Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cat Update

Weird!  After less than an hour after posting the post below, Charlie the Cat returned!  I took the garbage out and he was sitting by the garage door.  A bit skinny and very hungry, but he is back home with us after 4 or so nights away.  He must have got locked in something and was let out... thats the only explanation we have.

Missing cats and dollars

We're on Eid Holidays at the moment... I am not sure what the second Eid holiday represents (the first was the end of Ramadan) but we're off for a week with a combination of Eid holiday and UAE National Day public holidays.  I am not back at work until Dec 6.

However, we are a bit upset at the moment because Charlie our cat has gone missing.  He's been gone I think 4 nights now... he ran out the door to go to the bathroom on Tuesday night and he never came back.  He has been outside before, he wasnt a completely housebound cat, but he has never done anything like this before.  He was always outside in Australia as well... So at this stage, we cannot help but think the worst.  We have posted flyers at the supermarkets, pet stores and vets and also around the neighbourhood and the area we live in has alot of gardens but is flat and the traffic is minimal and slowed by alot of speed humps.  So I can only think someone has nabbed him.  Its very sad.

Also, there is at the same time alot of press about the government owned Dubai World defaulting on its debt payments and sending the world financial markets into a spin.  Alot of people seem to be thinking that this is a bad thing for us here in Dubai, but its actually a bigger problem in the western world as many of the US and UK banks are geared to the hilt in the property development here.  For me personally, I am employed by the Abu Dhabi government, who's liquidity is not in question, and am probably going to benefit from cheaper rents when my lease is up for renewal in March.  The real issue is that Dubai World owns alot of Australian assets including nearly all of the Australian Ports and there was even talk about the Ports being impacted and that the end result could be industrial action again in the Stevedoring industry (who remembers the Patrick / Chris Corrigan strike issues of a fair few years ago).

But back to Dubai, we're doing OK... its always a worry in the back of the mind, and this article is very applicable to me.  Traffic to work is getting heavy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Expat Survival - Friends Required

When I came over here in February, one thing I was very surprised (and grateful for) was the generosity of new friends who were basically strangers.  New country with archaic ways of getting things done meant that to get simple things sorted (power connected, cars, furniture etc) you had to ask people "How?" and also on many occasions those same people physically helped me out.

Initially my only contact was a fellow Australian family (Catherine & Peter + kids) who I was aware of via Niki because they had lived in our Sydney suburb and our daughters were in the same class... and they helped me out tremendously in those early days from everything to giving me a home cooked meal on occasion through to lending me a drill.

Well, its come complete circle as tonight I am helping out a new expat at work who has been here for a little bit and his family are coming over from the USA next week.  He was telling me how he is struggling to get a bed sorted for his daughter and that he needs to pick it up and put it together... he of course has nothing other than a leased Toyota and some kitchen utensils.

So, I am tonight going with him to pick up the bed from the furniture shop in our 4WD and I am then lending him my drill, alan keys and shifting spanner so that he can put the thing together.  It was only 6 months ago that I had borrowed Peter's drill and tools to do the very same thing.

When you relocate countries, its surprising what small details (like having some basic tools) can bring you unstuck and you have to rely on the kindness of other expats to help you out.  In turn, that results in people being very generous, giving and social.  I am continuously amazed at how we have been able to meet and socialise with people when in Australia, making friends is a much slower process.

It's kinda nice....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Golden Boot!

Well, as posted in my last post, Kate made her debut for her school soccer (or football as they call it here) on the weekend and to my great surprise, Kate's team won the 4 team tournament with 2 wins and a draw, didn't concede a goal and she herself scored 3 out of the 5 goals her team scored and scored the most goals in any of the teams!

We were very surprised but also very happy!

Of course, as a proud dad, I snapped the following pics of her in action:

Warming Up

Throw Ins

Lining up her first goal!

Giving Coach Ben some tips ;-)

Trying to round the Al Raha keeper...

One on One with the Keeper...

Happy with the trophy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back in the UAE

Got back from London after a pretty intense but successful business trip... and its one day back in the office and then its the weekend!

A pretty relaxing weekend on offer with the only commitment being Kate's debut for the school football team.  She has apparently got her way into the side as a deft striker, so I will be very keen to see how she goes this weekend.  Apparently its a bit of a round robin tournament running from 8am to midday.

Otherwise, we're free spirits this weekend... not sure what we'll do but we'll make the most of it I hope.  I am thinking beach...

Then we have a short week next week (4 days) and then its off for the Eid break and then the UAE National Day Holiday.  These things run concurrently and I think I have 10 days off!  So we'll try and do some touristy things as well... things like Ski Dubai and another crack at the sand dune 4WDing.

Also, this morning, saw another truck over turned on the highway... was carrying a shipping container, the truck was upright, its rig on the back was on the side and the container was skewed across the sand, dented but unopened.  Glad that didnt happen to our furniture!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Off to London

In a mere 30mins, I will be whisked away and driven to the airport and am off on a 2 nighter to London.  Etihad airlines really is classy in that its business class travellers get picked up from home and taken to the airport, are then taken by car to their hotel and then back again on the way home.  Its a really great service that I wish Qantas could emulate.

The trip in itself is not terribly exciting... more meetings on the London Array windfarm project.  Its a really exciting project, but this trip in itself is not terribly interesting.

The girls though tonight were very jealous of me going in a plane and even though we're flying to Sydney in 4 weeks, they want to fly to London with me.  Very sweet.

Also, speaking of the girls, Kate & Brooke both made the school girls football (soccer) squad and Kate got picked in the starting XI this weekend in the first game.  So, we're off to see her game representing the mighty Greenfield Community School against some other mob!  Apparently their strip is blue and green vertical stripes... nice!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The weather in Dubai has been improving every week and we're having beautiful weather at the moment.  I went out this morning for a walk before work and the weather was cool without the chill and the early morning sunlight was really nice.  We have massive parkland around our place and I walked along there until I got to the end of my estate and saw for the first time the next stage of the estate development.  Workers were already busy installing palm trees at 6am this morning and its coming along.  The area has really filled up and is very popular.

This weekend is going to be a good one too.  We're off to the mall this evening for a bite to eat and a look around.  Ibn Battutta is our local mall and we'll go for pizza or something... maybe even check out the movies.

Tomorrow, is D&D game day and I will be nerding it up during the day which is always a good bit of fun.  No plans for the evening, but we'll see how it goes.

Saturday will be quiet... I have to go to DEWA (the local water and power company) to sort out some bill issues (I am not getting them) and then we'll relax around the pool.  Have a couple of work colleagues potentially coming over as well (trying to convince them to move to the Green Community) and other than that we're doing nothing but "chillaxing".

So, all is good! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

London Calling... again

Am off to London again next week.  The joint venture project I am involved with over there is getting increasingly busy and it seems to be that I am expected over there every 4 weeks.

But on top of that, we're having the corporate accountants trying to "minimise" costs and I have been asked once again to fly out of Abu Dhabi on the 2am flight, land at 7am London time, work a full day and then come home on the 9pm London flight (1am body clock time) and land at Abu Dhabi at 7am the next day and go straight to the office.  In addition, I live in Dubai and would have to get home from Abu Dhabi and there is no way I want to do that.

I did this once before and I got a cab home at 7am and "worked from home" but was virtually useless the next day and slept for half of it.  There is no way I can be functioning in the office... but that's what is expected... Sit up to 2am for two nights in a row, sleep 4-5 hrs on a plane, manage the time shift, work a full day and come straight to the office from the airport.  All for the sake of saving a hotel cost for 1 night.

I have though managed to argue this and have got my one night, but fly out in the early morning the next day.  Much more manageable and humane.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Crazy Drivers...

Was late home last night once again... my 50min drive turned into 90min as once again, a semi trailer found itself on its side and across the 3 lane road.  This is increasingly being a normal event lately.

It seems to me that the trucks in this country travel incredibly slowly when compared to Sydney as they stick to the slow lane and convoy along at no more than 80km/h and yet they seem to end up on their side more often than not.  Again, a truck turning around a round-a-bout rolled and lost its load last night and I think I have seen approximately 10 vehicles (mostly trucks or vans) on their side since arriving here in February.  I did also see a car on its roof once, but that would have been excessive speed.

I find driving in the UAE a breeze now... people cruise at 140km/h, trucks stay in their slow (right) lanes and everything seems fine, but BANG and suddenly the traffic backs up because something has gone wrong.  I have never seen these incidents live but always seem to end up behind them in the traffic.

I presume that its because trucks are being overloaded, but the one last night was a big truck with a shipping container on its back... really difficult you would think to overload such a defined cargo?

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Wow, surreal experience today...

Went to Festival City today (yet another shopping centre) and whilst we're walking around, this lovely young lady comes up and says "Are you Mr Clayton?".  For a minute, I was thinking "ooh, I dropped my wallet or something" and I said yes.  She then said that she reads my blog all the time and really enjoys it.

I was stunned... and I was really stumped as to what to say to that, and I probably came off a bit rude because I was trying to comprehend how a complete stranger can recognise me in a shopping mall from my blog.

But anyway, we went to lunch and I was still trying to comprehend it all as I was sure the only people who read this are friends and family... but I guess, I must have some regular readers and I am quietly pleased someone recognised me!

So, thanks for the hello Mystery Lady, you made my day.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Its a long way to Dubai...

Well, went to the F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit yesterday.  Niki & I went on Sat night for the Qualifying and then saw the Kings of Leon concert which was excellent!  And yesterday I took my father in law Geoff who is visiting to the race itself.

In the build up to the weekend, the media has been warning everyone to leave themselves plenty of time to get onto the island at Yas Marina as this was the first ever Abu Dhabi F1 GP and in addition everyone I spoke to said it was "going to be hell!".

So, when I was invited to get myself and Geoff onto a privately hired bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi that would take us in and pick us up, I jumped at the chance.  The alternative was to drive myself and then park at a place called Al Shahama about 10kms from the track and then ride the government supplied buses.  With rumours that there wouldnt be enough buses and long queues, I took the private bus option.

Niki and I however took the public park and ride option but in all honesty, it worked extremely well!  Suprisingly, we had very little waiting and were straight in and out.  The bus after the concert was packed, but we waited just 5mins and got on the first bus that came along.

But with the promise that the crowds would be massive on race day, I stuck to the option of the private bus for the Sunday.  With an 80yr old father in law in tow as well, it was the better option for sure...

Well, on Sunday the bus down was fine... no problem, the organisers had two buses in convoy and we trekked down the highway from Dubai to Abu Dhabi's Yas Island which was about 80kms.  We went straight in and the bus parked in the car park close to my grandstand and we were told that the bus would be here at the same spot at 8pm to take us home.  The race was scheduled to finish at 7pm at the latest, so no worries there!

Had a great day... the GP was fanstastic and all was well.

Got back to the car park well before 8pm and no bus... I called the organiser who was in a different grandstand and she said that the bus was running late in traffic and would get there at 9pm.  So we hung around the car park.... and waited and waited.

By 9pm, still no bus and there were now 9 souls looking for a ride home.  The deal was that there would be an 8pm bus for the people heading home and then another bus at 11pm for those who stayed for the Aerosmith concert... Geoff's not a big fan of Aerosmith, so we were keen to head home.

The organiser (Katie) rang the bus company and it was pretty heated.  Aparently the bus now wasnt coming at all and we were stranded... and now looking for a taxi amongst the throngs of people.

We walked out of the car park and asked the parking attendent for the nearest taxi rank.  Fat chance in my mind, but the guy said "15mins walk that way" and pointed down the road... which had no foot path and was choked with traffic.

But then Katie's husband (who was Finnish and had a couple of Finnish friends in our group) had talked the driver of a rickety labourers bus (think a 1970's school bus fitted to carry 60 Indian workers on a construction site) to open his door.  We all piled in and asked if he could drive us to the taxi stand.  This thing was a driving mechanical health hazard and we crawled through the traffic for ages and for at least 4kms (15mins my arse!).  We tried to bribe the driver to get us to Dubai and after 600Dhs we gave up... and then the Finns started singing and the driver turned up the Sitar music to 11 to drown them out...

Soon enough we reached a massive on grade carpark chock full of taxis.  Waving 100Dhs notes in her hand, Katie started calling for someone to take us to Dubai but all the drivers kept pointing us away to the far side of the carpark... here, there were taxis on the driveway out of the carpark with their engines going waiting for passengers.  Given that they were 4kms away from the circuit, not sure how much passing traffic we got, but we piled in to taxis and Katie handed out the 100Dhs notes to cover costs.  I can only assume this was the money for the bus driver, but he was long forgotten.

And then we were away with a happy Pakistani cabbie and we were home... we walked in at 10:30pm... some 4hrs after the end of the race!