

Unfortunately when Sheikh Zayed abdicated due to ill health to his son (Sheikh Khalifa?), the son stopped the practice but it is immaterial now as all Emiratis have so much property they don't know what to do with all their money!

Home... I have one!

Well, its been a busy 72hrs, well 48 actually... Friday was a lazy day! On Saturday I went up to Green Community and looked at 4 properties that were for rent... from 10am to 2pm I was with real estate agents and looked at the properties, but it was the last one that really grabbed me. A brand new (read 1 week old) 4 bedroom / 1 study villa right next door to a pool/gym complex. (Every couple of blocks there is a pool and gym and kids playground). Price was within my accommodation allowance set by my company and when I showed Niki the pictures that afternoon (it was 1am Sydney time, she was up waiting for me) she agreed that it was fantastic and to make an offer.

I did, we hageled a bit and our offer was accepted. Then this afternoon (Sunday, I am still thrown by the weekend being Fri/Sat) I left work early and drove the 45min drive to the Green Community and met the landlady (lovely lady, Iranian by background) and we negotiated the tenancy contract and I paid a 5% deposit and it was done! We have tentatively set Tuesday afternoon as the date I will produce a cheque for the first years rent (yes, rent is a year in advance, which my company will pay) and upon production of the cheque, the property is mine, I get the keys and I can start planning furniture! Because I have NONE! LOL!.

This is all perfect timing because Niki is flying in on Wednesday night and I will be able to show her her new home. I am very pleased with the timing!

So to give you a flavour, here is a shot of the front and a shot taken from the balcony of the Master Bedroom looking into the neighbourhood pool next door. Yes, the backyard is all sand and I have to get it turfed!

But its a brilliant place and is going to be ideal for the kids.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend Real Estate

Well, its the weekend here in the UAE and I am having an exciting night in in front of the laptop... a work report to write and emails to answer... it doesnt seem to let up at the moment.  My project is chronically understaffed and we're on a massive recruitment drive but it takes time to get people on board.  I am having meetings at work and suddenly there's a new face.  "Hi, I am so and so, been here 3 days, my role is blah blah and I have come all the way from Country X".  Its amazing really... and I am enjoying working with Brits, Lebanese, Arabs and even the odd Kiwi.  I heard one of the new senior managers looking after Facilities Management for completed buildings is an Aussie who starts some time in the next fortnight or so... its all very exciting.  So seriously, to all my friends and family who read this blog... if you have something to offer drop me an email!

This weekend is also exciting because on Saturday I am looking at potential houses... or villas as they're called here.  I sat down this morning and perused the classifieds and was able to line up to inspect 5 properties on Saturday in just 45mins.  10am, 11am, Midday (two properties) and 1:30pm... 5 properties, 4 different agents all in the one day.  The financial crisis has turned Dubai into a cheap land grab and those of us lucky enough to be working in secure companies are taking advantage.

To quote numbers, when we looked at moving here, annual rents for a 3-4 bedroom villa were around 330,000 - 350,000 Dirhams per annum.  On Saturday I am looking at 5 bedroom villas listed between 230,000 and 260,000 Dhs per annum.  A massive drop in just 3 months!

So, yes the financial crisis is taking hold, but I also heard that 35,000 jobs were lost in Australia last month... so I think to be working for a company that is hiring I am very blessed and not only that the job is excellent!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dodgy Chicken

A pretty busy day at work today... was flat out in meetings and then realised that I havent actually achieved anything tangible other than talking alot!  One of those days I guess.

Mr Amit didnt show either today from HSBC... gonna give him one of my "stop dicking me around calls" tomorrow.

A scary thing though is that I have realised that I have to soon vacate the Al Raha Beach Hotel... I have about 2 weeks or so to find my own place.  Armed with my drivers licence, that starts in earnest TOMORROW!  I have been so caught up with logistics, that I havent been able to get about and house hunt.  Well now that I have my own wheels, I will be making calls this weekend to advertised properties.

Also, counting down the days until Niki gets here (next week!!) for a flying visit so she will probably be involved in the house hunt too which will be great.

For something different tonight, I went to Khalifa City for a look around and find something different to eat.  Khalifa City would be a 'blue collar' (read Indian) area between work and the hotel and I checked it out.  Not much there except what I thought was a KFC.... so I decided to go in... then I realised that whilst it had all the corporate colours and similar logo of KFC, it was actually "RFC".  RFC stands for Rapid Fired Chicken... *gulp!*

Well, I said why not and ordered a 3 piece box... lets just say I am now not sure if its Rapid cooked or if its "Rapid" on the way out!!  Pretty dodgy! Live and learn I suppose :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Directorate of Traffic Licencing 1 def HSBC Bank 0

Well!  I returned as promised to my soap watching Arabic lady at the translation office.  She was all set to receive me because my translation was on her big desk.  It was the only piece of paper there too.  She was very pleasant, commented that I am the same age as her son.  I said politely that "yes, well 1972 was a good year" and she looked at me quizzically and said "he was born in 1973".... so much for same age.  I paid her 70Dhs and she had to fish 10Dhs out of her personal purse.  Very professional, but on the basis I cannot read Arabic, I was happy with what I received.

I rang Mr Amit at HSBC and said I am in the neighbourhood can I come around and pick up my ATM cards.  He said he wasn't in the office but all I needed to do was take a withdrawal slip and I could withdraw some cash.  I explained that no... he was going to give me ATM cards for my new account and set me up with net banking?  He was genuinely puzzled and thought I wanted to withdraw cash (see yesterdays post for what he promised).  When I explained what he said he was going to do he said "Oh, I will come around tomorrow to your work and give them to you".  Another delay and another shifting of the goal posts from the very friendly and polite Mr Amit.  I will see if he comes thru tomorrow!

So, I drove back up town to the Directorate of the Traffic Licencing Bureau and found a huge building with a huge stair case and inside was an information desk.  It had 2 ladies working the desk and two people being served.  I lined up patiently behind one of the two people being served and then a whole swag of Arab people walked past me and demanded service.  The two people in front of me were Indian / Bangladeshis and hence the Arabs thought they were more important than them or me in the queue... such is life here.

I finally got to the front and was now one of 15 people crowding the desk and they called a third lady to help.  I was the only anglo-saxon and in typical stiff upper lip style waited to be served.  Before I knew it people two deep in the queue were shouting for attention and were actually getting served and I finally started to get the shits.  Before I could, one of the ladies in perfect English turned and said "how can I help you" and I was swiftly given a number, a form, my photo stapled to my documents, my translation stamped and told to take an eye test in the next room.

From there it was a matter of queuing and going through the process but it was pretty straight forward.  I had a novel with me and read the time away.  Soon enough, I was called up to the desk, answered some basic questions and smiled for the camera.

I am now a licenced Emirati driver... long process, by the road rules around here I thought you just needed a Cornflakes packet :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Great Wheel Keeps Turning

Yes, the Great Wheel of UAE Bureaucracy keeps turning as I inch slowly to getting thru all the crap.... today I had ambitions to have my drivers licence, but it is tantalising me just out of my reach.

With my residency, passport and photos I was about to embark on a trip to the magical place of "The Directorate of Traffic Licensing" but before I went I was told I had to have my Australian drivers licence translated into Arabic.  WTF?  My little plastic card with a bad photo and my non-donor status on it has to be translated into Arabic?

Yep, and I have to have it done at a special office in downtown Abu Dhabi... and it will cost 60Dhs for the pleasure...

So off I set and I drive my little Nissan Tiida which I am currently renting for the 45min drive all the way to the Corniche (the Abu Dhabi waterfront) where I am told that the office of "Dana Office Services & Legal Translations" is.  They dont use street addresses in the UAE.  Everyone refers to the building they are in and you're supposed to know.  I rang up the number I was given (by a Canadien girl here who went through all this last week) and I spoke to a lady who seemed genuinely surprised to be receiving a phone call.

She told me that they are in the ground floor of some building (rapid arabic names in english I am yet to master) and I asked where that is.  She tells me they're "behind the French Hospital" on the ground floor.  I happened to recall seeing the French Hospital on my previous site seeing trips so I knew roughly where that was.  I jumped in my little Tiida and headed into town.

45mins later, I am parked at the Corniche and walking towards a run down building called "Franco Emirati Hospital" and I realise I am glad I am not French or sick... behind it is a mosque and behind that is another office block and on the street level is a run down sign called "Dana Office Services".  I enter the door, which is slightly off its hinges and behind a big desk is a woman watching a big plasma TV with an Arabic soap opera on it.  She seems surprised and turns the volume down and realises I am the Australian who rang earlier.  I guess that maybe I am her only call so far today...

She takes my NSW licence and asks me to write down my mobile number and says it will be ready at 6pm but I make an arrangement to pick it up in the morning because the Driving Licence Bureau will be shut by 6pm.

So, I have to go down again tomorrow morning and get my Arabic licence and go and hopefully get my full licence!

Also, I am still yet to get my banking sorted and Mr Amit from the HSBC came and saw me again today, gave me a HSBC diary as an apology for giving me the run around, but tomorrow I am going to see him in the branch after my licence excursion and hopefully (fingers crossed) he will have some ATM cards for me!  And yes, he even agreed to transfer my salary into that account so I can actually get my money!!  Its been a long time between pay packets thats for sure!!

Mr Amit has certainly refined giving top notch customer service in the absence of delivering anything into an artform!  LOL!

But we're all on the Great Wheel and nothing can stop its turning... albeit very slowly ;-)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Back in the UAE

Well, my jaunt to London is done and I am back "home" at the Al Raha Beach Hotel...

Flight was good... nice to fly during the day and hence not be too out of whack with jet lag.  When I landed at the airport, I was able to hire a car (a bloody Nissan Tiida!) and drive myself to the hotel.

Which was excellent because today I drove up to Dubai and the Green Community to visit some fellow Aussies who have made their home there.  Catherine & Peter lived in our area in the mountains and their daughter Grace shared a class with Brooke before they left some 18mths ago.  Now they're living not only in Dubai, but also the place where Niki & I hope to settle and they offered to give me a tour and a home cooked BBQ (YES!! Real Food!!)

So whilst the link was via our respective daughters, I had never actually met Catherine & Peter but they were very welcoming of me into their home and gave me a guided tour of their home, the parks / cycle tracks where the neighbourhood kids play and the shops.  Best of all, with Catherine being a teacher at the local school, she took me around there and gave me a tour inside the school.  I have to say I was blown away by the facilities which included modern classrooms, plenty of skylights and natural lighting, fully kitted out labs and music rooms, a proper school cafeteria, 'soft fall' play areas and park style slippery dips and monkey bars, a massive gymnasium for indoor sports, an astroturf hockey field, a full size astroturf soccer / rugby field (long grass astroturf so its safe to fall on) and an outdoor swimming pool (25m long, 7 lanes) that is fully shade clothed and a kids wading pool for the junior kids.  Excellent stuff and I feel alot better now re their fees!

Also, Catherine and Peter's house is a lovely townhouse that is very very large compared to Aussie townhouses.  Very high ceilings, lots of natural light and doors that open up the entire back of the house to the back yard.  I was very impressed and am now 100% certain the Green Community is for us!

So, after a huge BBQ lunch, the tour and a good chat (and a packet of Aussie Tim Tams were produced, so that was an excellent bonus!) I headed home back to the hotel.  Being a bit bored, I decided to see The Watchmen at the movies next door.

My view is that it is a good pulp comic book movie but it was incredibly censored by the locals here.  When I saw Benjamin Button I thought they cut a scene in that because of nudity or something similar, but The Watchmen is alot more ruder than Benjamin Button so the movie actually got a bit disjointed for me... they were cutting scenes entirely I think so I lost the plot at times.  But I *think* it was good...  if you liked Sin City or 300 then you'll like The Watchmen.

A good day... tomorrow is a public holiday too, so even better!  I might go into Abu Dhabi tomorrow to see the sights a bit...

Friday, March 06, 2009

London - Land of the Monkeys

As I type this, I am awaiting a flight back to Abu Dhabi, which I am now supposed to consider 'home'. Odd feeling that is...

My trip to London has been very successful work wise and I personally felt I did a good job representing my company given I have only been there for 3-4 weeks at best. I travelled with our Group CFO and he was happy enough to let me run the show and it all went smoothly. A good start!

Also, had the pleasure of meeting one of my virtual gaming rivals Brian who lives in London. You play games via email and/or web and when you travel to their local part of the world, you have the surreal concept of meeting people who you have perhaps conversed with via the email for the best part of 2 years in the flesh.

But Brian was a great bloke who whipped up some real food (so sick of hotel food!) and we yacked about gaming for 90% of the time and his girlfriend joined us in a game of Settlers of Catan. A few beers later and a stroll to the tube station and I got back to the hotel happy to have a non-work / non-hotel related diversion.

London itself hasnt changed much of course since I was last here 18mths ago, but they are doing an awful lot of road works in the city... cab trips seemed to take an age this week... and the Conjestion Tax was supposed to fix that? I don't think its working...

So, its back to Abu Dhabi... I get to spend my Friday watching movies and episodes of the Family Guy on Etihads in flight system and then I have a long weekend because Sunday is a public holiday! Not sure why, but I'll take it!!

And the Monkey reference? Well I have just read this thoughtful article titled "What is the Monkeysphere". Thanks to Pete for the link!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

London Bound

Well, I am flying out to London in a few hours on my glorious 2:30am flight and its quite surreal to have only packed an overnight bag!  London is such a long haul from Sydney that you tend to take alot of luggage, but tonight I have my briefcase with laptop and a carry on bag with my suit pants, some shirts and the basics...  I will be wearing my suit coat on the plane sports jacket style and I will definitely need it as the overnight temps in London at the moment are about 2-3 degrees celcius.

Two days of meetings and then back home again!

The other interesting thing is we got a public holiday announced this week for this Sunday.  I have no idea why, but we all get a long weekend.  This was announced the Sunday just passed so we get a weeks notice of a day off.  I heard that was the case here before I came over and thats my first experience of it.  Apparently it happens quite frequently too.

I will try to blog from London... probably just to tell you I am cold :-)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Banking Frustrations

Still havent got my ATM cards and the whole process seems to be going backwards.  When I first arrived here, I found out that my ATM cards were going to be sent to my parents in Australia (who I had nominated as my Australian forwarding address).

In frustration, I was told the cards would go to them and then they can send them back to me... I don't need to tell you how frustrating that is.

But then I found out HSBC have a man who comes to site to assist with expats getting set up and he told me what I had set up in Sydney was wrong and he would correct it and hand deliver my ATM cards...

2 weeks later he tells me that the cards are being sent to Sydney!  I let him know that he has taken 2 weeks to make zero progress after promising me direct delivery.  He is now trying "to rectify the situation, sorry Mr Clayton".  But this is indicative of life here and I have been told numerous times by fellow expats that the #1 commodity you need to have here is patience.

So I will let the HSBC man do his stuff and see what comes of it...

He told me also that I cannot register for internet banking until I visit the branch in Abu Dhabi.  They were open until 7pm so I mad a dash to get there last night but due to traffic jams I arrived at 7:02pm to find the bank doors shut.  Customers were still inside, but no more new customers were allowed in.

Again, I need to learn to allow more time as it took 20mins for my taxi to pick me up which cost me the opportunity to set up net banking... its a case of live and learn here!

PS - I just got an email!  My residency has been approved and I have a stamp in my passport which is being driven to me now!  At LAST!

Monday, March 02, 2009

London Logistics, Orientation, Code of Conduct

Well... been very busy.  Still getting my head around this "Sunday is a work day" business and when you're reading the papers from home or Aussie friends' Facebook pages and you realise that its still the weekend in Australia but you're at work it gives an odd feeling.

Like tonight, I had dinner in the hotel restaurant (first time I have dined alone in the restaurant... i tend to stick to the food court or room service) and it was "Sunday" night but a work night.  I changed out of my suit for chinos but left my business shirt on and joined diners, some of which were business men talking shop... all very odd for a Sunday night.

Then after dinner, its back to the room where I am catching up on work and am dealing live via Blackberry with the staff who book travel (do they ever go home?).  It seems that my flight to London will be at 2:30am (YES A bloody M!) and will land at Heathrow at 6:45am.  I think its 7hrs so basically, get on and go to sleep.  I will have a driver picking me up, taking me to the hotel... shower, suit up and first meeting will be at 10am.  Meetings are going through all day, there is an open invitation to dinner and its rinse and repeat again for the Thursday.  My flight back to Abu Dhabi leaves Heathrow at 10pm, but I am waitlisted and I have sent a request that I will probably prefer to go on the Friday morning rather than risk not getting on the plane...

I will be a very tired person methinks when I get back and if I do fly back on Friday, it will leave me just one day for the weekend!

Aside from the travel, today was orientation day at what is called "Masdar HQ" in Abu Dhabi.  I work on the Masdar City site out of town and the HQ staff will be joining us on site in the next month, but in the interim we have our corp offices in the city.  I finally met all the HR dept in HQ who have been receiving my many queries and stories of newbie expat angst (I am sure they have heard them all before!) and I was part of their "Orientation" session for all new employees.

If you have been through an orientation or induction process, then you know what these are like, but it took alot longer because alot of the important bits were spoken in Arabic for the benefit of the Emirati employees (who are all in IT) and it was a bit stop/start because of that but it went very well and I got a few tips re the Sharepoint Intraportal and how to take leave, apply for housing cheques etc (you have to pay a years rent up front and the company does that for you as a 'loan' against your accommodation allowance).  Also, a lady from the health insurance came in and discussed all the benefits and its far more comprehensive than my health insurance in Australia.

Funny bit was the discussion on dress code.  UAE Nationals must wear national dress but expats need to dress formally.  Jackets on for meetings, women must have skirts below the knee - one leggy Canadian woman in the room failed already - and we also had a run thru on common Arabic expressions.  "Keefak" means "How are you?" and now I know what it means because it is the traditional arabic slang greeting and I hear it all the time (e.g.  "Keefak Mahmoud, Keefak!")

Then we were shuffled into a "Code of Conduct" session in which we sat for 90mins listening to a British ex-copper now working for KPMG give a long winded and anecdote ladened spiel on why its "not on" to accept bribes.  To be honest, it could have been done in 20mins and he was far more boring than the 3 Emirati women who grappled with the long orientation session in two languages.  A lesson learned - long winded speaking is not enjoyable no matter the language.

Now its nearly 11pm... and I am still catching up on my emails and I have a teleconference with potential partners in Zurich early in the morning.  I cant say that my days are dull!