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29.9.09

Settling in... I think. :(

Well, it has been a month since we landed here in Denver.


I guess we are settling in. We are mostly moved into the apartment (which I love). However, I still have lots of sorting and purging to do.

We have been trying to get out on the weekends and explore a bit also. those ties are fun. I don't have to think about things that depress me.

In all of the literature and forums, they said you go through the same emotions when you move back to the States, as when you relocated to being an expat. I would beg to differ! It is worse!!! So much worse.

I think the hard part for me is that we not only relocated back State side, but we also relocated State wise.

So, I not only left all of my friends that I had in Abu Dhabi, but I left my friends that I had in Idaho. I know 2 people here in Denver.

Making friends has never been easy for me. I am a fairly private person ( yeah right... I blog... but seriously I am.) I tend to be quiet and shy. I guess that is why I have been accused of being stuck up and aloof.

Well, I am off to do more unpacking.

10.9.09

Catching up...

Wow time has flown since we landed in Denver. There has been a lot of things that have taken place.

The first thing that we had to get settled was housing arrangements. Both Doug and I knew for certain we did not want a house with yard responsibilities, so we were thinking that an apartment or condo would be the best way to go.

After looking at over 20 apartments, I had things narrowed down to 4. All 4 had things about them that were just perfect.

The first one was close to work... Doug could have walked there easily in maybe 10 minutes. However the fact that it was a gated community was a joke, since the gates were left open all day and only closed at night. They also had 1 gate code for everyone to share. Ack, what if your friend is not my friend??? They also did not have any garages available.

The second apartment was in a high rise building. The view was hmmm... I could look out and see the next building from the small patio. On the other hand, it was a 3bedroom. Love the space that it had. The lay out was good also, but the security was a joke also. You could enter the complex through the front of the office building and easily have access to any area of the complex. No separate garage either... but they did have storage units on premises.

Number 3 had incredible closets! There were 2 master suites, and each had 2 "normal sixe" walk in closets. Absolutely fantastic! there was also a den area that would have been great for the computer stuff. The big draw back there was the rent. It was about 350$ more than the 2 previous apartments. Garage was a parking garage also.

Number 4 was fantastic. The kitchen is the biggest of all of them. It also has a window seat and large pantry. I have more counter space than I did in Abu Dhabi, which is fantastic! I think I would also have room for a small island unit in the middle if I wanted one. The dining roomis adequate size for my round table. and I think the big green sectional will actually fit in the living room. Each of the bedrooms has a large walk in closet. the master has an extra closet just for shirts and pants (that double rod thing). Along with the closets, each bedroom has it's own patio space. The living room also had a gas fireplace (bonus). I think the best part of this apartment is the location of it. It is on ground floor, and has one whole end of the building. The patio's off the bedrooms face a little wetlands pond, so they are quiet and peaceful. Now here is the best part. It is a true gated community. You sign in with security if you are not a resident. You have to have a reason to be there. Security is maned 24 hrs a day. There is also complex security. There are also some Denver city police officers who live in the complex who volunteer their time for the security detail. (Fantastic!!!) The complex is on 26 acres, has it's own lake with marina, 7 pools, coffee shop, actual gym (looks like a real gym rather than a hotel type gym room), and activity coordinator for the complex. they do cooking classes once a month, as well as community activities. I guess it is obvious now which one we picked. Yep, this one. there are garages to rent, and we have a parking space right in front of out place. It is about 15 - 20 minutes for Doug's commute and about 15 minutes to downtown. Not bad at all.... Oh, I forgot.. it is the least expensive of all of the apartments I looked at. funny how that happened.

We have purchased most of the stuff we will need for the apartment... boring stuff like the bed, mattress, washer and dryer, etc. Now we just need a few other little things like coffee maker, coffee grinder, sheets and some other stuff. I think I can get all of those done this weekend and during the beginning of the week.

Our moving date is this next Friday. WOOT WOOT!!! I am so excited. We have the air shipment coming and the storage shipment. Our surface shipment from Abu Dhabi will be here sometime around the 15thof October. After all of that is settled, I will finally be able to entertain again.

Well, I am off to do something today. Not sure what... Dang, I miss the coffee's in Abu Dhabi! I really miss all of my friends there too!

21.8.09

Egypt... Amazing, wonderful and full of history.


(Sorry about the late posting of this... This part of the journey was taken on August 16th Sunday)

As we are cruising up the river, I am sitting here reflecting on the history of this area.

You read about the history in childhood Bible stories and such and file facts away. Then a lot of the time, you never have reason to retrieve them. I am finding it very interesting the religious significance that this area has had.

Moses was found in the rushes in the upper Nile delta. Several of the Pharaohs have the name Moses in their names... Ra Moses. There was a famous battle fought in Kadesh (of Kadesh Barnea fame in the Bible). I need to look that one up.

My thought are feeling really random right now. There is so much to absorb and process.

I know for certain that the pictures that I have seen do not do this are a justice. This is one of those things you need to experience with an open mind.

This morning we toured the Valley of the Kings, and the Valley of the Queens with our guide for the week Wayed (why ed) He is a trained Egyptologist and a fountain of information.

Both Doug and I were amazed by the color on the walls that have stood the test of time. It is particularly noticeable in the inner portions of the tombs and temples. Colors that are so intense and rich that there really is nothing comparable in the western world. Rich indigo and red ocher that pop with intensity. The indigo reminds me of the first blue, night sky that I saw in 7 months, sitting on the patio of the Nile Palace Hotel in Luxor. It was absolutely incredible.

I think of all of the sights I saw today the one that impacted me the most was the Tomb of Ramses VI (KV 9). Not only are the color vibrant, but the way down into it is very steep. This tomb is unique in that there are two Ramses buried there. The tomb was started by Ramses V and continued y Ramses VI. From what we were told and is known, the tomb was first ransacked only 20 years after it was built. Because of this both mummies were moved to the tomb of Amenhotep II tomb, and now reside in Cairo. The plastering on the tomb walls was never finished.

Let me digress in saying the plaster in nothing like what we think of plaster as. Even the plaster that they use on historical restorations is not the same. This is a limestone based plaster that almost reminds me of a thin-set mortar. It is not flaky and to the touch it is very “concreety” in texture.

Even though the plastering was not finished, the pictures on it are very impressive. There is a an impressive painting on the ceiling that represents the book of gates, book of caverns, and the book of heavens. (You will have to google them if interested in finding more out.) There is a painting further in of the goddess Nut framing he books of the day and the night on the ceiling. I think I spent half my time looking up and trying to absorb all of the images. Alas, people have always been the same and there is lots of Greek graffiti that dates back to around 150 AD or so.

About two hours ago we set sail for Aswan. Right now we are going up the Nile River. I am sitting in our room watching the countryside pass by and snapping pictures from our balcony. It is absolutely fascinating to see just how much things are the same through out the farming world. The crops here are planted in nice even rows, the irrigation trenches are neatly laid out and the farmers are out checking on their cops. It reminds me a lot of the area along the Mississippi River in Missouri and down to Louisiana. If it were not for the palm trees and the dunes in the distance, I would be able to close my eyes and imagine the sounds of the Louisiana Delta.

The Nile valley is a fascinating place to be. There are so much contrasts. There are areas here that date back to the earliest of Egyptian history periods. Yet so much of the history here relates to the last period of Egyptian history with Alexander the Great's, Macedonian General Ptolemy and it being ruled by his descendants. It is fascinating to me that people of a different religion could rule and work in a foreign country so long ago and yet respect the religion and traditions of the people for around 300 years. They not only set an example for the Romans, but also for us in modern times. A lesson that is so often lost on us.

Well, I must close this update for now as tea will shortly be served by the pool and I have a date with a cappuccino.

Fast Forward 3 days...

We have toured the tombs and temples of the great rulers of the Egyptian empire and have been dually impressed. The technique and the skill that was needed to create these fantastic masterpieces is amazing. The mathematical skill as well as the technology and the labor was beyond anything undertaken today I believe.

We have met some wonderful people while on this trip. Two couples from Melbourne Australia. We have been inspired by their travels and entertained by their stories and photos. They are on the last part of 5 week holiday. They went on an African Safari, and now I have been bitten by that bug. The stories they told about sitting in a jeep and seeing the animals up close were so incredible. They were with us from Luxor to Aswan and we parted company last night. They are continuing on to Jordan, which should be fascinating during Ramadan, and then home.

Again fast forward another day...

Today we got into Cairo after riding the train from Aswan to Cairo over night... Sleeper trains are cool, but I prefer a real bed in a real hotel. It was bumpy most of the time but it was fun.

When we got in, we were met by a tour guide representative who informed us we were 2 hours late... like we had a choice in the matter? Anyway, he delivered us to the hotel and our tour guide for the 2 days we have schedules things for.

When we got to Cairo, we switched guides. We had a wonderful young lady from Alexandria named Engy showing us her Cairo these past two days. She is absolutely amazing with her knowledge and passion for her country. Both Doug and I really enjoyed being with her. It was like touring with a good friend. (If anyone is interested in doing a trip to Egypt, let me know. I have her contact information and she does whole country tours as well.

We met Engy at the Ramses Hilton. she was so gracious. Our train ws 2 hours late getting in and she still had a smile on her face. We had time to clean up and then we were off to the Pyramids.

We went to Memphis, Sakara, the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, papyrus museum (sales store), perfume factory (fascinating), and an Egyptian cotton store.

It was fascinating to put the history from the tombs and temples of the Nile Valley together with the Pyramids and their history and actually see the tombs of some of the Pharaohs. Engy was so patient with us and our questions, I am sure many of them seemed silly.

I am discovering that when you have a tour guide it is important to have one who loves the country that they live in. If they are a native it is even better because they have a true passion for the history and the people.

Today we went to the Coptic church, Hanging church, several other churches and then to the Egyptian Museum. All were absolutely fascinating. (More posts will follow on this.) I believe that it is important to have a tour guide through the Egyptian Museum. This way you have someone to tie things together for you. I saw many people there who had mystified looks on their faces and it was apparent that they were totally confused by things.

We were sad to see Engy go when it was time to part. We feel we have truly made a friend in this short time we had.

So anyway, on the 22 we head for Abu Dhabi and then gather stuff up and head for home.

Home... that seems kind of like a foreign word right now... During the time I have been over here, I have thought of the States, but did not anticipate returning home so soon. I am pleased that I did accomplish so much in so little time. I hope that all of our friends stay in touch through out the years. All of our friends we have made will always have a special place in our hearts.


For more photos of this trip see either my facebook page or my picasa site...

30.7.09

I love maps!!!

As the navigator of the family when we have traveled, I have to say I love maps.

I remember driving as a kid and reading the names of the places and the counties of where they towns were. It was interesting to read the town names.

That love continued as an adult. I now however have competition! There are maps on the blackberry and maps on gps dohickey majobbers the talk to you with a funky British accent. I have a tendency to argue with them which can be interesting in its own right.

However may favorite is maps that are on the internet... especially ones like this. We are headed to Fujariah UAE, which is on the Indian Ocean... So now we have fantastic directions as to how to get to the hotel. Should be a cinch right???
NOT!!! Click the picture to check this out.... ???


15.7.09

Curve Balls or Serendipity?

I have to admit, I did know that this was going to be an unexpected adventure from the time Doug came home and told me we were moving to the Middle East...

So today when I got home from a coffee and he said he had gotten his 30 day letter, I guess I was not surprised. I am thankful that it is due to him working himself out of a job (7 months and under budget for a 2 year project), but it still hit home. There are so many people out of work that are leaving to go to their home countries. Not because they worked themselves out of a job, but because the project they are working on is closing down.

Even though I knew this day was coming, I was still hit by the reality of it all and how fortunate we really are.

There are still so many things I want to do and see while we are still here, and I do hope that Doug will find another job here. I really do not want to leave.

We have been so many places and done so many things that we would never have had the opportunity to do back in the states. I have become so much more aware of how fortunate I have really been, in life. I have met people who make 1000 AED per month (~350usd) who send most of that back to their families in India. People who support extended families on less than a single person spend on their monthly food budget in the States. Women who are willing to risk everything (including being beatten and raped) to come here. So that they can send almost everything back to their families so they can have a decent standard in life. These people are happy to make these sacrifices. I wonder how many of us westerners would be willing to undergo such hardships to give that kind of hope to our families?

Being here has certainly changed my outlook on life. I believe it is for the better. I hope I am a better person because of the people I have met and the things I have done and the experiences that I have had.

If we continue to be fortunate enough to continue living here in the UAE, I hope that I will continue to be able to make a difference and that I will be able to make more of an impact on people lives by helping them.

What ever happens, I am so fortunate to have been here these 6+ months. If we are able to stay, and serindipity intervenes, I know that I will continue to try to make a difference for people.

4.7.09

4th of July

I have to admit that it really doesn't seem like the 4th of July. The year has gone by so fast that it hardly seems like it should even be summer. Yet here we are.

This 4th is very different from the past 21 years in Idaho. There was always a huge parade with great floats. Celebrations in neighborhoods and by the river. Then there were the fireworks. WOW every year Melaluca (sp) would sponsor a huge fireworks display.

I can forgo the parade, but it is the fireworks that I am going to miss. It was always fun going down to the river and watching them.

This year there is a celebration of sorts at one of the "American" bars, but we are choosing to be with good friends and celebrate with them. Jerry and Janet are from Florida and absolutely the best you can find in friends. We always have such a great time with them, weather it be going out to dinner or just goofing off for the day. (I have mentioned Janet before as my walking buddy... )

We are taking the potato salad and the desert (cherry cheese pie).

In the past we have had burgers or steak with fresh corn on the cob, chips, salads and watermelons.

Happy 4th to all of my American friends reading this...


21.5.09

Time goes by so fast...

I can't believe how time goes by so fast. I remember when I was a kid, time seemed to stretch on forever. Holidays took forever to get here, sumer never lasted long enough though. It seemed like I would never grow up (maybe I haven't) and then all of a sudden it changed.

When our children are young, we hear words that tell us to enjoy them because they grow up so fast... It sounds silly at first, but then they are all of a sudden 5 years old and starting school.

All of a sudden they are graduating and going on with their lives. We hope that we have instilled in them the right and wrong ways of things, moral values and have earned their trust and friendship.

I feel that Doug and I are privileged to have a rare relationship with Jeiel and that in all of the struggles through school, and such, we have forged a bond of trust, friendship and mutual respect.

I don't know why I am blathering on about this... I was intending to post the highlights of his visit which was way to short.

The morning he arrived in Dubai, we started his adventure. We gave himm a wild and crazy tour of Dubai that only parents, frustrated by a faulty GPS system could provide. In otherwords, Doug and I had some rather heated discussions about where we were going and why we were lost. At the end of the day, Jeiel had seen more of Dubai then many people do... including back alley ways and parking lots and construction sights. We wore him out and he slept all the way back to Abu Dhabi.

The next day we gave him a tour of Abu Dhabi. I got to take both doug and Jeiel to some of the places that I have discovered with my friends and show them the Abu Dhabi I have grown to love.

Thursday we went to the Grand Moaque. We had a fantastic tour guide named Hammed. We learned so much. The mosque is absolutely amazing in the construction and the details. Bioth Doug and Jeiel got some incredible pictures of it.

We went on a Desert Safari that night and really enjoyed it. If you are looking to go, book with Emirates Adventures. Hands down they are the best so far. If you can request to drive the dune bashing with Esau... He was great and really enjoyed his job as driver.

The next day we went to Al Ain and had lunch at Mercure resort. The resort is located half way up the Jebbel Haeef Mountain which is the tallest mountain in the UAE. The views were incredible. The food was ok. Nothing spectacular... That afternoon we went to the Al Ain zoo. We got there to late to see the cats... they clost the cat exhibit at 6:30... bummer. We will have to go back. The big purple slushies were awesome and everyone had purple lips and teeth and blue lips and teeth.

That night I came down with (what I thought was.... but sins I am still feeling kind of green around the gills, am not so sure) food poisening... ugh! Enough said there. I do not know where I got it from. I was the only one in the bunch that got it.

Saturday I moped around the house and Doug and Jeiel went to The National Car Museum out toward Liwa. They said it was cool to see the car collection. We had a bit of a sand storm that day so that was snother adventure Jeiel go to have.

Sunday we headded to Dubai after some souvenier shopping here in town. Jeiel got some cool things to give to friends andhe took some cool things back to friends for us.

It was hard to see him leave on the plane. Sigh... In the mean time I am planning where we can take him next time he comes to visit.

9.5.09

It is almost time...

Well, the day is fast arriving... Jeiel arrives on Tuesday. I have so much to do before he gets here.

I desperately need to clean my apartment. I may "cheat" and hire someone in to help. I need to get the spare room / office under control. I still need to finalize several trip items we have planned and I probably should buy some groceries and snack type things to have around the house.

We will have so much to say and so much to do while he is here, I am sure the time will go by quite fast.

Pictures will be posted and his progress on his diet will finally be seen in person. I am excited to see that.

Seriously, If you want to come help... call me! I am sure I will be going crazy by tomorrow afternoon.

XOXO Lori

2.5.09

Just updates...

So, I am almost back to normal. I had another follow up with the Dr. I really like her, she is very knowledgeable about things. I still have some cough, and a bit of a sniffle, but other than that... things are good.

People here are very concerned with the Swine Flue. I think part of it is in the name.

Culturally and religiously, swine are bad... unclean, forbidden etc. That is not just in the Islamic religion, but also in the Hindu and Jewish religion in this area. So I can understand why people are so totally freaked out about it.

The name of something that is so bad and so forbidden in your religion and culture is the name of an illness. What could be worse than to get sick with it? I guess, that once you get sick with something with that kind of name... would you ever be considered clean again?

It is interesting the different peoples reactions to this outbreak. Here in Abu Dhabi they have closed all pork shops. (Most stores do NOT sell pork. However some do, but they are all in separate rooms and only non Muslims can enter the rooms. this is also the place where they put any grocery product that had any pork product in it... like POPTARTS!) From my experience, the pork is not all that great. Bacon, leave it, sausages, leave them, however the pork loin is good and the Parma hams are fantastic.

Perhaps the most bizarre reaction I have heard of so far is one that someone I know from an online forum had. She said the was talking to a very learned man. His comment blew her away. He stated that all Muslims would be ok since they do not eat pork. This comment came several days AFTER the announcement that there was no connection to the animals.

As I have stated... life is interesting ad definately an education over here. And I am having a fabulous time learning about it.

20.4.09

Being sick is an adjustment in it's self...

Thursday last, I came down with a sinus infection... or so I thought. It didn't go away and I kept feeling worse. Finally Doug said I needed to go to the doctor.

Having been with him to the Dr. when he had an ear infection, I knew this was going to be a different experience. The first thing we have to do is call our international insurance company facilitator. They have nurses on staff that evaluate what is going on and make referrals based on that, to the proper facility here.

After Doug had talked with the nurse, she felt I needed to see an ENT. She needed to make the apt and then call us back. She said it might be the next day as she was in London and she needed to get in touch with the nurse from the Dubai office. One way or another, someone would call us in the morning. OK no problem I can hang in until morning.

So yesterday, I am waiting and nothing... so I sms Doug... have you heard anything? no, will call them... A few minutes later I am talking to the nurse from the Dubai office and she is getting me a referral to Gulf Diagnostic Center to see a GP. She felt that is where we needed to start, as far as doctors.

While I am waiting, I am thinking... I wonder what nationality will this doctor be? I should probably write down all the questions I can think of that he might have and put my answers on the page also... so I type it up and print it out.

So anyway, I call Doug at work and he comes home. We go get a taxi and head to Gulf. We get there, and (not knowing that there is a back entrance) wind our way around the compound to the back entrance... which is actually the main entrance.

The doctor is Indian I think, no worries. Some of the best in this area are from India. So he takes a look at my list of questions and seems impressed that I had it all written down for him. This helps me, since I have practically no voice. Let's take a look he says. I move over to the table, and he looks in my throat, listens to lungs and all that good stuff. No fever, lungs are clear, but Oh my he says... your vocal chords are inflamed.

So the diagnosis is viral laryngitis and bronchitis. Here is the interesting part... In the states, most doctors would put you on antibiotics. Dr Al Anad says, I don't want to put you on antibiotics since they mess with the rest of your system. Lets try some herbal remidies. O.K. Why not... sounds good to me. He gives me a prescription for a cough supressant (thyme and primula root) and an antihistamine as well as some herbal throat losenges with ginger in them. I have to say, that cough supressant stuff works.

I get some pretty nasty coughs at times so I have tried some pretty powerful cough medicines. This stuff works better than anything I have tried so far. I actually slept through the night. Well, at leat till 4 a.m. which is a lot better than I normally do.

I still feel like a truck has run over me, and still don't have a voice. However, I am feeling better since I got a good nights sleep.

Well, I think I am going to head up to the pool and sit in the sun for a while. I have a feeling that might feel kind of good.

Maybe I will take some crocheting up with me ad work on that.

6.4.09

It's the little things.....

For the most part, I think I have made the adjustment of living in the Middle East quite well.

To be honest, I have always wished that I could study the culture and history of this area. I have a decent knowledge of Europe and most of the history there, but when it comes to this area of the world... there is very little available. When you do find information, it is always from a western point of view.

That is fine, if you are looking for an overview. However, I am one of those who wants to know what makes people tick. I wan to know what happened in their history that has made them this way. What is it in their religion that makes them think this way...

Since being here, I have found several venues that have allowed me to learn some. There are some wonderful expat forums that I have joined as well as lectures I am attending. I am also reading books like crazy. That there can be a hazard to my budget since books are expensive here.

In the states, I took for granted that you could go to a bookstore and just get a book... here there are lots of book stores, but I find myself choosing the books much more carefully. I find myself asking if I would read the book more than once, would I loan it out, most importantly, is it worth the price, or could I wait till I go back to the states and get it then.

As I stated, the cost is much more expensive here... for instance...

The book - Princess cost me 45 dh = 12.25 10.15 usd new or 1.37 usd used (amazon)

Magazines are worse... the average price of a women's magazine (like Good Housekeeping) is 60 dh = 16$ usd... That is expensive... I don't think in the states magzines are more than 6 or 7 usd for the more expensive foodie magazines...

However that has not stopped me from purchasing books. I have always had a love affair for books, and I just can't give them up.

If anybody decides to come visit... I have a list of books I am looking for...

Speaking of visiting... If you want to come visit... we would love to have you stay with us.

23.3.09

OOps!

Yes it has been a long time since I last posted. Things have been busy and sort of hectic. It is funny how life gets that way when you really have no intention of letting that happen.

When we moved here, I had every intention of being a bored housewife. Little did I know that my schedule would be filled to overflowing and I would be struggling to make sense of it all and keep things straight and sane. I mean how many coffees can a person go to?

This last week was the culmination of a hectic couple of weeks. I had been helping coordinate the passing out of tickets to a gala event and a week ago Monday was the event. It went great and everything went smoothly. So on that hand it was a great success. On the other hand I was burned out.

I needed time to do absolutely nothing and recouperate. Last week I kind of felt like an ostrich sticking their head in the sand and going "nana I can't hear you". I hate to admit it, but I did dodge several phone calls and events that I ususally attend. I needed peace and quite.

However I am back and running in the fast lane agaion. I am determined not to get back to the overwhealmed schedule of the past though. I have decided to adopt a most Arabic attitude about it... "InShallah" meaning "God willing".

If you are a reader on Facebook, you know I am thingking I am going nuts. I have consulted with the personal trainer at the gym and am going to meet with him tomorrow afternoon. I know I need to do this, I just am sooooo allergic to exercise.

I know what is going to happen... I am going to start working out and feeling better and then end up giving up all the bad foods I like to eat (coffee, chocolate, chips...) and I am going to eat only fruits and vegies and maybe some chicken and some fish... I am going to get healthy.

Every part of me wants to resist this. I don't know why. I have always hated to exercise, but I love to walk. Maybe my body just knows that this needs to be done and now is the time to do it. I am also going to start water aerobics and some swim lessons.

The swim lessons will be good since I can't swim. I am terrified of water (bad gym teacher) and anything over my head, I freak out. However I have a friend here who has taught swimming to may people who are afraid of water. My ultimate goal in this is to be able to go snorkeling again.

When we were in Hawaii, we went snorkeling and I had fun. I was terrified of the water, but, I had fun and got bit by the bug. From what I have read, the snorkeling here is absolutely fabulous. I really want to do it again. However I just can't face getting in the gulf and not knowing how to swim. We will see just how patient Lisa is. She may need to have the patience of a saint though.

Well, I am off for more adventures...

22.2.09

New discoveries... and more advantures.

I am really kicking myself now that I have been to Global Village. I had a chance to go and I didn't about a month ago. Well, I did have a slight knee injury and it would have been rough going, but if i would have been a bit more careful, I would have been fine.

We went up on Saturday and wow! I have never seen anything like it. It was absolutely fantastic. I got some fantastic perfumes that I really like and some necklaces and we also got a fabulous rug.

We would have liked to spend more time there and possibly gotten several more rugs.

If anyone knows where the rug vendor is located that was just inside the front gate to the left, please let me know. Or if you know a really good place to pick up rugs, I would love to know that also. I have heard the rug store in Meena shopping center is good.

There was one pavilion that was really intriguing... I think it was the Dubai police department? They had gorgeous trunks and some large gold trays. The work was incredible. Were these just on display, or an auctions or just what? I think that would be something I could convince hubby to buy in the future.

When we were up in Dubai we went to the Dubai Mall... how fun. I could so totally imagine the damage I could inflict on a credit card there lol. I wouldn't so that of course since I would be the one to pay it off lol. There were some fantastic lighting shops I would have loved to explore.

The Burj is absolutely incredible when you get up close and see it. The architects are so creative. Doug has dubbed Dubai as the "Architects Playground". When you see some of the interesting and creative buildings going up you soon realize why.

Well I am off to a morning of fun. I am going to a WIAD coffee and the presentation is on Kazkhstan. Should be very interesting. I will be posting photos

19.2.09

Just stuff...

I am so glad that tomorrow is the weekend. I so desperately need a down day.

My friend Janet and I walked down town on Monday. We were both thinking that our legs hurt more than usual, so I mapped it out and we walked 8 flippin miles. I couldn't believe that so I had to do it over. Sheesh, I didn't think I had it in me to make it that far.

We found a great little restaurant that serves healthy food. Janet thought I was nuts dragging her through a hospital. I was just curious... I know back in the states that some of the best restaurants are in some of the big hospitals. This was a gem.

I found a fabulous little Iranian restaurant with my friend Lisa when I was down there last week. It was just one we saw along the sidewalk and it was cute. The service was awesome and the food was fab. I definately want to take Doug there.

I am really enjoying my culinary adventures here. Some days I do crave a big fat burger (today) and crave American comfort food. Fortunately there are some of the big chains I am familiar with.

Most of the time we try to eat at local places. It has been a lot of fun discovering them. Some have become favorites of ours and we take friends there.

I have also been discovering coffee shops with my friends. There is an awesome one just down the street from us called Vivelle. Fantastic coffee and the sweets are divine! There are these little ones shaped like pumpkins that are made out of chickpea flour and oh they are so good.

I will get some pictures next time I go there. That sounds like a reason to go there tomorrow...

12.2.09

Dust Storms

I remember being somewhere around the age of 8 or 9 and driving through the middle of the US and seeing "dust storms" and "dust devil's". I was always fascinated by them and how the wind controlled them.

Later when I read novels and romance stories under the covers by flashlight (oops... Dad you did not just read that ) hoping I wouldn't get caught. Stories about Adventurous people who lived in the Middle East and rode camels and Arabian horses. There were always places where there was some dramatic dust storm. For some reason, I could never quite get my head around the concept of something that big.

Later after Doug and I were married I remember seeing a car that the pain was almost blistered off of, but it was so smooth it looked like it had been sanded. That is just what had happened to it. I don't remember details other than they had been driving through Nevada and got caught in one of the dust storms.

I didn't give them a thought when we decided to move here. I don't think the thought crossed my mind at all. I guess living on the high desert in Idaho, I know sand but... sand is sand right?

Nope! Not by a long shot. The sand here is very different.

First off, it is very fine. If you take some regular sugar and grind it in a coffee mill (electric) for about 20 seconds, you would end up with about what we have here.


If you go to the beach, it gets in everywhere... if you track it in the house, it goes everywhere. When the wind blows... it really does everywhere.


I decided to go over to the mall today and look around. As I left my apt, I noticed that the sky looked kind of overcast. My mobile buzzed and I had a text from Doug that said
the outing we were planning for tomorrow afternoon was being canceled. So I decided to walk up to the Corniche (beach) and take a look. WOW I could barely make out the other side.

I am going to run up to the roof and see if I can get some pictures real quick here. Ok camera worked and cooperated...

4.2.09

How am I spending my days? and Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

I have been having a very interesting time here...

For the most part, I am getting up around 6a.m. with Doug and seeing him off to work. Then I have a couple of hours to myself and am usually out of the apt by 9 or 10 in the morning.

I have met some new friends and we are exploring the city together. Most of the time we are hopping on the bus (which is free and fabulous). I will have to post about the various area I am seeing and my experiences. Right now though, here is an update on one of my latest activities. I will post pictures soon also.

The other day I went on the most amazing tour. I went to the Abu Dhabi falcon Hospital. The hospital is located out near the airport. It is also an award winning hospital.

I am not sure what I initially expected. I guess I was thinking more of US version of an animal hospital. Instead I found something very unique.

We were given an education about the birds, the history of them, their needs, the problems and struggles they face, the maintenance and care of the birds, and a glimpse into the lives of those who have Falcons.

I guess at this point I should also mention one small thing. I am absolutely terrified of birds flying around me. I can't go into aviaries at all, It totally freaks me out having something flying around my head. I guess I was a bit nervous about this experience at the beginning.

Falcon owners can have as few as one bird, to as many as 80 or as in the case of the President and Crown Prince, 200 plus birds. The falcons take place in hunting, racing and beauty contests.

The history of the Falcon in the UAE is not a long one, remembering the fact that the nation is not that old. It was only about 100 to 120 years ago that falcons began to assist in the catching of food and started being trapped and trained. The primary purpose was to find food. Now the falcons have become a national symbol, heritage and a sport. The Falcon is a migratory birds with the migratory season being in September.

Ninety percent of the birds that are used in sporting are bread in captivity. Traditionally these have been Peregrine Falcons, Saker falcons and the rest is made up of hybrid birds. There are many markets in Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States. The cost of the falcons can really vary in price. Some go for as low as 30K and up as high as 80K USD. Depending on the lineage of the bird and the owner and breeder they can go for as high as 100K (usd). Sharjah has a market as does Dubai. It is estimated that there are around 20 thousand Falcons in the UAE.

Before purchasing a falcon it is important to have a complete health check done. Ninety percent of the birds examined will have an endoscope done to look at the internal organs and check for diseases. They all have blood tests and are completely examined by a veterinarian. The falcon hospital can see 40 to 60 birds per day.

The hunting season is September through December. If you are caught hunting out of season, your bird will be confiscated and you will face 6 months jail time as well as a hefty fine. Eighty percent of the birds in the UAE are hunters. The primary hunting grounds are Afghanistan, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Each of the birds is outfitted with a tiny clip on the top of the tail. It is about the size of a pencil eraser and very light weight. It then holds a transmitter that is tracked through GPS. The birds are also “chipped” (the same procedure that is used in the US for finding lost pets) so that they can be tracked and monitored. One interesting note here is that in order to travel, every falcon must have a passport. So if you wanted to take your falcon to Morocco to hunt, you take them with their passport, or you do not go.

After the hunting season is through then comes the breeding season and moulting season. The moulting season takes 3 to 6 months to complete. The average life span in captivity is 15 to 17 years where in the wild the average is around 25 years. The falcons breed early in moulting season. The gestational period is 36 days. They lay 3 to 5 eggs. In the wild 3 out of the 5 will generally hatch. Hatching time to flying time is 3 weeks. Both sexes of birds take turns sitting on the eggs. Falcons are carnivores, eating only fresh meat.

I found it interesting that eighty percent of the birds are female. The reason being that they are bigger and prettier.

There is a lot of personal pride in owning a falcon. There is also a lot of maintenance and care in owning one. I asked how much it costs annually for the care and upkeep of one bird and they vet did not know how much the cost was. Just a check up costs 800-900 AED.

Personal pride is huge when it comes to falcons. Much time is spent taking care of them, and feeding them. It is that relationship that brings them back to the owner when they hunt. They know their owners voice. Many people have special rooms set up for the birds care. They also have a staff that takes care of the basic needs. When the owner is with his birds, he first talks to it and strokes it so that his touch is known. Then the bird is fed by the owner. There is bond between them and this makes successful for hunting.

Pre-hunting and post-hunting check ups are very important to the health of the bird. During the visit for the check ups the birds also have an endoscopy procedure done to make sure the internal organs are fine and they have not ingested something that is bad for their system. After the check up they may be quarantined for a period of time if it is needed. The birds also have their blood drawn and a full blood work up is done on them. If a bird needs antibiotics for some reason, they are given the same kind as humans but in minute amounts. The blood tests allow the vets to check the progress of the bird and to see if they antibiotics are working.

The falcon hospital can see between 40 and 60 birds per day. They may need to be seen for infections, a routine check up, surgery or feather replacement.

We were privileged to be able to watch a feather replacement on one of the falcons there. I have a 20 minute video that I took that I am going to try to put on u-tube or somewhere, so those of you interested can watch it. I was absolutely fascinated by the procedure.

First the bird is sedated, kind of like when we are sedated by gas in the dental chair. The bird totally relaxes allowing the vet to open the wing spans and check each feather for defects and or flaws that need to be fixed. I found it fascinating that each feather has it's own unique purpose. It is either a flying feather, turning feather or something so each one needs to be fixed/replaces with the same kind of feather. You can't, for instance, take a tail feather and put it on the wing, because it won't work right.

After the bird is asleep and the feathers are checked, the vet matches up the feather with ones that have been harvested from moulting birds and ones that have died. The color needs to be matched to as close to the color of the feathers being replaced, I think that is mainly for aesthetic reasons. At the hospital they have a large collection of every kind and color of feather imaginable.

Once the process of selecting the correct feather is finished it is time to remove the damaged feather from the bird. They use a clipper that is sort of like a pliers type toenail clipper. They make a clean cut, and match the length of the feathers. The next process is to glue small pieces of doweling into the end of the feather. Feathers are hollow at the ends. A test match is made and then they mix a 2 part epoxy and insert the dowel into the repair feather, then into the feather end that is still attached to the bird. Sometimes they will use a super glue to glue the feathers, it just depends on the kind of feather and the function.

Sometimes a feather is not broken, but just damaged by being slightly bent. They take a crimper and crimp the feather into the right shape, then apply a splint made from a tiny portion of a feather shaving with super glue. When it hardens, the feather is as good as new.

After all of the feathers are checked and repaired, they then pull the bird back out of the air chamber and let it start to breathe a bit of normal air. At that point they take a towel and wrap it around the bird and take it to a perch on the floor. They place the birds hood on and let it come out of the anesthesia completely. The they take the bird to its perch and tie it down so it is comfortable and secure. It is amazing how fast this all happens. If I remember correctly the whole procedure took about 20 – 25 minutes.













The falcons are quite expensive depending on the blood line and the owner of the bird.

27.1.09

Observations...

I have been here for 3 weeks and 3 days as of this evening... I have to say that making this change has been surprisingly easy for me (so I think). Maybe I haven't gotten to the part of it being hard, but I have not had a good cry or regretted coming.

Things are very different here than what I thought it would be. I had done a lot of research on the area, and a lot of what I was able to find was about Dubai. Well that is another place all together. Where Dubai is glitz and glamor, Abu Dhabi is more down to earth and ordinary.

Sure there is the glitz, but then right next door there is the ordinary. Just like in any big city there is a wide range of incomes and people. And as in each city there are the problems and language barriers that come with the territory. There are all income levels, from those that make just 300 SD to those that make thousands per month. And, of course there are the problems that come with those lower income levels.

Mostly what I have seen so far is flat sharing with more people in the flat than we as western thinking people feel should be in one. Where we think maybe 2 or 3, there may be 8. Of course, when you think of that, you need to realize that those people are probably working here to send money home to their families and so all they really want is a place to sleep and a roof over their heads. They are happy with the basic needs and while they may have wants, it is not a ruling factor in their lives like it is for so many of us westerners.

When we were at the Hilton, we met several of the staff there. I got to talking with one of them and asked if he had a family. He said yes, they were back in Sri Lanka, he has a wife, and 2 daughters. He brought in some pictures for me to see. He has a lovely house of which he is very proud of, a beautiful wife, two adorable girls, a beautiful German Shepherd dog. Another one we met, has been here for 16 years, he is also from Sri Lanka and will be going back to visit in April. He is a fortunate one here, he has a vehicle that he drives to work.

As in every case, there is the good along with the bad. I just read a story in Emerites Woman last night that detailed some of the horrendous living conditions and working conditions that the beauty industry workers live in. They are practially slaves to their empoers whims and if the miss an hour of work, they loose the whole days pay. On the other hand, there ae some spas and treatment centers who are trying to reverse that and they take care of their staff wonderfully.

Every one that I have met has been absolutely wonderful. They have been most kind in helping me outi n learning to navigate the bus system and in giving directions. I have never felt un safe in any of the areas I went... maybe a bit uncomfortable, but not un safe. The people here are very kind and generous.

On a closing note...

I just finished an awesome book last night. If you can find it, it is a must read. The book is called Rags to Riches by Mohammed Al Fahim. It details the account of the Abu Dhabi area and the incredible hjourney the Emiraties have been on over the last 60 years. It is absolutely and incredible journey.

14.1.09

Oh My Godness Part 1

Oh my goodness...

So much has happened in the last week. Some days I am exhausted with all that is going on.

They are trying to get things done at the apt so we can move in this weekend. We got the appliances and the temporary furniture yesterday.
The window coverings are supposed to be here either today or tomorrow. That should be interesting... they sent a 23 year old man to do the measuring...It will be interesting to see if they are the right length and just what we got.

O.K. so let me back up a bit...

We got in to Dubai late by about 2 hours... That isn't bad considering the whole event...

Our flight to SLC ws on time and went perfectly. When we got into SLC we found that our flight out to Houston was delayed. They said it was bad weather in Idaho Falls... (the weather was just fine when we left). Evidently the flight crew was on another flight and they were connecting to the Houston flight in SLC. It turns out that is was not Idaho, but Jackson that the bad weather and the flight was coming from Jackson to IF and then to SLC. So, because of delays, they moved us to another gate... 3 concourses away.

Of course they said that the crew was just landing at that gate and there would be a short turn around time there. So we all grabbed our bags and ran. Arrived there huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf and found out that the plane had not yet landed. Ok so we sit and wait... flight status is now upgraded to 20 minutes late. We start to worry a bit since our layover is only 90 minutes and we know we need to change concourses in Houston. So the 20 minutes pass and nothing. Just wait we are told... they will be here soon... the plane has just landed and they are now on the round.

What they forgot to tell us was that sure the plane was on the ground, but they were on the ground over at the other concourse where we were first and... they were waiting for a gate to open so they could deplane. They will be here soon was what they kept telling us. The gate agents were as frustrated as us because they couldn't get a straight answer either. Time wise we noe have about 20m minutes to make the connection in Houston if all goes well and we arrive on time. After another 20 minutes of waiting, we finally get word that the plane has unloaded and that the flight crew should be arriving shortly. We are all to the point of Yeah right... we will believe that when we see them. About 25 minutes later here comes the crew sauntering down the concourse with Starbucks coffees in their hands. You could have heard a pin drop with the silence they received. (by flight crew I am talking about the 2 attendants, the pilot was there waiting for 2 hours).

Finally we get to board the plane. Take off was good and the flight was uneventful. The atmosphere was very frosty toward the attendants though.

We knew we were going to have a tight connection in Houston and might possibly miss it if we didn't make up some time. We were able to make up a lot of time, and got there and on the ground with about 5 minutes to get to the next leg. As soon as we got off we checked the monitors, and yay the flight is delayed. So we hurry to the gate and settle in to wait. Finally we get on the plane to Atlanta... this is supposed to be an easy connection... the arrival gate and departure gate are right next to each other. Due to bad weather we arrive late. Ha! why should we expect to be there on time?

So we get there and the jet way won't connect to the plane. It goes side to side, but not up to the plane. So after fiddling with it for a while, the pilot decides that he will have the 10 passengers that have a Dubai connection to deplane first. Now about this time someone decides to make a brilliant move and try to open the rear door, and deplane himself... how stupid can a person be? The co pilot comes out of the cockpit and hurry's back to the back of the plane, the pilot comes on the intercom and informs the attendants that he will not allow anyone to deplane until he says so. 10 more minutes of waiting....

Finally he comes back on and says that the 10 of us with international connections are to deplane first. That is good in theory, but as soon as the doors open everyone starts to get their stuff and move into the aisles... blocking us from deplaning at the rear. Brilliant! As we get off the plane we find out that once again we need to go 3 concourses over to the next plane.. great.

Atlanta is huge... bigger than Houston. Doug starts running and expecting me to keep up... yeah right! He gets snappy at me and I tell him to go on ahead and I will catch up. I am getting kind of short of breath from being stressed. So he takes off running to the next concourse and I am trying to keep up as best I can. This wonderful lady comes along and asks me how far I need to go, and can she help? I know you aren't supposed to give your bags to anyone you don't know, but... so I give her my carry on and she takes off, she stops a cart driver and tells him to take me the rest of the way. She gets there, gives Doug my bags... somehow she seemed to know to just give them to him. I arrive and get checked in and as I am getting ready to go down the jet way I mention to the gate agent that I don't know who she is, but would he tell her thank you for me... He then asks me "who should I tell?" I turn around and she is not there. Kind of strange... she was there one minute and then the next she was gone.

We get on the plane and finally sit down. We can relax since this is the last plane we need to catch. It doesn't matter if we are late getting in to Dubai, we have made all of our connections... which is really good.... since we are delayed lol in takeoff. Due to the weather the airport is closed for a few minute and no flights are landing or taking off. There are a lot of thunder and lightning going on and the fog is real thick. All of a sudden there is a real bright flash of lightning, and the fog is gone. That is the strangest thing I have ever seen. After a few minutes we get in line to take off, and we are #3. All of a sudden we make a u-turn and get out of line. the ilot makes an announcement that they are gong to double check the take off course sine we are heavy. (Does that mean they forgot to do it the first time?) So we get back in line and wait our turn. As we take off you can really feel the weight of the plane.

The flight was awesome. I loved flying 1st class and now know why so many people fly it on international flights.The food was incredible, it was almost non stop.