Abu Dhabi Weather

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shrek 4

It's not big news that I took my kids to see a movie, though it was fun taking them to see their second movie ever and the first one that they saw in 3D. The interesting thing that I found was the fact that for the three of us we had to pay 50 dirhams each (about US$13.50) to see it in 3D. That's still not that outrageous, especially considering that's cheaper than the admission cost of a movie in Japan.

Originally the plan was for all of us to go see it and because my wife suspects that she would get sick watching it in 3D, to go see it in the regular mode. Because she wasn't feeling well, I took the kids and let her rest at home. As it turned out, if we decided that we didn't want to see Shrek in 3D, we would've had to see it in the Gold Class theater and pay 110 dirhams each (about US$30 per ticket).

With the tickets being priced the way they were, I was hesitant to get and food or drink, but the concessions were actually pretty reasonable. 14 dirhams for a pretty good-sized tub of caramel corn that the kids didn't really eat and 12 dirhams for a big Sprite that they fought over throughout the film. Overall, we had a pretty good time and I enjoyed my kids reaching out to grab the images that were coming out of the movie screen in 3D.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Today was the release of a collection of poetry by the staff and students. These poems are the printed result of the Poetry Slam that was held at the college. While I didn't attend the actual performance, I heard that the attendance was up from last year. Hearing that there was chocolate cake at the unveiling of the publication, I made sure to go to that.

It's nice to know that there are some students who take an active interest in the activities of the school. I'm not a big fan of poetry and less of a critic, but the students who got involved put some real effort into it. Still, I like my poem:

There once was a Sheik from Dubai
Who built a building so high.
"Our city's the best,
Though I must confess
The money to pay has gone dry."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Emirates I.D. (round two)

Today I finished work a little early and thought I would stop at the Emirates Identity Authority center to check things out. I figured that if the line wasn't too long, I could make an appointment or get a stamp or do whatever it was that some people yesterday had done to get in the gate when everyone else was shut out. As I drove by, I didn't see the long line that was there Saturday morning so I parked my car and went inside.

I got to the reception desk and there were two older gentlemen there having a conversation and seeming to not care that I was standing there waiting. After about 5 more people were behind me (i.e. crowding around the counter pushing to be the first one waited on), the gentlemen casually finished their conversation and politely asked if they could help me. It seems that it's not possible to make an appointment, but we could hand in the paperwork today. Because they need to take a photo and fingerprints, my wife needed to be there to hand in her paperwork. I called her and told her to get over to the center by taxi and took a number, supposedly the last number given out today. That was at 4:30. Because the center is open until 8:30, I was wondering why they stopped giving numbers.

I had number 45 and I could see by the number board that they were helping 41. Normally, I would've been worried that they were going to call my number before my wife got there. However, I remembered where I was and casually waited for 40 minutes until my wife arrived, leaving a good 10 minutes to spare before they called my number.

We sat down in a little office and handed in out pre-printed, pre-filled application forms with barcode on them. Even though the kids won't be getting I.D. cards, we need to register them and provide photos taken at a photo studio. We don't need the kids to be there, so I can just hand in their paperwork when I go to pick up our cards. I'm still not entirely certain why the woman couldn't just use the camera that she used to my wife's and my photos, but there you go. When I asked if we could just register our kids today, she told us that they were done doing the paperwork for children today. Oh, of course!

After getting a very thorough fingerprinting (all fingers on both hands, palm prints and side of hand), we were out of there, a mere 35 minutes from the time our number was called. As we were leaving, there were still a lot of people waiting, so if I was the last one to get a number, they may have been there to pick up I.D. cards or something. Considering that everyone over the age of 15 in the UAE needs an I.D. and how slow the process is, the agency is either going to have to change something or it won't get done.

For those of you in living in the Abu Dhabi faced with the prospect of getting your I.D. my advice is this: ignore what the nice people at the call center say about going there on a Saturday. Go there shortly after the time they open for the afternoon on a weekday: between 2:30 and 4:00. Bring something to do. If you have kids, get photos taken at a studio and say it's for the Emirates I.D. Hopefully they'll understand the specifications because the pictures have to be a certain size and have a certain color background.

For those of you who are privacy advocates against the use of fingerprinting being used on I.D. cards all I can say is that unlike Japan, they're not just making foreigners do this. Everyone is required to do it, including Emiratis. The things that you'll need a national I.D. for is increasing including register a car, a big one for the locals. I do have to say that I got a bit of a kick out of seeing a few Emiratis pitching a fit after being denied a number so they could register after I had just been given one. When there is another Emirati behind the counter giving the numbers, there's not much they can do, though.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Emirates I.D. (round one)

Over the past year or so, the UAE has been introducing a National Identity card and is requiring that all citizens and residents get the card. Initially, everyone was supposed to have the card by the end of 2009 but that was extended to the end of 2010 in Abu Dhabi. I recently heard the the card is required to register vehicles. I've since heard that has been changed, but because I'll be buying a secondhand Jeep in about a week and changing the registration to my name, I didn't want to take any chances.

Early last week I filled in the forms online filling in such vital required information as my mother's first name (but not my father's), the date my wife graduated from Junior College, my wife's middle name (she doesn't have one) my religion, and both of my kids' "famous names." I printed out the forms and was intending on going to one of the two centers in Abu Dhabi to hand them in. I tried to use the website to make an appointment online and was told that service was discontinued.

I called the information center to find where and when the best times to go were and the person working said under no circumstances go at night after work because it will be crowded. Instead, he recommended that I go to the center that's open on Saturdays when they open at 8:00.

Well, we got there at 9:00 and there was already a line in front of the center. There was another line across the street that I'm still not entirely sure what it was for, but when I asked the men waiting in that line about it, they told me to go to the one in front of the building.

Waiting in the hot sun with two complaining children was a real treat. I had brought a newspaper and was delighted to find an article about the problems people were facing getting Emirates I.D. cards and the measures that the Abu Dhabi government was implementing to improve it starting tomorrow. Here's the article. It seems that people have been having a difficult time registering for the card.

At about 9:30, after waiting for about 30 minutes in the hot sun outside the building, the security guard closed the gate. I called the help line with my mobile phone and an operator told me that going and getting my I.D. would be no problem. When I told her that I was waiting outside the gate and they had just locked it, she told me that they must have booked up all the appointments for the day (the center's hours are 8:00 to 2:30 on a Saturday) and she suggested that I call the office. I got the phone number for the building I was standing outside of and when I called no one answered.

I called the central help center back and basically got the same answer: come back tomorrow. I noticed that by this time I had an audience of all the people who were waiting in line with me who seemed equally frustrated. After answering a few questions about what they told me on the phone, I got tired of hearing my poor kids complain about being hot, thirsty, hungry and tired so we went back home.

As far as I can tell, I have to go back by myself to get the appointment, go back again with my wife to get our fingerprints and photos taken, then go back after that to pick up the cards. Somehow I find it doubtful that everyone in Abu Dhabi will have the National I.D. card by the end of the year.

Friday, May 21, 2010


A few weeks ago, some workers started digging up our parking lot at work. I was a little annoyed that we lost a few parking places in our already overcrowded parking lot, but I didn't really think much of it when I saw them pulling up the bricks and digging holes. It was only over the past few days that I realized they were putting in sewer gratings to drain out the water after it rains. As you can see from previous posts, whenever it rains, the parking lot floods and takes a few days for the water to evaporate. Now they've given the water a place to drain. It seems it only took them 20 years to figure that out and do something about it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


As I may have suggested in previous posts, maintenance isn't a priority here. Once the shiny new structure, or roadwork project, or playground equipment is put up, not much thought is given to keeping it in good condition. Keeping that in mind, my apartment building is one of the oldest buildings in the area, about 25 years old I'm guessing. It's not falling apart by any means, but there are small maintenance issues like a sagging ceiling in the hallway or our toilet tank leaking into the apartment below us.

One such issue that has been going on so long that I hardly notice it anymore is the filthy windows. As you can see from the first picture, they are pretty thick with grime. This has been the view from our apartment since we moved in last August. About two weeks ago, one of my co-workers that lives in the same building as us told me that she pays one of the watchmen in our building 50 dirhams to go out on the ledge and wash the windows for her. I was tempted to find out more but never got around to it. My hesitation wasn't in paying the money, it was in paying someone the equivalent of US$13 to risk their life in a way I wouldn't so I can have a better view.

However, this past week, my moral dilemma was solved when the building management finally brought in a company to clean the windows. As you can see from the after picture, it's a big difference. Though, if they're only going to do it once a year, I might have to overcome my squeamishness and pay the guy to go out on the ledge and clean my windows eventually.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Abu Dhabi has gone truly international. They are having a Japanese Sakura (cherry blossom) festival that has been going on since late April. I've seen a few signs for it, but haven't heard much about it and can't seem to find much information about it on the web. The posters seem to portray Japan as accurately as American TV and movies (that is, not very accurately) and the sign with the word "sakura" on it is written in various Japanese characters in a manner that makes it almost impossible to read for those familiar with Japanese writing.
There isn't much chance of a report as I haven't attended and don't really have a strong desire to. From what I've heard from others who have attended, it seems like not a lot of other people living in Abu Dhabi do either.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


It seems that Abu Dhabi is a nice place to travel. At least it is according to the World Travel Awards. For the first year Abu Dhabi has beat out Dubai as the "leading destination" in the Middle East. According to the article, the growing availability of cheap flights is part of the reason that people are taking notice of Abu Dhabi. The new Sex and the City movie will no doubt help raise Abu Dhabi's profile as a tourist destination. With any luck, they'll build a theme park or something.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


There was a news item in the local paper regarding the salary freeze at UAE colleges. A few staff members at the school I work in were quoted pretty extensively. While I have no idea who the person is (as I'm sure is how they wanted it) everything they said was true. It seems that the UAE may be in economic decline. Either that or they realized that they don't have to pay people as much to come here as they have been.

Lest I seem ungrateful, I would like to say that I came to Abu Dhabi to work at the Higher Colleges of Technology knowing what the conditions of my hiring would be and what my salary and benefits would be and am still happy with the conditions. However, this erosion of the working conditions makes me nervous. It is similar to what I saw in Japan. As the demand for English teachers fell, so the work conditions of English conversation schools and universities.

In my opinion, much as the decline of the golden age in Japan ended 15 or 20 years ago, I think this may be the beginning of the end in the UAE.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Swimming Pool.

I've been going swimming about three times a week now. Fortunately, there is an Olympic sized pool a 10 minute walk from me. I got a six-month membership last September figuring that if I went five times a month, it would be worth it. I did for a few months, but there were times when the pool would be closed for two weeks at a time unexpectedly or I would get busy and not have time so I don't think that I got my money's worth.

In addition, they wrote the end date wrong so my membership card expired before it started. One of the employees challenged me on this more than once. The last time I got a bit assy about it and I could see in her eyes that she would be sure to bust me on it after it expired.

Now that I'm going more often, I go in the morning before she works and no one else seems to care. On the few occasions that she is there, she's doesn't ever check my i.d. I can't figure out if she just assumes that I'm still a member of the pool or if she's caught the general apathy of the other employees.

I should also mention that the facilities are pretty appalling. Like many things here, the upkeep is horrible. While the water isn't as filthy as I've heard some people say it is, there have been days when I couldn't see the bottom. The layout of the locker room and showers seems to have been designed by someone who knows what should be in a locker room but has never actually used one. While it's not dirty, it is pretty run-down.

I swear that with all these issues, were it not for the fact that it's a ten-minute walk from work and they don't charge me to use it, I would stop going there.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vehicle #2

Right now my kids take the bus to school, I drive our SUV to work and my wife walks to the grocery store during the day and carries the daily shopping home in the heat. If she has to go somewhere, she takes a bus and if she has something big to carry home, she takes a taxi. Considering that our SUV just sits in the parking lot at work, we pay about 9000 dirhams a year (about $2500) for the bus, the natural solution was to buy a new vehicle.

With the end of the school year and a lot of teachers leaving permanently over the summer, we've had our eyes out for something older that I could drive to and from work and occasionally put a bike in the back of. After a few false starts we saw something for sale in our kids' school newsletter. It was about what we were looking for and since it was though the school, we wouldn't be buying from a complete stranger.

As it turned out the person I called to find out about the truck recognized me from my voice. She's someone that I do triathlons with and she teaches my son's grade at his school. I knew her right away, but it's amazing that we never connected that she taught at his school. Between the triathlons and school events, you'd have thought that she would've seen us together at some point. (People who know me might say that it's not that amazing and that she was just avoiding me whenever she saw me, but she did seem genuinely surprised when she found out who my son was.)

After looking at the truck, I gave her money for a down payment and now am the proud owner of a 1997 Jeep Cherokee. We'll do the paperwork for the exchange at the end of the month. Now my wife can have our Trailblazer to take the kids to school and run errands during the day, and I'll get the Jeep with the broken parking brake (which my wife needs but I never use) to go to and from work and transport my bicycle. What's more, we paid just a little more than the cost of our kids riding the school bus for a year.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Over the past few days, the temperature has risen dramatically to the point that I don't even want to go outside if the sun is up. The other day, I went running at 5:15 and a block away, noticed a bank clock with the temperature saying 28 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). On the way back 40 minutes later, it said 32 Celsius (83 Fahrenheit).

However, it's interesting what a difference the wind makes. Today was reasonable because of the wind. The obvious reason is that the wind cools you down. The less obvious reason is that the wind kicks up so much dust and sand that it blocks out the sun, cooling everything down. And it makes it difficult to keep your eyes open with all the sand getting blown in your eyes.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Today is Saturday but I'm at work. Our college gives a test called CEPA (Common Educational Proficiency Assessment) and I have to got to work twice on Saturday, my day off, to proctor this exam. In exchange for being required to come into work for half a day on two of our days off, we get two unofficial days off in the summer. At worst, a person can expect half a day of walking around a room with 16 test takers making sure that they don't cheat. At best, you can expect to sit in a room waiting in case one of the invigilators needs to go to the bathroom. Guess which I'm doing today.

For both of the days, April 17th and today, I was scheduled to sit in a room, drink coffee, chat with co-workers, read a newspaper and screw around on the internet on my laptop. On the 17th, I got called out to take over a testing room because one of the head invigilators called in sick. I went from expecting to just hang out to having to make sure that the papers were collected correctly and that no cheating went on. I didn't mind so much because at least it was easy.

This time around, I was scheduled to cover again and took precautions to have something to do so I looked busy. Namely, I brought my laptop into the room. I was surprised at the amount of whining that went into having to sit in a room, relax, and read, do some work, or play around on the internet. My biggest complaint was that the wireless internet connection was a little spotty. As for other people, I heard "Why do they need so many people to cover?" "Can I go to my desk and you call me if you need me?" "Why can't we just go home?" I wanted to tell people to quit complaining or next time they might just put more people in the exam rooms next time just to shut us up. While having to be at work at 8:00 am on your day off is no treat, you'd think that adults would be able to sit in a room for three hours and keep themselves entertained without complaining about it.