Abu Dhabi Weather

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


While Dubai might have missed out on the chance to make movie history by refusing to allow filming of "Sex in the City 2," it seems that they have attracted another major movie franchise. Filming of "Mission Impossible 4" will begin in the next few months. Dubai Studio City was created in 2005 to bring big name films to the area and it seems like the investment has paid off. The studio is looking for up to 200 extras to be hired locally so if you're in the area, here's your chance to make your movie debut. Unfortunately, Abu Dhabi to Dubai is a little far for me to commute, especially while working full-time, but maybe some of the stars will make a trip to Abu Dhabi for the Formula One race. If you're interested in more details, you can read the article here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Car Crash

I know that a few of my recent posts have been about the crappy driving in Abu Dhabi, but this incident is pretty hard to ignore. My wife came home from dropping our kids off at school around 8:15 this morning and told me that she had to park in the lot across the street because there had been an accident in front of our building. The details are a bit garbled but from what I was able to find out, a woman was trying to pull out of our parking area and someone speeding along the main road plowed into her truck, ricocheted off her, lost control, went over the curb into our parking area, and wiped out into two parked cars. It looked like the cars were parked right where my wife usually parks our SUV. Luckily, as I said earlier, she was away dropping the kids off at school. As far as I could tell, no one was injured, but it was a good example of the fine driving skills that can be found in Abu Dhabi.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Traffic Jam

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a crotchety old man when I refuse to drive to certain parts of town because of the traffic. Then I see articles like this with the photo below and my phobia of driving to the heart of Abu Dhabi is only confirmed. Granted, one of the streets in question, Salam Street, is under major construction. Still, when a mere seven-car accident can shut down a whole section of the city for over an hour, I sure am glad that I live on the other side of town. In fact, I hate it so much that I will drive twice the distance to go around that part of town and still end up getting there faster than if I drove through it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


We're really lucky to have a balcony the size that we do. I've heard this a lot over the past year but it's only recently that I've come to realize how true this is. Last year I had full intention to use the balcony and would sit out there reading the newspaper every so often. Then it go too hot during the summer. Up until about a week ago, it was too hot to relax outside. Everyone tells us that this is unusually cool for September but tonight, it was great to sit outside with my wife and have a beer and a cider. Knowing that in a few years the building that I live in will likely be demolished makes me want to savor the luxuries like a large balcony all the more.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Green Roads

A recent news article mentioned that Abu Dhabi has been recycling its construction waste. With all of the construction going on, a lot of old buildings are being cleared, creating a lot of waste. The plant which was opened in May takes the concrete waste from demolished buildings, turns it into materials suitable for making roads, and sells it to construction companies. The hope is that after the mandatory midday summer breaks and Ramadan are over, things will pick up. According to the article, it will process 5,000 to 7,000 tons out of the 9,000 tons of daily waste that is produced. Hopefully, the plan ill work out. Regardless, I give the the people in charge credit for making an effort.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Night Class

While the schedules aren't complete, I have a night class that I think is mine for keeps. One of my fellow Math teachers is leaving next week. I think that means the night class that was going to be taken from me and replaced with something else will now remain with me. The real bummer is that it meets Monday and Thursday so I have to teach until 7:00 p.m. on the last workday of the week. It was strange walking out of class to see the campus under artificial light. I think it was the first time I've been there at night.

The good news is that it's a class that I've taught before so I don't have much prep for it. The bad news is that a lot of the students I failed last semester are in it. Usually, the night classes are nice because the students in them are a little older and have jobs, so a little more responsible. Because this class is part of the old program, it's the last time it will be offered and the last chance for the failures to take it. While I'm not looking forward to seeing some of the students, for the most part, the class seems to be fairly hard-working. I just hope the ones who don't like me don't ruin the whole class.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Conference Again

Just as last year, the annual HCT conference was held at Dubai Men's College. Because it's on a Saturday, they usually give us an extra day off for the first Eid . As this was my second such conference, I picked up a few hints for how to have a successful day.

1) Get there during the reception to get the croissants and coffee. I arrived a little late and didn't get a croissant. Hide your coffee if you go into the main auditorium. They'll make you drink it in the doorway if they see it.

2) Don't be in a hurry to get into the main auditorium for the main speech. It is sure to fill up and then you can go to one of the overflow rooms and watch a video of the speaker while you drink your coffee, eat your croissant, and do your sudoku.

3) If you end up in the main auditorium (you'll have to sit there if it's your first year) don't fall asleep. There are cameramen walking around videoing the audience for promotional purposes. You don't want evidence of you not paying attention.

4) If you like laser light shows sit in the auditorium. There was one last year, but not this year. Maybe there was. It might have been while I was in the overflow room or sleeping.

5) Get to lunch quickly to get a seat. Run if you have to. This is much easier if you are in the overflow room which is closer to the lunch room.

6) Wear a jacket. This is especially important if it is your first year because you have the opportunity to shake the Chancellor's hand. If you forget to wear one, just say you left it in the car because you spilled coffee on it.

7) During the Question and Answer portion of the meeting, ask a question that is a veiled compliment. Everyone likes a team player.

8) When signing up for the various sessions, check that your name isn't on one of them for you to present. This actually happened to a co-worker of mine this year.

9) Grab an extra soda from lunch for the ride home. Go on, you deserve it.

Overall, the meetings themselves were mildly interesting and they give us lunch and coffee, so it's actually worthwhile. While I know that I'm not the first person to have to work six days in a row, I still am not looking forward to a full week of a mystery schedule.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perfect Storm

We just finished the first week of classes at school and hopefully by Sunday we'll have our schedules. Going into classes that I may or may not be teaching the next week while unsure of whether there were students registered for them has been entertaining. My mere one year of experience tells me that this is pretty unusual. Last year I had my schedule weeks before and it never changed. A few other teachers had some classes added and taken away, but for the most part things were pretty stable. As far as I know all the other departments, including English, Business and Engineering are settled. It's really only the Math schedules that are in chaos. No particular person or thing can be blamed for what's going on. It all stems back to a few different things happening at once this year to the scheduling process:

1) A new program. This is the first year that we've had a modular program in which students take classes based on their ability in each subject instead of being put in a level based on their results of a test that covered a few different subject areas. To put it another way, we previously had students who were good in English and poor in Math mixed in with students who were poor in English and good in Math mixed with students who were moderate in both subjects because their score on the test with both Math and English questions was about the same (similar to placing students based on their total score on the SAT). This year the students take separate tests and are placed accordingly.

2) The need to create a new Math placement test. Unlike the English department which is using the test results from the same test that was given last April, we needed to create a test from scratch that fit in with our new curriculum. As far as I know, the placement test that the school uses (CEPA) is given to all High School graduates in the UAE. Scheduling the new test was an issue which brings us to...

3) The dates of Ramadan this year. Because Ramadan fell right when school was starting, the school year was pushed a few days later than it would've been, right after Ramadan. If we wanted to schedule the placement test before the school year started (a good idea if you want to schedule classes for the teachers and tell the students which classes to go to), we needed to have the test during Ramadan. With a lot of students out of town during Ramadan and all students tired and hungry from lack of food and caffeine, we only got about two-fifths of the students we needed. Even in the make-up placement test given the first week, only a quarter of the students showed.

4) Rigidity of the scheduling process. One thing that no one caught was that all the beginning Math courses were given at the same time. This meant that teachers could be given a maximum of two of these courses, everyone had to teach them, everyone would be teaching at the same time, and that we didn't have enough Math teachers to teach the classes. To add to it, the classes (we'll call them Math 1 and Math 2) meet a different number of times a week. One meets four times and the other five times. Without knowing how many students are in each level, we don't know how many classes of each we need. This further means that there's no way to give a teacher classes and say the it could be one or the other. The person making the schedule has to know which class it is before giving it to a teacher. Fortunately, this has since been adjusted slightly.

5) General administrative mess-ups. With a new system and a lot of people trying to communicate with each other, some mistakes are inevitable. Some people forgot that the students were being placed separately according to a Math placement test and placed them according to their English scores like last year. This means that most of the students who have already taken the placement test and have been taking classes for the past week may very well be put into another class.

Everything will get sorted in the end. It's just that the process has been a pretty painful one. I don't envy the person working on the schedule and think that he is doing a terrific job. I can tell you, I wouldn't be laughing about this the way I am if I had to tackle this task.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time Out Abu Dhabi

I'm in the news again. This time it's in Time Out Abu Dhabi, a local publication. The Time Out brand is around the world and as far as I know, started in London about 30 years ago. Time Out Abu Dhabi (or TOAD) has just gone weekly and started a feature about people in the community. Desperate to find someone to talk about for the first feature, the editor asked me to talk about my triathlons. Fortunately, after publicly announcing that I wanted to complete the Ironman in under 12 hours, I finished with a time of 11 hours and 58 minutes. You can check out the article here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


While viewing some magazines the other day, I saw this cover of GQ with a picture of the buxom Christina Hendricks on it. A white sticker was covering her cleavage. The sticker was slightly transparent and could easily be pulled away which kind of left me wondering what the point was. To add to the confusion, there was an issue of FHM, a British girly magazine, next to it. What would the point of buying that magazine be if you couldn't look at the pictures?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Abu Dhabi Tempo

The most recent issue of Abu Dhabi Tempo has an interview with me in it about this blog. It focuses on my Abu Dhabi A to Z blog-tacular, the entries wrote over the summer. I feel that the piece came out pretty well. As you can see from this picture of the article, the magazine put a colorful two dimensional bar code that can be read by a phone with a camera and will take you to right to the website. I haven't tried it yet so I'm assuming that's where it will take you. Feel free to let me know if it takes you elsewhere.
Unfortunately, there is no web presence for this interview. It's a free magazine that is available at shops and restaurants throughout Abu Dhabi. If you don't live in Abu Dhabi and would like to read it more clearly, you can download a copy readable in Adobe Reader by clicking on the link on the right side.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Campus Tour

Today I had to show new students around the campus. Thankfully I was able to get out of this last year, but no luck this year. After looking at the list of sites on the tour, I had to ask a few people around me about some of the places. For the most part, it was pretty uneventful. About three of the eight or so students in my group really took an interest. The rest seemed to just be going along because they were too worried about getting into trouble for sneaking away. To be honest, I'm not even sure that they all made it to the end.

Keeping in mind the level of English and the relevance of what was on the list, I did my best to keep it interesting. One of the spots on the tour was the giant sundial in the middle of campus. While this is a point of pride for HCT, I doubt that many of the students pay it any attention. The best I could come up with was, "Here is a sundial. You can smoke here." I had an informal race with a co-worker of mine to see who could get through the tour faster. I think she halved my time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Surprise Holiday

With the end of Ramadan nearing, the holiday of Eid Alfitr is approaching. The end of the Ramadan is not definite until the higher ups view the moon and determine that Ramadan is finished and Eid can begin. Because there is a rumor that the sighting of the new moon will be Thursday, the first day of Eid will be Friday. Eid lasts three days, but since we have Friday and Saturday off anyway, most people were only planning on having Sunday off. While a three-day weekend is nothing to scoff at, we did kind of lose out this year. That is, until the surprise holiday was sprung on us...

Yesterday just after quitting time we received an email from the head of HCT saying that we would be getting Wednesday and Thursday off. Depending on what night the new moon is declared, we might have Sunday off too.

There are some sites that suggest that the new moon can be more accurately predicted using astrology than by deciding by viewing it with the naked eye. When I pointed this out to a co-worker of mine, I was told that it depends on the country. For example, the UAE and Oman which are geographically very close, often declare the end of Ramadan on different days. There was a slight suggestion that the decision of when there is a new moon might even be political and that the person who will view the new moon with the naked eye already knows which night he plans on viewing it.

Despite predictions that the moon sighting will beThursday night, I just found this document from the European Council for Fatwa and Research that declares the moon sighting will be Wednesday meaning that Eid will begin on Thursday and that we won't have Sunday off. Of course, just because the officials in Europe have called it for Wednesday night, that doesn't mean the same for the UAE, though it is a strike against having Sunday off.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

School Uniform

Today was my kids' first day of school. Everything seemed to go pretty well. Because we're still in Ramadan, the school has special Ramadan hours for this week. That works out fairly well, because my wife gets a week to ease into taking the kids to school. Last year, the kids took the bus to school, but now that they're both going full days, my wife decided that we could save money by getting a second car and then she could drive them to school. I was a little unsure of how that would work out for her with traffic and parking, but today was no problem.

Of course, there was also the drama of getting their school uniforms. In the UAE there is a law saying that all schools must have a uniform. To the school's credit, they chose a simple uniform involving just just plain navy blue shorts or skirt and a polo shirt with the school's logo on it. To their lack of credit, they chose a supplier with one store in the Abu Dhabi area which is about 25 miles out of town in the middle of nowhere.

Last year when we didn't have a car, she had to take a taxi out to Al Raha mall where the store is with two kids to get them fitted. On the way back, she had to wait for over an hour for a taxi because, as I said, it's in the middle of nowhere.

This year, both of our kids outgrew their shorts / skirt so they needed new clothes. My wife, thinking ahead, drove to the store to get the uniforms about ten days before the first day of school. She bought them and was told that she would have to come back to get them adjusted because the person who adjusted them wouldn't be back until September (less than five days before school started). When she went back there the other day, she was told that the amount she wanted the clothes adjusted was too small to get them fixed, making the trip out there a complete waste of time. I should once again mention that the store is 25 miles one way.

While at the store, she ran into another mother whose son also goes to GEMS American Academy. She said that a number of mothers complained about the same things that were annoying my wife such as: cheap fabric, expensive price, lack of consistency in sizing and the remoteness of the only store that sells the uniforms. She then told my wife that while parents have no choice but to but the polo shirts from Zak's (the uniform shop), there's a shop in town that sells identical bottoms of better quality more cheaply. In fact, the store is only a block away from our apartment.

So, for you parents of students at GEMS American Academy who are looking for a place in town to buy school uniform bottoms of better quality more cheaply, go to a store above the Spinney's in Khalidiyah. It's a small store, but is much better. (Screw you, Zak's.) As for the polo shirts, Zak's comes to the school sometime in the beginning of the year and you can stock up then.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


It might not be terribly big news in the rest of the world, but last night a UPS cargo plane crashed just after take-off from Dubai airport. Here are some photos from the article on this web page. I was kind of shocked to hear about it initially last night. My first reaction was of the people aboard but thankfully, it was only a cargo plane. After, when I hear that it crashed on the Dubai expressway, my thoughts returned to the people on the ground. The initial reports were that it had hit the highway.Fortunately, this was a mistake as the pilot and co-pilot had the presence of mind to try to land on an unpopulated area.

According to a more recent article, the cockpit of the plane caught fire after take-off on its way to Germany. When the pilot notified someone on the ground and was instructed to return to the airport. While details are sketchy, it seems that the pilot then diverted the plane to a nearby military base in order to avoid casualties on the ground.

While the incident is a tragedy, we can be thankful that that even if the pilot was unable to land the plane safely, at least no one on the ground was killed. Hopefully, this incident will lead to more oversights to ensure incidents like this won't happen again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Repair (Part Two)

With all the doom and gloom regarding getting my car repaired, it ended up being relatively pain-free, though most of that was on the mechanic's end rather than the insurance company.

I went to the insurance company to drop off my car, even going as far as having my wife drag the kids over to that part of town to pick me up. I had to wait in the office for a few minutes and when it was my turn I realized that...wait for it...I had forgotten a document that I needed. This document which was meant to replace another document that they took from me had the accident report on it. There was little chance that they would be able to find the paper and even though my name, information about my car and photos of the damage were in the computer, the police report, unfortunately, was not.

I told them that I could go home and call back with the number. Because it was 10 minutes before closing on the weekend, they didn't like that suggestion. I didn't like the suggestion of coming back the following Sunday. After a few minutes, they looked harder and found the number that they needed. Since the mechanic's shop was closed for the weekend and the parking in that area is paid parking, they gave me the number of the mechanic and told me to go home and call him on Saturday when his shop would be open. The mechanic would then come to pick up my jeep from in front of my apartment.

It wasn't until I got down to the car where my wife and kids were patiently waiting that I realized that everything in that transaction could have been done when the car was assessed or, better yet, over the phone. What a waste of time! I wasn't looking forward to having to deal with the mechanic.

I couldn't have been more wrong about that whole interaction. I called on Saturday and the guy came out a few hours later when he said he would. I asked him if he could give me an estimate on some work on the interior that I want to get done and he said sure. I was slightly nervous giving my keys to some guy I didn't know at all with no receipt, but really, what could go wrong? A few days later he called me back with a reasonable price for the work I asked for and told me the repairs for the accident would be done by today. About 45 minutes ago I got a call saying he was a few minutes away and I should go downstairs to get the car. Sure enough, the car looked good and all I had to do was sign a paper completely in Arabic which I'm assuming was saying that the work was done, but who knows what it really says?

I thought that the mechanic was great and I'll be sure to have him do the work I had him give me an estimate on. It's funny how after the past week, my expectations of getting things done had sunk so low, I couldn't imagine how this would turn out well. In the end, everything worked out great.

While this picture really has nothing to do with my story, I noticed this truck parked across the street from my apartment. I don't think the mechanic understood the humor when I told him that was his next project. I had to explain to him that it wasn't mine. It jumped out at me because I'm not used to seeing cars so smashed up here. Seeing it parked two feet away from the curb, it's no wonder it got smashed if that's how the guy usually parks.