Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Addition to the Hampton Family!

So, we finally got the cat for the kid! The main reason I moved to this apartment rather than on Reem Island, is because we could have pets here. So after much delay, we finally manged to get a little kitty! Well, she's not a kitten but still, we love her already!

First we went to Cloud 9 out in Khalifa City A. If anyone had told me how far that place was I never would have went there, jeez! But I was not enamored of any of the cats there. Finally, last weekend we went to the Falcon Hospital. Which is really huge and we definitely have to go back for the tour! They had cats and dogs, and while I said we were getting a cat, the right little puppy could have made me change my mind.  And although all the puppies were so adorable and I really wanted to take home almost all of them, they were too big! I am not a fan of picking up poop or walking big dogs so they were all out. Although several families adopted dogs that day so I was happy.

But we went into the cattery 2 (a word I have never heard before even though I've spoken English my entire life!), and we found her! Our beautiful calico baby!

She is so soft and was so sweet! It took us awhile to name her, because I wanted an Arabic name and the kid wanted to name her Darby after some cartoon! But we have finally settled on a name! 

Meet Heliwa, which means sweet in Arabic.

Ciao for now!

Taste of Abu Dhabi!

So, Taste of Abu Dhabi came to, well, Abu Dhabi! Its a food festival with cooking classws and lots of food! Now, I am from San Francisco, and one thing we San Franciscans love is food and food events! SF Jazz Festival, Fillmore St. Jazz Festival, SF Crab Bake, Mission St. Festival, SF Street Food Festival, Garlic Festival, EatDrink SF.... whew, to name a few!

Thousands of people at the SF Street Food Festival

And we have a mean food truck scene! Curry up now, Bacon Bacon, Hapa Ramen, Peruchi. And that's just off the top of my head!

Usually has a line around the block! Best green curry on the street!

Suffice it to say, I am quite familiar with the foodie scene! So, what can I say about "Taste of Abu Dhabi". Hmmm, not so impressed. It was at Yas Island Du arena, but it was pretty small.  About 20 or so vendors, not much space. Some of the resturants there were, Turquoiz, Villa Toscana, Blue Grill, Ushna, Sho Cho and Caramel. And not many people there either. The food was great though!

This place gave me the best apple pie ever! So yum!

 I went back twice for butter chicken and samosa.

I wish I had taken this cooking class with Food Network chef Jenny Morris. They were having a blast! Dancing while cooking! 

I met another food network chef! I vaguely recognized him (Jonathan, I think? ) so thought I'd get a picture!  

The kid in a race car! It was really deep inside there. I can see how 6 foot tall guys can fit!

All in all it was a lot of fun and some great food!

Ciao for now!

Emirati Wedding!

So, I was so excited to be invited to my first Emirati wedding! The vice principal at my school son married the niece of one of the other teachers. They invited all the staff to the festivities at the Fairmont in Abu Dhabi! The Fairmont is awesomeness in and of itself, but add to that a wedding, yay!

I was a bit bummed because they took our mobiles, so no pictures! But we took pictures before and after.

My coworkers and I dressed for the wedding and posing pretty in the Fairmont foyer.

I was so shocked and amazed at seeing all of the teachers out of their abaya's and shayla's! I didn't even recognize half of them when we walked up! And our vice principal! OMG! She looked amazing! And a million years younger!

All the malls have store after store of floor length fancy dresses and lingerie shops. Now I know who is buying all those items!  Picture people in the dresses below and you have the idea.


The room was beautifully decorated! A different center piece on every table, beautiful huge bouquets of flowers every where. There was a run way down the middle of the room. A DJ was behind a curtain playing loud, loud music. There were more staff then I have ever seen at an event in my life! 

The ladies were dancing on the runway and there was a camera that relayed the image to huge tv screens placed around the room so we could get close up looks of everything. 

The food was plentiful and delicious! So many items I can't even name them all if I did know the names in the first place. I was trying not to fill up on hors d'oeuvre but they just kept coming and coming! Finally the main courses started.... some kind of marinated chicken, bbq chicken, rice and chicken, fish smothered in some kind of sauce.  A ton of fruit and chocolates!! I didn't stop eating the whole night!    

Finally, the bride made her entrance! Her dress literally must have weighed at least 50 lbs! And she must have been told how to walk cus she took such tiny mincing steps it took almost 10 minutes and 2 songs for her to make it onto the stage. And the wedding planner or someone was walking with her constantly adjusting her dress.  That would have driven me nuts! Having someone flitting around my feet the whole time adjusting my dress! But she looked truly beautiful.

All in all it was a night not to forget!

The beautiful chandeliers in the foyer of the Fairmont Hotel.

 On the walls of the hotel they display art from local artists I think.
The incredible view from the hotel lobby!

The beautiful lobby!

This was in the middle of the lobby for some reason. All made of wood!

Ciao for now!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Blues

Today was just a day of a bunch of little frustrations that snowballed into one big frustration headache!

I should be sleeping in a hotel room in Sri  Lanka right now but, sadly, I am in my own bed. Passport problems, sigh.

I've been trying to get the kids passport renewed for about 3 weeks now. We have been to the US embassy 4 times, have never made it inside! Until today! The rigmarole required to get into that place is ridiculous!  We finally get in, they accept our paperwork, they accept our money, they don't accept the passport picture! Since tomorrow is a holiday, the lady behind the counter said, come back Thursday with a new picture. As I still have some small slim hope of taking a trip over winter break, which can't happen without the passport, and the first guy told us the process takes 3 weeks, I'm a little bit frustrated with the prospect of having to return on Thursday. I express this concern politely to the lady behind the bullet proof glass window, and she finally looks up at me and realizes I am human and says, if you can make it back by 3pm I'll take it. Now, once we were inside the embassy, getting to the office we needed, still took about 15 minutes to make it past all the security. I look at my watch, 2:10. Can we find a taxi, make it to the photo place, take the passport  picture, get it printed , find another taxi, get back to the embassy, go thru security, in 40 minutes?  Hmmmm.

Despite my formidable doubts. . . We made it! With 3 minutes to spare! Whoo -hooo.

One piece of the frustration headache complete!

Next I wanted to go pick up some things for the kitty! Lulu's didn't have as wide a variety of cat paraphernalia as I would have hoped. I had read a blog post about various places in Abu Dhabi that sell such things. So with a much lighter heart than I arrived at the embassy with, we head out on our next adventure.

I decide to go to the American Vet Hospital, its an American type of day I guess! We get into yet another taxi. He knows sort of the general area we are headed but not exactly where we are going. When we get closer to the place, I call the hospital and he talks to the woman for directions. 

He says yea yea and gives me the phone. I distinctly heard the lady say 9th street. Where does the taxi take us? 19th street. But I see a sign up on the building that says American in big bold blue letters with some smaller letters underneath. He says is this it? I say I think so. Instead of pulling up right in front of the building , he pulls down a  side street to let us out. He is so full of himself to, cus he says, I know where to go! The lady say 9th street but I know this is it. A small word of advice for y'all out there: never get out of the taxi until you are positive you are at the right location!! 

After 25 minutes and paying 30 dirham, we walk around to the front of the building and; those small letters underneath the big bold blue American word say "medical and dental clinic"! Sigh. 

We get the woman on the phone again, she says oh no! And tries to explain where to go. We're closer than 10 blocks, but still not there. I type the address into my handy dandy Google maps and realize its only about 10 minutes away so we start walking. Stupid arrows, with stupid " head west" headings, and stupid ladies voice saying " go straight then turn left. Then turn right"! Yes! We got lost! We stand at a random street corner for about 10 minutes hoping to flag down another taxi. We finally stand in the middle of the street and flag down another taxi, who, surprise, also has no idea where the vet hospital is! We call the clinic again, this is like the 5th time we've talked to the lady at the desk  by now, and she's fast becoming an old friend! She tells us to make a u turn and it's some where on our right. Since we are in the land of no right turns and I'm extremely feed up with taxis right now, we pay the guy the 4 dirham, yes I gave him 5 for his troubles, and hop out.

After a 3 minute walk, we made it! 

The lady behind the desk looked at us and said, oh so happy to see you!  For real. So we buy a bunch of fairly heavy cat treats and leave the vets. We walk to the corner and then I see this...

Which turns out to be the exact same place where we stood for 10 minutes looking unsuccessfully for a taxi!! I kid you not! We were in front of the dang clinic the whole time! Sigh.

The back of the clinic where we were standing for 10 minutes awaiting a taxi to take us to this clinic!

At least we have a happy kitty!

For our next stop, cus, yes, we're on such a roll why stop there?! We try to find yet another taxi to go to the book store and by the kids books for her classes at the Sorbonne.  We call the taxi, sorry no taxis are available right now, please try again later. We stand on the corner for 15 more minutes. 

Finally, taxi. We get in and ask if he knows where this place is. He looks at me, and in incredibly broken English says, Ms. I'm new . Ummm, is it Monday or something ? Of course we don't get out of the taxi since it took a year and a day to find it. So he drives us to the general area. We try to get the store on  the phone but they're not answering . In the directions the kid got from her teacher,  it says across the street from this restaurant.  I call the restaurant for directions. They talk to the guy and ask a bunch of, do you know where such and such is questions, to which his answer is, no Ms. Finally the lady says, do you know where All Prints is, which is the place we are trying to go to! 

The lady on the phone gets frustrated and hands the phone off to a coworker. Then the taxi starts talking about, near the Corniche , which is about as far from us as the moon right now, and I can no longer take it and say, let us out. The taxi was 6.75 dirham and usually, I give the guys a couple dirham tip, like I'd normally give this guy a 10 and say keep it. But I am so po'd today I hold my hand out for ALL of my change. He looks at me with a baffled expression and says, Ms? And I say, give me ALL of my change! Poor guy. It sucks to be a new taxi driver in a new city!

We walk and make it to a major street and once again use our handy dandy Google maps, in walking mode this time, to try to find the place. The kid takes the lead and we go around a few buildings and finally, ta-da! There's the book store! Whew! Which only has 1 of the 4 books she needs for class! Ah well.

We stand outside awaiting another taxi for about 15 more minutes  (our lucky number today!) And finally get a taxi. I ask the guy if he knows where our building is and, surprise , he does!  I rest my head back and finally breathe a sigh of relief!

Ciao for now!

UAE Flag Day

So, November 3, marks the day Sheikh Khalifa became UAE President and the Flag Day initiative was started on that date. This day is celebrated as Flag day because of that. There are UAE flags everywhere . And I guess celebrations as well, although I don't know of any! But at my school today, we celebrated with an assembly and lots and lots of chocolate!!

Whenever the students bring sweets around, they also bring this dark jelly like goo for us to eat too. I think it's some kind of date mash or something . Anyway, it's really sweet and the texture is an aquired taste I guess. But this time when they brought it to us, one of my students said, Ms. you are to eat that with coffee. You put some in your mouth, take a sip of coffee, swish it around and swallow . Ahhh, I've been eating it the wrong way! So I tried it with coffee and the tastes really blend together well! I was surprised it actually tasted good! But I still can't get over the texture! 

The girls also gave us lots of UAE paraphernalia like buttons and, of course, flags.

The girls raising the UAE flag

A bulletin board in our school

Ciao for now!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Meet Ups!!

So, there are these groups on social media called "meet ups" and I have joined a bunch here in Abu Dhabi . AD adventures, AD scuba, escape AD, explore UAE; to name a few .  I haven't done anything with any of these groups yet, I'm just a lurker. But finally I decided to get out there and do something! So yesterday I went to lunch with a group called pocket friendly lunches. The group administrator finds cheap eats all around Abu Dhabi and sets up dates for us to go. Yesterday was Indian and it was awesome.  About 7 of us were there including me and the kid. It was a small restaurant next to Madinat Zayed mall. My taxi driver knew exactly where it was so that's a good sign!
One of the guys who came to lunch was Ahmed.  . .
Here's Ahmed!
And he mentioned that he was going to a Halloween camping party in the desert after he left lunch. I was so excited! I saw this meet up in one of the groups I "lurk" in, So I said to him, I saw that! And he said oh really, in which group? I said I don't know. And he said, would you like to come? And, me being me, I thought about it for about 10 seconds and then said, what would I need to bring?! He said yourself! Maybe something to eat. I thought about it for another half second and then said, YES! Ahmed was so kind. After a great lunch, he took me and the kid home where we grabbed some clothes and mobile chargers (cus who could be without their mobile in the middle of the desert?!), and then we met up with the rest of the group at Carrefour, where I bought 2 sleeping bags, 1 camping chair, a gallon of water, some cookies, and some gummy worms (that was the kid). And off we drove, into the middle of nowhere!
Our google location!
I do have to say that my kid was none too happy about this! She is not very into doing things without a thoroughly thought out plan! I told her, spontaneity is the spice of life, get used to it!

So we drove with Ahmed about half way to Al Ain, driving for about an hour almost. Then we made a left turn onto a paved road, then a left turn onto a dirt "road" and we were in the desert! We totally needed the GPS coordinates for the rest of the trip! We drove for about another maybe hour and a half. Passed several camel farms, a goat farm, so really rickety housing type structures, and then... nothing but sand. We saw the camping spot and there were several cars parked out on the "road". Ahmed said, "hmmmm, there's one car stuck. And another car stuck, but I think we can make it!" So he reeved the engine and we went barreling into the dunes! We passed no less than 3 stuck SUV's! But we made it to the top of a hill without incident! I clapped when we arrived safely! 

1 of the stuck cars!
There was a huge mountain of a sand hill where we were camped. Everyone was climbing to the top to check out the view.  This woman asked me, hey, you going up?! And pride wouldn't let me back down! It was ok at the start, but it quickly became almost more of a challenge than I could handle! But, at last! I made it!

this is the view from the top of the huge, mountain sand hill!

the kid at the top!

There were quite a few people there when we arrived and more arrived over the next hour or so.  It was quite nice. Their were several families there with little kids ranging in age from about 2 to 9. The camp organizers had several kid games planned which I thought was neat. 

In one game the kids had to run to the top of that huge mountain of a sand hill to get bags of candy. Some of the kids ran up like 3 times! Up and down up and down! Then they just kept on running up and down for fun! Sometimes sprinting down, sometimes somersaulting down.

They had the carving of watermelons, because apparently they are much cheaper than pumpkins! And bobbing for apples, musical chairs, eating donuts off a string, making a toilet paper dress. The kids seemed to enjoy it. And I made my kid help out with the festivities to get her out from under me!

Ohhhhh, spooky... watermelons!

Of course since we were in the middle of nowhere, there were no, ummmm, "proper" facilities, if you get my drift! So my first foray into the sandy wilderness was quite interesting.  First, I had to go far enough away from everyone that no one would walk by while I was doing my business! Walking in sand dunes is not very fun! You kind of look like a drunk at Octoberfest, stumbling around and pulling your feet out of the sand! There are a few very scraggly, very branchy, bushes in the desert.  I finally found one and dug a hole. Mission accomplished! It was actually better than I thought it would be! But in the morning, it was horrible because it was full light and everyone could SEE!

That night was fun. We made a bonfire. We made s'mores. We danced around the fire singing at the top of our lungs. Then it was finally, around 3am time for bed! So, this is camping in the UAE. Trying to open a sleeping bag on top of a sand dune with the wind blowing the sand into your eyes, into your pants, and into your sleeping bag that you are so carefully trying to lay out without getting sand into it! Then you get to lay down, inside the sandy sleeping bag, and roll around like a hotdog in boiling water, while trying to smooth out all the lumps of some of the sandest sand ever under your bum! I mean, I think I could have really slept, even with the wind whipping sand into my face all night, and sand crunching underneath my cheek, if it wasn't for the lumps of sand under my bum! And back! And knee cap! I was trying to push them down with my feet, and hands, and elbows! All to no avail!

But the sunrise was worth it!

The mornings sunrise was beautiful! The first time I saw real clouds in the UAE.

And then.... it rained! Like, for real actual rain... in the desert ... in UAE!

For about 5 minutes. Then, sadly it stopped. Welcome to the desert!

So, first time camping, maybe last time?? No! I'd love to go again! Into the desert!

Ciao for now!