Saturday, 27 December 2008

quietly adding another year to the tally today

Happy festive season to all my readers (I think that's just me and the stray cat that's walking along the balcony railing and peering over my shoulder). Let's trust that 2009 will bring lots of great things, though of course it is hard to determine just what that is. For me it includes a rocketing British pound and US dollar and a plummeting Aussie dollar.

We've had the usual round of expat do-s, all of which have been enjoyable and all of which involved copious amounts of bubbly. Last night it was a murder dinner and I thought for a moment that 'I done it,' but turned out to be that floozy across the table from me.

One problem that I always have during Christmas - New Year is that my birthday falls smack bang in the middle of that period and brings with it more festivities. I feel that a reprieve from festivities is needed. Maybe if I just say a quiet, "Happy Birthday me," no-one will notice and the day will pass otherwise unremarked.

Well, it's 7:45 am and my son, T, just texted to say that he and his girlfriend, C, have arrived in Doobs. They're staying for a couple of days at a swish hotel right near the Burj. K actually checked The Age newspaper this morning at 1 am to make sure that no planes had fallen out of the sky between Australia and here! It seems that one never stops being a parent and never stops worrying about the offspring!

Looking forward to seeing T & C for a few days before they continue their journey on to Egypt to check out the pyramids and take a Nile cruise.

PS - pic above knicked from net.

Monday, 22 December 2008

how to win friends and influence people

Ennui sets in.

Psychologically limping through to the next hols. Dispute with neighbour over cats. What next?

Actually I feel bad about the cat thing. The neighbour took an instant dislike to me 18 months ago when we first met. I made a flippant remark way back then which I heard through the grapevine was absolutely misinterpreted and held up as evidence of my skinflint ways. Ah well, what can you do?

Said neighbour is one of a small group feeding the stray cats in the neighbourhood. The cats are mangey, thin and some are injured. One has only one eye and one seems to have some kind of conjunctivitis as it can't open it's eyes very much. I understand the pity for the animals, but it seems to me that feeding them only encourages breeding and has the effect of inviting cats from further afield to move into our neighbourhood.

The neighbour has taken to feeding the cats right at the entrance to the apartments. This has encouraged the cats to hang around the door. Instead of the usual one or two cats we had to ensure didn't find their way into the stair wells and common areas, we now have to shoo several cats away. The car park and entrance area sometimes smell strongly of cat pee. The newspapers delivered to our door have even been peed upon.

I don't know what the answer to the cat problem is - letting them starve is hardly humane. A neighbour who has moved out used to have them neutered. That's a better solution, but I really don't know who footed the bill.

I've never been a fan of cats. I don't wish ill for the strays, but nor do I want them, their food or their pee stench at my door. Seeing said neighbour feeding them today, I felt obliged to say something. Needless to say it didn't do anything for our relations! I'm not sure that it did anything to encourage the feeding of the cats in another location either. I guess time will tell.

When you see them like this, they look pretty innocuous, don't they?

Saturday, 22 November 2008

of lumbago, subdural haematomas and pain

I've been somewhere on the 'sick ... well' scale during the last several weeks. I'm mostly at the 'well' end now, but have to head in to the hospital for another minor operation in January. It's nothing life-threatening! There were two botched attempts in October/November and I'm going back for more! Some people just never learn!

On each of the previous efforts they gave me an anaesthetic and the doctor assured me that I'd be partially awake, but wouldn't remember anything. Well, I remember everything including the pain and the exact conversations the doctor and nurses were having. I remember the doctor shaking his head and saying 'I've never seen anything like it. Really. Never. Nothing like it!' I remember the nurse saying 'Doctor. The oxygen. She's not getting enough oxygen.' I remember them saying, 'Breathe. Breathe deep. Breathe deep. Keep breathing. Deep. Open your eyes Madam M. Open your eyes. Look at me. Can you look at me? Breathe deep. Keep breathing.' While all this was going on I was thinking, why? What's all the fuss? I'm fine. I just feel like a nap. Leave me alone.

For the second op they told K they knew exactly where they had to snip out some bits and it would just take 20 minutes so he might as well just wait outside rather than go home. I can remember lying on the table watching the clock. 20 mins. 25 mins. 40 mins. An hour and 10 mins. Two hours and 20. Three hours. I remember thinking, poor K. What's he thinking? He must be really worried. He's probably wondering if my life insurance is paid up ... calculating the monetary value of my continued life v my demise. When it got to 3 hours and 30 mins the doctor decided to give up saying it wasn't fair on me or on him. The pain was awful and I'd been begging him for the last hour and a half to give me more anaesthetic or to stop. When he finally gave up I thought 'About bloody time!'

Since then I've been on meds and the challenge has been to get the dosage right. Too much or too little and side effects are just awful. Things were going quite well until today. I'm wondering if today's symptoms are related to the meds or something altogether different! Do you know the senstation of just wanting time to roll on so that you get past an unpleasant episode in your life? That's kind've how I feel. Let's just fast forward a few months please.

Another random thought ... you know how some old people live for their illnesses? It's all they ever talk about ... well ... hmmm. I think I need a new topic of conversation.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

went to the hospital and lived to tell the tale ... barely

Oh dear. Another hospital story. These places are run by clowns! I see a GP who neglects to take any kind of medical history and then names my disease. I tell her that is very unlikely to be the case because ... (I give her the details) ... she prescribes meds which I have to point out aren't appropriate because ... (I give her the appropriate information) and then she tells me the next step to take at which point I have to point out that that's an inappropriate course of action because ... (I give her the details). Had she taken any kind of medical history, she'd not have made any of the errors she made, any one of which could have resulted in a law suit. Can you do that here? Sue doctors? Hmmm. I could be rich. Maybe I shouldn't have so arrogantly corrected her.

After seeing her I saw a specialist who was marginally better on taking the history though he wanted to send me off for inappropriate testing.

We've had a few hospital ordeals since we've been here. K can't understand why I'd choose to go to a hospital rather than just lie in a corner and die. He thinks that'd be a much easier option. It's the course he's decided upon should he fall sick again. I just hope it's not a corner of our abode. That'd get smelly after a while.

Friday, 3 October 2008

good one Bill

One of the great things about holidays is that you get a lot of reading done. I've just finished a book called quite simply 'Shakespeare' by Bill Bryson. He questions every 'fact' that we have about Shakespeare and in the process we learn a lot about Elizabethan England. For example spelling was pretty wild. One word could often be written in half a dozen ways and often was on one page. The spelling of Shakespeare for example is not clear. The version we use today wasn't one of those used in Shakspeare's (Shakeshaft's / Shappere's / Shakspere's / Shakespear's - apparently there are up to 80 versions) time. Shakespeare's own signature appears in at least six different forms.

Understandably the printing press back in Shaker's day was not what it is today. Editors took liberties with grammar, spelling and wording. When multiple copies of a book were pressed, it was a big job that could be sent to several different printeries. Each one would have proof-readers/editors pawing over the books. They'd all make different decisions about what went where and what was intended. Lines sometimes got cut because they didn't fit neatly onto a page or because there'd been a transcription error. The original documents were often dodgy. Most of the plays for example had several working versions. Sometimes they were what the actors recalled and were written retrospectively. Sometimes people would sit in the audience and transcribe while listening. These versions became mixed with more original versions. Later no-one was sure which version or which parts of which versions were authentic. One version of Hamlet's soliliquy came out as

To be, or not to be, I there's the point,
To Die, to sleepe, is that all? I all.:
No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,
For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,
And borne before an everlasting Judge,
From whence no passenger ever returned

Hmmm. That doesn't quite have the same ring to it. All that we have left today are the print versions that editors came up with a few years after Shakespeare's death.

Words Shakers contributed to the language incluce zany, abstemious, critical, frugal, dwindle, excellent and eventful. He was big on 'un' prefixes and created unmask, unhand, unlock and untie. Some of his words didn't stick though - undeaf and insultment being among them. Phrases include vanish into thin air, budge an inch, flesh and blood and blinking idiot.

Little is known about Shakespeare's personal life though much clearly incorrect information has been written and repeated through the years.

I loved reading about what Queen Lizzy The First was up to at the time, the politics, the bizarre laws (at various earnings you were permitted to wear silk of various colours. As you stepped up you were allowed to wear velvet) and the lives of ordinary people. If only the Shakespeare course I did at uni in my youth had been as interesting as Bryson's book.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

cypriot sunshine

Near Aphrodite's bath

Desert scrub, mountain pines and Aussie gum trees; Cyprus has a varied, if largely brown (due to months of drought)landscape. Yesterday brought the first rains in ten months flooding the roads hastening our exit from Paphos.

We were singularly unimpressed with Paphos. We entered the city and found ourselves in a traffic jam snaking endlessly through narrow streets in the city. We found our way to the beach to be met with an uneventful line of shops. In reality there were only three of them, but they were duplicated ad nauseam; over-priced largely tacky restaurant, tacky souvenir shop and clothing shop. We thought we’d play it relatively safe and cheap by getting fish and chips thinking that at least we’d get a passable version of something the area is reputed to specialize in. However, it seems that they can get it horribly wrong. The streets were crowded with overweight, underdressed, smoking, sunburnt non-natives. Perhaps we found a less desirable part of Paphos on a bad day.

Scenery along the back road home - Paphos to Kato Akourdaleia

Polis is old and a little less tourist oriented, but give it time and it will no doubt offer up the same charmless scene as Paphos.

What I do like in Cyprus is the things you discover off the main roads. There are any number of villages worth a visit. Many have breath-taking outlooks over mountains and sea. Roads through and around many of the villages are narrow and steep, but filled with delights.

Our host, Mrs Angela, cooks the best food we’ve discovered so far on the island. Eating out in the courtyard is lovely and very social. We’ve had some lovely evenings and have befriended a delightful Turkish man and his friendly German wife. We’ve met a Scotsman who has my daughter’s dream job. She always wanted to ‘blow the shit outa stuff’ for a living. He does just that as an explosives engineer. Mrs Angela’s Inn is in the tiniest of villages. It has just a few houses, lots of cats, a few dogs and extremely narrow roads! The buildings, gardens and countryside would best be described as ramshackle, but the village is quite charming with fruit and flowers bursting out of every nook and cranny.

Entrance to the Inn

Views in and around the village

Monday, 22 September 2008

distant memories

Just when I thought holidays were a dim and distant memory, 'they' announced a nine day Eid break. And in that single gesture, holidays are upon me again. So we're off to Cyprus on Saturday.

Life's good.

Monday, 1 September 2008

the party's over

Two days back teaching and I'm thinking, 'Holidays? What Holidays?' They seem so remote now!

I'm already planning my next break, but I'm not sure what to do with K. He's developed planeophobia. He swears he'll never get on a plane again. I'm not sure how he'll make it back to Aus when we're done here. I think he's planning to walk across the dessert and them swim.

Monday, 18 August 2008

highlights and lowlights of our summer travels

ten highlights
1. Bergen, Norway – a truly beautiful city with views from everywhere. Fjords, majestic mountains, sparkling water and the lucky sods who live on mountainsides with magnificent fjord views. How could you be anything but relaxed there?
2. Bitterballen, wine and the wonderful bar and barman at the Radisson in Amsterdam
3. Martini at the casino in Monte Carlo
4. Coastal views in Villefranche and along the Riviera
5. Mountain views in Switzerland
6. Food in Budapest – probably the best in Europe – a real surprise!
7. Wine in Provence
8. Amsterdam – we had some lovely moments there and finally got to see all the places I’d heard so much about over the years
9. Shanghai Chinese restaurant in Berlin where we spoke English, German and Chinese variously depending on which waiter was looking after us
10. Japanese art restaurant in Rothenberg, Germany

ten lowlights
1. Scandinavian trains which were variously 4 hours late, 40 mins late and 1 hour late.
2. Train toilets
3. Couchettes
4. Trains – they’re crap throughout most of Europe
5. Being ripped off by taxi drivers in Vienna and Amsterdam
6. Expense of food throughout Europe, but most notably in Scandinavia in general and Stockholm in particular.
7. Our first hotel in Bergen – we ended up paying for that rat trap as well as the ritzier accommodation we quickly booked as an alternative.
8. Endless restaurant touters on Vaci Utca in Budapest
9. Food fodder breakfasts in Stockholm
10. Stuffiness indoors throughout Bavaria

Monday, 11 August 2008

bergen and the last few weeks

We pulled in to Bergen at 9pm after a gruelling 33 hours on the trains. The trains throughout Scandinavia are absolute crap! We spent 1.5 hours sitting on a track in the middle of nowhwere with no aircon and no opening windows in 30 degree heat. Just to add a bit more spice they locked the dunnies! After 45 minutes the passengers revolted and finally the staff relented and opened the train doors. People leapt off the train with many disappearing into the bushes for a quick squat. And that wasn't even the worst of it. Couchettes. Don't get me started on couchettes! Anyways, where was I? That's right. We arrived after 9pm, more than four hours late, and found our hotel locked. We eventually dug out a phone number, contacted someone and got a key. We opened the door to what had been advertised online as an internet lobby. In reality it was a dirty, run-down, paint-peeling-off-the-walls, narrow corridor with a couple of filthy Ikea chairs and no power points. We looked up at the stairs at the end. Hmmm. No lifts. Okay, 9:30pm, no shower for days, tired and pissed off after a grueling train trip, but stairs, we can do stairs - even with all our luggage! It was only when we were on the third floor that we realised that our room was going to be on the fifth floor. Well our room turned out to be a cupboard with a double bed and a 1 metre by 1 metre bathroom with a toilet almost directly below the shower. Laugh was all we could do. So we did. Then we showered, went out for a pizza and stopped by a 5-star hotel where we booked ourselves in for the rest of our stay in Bergen.

Bergen Harbour

Fjord Cruise

From Bergen we headed to Stockholm where the food is more expensive than anwywhere else in Europe. We paid 16 euros each for a glass of house wine! It was a very nice glass of wine, but ... that's like $26AUD each! We stayed for a couple of rainy days and then decided to move on to Copenhagen. We packed our bags and headed off to the station where we queued for two hours to be told that the 12:17 train to Copenhagen was fully booked, as were the 5pm train and the 12:17 tomorrow. However, we could take the 5pm the next day and we were lucky because although there were no sleepers or seats available, we could have a couchette! Lucky? Couchette?!!! So we promptly headed over to the internet cafe at the station, booked two train tickets from the station to the airport and two seats on a flight to Amsterdam. A few hours later we were in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is my mother's home city. So we checked out Vondel Park, her old house and some of the locales I'd heard about over the years. We did the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, visited a few coffee shops, where you could get all manner of things, but not a decent cup of coffee, checked out the redlight district, walked the canals and bridges and generally enjoyed ourselves before heading off to our last stop - Frankfurt where we booked ourselves into a Kempinski hotel and lapped up the luxury before heading home.

Monday, 21 July 2008


There's been a bit of water under the bridge since the last post. We've moved on from waterbound Venice by train. We spent a wonderful few days in Vienna. What a civilised place that is. It's like a perpetual lazy Sunday. The transport system is great and there aren't too many cars on the road. Interestingly the buildings aren't very high. St.Stephan's church towers over the surrounds. It must've seemed an awesome structure to the locals all those years ago.

I was just about churched out by the time I saw it, but St.Stephans still managed to leave a huge impression with it's magnificent gothic interior. What a sensational piece of architecture. We took the mandatory visit to the top of the building. I can't remember ever being so terrified! We got out of the elevator to find ourselves on scaffolding which you could look right through to the ground so far below! I walked around gingerly for a bit and then headed back to the elevator only to find myself in a queue stuck on the scaffoling waiting. I had visions of the scaffolding collapsing and me clinging to the side of the building. I decided right away that I wouldn't be brave and try to cling on for life, I'd just accept my fate as I let go. Well, the scaffolding didn't collapse and I didn't need to make such momentous decisions. The elevator eventually came bringing me down to safety; my heart still pounding.

We then ventured into the catacombs below the church to see the macabre sight of thousands of skeletons of plague victims who'd been tossed down a hole, from the street above, into the catacombs back in the 1600s. Apparently way back when ... the stench got so bad, that they couldn't hold church services anymore, so they had to seal the catacombs for years!

After Vienna, where they can't make a decent martini - but that's another story, we jumped on a train to Budapest where we were ensconced in an apartment on the Pest side of the river where the Blue Danube certainly isn't blue!

From Budapest we moved onto Berlin which we loved and then on to Hamburg which we didn't exactly fall in love with, but where we entertained ourselves by searching out all the Beatles' haunts.

We checked out the Bambi Kino where they lived and several clubs where they played including the Kaiser Keller and the Indra. From there we drove down to Nienburg where my family hails from. It was interesting to see the area, the house my family lived in and all the old streets and haunts they talked about over the years. It's a lovely town on the River Weser. Then it was on to Bremen and a train to Norway. Norway. It's lovely and Bergen IS the most beautiful city on the planet.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

rocket man

The sound system was excellent. The lighting was very pleasant at times. They were the high points of the Elton John concert we saw in San Marco in Venice last night. Even though it was a solo performance it consisted of thumping piano and shouting voice most of the night. There were some pleasant sounding interludes, but they were few and far between. My expectations weren't all that high, but even so, they weren't met.

Venice is an interesting enough place to spend a few days with it's narrow streets, market squares and complete absence of traffic.

Our travels have taken us through a few places of note starting in Paris, moving on to Provence which was just gorgeous, then onto the Riviera (sensational), Tuscany in Italy (beautiful) and Switzerland which was just picture post card perfect. Then on to South Germany / Bavaria which I didn't enjoy much at all. We stayed in an old walled city on the Rhine. The accommodation, restaurants, shops and hotels were all stuffy inside despite the lovely weather outside. There were doilies, rugs, mats, seat cushions, curtains and worst of all plastic flowers everywhere. Internet access was just about non-existent. It really wasn't my cup of tea. The funny side of it was falling into the Rhine - well done me!

Well I've done a bit of griping ... so what are the highpoints of the trip so far? It has to be the fun of learning the signage and some basic transactional language in each country, as well as the scenery a lot of the time. Then there's the people you meet, whose company you enjoy briefly before parting never to see them again.

Lourmarin in Provence - a lovely spot to spend a week

The view from our hotel in Villefranche on the Riviera

Interlaken in Switzerland is beautiful from any angle

Despite my griping about Bavaria, the Rhine cruise is wonderful

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the Night Watchman tour in Rothenburg (another plus for Bavaria!)

Venice reminds me of the 1995 Kevin Costner movie, 'WaterWorld.' It was always a bizzare place to build a city!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

new bank story

First our last 500 Dh gets eaten by an ATM. Then another bank stuffs up our credit cards so our holiday spending money is severely curtailed. As if that's not enough. I realise that we have a bit of headroom on our Aussie Citibank card which I haven't used for a long time. I put it into the Citibank ATM to do an account balance and ... the machine eats the card and spits out a message telling me to contact my branch to sort it out. My branch is in Aus!! I ring up Citibank, they have no idea why the ATM ate my card. There is no problem with the account, but it's okay, they can organise to have a new card sent to me within 10 days. Sigh! Problem is I'm leaving in two days. Is the universe trying to tell me something?

Monday, 9 June 2008


Three days before pay day. We're down to our last 591 Dh. We pat ourselves on the back pleased that we've managed to pre-pay so much of our upcoming holiday and still get through the month. A job well done!

Well, we ARE in the Emirates and things don't usually go as smoothly as we'd like. And of course ... things didn't go as smoothly as we'd have liked. The first ATM apologised for being busy and not being able to help us now, and it politely told us that we could try again later. So we tried the next machine and it gave us the same message. We lumbered up to a third machine, did a balance check and were notified that our balance was 91 Dh. A phone message confirmed that 500 Dh had just come out of our a/c. The only problem was that we didn't get 500 Dh! A call to the CALL centre told us that we'd need to go into a branch to fill in a 'dispute form' which we promptly did only to be told that we'd be notified of the result in about two weeks. Fan-bloody-tastic!

Anyway payday came and went and our coffers were spilling over with money when lo and behold 500Dh mysteriously appeared in our account. I was very pleased to see it because in all honestly I didn't think there was much chance of ever seeing it again. However, with full coffers, the 500 Dh was not nearly as welcome as it would have been just before payday.

During that same few days we tried out our shiney, new visacards that we had just organised with a different bank for our holidays. We're off on a grand tour with no idea of how much it will cost. We figure we'll have just enough or we'll be just a bit short. So we decided to get ourselves a credit card so that we could have the odd splurge if we felt so inclined, and in particular we wouldnt have to curtail our holiday if we'd wildly underestimated the cost. We left ourselves plenty of time to get the cards because of course, we ARE in the Emirates and ...

We tried our cards out in a store in Dubai only to have them rejected. So we later rang the bank and were told that we had cancelled our cards. We very politely insisted that we hadn't in fact cancelled them! The bank finally acknowledged that it was a bank error. For some reason they decided that they'd better close the accounts because they'd been 'opened in error.' Luckily though we didn't need to worry because, and I quote, 'No problem. You apply again and you have new card.' Never mind that last time the process took five weeks from go to whoa! We thanked the CALL centre operator very politely and went into a branch to see if they could help. The girl at the helpdesk looked completely unmoved by our situation and told us she couldn't help and that we'd need to ring the CALL Centre. I bit my tongue and insisted that she ring them which she did promptly handing the phone over to me! Sigh!

We rang the CALL centre back a couple of times and got different people each time who each had a slightly different version of what had happened and what needed to happen next, but all involved a suggestion that we simply apply again! We have one slim chance of being able to pull something off and get our cards reactivated, but we are reliant on one contact's assurance that she can sort it for us.

So that's our current situation. We're off on holiday in a week and a bit and the credit cards that we thought would give us peace of mind on our holiday, have turned into a royal pain.

Don't you love banks? Breathe deep Aussie, after all, you ARE in the Emirates ...

Thursday, 29 May 2008

alain (de botton)

Alain de Botton raises some interesting points in his beautifully written book, 'The Art of Travel.'

He starts off by talking about anticipation being all-important. In the past my travel has involved booking, jumping on a plane and seeing what's out there. Of late, my well-travelled neighbour has planned/helped me plan trips. I've been stunned by the amount of work she puts in, and also stunned at the outcome.

Clearly, thinking about which parts of a city you'll visit, which attractions you'll stop off at, what the 'must do' restaurants and venues are and thinking about the location of the accommodation all help to ensure a fun trip, but most importantly they whet your appetite. She helped us plan a trip to Bangkok. The outcome was that I hated it and loved it at the same time. Interestingly the bits I loved were the bits I'd probably never have found if I walked in with my old 'let's see what comes' attitude. My impression of the city would have been quite different. I enjoyed the planning and the anticipation, and the trip itself was greatly enhanced.

Botton also talks about two different views of travel itself, both of which ring true. One is that if you're moping around and unhappy, you won't enjoy the trip because the fact is that when you go on a trip, you bring yourself with you! The other side of that argument is that on a trip you are out of your normal environment and your old patterns. You can reinvent yourself. Both views seem to me to be true.

Another issue he raises is the romanticisation of travel. We sometimes have wildly inflated views of the thrill of what we'll experience. When the reality doesn't live up to the dream, we can pretend it did. This is the approach that the French novelist, Gustave Flaubert writer of Madame Bovary, apparently took. Or we can reflect on our expectations.

I haven't got to the end of Botton's book yet. I'm too busy planning our European extravaganza. Only 21 sleeps left. Whoo hoo!

Friday, 16 May 2008

difference between a laptop and a macbook

I published the previous blog from K's Macbook and noticed a difference post-publishing. When I publish on my laptop the pics remain a reasonable size when you click on them on the blog. However, from a Mac-published blog, the pictures are enormous when you embiggen them.

Given that I've been in danger of tossing my laptop out the window on several occasions recently, I decided I'd never talk to it again and would use the Macbook from this day forward. Everything on the Macbook is in the wrong spot. I feel quite dislexic at times. Even the mouse behaves differently. I guess I'll get used to it and even figure out how to publish pics that don't require a giant screen to view them in their entirity.

trip to Fuj

We set off on an overnight trip to Fujairah last weekend and came home via Dibba. Some parts of the trip were sensational. The first pic is dried out palm fronds that have obviously been growing out of this ute!

In a previous post I mentioned the camel hazard on the road to Fujairah. They are likely to step out in front of speeding cars at any time. Here they did just that. The car in front of us stopped to let a camel by. It was just outside the town of Al Madam. Luckily we, and they, weren't going all that fast! Note the three camels on the other side of the road! Glad no one was driving in that direction at the time.

Building in progress on the outskirts of Fuj.

The beach scenery outside Fuj is pretty.

Sunset in Dibba

Mosque in Dibba

Sunset over an industrial area outside of Dibba

City in the sticks 1 & 2 (In Australian English 'in the sticks' = in the middle of nowhere!)

Houses in the desert

Friday, 2 May 2008

May day

May Day has a long history. I remember, 100 years ago when I was young, reading about girls dancing around poles adorned with long, colourful ribbons. May Day was a pagan celebration which, like many, was picked up and adapted to a Christian ritual. In my lifetime though May Day was always workers' day. There were marches through the city of Melbourne celebrating workers' rights.

The workers' marches began in the US in 1986 and soon turned into bloody clashes between workers and police. The actual catalyst for the marches though was an event in Melbourne in April of 1856 when stonemasons downed tools and went on strike for an eight hour day. They achieved their goal and battles ensued in other industries and workplaces around the globe. A speaker at the 1901 May Day celebration in Melbourne talked about 'the worker being an abject slave who was downtrodden and oppressed both by capital and the government.' Nothing new here! Another speaker talked about the 'abominable deluge of infernal rubbish' produced by the press. At uni, also a hundred years ago, I had cause to look at many old newspapers. The standard of writing was quite different, but in many ways it had an air of innocence. The 'infernal rubbish' produced back then had nothing on the 'infernal rubbish' we get these days. (How is Madonna these days? And Kylie?)

The 1901 meeting in Melbourne expressed solidarity in the aim of having industry owned and run by the people, to have fair wages for all and to bring an end to militarism. More than a hundred years later none of these things has happened.

I can't see it being in place a hundred years hence either!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

pics around al ain

The first two pictures are of houses facing out to a carpark in Al Jahli. The standard of housing gets a lot less salubrious than this for some workers.

These next few shots are of the desert out past Jebel Hafeet and a couple of shots of the mountain itself.

These last few are more shots of Sanaiya; the industrial area.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

trekking Europa

It's the end of another week ... and only 63 sleeps until our European trek. We've organised a week in each of Provence, Venice and Budapest, but we'll play it by ear/budget for the remaining weeks. We've pencilled in a few days in the south of Germany and a few days in the north with no firm plans. Apart from that I'm torn. I want to go in two directions; one to Greece and Cyprus, the other to Holland and Belgium.

It's sad really that I'm concerned about such matters when the news is full of price rises for basic food items and the devastating impact that'll have on millions. There are probably billions of people who'd trade places and take on my problems if given a chance.

I know that I'm very lucky to have the opportunities that I do. I daily see the contrast between my life and that of the shop keepers and labourers here.

Friday, 11 April 2008

sight seeing in Al Ain

You've got visitors coming into town on a whirlwind tour. Where do you take them?

1. The Al Ain Museum - My social buddy took me there when I first arrived and I enjoyed it. The static exhibits are a bit the sameish, but they're okay to poke around for a while. I really enjoyed the videos though. They're quite long, but they are an interesting account of the history of the area. The nearby oasis is worth a walk through if it isn't too hot. And then there's the markets opposite.

2. Jebel Hafeet - That's an obvious attraction with the obligatory stop off on the way down at the Mercure for a coffee or a meal.

3. Green Mubuzarah - (how do you spell that?). It's a picnic area with running hot springs. Interesting.

4. Airport Road - There's the road out the back of town and the road to the airport. They're pretty stunning on a first viewing. Well the airport isn't stunning, but I like the plane sculpture on the roundabout; particularly when the water is running. There's quite a variety of desertscapes in a small area too.

5. City Centre
- the look of the shops, particularly in the backstreets is fairly interesting.

6. Roundabouts - Can you do a tour of the roundabouts? Seems a bit boring, but I'd actually like to do a roundabout tour and take pics of each roundabout. Have them all recorded before they disappear. I"m sure I'm not the first person to think of that. There are probably several people with lots of roundabout shots and a few with a comprehensive collection. I wonder if anyone has a pic of the clocktower roundabout before it was dereoundabouted.

7. Camels and Building Site - Apparently if you go out on the road to Jebel Hafeet and Green Mubuzarah, but don't take the hafeet turn off, you end up on a road out the back of the mountain that has wall to wall camels and a huge shopping complex that's under construction. Why would they build a shopping complex out there? It's the middle of nowhere. Either it's a completely hair-brained scheme, or it's a good example of forward planning.

8. International Hotels - for a coffee and dinner. There's the French Bakery.

9. The Zoo - haven't done the night walk. I wonder if that's still on, or if it's getting too hot.

10. Malls - yea. I guess.

11. Cinema - There's the one at the mall and there's the one at the Rotana. Why don't they have a gold class cinema? I like a bit of pampering every now and then.

12. Palace Museum - that's an interesting look at how life may have been in the past.

I guess there's more, but I've run out of ideas for the moment.

Friday, 4 April 2008

not before time

A few days ago the Gulf News carried this story. Yay! I'm happy.

'Al Ain Municipality bans smoking in all public places
Published: March 31, 2008, 15:21

Al Ain: Al Ain Municipality will ban smoking in all enclosed public places as of April 15, according to an administrative decree issued by Awad Khalifa Bin Hasoum Al Darmaki, Director General of the Municipality.'

city centre

The city centre can be scary. While most roads in Al Ain have three car lanes in each direction, much of the city centre is older and less planned than the newer parts. There are many narrow two way streets with one lane each direction. Toss several double parked cars into the mix and you've got a scary scenario at busy times of the evening. It's not a place I like to be at certain times.

However, the city centre does have some charm too. The coloseum roundabout is stunning, the lanterns on the flyover are pretty and there are bits of beauty dotted here and there.


Sanaiya is an ugly place and scary as all %$#@! It's an indsustrial area full of poorly paid, overworked guys with little or no education. Men outnumber women 1000 to 1. However, that's not why it's scary. It's the driving ... probably that's a result of the testosterone. Cars and oversize trucks compete on the roads dodging and weaving. Groups of male pedestrians criss-cross the road any time they see half an opportunity. It's a battlefield and I always breathe a sigh of relief when I'm safely out the other side!

The buildings are mostly old and run down and were poorly built and conceived in the first place. Sanaiya is a 2 minute drive from Ramsay Street where many of us-mob, who came in July last year, live. Despite its ugliness though it does have a certain charm. Somewhere in the shapes, colours, sounds, squalor, danger, fading signage, sand and mountain-backdrop there's something likeable.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

man-eating mozzies

There are giant man-eating mosquitos in Al Ain. I've never seen such big ones. They're quite easy to see and swat, but there are sooo many of them. We had to leave the classroom the other day to get it fumigated because we were all chatting away and simultaneously swatting mozzies. Apparently the college is being fumigated over the weekend and the surrounds are being 'fogged.' I hate to think what 'fogged' might mean. It conjures up visions of giant DDT clouds.

I keep wondering what diseases the beasts are carrying. I'm told that malaria disappeared from this area in the dim and distant past, but I'm also told (lots of rumours flying around in Al Ain) that if you are diagnosed with malaria you are refused treatment if you claim you got it here. However, if you got it in another country, you'll get treatment. I've heard of problems being legislated out of existence and of unemployment queues being substantially diminished simply by redefining terms. Simply refusing to acknowledge a disease as being away of getting keeping the records clean is another lateral thinking approach!