Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday afternoon, I'm just beginning to see (The Moody Blues)

It is, in fact a Tuesday afternoon. The students went home ages ago (they finish at 1.15 pm) and so have the staff (they finish at 1.16 pm). My advisory team have also left and so my car is alone in the car park. Here it is - we have a little Nissan Tiida hatch that scoots around the streets of Al Ain. Cute huh?

I thought it was probably about time I explained where in the world we are. So here is a map and some touristy info. As you can see Al Ain is about 90 mins drive from Abu Dhabi (going west) and Dubai (going north). We took about 2 hours getting to Abu Dhabi on the weekend because we didn't exheed the 120 kph speed limit and took a breather at a gas station for a coca-cola. And you can see on the map how close we are to the Oman border - I literally drive alongsiide it to get home.

The touristy bit:

Characterized by resplendent, red-hued sand dunes and a magnificent expanse of towering mountains, the city of Al Ain has much to offer during UAE holidays. Less two hours from bustling Dubai, Al Ain is one of the largest cities in the UAE and officially part of the Abu Dhabi Emirate. Glimpses of bountiful sand dunes through the tree lined highway toward Al Ain UAE affords excellent scenery on a drive toward the city.

There are many Al Ain attractions to explore during a visit to the city. After a hearty breakfast at one of the many great Al Ain restaurants, there are many things to do that will easily fill up the days quickly. Al Ain has long been a destination for many sheikhs of the UAE who enjoy the cooler temperatures as a welcome respite from the rest of the country’s muggy coastal humidity. Aside from the well-appreciated microclimate enjoyed during an Al Ain vacation, the many forts, some still in ruins and others well-restored, are part of a series of archaeological sites visitors can tour. UAE’s history shines through among these ruins, revealing age-old settlements which once thrived in the area.

Also known as the “Garden City of the Gulf” the oases provides ample amounts of water to the region allowing for many scenic parks and manicured gardens to flourish with lush, exotic plants. The vibrant and blooming city is yet another reason why so many choose to visit. It offers a beautiful contrast from the often stark and arid desert landscape. Though the coastal cities such as Umm Al Quwain and Sharjah carry a more tourist feel, Al Ain UAE has a more traditional Arabic atmosphere, affording a more authentic UAE experience. Points of interest include the Camel Souk, or market, camel races, the Al Ain Museum and the Ain Al-Faydhah Resort, a facility filled with innumerable kinds of entertainment.

We're off to Abu Dhabi for the weekend (staying at Aussie Dene's swanky downtown crib) so I'll take some pictures of that for the next entry.

Okay - time for me to get into the Tiida and drive home.

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky (Kansas)

Our first week in Al Ain has seen us doing the touristy bit with visits to the local zoo and the nearby mountain, called Jebel Hafeet. We've sussed out the shops and got ourselves lost many times but somehow found our way about. Luckily Ande left us her car for the week and that was a great help. We've managed to organise our own car now, a little Nissan Tiida hatchback, that looks hilarious next to the local all terrain vehicles.

We've also bought a few things - a DVD player is a key one and timely given that I found season 8 of 24 in a little store selling mainly Arabic tapes, VHS movies and what looks like movies on CDs. Weird, but 24 was the real deal. Needless to say we spent yesterday gorging ourselves on it and we're already 6 episodes in. And it's brilliant!! So far the best season of all.

Sportwise I have access to about 10 channels of football - Champions league, Premier League and from elsewhere. I watched a limp England team lose to France during the week and today Arsenal take on Spurs at the Emirates at a great time for me - 4.45 in the afternoon!

Anyway, back to the zoo and Jebel Hafeet. Here are the photos:

First up is this wolfus scratch-a-lotis. We watched him for a good five minutes as he tried to attend to an itch of mega proportions.

The mountain in the background is Jebel Hafeet and believe me it's taller than it looks! This exhibit was a favourite as the rhinos and Giraffes and gazelles had a huge shared area to live in.

The whole zoo was set out well and all of the enclosures were clean, had shade and water and the animals were well looked after. A major contrast to the zoo in Doha which was none of those things.

It being the Middle East though, even the zoo is undergoing change and had the requisite cranes of a human kind sharing with the other sort.

Our trip up the mountain was also eventful. I underestimated the amount of petrol it would take us to get up and back. Mainly because the mountain is very deceptive. It doesn't look that big until you drive up it in steep winding curves (although the English warning sign says: Beware - Wind Road). So it took us two attempts but oh man (sorry - couldn't resist) - it was worth it.

The views across to Oman (first shot below) and over Al Ain (behind Jacky) are fantastic.

On the top are two complexes - one is the Mecure Hotel and the other is one of the Sheikh's many palaces. This is what you see below. Staggering views and a sheer drop are its two immediate features.

We stayed until the sunset settled in (quite early - about 5.30pm) and Jacky took these shots as we drove down the hill back into Al Ain.

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, November 15, 2010

She's well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand, like a lizard on a window pane (Beatles)

Been a busy few days doing essential things: getting settled in, meeting people, getting the football channel sorted and having a haircut!

Here we are in our natural habitat in our Al Ain abode - surrounded by date palms, mangos and banana palms. We have a couple of roosters and various other wildlife in situ. What are the odds we come to an oasis in the middle of the desert and have roosters waking us up in the morning (a tad too early for Jacky's liking)? The lizard was on our bathroom window - pretty cool huh!

This is the front of our apartments - there are 8 apartments (each with two bathrooms, two bedrooms, kitchen, lounge/dining area) on two floors (we are on the second floor - number 8).

These are the two roosters who live in the garden next door.

Bananas in our front garden.

A gecho on the outside of our bathroom window.

Our lounge/ dining is rather spartan, but Jacky has plans (involving... cushions!).

We intend taking a drive up a local rock formation tomorrow so I'll aim to include some views over our oasis town after that.

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC (Beatles)

We have arrived safely in Dubai after a pretty epic journey that began at 5am yesterday morning in New Zealand with a flight to Auckland. I went for an induction session at Cognition HQ while Jacky went to St Lukes to meet Brian and then Tina. Keegan was able to pick me up after my induction (Cog people were a lovely bunch - I enjoyed catching up with Chris, Jess and Repi - rest of the office were all new people) and deliver me to St Lukes. Fantastic to see them all before we left.

We haven't seen Tina for ages and it was great to catch up! The thing with special friends and shared history is that you can pick up again instantly. It was also our first sighting of her special little guy, Oliver. He's going to be a heart-breaker!

Keegan delivered us to the airport and it was a special thing: being able to say farewell to him. The A380 took us first to Sydney and then, after about 20 hours, we landed safely in Dubai at 5am this morning. Nothing to it when it's written down but 20 hours is 20 hours!

For some reason everybody in the world decided to exit passport control at the same time. We finally made it to the desk to be told that I had to get an eye scan and a new piece of paper from the opposite end of the building (or as the passport guy said, "Corner"). Handy. Another queue and then back for an even longer queue/wait to get a stamp in our passports. All up two and a half hours of standing in line! Ridiculous.

Luckily we were able to get into our hotel room early and had a sleep (we agreed on two hours but ended up snoozing for five). We were both cream crackered. I slept for about 2 hours on the plane and the rest was fitful moving around with eye shades on (not even room for tossing and turning). I did watch the usual procession of movies: Toy Story 3 (fun in spots but enough already); Salt (started out with Bourne style realism and promise but then started getting silly - still a good actioner though); Robin Hood (Ridley and Crowe - again looked fantastic and the action scenes were brilliant. Ridley obviously paying homage to the Saving Private Ryan beach scenes in reverse - the French getting wasted in a beach landing this time). I also spent time listening to music and reading the new Mojo magazine. No matter what you do though, 20 hours on your bum is hardly fun! The care packages given by Samantha and Jade did help us out immensely though - we're still working through the fruit bursts!

We've just been for our first walk back in sand land - gotta love that heat! The mall was like an old friend and we had a lovely meal at Paul's. What a great feeling to be back in the land of polite service and smiling faces (a real contrast to the sullen treatment from the cafes in Auckland airport).

Tomorrow we are being picked up and driven to our new home in Al-Ain (about 90 mins south of Dubai). Stay tuned!

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, November 5, 2010

Preserve your memories (Simon & Garfunkel)

Time for another round up of old photos: this time it's three of my favourites of the family. The Adam (holding my light metre), Keegan and Wynton one was taken at the Taupo house before the girls came along; the group shot was also a Taupo visit - specifically, the botanic gardens. I especially love this one because it captures us really well in cheeky poses.

This final one is taken at Alpha St in Cambridge - good looking bunch huh?

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When it's time for leaving, I hope you'll understand - that I was born a ramblin' man (Allman Brothers Band)

A 'thanks' and a 'sorry' are overdue. Many whanau have called recently and opened with, "Oh - you're still here". Well, yes we are. So have a hearty, "thanks for the calls/emails, and sorry for the lack of information recently" back to y'all.

We've been waiting, you see, for our travel plans to become finalised and that has meant waiting for the people in the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) to approve my qualifications. That's now done and so we're off next Thursday (November 11). I have an orientation session in Mt Eden that day and we fly out after that.

Time has been spent saying toodles to the kids, seeing Adam graduate with Keegan (as you saw in the previous post), copying CDs onto the p-pod (nudging 15,000 songs now), loading up the kobo e-reader, visiting Sallie in the Hawke's Bay, watching Bones, reading books in old technology format (to avoid unnecessary luggage), sorting out the broken luggage from the Doha return, watching Arsenal/NFL and the San Francisco Giants win the world series, preventative visits to the dentists and generally listening to the birds and wandering around our gardens.

Now it's time for final preparations and packing up the cases.

Here are some recent snaps from our Wellington visit to see Dookie, Fanfa and Jesse's flat and from those garden wanders. Jesse's home made Giants shirt must have done the trick.

Love and peace - Wozza