Abu Dhabi Weather

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apartment Hunting

In the past week, my family and I have been getting reacquainted with Abu Dhabi. Because we arrived two weeks later than planned, the kids have had to jump into school 36 hours after arriving and I've had to start work. Essentially, my job has been finding an apartment and getting settled as quickly as possible. My previous job provided a place to live with the option of finding your own place. For my new job, I am just given money to find my own place. The upside is that I get to choose where I live, but the downside is that I have to navigate the Abu Dhabi real estate market.

Tha Al Raha Beach area.
We did some scouting before the summer break to see what was available. Prices have come down a lot in the past few years with all of the development. That was good news for us and we were looking forward to arriving after the summer break and having apartment owners lining up to offer us a place to live. Despite that being the expectation we were given, that ended up not being the case. To be fair, the prices before summer had set our hopes fairly high. Arriving well into the apartment hunting high season didn't help, either.

Given only two weeks to find a place, complete the paperwork, and arrange to move our worldly possessions out of storage into the apartment, we have been in a time crunch. My wife had very specific criteria and wanted it for the prices that we had grown to expect. Luckily for us, my wife's being picky worked out for us.

Eventually, we were given the contact number of an estate agent used by a friend. The agent deals directly with the owners so the prices are a bit lower. We were able to find a spacious apartment in the Al Raha Beach area for a price that was a lower than the other places that we had been looking at. It is a spacious apartment with a private beach and cafes and shopping within walking distance. There is a swimming pool and private gym.

If this sounds slightly shady, that's because it is. In the several months ago, there were 70 families that were facing eviction because of real estate fraud in Dubai. Even as recently as two weeks ago, more cases have come to light. All of them seem to be similar to what I am doing. To ease my mind, my friend who got a great deal on an apartment recapped his experiences. The main protection was that the checks were made out to ALDAR which is the major management company in Abu Dhabi. Also, I did some research and found this article from a few years ago that gave some advice to avoid fraud.

Assuming that we don't get scammed, we should be in our new place by this time next week. Assuming we DO get scammed, we'll be living in a one bedroom apartment on Hamdan street.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Visa Troubles

Since my last entry, I've canceled my visa left the UAE, and started a new job. I wanted to chronicle that whole bundle of headache, but because I had so much going on at that point, I never found the time. I will summarize by saying that the financial benefits of canceling the visa and having my new employer sponsor me made the trouble that I had to go through well worth the hassle. The other option was to just switch the sponsorship of my visa to the new school, but I don't know if that option would have been that much easier and it certainly would have earned me less money.

That said, I actually thought that I had gone through the worst of the process in getting my final clearances. I hadn't anticipated the potential problems that would arise with my school applying for my visa during Ramadan.

Companies need to apply for visas within 30 days of the new employee arriving. My planned arrival of late August put the day to apply for my visa at the beginning of Ramadan. The process generally takes two days, but because it was Ramadan when people are tired and hungry and thirsty and are dying for a cigarette, nothing gets done. (For a recap of some of my difficulties cause by Ramadan when I first arrived in 2009, click here.) Some of my cohorts' visas took a week, some two weeks and others three weeks. Mine and another new teacher's visa was not done within the three weeks so was not available before the Eid holiday when I planned on arriving. As a result, everything got pushed back by two weeks.

Because my family and I were in the U.S. staying with my parents, there was no real financial strain. The only strain was limited to straining my relationship with my mother for overstaying our welcome. The problem was that even though I was pretty sure that our visas would come through eventually, I couldn't help thinking that there was a reason that they were delayed and that there might be some random reason I was not being granted a UAE visa. Had this been the case, our lives would have been turned upside down.

Fortunately, everything came through and we were able to arrive last Friday. I have been fortunate that everyone has been so helpful in helping me cover classes while I have been running around getting re-established. Still, I missed out on the orientation and have sort of been dropped into the thick of things.

An additional consequence  is that I lost two weeks salary and am looking for an apartment after all of the best places have been already rented out. I will try to later recap my adventures of apartment hunting with a two-week deadline before we get kicked out of the hotel my school is putting us up in.

Friday, June 15, 2012


While we were waiting for Tia's ballet recital at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, Lucas asked to go to Kidzania in the Dubai Mall. Unfortunately, that didn't work out to be very practical, so I promised that I would take him there another time. As promised, I took the kids to Kidzania last weekend.

Here I am thinking about movie start times for The Avengers.
Unless you found this blog entry by doing a Google search for Kidzania in Dubai, you're asking yourself, "What the hell is Kidzania?" Well, it is perhaps one of the coolest places you could take your kids for the day and I'll tell you why. It is a miniature city in which the kids have all of the amenities and services that a reasonably sized city would have: a fire department, a beauty shop, a bank, mobile phone shop, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Pizza Express, game room, hospital, grocery store, theater, among others. The kids go around the city working various jobs and earning money. With the money, they can spend it riding around on go-carts, playing pool in the game room, getting their nails done. The staff are extremely helpful and friendly, happily training the kids in their respective jobs.

Kidzania has a thriving arts scene.

A gathering place for the local hoodlums.
The parent's lounge in the heart of Kidzania complete with free internet.

Kids love it and they learn about the idea of working for a living. I loved it because of the concept of the self-sustained city. There's even a coffee shop for parents with newspapers, magazines, and free internet. If you're still not sold on how awesome this place is, here is the final selling point: you can leave your kids there while you hang out at the world's largest shopping mall. Everyone wears bracelets which are electronically scanned any time an adult or child leaves. You can go shopping, go to the Sega Republic 100 feet away, or even go to the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. My wife and I went to see the movie The Avengers.
Here is a dingy looking hotel in Kidzania.

Here the kids are in the middle of their training to become firefighters.

The kids had to put out a fire set by the owner of the hotel as an insurance scam.
Meanwhile, back at the fire station...

Lest you think that I just wanted to drop my kids off and go have fun on my own, I actually went in intending to play with my kids. The thing is, parents aren't allowed in the buildings. You can watch the kids, but after a while, that just gets overbearing with kids inside acting out adulthood and a line of parents with cameras taking pictures and videos of their little darlings. I was guilty of that to a point, but after a while that whole thing got tedious. Besides, the kids had no interest in me being there at all. I gave each of them 20 dirhams for lunch, and told them I was going to a movie. Neither of them seemed to care and probably wouldn't have noticed I wasn't there until the place closed.
Tia enjoyed cutting into the patient a little too much.

Tia put the ribcage back on the patient after the liver transplant.

My advice as a parent is to pay the 90 dirham fee (must be accompanied by a child,  scary to think that there might be people without children trying to get in there), check things out, get a few photos of your little darlings, then enjoy your day. Unlike the other Kidzania branches, the one in the Dubai Mall allows you to leave your kids all day. Most of the others have a morning session and an afternoon session with a intermission in which they clear everyone out and start over. Dubai Kidzania has no such break. We brought out kids there at 10:00 am and let them play until 5:00pm. Now that I've seen it, the next time I go, I'll just drop them off with some lunch money and head to Sega Republic. In fact, I've already told our kids that for my daughter's birthday in August, they have the choice between Kidzania and Sega Republic. Whatever they choose, I'll be at Sega Republic and they can enjoy the day in whatever fashion makes them happy. And that is what family time is about!
Lucas enjoying his job working in construction.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hello, Jeep

Last month, I sold my old Jeep to an Emirati guy who has an fetish for that particular body type. Over the past month, we've been getting by with one car fairly well, but we will be moving off the island in August and will probably need two cars. Since this is the time of year when a lot of people are leaving, it is also the best time to pick up a good deal on a car. In looking on Dubizzle, the Craig's List of the U.A.E., I was able to find a few cars I was interested in. I settled on a 2004 Jeep Cherokee manual transmission. I later found out that in the U.S., this vehicle is called a Jeep Liberty, which explains why I was having trouble researching it on American consumer websites.
We chose bluewall tires for stylistic reasons.

In the mass of paperwork involved in switching jobs, I've had to cancel my visa and no longer have an Emirates i.d. card necessary to buy a car. Fortunately, I was able to convince a friend who I work with and lives in my building to put the Jeep in her name. I arranged to drag her to the car registration place to make the switch, conditional on the Jeep passing the inspection. As Murphy's Law would have it, the Jeep didn't pass the inspection, as it needed new tires. We went to get new tires with minimal drama, then headed back to the registration place. We transferred the insurance into my friend's name. Being a lady, she was able to go to the lady specific room to transfer the paperwork, avoiding a longer wait.

The whole process would have been quick if it hadn't been for having to get new tires. Since officially, it's my friend's car and she'll still be working for the school, I am able to apply for a parking sticker to park my car in the college parking lot over the summer. The worst part about this is that I'll be leaving in about a week and won't get enough time to properly drive it. As long as she doesn't sell it while I'm gone, she'll transfer the paperwork into my name and I'll have a nice new (for me) Jeep waiting for me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ballet Recital

With my son Lucas getting to play baseball,we felt that fair was fair. We asked Tia what she wanted to do and being the girly girl she is, she opted for ballet lessons. She's been taking ballet lessons over the past six months or so. A Japanese friend of ours teaches ballet out of her home. While a majority of the girls are Japanese, the lessons are given in English. A few months ago, we were given the opportunity to have the girls perform in a dance recital in Dubai. With how excited Tia was over the prospect, we couldn't exactly say no, especially with us driving her brother to Dubai every week for Little League games.

The ballet recital was last week so we trucked out to Dubai. While Tia and her mom made preparations for the recital, Lucas and I got to hang around the Mall of the Emirates, otherwise known as that one mall with an indoor ski slope in the middle of the desert. Unfortunately, apart from the ski slope and a mediocre game center, there isn't that much else there. I failed to convince Lucas that he wanted to see The Avengers at the movie theater. I thought of driving to the superior Dubai Mall for the superior Sega Republic or Kidzania where Lucas wanted to go, but I hate driving in the maze of roads that is Dubai and didn't want to give up my great parking spot. We settled on the mediocre game center with the promise that I would take him to Kidzania another time.

A picture taken from stage right by Mom.

Without getting into too much detail, I enjoyed seeing my daughter dance in the recital and seeing how excited she was at the prospect of dancing. I enjoyed listening to my wife argue with the florist over the phone on the ride to Dubai regarding the quality of the flowers the moms had ordered. I thought that the Abu Dhabi girls were better while the dance studio from Dubai had the girls Tia's age do routines that were long and boring. However, the older girls who have obviously been dancing for years were good. Also, there was one older woman who was probably the friend of the instructor from Dubai who did some weird interpretive dance that was totally out of place. Now here are some pictures that I obviously did not take.
Tia's ballet teacher with the rest of the girls.
My wife carrying the fresh flowers she had to crack some heads for.

Tia's happy to be here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Little League

From this past December to March, my son was part of a Little League Baseball team. While the practices were at the American Community School (ACS), a 10 minute walk from our apartment in Abu Dhabi, the games were all in Dubai. This meant about a three hour round trip drive for an hour and a half game each weekend (this time commitment was partially to blame for the suspension of my writing this blog). I mentioned this to a few friends and family in the U.S. and Japan and the reaction that I mostly got was along the lines of, "There's Little League Baseball in Dubai?" The answer is yes, and it is sanctioned by the Little League Association of America. In Dubai, there is a whole complex with four well-maintained diamonds.

I first heard about the league from a friend of mine who lived in my apartment building. His son was on a team and when I heard that being part of a team involved a trip to Dubai every Saturday, I figured that wasn't something that we would be getting involved with. At the time Lucas was too young, but I resolved to keep the idea of playing baseball out of his head.
Lucas was on the Dodgers. At least his team wasn't the Cardinals or Cubs.  For some unknown reason, no teams in Dubai were named the Brewers after Milwaukee's fine tradition of brewing beer.

Two years later in 2011, the Fukuoka baseball team, the SoftBank Hawks won the Japan series and the Milwaukee Brewers had one of their rare playoff appearances. Lucas had gotten really interested in baseball, but was still unaware that playing baseball in the U.A.E. was even an option. I pushed him towards the more conveniently scheduled and nearby Australian Rules Football, but could still tell he would rather be playing baseball (as he frankly told one of the members of the professional AFL team, Carlton Club). Because he is generally such a nice kid and genuinely loved baseball, I made some inquiries with a coworker whose son played in the league and got the information. As it turned out there was a team in which half of the kids lived in Dubai and half in Abu Dhabi.

The fields are really well maintained.

While I wasn't excited about driving to Dubai every weekend, my biggest worry was that he would lose interest halfway through the season after we had committed to a team. I needn't have worried, he was into it the whole season. He complained about going to practice once or twice early in the season, but other than that was enthusiastic throughout. In fact, he was a bit too enthusiastic. Because Lucas was so dedicated, he would get upset over blown calls and yell at teammates who weren't paying attention. I had to restrain myself from telling him that he was right in order to set an example of good sportsmanship (because that's what it's all about, right?).

Lucas's age group hits off pitching machines.
This year, there were only five kids my son's age from Abu Dhabi playing and two of them were the coach's kids. About four or five years ago, someone tried to get a league going in Abu Dhabi, but there wasn't enough interest. Part of the problem is that no one in Abu Dhabi knows about it. I only found out the information from my coworker. No one at the American School in Abu Dhabi (AISA), my son's school, knew about it. I have American friends with kids at the Canadian International School who were interested, but didn't know about it. Because we joined at the last minute, it was too late for the interested people we told about it to join.

This probably isn't the best time of the year to be promoting this, but I think it would be great if baseball became more widespread in Abu Dhabi. I don't envision the day when there is a full league anytime when I'm living here, but it might be nice to get at least a whole team going. Even better would be if we could get two teams so we could hold scrimmages.

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Mechanic

After selling my Jeep, my wife and I have been sharing one car. When we had two cars, if something went wrong with one of them, we could still get around. Considering that our car is a 2006, we expect it to be running pretty well most of the time. Unfortunately, we had an emergency on Monday: our air conditioner went out. In most locations, that wouldn't be that much of an issue, but in late May in Abu Dhabi, the heat can be deadly.

I went out to my car in the afternoon sun to pick my kids up from school and found that the blower didn't work. Nothing. No air, hot or cold, was coming out. Fortunately, there had been a lot of sand in the air blocking out a lot of the sun, so the temperature was an unseasonably cool 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius). I rolled down the windows, picked up my kids from school and drove to the Chevy dealership which was about a mile from their school. Lucky me!

The staff were exceptionally friendly.  The service representative checked out the air conditioner and with a little fiddling of the controls, was able to get it to work, blasting out cool air. The rep said it would probably work most of the time. Considering that we have plans to drive to Dubai this weekend, I didn't want the air conditioner stopping on us on the way there so I arranged to have them look at the air conditioner and get me an estimate.

Seriously, screw these guys.
The next day he called with the estimate: over 2500 Dh for what was obviously a faulty switch or faulty wiring. The dealership wanted to replace the whole air conditioning unit including the fan and compressor when the rep had demonstrated that there was nothing wrong with the fan or the compressor. I'd realized that dealerships generally do not offer the best deal, but I hadn't expected this level of gouging. I told them I'd think about it, but what choice did I have? I'd been having difficulty contacting my old mechanic so didn't really have time to call him. A coworker, having overheard my telephone conversation, gave me the number to her mechanic, Razmeek. Apparently, a few of my coworkers at the college have been using him and the guy specialized in air conditioning.

I called him and arranged for him to pick up my car in the evening. He even knew the place because one of my coworkers lives in my building and has been having Razmeek work on his car for over 10 years. Even the guards at the guards at the place I park my car knew him and let him in to look at my car. He seems to be the HCT go to guy.

By Thursday morning, he had the car fixed and sure enough, there was an issue with one of the connections between the wiring and the switch. The total cost? 300 dirhams. He dropped off the car with my wife and that was it. I now have a new mechanic with a long list of recommendations behind him.

Monday, May 21, 2012

World's Greatest Daad

With Father's Day coming up, we need to start thinking about all those special dads out there. If you are a doting father, just remember that nothing you do will ever compare to the U.A.E.'s own Daad Mohammed Al Balushi. You see, when his parents named him Daad, they could not have known the destiny that they imparted on him. Daad is the proud father of 92 children and counting. Don't think that this man is just resting on his laurels, either. Daad has made an ambitious promise to father 100 children by the year 2015; a promise this 64 year old wonder intends on keeping.

His rhymes are so potent that in this small segment he made all of the ladies in the area pregnant.
I first learned of Daad's adventures in fatherhood from an article celebrating people dedicated to passing along their DNA to as many children as possible (Daad is #4 on the list). This man from Ajman made his fateful promise to the late Sheikh Zayed in 2002 and so far has worked to keep his word. Because it would be impossible for one woman to aid Daad in his quest, he has enlisted the help of 18 women to be the mothers of his children.

Naturally, those of you reading this are thinking, "Hey wait a minute, doesn't Sharia law allow a man to marry only four wives? How can the government of the U.A.E. get behind this?" Don't worry. Daad has thought of that. You see, Daad only keeps four wives at a time, divorcing them as he goes along. In fact, he married his 18th wife last year, and all of the expenses were paid for by His Highness Sheikh Humaid, the leader of Ajman. How's that for a lucky lady!

Daad is "pretty sure" he can name at least two of the kids on his lap.
Don't think that Daad is not selective of his brides to be. He has clearly stated that he will not marry a divorcee or widow. What are Daad's specific tastes in women like? In 2010, he married an 18 year old woman from India as arranged by his doctor and was "visibly excited" when talking about how pretty she looked in the pictures of her that he had seen. In fact, even though he has stated that he thinks he has married enough women to meet his 2015 goal, he has mentioned that he will be scouting for a new bride in Jaipur, India when he travels there to have his prosthetic leg fitted (hint, hint, ladies).

I'm sure that all you fathers out there with your one, two, three, or even ten children feel pretty good about yourselves and the time spent with your families. But just remember while you're playing catch with your son or daughter, teaching them to read or ride a bicycle, or just relaxing on the beach while they splash around in the waves, that there is a man out there who has no interest in what you think it means to be a dad.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Island Getaway

I know that a lot of my posts may give a fairly negative view of Emiratis, but there are some pretty decent people here, too. Just as my job doesn't put me into contact with the bottom third of Emiratis as far as functionality, it doesn't usually put me into contact with the top third, either. That's where my friend, "Khalid" comes into play. Khalid is the guy that took me around the Formula One track in his Porsche. From all the times I've met him, he is a really down to earth, fun guy to hang out with. Over the past few months, my family and I have gone out for beach excursions with his friends Safwan and Safwan's wife Katie.

Back in February, we went to Safwan's beach house about a 20 minute boat ride off of Sadiyat Island.  We were able to have fun on Khalid's jet ski and relax in the shade with a few soda pops. Safwan and Katie put on a wonderful BBQ for us and their neighbors kept sending over food that they had cooked. It seems that a lot of the people who life in Abu Dhabi spend their weekends relaxing at their island houses. Of course this seclusion comes at a price. They have to import all of their food and water. I'm not entirely sure of where their electricity comes from, but I think they must have a generator somewhere on their property.
Lucas showing his stuff on the jet ski.

I was going to take Safwan and Katie's parrot back with me so I could be the "weird parrot guy."

She sells seashells by the seashore. The seashells she sells are seashells, I'm sure. In particular, one of them had a dead crab in it.
This is the beach house from the water.
After the wonderful hospitality, we had another chance to relax in the sun with our new friends. A few weeks ago, Khalid took us to a fairly secluded beach on Sadiyat Island where we me Safwan and Katie for another BBQ.
On our way to the beach with the Abu Dhabi construction in the background.

Lucas relaxing near a floating cooler filled with soda pop.

Stopping for gas and a potty break for Khalid's dog at a boat petrol station.
Lucas and Tia enjoying a swim while jumping off the boat.
Sailing into the Abu Dhabi sunset.

After Khalid brought us back to  Abu Dhabi, he said that next time he would take us around Abu Dhabi Island. The total estimated time for that? About six hours.
Tia ready to go around Abu Dhabi Island.
My wife and I with the Sadiyat bridge in the background.

Considering that a majority of my contact with Emiratis is with guys in their late teens and early twenties going to a mid-range post-secondary school, I haven't been meeting a wide range of the local population. Meeting Khalid, Safwan and their wives has given me a better idea of Emirati life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Goodbye, Jeep

About three weeks ago, the security guard at the place where I park my Jeep mentioned to me that he had a friend who was interested in buying it. Even though I wasn't really planning on selling my Jeep, I gave him my number and told his friend to call me. This didn't surprise me as I have had people approach me about selling it before. While I really liked it, a 15 year old vehicle in this climate tends to be a bit of a money pit and I was unsure of how much longer I could expect to keep it in good running order. In this case, I figured that this would be a good time to sell and possibly pick up another vehicle cheaply from someone leaving the country for good.

The fellow called me and as it turned out was a representative for the Emirati man who wanted to buy it. While I used the word "representative" just now, but as things progressed I found that perhaps the word "handler" was more appropriate. "Rameesh" the handler spoke impeccable English and was perhaps Indian. His charge was an Emirati man named "Saeed" who spoke no English. Not only did he speak no English, he hardly acknowledged that I was there. He was a younger guy in about his early 20's and likely from the countryside. At first, I mistakenly attributed his demeanor to dislike or arrogance, but I later realized that Saeed didn't see the need to pay attention to anyone or anything not within his immediate focus.

After a short bout of bargaining we agreed on a price and made arrangements to change over the vehicle the next day. That next afternoon, I called Rameesh the handler to arrange a time and was informed that Saeed was not in contact. He was probably in Oman but Rameesh would be in touch. I didn't hold out a lot of hope for that with the scatter-brained way that Saeed seemed to conduct himself. I was a little surprised when on Tuesday at 2:30 Rameesh called me to tell me that Saeed would like to meet me at the car licensing office to buy the Jeep and switch over the registration.

I was expecting drama and wasn't disappointed. Saeed wanted me to switch the insurance into his name, something I was told by my insurance company that they would no do. Then I had to drive him to an office about a mile away that sold insurance even though there are five companies selling insurance on the premises of the department of motor vehicles where we were. (Emirati law states that the person who is buying the vehicle must give proof of insurance before the registration can be switched over) This was when the need for a handler became apparent. Rameesh had to go into the various offices with Saeed to make sure that he was conducting himself in a civil manner (i.e. waiting in line, not making unreasonable demands of the staff). When Saeed didn't get the price he was hoping for, we went back to the place we had just come from.

At this point, Saeed began prying the license plates off my Jeep with no explanation to his handler or me as to what he was doing. Then he told me to get into his car (we were already at the place we needed to do the paperwork). At this point I stopped and demanded that someone tell me what was going on. Even the handler was a little unsure of what we were doing until he stopped to ask. Saeed didn't want to wait and instead wanted to go to the building next door where he was sure the wait would be shorter.

All this while, I was making sure with Rameesh that the price was what we'd agreed on and that Saeed was responsible for insurance, registration and the cost of getting new plates. I was half expecting him to try something like that and was relieved when he counted out the money.  After the paperwork was finished, he took me to the Jeep where I did a final inspection and made sure to remove the Salik (toll pass) tag off it.

My final view of the Jeep with the new plates Saeed had to have.
He said he would give me a ride across the street to the shopping mall where my wife and kids were waiting for me to finish. Although I didn't need the ride, I didn't feel like arguing. While I was making my final check of the Jeep, he made a final display of his tunnel vision by getting into a third car and driving off somewhere without saying anything. Rameesh didn't know what he was up to and when I checked the car with my bag in it, I found it was locked. Luckily, I was able to catch him as he doubled back and got the keys to unlock the car to get my stuff and meet my family a five minute walk away.

The whole thing was probably not much more annoying than the usual experience of selling a car, but it was the departure from what I knew was supposed to happen and the nagging expectation that he was going to try to change the deal somehow that made me nervous. If anything, it gave me a greater understanding of a subgroup of Emiratis that I don't have contact with. I see some of my students and wonder how they survive in their daily lives. Then I realize that there is about a quarter to a third of the population that isn't even with it enough to get into my school and wonder how they survive. I now know. Their families hire someone like Rameesh the handler to follow them around.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


The first post after an absence is always the hardest. I feel the need to explain what I've been up to. Also, there is the inevitable backlog of things I would like to talk about and the feeling that the first post back better be good. Without too much explanation, (there will be plenty of time for that) I would just like to say that because I have been busy with some things that have caused a bit of disruption in my life, it has been a while since I last posted. Now let me slip back into the blog as if no break had ever happened.

Last week, I was invited to go paintballing with a coworker who was taking his students on a "team building exercise." Our supervisor who clearly understands the importance of taking the students out for a bit of fun once in a while, gave permission for the outing. I didn't have class at the time, so went along to provide "support."

Napoleon getting ready to shoot students.
We booked the outdoor paintball grounds at the Abu Dhabi Military Officer's Club for 10:00 am on Tuesday and told the students to be there at 9:30. That began predictably with most students turning up around 10:30. By the time everyone was outfitted in their coveralls, given the mask, gun, and given instructions, it was 10:45. Thankfully, the guy running the thing waited until then to start the clock.

After the first round, all of the students were out of ammunition. Luckily, more ammunition could be purchased for 60 Dh per 100 rounds. Some students bought 500 rounds. It should be noted that the price of an hour of paintablling was 150 Dh. That meant that the students spent double the admission price on ammo for just one game. And yes, the students used all of their ammo on just the last game. In fact, the whole paintballing "team building" ended because the students used all of their ammo and could not continue.

For those who are not familiar with how paintball games work, if you are shot, you are expected to raise your hands in a surrender gesture and leave the playing field without shooting anymore. For those who have experience dealing with young Emirati males, you can guess how well the honor system works in paintball. Even though we only got to play two games (four would be more reasonable in an hour), I did enjoy shooting the students multiple times. My favorite time was when one student who was holed up in a little bunker was shooting out the front window and didn't notice me until I walked up behind him and shot him three or four times. Of course, there was the time when a student with his hands in the air and walking off the playing field lowered his gun and start shooting at me. While he didn't hit me, I enjoyed shooting him a couple of times.

Overall, it was a great time. I would have liked to get more games in and have had less time standing around in the heat waiting for everyone to buy ammo. Even though I've only been painballing once before, the students' lack of any kind of tactics or aiming made me one of the best players on the field and that is always fun.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Porsche Club

My friend's 1996 Porsche 911. He wants a 2010 GT2.

Last Friday night I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Porsche Club event at the Yas Marina F1 Track. A friend of mine invited me to come along and it seemed like an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I felt fortunate to be a part of such an event, but I felt completely out of my league.

I've been to the Yas Marina track a number of times for a variety of events and have been around the track a number of times, always on a bicycle. and sometimes even for triathlons. I felt out of place because not only was I one of the only people in the room who didn't own a Porsche, when people started talking about the specs on their cars, they might as well have been speaking another language. Plus, phrases such as, "That's the next Porsche I want to get," or even "My next Porsche," don't naturally come into conversations with my friends unless we're being ironic. Still, everyone was really friendly and more than happy to let me wander around taking pictures of their cars. There were even some Porsche SUV's out on the track.

For the actual driving, there are three levels, Novice 1, Novice 2, and Intermediate. The intermediates have been driving around with the club for a few years. (Previous to the fairly new Yas Marina Track, they used to rent out airport terminals.) The intermediate drivers got free reign to drive as fast as they wanted and were given three straightaways where they were allowed to pass. The Novice 1 and Novice 2 drivers followed an instructor in groups of four and were recommended to watch the driving lines and braking patterns. Unfortunately, while my friend is usually in the Intermediate group, he had to stick with the Novice 2's because of an issue with his car's clutch plate.

Even so, the ride was pretty cool. This video is of one of the laps we took around the track with a finish in the pit.

With the problems his car was experiencing, we were only able to do one of the 50 minute Novice sessions. The cost for this event with about 12 instructors and rental of an F1 Track for the evening? Even with the sponsors (Pirelli Tires and the Porsche dealership in Dubai) each member had to pay 1100 dirham or about $300. Considering the typical repair on a Porsche is way more than that, it's a pretty good deal. To quote my friend, "You have to have a monthly budget for repairs when you own a Porsche." I'll bet you do. I'm just glad that I got the chance to ride on the track in one and am hopeful I'll get another invitation.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race, a 9 month sailing race around the world, is in Abu Dhabi right now. The boats are docked on the breakwater near Marina Mall and there is a little village set up for them. I took the kids there yesterday and there were tons of activities for them to do. There was a simulator and a 3D Movie to give everyone the idea of the sailing experience.

Only one of our kids was big enough to submit to torture.
This is the boat that is currently 5th out of 6.
 In addition, they had a lot of rides for the kids including a gyroscope, hamster balls which the kids could walk on the water in, and a jumpy castle.

This is the best I could do to keep my kids from fighting.

They even had stuff like free trials of stand up paddle boards and dinghies that you could take the kids out in. Because it wasn't crowded, I was able to take out the paddle board by myself then again once each with my kids sitting on the front. 

Paddling in the Abu Dhabi bay.

The village will be open until January 14th when the race commences and heads for China. It was a lot of fun and all the activities were free. Parking was limited, but you can park at Marina Mall and just walk there pretty easily. I'd recommend getting there early because parking filled up by the time we left at 3:30. We hope to go again next weekend and highly recommend that you check it out.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Breakfast after our first night in Egypt
 Without getting into too much detail, we went to Egypt over the winter break. The first thing I'd like to mention is that there was no reason to worry about going to Egypt with regards to any kind of political instability. There was only the usual hassles (challenges?) with traveling in a developing country. Since this was the first time my wife and kids have been traveling apart from visiting family, I was a little concerned, but there was little to worry about.

We arranged for our tours through a Japanese hostel in the center of Cairo, the Venice Hosokawaya hotel. about 75% of the people staying there were Japanese. The staff spoke English and Japanese and the place was run by an Egyptian man who lived in Japan for 14 years and is married to a Japanese woman.They can arrange for both Japanese and English language tours.

You'll have to ask my son where these hieroglyphics were. It's all a blur for me now.
The street outside our hotel in Cairo.

Relaxing in the Sleeper train.

After sightseeing in Cairo, we got dropped off at the train station for our overnight trip to Luxor where we transferred to our Nile cruise. The kids really enjoyed the sleeper train. Traveling with a family of four was really convenient because each compartment holds two people and there was a door between our compartments that opened up to make one large compartment for four.

An old-timey boat in the Nile.
The swimming pool on the deck of our Nile Cruise.

This guy happily drove us and posed for this picture. Then he asked for a tip.

Christmas hit our Nile cruise ship.
After we arrived in Luxor by train, we were met at the station by a driver who took us to our cruise ship, let us rest for a while, then took us on a tour of Luxor. The cruise was pretty nice, thought I was in the minority of English speakers. Most of the people seemed to be  either on a Spanish-speaking tour or from a group of eastern Europeans with the rest of us on our own. We were able to make friends because if we didn't meet on the boat, we were generally in the same tours on land seeing the same sights.

Once our cruise ended, we took the train from Aswan to Giza where we saw some pyramids. We all had a pretty good trip while meeting some new friends. I now feel confident with our ability to travel as a family without anyone freaking out.

No heads at Luxor Temple.

Family hijinx at an Egyptian Temple

Tia really getting into the Temple at Abu Simbal.

Pyramid magic makes you fly.