Abu Dhabi Weather

Friday, April 30, 2010


I was in a triathlon today that was held around a nearby hotel. After the event, they had a buffet breakfast and mini presentation ceremony. Even though the event itself was pretty small, they had camera crews with a Korean comedy duo harassing people asking if they knew "Phillipp." I could see that people weren't into it so I stood near them and started saying the only phrases that I know in Korean: "gamsa hamnida" (thank you), "silye hamnida" (excuse me), and "mekju tuge juseyo" (two beers please). This got their attention (and off the woman who was clearly getting tired of the guys asking her if she knew Phillipp). Once they realized that those three phrases were the extent of my Korean, they quickly lost interest and once again started harassing the woman relaxing by the pool.

One of the oddest things about it was that I don't think it was in any way associated with the triathlon or the hotel. The people that I was with assumed by their actions that they were Japanese and asked me if it brought back any memories. It's nice to know that 1) Korean camera crews and comedians can be obnoxious like Japanese ones and 2) even in the deserts of Abu dhabi there's no escaping them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sex and the City

Anyone who knows me knows what a huge fan of Sex and the City I am. Whenever I'm with friends and the topic turns to television, hooo boy, watch out! I'm going to start talking about those four crazy gals from New York and their sexy sex talk.

So being a huge fan, imagine my surprise at finding out that the next movie is set in Abu Dhabi. Now, the next question on everyone's mind must be, "Surely if it was set in Abu Dhabi, being the superfan you are, how could you have missed the camera crews?" It seems that while set in Abu Dhabi, it was actually filmed in the identical-looking Morocco. This is confusing. Abu Dhabi is a modern city that likes attention so why couldn't they get the movie studio to film in Abu Dhabi?

It seems that the film was originally going to be set in Dubai, a much more well-known tourist destination, and was going to incorporate a bunch of famous sites. After having a look at the script, the people in Dubai who would make the decision decided that the material was unsuitable (i.e. the title had the word "sex" in it) and denied permission. The filmmakers then approached the heads of Abu Dhabi who were considering it until Dubai pressured them to say no. After that the filmakers decided to film it in Morocco and say it was in Abu Dhabi, denying Dubai the publicity and in a way flipping themi the bird for causing the filmakers so much trouble.

To be fair to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I can imagine that the film content might be objectionable to a lot of locals here and can understand the local governments not wanting their cities promoted in the way they likely would. I don't think they'd even be able to show the movie here. I'm trying to imagine an edited down version that doesn't have any suggestion of any intimacy. I think we'd end up with 30 minutes of the lead character talking about shoes. Now I don't exactly know what happens in the movie but based on the trailer, I can tell you that it involves, cocktails, carousing, and camels; basically the kind of high life that you would expect in any Middle Eastern city. I bet there might even be some sexy sex talk, too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This past weekend WOMAD, the world music festival started by Peter Gabriel, was on in Abu Dhabi. While I'm not a huge world music fan, this particular festival had two things going for it: 1) it was on the beach about a ten-minute walk from my apartment and 2) it was free.

The first evening I went there with my wife and kids and I the kids had fun digging in the sand while we listened to a Tanzanian group accompanied by dancing by school children from Abu Dhabi. I enjoyed the music, but they ruined it with their whistles that they kept blowing. Otherwise, I would've really liked it. After that, Tia got sand in her eye so my wife took her home while Lucas fell asleep to the music of Hanggai, a Mongolian band from China. Here's some information on them and here is a video of a song I really liked. It was an enjoyable show.

The second evening (Friday), I want on my own after a few drinks at home. It was a different experience from going there with my family. I was able to get close up while watching a band from the UK called Trans-Global Underground which I thoroughly enjoyed and not just because of the alcohol. I ran into a co-worker of mine and we went to see a Cuban band that was OK, but didn't really do anything for me.

Saturday I had tentative plans to go but in the end just stayed home because I was beat from the weekend. While not a big fan of world music, I did get to see two groups I hadn't heard of previously and had a good time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dreamland Revisited

Yesterday we went to the water park called Dreamland again. This time I was the instigator so it was on me to make sure that we got there. With my wife as my navigator we made it there all right. There was no great drama involved so I don't have a lot to say about it. I talked about Dreamland last September when we went there, but for those of you who missed that post, here are some quick details. It's about a three to two and a half drive there. The prices are really reasonable. The park is, apart from food which is reasonable priced, all-inclusive. One of the only differences I noticed this time was that you could put credit on your park-entry wristband to buy food so you didn't have to carry money around. For more details on the park or the water park experience in the UAE in general, check out this blog entry. As far as this entry is concerned, I mainly just wanted to post some photos.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fuel Cost

The unthinkable has happened. Fuel prices in the UAE are being increased a whopping 11%. We are going from a price increase of 1.37 dirham per liter (US$1.40 per gallon or 35 yen per liter) to 1.52 dirham per liter (US$1.56 per gallon or 38 yen per liter). An email campaign is calling for a boycott and rightfully so. This is terrible, is going to severely hurt the average person's ability to fill their car, and is completely unfair!

All joking aside, there are some people who this my hit hard. The fuel prices have been set for a long time without allowing for market forces to take effect. This article is suggesting that in the end it could be good. However, for some people just barely getting by, an 11% increase will hurt, just as increases have hurt in other countries. As for me, I'll keep filling my SUV to drive to work solo.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I haven't been able to link to YouTube over the past few days. I had assumed that it had to do with my internet connection being slow but apparently there was more to it than that. It seems that an underseas cable off the coast of Egypt was accidentally cut. The interesting thing about this story is the progression of the news articles. This went from "there is no problem" to "there is a problem" to "the problem will be fixed by April 20" or "the problem will be fixed by April 27," depending on the company. All I know is that by early next week, I'd better be able to watch stupid videos on demand on my computer

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Today as I was walking past the Starbucks in the library of the school where I teach when I noticed a new shelf. It was full of what are often referred to as graphic novels by people who want to pretend that they're not reading comic books. The main differences are that they are usually collections of a run of comic books with better quality of paper and you don't want your kids reading them. Right away I found three titles that I either have or have been meaning to read. That was without even looking at most of the titles. I picked up Alan Moore's Watchmen and Neil Gaiman's Stardust. I also noticed a teacher near me eying up the comics. He checked out Frank Miller's Batman: Year One based on my recommendation.

I realize that the comics are there for the students and I really wish I had students who were high enough of an English level to be able to read them. As I'm familiar with the stories of all three books, I know that the students would like the stories. With that in mind, I can recommend the movie versions of all three to them. I'd like to think that there are some students in the college that are sitting there reading them.

As for me, I was glad that I had a folder with me to smuggle the books back to my desk. Despite what some might think, I have enough self-respect to want to keep them hidden. It's bad enough that my co-workers think I'm about 13-years-old. I don't need to be supplying them with evidence.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Today I wanted to register for an event in Abu Dhabi. I have credit cards from the U.S. and Japan but if the charge is in another currency or another country, they're a hassle to use. I decided to use the debit card from my bank. I entered the information in the website, hit enter and within 10 seconds, I got a message on my mobile phone saying the the amount had been deducted from my account. I have to say that this is one of the most efficient theft prevention systems I have seen.

Another bonus is that I can keep track of my when my wife takes money out of the bank or uses the debit card to buy something. At least if she suddenly takes out a large sum on money, I'll know before I get home that she's left the country.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Today the school I teach at had a charity bazaar to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti. I wasn't planning on going, but as I passed on the way to class. I saw the students setting up the sale and the DVD set of Band of Brothers caught my eye. I have a set of pirated DVDs and have always meant to get a real set. The students selling obviously smelled how badly I wanted them and said that they hadn't been priced yet but would let me know. When I returned with a bunch of cash burning a hole in my pocket, they charged me the same price that a new set would've cost. That left me with just enough to buy lunch. I consoled myself by saying that it was for charity so it wasn't that big a deal.

On my way to lunch, I passed through the bazaar again only to be accosted by a student demanding money with a basket in his hand with pictures of disabled children on it. I told him that I had already bought some overpriced DVDs and only left myself enough money to buy lunch. He made a comment along the lines of, "Whatever, you cheap, uncaring bastard," and walked away to hassle someone else.

I think it's great that the students are getting together to organize a charity event to help less fortunate people, but in the end, I felt resentful that particular student wouldn't let me feel good about using my poor negotiation skills to inadvertently donate extra money to charity. If only I could have bargained the students selling the DVDs down (so they would think I'm cheap but at least respect my bargaining ability) and donated the difference to the student holding the basket.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Up until today I had three computers by my workstation: one laptop and two tablet computers. I had to give the Dell laptop back and I'll have to give the HP tablet back soon, though the school doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get it back. I was pretty happy with the HP but that was just a loaner until the new Toshiba tablet came through. Now I have a little adjustment period in dealing with this one. I like to bring the tablet into the classrooms and hook it up to the projector and use it to display the textbook and to show the work on the board. The handy thing about that is I can save the notes, and make them available to the students through the school intranet.

We also have a desktop computer available to us in each classroom. I tend to use the desktop to take attendance or to print out the pages in the textbook that we are doing that day for the students who forget their textbooks (each classroom has a printer). I also bring up web pages that I think will be useful to the students and use the projector to switch back and forth between my tablet and the desktop computer. The students also have the option of using their paper textbooks or an electronic copy of the textbook on their tablet that each student is required to have. With all this technology available to both teachers and students, I'm sure everyone will do well on their exams.

Friday, April 16, 2010


It's already getting to the point where it's uncomfortable to be outside when the sun is shining. Even when the sun is down, it's slightly uncomfortable. Because I didn't have to go to work until later, I went running yesterday before work around 7:15 and by the time i finished, was dripping with sweat. Today, I went for a cycle and was sweating before the sun even came up. And it's only going to get worse.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This weekend is the Battle of the Brands at the Yas Island Formula One racetrack. This is the world's first GT1 sports car series. Private teams will take sports cars from Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford, Lanborghini, Mazerati, and Nissan, finely tune them, put some top drivers in them, then race them. The whole idea is fairly exciting, especially since the first stop on series is Abu Dhabi. I even got tickets to go, but could imagine that after getting there, I would get really annoyed at being there for five minutes and having my kids say, "Daddy, too noisy, let's go home.

On Wednesday my students were given the opportunity to visit the track, watch the drivers do some warm-up laps, and get a tour of the behind the scenes of the working of the race. Unfortunately, that didn't go so well. On the whole, the students were well behaved. We arrived on our buses, went to the reception room, got our passes then sat around watching the cars do practice runs. That was pretty cool and gave me enough of a taste of the actual event that I didn't feel like I needed to go. After a while we were led to a room and given our fill of snack foods and soda. That's where things broke down.

No one had any idea of where we were supposed to be so different people told us to go to different places. As soon as we got there, we were told we couldn't be there and shuttled off somewhere else. Despite being promised tours of the behind-the-scenes of the track, it became obvious that the people who invited us, had no idea what they were doing. To top it off, a few of the staff members had a go at the teachers saying we were letting the students run around unsupervised. I and another teachers let them know that perhaps part of the problem was that the teachers had no idea were we were supposed to be and that providing some sort of agenda or guides might have been appropriate.

All in all, it was interesting to see what we did, but disappointing in the way things were handled. Maybe next time I'll know better than to take the students on outings.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Over the past week or so, not a lot worth writing about has happened. The students didn't have class, so I had time to get stuff done at work. The break from the students was also good. At this point in the semester, everyone has been hitting the doldrums. Personally, I've been feeling pretty negative towards the students so I figured it was best to take a break in the "say something nice or don't say anything at all" line of thinking. I've come around but I hit a combination of the middle-of-the-semester-being-annoyed-at-everything with I've-been-in-a-new-county-for-over-six-months-and-the-newbie-shine-has-worn-off negativity.

That's not to say that there hasn't been anything new. The UFC had a match here over the weekend. The weigh-in was at a shopping mall a few miles away and I could easily have gone. I wouldn't have minded going to the match but I couldn't find anyone to go with and I didn't care that much. It's one thing when just going to a friend's house and having some beers and watching the fights and quite another to deal with crowd and the hassle.

Also this weekend, Bill Clinton gave a speech on education in Dubai at one of the schools owned by the same group of the school my kids go to. I doubt I would've been able to go, but it's nice to know that GEMS Education will become part of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Most importantly, I finally organized my apartment after eight months of living here. We don't have that much stuff, but when we first mover here, we didn't have a lot of places to put it. We bought some shelves and cabinets but I never put the stuff away until Saturday.

One nice thing that happened was when I got a call from the police on Saturday afternoon. Apparently, I had dropped my driver's license without realizing it and someone had brought it to the police station for me. The station was close enough to walk, so I took a stroll. When I got there, the police were really helpful and gave me a warm feeling knowing someone had gone out of their way to turn it in. It's strange how something small like that could change my attitude.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


People think that because I live in a Muslim country that Easter isn't recognized here or even worse, forbidden. The opposite is actually true. While I don't know the specific significance of Easter in Islam, I do know that Jesus considered one of the prophets. I asked a Muslim co-worker of mine feelings his feelings about Easter as well as the Muslim beliefs. He told me that Muslims believe that Jesus is alive along with the other prophets such as Mohammed, Moses, and Abrahim. He said that in the Torah it teaches that a few days before Jesus was crucified, God changed hi with a double of some sort and the man that was crucified was not actually Jesus.

While the idea of what actually happened to Jesus is quite different, the basic belief that he was holy is the same. I would imagine that most people in the U.S. would be surprised to learn how closely tied to each other Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are to each other. The longer I'm here, the stranger it seems that the leaders of countries in which these three religions are prominent are working to create a divide.

As I said, I don't really know the actual significance of Easter in Islam, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and peeps. Happy Easter everyone.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Currently there is a worldwide campaign to choose the "New 7 Wonders." Through a process of elimination, there are now 28 official finalists and the UAE has one in the running. They have created a website and are encouraging people to vote for their candidate, Bu Tinah, an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

The Grand Canyon is also one of the finalists. The idea is interesting and if this its the first you have heard about it, you should go to the New 7 Wonders website and check things out and vote. Who knows, your favorite natural wonder could win and be destroyed after becoming a huge tourist draw.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Students (take 2)

Right now is the time of the semester when the summer holiday seems so close yet so far away. With a three quarters of the year behind us, the students must be feeling that too. The good news is that by now, most of the jokers in my classes have been removed for poor attendance and only the serious students are left.

Because they're college students, they have a lot going on. Pretty much every class, one or more students has to leave early to visit a friend or relative in the hospital. A lot of them must be pretty sick themselves, because they themselves have doctor's appointments to go to. I feel a little sorry for how difficult it must be to schedule a visit with a doctor because even though the last class finishes at 1:40 in the afternoon, all of their appointments are around 12:00 or 1:00.

Also, their families put huge burdens on them at the young age of 18. Every class, two or more students get important phone calls from their fathers that they have to take lest their father get angry. On the one or two occasions that I've questioned a student, he showed me his father's name clearly written in Arabic to show me who was calling.

Even with all they have to deal with, a majority of the students step up and do what they have to. Even though the ideas of currency exchange and ratios were a little difficult for them, I was pretty happy with the results of the last quiz. Right now, we are studying how to add hours and minutes and apart from a few students, they're OK with that.

This week is Independent Learning Week in which the students don't have to attend classes, but they have projects for each of their courses. Based on the reaction from some of my students, I think that the project we gave them might have them a little overworked. They have to take 10 quizzes online covering the math that they learned in the first semester. Each quiz takes about 15 minutes so that's two and a half-hours of work. That may not sound that bad, but when you take into consideration that we're expecting them to remember material from the first semester such as changing fractions to decimals and rounding, it gets a bit ridiculous. We DO give them the chance to take the quizzes as many times as they want and take their best score, but that takes more time...time they certainly don't have.

If you're thinking that being a college student at my school is all work then you'd be wrong. A few weeks from now, the English department has a treasure hunt scheduled for the students. From what I understand, the students will be looking for clues scattered around the building. While I don't know the full details, I DO know that there is a Disney movie scheduled for afterward. Unfortunately, I have a Math conference to attend that day so I'll have to find out what movie it was later.

Even with all the work, I'm happy to have the job I do. A lot of the students are very nice people and genuinely work hard. Teaching at this school reminds me of when taking Physics in college. Most of the people in my class didn't take it very seriously. There was an Indian man who taught us who I imagine had to work very hard to get to where he was. Looking back, he must've thought that we were lazy and pampered. Compared to how hard he probably had to work in his life, he was right. It's all a matter of perspective.