Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Inaugural Australian Ball

A group called Aussies Abroad recently organised the Inaugural Australian Ball at the Hilton Hotel on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. We were very lucky to get tickets as there was a waiting list to buy them and we just happened to know someone who knew someone and ......... well we ended up at table 17.

It was a real celebration of Aussie culture with clips from Sam Peckovitch (hope that's how you spell it) and Bob Brown in person to sing "Home among the gum trees". The only thing that didn't occur was a chook raffle - however there was a raffle and we didn't win any prizes but had a good night all in all. The Australian Ambassador made a very entertaining speech and we danced to Aussie bands which had been jazzed up to be a bit hip hop. (Don't know why they did that - the originals were much better). Only one complaint and that was that the music was too loud to allow anyone to talk!

In true Aussie style the crowd rocked on till the wee hours of the morning. We bailed out about 1 am and went for a coffee. Our plans were to visit the Picasso exhibition at the Emirates Palace the next day. And that was just great too! Another good weekend in Abu Dhabi. All is well with us and we continue to have a ball...........sorry that's an awful pun!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Princess makes the news!

Well it was really just a matter of time till the Princess made it to the pages of the Arabic newspapers! This is the front page of the Lifestyle section of the local paper.

Rough translation of the headline: My Health First, 3,000 staff at the United Arab Emirates University attend health promotion event.

And, yes, that is me cutting the ribbon to open the event. The Secretary General wasn't available so I was asked to do it!

Yes Mum I have kept a copy and will bring it home for you to see.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Arabian Fairytale Part Seven: The Central Souq in Sharjah

Holidays in Australia are coming up in just a few weeks so the Princess and the Sheikh decided to visit the northern Emirate of Sharjah where the Princess had heard of an amazing souq where souvenirs of the UAE could be purchased.

Some women of the Al Andalus camp were meeting to travel to the souq so the Princess and the Sheikh joined to follow them through the wilderness of the north western desert – another strange and unfamiliar place.

Once again the MFCs were of the 4WD variety and after a few minutes loading up we were flying off into the desert. The Sheikh had a big night drinking red wine so the Princess was behind the wheel. Now a CRV MFC just doesn’t have the grunt of a Land Cruiser so when the Princess looked down to the speedo and found she was travelling at 150 km/hr she almost fainted. She has never driven an MFC at this speed before and was having trouble keeping apace with the leaders who weaved their way in and out of the traffic. This picture is of the blue souk against the modern buildings of Sharjah

There were 7 women of Al Andalus and their MFCs were on a course to the souq. Nothing was going to get between them and their hours of prowling the souqs for bargains; not the slow moving traffic, not the roadwork, not the trucks and definitely not the desert wind which was blowing fiercely! The Princess put her foot firmly to the floor and powered the MFC forward. At 150 klicks fear set in and she backed off a bit. The leaders slowed for her to catch up and maintained a more sedate 140 klm/hour for the rest of the trip………PHEW! We must have that speed alarm on the MFC attended to – off with it’s head!

Arriving at the souq the Sheikh and the Princess knew they would not be able to keep pace with the shopping of the Al Andalus women! Women on a mission they were! So we parted company and browsed the souq at leisure. There were jewellery, gold and electronic souqs, carpet and cloth souqs, readymade clothing and shoes souqs – all filled to the rafters and everyone claiming to be the cheapest and most authentic! There were trinkets and souvenirs and all the stalls were attended by men of the sub-continent – Indians, Pakistanis and such – the cream of the sales genies of the East. Of course the Sheikh is a great bargainer, trained in the souqs of Bali, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, so he set to work on getting the right price for everything from pashminas to carpets, bedspeads and carved boxes. The Sheikh gains a huge sense of satisfaction knowing he has made a good purchase at a great price. He feels he has achieved his best today and is satisfied with his purchases for the desert camp and the family at home.

Having travelled so far the Princess and the Sheikh decided it would be good to cruise the city and see what was on offer. Of all the cities in the UAE the Princess says Sharjah is the nicest so far. The city feels like a city on the sea. There are inlets and islands and plenty of water. The main dock is on the Corniche and so it is a busy port city with trading vessels lining the quays and lots of activity on the water. A jet ski park reminds the Princess of the Gold Coast in far off Australia!

After a leisurely look at the city the Princess and the Sheikh head back towards the desert camp. Another adventure in the Arabian Fairytale!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

A day in the life

So it’s probably time I wrote something again - after all the entries Cheryl has done!

What to write about?

Aaahhh. The first summer’s day in Al Ain.

So I get up as usual at 6. Sun is well and truly up and outside the A/C of the bedroom it feels like about 30deg. I do the S,S,S thing and make that all important first cup of tea and breakfast. By this time Cheryl is up and checking the email and SMH for the daily news from Oz. This morning, there’s nothing to report. Finish breakfast (our usual fruit & cereal – gotta watch those carbs!) and get dressed (yes, until now it’s been nickers only – why bother to dress when it’s so warm). Some polite chit-chat so I can’t be accused of ignoring her and it’s on with the shoes and tie (gotta keep up the professional appearance – my boss says so). A bit more chit-chat and out the door, into the stairwell and down the stairs.

I grasp the door handle to go outside. My it IS warm! As I open the door, a wave of 35degree heat washes over me. Remember – this is 7 o’clock in the morning. “Ahhh what another lovely sunny day in paradise” my soul mumbles as I fold myself into my blue indulgence (the Merc Sports).

As I cruise slowly down our side street I can see the workmen at the construction site nearby already hard at work. They look like they’ve been at work for hours – and probably have. They will carry on through the heat until about 5pm. It’s only a 5 minute drive to work at this time of day, but during that drive the usual things happen. 4 wheel drives (BIG ONES) drift across lane markings almost into my front bumper, a water truck turns right – and across my path - from the left lane, at least 2 taxis stop on roundabouts to pick up fares and despite my speed of 80+kph, I’m overtaken by almost everyone else on the road! Just a normal drive really, and so I arrive at work just after 7 and stop in the car park for a minute or two to let the heart rate slow. I’m first one there as usual, but others in my team are not far behind. We settle in for the day’s work.

Last week was full on into exams mode. All students sat an externally set exam in almost all subjects. The teachers at the school mark the papers and the marking system is so refined that almost every exam is marked the afternoon that students complete it. Another team of teachers then does the checking and data entry into the ministry system. This is the first day after exams have been completed and marked so things are a little laid back. Staff arrive between 7:30 and 8.

I’m busy refining a presentation for tomorrow until 9 and then I go down for my meeting with the principal. He is gradually awakening to my way of organising the school planning thing and we have a lengthy discussion about finance committees, program groups, and such. Back in the staffroom I put the finishing touches to my presentation and then do some planning of my own on selecting the people for the finance committee and managers for the program groups. Democracy’s great when you can rig the results – just ask George (dubbleyaa)!

At 10:00, the English staff drop in and invite us for breakfast. Much as I try and dissuade them (today and most days) that I’ve already eaten breakfast, I must still go and have at least something small. It’s local fare: fried kibbeh in tomato and chilli sauce. “Did you make this yourself Shukri?” I ask. “Yes.” he says. “No he didn’t.” comes a quick retort from his mate Adnan, “It was his wife!” Nevertheless, it’s quite delicious and with a side dish of tabouleh that is also fresh and delightful – but my waistline is increasing ever so steadily.

Michael and I then have a deep discussion about the final PD session of the term (3 weeks away – but preparation starts now). The morning wears on. Discussions here and there about planning, committee managers, exam results, setting up a promotion-retention review committee before results go in to the Zone, the list goes on. Before I know it it’s 1 o’clock and Mohammed Waheeb reminds us all that he has prepared lunch for us all - all that’s left that is. At least his wife prepared it – and he brought it along! Another splendid fare is set. This one has plates of prawns, layers of lamb, (Aussie lamb of course), biryani by the bucket, salads and assorted accompaniments. All eaten Arab style of course, with the right hand, straight off the platter with your mates next to you taking from the same platters. (You get used to it ) Again, we have little choice but to join them. The food is too good to pass, but mindful of the onset of the last remaining belt settings, I minimise my input!

I must go see Etisalat to settle accounts for phone and internet, so I clamber into the blue roadster. The dash temperature reads 52.5deg. The shade screen is so hot it burns my fingers as I fold it away. The steering wheel is too hot to hold for more than a few seconds. Blast on the AC. Wait a few minutes so I can hold the wheel and then I’m off. When I arrive at Etisalat, the thermometer is reading 47deg. Yes folks, summer’s here in the gulf! Thank goodness we only have another 4 weeks of these temps to endure before the respite of our trip back home (to 10deg no doubt!). An hour at Etisalat and it’s time to get home into the AC. – Can’t even get out for a swim yet - too damm hot. Funny thing is though that we rarely get sunburnt. – more ozone up there and certainly more dust!