Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Also, when I first got here, they were just finishing construction on an office building across the street from my building. There are about four or five residential buildings being built on the block where I live. Luckily,we escaped the majority of construction which is on the other side of town where I pretty much refuse to drive.
While the new buildings look nice, they're always next to a building that's under construction so there's never a really nice view. Right now there are about five 20-story residential buildings going up on my block. This doesn't bode well for my parking situation. Nor does it bode well for my living situation. I live in one of the oldest apartment buildings in the city (I'm guessing 20 or 30 years old). considering that my apartment is on prime real estate and a mere 7 stories high. It's only a matter of time before it gets knocked down for construction of another high-rise apartment.
Monday, June 28, 2010
While I'm not a beach sort of person, the kids love going swimming. Considering it's a five minute walk to the beach from our apartment, it's hard to say no to the kids when they want to go. The sand has been imported from other regions to get the "right" sand. It does have a finer texture to it so hopefully they knew what they were doing.
On the man-made beach in directly across the street from my apartment there is a small charge to get in. There's a amusement park sort of atmosphere with deck chairs that you can rent and small, free rides for the kids. It's nice in its own way, but has a resort-like sort of atmosphere.
Little by little the construction has been encroaching on the free natural beaches. Earlier this year, the Saturday morning swim beach was closed for the construction of a new palace for the Sheik. That was actually quite a sad event because it was the last natural beach in the area. Some friends of mine used to take their kids snorkeling there and it was a good place to view wildlife. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way forward.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Once we bought our SUV, we were able to get out a bit and with the guidance of a few people we met were able to do things like camping and hiking. Still, it wasn't until closer to the time that my Mom came to visit us in January that I started researching stuff to do on my own. There's a lot of cool stuff to do like camel races, ballooning over the desert, and dune bashing in 4-wheel drive trucks. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my act together enough to actually get us to any of these activities while my Mom was here, but since then, I've learned more about them.
There is also the nearby city of Al Ain that borders on Oman and is a nice place. Once in Oman there are great places to camp and hike. While I haven't been camping in Abu Dhabi yet, I'm looking forward to finding some good places once it cools off.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
We showed up bright and early at 7:30 and even though things weren't supposed to get running until 8:00, we were able to get started at 7:50. Thinking that we would be out of there quickly, I was wondering what I was going to do with myself until 9:00 when the swimming pool I was planning to go opened. I needn't have worried. Without getting into too much detail about the process, we were out of there at 10:00.
We had to go through several steps which involved waiting here for this person or waiting there for that person. Here are some highlights:
My friend being told that he didn't have all the paperwork and that he had to come back. My friend then gave the public servant a look and a gesture and the guy was able to make an exception.
Chatting with my friend's wife (whose car I'm also selling) and having security tell her that she had to go sit in the ladies' waiting area.
Using the restroom in the newly refurbished building and finding not a toilet, but a hole in the ground with no toilet paper.
Having to leave the building to go to another office and coming back only to be asked to go through the metal detector. Funny since it wasn't necessary at 7:30 when we first arrived.
Parking my jeep in a nearly empty parking lot at 7:30 only to come out at 10:00 and find it so packed, I could barely leave.
In the end, I can now sell my friend's cars and he can't do anything about it legally. On the flip side, he can run over someone and say I did it so I guess we're even. The experience as a whole has given me a clearer picture of what sharia court is, at least in Abu Dhabi. Nightmarish court where adulterers are sentenced to death? No. Nightmarish bureaucracy similar to what you would find in North America? Pretty much.
With this entry, I'll be signing off for the summer. I'm leaving for the States tomorrow morning and doubt that I'll be doing any posting before that. While I'm gone, please keep your eyes out for "Abu Dhabi A to Z" which will be starting Saturday or Sunday depending on your time zone. I'll be keeping an eye on the blog, so feel free to leave comments and tell your friends about it, too. Until August, have a great summer.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The Safe Cycle Abu Dhabi is held on most Tuesdays unless there's something else going on at the track at that time. It's mostly the same people each week, but almost every time I've gone, there were new people enthralled at the idea of riding where the race cars go.
The great thing is that anyone can go. I often see families with children riding on the track. I guess the only rules are that you need a helmet, you have to sign a waiver, and you have to be able to ride the whole 5.5 kilometer circuit, though I suppose that you could even cut across part of the track to shorten the loop.
It's mostly through word of mouth, though tonight the newspaper, The National, was there doing a story so it may attract more people. All I know is that I won't be riding it again until after I come back to Abu Dhabi in August.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I'm still here of a few days and I have to teach from 2:20 but I have all the prep I'm going to have to do, done. I suppose that I could come in 10 minutes before I have to teach then leave as soon as I'm done, but that's a risky proposition. As it is, I feel bad enough getting in around noon. It's gotten to the point that when I'm not teaching, I need to look for things to do. Sure there are projects that need doing, but when I got given these classes and was told that I'll be teaching without any extra pay, my motivation to do those sorts of things went out the window.
I've been doing a bit of personal development with things like reviewing the higher Math that I swear I knew 15 years ago. Yesterday, I looked around at the work spaces around me and decided that it was finally time to clean. By "clean," I mean "throw everything out." I was going to just throw things out, but I had some sensitive things like answer keys. Instead of sorting through things, I just shredded it all. I'll tell you, that felt good. The shredder even takes staples so I didn't have to bother taking those out. I shredded so much stuff that I filled the garbage and had to do the other half today. It's amazing how destroying a year's worth of output can make you feel productive.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
You may have also noticed that I have sold out. I now have advertisements on the right of the page near the links to previous posts. I have to admit that the cost was too little and the temptation was too great. If you know me personally then the only surprise was that it took me this long. If you are offended by the commercialization of the fine art that is my blog, then I am sorry for crushing your spirit. Don't worry, you're strong. You'll pull through.
In other news something that no one in Abu Dhabi has been talking about is how if climate change raises the water level of the oceans, Abu Dhabi will be under water by 2100. Below are images printed in an article in The National, a local newspaper. They show the land that will be submerged with a 1 meter rise in sea level and with a 9 meter rise in sea level. That big island in the first picture is the main part of Abu Dhabi.
The truly interesting thing about this is that the U.A.E., as one of the world's leading oil producing nations and having one of the largest carbon footprint gets to be the organizer of it's own demise. This gives the city of Abu Dhabi and the whole of the U.A.E. a vested interest in finding cleaner energy technology and in promoting conservation. Are there any guesses as to whether or not this will happen?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The gadget is linked to the car’s child seats and sends reminders to the parent’s mobile phone that their child – or children – is still alone in the car.
The reminders gradually become more urgent until 11 minutes later the device sets off an alarm to tell anyone nearby that a child is in danger.
The first reminder is sent three minutes after the car door is shut. Three minutes later, the device automatically lowers the vehicle’s rear windows by 5cm to let in some air. After eight minutes it switches on the air conditioning.
If the parent has still not returned after another three minutes – a total of 11 minutes after he or she left the car – the gadget sets off a loud alarm.
Yes, that's right. This is a device for parents who routinely leave their children alone in cars. According to the article, “A lot of people forget their children in the car and especially infants.” It also tells the sad story in which, “Recently, a man who was supposed to take his child to nursery forgot that his child was in the car and only realised after he finished work. He found his child dead in the car." See the article for more amazing quotes.
While I don't wish to make light of children being baked alive in cars, it does show an unbelievable level of carelessness and parental neglect when a product like this becomes necessary, especially in a country in which the temperature reaches 110 degrees outside the car.
To be fair to the writer of the article, there are some quotes from people criticizing the device saying that it will give parents a false sense of security. In addition, the inventor of the device only came up with the idea after hearing about over a dozen kids dying in cars and thought that he could try to do something about it. I guess that I'm glad it was invented but it did come as a little bit of a shock to the system when I read about this a month into my stay here. Perhaps they can advertise this in pachinko parking lots in Japan.
Monday, June 14, 2010
After two days of teaching the class I have to admit that it's as pain-free as I've been led to believe. The students are good, and they know the class because they've all taken it in some form before and know what's expected of them. Some of them have taken an equivalent at another school and because of some arcane requirement, have to take this course. Others have taken it before, failed because they didn't do the work, and don't want to fail it again.
The main drawback of the class is that it's from 2:20 to 6:00 every afternoon. It's nice to be able to go into work a little bit later, but if I thought the building was empty last week just before people were leaving for vacation, it's really empty at 6:00 pm after most people have left for the summer.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The Diamond Pacifier, Personalised Pacifiers (Dh62,439)
For The high-net-worth infant who really does have everything.
Fun factor The ultimate in baby bling, this pacifier boasts more than 278 pave-cut diamonds totalling three carats and is set in 14-carat European white gold. While diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, the only kick the baby is likely to get out of this is learning to count the number of gems in the pacifier (an essential talent in super-wealthy families). However, the overwhelming sparkle of this dummy is sure to keep them mesmerised – at least for a while.
Crying game This is more of a keepsake than a practical device to lull babies to sleep, so it is highly recommended to keep it on the top shelf until your child is old enough to truly appreciate it.
To be fair, The National is taking a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards this. Typically, the writers will find a few sensible items for an article like this then finish it with something ridiculous. Still, it's real and it is available on amazon.com. I have to wonder how many of these lavish products in these articles actually get bought as a result. For those of you who are interested in purchasing this pacifier for your little one, here is the link.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
A majority of the teachers are leaving on their summer holiday this weekend while I'll be here for a few more weeks before leaving. Ordinarily, the days for the summer break are pretty set with no variance, but this year because of when Ramadan falls, we get the same number of days off, but have some flexibility of when to take them. There was also the option of borrowing days from next year's holiday, but the idea of a shortened break next year didn't appeal to me. Still, it's a bit annoying watching everyone leave knowing that I'll be here another two weeks.
To celebrate the end of the semester the other day, we had a school-wide breakfast buffet in the foyer of the school that started out with some speeches, awards for service, and some goodbyes to people who are leaving this year. I was surprised to find that two of the five people I initially arrived with were leaving after one year. Unfortunately, I got the feeling that a few of the teachers who were leaving weren't all that happy with the students. I guess that can be frustrating, and people have different levels of tolerance to discipline issues. My students pushed me pretty far, but in the end I was glad to say that I got through it and am ready for more next year. Or at least I'll be ready after two more weeks of teaching and a two-month break.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
It wasn't my idea; it just kind of happened. We went up to the pool this morning and at the same time our neighbors were going up. It was nice to have a good group of kids up there playing and splashing. After about an hour we got ready to leave and then the little girl next door asked if she could come over and play so I said it was fine with us as long as their parents said it was OK. After lunch our kids went over to get them and everyone started playing at our place. Even though there were five kids over, everyone was playing well. I was chatting with our neighbor and then I started noticing that only the neighbor kids were playing at ours. Our kids had decided to go over to the neighbor's house to play with their toys while we had kids who weren't ours playing at our place. It seems that the interest was less in playing with our neighbor's kids and more in playing with their toys
This isn't a problem because our kids frequently go over to theirs to play and vice versa. I feel like this is something that I would've seen in the U.S. 20 or 30 years ago but not so much today. In Japan I can imagine this happening in the countryside, but not where we lived unless there was something marked on the calendar a month in advance and there were several rounds of thank-you gifts exchanged afterward.
I have a feeling that this is possible here because about 20% of the residents in this apartment complex work for my school. I also give a lot of credit to our neighbors who are so nice, I sometimes wonder why they want to talk to me. There really is a much more relaxed feeling towards getting kids together that is missing in the U.S. because of being so paranoid and in Japan because of being so apologetic.
That said, I hope our kids trashed their place as much as everyone trashed ours.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
My grades are in, I completed the last of my proctoring duties. I was finished with my teaching duties for the summer and only had my project of developing materials for the new math curriculum for next year. Or so I thought. First, I got an email telling me that I'll have some proctoring to do next week. Fine, no problem. As I was reading the mail telling me that, my supervisor told me that she had some classes for me to teach the remaining two weeks before I left for the summer and wouldn't be working on the curriculum development as planned. OK. Then I was told I would be teaching English.
That's not such a big deal. As people might remember, I was hired to teach English and due to the need for Math teachers, was quickly switched into teaching Math. I've gotten used to teaching Math, but was warned about a couple of months ago that I may be given a few weeks of English classes. I thought that if I was going to be asked to teach, it would've been before now but oh, well.
Then, about 10 minutes before I was getting ready to meet the person I bought the jeep from to switch the registration, the man who I'll be reporting to for the classes I'm teaching came over to talk to me about the classes. That was when I found out about why I was suddenly asked to teach. Tuesday a woman was fired for inappropriate dress. Without getting into it too much (it was apparently due to a consistency of inappropriate dress, ignoring the warnings about following the dress code, etc.; there was more to it than the stated reasons), the whole thing was a shock. The real shock for me came at 3:00pm today when I found out the reason I'll be teaching is to cover her classes.
Lest everyone think I'm more self-absorbed than I actually am, I realize that the problems faced by this poor woman far outweigh my minor inconvenience of having to teach her classes. Still, the thought of requesting to move to her more attractive workspace did cross my mind. That and the woman I bought the Jeep from seemed a little annoyed at me for being late.