Abu Dhabi Weather

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.