Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekend. Or "Geez I'm tired, lets go back to work for a rest!"

Very busy weekend was just had!  So busy, we let the girls chuck a sickie and I really thought about it too!

Firstly, after a very hectic work day on Thursday, Niki and I went to the Australian Business Council Dubai's "Australia Day Ball".  We had a great night and we danced to all the old 80's and 90's Aussie music... INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, ACDC... you get the picture.

Add in alot of beer and wine and we were "very tired" when we left the Grand Hyatt Ballroom some time after 1am.  The theme was a bit of a fizzer - "Underbelly" - but it was a great night.  Even got to belt out the National Anthem!

Friday was a "ginger" day in which I spent most of it camped on the lounge playing the PlayStation but it served its purpose as we had a birthday party to attend.  Our neighbour Deborah was turning 20+21 and was throwing a bit of a bash.  It was excellently catered with a full Indian buffet complete with waiter and we sat around the tables outside drinking more beer and wine and eating way too much Chicken Tikka and roti bread.  The surprising thing was, it was actually very cold weather wise and whilst I braved it in a cotton shirt and shorts, many people were rugging up against what seemed to be an actual winters evening!  Again, we went home "tired" but it wasnt too late...

Another ginger morning on Saturday in which I got up very early but went back to bed around 10ish but we had to set out for our first Dubai wedding.  Friends JR and Abby were tying the not at the St Mary's Catholic Church in Bur Dubai and we managed to find it easily enough.  The wedding was at 3pm, the reception was scheduled to start at 6pm but didnt due to DJ-Not-Arriving issues until 8pm and with some very tired kids in tow we left around 10:30 - 11:00pm.  I was driving but Niki didnt drink anyway but I think we had had enough anyway ;-).

The wedding was a Philippino affair with lots of colour and it was great to be invited... the reception was a typical Dubai Hotel style buffet affair with plenty of good food.

So, come this morning, the kids were still zonked and I went to work but it will be early to bed tonight!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



No, its not the Visitors of South Park fame, but we're very excited that we'll be having some visitors from home come to see us in April / May this year. Firstly, Niki's longest friend Julie is coming with her daughter Hannah for a 10 day visit over the Easter period and that will be good for both Niki and the girls.

Then we also found out yesterday that my Mum & Dad have booked themselves a flight in late April and will come to stay with us for three weeks through to mid-May.

Having moved here nearly a year ago (my first anniversary is only a week or two away) we have really enjoyed the lifestyle and have been very happy with the UAE and what it has to offer. But the problem is that it is very hard to translate that into words and convey that to our friends and family back home.

We had Niki's parents come and stay with us last October and since then it has been alot easier on us and them. They have been able to understand and see for their own eyes what life in the UAE is like and why we like it. They understand that we're safe and that the girls have a great school and lifestyle and in addition have an appreciation of what our house is like and what the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are like. It has made the conversations on Skype alot easier and there is a greater sense of comfort.

But for everyone else, and for our trip back to Australia last Xmas, it is hard to "explain" and we also have had to deal with the various stereotypes of what the Middle East is like.

So now we have two more sets of visitors to host and we're excited to have Julie & Hannah and my Mum & Dad. Yes, we'll do the "touristy" things but in addition, it's more about seeing how we live, the circle of friends we have here and the lifestyle that we enjoy.

So to all our other relatives and friends - get yourselves booked! We'd love to have you over too!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lets Go Shopping

We have a big weekend next weekend.  We have the Australia Day Ball on Thursday night, which is an annual event hosted by the Australian Business Council of Dubai.  The theme however is "Underbelly"... I am not sure why we need to sully the national day with a reference to drug lords and prostitutes, but there you go.

But nevertheless, we are going but one issue was that I dont actually own a "dinner suit" or a "black tie".  Never have and thought it was useless to buy a whole ensemble for one night and in Sydney I would rent one given I would only go to a Black Tie function once every 2 years or more.  But they don't have "formal hire" places in Dubai and it is de rigeur that one should own such a suit here.  So we went shopping...

Was recommended the Pierre Cardin store here in Dubai and we went in.  I was expecting big dollars (or dirhams) to buy this thing and I hate shopping at the best of times so I was not in a good mood to start with.  But my mood turned alot better when once again I was in a specialty store with a 75% off (second time in a fortnight) and with alot of trying on and and trips in and out of the change room I ended up picking up a Pierre Cardin dinner suit for the princely sum of 550Dhs.  Thats about A$180!  That included the tailoring.

For another 300Dhs I also picked up a shirt and bow tie and a black regular shirt and a black regular tie (we may do the Underbelly thing) on top.  A$325 for a suit, two shirts and two ties!  Bargain.

Niki then went to the local department store and was able to find a nice flowy cocktail dress for just 220Dhs and we were set!

We also have a birthday party on the Friday and a wedding on the Saturday so we went shopping for a Barbie Doll for the former.  Whilst we found that clothes are cheap, a basic Barbie Doll in the toy store was 150Dhs.  I am not sure why toys here seem so much more expensive and yet clothes are dirt cheap... I guess its an import / branding thing with Mattel I guess...

Still, we can't complain, we've both got new gear for the Ball. Now I just need a pumpkin and some mice!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brunch This Weekend

We're off tomorrow for a big brunch with our friends at the Jebel Ali Hotel & Spa to celebrate the weekend.  After a very busy week and a short and jet lagged weekend last weekend, I am very much looking forward to it.  For 300Dhs for adults and 150Dhs for kids, you can eat and drink as much as you want but in addition we get to make use of the hotel facilities (read pools and spas) all day.  Bargain!

And better still, its just 15mins from our house!

Speaking of our house, I should point out that Google Earth have refreshed their maps of Dubai and the UAE and our housing estate now magically appears!  Previous maps had the area half constructed and under the shadow of clouds and hence you couldnt see anything.  Now however the maps are clear, our estate is in full view and even my white Toyota is in the driveway!  In addition, Dubai shows the second palm island - Palm Jebel Ali - which is bigger than the original Palm Jumeriah but has zero building on it.  You can also see a good shot of the Burj Khalifa and you can get a good perspective as its shadow is significantly larger than any other building.

Also got an odd taste of homesickness this morning when I arrived at work and found that overnight that they had laid wood chips all over the garden beds.  There was a real strong smell of wood chips and I instantly thought of Australia... exact same smell.  I presume they're not Eucalyptus wood chips, but still...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Missed My Weekend

Well, I went to London for business on Thursday night for a Friday meeting. Friday of course being our weekend, but when dealing with a UK project on occasion I guess I have to work "western hours". It meant however I spent Thursday night and then Friday night coming back on a plane and as such probably only had 6hrs sleep all told.

I just cannot sleep well on planes... I doze I guess, but I just feel like crap when I land and as a consequence my Saturday morning was spent sleeping and then in the afternoon I was yawning whilst vegging out on the lounge playing PlayStation (Dragon Age for those who care) and then we went for an early (5pm) dinner with neighbours. In addition, Kate had spent the weekend at a friends place and by the time I drove out and collected her at 8:30pm, I was absolutely exhausted.

This morning, I woke up early and had to get ready for work... and I feel like I just left the office.

This week though wont be a normal week as the World Future Energy Summit is on and I will be attending that both as an interested spectator but also for work. I will be manning our company's stand and greeting people from all around the world. Whilst I work in the "renewable energy business" it is actually a product that I feel enthused about as it a new frontier and also trying to do a good thing for the world in general... much more so than any other company I have worked for.

I also have to still go to get that Police Report (see last weeks post) and also, my leased car needs changing over because the registration is expiring and also starting to contact my landlord as would you believe the 12mths lease expires in about 6 weeks and I need to renegotiate for another year. We're very happy with our place so, we're very keen to stay on!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dubai Hospitals - Thumbs Up

Yesterday, Niki slipped on the staircase and hurt her ankle / foot.  She was in quite a bit of pain and by the time I got home from work she was basically stuck on the lounge with her foot strapped and up on pillows.

Whilst we thought it may be broken and we should get an X-ray, we left it until today after the kids went to school.

But we had never been to a hospital here before and were a bit unsure of which one to go to.  The closest one has had a number of poor reviews from people around here and is known more as a "labour camp hospital" and is a bit run down.  Instead we opted to go up the road further to the "MedCare Hospital" which had a good reputation as being clean and efficient.

And it certainly was.  We turned up at the Emergency at 9am, we filled out the "first timers" forms and soon enough Niki was seen to by a triage nurse, and then straight away an orderly came out with a wheel chair, took her to x-ray, then took her to the doctor (who cleared her of a break, just a bad sprain and gave her a prescription for pain relief).  The orderly then took us to the "cashier" and I was happy to say that the x-ray was free under my insurance and then to the pharmacy.  He then wheeled Niki out to the carpark, stood with her whilst I got the car and then helped her from the chair into the car.

All up, we were there for less than 2hrs and home by 11am.

Great service and far better than a Sydney Hospital... we are now a bit more relaxed about where the hospital is and the quality of care.  It was "fortunate" to be able to go to the hospital for a "check up" via x-ray rather than for any serious emergency, gives us a great piece of mind.

Monday, January 11, 2010

You just have to laugh...

For those of you who I saw in Australia, you may be aware that I lost both my work Blackberry and my personal mobile phone.  Lost it, last seen on Xmas Day at my sister in laws, never seen from again despite extensive searches by all the family.  To me, it was annoying and at the time very frustrating, but to be honest life without the CrackBerry has been fine.

But, work expects me to be available on email virtually 24x7 so I made arrangements here at work to get a new Blackberry.  Spoke to my boss about it whilst in Australia and upon my return got his and my bosses boss to signoff on me getting a new one.  They had no issue at all.

Then the secretary pulls me aside yesterday and says that for the IT department to give me a new Blackberry, they need a "Police Report".


I said, I lost it in Australia and in Australia, we don't report missing phones to the police when we misplace them.  We probably wouldnt even bother if it was stolen, let alone simply "lost".

So she went back to tell the IT department that...

Today however, I have been told that it is "impossible" to proceed with the issuance of a new BlackBerry without said report and that I need to go to Abu Dhabi Police to get the report.

So to summarise, I "misplaced and lost" my BlackBerry in Australia but I have to report it missing to police in Abu Dhabi to authorise my company, a company with turnover measured in billions of US$, to spend approx A$1000 on a new BlackBerry device.

Apparently yes, that's exactly the case.

Upon investigation and asking around, I cannot go to any police station, I have to go to the General Headquarters in downtown Abu Dhabi in which I have to take a number and wait to explain my situation to a government employee (who will in all cases will not be an actual police officer) and have that person issue the report.  I have also been told on the quiet that I shouldnt say it was lost but rather stolen as they will tell me that if its lost, then they cannot actually verify that I didnt simply sell the said BlackBerry for cash and am now making it all up.

So, I have been told that I should report the BlackBerry "stolen" as that is more believable...

I am tempted not to bother and to continue living a "BlackBerry Free" life...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Well, we made it!

We're back home in Dubai after a great three weeks in Sydney.  The trip back was exhausting and some 36hrs later I am still feeling jet lagged, but it was great to see all of our families and friends.

It was difficult too though with so many appointments and we had to keep to a pretty tight schedule which was also very demanding.  The other difficulty too was each time we saw someone for the first time, we had to relay the standard answers to the questions that everybody asks... over the 3 weeks, I am sure I lost count and probably bored someone silly by repeating myself.

Adding to this was the business of Christmas and we had to fit in our shopping as well but on reflection, I am glad we arrived a good 2 weeks before Xmas day.

So overall, a great trip!  We have also taken a large number of photos, many of which will eventually make their way onto Facebook and the best ones I will post up on here soon.

The other thing that was interesting was how we felt about Sydney.  Whilst I missed everyone greatly whilst away, it was really fantastic that I was able to pick up with everyone pretty much where we left off and it felt like I was away for a weekend and not 10 months.  I put this down to the power of the internet, skype and facebook which help tremendously in keeping in contact with people.

Outside of the people however, I must say that Sydney as a whole has lost some shine in my mind as I really struggled with the traffic, the costs (conceptually, not monetarily) and how much more intense a lifestyle it is to live in Sydney.  Everyone is busy, everything is rushed and I really missed the relaxed lifestyle we lead here in Dubai.  I know that it was Christmas etc, but really Sydney is alot more "intense" and I have fallen out of step with that.

For me as well, I felt like I was visiting on holiday and not "home" and it crystallised how I now consider Dubai to be home.  For the girls, I asked them both when we touched down in Abu Dhabi yesterday as to whether they felt that they had come home or not.  Brooke agreed that the UAE was now home and Kate was a bit 50-50 so that was interesting.

Now, looking ahead, its 2010 and we will be getting some visitors in the coming year.  Niki's girlfriend Julie will be visiting in April with her daughter Hannah and also my parents will make the trek as well.  We were also happy to hear other people indicate that they're thinking of coming over and I hope thats the case.  We're experiencing a very different but enjoyable life here in the UAE and I want as many people to come over and experience it as well :-)

On top of that, we're looking to plan our next holiday to Europe... I am thinking Paris / Rome and perhaps driving between the two but whatever we do, we're looking forward to doing some more world exploring this year.  Some quick breaks around the Middle East too would be nice.

Its going to be an exciting year!