Abu Dhabi Weather

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Festival of Thinkers 2011

Two years ago, I had the amazing chance to participate in wonderful event at my school called the Festival of Thinkers. Not only did I get to see some top minds speak, I was able to moderate discussions with some of them. This event is sponsored by the Higher Colleges of Technology and run every two years. The last one, in which I participated was well run as far as I was concerned and was planned by Abu Dhabi Men's College. The school sent out emails asking for volunteers and they got a number of people who willingly helped the VIPs around and made themselves available to ensure that everything went smoothly.

This year, the mails asking for volunteers never came. I had considered volunteering this year, but was kind of busy so never made any inquiries. Boy, did I luck out.

When Fidel Castro's son asks you to change his flight to Cuba, you do it.
About two weeks before the event, the mails were sent out telling people that they had to stand in a hotel lobby for 7 hours and direct guests to the right bus going to the right place. Little consideration was given to people's teaching schedule or their knowledge of Abu Dhabi. Those expected to direct the VIPs were not given the information they needed. They were put on the spot by people used to first class service and asked to change flights, and organize tours on short notice. To top it off, some teachers who were keen to be a part of the event and even requested to be a part of it weren't even asked. In the end, through no fault of the teachers, the dignitaries must have come away from the UAE with a fairly negative perception of the country.

What was the difference between this event and the last one two years ago? The last one was organized by the Abu Dhabi Men's College and this one by the Abu Dhabi Women's college. ADWC has a notoriously bad reputation for organization and taking into consideration outside obligations of those working for it. I feel that it is a shame that this event was so poorly run this year so as to give everyone involved a negative opinion of the Festival of Thinkers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Train Sleeping

These Japanese people would be lucky to only get a fine.

A friend sent me this article a few days ago but I'm just getting the chance to post it. Apparently, there is one more thing to worry about when traveling to Dubai: sleeping on the train. A student who was visiting her parents in Dubai fell asleep on the train was woken by a man holding a ticket for 300 dirhams (about US$80). She was unaware that this was on a list of 31 offenses with fines ranging from 100 dirhams to 2000 dirhams. Also on the list is a 100 dirham fine for eating, drinking or chewing gum (chewing gum?!?) on the train.  If this was the rule in Japan, Japan rail would be able to buy several new trains a day with the proceeds.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Musundam 2011

Last week was Eid Al Adha so we figured that we would get out of town for a few days. Since we enjoyed our trip to Musundam last year during Eid, we thought that we would do the same thing.

Luckily, this year getting through the border wasn't as much of an issue as it was last year. We were able to get through in about an hour and headed to the same beach that we went to last year about 20 kilometers past the border.
Our tents on the beach. The beach didn't have any rocks last year.

We did a half day dhow cruise last year so thought it would be nice to do a full day cruise this year. Because I wasn't sure about how many people were coming, I didn't have the chance to make the booking for Sunday until the Thursday before. Normally, I don't think this would have been an issue but with the holiday, they were booked up. They said that they could probably get us in on Monday. I said to let us know if Sunday opened up. I called on Saturday night and told them that I was in Musundam and that were planning on coming for the Sunday full-day dhow cruise that we had  booked and they said no problem, we'll see you tomorrow. I reasoned that if you just show up, there will probably be someone who reserves and doesn't show up.

Tia all ready for some snorkeling.

Lucas taking over the boat steering duties.

Just after this picture, the two of us leaned over the bow of the boat and I shouted, "I'm the king of the world!"

The boat cruise itself was pretty good with some time to take a swim, do some snorkeling, and look at some coral. Lunch was provided and  we got to see some dolphins.

Some dolphins or sharks or something.

 After we got back, we were in time for some relaxing on the beach and swimming at our campsite.
Tia showing some crabs that we caught.
We stayed two nights then headed to Dreamland the next day. The trip was fairly tiring, but it was good to get away for a few days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

F1 Events

Some guy making a sand sculpture.
With the Formula 1 races being this weekend, there are a lot of events around town. Fortunately for me, I live pretty close to one of the focal points. As last year, they have a F1 Fan Zone in which kids can drive down little mini streets or drive around the Abu Dhabi Track in video game simulators. There are slot car races and other challenges. I thought it was pretty good last year and my kids got to do a lot of the things because we got there early. This year, I complained that it wasn't as good, but I think the problem was just that it was too crowded.

Tia and some car.
Signs said that it opened at 4:00 on weekends and 5:00 on weekdays, but when we got there at 4:30 it wasn't open. By the time it opened at 5:00, it was crowded enough that we couldn't easily visit the attractions. Also there were some technical difficulties with about half of the simulators and the remote controlled cars in the center of the plaza weren't up and running yet so my kids couldn't do either of those. Looking back, it is still pretty good and is worth visiting if they get everything running smoothly though remember that it really opens at 5:00.

Later at night, I went back to see Fatboy Slim perform on the beach at no charge. I thought it might be fun to check that out and was impressed with how cool the whole thing was. I didn't bring my camera so didn't get any photos or video. Once I got there and saw the signs saying no cameras allowed with people checking bags, I was glad. I think that security must not have cared, because it seemed like almost everyone was taking video and pictures. Regardless, I was glad to get the chance to dance around.
Fatboy Slim is happy to be here.

I found it interesting the number of people who brought little kids to the show that started at 11:30. Once I worked my way up closer to the front, there weren't any kids, but I did see a woman in an abaya with her husband (?) who looked really uncomfortable to be there. Fatboy Slim showed a lot of video to accompany his performance and one song had a lot of male and female nudity. It wasn't anything graphic, but you could clearly see their naughty bits When those videos first came up, there was a lot of cheering and it made me wonder how he got away with that.

I had a really good time. I wished that I had taken some photos to post up here, but oh well. I'll make sure that I bring my camera the next time Fatboy Slim comes around to Abu Dhabi and puts on a free show.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Carlton Traning Camp

Anyone who lives outside of Australia probably has not heard of Carlton Football Club but apparently it is the most successful team in the Australian Football League. Last Friday, the Carlton Football Club completed a successful training camp in Abu Dhabi. They stayed at the Emirates Palace and "utilized the world-class training facilities the Palace has on offer." Previous to their visit here, they spent two weeks training in Qatar. This trip was meant to promote tourism in Abu Dhabi for Australians. There were some suspicions that since Emirates Airlines have their name on the stadium that Carlton play in that they might be announcing that they will sponsor the the team.

Tia's unimpressed to be near some guys that only Australians know.

One of the team members taunts Lucas after Lucas told him that he'd rather be playing baseball.

What this meant for my family is that because my kids play Australian Rules Football, they got to participate in the training camp for kids that Carlton sponsored. It was really fun watching the team run training drills then make themselves available for pictures and autographs. After that the team ran drills with the kids for about a half an hour. To finish things off, they handed out caps and balls to each kid in attendance.
Tia showing her impressive kicking skill as some guy looks on.

The thing to remember with this whole thing is that this is the equivalent of your favorite American Football team or favorite Rugby team coming to town to run a training camp for the kids and only about 50 people showing up. It was a really fun time and well run.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eid al Adha Holiday

The Imam needs to see this moon before you can book your holidays.
For the Eid al Adha holiday, we are never sure exactly what days off we will have until it is a little too late to actually book a holiday. Because of the dates that Eid was presumed to fall on, we knew that we would get Sunday (usually a work day), Monday, and Tuesday off (November 6th - 8th). The question remained whether we would also get Wednesday and Thursday off to make it a full week. In the past in similar situations the teachers and students have gotten the time off so a lot of people took the gamble and booked week long vacations.

Last Tuesday we got notification that we were only getting the three days (plus weekend) off to make this a mere 5-day holiday. This was no big deal for me because I had only planned on going camping for a few days. Others were not so happy. To add to the insult, many of the other colleges around the UAE were off for the whole week. A lot of teachers and students had already booked holidays. Since students were unlikely to cancel holidays, that meant mass absences and not much chance of any teaching going on.

The good news came at 3:45 today in an email: we were going to have the full week off. Unfortunately, the damage was done. Some teachers who had previously planned on traveling canceled their trips, losing deposits.While none of this really surprises me, I do think it could have been handled better. Giving everyone the week off to start with would have made everyone happy and helped to avoid the resentment. Alternately, had the powers that make the decision announced the dates earlier, students and teachers would have been prepared to be at school this coming Wednesday and Thursday. At any rate, I'm not about to complain about a week off.