Sunday, January 13, 2008

Food and Fun

So I am so far behind on update and keeping everyone up on my journey. This is quick note to share a few moments of fascination in the past week.

First…For my family, I found a huge surprise in the locate supermarket. I look at this brown fruit and then smelled it was naseberry (it known as
Sapodilla here). Let me I say I have not eaten naseberry in about 10 yrs. I bought a packet that had 7 in it. They are rather small in comparison what I remember from the tree just at the top of house in Benbow, but they tasted great.

I have also seen sweetsop, tamarind and Etiote apple (the red apples) here, but I have not tried it yet...these are my next adventure in finding fruits from home—Jamaica home.

Second, it rained. Not like this does not happen, but is rare that it rain here. On Friday afternoon it rained while I on my way and during my walking around
Global Village (I would describe it as large flea market with lots of vendors from mostly Middle Eastern and Asian countries). Additionally the past three days have been very cloud and overcastted. The temperature has been changing as during the day 72-80 F/22-26 C and night 52-66/11-18 C. As the temperatures have dropped and it very interesting to here folks here talk about how cold it has become and to see then wearing winter gear. Folks are wearing hats scarves, gloves, heavy sweaters, boots, fleeces, and even long wool winter coats. Of course, I smile to myself, because, that could me next year during the “winter” months.

Last…I am getting more settled. I was finally able to move in to my flat on Jan 1. I am now spending my evening and weekend shopping, decorating and get some essential like internet access, cable, and the basics like rugs/carpets for the floors as they are tile an can be quite cold. Visitors are welcome…guest bedroom is in it final stages of being completed.

Still have lots to write and give update. I will be better about doing this once I get my internet at home. Til then...missing home just a little, but not the snow and cold.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas...

I know many of you are accustom to receiving “regular" card from me via the mail. So I hope everyone received my e-card. I will have the tray my hand at the UAE postal system, which have not done yet in mailing anything back to the US.

My Christmas Eve was absolutely great and relaxing. I sent the evening in the desert with friend from my church. I climbed halfway up the short side of the sand dune…whoo!! We had a potluck meal, sang Christmas carol, and acted to the Christmas story of Chris's birth around a campfire.

My Christmas was busy but very good. The morning was spent doing a little shopping. The afternoon was spent with friends having Christmas Lunch at the Hotel Mercure Grand: Hotel Mercure Grand @Jebel Hafeet at the top of the mountain (Jebel Hafeet). My evening was spent with colleagues and acquaintances at a colleague’s home for Christmas dinner. Let’s say all my meals were great and I was in good company on each occasion.

Happy New Year!

As for New Year Eve and New Day’s Day!!...I have not definite plans yet. I won’t be going to church has my church will not having a New Years Eve service. The local hotel are all having events and I many do one of those. Whatever I do it will be semi-quiet and low key. The great new –New Year’s Day is holiday at work…so sleeping late is on my agenda.

I have already started to reflect on how amazing the year has been and all that has taken place.

To my family: lots events have happened this year that were exciting and created celebration. My hope and pray is for us to keep the 2007 memories, but continue to create new one in 2008.

Well I want to wish every a very Merry Christmas and all the riches blessing in the New Year. Peace, Joy, Love, Blessings and Happiness to all for now and the in 2008.

PS: I lots of message to write and post with updates including pictures. Thank for your patience in advance as I have been so busy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! it not a holiday here and I am acgtually at work. However, my weekend starts in about 4 hrs.
The Hallmark Store in the mall is the only place I got a hint of Thanksgiving. The store had a small section of Thanksgiving cards and minor decorations. Yes, I must slightly admit I am missing all the fun, festivies, football and food..expecially turkey and dressing.
I hope and trust everyone is having a good time with family and friends. Let's be thankful for our blessings.

I have lots more updates to come....perhaps over the weekend as time permits I will post another message.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Getting about town….

So I have been driving all around town (Al Ain). I get lost and then find my way, it can be frustration because you can driving in the same area for 10-15 mins an not realize it. However, the driving experience is getting easier each day. It is all about learning landmarks and round-abouts to get from one side of town the next.

Although street signs exist on most street, landmarks and round-abouts are how directions are given. So hand-drawn map, the names of districts (community name for an area of town) and know the round-abouts by what object are in the center is the best way for learning your way around. For now, I am still trying to use a map and learn some street name as it has been somewhat useful in my driving adventures around town.

Since Jebel Hafeet, the largest/tallest mountain in the UAE, is only 10 mins away and it takes about 15-20 mins to drive to the top. This became my second sightseeing event in Al Ain after the Al Ain Zoo a couple weeks back. The road to the top in very winding and steep, but it is very well lit at night. I did the late night trip to the top. At top…you can see the city light for kilometers (miles). The night I went was not 100% clear…so I’ll have make to trek again on clearer night. I’ll also have to go in the daytime for a different view. I was told the sunset from the top is breathtaking. I will have to experience that shortly as evenings are beginning to getting shorter.

So as a side note…since life has been so hectic and I am not settled in my permanent living quarters yet. However, I hope to me moving place should be ready in about a 6-9 days. I decided to forego my Arabic class session this semester. I think once I am more settled in a normal routine of life I will be able to better focus on learning the language and giving it the attention it needs which will be next semester (or the next time the sessions are offered). In the meantime, my colleagues are teaching me a couple words at a time and will starting listen to the Arabic Lesson CD on my computer and do some self-learning. I think it is important that I still learn basics on my own as it can/will be helpful in day-to-day living.

So the transition and adaptation to my new city is progressing….

Mall Visits - Abu Dhabi & Dubai

I took my first trip out of Al Ain and went to Abu Dhabi on Nov 2 and it is a very straightforward drive into the city to the mall. A friend took me to Marina Mall. It was huge (over 250 stores) and busy. It is located across from a gorgeous marina/beach area. The water was a great aqua color--(Sorry, no pictures, but in the future). There is definitely a mall culture here that more active than at home. Everyone here go to the mall because that is thing to do and place to be especially when it hot. The mall are well air-conditioned, almost to the point of being cold and needing a sweater/jacket. There many recognizable USA and European stores and restaurant here. There is IKEA, Dunkin Donuts, Sbarro’s Pizza, Gap, United Color of Benetton, Burberrys, Carrefour (the French equivalent of Wal-Mart) and much more. The food court is filled with food choices from all over...Indian, Arabic, Mexican, Greek, etc. I had Sbarro’s deep dish broccoli and spinach stuff pizza for lunch as I wanted just a small taste of home. Yes, it tasted just the same. As I have looked at various items while window shopping, prices depending on what you looking for will vary. They can be slightly cheaper or about the same. However, I have found books in English are costly and there limited supplies of bestsellers or variety.
I took my second trip of Al Ain, this time to Dubai on Nov 9. A friend took me to the Mall of Emirates. This the famous mall that has an indoor ski slop. The drive was interesting as there is so much construction the typical route are sometimes closed and there are many detours. Take the wrong detour, you get lost for a couple hours on the other side of town. The city is a “wow” moment. The skyscrapers are going up faster than you can count. The streets are wide and there is train transit system being built along with many roads and bridges. I did see 10% of the city and it is incredible. I will have to go again and again, just to take pictures and be a tourist. Yes, all the pictures I viewed on TV and on various website about Dubai…all came to life and in full color and I had a “wow” moment. After about 30 minutes of being amazed…it hit that I live in the UAE and I can visit more often and not be in “tourist mode”.
Mall of The Emirates is humongous. It has 450+ stores, again will know US and European and then lots of UAE and Gulf region stores as well. It was complete amazing to view the indoor ski slope and tobogganing run as the temp gauge read -3C (26F). There are 3 foods courts will choice from almost every corner of the world. We opted for Turkish food for a late lunch. I had hummus and flat bread, lamb and chicken kebab w/ rice…very yummy. So there is an impressive list of notable stores which is as follows: Alfred Dunhill, BCBG Max Azria. Borders, Burberry, Bvlgari, Carolina Herrera, Carrefour, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Escada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton , Paul Smith (fashion designer), Roberto Cavalli, Tiffany & Co., Versace , Virgin Megastore, Yves Saint Laurent, Nine West, Bata, Ecco, and more
As you can see…high fashion is common place here with all the designers have their own store in the mall. Of course, like other places in the world, high fashion comes with a high price tag as well. So I’ll be sticking with the low to moderately prices stores.

Website Photo Gallery of the Mall of the Emirates: (

I still have a few more malls to make some initial visits. There is Deira Shopping Centre, Festival Waterfront Centre, and Dubai Outlet Mall…just for starters.
So this is the story so far on shopping and its location…more to come as I visit new locations.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Changing Weather and Clothing

It been a couple weeks since my last update and lots has happened. I have taken trips to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, visited the Jabel Hafeet (the mountain), and continue to meet lots of new people/colleagues/friends. This update: Weather, Clothes/Shoes Shopping…

The weather is changing. The days are in the 20s C or 70s-80s F and evening are cooler This makes for walking moments. So I have be walking with a friend in the evenings and enjoy the nice weather, which by UAE standards is “nice” meaning cool or getting cold. There has been some humidity and couple overcast days. Rain was predicated about a week ago, but did not happen. On a clear night the sky is beautiful, the star are bright and very visible. I have notice new phenomena in the evenings since the cooler weather has started. You can find/see many families, group men and sometimes women enjoying a picnic or have coffee/conversation in large grassy by the hotels or round-abouts and in the public parks. There definitely more people outdoors because of the cooler weather.

Another interesting things, I have notice is that as the temperature get cooler the colors of men's dishdasha change. I now see more men were darker, black, brown, tan and not just white. The women are still wearing their black abaya/sheila. However, the more I out and about the more I notice that the ayaba a not just plain they are decorated with intricate patterns and colors especially of the sleeves, hem, border of the sheila and neckline. Since there are people here from many different countries the clothing and covering of women are very different. You will find more colorful covering from some of other Gulf Nations as well as North African nations. Likewise the dress of men from those regions are also different. Since there is also a large Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian populations here you will also find many other traditional dress the represent their life, customs and culture.

Additionally, since most floors here are marble or tile, my shoes are often slippery as they don’t have no-slip or grip soles. So I decided to go shoe shopping for a couple pairs as well as I am looking for a shoe repair shop who can add a non-slip tips and half sole to my existing shoes. So I am finding in my adventures of shoe shopping that have feet over a size 8-9 is downfall. They are many shoes stores here and many great/cute shoes. However, size 10 (eur 42) or higher is a rare thing here. Even more rare are wide-width options. . So even when I found a size 10.5 (eur 42) it not fit as it was not wide enough and just long enough. Since I need a 10w or higher depending or brand and cut/style of the shoe, I will be ordering online from home or trying other places when I travel to other countries. I have talked with colleagues who have the same dilemma and they often stack-up on shoes during their visits home (US or Canada).

On the other hand, finding clothes will be so much easier. There are some stores here both US and European that carry slightly large sizes. However, the fun thing, I am looking forward to is have clothes made to fit me by a local tailor for a reasonable price. In some case the fabric and cost of have it made can be cheater than “ready-made” items. The other great part about find a regular tailor is I can have my favorite clothes that fit me well duplicated in different colors and fabrics. I can also find a picture of some clothing I like ask to have it made to fit me. So…this part will be exciting and fun. I will be roaming fabric stores and create new things in the future.

So this next set of update will have several parts as I share the events of the past two weeks. Much more to come….stay tune

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Week Two....

So my second week has brought new experiences in this journey. I am slowly finding my way around the city as I have been driving for about 4 days. I have got lost often and using round-about take some major adjustment in driving. However, U-turn locations are quite common or going all the way around the a round-about helps in that I can go back to my starting point or it give me the chance to branch off into another direction. Most traffic jam/rush hour here occurred after 7pm as folks are out and about as it is much cooler. Many stores and the malls close between 11pm-12 am.
The weather has been great--hot during the day and cooler in the evening. The present temps are great for talking a walk or just sitting outside, especially in the evenings. This past week had some humidity, so it has been sticky for a couple days, even though it has not rained. The heat can be draining and drinking lots of water is a must. I have even taken a nap or two after been out in the sun during the day.
Experiencing the culture of separateness for men and women is interesting and learning experience. The "abaya" which is black robe-like covering worn by national women can be very plain or decorated most with embroidery, lace, or beads. Additionally, since there are Muslim women here from many other Islamic nations, the practice of covering varies quite a bit and can be very different in styles, fabrics and colors.
My new phase of adjusting begins on Sunday evening after work, when I start taking beginning Arabic. I think my classes will be 3-4 weeks for 4 days a week and session are 90 mins each day . As present, I know about four Arabic words. I am hoping to learn a few more.
I have visited both malls and I am not missing anything from home. The store names are different and there is blend of items/things are very traditional to the region and culture and other that are more contemporary and western. So making my home feel like home will not be a challenge. There lots of great places here to find things for the house and great decoration from the simple to the ornate and fancy. Shopping for household items/goods will be quite simple even though many of the brands are European. I have seen some familiar brands, but they tend to be more costly. There are lots of my shopping will be done in Al Ain. I will take a trip or two to Abu Dhabi or Dubai when needed.
For fun and things outside of work,
This weekend-(Oct 26-27): I went to worship on Friday, a movie on Sat and earlier in the week, I did a pamper moment of having a pedicure . I will get my hands/nails done this coming week. Additionally this upcoming weekend, one of the hotel here, plan and host a Thanksgiving Dinner (with all the trimmings) for US and Canadian folks and I will be going that event. They plan the event half way between the Canadians and US Thanksgivings, which make it good for both groups.
Last weekend-(Oct 19-20): I explored a couple other places last weekend. I visited the Al Ain Zoo and it is a nice and would rival any of those I visited in the US. I got a tour of the Vegetable/Fruits and Meat Souk. This is a traditional market. It instantly reminded me of the markets (like Linstead Market) at home in Jamaica. The souq or souk had section for fruits, vegetables, spices, meats, fish, etc. I plan the shop there regularly in the future for my fresh produce and some other items.
Well...that all for to get rest and off the the office in the morning and a new day of driving (Day 5)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Learning More...

What’s different or the same:
Work Week: Sunday to Thursday
Weekend: Friday-Saturday
Driving: Right side of the road
Malls: the hub of activity for teens

Traditional Dress:
Here is what I learned/figured about the clothing culture in the UAE this far. I hoping to explain all accurately, if not please place a comment on the blog to educate me more…
In the Emirates the local people are called Emirati. Some Emirati may choose to wear western attire, but most men will choose to wear the dishdash (dishdasha). Women adopt various forms of dress including western style, with many choosing a varying degree of covering up that ranges from having some headwear to full burqa, which covers from head to toe including the face.
Women: The
abaya is a long dress that covers from the neck to the ground with the arms covered below the wrist to the back of the hand. It is worn with a hijab or a sheila (shay-la). A hijab is a sort of fitted scarf that is pulled over the head and the sheila is a shawl like scarf that is arranged to cover the head and the neck. Wearing either is ‘wearing hijab’. When women’s faces are completely covered the way of dress is the burqa – ie. a woman wears burqa or is dressed in burqa (she is fully covered).
Men: The dishdasha, which is also known in some countries as a ‘jalabah’, is generally a long white or cream garment, though other colours seem to also be fashionable. They also wear a ‘ghutra’ on their head – these are red and white in colour or they can also be plain white or the colour of the dishdash. The ghutra is secured by an igal which is a double black cord and is worn over a tagiyah, a small skull cap that stops the ghutra from falling off.

Layout of Al Ain: The streets are well laid out and mostly fairly rectangular, joined by roundabouts of all sizes. The roundabouts are for traffic management to keep the “lots of drivers/cars flowing here and not create traffic jams. They are also very good at confusing as your typically do not know which direction you are traveling in. After driving around a few roundabouts, you can get lost quite easily! Yes, there are street signs, but the pace of traffic and the locations of the signs does allow for you to read them.
The roundabouts are great landmarks as most have centerpieces or have names. They are decorated with elaborate items such as gazelles, horses, deer, flamingos, fountains, mountains, water falls, coffee pots and jewelry boxes – I will eventually take picture and make a collage. I think might be a common project for expats in Al Ain! The city is brimming with lovely gardens and fountains. There are lots of trees and flowers in the center median of streets. Trees also tend to line sidewalks and the years of my homes.
Little to no Skyline: The town itself is rather spread out as there is a height restriction on buildings. I don't know the exact restirctions, but it seems the city buildings are limited to three or four stories and the residential areas are no mor than 3 stories. It gives a lovely feeling of spaciousness and also allows the minarets and domes from the mosques to stand out against the skyline, giving the city the definate feel/look of Middle Eastern enviroment.

The Mountain: The most natural landmark is Jebel Hafeet, which is a mountain on the outskirts of town, and in the daytime, it is usually not usually visible for a haze (or for dust). I hoping that during an upcoming weekend I will venture up there during both day and night. I heard the views are absolute great and you can see for miles around!

Crossing Streets are your own risk… as pedestrian safety can be challenging. At home, a pedestrian crossing is a place where people can generally be assured of a safe crossing of a street. The traffic is typically compelled to stop for people using the crossings. In the UAE pedestrians must be constantly on the alert. Drivers pay not attention to crossings. You are risking your life in your hands at every crossing of the road whether there is a pedestrian crossing or not. So far...only the I notice that only the crossing that and part of a traffic light get a little respect, but event their, look right, then left , then right and left again before stepping out.

Traditional Souq (the tradtional shopping area/markets)
The souqs in the Town center offer a fascinating insight to an aspect of the daily life of Al Ain residents. Visitors to the Central Meat, Fish and Vegetable souq will discover a fascinating friendly atmosphere amid a kaleidoscope of oriental colours, noises and spice smells.
It is all about learning…..more to come.