Friday, September 26, 2014

Furniture Purchased..the UAE Way!

Hi all!

So, I was browsing FB this morning on the UAE swap n' shop page, and I saw a dining room table! Now, I'm all about a great deal so I messaged I would take it! First part of the UAE furniture process, down! Next, to get a ride! So, I took a trip downstairs and asked my doorman slash security guard (that's right! I gotta doorman slash security guard! Moving up in the world!!) if he knew of any boys with trucks.  And of course, he did. He gave me the numbers of 2 guys and I thought this would be more than enough.  Ummmm, I was almost proved wrong!

Having worked in South Korea, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur on understanding badly spoken, broken English. Since moving to the UAE, I've found that, unfortunately, I am not quite the connoisseur I believed myself to be! I'm great at understanding "konglish" but whatever the mostly Pakistan and Indian population speak here, has absolutely, positively no relationship to the English that I know and love!

The first guy I called, I have absolutely no idea what the heck he said outside of, "hello". I just told him what I wanted and where I lived and he said, "ok, ok" and hung up.  7 phone calls later, it occurred to me that he might not either, a) understand me or b) know where the heck I lived!

On to guy number 2! Who happened to say the exact same thing as the first guy! "hello. ok, ok." And hung up. But I'm not only growing older but wiser as well! So, by the 5th phone call, I calmly went downstairs to my doorman slash security guard and said, "Mohammad, could you tell this guy where I live please?" Problem solved!

And that's how I ended up sitting in a truck that was born in 1990, with all the windows down, 95 degree weather pouring in, puttering down the Sheik Zayed highway, with a swarthy and questionable gentleman talking a mile a minute in what I'm sure he assumed was English but which I can guarantee you was not!

I texted my friend that if I didn't contact her in an hour, to adopt my kid cus I was probably being cut up into little pieces and fed to the local desert cats!

Fortunately, other than his insistence on speaking what he thought was English to me, The guy was actually quite nice! And this ....

.... is the end result!

Happy days!

Ciao for now!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teaching A to Zed!

Hello all!

I'm in my 4th week of teaching and I finally...finally, feel that I might just be catching my balance! The school week here is from Sunday to Thursday, so Thursday is my new Friday! The first week teaching in the UAE was definitely an eye opener!  You know how, as a teacher, you usually enter your school to teach, and you get a schedule of your classes? And, usually, that schedule is pretty much set for the length of the term? Well not here apparently! My schedule, not only changed twice during the first week, but continues to change weekly! I've had 6 different schedules now. It makes for quite the interesting Sunday's!

Me in my abaya!

It was recommended to me that the first English word I need to lose (yes lose!) from my extremely extensive vocabulary is "WHY". Why am I receiving a new schedule every week and sometimes twice in the same week? Why does the length of classes change not only daily but sometimes within the same day? Why do I teach the same class twice a day but don't have a block schedule?

My school

And my wonderful, wonderful students! I teach at an all girls high school. The girls are actually quite funny and very willing to please. You just have to get on their good side, which could take some doing!        

Instead of telling you what my classroom and girls are like, why don't I paint you a verbal picture, hmmm?

The girls stay in the classroom all day and the teachers come to them.  So, I walk into the classroom; there are empty and partially full water bottles on every surface. Desks, floors, cabinets. There are scraps of paper strewn over the floor; the garbage can is over flowing into a mutinous pile of chip wrappers, pencil shavings, and unidentifiable rubbish.

A Classroom

I place 1/2 a step into the room, and I am bombarded by no less than 5 girls shouting at a decibel level only found here in the UAE, "miss, miss, miss... bathroom, bathroom, it's cold, it's hot, 1 minute more, please please miss!"  I literally can't even put my bag down! Picture about 50 yapping, adorable, labrador puppies tugging at your shirt tails! While yapping their heads off! Also, at any time during the class, girls that should be in other classes show up at my door, and just walk in to talk to their friends.  And they say to me; me, the teacher, "miss, I talk to my friend. 1 moment".

My fellow teachers are wonderful.  There are about 11 English teachers from England, America, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, Canada. They are good for many laughs daily!  And I am making an effort to meet the UAE teachers as well.  Since some speak little English, I basically just barge into their offices and say hi and they always invite me to sit down! A sit down always leads to dates and coffee or tea. I'm trying to get across to them that I am not always coming to them for food but, they are welcome to keep stuffing me! They are so wonderful!

It's definitely a different teaching experience. Full of new opportunities and one where I am learning a lot from my students and colleagues. So far, I would totally recommend this experience to all!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Border Run!!

Hello all!

Me and the kid have been here almost 30 days, (can you believe it?!) and her tourist visa is almost up so it was time for a border run!

For people with families or children in the UAE, the teaching parent has to sponsor them for them to be able to  obtain a resident visa.  That can't happen until the teacher has all of their documents in order which could take anywhere from 3 weeks (some lucky people!) to 2 months.  In the mean time, their family is here courtesy of a tourist visa which has to be renewed every 30 days.  How do they renew this you ask? By leaving the country and returning! Of course, us teachers do not have our passports in our possession so we can't go with our little (and not so little!) ones. Their are several great people here who are willing to help out those in need and do the border run with our families, which is such a complete lifesaver!  We had some interesting times during our border run yesterday and of course my first thought was, I have got to blog about this!
See how happy we were? In the beginning!

The kid and I live in Abu Dhabi and the border runs are usually done from Al Ain, which is an hour and half drive (in a car) from us.  So we had to make our way to Al Ain via the friendly neighborhood bus!  Which turns an hour and a half ride into a two hour and 25 minute ride! A friend and her daughter went with us to keep us company!  We started out at 7:40am, on our day off mind you! No sleeping in for us! And the kid had the nerve to ask me if she had to go! Ummm, darling, you're the reason I have to go!

I wanted to be sure and get some good shots while on the road!  You can't tell by these pictures, but it was a really beautiful drive.  Lots of buildings with triangular shaped windows and decorative walls. And the sand dunes looked like something out of a Lawrence of Arabia film!

So, would my foot sink up to my knee if I stepped there?

 We met the person taking us on the border run at a hotel in Al Ain. Well, actually, when we got to the hotel, there were lots of anxious parents in the lobby, but no driver!  He had 2 border runs that day, one at 10am and one at 11:30am and they weren't back yet.  There were lots of little kids running around, lots of crumbs being dropped, and lots of noise!  That is definitely one thing about here, in USA, we would have been thrown out of the Hilton lobby in a hot second, in UAE, employees just looked at us with smiles and quietly removed all of our garbage!

We waited for a few hours, I guess there was a problem with someones passport, but they finally returned at about 1pm.  So now it was our turn!  There were a lot of parents of little kids who could not go with them due to not having our passports.  My kid was the oldest one and I volunteered her (with her approval of course!) to watch out for their little ones.  She was in charge of four kiddos, two boys & two girls, all under the age of 6!  She had their passports and their money and she was set! Looking a little harassed but I knew she could handle it!

I knew the group would be gone for several hours and I did not want to spend all that time in the hotel lobby; after being there for 2 hours already! Plus, I was starving and could not afford a 20dirham slice of cake! So we decided to go to the Al Ain mega mart down the street.....and thus, our greatest misadventure of the day begins!

We were fine getting there, took a taxi from the hotel and found the mega mart immediately.  I was thinking it was kind of like a mall, but turned out to be similar to a dollar store, but things didn't cost a dollar! We left the store and asked the clerk where to take a taxi and she said none came to the parking lot, go out to the street.  

Granted, it was truly not that far to the hotel, however boys and girls, you have to remember that it is over 100 degrees out here.  AND in the middle of the day!  The minute you step away from the air conditioned interior of any place, it is like you have opened the boiler room furnace in some 1950's era basement.  I can literally feel, all the moisture being sucked out of my skin like a vacuum!  Even my eyeballs dry out! And the minute you take your first breath of that air, it is like the witches fire pit from Hansel and Gretel has been poured down your esophagus!  And the second breath is even worse cus the fire boils down to yo belly!  In short, this is not a place where a girl from balmy San Francisco wants to go for a walk!

Sigh, the things I am forced to do! Not only did we have to walk out to the un-shaded sidewalk, but we had to cross the street because, of course, the hotel was in the other direction!  

Do you see that looooong expanse of never ending street beside us?? With not a car in sight?!? Exactly how, are we supposed to find a taxi on an empty road like that?!! We're not! Is the short answer! But at this point, we were still optimistic!

Look at the beautiful blue sky, and the beautiful expanse of tree lined road.  You wouldn't think that this road led the way to H.E. double hockey sticks, would you?!  But it did!!!

Do you see that HUGE expanse of un-shaded road? And that little bit of shade? That's all we could find for the entire half a mile we had to walk! And remember, it's about 107 degrees here!  We were forced to walk in the dirt to try to avoid the blazing sun! My face was literally burning off! I was sweating worse than a stuck pig and I had to slog thru the dry, desert dirt in hopes of finding a small square of shade! And this went on for-everrrrr! No taxi in sight! Once, we saw a bus! And we ran to that bus like it was the last bastion of a civilized world (which it was to us, with aircon!) And, as we stood at the stairs, feeling the cool waft of aircon on our hot and sweaty faces, the driver, that damn bus driver, had the nerve, to tell us, he didn't go to the Hilton!! Aiiiieeeeee! I almost wailed like a baby and pounded my fist to my weeping breast, as the glass doors shut before me!  Sigh...we had to continue slogging away....

 ...down the continually un-shaded street!  Finally, I thought, how much more am I expected to take?! I'm burnt, sweat is pouring off of places on my body that should not sweat, my eyeliner has run down to my chin.... Then, in the near distance, I see a car, pulled over to the curb for whatever reason. Finally, my salvation! To the utter mortification of my companions, I ran up to the car and knocked on the window.  Yes! I did too! And as the confused face of the driver stared at me, I asked, no begged, the Emirati owner to please, please, please, take us to the Hilton!  And he said Hilton, and pointed down the street.  And I said, yes, yes!! And you know what, he drove us!!  I told him he was a life saver.  I pointed to my sweaty face and said, oh, I dying, dying! I don't know how much he understood, but he laughed.  And finally, low and behold, the Hilton came into view!! It was like a hint of the sun peeking through boiling black clouds during a rainstorm!

The kid had a pretty exciting adventure too, trying to corral 4 rambunctious kids who had to wait in a contained space for several hours! She returned panting and thanking God to see me as well!

Oh! You know what? There was one good thing that happened on our horrendous return from the mega mart! All these palm trees that line every road of Abu Dhabi that I thought were just the same old palm trees we have in Cali? They are date palms! Dates grow on palm trees! Who knew? Not me obviously! But now I know!

Those are dates on the ground!
I guess they are picked when yellow and then dried.

Oh! I almost forgot! Then, for the piece de resistance...on the 2 and 1/2 hour bus ride back to Abu Dhabi, there was this gentleman ....

who decided to sit with his arms akimbo, so that the cool filtered breeze of the aircon, could glide gently under his arms, bringing the lovely all day scent of his extremely pungent B.O wafting caressingly to our noses!

Ahhh, what a lovely way to end the day! lol

Ciao for now!

Brunch, dahl-ling!

Hello all!

So my friend Althea turned 30! Yay, for being born, Althea!

She decided to celebrate at the lovely Origins Restaurant on Yas Island.  It was sooooo beautiful! And the food was like the best food I have had everrrrr! Lol!  Even though there was a bunch of hoity-toity cuisine, there was also something for everyone's taste buds.

The restaurant is built next to a formula 1 race track and during racing season you can sit outside and watch the cars tear around the race track.

There are tables laden with food strategically placed throughout the room. Some are self serve and some have chefs there to serve you.

There were little "shooters" in the classes that went with the food! Yummy!

Raw seafood bar!  Not for me, but if you like that sort of thing!

So many different kinds of extra bits!  There was like 10 different kinds of olives alone! And the cheese! OMG the cheese! I did have a taste of every one!

The rest of the food was a global trip around the world! From the exotic to the regular, but anything but "regular" tasting!

This section reminded me of Hell's Kitchen! Beef wellington and other "british" type foods.



 And then, Oh My God, DESSERT!!! The only way I remember how to spell dessert is because I think of the 2 s's as me wanting more! And there was definitely more to have at Origins!

Yes, that is Italian ice cream with extra toppings!

These were like fruits in little puddings and panacotta's.  I didn't think I liked panacotta but they were soooo yummy! And yes, I tasted almost every one! Yikes, time to work out! 

Are those chocolate fountains you may be asking yourself?! Why yes, yes they are! Luscious flowing choco-lat-a! The only thing I would say that was wrong (yes, wrong!) with this was that there was no candy or cake to put on the chocolate! Instead, they had fruit! Yes, fruit! That's the number one way to tell this is not America! Cause you know there would have been a mountain of chocolate and donuts and cake to dip into those fountains in good ole USA!

And did I forget to mention the bread?! They had the bread table tucked away into a corner, but I found it! No sourdough bread, ahhhh, but every other type, including muffins and pastries!

This high class brunch even had a DJ to entertain us with some hit tunes! And yes, I did request something and he played it! (La la la by Naughty Boy)

So I've now learned that hotels all around Abu Dhabi have Friday brunches every week! I will definitely be attending more!

Ciao for now!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shopping...UAE style!

Hello all!

So, I have been shopping in Abu Dhabi, I've been to Carrefour (from England, I guess?) & Lulu's (both are like Walmart sort of, I mean, I'm NOT buying groceries from Walmart! But I will in Lulu's!)  Both have everything from scissors to washing machines to lettuce to cell phones! Literally 1 stop shopping!
This is the ceiling in the Farmers Market! Beautiful!

So, those are not the stores I am talking about.  Me and the kid went to Mushriff Mall, where Lulu's is located, but we walked in another door, not the one I'm used to.  And we saw a huge sign that said Farmers Market!  So we walked thru the extremely clean and sparkly glass doors and found three separate markets, meat market, vegetable market, and fish market.

The veggie market was awesome! About 20 stalls selling veggies, fruits, dates, and even spices! Ahhhh, the spices! You could smell them from 3 stalls away! Tumeric, chili powder,  paprika, ground white pepper, cumin, fennel, cardamom, sumac, aniseed, caraway, and a bunch of mixed spices called baharat which you can put on fish, fowl, beef, or camel! Yes, camel! The spices were in lose bins and you told the sales girl what you wanted and she would dish it out for you.  They also sold nuts and dried fruits.

All the veggie and fruit stands have the exact same thing, and when you walk by, they start saying, "hey ma'am, here ma'am, come see, here ma'am"  I had to shake my head and say no, no thank you, no, a hundred times! But I finally did buy the sweetest watermelon, some onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and butter lettuce and rocket! Me and the kid were so excited about rocket! We don't have it in USA but I watch MasterChef Australia and they have rocket all the time. After tasting rocket, however, I'm less enchanted. It is bitter!

I was a bit hesitant to enter the meat market, but the kid wanted steaks. Hesitant, because I mix ground beef for hamburgers with 2 forks! I hate touching and looking at raw meat! Yuck, yes, call me a whimp or whatever but who wants to see pieces of what used to have fur on it or, even worse, something that used to be on the inside of an animal! Yes, I would be vegetarian if the cooking meat didn't smell so good! And I didn't even venture into the fish market cus I knew better!

So we enter the meat market and at first, it was ok, there were stalls in two lines going way back ending at a wall also lined with stalls. The floors were of course marble and shiny. Near the entrance is beef, and it looks like what I am used to, cut into steaks and slabs of bloody cow with white marbling.  Not at all appetizing to me, but ok, I can deal.  Then we start getting into the scary stuff! The lamb stalls, and the goat, and the camel!  And also we pass the offal stall! Oh. My. God. Gall stones, and livers, and BRAINS! And there was a piece of meat, maybe a leg or hip, with a white ball of something sticking out! Not bone, it looked rubbery! Ahhhh, I couldn't even shop! I had to leave! At a run! I just had time to snap some gross pics and then ran almost screaming from the place! The kid rolled her eyes and said it wasn't that bad.  Wasn't that bad! Ackkk!

Can you see the lambs head in the back right?

That's lamb brains in the back!

Offal? Oh, foul!!
Anyway, I'm sure you cooks are saying, looks yummy to me! But, I can't...I just, ugh!  Maybe the abundance of food and the different spices and smells will encourage the kid to cook, because, if I have to buy stuff out of the cellophane, we will starve!

Ciao for now!