Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Arabian Cinema Experience

Well, I said things were no longer phasing me in regards to life here in the UAE... Well I spoke too soon!

On the spur of the moment, I went to the local mall to see a movie.  I didnt decide this until 8:30 at night, but saw that Star Trek was on at 9:30pm, so I went.  Now I hadnt had dinner at that stage and thought I'd get something at the mall.  But when I turned up, there were massive crowds and queues for tickets.  The reason you see is that there is 20 cinemas plus an I-Max theatre and it was absolutely packed.

Now I should also point out that there were 9 ticket booths opened and the queue was about 50 deep.  It was moving comparitively swiftly, but the sheer weight of numbers meant I spent 20mins in the queue and when I got my ticket, it was just 15mins to showtime.  Also, the cinemas here are at the opposite end to the food court, which I kid you not is about a 1.5km walk away.  The Ibn Battuta Mall is massive!

So, it was popcorn for dinner... and this is the next odd thing.  The cinemas sell odd "real food" rather than just popcorn, lollies and ice cream.  By odd, I mean Nachos and would you believe fresh crepes.  So I had a crepe made with turkey ham (no real ham here!), mushrooms, cheese and capsicum.  Add a drink and a small popcorn and it was just 20Dhs!  Thats about A$8 and you couldnt buy a choc top for 8 bucks in Sydney!

Then it was into the theatre and it was fixed seating... I picked my seat in the middle section when I queued and the odd thing was was that the back row only was 50Dhs, the front section was 20Dhs and the middle section was 30Dhs.  Why would you pay an extra 20Dhs for the back row!?!

The cinemas themselves were excellent with good sound, but you know when a movie is coming to an end and the story is finished, but there is a wrapping up scene?  Well, the locals start leaving en masse!  There was still dialogue happening, but the locals had seen enough and started filing out of the cinema... I'm not a credit watcher myself, but at least stay until the movie actually finishes!

Funny night...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I am trying to come up with a theme for tonights posting and I am a little bit stumped.  I wrack my brain and think and then I realise that perhaps its because I am getting settled into a routine and that I no longer find things unusual or weird...

Have I become acclimatised to life here?  I dont think so, but then I realise how routine things now feel.  The drive to work is now seen as "automatic" rather than a task involving high speed risks.  My work place is now 100% normal in the sense that I am embedded in the routine.  I gave a presentation today for an hour, talking to a bunch of slides on the Masdar City project and it was all seemingly second nature.  I feel comfortable in what I am doing and where I am going and how things get done.  I can now seemingly understand Indians and Pakistanis a bit better as well.  I now answer to "Mr Clayton" rather than my surname because thats the custom here.

I guess my issue with the power company last weekend was annoying rather than freakingly stupid and so now I think that perhaps I am "settled" here.  Interesting thought.

I am however homesick quite often... my emails from friends in Australia make me feel like I am very close and when my mates were doing the emails arranging for a drink on Thursday night at our old regular, I have to say I felt a bit envious and sad that I couldn't go (well I could, but it'd be a bloody expensive beer!).  The homesickness is more than just missing Niki and the girls, its a more high level feeling.  I am still doing my footy tips (and going OK I might add) despite only watching one game on DVD on a 6 week delay and I still read the Australian newspapers online every day.  I read about the budget, the new TV shows (The Chaser starts this week) and in general keep up with "Australi-ana" but it feels different.

I read the local news as well... I am up to speed with the issues here without being passionate about anything.  They're installing red light cameras at intersections and cannot understand why there is a fuss about it?  To me, thats just normal, yet people are "outraged"... it seems that there is media sensationalism in all countries.

So it seems that there is a big middle ground limbo and maybe my odd feelings are not homesickness but perhaps a sense of not feeling that i belong anywhere?  I am not a passionate Emirati... but am distant from Australia.  Weird.

Having said all this though, I am very excited for Niki and the girls to arrive because they will have to go through a whole upheaval of change and I am looking forward to experiencing that as well.  I am looking forward to showing them around, but having said that I have done virtually zero tourist stuff because I havent had the time nor the inclination to do it alone.  I want to explore the beaches here... and walk down along Jumeriah and see what that's like.  People talk about Safa Park as a great picnic area and also its apparently a must to take the Dhow boat across Dubai Creek to the souqs and markets.  All good stuff that I have avoided by choice and by lack of opportunity.

So, maybe I am settling in... but maybe not.  I am sure once Niki and the girls arrive, I will be exposed to a whole lot more of "oddness" in Dubai as we get into the sight seeing bit.

PS - am off to Copenhagen in the morning... have a 8am flight which means getting up at 4am as I have a 5am pickup.  Wont be back until Friday, but will try to post from Denmark....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Finally! Some Football!

After lamenting over the lack of NRL coverage, my mate Noyz said he'd mail me a copy of a couple of games... and they finally arrived today!!  Sure, they're about 6 weeks behind because it came via Frankfurt Germany, but yes the little Indian mail boy showed up today in my office with an Aussie Post "Post Pak" covered in "Allemagne Post" and "Frankfurt" stamps and now I am sitting here in the lounge room watching the game.

Funny how you see things and they remind you of home... the Aussie post pak, his home address with NSW and a post code on it and now watching the game, there are TV ads that I havent seen before and some of those ads are in preparation for ANZAC Day that was forthcoming when the game I am watching (Saints v Parra) was recorded.  Makes me homesick :(

And also, I got a bit teary last week when Kate had worked out that I had been away from home for 100 days... sad that I have been gone that long, sadder that she was (is) keeping count.  It wont be long now though.

But before Niki and the girls get here, I have had my itinerary confirmed for my trip to of all places Copenhagen this week.  My entire Wednesday is taken up with travelling... I have an 8am flight and I get to Copenhagen 7pm Danish time (which would be about 10pm in the UAE) and then I have my meetings in a place called Golte in northern Copenhagen and then its back to the airport for a 6pm flight out via London to Abu Dhabi.  Like this weekend just finished, I get back at 7am on Friday morning.  In all, a 48hr trip!  No wonder I am tired!!

Gotta go... 2nd half of the game is starting ;-)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Something rotten in the state of Dubai...

Flew back from London over night back to the UAE.  9:30pm flight landing in Abu Dhabi at 7:00am but only 7hrs in duration.

Meal, movie, sleep.... I managed to get a good 3hrs or so I think.

Get home around 8am and go to turn the AC on... its already low 30's and the house is stifling after being without AC for the 6 or so days.  But it didnt work... then I noticed the smell in the kitchen.  The power had been disconnected and all the food in the fridge and the meat in the freezer had been left to spoil.  I had my first bill on the last day before I left for London and said to myself that I would pay it on my return.  Seems however they move very quickly from bill to disconnection in these parts!

Gagging badly, I removed the lamb chops and sausages from the freezer along with curdled milk, bad mayonaise and eggs.  The stench was horrible!

After that, I had to think on how to get the power back on... my mobile and blackberry were both down to single bars on their battery power and I couldnt recharge them.  I looked up the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) and tried to call them.  Then I realised that my mobile was out of credit and so I went to the car to drive to the shops.  No luck however as the car was locked in by the electric garage door and there seemed to be no overide mechanism.  It was a walk to the shops.

The shops aren't that far, about 15mins but the heat was already Australian mid-summer temps.  I get to the shops, buy my Etisalat pre-pay voucher and re-credit the phone... not much battery left though.  I sit in the coffee shop and dialed DEWA.  Yes, I can pay the bill and get connected today but I need my account number.  The account number is on the bill which is in my office and that is 100+kms away in Abu Dhabi and I dont have the car out of the garage.  The lady tells me my account number is the same as the meter number and I have to read that to her.  So I walk back home in the heat.

I find the meter number and call back and the customer service person says yes, my bill was overdue and I owe 1650 Dhs.  I say can I pay over the phone but they dont do that... only in branches (which are closed) or online on the DEWA website.  My modem is off though with no power...

I ring fellow Australian Green Community friends Catherine & Peter who invite me over to use their computer to pay the bill.  I set off on foot and they live on the other side of the shops.  In 20mins I get there and am soaking wet with sweat.  I gladly drink some water and go online.  Turns out I need to register first so I fill out the online form.  The process takes some time but at the last stage fails because it tells me my DEWA account is in my company name and hence need to have a letter from them authorising me to pay online!  A process thats about a week in duration!!

I search their website and see that I can pay at the Emirates Post Office (which is open 7 days) or online via the Emirates Post website.  I opt for the online version and register with them to pay bills.  After successfully doing that I enter my DEWA account number only to be told because its a disconnection and not a regular bill, that I cannot pay via Emirates Post.

I ring the DEWA call centre again.  They tell me to ring 991 which is DEWA Emergency Connections.  I call 991 (expecting the phone to die) and explain to them my predicament.  The guy tells me that I can pay in person on Fridays at their distribution and network yards at a place called Al Satwa.  Al Satwa is about 30kms away and they only accept cash.

So I bid Catherine & Peter goodbye and head for the shops (to withdraw the cash) and to hail a taxi.  Taxi's are plentiful and the trip takes 30mins and costs me 75Dhs.  I find the DEWA complex and it stretches across one city block.  I off course am on the wrong side of the block and have to walk around the block in this industrial area in 45 degree heat to the Customer Service office.

I do that, but its more like a shed than an office and I am in what seems like the staff canteen for the workers were a guy sits by a desk and a phone and I hand over the cash.  He charges me an extra 50 Dhs service charge and says the power will be back on in 1-2 hrs when a man will come out to connect it.

I hail a taxi and go home.  Its about 1:30pm and has been a bit over an hour since I paid... I give them the benefit of the doubt but the house is hot and smelly... I go for a swim, but its uncomfortable outside as well.  Inside I crash on the bed and wake up at 4pm after the jet lag got me.  I am soaking wet with sweat.

No power though and I had turned my phone off to conserve what little power I had left and I make a call to 991.  They had no record of me!!  I tell them I have a farking receipt in my hand and they check and yes I have paid... someone will be by in 1-2 hrs.  I basically sit and sweat and am dozing on the lounge when suddenly the AC bursts into life.  Its 5:30pm now and I look outside and there is an Indian man at the fusebox.  I go outside and he tells me that he has been trying to ring me since 1pm but couldnt get me on my mobile (which I had turned off).  I could have throttled him!!

So that was my day off after my London trip... pretty rotten both in the fridge and out

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

London Calling...

All very busy here, but just a short post as I wait to go to dinner here in London... this is what is hard about these trips as you put in a long day of meetings and presentations and then you have to head out with the same people on the pre-tense of a nice dinner and talk more shop...  last night was an Indian place in the East End (very casual) but tonights a bit more up market.  Tomorrow there will be a lunch and then a dinner again this time with a German company.  Not sure if we'll be going to the local Lowenbrau!

But having said that, I cannot complain as I get to travel a little bit for work and its a nice perk... but over the past 24hrs, I have been slotted in to go to Copenhagen in Denmark for a one off meeting as well.  So I will come back to the UAE and pretty much turn out again soon after.  Very busy, but I have never been to that part of the world so that adds some excitement to it.

But I have my eyes firmly on one thing only though, and thats the 4/5 June when the family - including the dogs! - arrive from Sydney... thats all that matters at the moment! 

Gotta go... sorry for the short and meaningless post!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

London Part II

Am off to London in the morning... I havent packed yet, but a car is picking me up at 10am, so I have time...

I will be off for 4 nights and be back in the UAE on Friday... blog posts will probably be few and far between, but thats the reason!

I am hoping to catch up with my nephew Scotty who has been in the UK for I guess it must be close to a year and we'll have a beer tomorrow night when I land.  But after that, it will be work presentations and dinners for the purpose of corporate schmoozing and is it bad that I am just not that excited to be going to London... is that too snooty or something... "oh London, not again... how very droll!".

It will be different if I ever get to go as a tourist I guess and I think Niki and the girls would like to go there so maybe next time I will be more excited!

On the homefront, I didnt get much done this weekend.  I finished Brooke's bed but am still putting the draws together and would have finished however the drill ran out of battery.  I guess that will wait for when I get back.  I also didnt shop this weekend because I wont be home for nearly a week and the food would just go off.  So the weekend was basically an eat out all weekend deal and I went over to the Dubai Mall this evening.  My goal was to have dinner, buy some new work shoes and I heard that the massive bookstore in there may potentially sell D&D books.  In a nutshell, they did but old out of date editions (3rd edition!) and the shoe stores were all glamour stores like Armani and co and I didnt feel like blowing a gazillion Dirham on a pair of shoes which will kick around in the dust at work.  I would have been better off going to the department store in my local, and a bit down class mall.  Dinner was a buritto... mmm... not good.

Speaking of work, my new promotion means I get involved in other projects and it was announced this week that we are part of a Joint Venture to build the London Array.  Massive 120m diameter wind turbines built in the ocean in what is called the Thames Estuary.  Its very new and there was a big announcement that my company Masdar is going into JV with DONG energy (giggle giggle) and E.ON who are Danish and British respectively.  Basically its going to be the worlds biggest array of wind turbines and will occupy a 225sq kilometre area.  Massive.

So I will try and post from the UK... but if I dont, have a good week :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I am a nerd...

Yes, and damn proud!

This blog post I read today during my lunch break got me thinking and I am a nerd because I blog; am a gamer; love technology; am good at computers; pfaff around with new websites and try all the social networking stuff (Twitter is dead).  I read alot with Sci Fi, Horror and Fantasy fiction topping the list (am currently reading an anthology of the best of the Forgotten Realms short stories) and am an Engineer by degree.

But the funny thing is I know so many people in these areas of my life who lead normal everyday lives and yet have a passion for many of the things on this list.  And not only the people I met through these activities but people I have met in other areas of my life are also "closet" nerds as well.

I am also, by virtue of my lonely state here in the UAE, been to the movies twice on my own and will probably go again this weekend to see the new Star Trek movie.  Which by pretence of the original blog above, makes me King of the Nerds.

Not that there is anything wrong with that... at least I am not playing football and having circle jerk sessions with my team mates!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time has no meaning...

I may have mentioned that I have bought a lounge suite for the family room.  Went to the local version of Harvey Norman style shop - called "Home Centre" and ordered it.  Then, I was told that delivery can only be on Wednesdays and that this Wednesday was the next date.

No problem, however I work in Abu Dhabi and nobody is home... to this the girl serving me informed me that delivery can occur in the evenings, so we agreed it would be after 7pm.

Yesterday, I get a call from the Home Centre to confirm delivery for today.  I said yes, but after 7pm and the man said it was on the paperwork and would be no problem.  All good!

I get in the office this morning and at 9am my mobile rings:  "Good morning Mr Clayton, I am here from Home Centre to deliver your lounge".  The guy showed up at 9am and was amazed that I wanted evening delivery.

We agreed that I would come home early, but it would be around 5pm...

Makes you wonder.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Bed...

And still I am putting together Brooke's bed.  I worked on it last night for about 3hrs and got through alot.  The problem is now I have reached a point where I think I need a second person to hold up the bed frame on the top of the wardrobe / desk so that I can drill in the appropriate screws.  I was playing around at nearly midnight last night getting flustered by it and decided to put it away for the night.  Having said that I think I might have another way of doing this or I can rig up some sort of 6' tall shelf to hold the bed up whilst I drill it in place.  I refuse to be beaten by this thing ;-)

On other news, I have hired my first employee this week when an English guy accepted an offer for one of my roles... in addition, I have two other roles out with recruiting agents and I am interviewing three people tomorrow and the next day for one of them.  Its a double edged sword when you have to hire people to assist you because you need the assistance but it takes so much of your time to do so!  The new guy will start in 2-3 weeks...

Also, we're starting to wrap things up at home and its unfortunate that alot of companies refuse to deal with Niki, my wife of nearly 14yrs, to make changes to, for example, my NRMA membership.  I have to ring up in person apparently!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Getting ready...

Getting ready for alot of things...

Niki and the girls arriving and I am still trying to get stuff set up.  Kate's bed arrived and was promptly installed in less than an hour... I in turn have been labouring away on Brookes bed which is bunk bed, stair case to top bunk, wardrobe, desk and drawers all wrapped into one unit.  It has 70 odd pieces of timber and I think a lazy 300+ screws, bolts and dowels.  At present the stair case and wardrobe are done....

I also bought a lounge suite which arrives on Wednesday, so at least the family will have somewhere to sit.

We also found out today that our furniture will be arriving on 24 June, some 20 days after Niki arrives so we will have to get by without things.  A seemingly small, but big issue is the kids' toys.  With everything packed, the kids have no tangible things to play with and Niki has pulled out my old Lego collection and the girls are dancing around the house using the empty rooms as a concert hall, its still tough.  Lucky though its school time and they're not on holidays.

In addition, I am flying to London on Sunday for a bit less than a week worth of work and things are busy here because of that.  I have also hired today my first staff member so things will start to improve on my stress levels as well!!

Its pretty busy all round!  At least on the weekend I managed to get to the pool for a bit of a swim and I finished reading a Bill Bryson book...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

More Travel...

Amongst the hurly burly of life here, I am off on another business trip to London on Sunday week... it was going to take in Zurich as well, but that has been changed with my Swiss contacts meeting me in London to save the added plane trips.

A week in London will be good as it will take a chunk out of my time here in 'limbo' waiting for Niki and the girls... I am getting to the point now that living alone is becoming tiresome and I want to do something else other than work, cook badly and then sleep.  So the trip is timely in that I can get a bit of a holiday away from it so to speak.

On life outside of work, I am going out to the once a month social club drinks tonight but I wont stay long as I am pretty knackered... and I have made email contact with some D&D players looking for a game... one is an Irishman I think and the other 2 are English.  We're tentatively scheduling a beer and a chat about running a game before the end of the month.  So that sounds promising from a gaming point of view.

On top of that, I am having Kate's bed delivered this weekend and I promised myself I would build Brookes as well (its currently in 70+ pieces plus associated screws, the whole thing scares me!).  I still need to buy a dishwasher and I am being held up with my transfer to my parent company which is stopping me taking out a company loan to buy a family car...

Getting there... slowly!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Going at a hundred miles an hour...

This driving thing in the UAE is now no longer a big deal... left hand drive, left hand lane... I now "cruise" to and from work sitting on 160km/h.  There are some stretches that you have to slow down (radar goes off at 140km/h) and other sections that are loooong and straaaaight that are not radar'd and hence I have looked down to find my little Nissan Tiida doing 180km/h on occaision.  Its hardly noticeable now and when I am sitting on 120km/h in traffic, I feel like getting out and walking.

But despite this, you still see some things on the roads... this morning, I am cruising on the freeway.  Its 4 lanes and I am in the fastest lane on 160.  90% of the time its no bother but every now and then I get a flash of high beam in my rear view as some local is bundling through at a faster speed.  Flashing high beam is not rude or aggressive here, its pretty much the norm and I do it to... when I am on 160 and am catching up to someone doing say 140, then I will give a bit of a flash with enough notice and they pull over.

So anyway, today though was different.  I am cruising at 160 in the left lane (the fast lane) and over my iPod I hear something behind me.  Nothing in the rear view so it must be something in the Hamish & Andy podcast I am listening to.  Then I see something in the corner of my eye and !bam!  Flashing past me in the "slow" lane, 4 lanes away comes a hotted up Mustang and he is flying.  Equate it to you're doing 60km/h and someone passes you at 120.  The speed difference to me was alot and he went past and was followed by a maroon car, equally hotted up.

These two guys proceed to weave in and out of traffic in front of me going incredibly fast.  UAE highways are pretty straight and flat so I get a good view and I swear the two guys nudged each other.  Racing each other, weaving between cars they were swerving all over the place and even drove on the side of the road (the verge?) and one clipped the other one.

They didnt spin out but there was a loud bang and I am now guessing it wasnt the first hit because thats what I heard over the iPod.

But they sped off out of sight doing I would say easily 220km/h.

I take it they were young Emirati guys with too much cash who had just watched the new Fast & Furious movie...

Nutters I thought as I crawled along at a mere 160...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Emotional Day at Home

Well, I have been blogging about me and my life in Dubai, but a big day was had today at home with the furniture removalists coming in and packing up our stuff for shipping.

From my chats to Niki and the girls, its a big day emotionally as it crystallizes the fact that yes, they are moving to Dubai and all their stuff was packed into a truck.  Also, we were struggling to find a home for our pet rabbit Muffy and he was taken fortunately by one of the removalists for his kids.  That's a relief but the girls took it hard that they had to say good bye to their bunny.

So for them, their life will be like mine was but in reverse... they will be living like "campers" in the house waiting for the flights here whereas I started as a camper and have slowly built up some furniture to be barely comfortable.  They will be living out of Woolworths canvas bags and sleeping on the floor for about 4 weeks and that will be really hard.

Its a big thing this relocation business and to make it worse, Niki wont have use of the PC (its now on a ship) and will be "borrowing" peoples broadband when she visits.

So, to Niki and the girls (who can't read this post now), I love you and I am thinking of you and it will all be over soon!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A big weekend...

Well, went to the cricket on Friday and saw Australia win the series against Pakistan with a game in hand.

It was a great day and I watched the game from one of the boxes for 1000Dhs (or "Dizzers" as I have since heard other Aussie expats describe them in traditional Aussie slang).  I got the ticket after an Aussie here in the office sent an email calling for interest because his mate had outlayed 22,000 Dhs for the box and was not looking for a further 21 bodies to fill it.

The promise was alcohol would be available and a meal between innings.

All very weird though when I volunteered, as I didn't know the guy and I wouldn't know anyone else, but I guess thats what meeting people is all about.  It was good though because the 22 people who gathered at the Shangri-La bar before hand didn't know each other and it was basically a few mates of mates who knew someone 2nd hand and found themselves with a ticket.  Amongst the group were 2 Aussie guys from Brisbane who had their dad in town visiting and they brought a mate of theirs as well; an English couple who seemed to know one other guy who were keen on a "good days cricket" and few aussie golfing buddies who had also answered the email from a mate and then there was a South African who was there who brought his Aussie girlfriend.

So, we made our way to the ground, found the nirvana of a muslim country with beer on tap and samosas and sandwiches in the box.  Needless to say we went hard early and after about 30 overs of play, when we asked for more beer it turned out that it was all gone!  With most of the boxes occupied by Aussies, it was easy to see why and the Champagne then spirits came out.

The funny thing though was that we werent allowed to drink on the balcony of the box and it was decided to circumvent this by drinking our illicit beverages using tea cups!  There were many calls for "More Twinings anyone?" and lots of pinkies out...

The meal was a typical Middle Eastern buffet with lots of salad and hommous, meats of all types (except pork of course!) and cooked in a variety of Arabic and Indian styles.  There was a dessert bar as well, but I never made it to that!

The evening innings seemed to go very quick and the chanting was going on back and forth between us in the boxes, the Aussies below us in the concourse and the neighbouring Pakistan fans got really good with even the Pakis giving an "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi" chant.  We sang the National Anthem, Waltzing Matilda and other Aussie songs.

By the end of it, I found myself with 2 guys I had met that day, at midnight in neighbouring Khalifa City ordering a dodgy Spicy Chicken Burger and chips, an Aussie flag around my neck regaling the Indian workers there about how we smashed the Pakis and that India was going down next time we played them...

A good day!!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Summer is a'coming...

Here we have switches on all the walls of the kitchen and bathrooms to turn on the hot water heaters.  So early on here, I was turning them off in the day and turning them on at night to ensure hot water for the shower.  On occaision I would forget and have a cold shower and decided that the damn heaters can be on all the time...

However, I have now found the reason for the heaters....

In summer here, the temps get so hot that the water in the pipes heats up to be warm enough to bathe and shower in.  The cold water tap becomes very warm water.  When this happens, you turn OFF the heaters and the water from the hot water tank, in a shaded part of the house, becomes your cold water.  So in effect, you hot and cold taps reverse!

Guess what happened this morning.... I went to brush my teeth and the water was warm.  Summer is here!