Monday, June 27, 2011

Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo (Simon and Garfunkel)

Our fifth visit to the Al Ain zoo was with Jade yesterday. Our first visit was on National Day last year when unbeknownst to us all 400,000 inhabitants of Al Ain decided to go to the zoo as well. Our second visit was on a quiet day at dusk and we loved the experience - it's an awesome zoo. Third time was with Adam.

Fourth visit was with Brian a few weeks ago. Unfortunately we went at a dumb time - the middle of a hot day and we were in survival mode for the afternoon. The animals were also cowering in the shadows - even the african lions looked to be struggling a bit. As it turns out that was the last day before the summer opening hours - from 4pm till 10pm.

So we rocked up with Jade at about 4.30 with sun hats, sun umbrellas and water (and cameras) and spent an excellent three hours roaming around. The animals were much more animated this time (doncha love my cowering and animated puns!). Dusk is definitely the best time to visit.

Highlights are below including SWMBO's decision to go for the Raspberry slushy option which turned her blue (have you seen Avatar?).

Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, June 25, 2011

So we change partners...again (Stephen Stills)

You say goodbye and I say hello!!

Brian and Jade crossed paths yesterday, somewhere over the Indian Ocean; Brian on his way to Nu Zild via Singapore and Jade on her way to us in Al Ain via Dubai.

Brian's final touristy thing on Friday afternoon was the Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building. He and Jacky took the elevator up to the hundred and twenty-something floor's viewing platform and took in the view.

While they went up, I went into the Dubai Mall (a small part of which is visible in the last photo on the left hand side by the Dubai Fountain) and hung out in Book World (much more me).

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll.

We picked up Jade from Dubai airport on Saturday morning.

The flight schedule said she would arrive at 5.45  but the pilot must have put his foot down because the plane actually got in at 5.

Sadly, therefore, we weren't there to greet her off the plane but it was great to get a big hug when we finally arrived to collect her. And, as you can see, she was thrilled to see us too.

We are looking forward to showing Jade around sand land for the next two weeks and converting her to the joys of wearing an abeya (ar-buy-ya) and sheila (shay-la).

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. Safe travels to Jesse as he returns to The United States for a while.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wherever U R is home - part 2 (Prince)

I should have given some idea about who Sheikh Zayed was in that last post. So I'll do that now then shall I?

Sheikh Zayed's official picture is everywhere in the UAE so he's quite a familiar figure and he died only a few years ago so there are many who still remember his leadership here.

I prefer this one from his bedouin days in the late 1940s.

The bald facts:
  • Full name - Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan  
  • Born - 1918. He was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the traditional ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1922 to 1926.
  • Died - 2 November 2004
  • As a student - He received only a basic instruction in the principles of Islam, and went out into the desert with the Bedouin tribesmen, familiarising himself with the life of the people, their traditional skills and their ability to survive under the harsh climatic conditions. He was a natural though and loved the life of falcons and hunting, riding and living modestly.
  • As leader - He was the ruler of the Eastern Region from 1946 before becoming the ruler of the whole Abu Dhabi.and was the principal architect and founder of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE for over 30 years (1971–2004). Zayed was first appointed (by the other six Sheikhs on the Supreme Council) to the presidency of the UAE in 1971 and was reappointed on four further occasions: 1976, 1981, 1986, and 1991.
As a person he is extremely well regarded both within the UAE, the arab world and the west (former President Jimmy Carter was a friend). His charity work and tolerance saw lots of hospitals and churches belonging to other faiths being built, both in the UAE and in a number of overseas locations.
In Al Ain he is especially revered because of his bedouin links and the fact that he lived in the eastern region of Al Ain for some time.
He is buried in an area adjoining the Grand Mosque. Photographs are prohibited as I found out on my first visit (a security guard watched me as I deleted the snaps I'd taken in ignorance) but it is in the same beautiful style as the mosque.
His grave is visible through some gates - it is very plain - with a white headstone. Emirati men take it in turns to read from the Holy Quran and this is broadcast 24/7 by loudspeaker to those who visit this area of the mosque. It's very moving!
Love and peace - Abu Keegan bin Graham

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wherever U R is home (Prince)

We have a number of places on our must see tour itinerary for visitors to our place in sand land. One such  place is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Last Saturday we did a daytripper to see the mosque and do some shopping.

Brian was really impressed and he's seen a lot in a lot of different places so it takes something to impress him and the Grand Mosque is certainly something special. We arrived just in time to tag onto an excellent tour guide this time (the blokes are generally better we've found). Our fourth visit will be with Jade in the next few weeks (can't wait to get and a mother and daughter abaya/ shayla shot). I spose I better wear a kandorra for that one.

We spent the rest of the day in the Hamdan Centre where I stocked up on CDs at King's Recording (sic) while She Who Must Be Obeyed helped the Minister of Defence to buy jeans and nik naks to take home to Waiheke.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yo ho, yo ho, it's a pirate's life for me, drink up me hearties yo ho (Captain Jack Sparrow)

Why are pirates called pirates?

I posted a while ago on the fourth Pirates of the Caribbeen movie and made some comments on the first three that, of course, Samantha disagreed.

She loves them for good reason - a big one being the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (although the first movie was scored by Klaus Badelt, Zimmer did the t'other three me hearties). I would think that Orlando Bloom is also a drawcard, not sure why. She also loves the stories and the pirate vibe I'm sure (and which nice girl doesn't love a pirate?).

To be fair to Fanfa I decided to watch the other three again recently. I managed to pick them all up cheaply from the local Al Ain stores. We (Brian, SWMBO and moi) watched them one after the other in two days.

I love that first film (The Curse Of The Black Pearl). I laughed again at all the same places (and there are many places in that first movie). It's just a great film.

The highlights are Johnny Depp's inspired pirate caricature, Keira Knightley's feisty damsel in distress, Kevin McNally's Gibbs, and Geoffrey Rush's Barbossa. An awesome cast.

The plot is not worth thinking about but the pace and humour make the movie zip by for me.

The second one (Dead Man's Chest) is the weakest in terms of plot and pace but it looks great. Elizabeth Swan is even more feisty and the rest of the cast returns and again make the film watchable.

The problems are the lack of humour, the writing (no killer lines), the Kracken and the pace of the film.

Unlike Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back and other 'middle' films, Dead Man's Chest; for me, drags - mainly because they are setting up for the third, to be continued film and they therefore stretch stuff out.

The kracken as a monster from the deep is lame. Like the movie versions of the Hulk it's so improbable it's daft.

The third film (At World's End)  is similar to The Two Towers, in that I actually enjoyed it much more this time around.

Again it looks great, the actors are back again, Keef the human riff makes an appearance and Barbossa's part is beefed up (his presence is missed in part 2).

I didn't notice it dragging this time either. The action sequences could do with a trimming but on the whole I take back my earlier statement that the last one (at the time) is rubbish.

I know I went to see it with the girls (Fanfa, Spade and SWMBO) with the wrong attitude thanks to the second film. I think I'm finally over that and now I can enjoy the third film without that baggage.

How's that for a reassessment SMP?

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. We went to see latest XMen film yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Okay I love January Jones and she's hard to tear your eyes away from and, yes, there were scantily clad women dotted around the film...okay - lots of scantily clad women in the film...but the story is good and the effects do not overshadow the actors or plot. Oh and did I mention that January Jones is in it?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine (Laura Nyro)

The weekend saw us in Dubai for some essential appointments (me - hair, she who must be obeyed - eyebrows) at various locations (me - Dubai Mall, SWMBO - Burjman Centre). Brian tagged along too so we stayed overnight to take in the sights.

While at the Dubai Mall we visited the Aquarium and underwater zoo. It's a great facility - I never tire of watching the sharks and other species roaming around the 10 million litres of carefully maintained water. The highlights in the zoo are the otters, the penguins, the swing-bridge, turtles, alligators and piranhas. Amazing to think it's all inside a mall. Jade is looking forward to seeing the penguins in a few weeks' time. We watched for a while as they were feed. The zoo handler carefully noted who she had fed so that no one missed out.

The remainder of the weekend was spent on the Big Bus Tour of Dubai. Brian hasn't seen Dubai for some time and was amazed at the changes. The Atlantis complex was a notable stop on the Palm islands - the Lost Chamber of Atlantis is amazing and well worth the effort. No expense has been spared - it is really what I imagine the mythical city to have been like. The setting for the Lost Chamber is truly spectacular with its sculptures and wall displays. Some inhabitants of Atlantis are also on display.

The other notable stop was at a souq on the banks of the Dubai Creek. Before taking the water taxi across the Creek, Brian decided to buy a watch.

I should have sold tickets as Brian put on a master class in how to confuse the poor watch sellers over the repair of his old watch before going in for the kill with the haggle over prices of a new watch. Day turned to night as the epic battle raged over the merits of various short listed items. Books and manuals were produced by the sellers as evidence, thumb screws were used by Brian to force down the price. As dehydration started to take its toll (we deprived the poor seller of his tea), the pressure mounted until there could only be one winner (on the day).

Amazingly a price was agreed upon to a fanfare of trumpets; we eventually emerged bloodied but unbowed and Brian had his new timepiece.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, June 9, 2011

C'mon people now, smile on your brother (The Youngbloods)

Highlight of the week so far has been Brian and Jacky enjoying some of the local delicacies at one of my school's social BBQ events, and living to tell the tale.

BBQs are a regular part of the school's social calendar. Whenever anything good happens to a staff member (new car, baby, new house etc) the person experiencing the good fortune pays 200 dirhams to Abdulla. When Abdulla's collection reaches 1,500 dirhams we have a BBQ. Abdulla is very, very good at extracting money for all sorts of 'good' reasons so we have a lot of BBQs!

Many of the staff play volleyball after school every Tuesday and then we start the BBQ rituals from about 6pm. Starting the fire, getting the food prepared - all takes a while (they call it 'arab time') so we always end up eating at about 9.30pm.

During the night, I showed Brian and She Who Must Be Obeyed around the school and we visited an art exhibition in the gym that was taking place during this week.

SWMBO, Wozza, Mohamed, Brian and Peter (English advisor)

Mohamed (librarian) and Wozza with the boss banana.

Hesham (my translator) does his best to interpret for SWMBO.
 Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guess who just got back today? (Thin Lizzy)

Brain Smith - that's who.

[While we were waiting for Brian to appear at the arrivals exit I said we should have made up one of those corporate signs to hold up for a laugh. Jacky said yeah - if we did it should say 'Brain Smith'.]

Brian is Jacky's dad. My father-in-law. When I told people at school that he was arriving to stay with us for a few weeks they had no concept of the term father-in-law. When I explained the relationship - my wife's father - they said, "oh - your uncle!" All except for the Sudanese geography teacher who said, "oh - the minister of defence". I like it!

The minister and Wozza (and above Jacky) on Jabeel Hafeet.

I'm reading a great book at the moment. In fact I'm on a roll. The last one was Lee Child's latest, Worth Dying For. A fun, fast read but really brutal. The new one (also from the Wozza library shelves) is Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps by Allan and Barbara Pease.

It's great - full of really pertinent facts about the differences between men and women. And jokes.

How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper? It's unknown. It's never happened.
Once I didn't talk to my wife for six months, said the comedian. I didn't want to interrupt.


The book provides factual evidence for things we all know to be true - women love to talk (Italian women are the talking champs - 6,000-8,000 words a day plus 2,000-3,000 vocal sounds, plus 8,000-10,000 gestures and body signals); men, of course, talk in their heads.

The book includes a nifty little test to check whether you have a male or female wired brain. I took the test and I am the proud owner of a highly masculine brain. Jacky took it and was in the narrow overlap zone between the masculine and feminine wired brains.
I have found it on-line if you want to take it yourself. It only has 30 questions and the on-line version has a built in evaluation. Give it a whirl.

(In a deep bassy masculine voice) Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You think that I'm strong (Robbie Williams)

The football season is done and dusted. Phew! What an agony it was. I'm exhausted.

I hope you have all noted that I have spared you posts through the long dark night of the premier league season. It would have been ugly, to quote Iggy - no fun my babe.

There's always next season (new 2011-12 kit)
 Oh Arsenal we love you. But, boy, did they strain the bounds this season.

We nosedived after the Birmingham trauma in the Milk Cup or whatever it's called this year and never looked forward. So we finished 4th and now we have to qualify for Europe again. Oh well. We didn't deserve any better.

You know I'm a glass half full kinda guy though, and there was a positive to be lifted from the mire - we finished ahead of Spurs. Wahoo!

Yes we were in contention for four trophies till late in the piece, and yes at various points we beat the league champions (Man U 1-0) and the European champions (Barcelona 2-1), Chelski (3-1) and Man City (3-0), but the loss at Wembley to the now relegated B/ham City outweighs it all and is the lowest of the low points.

It was a tough call in the end, between that horrible experience, and Jacky suggesting I choose another team - one in another colour; blue maybe.

Meanwhile, Rochdale F.C. , by good luck and good management, performed brilliantly to achieve their highest ever place in the football league tables. Unfortunately the good management has been lured away to the bright lights of Barnsley for next season which provides an opportunity for someone else! Keep the faith Christine!

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. For now I am content to follow the path of the Auckland Blues through the rugby Super 15. Currently in second place and looking good.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It was gravity that pulled them down and destiny which broke them apart (Robert Milkwood Thomas))

I have just discovered these images from the graphic designer and art director Christophe Gowans; the National published a story on him in their Arts section a few days ago.

He has used his imagination to rethink some old record albums as book covers. My personal favourite is the Robert A Zimmerman title Blood On The Tracks but they are all great.

Love and peace - Wozza