Abu Dhabi Weather

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hash House Harriers

I first hear about the Hash House Harriers about 15 years ago when a friend's father came to visit him in Japan and he was telling us about living in the Middle East. The way he was drunkenly describing this club of people who just run around in the desert following trails then getting drunk afterwards sounded insane. After my experience with the Abu Dhabi Hash House Harriers, it seems no less insane, but I feel that this "drinking club with a running problem" is the perfect combination of fitness and alcoholism that I have been looking for.

 I'd always meant to look into it when I originally got here, but I got caught up with running triathlons and my "serious" training. Fortunately, I'm past that for now. Finally, things have settled down at work and I'm done with my master's degree, so I have time for this sort of thing. Another stroke of luck was that a couple of friends of mine are members of the Hash.

My friends were kind enough to pick me up and give me a ride home so I could fully partake in the beer afterwards. We arrived at 6:30 for the 6:30 start time and were congratulated for being early. Fifteen minutes later, we began following arrows drawn on the side of the road in chalk. At some points we saw a circle and x pattern that indicated a turn so we had to find the trail. Sometimes I was near the person that found the trail and other times I was further away. I learned to just stay near the person who designed the trail because he wasn't going to run any further than he had to.

After the run, we drove the cars into a circle and had a mock award ceremony where I had to introduce myself. This seemed to be the real social aspect of it with a bunch of singing songs and hazing each other. While I have never been part of a fraternity, It reminded me of the positive aspects of what I imagine a fraternity to be like.

Also, I had been worried about the 6 km distance as I hadn't been running much over the past few months. However, with the running followed by all the searching for the trail and switchbacks, I needn't have worried. Since the heat and humidity kept everyone running a little slower, my legs were fine for the run. Anyone who is mildly in shape who likes socializing should come to this. It is free to run and 50dirhams for all you can eat and drink with beer and soft drinks included. I'll definitely be going back.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Al Ain Wadi Adventure

Last Wednesday my place of employment had a team building exercise at Al Ain Wadi Adventure. I was pretty excited about the whole thing because I had wanted to go and taking my family would be prohibitively expensive. Besides the cost of getting in, whitewater rafting is 100 dirham for an hour bringing the cost of an hour of fun to 400 dirham not including food and entry. Of course there is the 100 dirhams for all day kayaking, but that is something that you have to actually be skilled for.

When my director told us that we were going, I was pretty excited as I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise. There were three levels of rapids ranging from pretty tame to reasonably thrilling.

There's a rock climbing wall which is 40 dirham for 20 minutes. Unfortunately, between the heat and being tired out with that being the last activity for the day, I couldn't fully appreciate the full 20 minutes.

There's the air park which you can climb on all day for one price of 50 dirhams and is largely the reason that I was too tired for the climbing wall. It was pretty cool and don't worry, they have a harness for people to keep them from falling.

Included in the price of the air park obstacle course is the zip line, which was pretty much fun. You can even ride it as many times as you want.

I don't know what the pricing for this thing was, but for you get to have someone strap you and your two closest friends to a log and let you swing back and forth for a while. The sudden drop was pretty exhilarating. I was in the first group and lulled the others into thinking that it wasn't that scary, but that was more due to being afraid to open my mouth for fear of what would come up. My advice is to avaoid doing this one directly after lunch.

They even have a wave pool that creates a 3.3 meter wave for surfing, but I would never be able to do that without lessons. pictures aren't all that impressive, so here's a video to show what this is like. (Despite what the title of the video says, this is Al Ain, not Dubai.)

I enjoyed the rafting the most and would like to learn how to kayak as that looks like better value. The other activities were fun, but with the heat the water activities were more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend going to Wadi Adventure and having someone else pay for it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I've had an exciting past year of work and classes which has been so exciting that I had no time to write this blog. I am now finished with the Master's degree in Mathematics and finished with the teaching semester. I am probably not going to go back and talk about everything that happened, so will probably just pretend that I have already written about everything.

Another thing that I noticed is the excessive amount of spam in the comments section since I last looked at this blog. I might get to deleting it, but the interface is so clunky that it might not happen. from now, I have now restricted who can commented on my posts. If you want to comment, you need to be a member of the blog or a friend or whatever they call it. I'm pretty open to comments, I just don't want people clogging up the comments section with garbage.

I intend on starting to write this blog again, and depending on whether I get tired of it, hope to continue. I have a lot of Guitar Hero to play and a lot of TV to catch up on so I can't guarantee it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apartment Hunting

In the past week, my family and I have been getting reacquainted with Abu Dhabi. Because we arrived two weeks later than planned, the kids have had to jump into school 36 hours after arriving and I've had to start work. Essentially, my job has been finding an apartment and getting settled as quickly as possible. My previous job provided a place to live with the option of finding your own place. For my new job, I am just given money to find my own place. The upside is that I get to choose where I live, but the downside is that I have to navigate the Abu Dhabi real estate market.

Tha Al Raha Beach area.
We did some scouting before the summer break to see what was available. Prices have come down a lot in the past few years with all of the development. That was good news for us and we were looking forward to arriving after the summer break and having apartment owners lining up to offer us a place to live. Despite that being the expectation we were given, that ended up not being the case. To be fair, the prices before summer had set our hopes fairly high. Arriving well into the apartment hunting high season didn't help, either.

Given only two weeks to find a place, complete the paperwork, and arrange to move our worldly possessions out of storage into the apartment, we have been in a time crunch. My wife had very specific criteria and wanted it for the prices that we had grown to expect. Luckily for us, my wife's being picky worked out for us.

Eventually, we were given the contact number of an estate agent used by a friend. The agent deals directly with the owners so the prices are a bit lower. We were able to find a spacious apartment in the Al Raha Beach area for a price that was a lower than the other places that we had been looking at. It is a spacious apartment with a private beach and cafes and shopping within walking distance. There is a swimming pool and private gym.

If this sounds slightly shady, that's because it is. In the several months ago, there were 70 families that were facing eviction because of real estate fraud in Dubai. Even as recently as two weeks ago, more cases have come to light. All of them seem to be similar to what I am doing. To ease my mind, my friend who got a great deal on an apartment recapped his experiences. The main protection was that the checks were made out to ALDAR which is the major management company in Abu Dhabi. Also, I did some research and found this article from a few years ago that gave some advice to avoid fraud.

Assuming that we don't get scammed, we should be in our new place by this time next week. Assuming we DO get scammed, we'll be living in a one bedroom apartment on Hamdan street.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Visa Troubles

Since my last entry, I've canceled my visa left the UAE, and started a new job. I wanted to chronicle that whole bundle of headache, but because I had so much going on at that point, I never found the time. I will summarize by saying that the financial benefits of canceling the visa and having my new employer sponsor me made the trouble that I had to go through well worth the hassle. The other option was to just switch the sponsorship of my visa to the new school, but I don't know if that option would have been that much easier and it certainly would have earned me less money.

That said, I actually thought that I had gone through the worst of the process in getting my final clearances. I hadn't anticipated the potential problems that would arise with my school applying for my visa during Ramadan.

Companies need to apply for visas within 30 days of the new employee arriving. My planned arrival of late August put the day to apply for my visa at the beginning of Ramadan. The process generally takes two days, but because it was Ramadan when people are tired and hungry and thirsty and are dying for a cigarette, nothing gets done. (For a recap of some of my difficulties cause by Ramadan when I first arrived in 2009, click here.) Some of my cohorts' visas took a week, some two weeks and others three weeks. Mine and another new teacher's visa was not done within the three weeks so was not available before the Eid holiday when I planned on arriving. As a result, everything got pushed back by two weeks.

Because my family and I were in the U.S. staying with my parents, there was no real financial strain. The only strain was limited to straining my relationship with my mother for overstaying our welcome. The problem was that even though I was pretty sure that our visas would come through eventually, I couldn't help thinking that there was a reason that they were delayed and that there might be some random reason I was not being granted a UAE visa. Had this been the case, our lives would have been turned upside down.

Fortunately, everything came through and we were able to arrive last Friday. I have been fortunate that everyone has been so helpful in helping me cover classes while I have been running around getting re-established. Still, I missed out on the orientation and have sort of been dropped into the thick of things.

An additional consequence  is that I lost two weeks salary and am looking for an apartment after all of the best places have been already rented out. I will try to later recap my adventures of apartment hunting with a two-week deadline before we get kicked out of the hotel my school is putting us up in.

Friday, June 15, 2012


While we were waiting for Tia's ballet recital at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, Lucas asked to go to Kidzania in the Dubai Mall. Unfortunately, that didn't work out to be very practical, so I promised that I would take him there another time. As promised, I took the kids to Kidzania last weekend.

Here I am thinking about movie start times for The Avengers.
Unless you found this blog entry by doing a Google search for Kidzania in Dubai, you're asking yourself, "What the hell is Kidzania?" Well, it is perhaps one of the coolest places you could take your kids for the day and I'll tell you why. It is a miniature city in which the kids have all of the amenities and services that a reasonably sized city would have: a fire department, a beauty shop, a bank, mobile phone shop, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Pizza Express, game room, hospital, grocery store, theater, among others. The kids go around the city working various jobs and earning money. With the money, they can spend it riding around on go-carts, playing pool in the game room, getting their nails done. The staff are extremely helpful and friendly, happily training the kids in their respective jobs.

Kidzania has a thriving arts scene.

A gathering place for the local hoodlums.
The parent's lounge in the heart of Kidzania complete with free internet.

Kids love it and they learn about the idea of working for a living. I loved it because of the concept of the self-sustained city. There's even a coffee shop for parents with newspapers, magazines, and free internet. If you're still not sold on how awesome this place is, here is the final selling point: you can leave your kids there while you hang out at the world's largest shopping mall. Everyone wears bracelets which are electronically scanned any time an adult or child leaves. You can go shopping, go to the Sega Republic 100 feet away, or even go to the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. My wife and I went to see the movie The Avengers.
Here is a dingy looking hotel in Kidzania.

Here the kids are in the middle of their training to become firefighters.

The kids had to put out a fire set by the owner of the hotel as an insurance scam.
Meanwhile, back at the fire station...

Lest you think that I just wanted to drop my kids off and go have fun on my own, I actually went in intending to play with my kids. The thing is, parents aren't allowed in the buildings. You can watch the kids, but after a while, that just gets overbearing with kids inside acting out adulthood and a line of parents with cameras taking pictures and videos of their little darlings. I was guilty of that to a point, but after a while that whole thing got tedious. Besides, the kids had no interest in me being there at all. I gave each of them 20 dirhams for lunch, and told them I was going to a movie. Neither of them seemed to care and probably wouldn't have noticed I wasn't there until the place closed.
Tia enjoyed cutting into the patient a little too much.

Tia put the ribcage back on the patient after the liver transplant.

My advice as a parent is to pay the 90 dirham fee (must be accompanied by a child,  scary to think that there might be people without children trying to get in there), check things out, get a few photos of your little darlings, then enjoy your day. Unlike the other Kidzania branches, the one in the Dubai Mall allows you to leave your kids all day. Most of the others have a morning session and an afternoon session with a intermission in which they clear everyone out and start over. Dubai Kidzania has no such break. We brought out kids there at 10:00 am and let them play until 5:00pm. Now that I've seen it, the next time I go, I'll just drop them off with some lunch money and head to Sega Republic. In fact, I've already told our kids that for my daughter's birthday in August, they have the choice between Kidzania and Sega Republic. Whatever they choose, I'll be at Sega Republic and they can enjoy the day in whatever fashion makes them happy. And that is what family time is about!
Lucas enjoying his job working in construction.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hello, Jeep

Last month, I sold my old Jeep to an Emirati guy who has an fetish for that particular body type. Over the past month, we've been getting by with one car fairly well, but we will be moving off the island in August and will probably need two cars. Since this is the time of year when a lot of people are leaving, it is also the best time to pick up a good deal on a car. In looking on Dubizzle, the Craig's List of the U.A.E., I was able to find a few cars I was interested in. I settled on a 2004 Jeep Cherokee manual transmission. I later found out that in the U.S., this vehicle is called a Jeep Liberty, which explains why I was having trouble researching it on American consumer websites.
We chose bluewall tires for stylistic reasons.

In the mass of paperwork involved in switching jobs, I've had to cancel my visa and no longer have an Emirates i.d. card necessary to buy a car. Fortunately, I was able to convince a friend who I work with and lives in my building to put the Jeep in her name. I arranged to drag her to the car registration place to make the switch, conditional on the Jeep passing the inspection. As Murphy's Law would have it, the Jeep didn't pass the inspection, as it needed new tires. We went to get new tires with minimal drama, then headed back to the registration place. We transferred the insurance into my friend's name. Being a lady, she was able to go to the lady specific room to transfer the paperwork, avoiding a longer wait.

The whole process would have been quick if it hadn't been for having to get new tires. Since officially, it's my friend's car and she'll still be working for the school, I am able to apply for a parking sticker to park my car in the college parking lot over the summer. The worst part about this is that I'll be leaving in about a week and won't get enough time to properly drive it. As long as she doesn't sell it while I'm gone, she'll transfer the paperwork into my name and I'll have a nice new (for me) Jeep waiting for me.