Abu Dhabi Weather

Saturday, February 27, 2010


The past two days we've had a shamal which is the word for "westerly winds" and from context is synonymous with "sandstorm." It's not all that bad, but makes visibility worse and really sucks to go cycling in.

Yesterday, I had a terrible time cycling in the wind. The sand itself is more like dust and doesn't hurt unless the wind picks up the bigger grains of sand. For the most part, I just felt gritty feeling in my teeth. I'm also guessing that it wasn't that great for me to be breathing it in while exercising.

Afterward, I met my wife and kids in the park for the kids' classmate's birthday party. My wife got a sore throat from all the sand in the air. I guess that it was bad for me. That was a good enough excuse for me not to wake up to go swimming.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


My copy of National Geographic arrived today with a few of the pictures having the more "sensitive" portions blacked out. Look at the link and see if you can figure out which pictures had black marker over them. My wife asked a good question: Did the UAE government black out the naughty bits or did the printing company do it knowing where it was headed?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I saw the best, most ridiculous car today. It was parked in the student parking lot of my school this afternoon and must be the car of one of the night students. What would persuade a adult male to have images of the 1990's video game character Sonic the Hedgehog all over his pink car in the year 2010 is beyond me.
When I went back to my desk to get my phone to take pictures of the car and told my co-workers what I had seen, one of them said, "I think the owner is a man." My response was, "I'm sure he is. No woman would drive something so tasteless."
The best thing for me is the grill. This car is obviously the result of someone who enjoys their rye bread while playing video games, regardless of the expiration date. I'll have to keep my eye out for the owner of this car so I can congratulate them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


A really odd thing happened tonight that I would imagine is not common at all. We had just sat down to dinner when the doorbell rang. I was half-expecting one of my co-workers to stop by and was surprised to see a woman dressed in Emirati clothing. I think she was as surprised to see us as we were her but she continued anyway. After finding out that we didn't speak Arabic, she continued in fairly passable English.

Apparently, she has three children and her husband is in Lebanon with heart problems. Due to her inability to express herself in English, I'm not sure of the extent of her husband's illness, but I got the feeling that she's pretty desperate. She asked us for money, food, or anything we can spare. She said she needs things like diapers, but has no job or income and no way to get anything because of her husband being in in the hospital in Lebanon. My first reaction after having been the victim of scams before was, "That serves me right for answering the door," "My tacos are getting cold," and "How am I going to get rid of her." After a little thought, I looked at her a little more closely and noticed that she seemed pretty desperate.

My wife and I regrouped in the kitchen and decided to give her some money and food. I reasoned that the bit that we gave her would make little difference to our family's well-being and in the off chance that she was scamming us, at least our conscience would be clear. In poorer countries, the hesitation with giving money to people on the street is that I will be inundated with hoards of others trying to take advantage of my magnanimous generosity. Here, however, I don't see that happening among the local population.

I would be interested in the opinions and experiences of people who have live in the UAE longer than me. I know that not every Emirati is rich, but I never expected to see people going door to door.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sports Day

Today was the sports day at my kids' school. I was reprimanded by my wife for not paying better attention to the schedule and letting her know about it. I usually pay a small amount of attention to things like that, but this wasn't really all that well advertised. It wasn't until this morning that I realized why it was such a big deal to her. She was picturing the elaborate staging of a Japanese Sports day involving weeks of rehearsals and a full weekend morning of events. I didn't want to discourage her from going by telling her that it was just going to be the kids playing a few simple games for about an hour and going back to class. Also, it was early morning and I didn't feel like getting into a discussion about it.

When I came home and asked her how it was, she confirmed my expectations. She said that even if she'd have known what it was going to be like, she would have still gone. That's one of the adjustments that we've had to make with us moving to Abu Dhabi. In our family dynamic, I'm used to being the person who doesn't have any idea of what's going on. However, in Abu Dhabi, there are a lot of things that feel perfectly natural to me but my wife has to adjust.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Today was the 15th anniversary Terry Fox Run for Cancer in Abu Dhabi. Oddly enough, it was better organized than the Abu Dhabi International Half-Marathon. Because the start was pretty close to where we live, I decided to make my family go. I mostly wanted to get my kids used to being involved in events like this. My son had been hearing about this event and what led up to it at school. I wasn't sure if we were going to do it so I didn't register with his school, instead, just showing up ten minutes before. It was mostly just a walk and the kids had to stop a lot. We only made it a quarter of the way before we saw a park that the kids wanted to play at. That was fine with us. We had a bit of playtime at the park before having lunch at Pizza Hut and going home.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Something that's been in the news here recently is the assassination of a top Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel. (The Hamas are a group whose goal is to create a Palestinian country separate from Israel.) The story itself is a bit like a movie. A team of what was originally thought to be 11 people carried out a plot involving surveillance teams, fake passports, wigs, costume changes, and fake mustaches. Most of the people involved were out of the country by the time the body was discovered. Dubai police have since realized that there were at least a total of 17 people involved. While there is no admission, the belief is that the squad was an elite Israeli group. As the story unfolds, more and more odd details are surfacing.

Don't let my boring description stop you from reading the article about it. It really is a story out of a movie. When they eventually make this into a Hollywood film, I may audition for the role of the guy third from the left on the top row.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


As you can see from these photos, it does get a bit dreary here. Here is a comparison from yesterday to today.

Today we had fog and with the way that people here drive, I was a little nervous about coming into work in the fog. The further from the coast I got, the thicker the fog.

Surprisingly, most of my students were on time for class with only a few stragglers. I expected a lot more of them using the bad weather as an excuse for why they were late.

Monday, February 15, 2010


We made a trip to the Sheik Zayed National Museum in Al Bateen about a month ago while my Mom was here but I never got around to posting a blog about it. I saw pictures of it in Abu Dhabi Daily Photograph and figured it was worth checking out. It's about a 5 or 10 minute drive from my apartment. It took us three tries to actually get inside. The first was to find it and realize that it wasn't during visiting hours. The second was to realize that that the staff closed the museum for "holiday hours." The final time I was told by laborers it was closed on Fridays and Saturdays despite the sign in front saying it was open Fridays and Saturdays. I asked to have a look around for a few minutes and the guy must've figured that was easier than arguing with me. And he couldn't understand anything I was saying because he didn't speak any English.

In front, there are some camels and horses kept for some unknown reason. I'm assuming it's so kids can feed them and pet them like my kids did. There are a bunch of new-looking touristy buildings around that are empty and, I'm assuming, are supposed to be locked. Naturally, we had a look inside and let the kids play around.

Inside the actual museum are a bunch of stuffed wild animals and cars that were part of the late Sheik Zayed's personal collection. My guess is that his family didn't know what to do with it all after he died, put it all in a building, and called it a museum. It isn't promoted in any way and apart from the person who takes pictures for the above blog, no one I know has ever heard of it.

If anyone in the area is interested in killing some time here's a map with the red "A" marker showing the location. It's not anything spectacular, but odd enough to warrant a visit.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Christmas on Valentine's Day

As you can see, we decorated for Valentine's day. As you can imagine in a Muslim country where the sexes don't interact, Valentine's Day isn't a particularly big holiday. I thought that it would be a bit bigger with the influence from other nationalities. I guess not. I had a difficult time finding a good place to get chocolates or flowers for my wife so I went home empty-handed. Not having a truck and relying on others for rides to and from work didn't help, either. She got me a nice triathlon watch for Valentine's Day, though. Lest people think I'm a heel, my wife didn't get me anything for Christmas so this may be her way of making up for that. We don't really get into the gift giving just for the sake of it and tend to buy things for the other when it's a nice thought. Besides, as she pointed out to me. "Don't worry, it's [your] money anyway."

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Because the weather here is nice, we've been able to go out to the park with the kids most weekends or at least take them somewhere. Having no truck for a few days has limited how easy it is to get around, yet we still had plenty of options.

Yesterday we went on a quick bike ride. We're lucky enough to have the central administrative building of the whole Higher Colleges of Technology right next to the building we live in. Because on the weekends there aren't many people working there, we can take the kids to the parking lot right there and let them ride their bikes around. In this photo, you can see Tia riding her bike with our apartment building in the background. We still take the kids to parks nearby with their bicycles, but it's nice to have a place five minutes from our apartment to ride around.

As mentioned before, we have a swimming pool on the roof of our building. Having that as easy access helps, too. I took both kids up there yesterday and even though the pool is heated, Lucas got cold from going in and out of the water on a windy day. It was easy enough to call my wife and have her come get him so Tia could continue playing.

Today, we went to a park nearby for the first time that has regular playground equipment as well as rides and other inflatable slides. Being cheap, we didn't pay for the kids to go on the inflatable slides, but might make a day of it another time. This park has equipment that is much better maintained than other parks closer to our apartment but is about a 20 minute walk away at young child pace so we probably won't make it there as often, especially when there are so many other options available. Also, with how easy it is for the kids to change activities, they are getting used to changing their minds every five minutes. I don't really mind so much when it's an elevator ride to the roof, but I can tell you that I would if it was across town.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Because my truck is fairly new, I feel an obligation to keep it well maintained. That's why I've taken it in for it's 32,000 kilometer maintenence (meant to be 30,000 kilometers). The annoying thing is that because it's a major servicing, I have to leave it with the dealership for four days. It's easy enough to get a ride to and from work so it isn't a major inconvenience, but four days seems like a long time to service a truck.

Also, the whole thing is going to cost about 2700 dirhams, which sounds like a lot until you convert it to dollars. Then when you think about it, $735 seems like a lot, but not as bad as the price in dirhams and too bad when you consider how well they go through it. With how bad the driving here is, the money's well worth it to know that my vehicle isn't going to spring any surprises on me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Access to electricity is something that you tend to take for granted. Having ours cut off went from being slightly humorous (for me), to seriously annoying, to anger inducing in a fairly short period of time. For my wife, the reaction was straight to anger.

Wednesday at about noon, I got a call from our housing and visa officer at our school telling me that the electricity had been cut off in our apartment. Not the whole building, just our apartment. He went on to tell me that due to some change in the billing, a number of people working at our school were without power or water. The really interesting thing about the billing is that despite all my asking, I have never received an electricity bill. I was always told that they arrive sporadically and that I'll get one eventually. One of my co-workers got his first bill a couple of months ago after living here for a year and a half. The response I always got was, "It's just like that here. You'll get a bill eventually." I called my wife and got a very angry reception. She knows it's not my fault, but still needed to vent some steam.

The phone calls from the visa officer went from: "Come bring some money down to me at 3:00 so I can pay your bill," to "Come bring some money to my assistant at 2:00 so he can pay your bill," to come bring some money down now so my assistant can take you to get an account so you can pay your bill." I got into a school vehicle with the housing department assistant and another pissed-off looking guy who'd had his power cut off and headed to the electric company.

When we got there I noticed one of the Deans at our school also paying his bill to get his power restored. At least the power company wasn't only picking on the new guys. They were just randomly turning power off in the apartments. Their new position seemed to be: If you owe more than 1000 dirham (about US$270) then the power was cut. That policy is understandable until you realize that they only send out bills every year or so. After sitting in the waiting room patiently for an hour while the housing assistant talked to various people from the electric company I was told that the housing officer didn't "know anyone here so we have to go to another office where [he knows] a guy who can help us." While I was unclear why we had to know someone to pay an electric bill I went along with it.

By this point, it was 4:00 and like it or not, I had to call my wife to give her an update. When I told her that it was going to be a while until we had electricity she informed me that it was starting to get dark in the apartment. I decided to give her updates by text mail from that point.

I later found out that the reason other people were able to pay their bills and we weren't was that the account of the previous resident of my apartment had never been closed. That was also the reason that I owed for 14 months despite having only been in the country for six months. The housing assistant told me that if he hadn't known someone in this office, the electric company would have to shut down the power and wait for 4 to 5 days before turning it on again. He assured me that it wasn't going to be a problem.

By 5:30, I'd paid the bill and was told that they would be around in an hour to turn the power back on. I figured that it would be a good time to go to the Internet company office and pay whatever money I owed on that bill and see if I could finally arrange them to send us monthly bills. I sure didn't want to get the Internet cut off (again) just after our electricity had been cut off.

By the time I got home, it was dark. Arriving home to a candle-lit apartment didn't bode well for marital bliss. Having the refrigerator off for eight hours didn't bode well for the milk and other perishables in the fridge and the freezer full of ice-cream. We got the kids to bed and started watching a DVD on my wife's laptop running on battery life with little hope of having the power returned that night. Suddenly at 8:30, there we were with lights.

As it turned out, all they had to do was literally flick a switch, something we could've done. Something that one of the many people without power opted to do in her apartment rather than suffer no electricity for a few days. While I do believe the housing guy that this change was sudden and beyond his control, he's pretty quiet on why the bill from the previous owner was never cut off and why I had to pay for 14 months of electricity. I have been reassured that I needed to pay for the full 14 months to get power back and the school would will it out with me to get me a refund for the 8 months that I wasn't living in the apartment. As long as that happens, I'm happy to chalk this up to being an amusing anecdote. I understand that not having electricity for a day or two in the scheme of things is no big deal. The real annoyance was that despite reassurances that there was nothing to worry about, it turned out that there was. Experiences like this shake your faith in the systems that you are supposed to be able to rely on.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


For people here looking for things to do to keep healthy, there are plenty of opportunities. Everything seems to travel by word-of mouth, but once you get in the loop, there's no end to the activities available to someone.

Early on, I was introduced to someone who lives in my building who goes on weekly bike rides on Friday mornings. He took me along and through him I met some people who also swim on Saturday mornings. While I've since abandoned the Saturday swims (due to hating cool water and not wanting to get up early both my days off), I met a bunch of other people who are into fitness. I was introduced to the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Club which posts swimming, running and cycling events. There are weekly scheduled training session for all three things. Through the website forums, I found out about triathlons and running races, I wouldn't have otherwise known about. Basically if you're really interested, there's always something going on.

Also, though friends of friends, I've been invited on really amazing hikes and met even more people who are into doing road trips, camping and hiking. While I probably wouldn't have sought out those kind of activities, knowing a bunch of people that are into them and willing to help get me started makes me want to do them. There's an adventure relay race in Oman that I never would've considered but I got a few invitations to do. Unfortunately, it was short notice so it would've been hard to schedule a weekend trip without annoying my wife, but I can look to doing it next year.

Basically, with doing the kind of activities that I like, I've been able to make great networks and now know a lot of interesting people from all over the world. I'm surprised at all the people that I know that I'll just run into. Because the foreign community in Fukuoka was smaller, there wasn't as big a variety of things to do. I felt that it was a pretty tight community, but it seemed to center around work or nightlife. Here, because people have a much wider variety of jobs, work doesn't seem to be enough of a focal point.

Unfortunately, I rarely see Emiratis doing these sort of activities. The locals that are into this stuff are way into it, though. There's a guy that we go biking with who is really fit and well into riding. Unfortunately, he seems to be the exception. There's been a recent push to get Emiratis into sports. One of the guys I go cycling with works for some sporting office that is doing exactly that. From what he was telling me, it's an uphill battle.

My students are a pretty good indication of this. They're either stick thin or big marshmallows. The school has recently started requiring that students take a fitness class. I don't know if they have to take some sort of physical education class in their high school, but from how out of place and awkward they seem to be when I see them getting ready for their fitness class, I don't think they do. I feel a little sorry for them if that's the case because 18 years old is a little late to require that someone take a fitness class for the first time. It was like a group of middle schoolers on the first day of school realizing that they have P.E. uniforms and that they're going to have to run and exercise. I suppose that if the country wants to reduce the incidence of diabetes and obesity in the U.A.E., they have to start somewhere.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Water Heroes

There seems to be a bit of a push to conserve water and energy here in Abu Dhabi. I don't know if it's a recent thing or if they just get on a kick every so often and start a push to conserve energy. I'm guessing it had something to do with the the recent energy summit that was held in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago. Recently I've been noticing signs around town telling people to be "Heroes of the UAE" along with a website address. The site itself is very genuine and well constructed to encourage people to conserve water and energy. I just have a hard time believing it has been very effective.

I think that it's a noble cause, especially since the U.A.E. has the world's largest per capita carbon footprint and most of that is due to all the desalination of water that the U.A.E. does. The problem with the whole thing as I see it is that there's no talk of reducing the water consumption of the dozens of fountains in the city or in reducing the water that is used in the acres of immaculately landscaped green space in the city. And does the country really need thousands of date palms along the highway medians of all the highways going throughout the U.A.E.? Sure, it looks nice, but I would imagine those require a lot of water, too.

I'm happy to turn the temperature up on the air conditioner or take a shorter shower, but I resent doing so when Dubai runs a 400-meter indoor ski resort and a huge water park not to mention an aquarium in every hotel and shopping mall. While I was on the bus tour a few weeks ago, one of the stats that was given was that Abu Dhabi "has made the desert green" and it uses 25 million liters of water a day to do so. The was said with an air of pride that I found a bit annoying.

Speaking of making the desert green, Abu Dhabi is working on creating a green city. While the intention is to create the world's first zero-carbon emission city, one gets the feeling that a "green" city doesn't evoke the same feeling from the people planning it. I heard through the rumor mill (take the following with a grain of salt), that the planners were shocked at the suggestion from experts that no cars would be allowed. Further, they went on a fact finding mission to get ideas for the landscaping and were surprised to hear that the water that would need to be desalinated to create the lush "green" landscape in the city would keep the city from being "green" in the non-carbon emission sense.

While the will is there, it seems that there needs to be a basic change in attitude that may take a while. I do give the Emiratis points for trying even if the concept is lost.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


After trying my best to avoid it, I have finally been asked to teach some extra classes this semester. We are expected to teach 20 hours a week. Anything extra is considered overtime. We're paid on a per teaching hour scale that makes it worth your while to teach extra classes. While I'm happy to help out when necessary, I don't actually seek out the overtime. As far as I've found out, this seems to happen every semester. The school hires teachers based on the projected number of students and doesn't take into consideration the students that register at the last minute.

I've been asked to teach an extra class that meets four hours a week. In addition, it is a night class. All of my other classes finish by about 1:30. Luckily for me, my supervisor was able to schedule my new classes earlier in the evening schedule so I finish by 4:00p.m. In addition to being a night class, it's a first semester class taught in the second semester. That means that most of my students are either working or they failed Math previously. One student was in a bad motorcycle accident and was in the hospital for a month. (He showed me the scars and was really in the hospital for a month, not like in Japan where they keep you there for a month for a pulled muscle.) I'm still working on trying to find out what kind of students to expect.

I've seen the students twice so far and they seem to be pretty decent students compared to my other classes. Because the class has been added at the last minute, people are still registering for it. The strange thing is that I've been given a list of 18 students. Of the students on that list, four have shown up to class. Two who have shown up, aren't on that list. The one student who is listed as registered for the class on the computer attendance system is not on the list of 18 students and hasn't shown up to class, yet. If that sounds confusing, it is. Basically, I have no idea of how many students to expect or when I'll have a final list.

To add to the potential trouble for the class as a whole, the six students who have shown up have no problems with the early elementary level math that we are working on. In fact, I'm embarrassed to be teaching it to them. Their difficulty and the reason they're taking these lower level classes is that their English level is low. Unfortunately for them, in our system low in one class means low in all classes. Having only six students who understand the material well and really only need reinforcement with the English vocabulary means we're flying through the book. It also means that if (when) more students come straggling in later, they'll have even more material to make up. Inevitably, it also tends to be the poor students that think they can miss the first week or two of classes so I can look forward to having to back track on the material.

It wouldn't be so bad if the students in this class had their school-issued laptops or even access to the school site on which I've uploaded on-line materials to keep faster students busy while the slower ones catch up. From what the students reported, they'll be getting their laptops a month from now. I have no idea how long it will take for them to be fully operational on the system. The people in educational technology can't really get them on to the system until a majority of the class is registered and that won't be for a few weeks.

Overall, it seems like it's going to be a mess. Even with the potential for screw-ups, I still prefer this class to my usual ones. So far the students are motivated and I can at least see where I can help the students. They seem to have the study habits that will allow them to do well on the tests. While it remains to be seen how the class will shape up, I'm optimistic about how things will turn out. That and the chaos of the registration process gives me a little bit of deniability if things go pear-shaped.