Friday, 29 February 2008

massive price rises

I dined last night at my fave Al Ain restaurant in one of the International hotels. One of the things I've always liked about it is that the service fee of 10% and the tourism fee of 6% are built into the prices, so it is easy to calculate your bill. At the other hotels you have to total your bill and then add 16%, so you sometimes forget and get caught off guard with a higher cost. Having it included from the start seems much more honest to me. Well low and behold (I think that is the first time I've ever used that expression!) the menu prices at my fave were the same, but a bit of paper stuck on the bottom said 'add 10% service fee and 6% tourism fee.' In one little sticky bit of paper, they'd upped their prices 16%! So disappointing. So costly.

An article in the Gulf News the other day talked about the huge increase in the cost of food. In the last year rice has gone up 51%, chicken 66%, cooking oil 80%, potatoes 23%. Overall the increase is 36% in a 12 month period.

Apparently some people are going to neighbouring countries to stock up on cheaper supplies.

The rises have been blamed on the currency being pegged to the US dollar. This has meant that imports cost a lot more. A further rise of 70% is expected this year. There doesn't seem to have been a great deal of discussion in the news though about unhitching from the dollar.

And to make things worse, many of us didn't get a pay rise to offset the cost of living rises. Bleat. Bleat.

crimson skies

I got up at 4am today and looked out the window, as you do. Jebel Hafeet wasn't there. Usually it's somewhat visible at night because of the lights snaking up it. Last night it wasn't there. It was cloaked in a crimson sky. It was the most amazing colour. The world seemed to be on fire. I've not seen anything like it outside of war / armageddon type movies.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

who knew?

NDD is a factor in ADHD, depression and violence. Reseachers have found that NDD is associated with health and societal problems. Reducing NDD may well reduce the incidence of these other problems. What is NDD? Nature Deficit Disorder; a lack of trees and greenery in our environment.

Sounds like an idea worth pursuing. I heard a program on the radio last night Greening our Psyche where the point was made that 'our brain didn't grow, evolve and adapt in an environment of grey filing cabinets.'

Poets and artists have long admired greenery. Psychologists have begun using it in therapy. However, town planners have seen it as something that is 'nice' if we can afford it, but not a necessity. Is it a necessity? A study in Chicago looked at 14 fairly identical public housing developments where low income people, often single parents with young children, lived. The apartments tended to be small and overcrowded. Children had little opportunity to play outside. Researchers found that the incidence of violence and crime was highest in the developments that had fewer or no trees.

Apparently greenery seems to psychologically rejuvenate people. We are better able to withstand pressure and more able to control our impulses. The research claims that by greening the worst affected housing developments, crime could be reduced by as much as 7 percent. The Chicago Housing Authority has taken the research on board and is now greening the developments. Trees, grass and playgrounds are now appearing where before there was nothing. Green spaces are increasingly being viewed as community living rooms.

Interesting to see if the crime rates do drop and if depression and ADHD reduce. It seems like a safer, cheaper, healthier approach than medication.

But what about desert dwellers? Are we doomed?

Pic from

Saturday, 23 February 2008


My favourite kind of pharmacy. I'm all for science in medicine. I wonder what basis 'non-scientific' pharmacies run on.

new car

Hey! We got the new car ... and it only took a week longer than we were told it would. That's not bad! It's all white and shiny!

We were at a dinner last night where people who'd been here a while were talking about cars and driving in Al Ain. There were stories of deaths, accidents caused by being hit from behind, a car just the other day lying upside down on the median strip with people trapped inside and wheels spinning forlornly in the air, and one of a recent incident near Al Ain mall where a large 4 wheel drive, rather than stop at a red light, chose to drive over the top of the car in front and come to a stop with it's back wheels dangling through the front window.

It seems that a Hummer would have been a wiser purchase than my little 4 cylinder job, but then ... I got the car I was prepared to pay for. I just have to hope that it remains all white and shiny and manages to avoid bingles.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

blog attack

I've had three comments on my blog recently that make statements like

'Doushura said... For a more complete comments, I would advise you to be more detailed information, for example 'here or here.'

When I mouse over 'here' and 'here' I can see that they are both links to websites. One is a link to a site with the word 'pharmaceutical' in it. What is this all about? It seems like SPAM has arrived in blogdom. To post to a blog though you need to type in the free form group of 6(-ish) letters that appear at the bottom. This suggests that the spamming is manual rather than mass.

This is all a bit disappointing. We have to contend with daily email SPAM (despite paying for SPAM filters) and now it's arrived in blogs too.

Friday, 15 February 2008

the universe unfolds

We took the big step on Tuesday of putting down a deposit for a shiny new car. We were told that it would be registered and ready to drive away on Thursday. We've been here long enough to know that that wasn't going to happen. This is the middle east. Things don't work like that, and of course they didn't work like that.

The car dealer can get much cheaper finance through the banks than we can, so we left it in his hands to organise that. Well, the first three banks he tried rejected us. Why, you ask? The problem is that we've got a joint bank account and our bank statements list K's name first. It shows his Surname, his first name, his middle name and then the statement says '& Mrs' but it doesn't get any further. So my income is going into the account, but my name isn't on the statements. The other banks don't like it and they say they'll only give us the finance if the account is in my name only! Sigh! We haven't heard back from the 4th bank yet. The 4th bank is our own bank, surely they won't reject it ... ? I guess we'll hear the next instalment of that saga on Sunday.

There is another spanner in the works ... of course. To get a loan you need to have a salary statement from your employer. I got one of those a while back when we first started thinking seriously about getting a car. The catch is that the salary statement can't be more than 30 days old. Mine was 28 days old on Tuesday when we put down the deposit on the car. It was 30 days old on Thursday. So I'm guessing that the next thing that will happen is that our own bank will approve the loan pending a current salary statement. The last one took me almost two weeks to get by the time the employer had lost my application for it and I'd reapplied, then they'd given me one with wrong information and finally 14 days later I got the right one.

So I've got a car in waiting, but I don't expect to see it in my carport any time soon!

What drove us to finally make a move to get a car was our utter annoyance at the hire cars we were getting. The one we've got now reeks of cigarette smoke. As soon as you put the a/c on there's a huge dose of eau de fag. The car doesn't have central locking let alone keyless entry ... how did we ever survive without those necessities? The auto gear shift is clunky, there are scratches all over the body and to top it off it costs Dhs 200 more than we were paying when we left for hols a few weeks ago.

If the universe unfolds such that our shiny new car never actually gets to us, we'll let it rest there and say it wasn't meant to be and we'll probably keep hiring for a bit ... or maybe we'll just walk everywhere! But, all being well I'm hoping to be the proud owner of the new beast by week after next, or the week after that. Inshallah.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

green green green - back in australia

I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of drought and flooding rains
I love her far horizons
I love her jewel sea
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me

(from a poem which every Aussie child learns in primary school – written by Dorothy McKellar 100 years ago.)

Strangely my first impression on going back to Aus and the Gold Coast is of green trees, green grass and beautiful skies. It’s lovely to smell the fresh sea breeze and to walk around the Broadbeach restaurants and beaches. There’s been a lot of rain. The dams are full, but the water restrictions are still in place and may become a permanent feature of life in Aus.

(On the road to Moura)

Our travels took us up to Moura; two hours inland from Rockhampton. Rocky was flooded with the Fitzroy river having burst its banks leaving some houses with wet feet. Floods are not an uncommon phenomenon though and the typical house in the area is built 2 metres above the ground. So no major damage was caused.

(Bathing boxes on the beach at MtMartha - just outside Melbourne)

We traipsed 3000 kms south down to Melbourne which is gorgeous; so green. We’re thinking that when we move back to Aus we might buy an apartment in St.Kilda; the suburb we both grew up in. It has wonderful restaurants, coffee shops and the beach, and it’s just a short tram ride to the city.

(Shots of the city centre. Melb is a great mix of old and new and has lots of greenery even in the CBD.

We spent a few days in Bangkok with which we quickly developed a love / hate relationship. Frankly, it reeks. The stench on the streets is unbelievable; quite overwhelming at times. I gave up smoking more than 25 years ago but during one short stroll from the river to the station I felt like I’d inhaled 25 years worth of cigarettes (that’s over 180,000 cigarettes!). The pollution just seemed to hang there and the air had a black pall to it. In addition to the pollution there’s an ever present stench of rotting food, mingled with sewer and intensified by the heat, which attacks the olefactory nerves! (The river banks are a constant contrast of old and new of wealth and squalor.)
(This was one of the nicer street markets we saw.)

However, a lot of time is spent above street level. We were introduced to some sensational places including a Jazz bar with the all time coolest band. They played largely favourites from the American song book. Two of the band were from Chicago, one from New York. The bass player was from Aus. She was fantastic. I’ve never appreciated that instrument so much.
The drummer was wonderfully sparse. He used brushes most of the night. The sax player was great as was the singer / pianist. The venue was just wonderful with comfy arm chairs, no overcrowding and good food and drink. Our friends also urged us to see the Moon Bar, but hadn’t told us much about it. We were blown away! Sensational; a must-see on any Bangkok trip.