Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coffee Hour and The Souk

I've been visiting a chat forum about Abu Dhabi for awhile now and today was a chance to attend a get together with some of the ladies.

I brought along my friend from the compound and we ventured 25 minutes away to a restaurant called Fanr Restaurant, located on Saadiyat Island about 25 minutes from our home.

Click for a map. We live near Al Bateen Executive Airport, near the middle and Saadiyat Island is way up on the top and to the right.

So...this was a "Bumps and Babies" Coffee Hour. It was geared towards pregnant moms and moms of babies. There were several toddlers there and one or two with no kids. They had a great little play area for the kids that was near where we sat. There were probably about a dozen-ish ladies there, a mix of nationalities (American, Canadian, French, British) and even though everyone spoke English, there was still a few communication glitches with the slang differences. The ladies were mostly nice. There was definitely an "established" group that kept to one side of the long table and a bunch of us newbies that mixed in the middle and other side. This is a group that meets on a weekly basis and you can drop in whenever you want.

Honestly, today reminded me of that first day of high school. A little jittery in the belly and wondering what kind of impression I'll make. Knowing that it's a chance to reinvent myself if I want, but being pretty happy with who I am. Scoping out a room and seeing who the kids were and where I might want to fit in. Wondering what they thought of me and what I thought of them with a little bit of wondering how much it all really mattered.

I feel like I left behind so many wonderful friends and now I need some replacements. So, I'm silently auditioning. Who's my next gym buddy, game-playing partner, dancing gal, drinking buddy, gossiper, gal I can rely on for everything, neighbor friend I can borrow things from, smart friend to discuss things with, one who will calm me in times of chaos, older/wiser friend with sage advice, friend with kids the same age, couple friend, etc.....

Maybe no one will fit those moulds and I'll have new areas to fill that I don't even know I need. I don't want to REPLACE my awesome friends back home, just need a few stand-ins for a little while.

After a couple hours at a coffee hour that was definitely worth the drive for both the adult company and playtime for Cameron, it was time to head home.

I got home and waited outside just long enough for the rest of the family to hop in the car so we could head out for shopping and lunch.

We went to the Central Souk located in the middle of the city.

I don't think there are any old time souks in Abu Dhabi, but there is this new Central Souk (Central Market) there. It had some neat little gift shops, a spice store and a few places to eat. We ate at a yummy Crepe place and I bought a few little items for the home:

Here is my new camel family....

There's even a baby camel in the mama camel's belly. (Don't get any ideas, I just thought it was cute, really.)

After the souk, we headed to the crazy-packed mall for Brian to take care of something. Such a different feel than visiting during Ramadan when it was a ghost town.

I even had a familiar drink:

I even ran into someone I knew. Go figure? I've been here two weeks and live in a city of 900K+ people and can manage to run into one of the 10 people I know in the city. Maybe this won't be so bad after all?

After all that, it was home for the day. Tomorrow starts a new month with lots of firsts in store. Top agenda item tomorrow....join a gym and start to lose my pre-move-stress-weight!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Swimming at the top of a Mountain in the Desert?

We were invited to spend the day swimming with some new friends.

It is common to be able to purchase a "day pass" to visit a hotel and use their facilities for the day (beaches, pools, etc...)?

This one was in another city, Al Ain, at the top of a giant mountain, in the desert.

We headed out for the trek and it took about 1 hr 20 mins to get there.


It's hard to take pics from a moving vehicle....

It is like millions of years of sand compacted or lots of rock that looks like it is going to fall apart at any moment. Thankfully, Brian was driving because it was a near panic-inducing trip as we got closer and the roads got windier.

Bat caves

At the top of Jebel Hafeet (mt. Hafeet) there is a hotel.....Click here to see more of the hotel

It is a big getaway spot for people from the area but it was fairly empty when we arrived.

I stayed out on a chair with the two other moms and visited, but Brian and the kids got in the water and enjoyed it all. Yep, that's a lovely swim-up bar with Isabella nearby. It was too hot for alcohol but we enjoyed delicious watermelon slushy drinks and lemon-mint drinks. Yum!

The kids loved the waterslides. There was a lifeguard there but the sense of safety is different. Kids were going down 3-4 at a time like a slalom and all was fine until some girl went down with 3 big guys and hurt her back. No EMT on staff, no nurse nearby at the hotel on a mt away from everything. The girl hurt her back and they moved her and called an ambulance and it took over 20 minutes for it to come. Glad nothing serious occurred to us!

It's Brian and Cameron! He had no fear.

Alexander and his new friends: Ethan R and Ethan E. They are both going into 5th grade at ACS too.

Bella and her new friend, Zoe (Ethan E's sister). She is going into 3rd grade at ACS.

Thank goodness this wasn't operating because there is NO way I'd let my kids ride this thing that is hanging off the side of a mountain on shabby-looking scaffolding.

Little building near the roller coaster.

This is where some of the workers live, seriously.

There was also a fun spray park there too.

Cam pooped himself out.

Brian will be dying tomorrow. It's even redder now. I asked if he wanted help with his sunscreen and he assured me he had it covered.....

After several hours, we decided it was time to head home. The drivers were insane!! The speed limit is 120 km/h or 74 mph and there is a 20 km/h leeway or going up to 84 mph. We were going the limit and cars were FLYING by on the left. I wouldn't attempt to drive in that lane, ever. They pass in the shoulder at 90mph+. We saw a car in a fireball on our way there.

During our drive home, we experienced our first sandstorm.

Can you see the debris flying? The side barrier flew up and the car in front of us had to hit their brakes.

Glad we weren't walking in it.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Ramadan is over

So, today is the last day of Ramadan. Tomorrow is Eid "eed". This is the celebration of Ramadan being over.

It is explained better here: what is Eid?

As a non-Muslim, this means that I can now eat and drink in public and restaurants will be open during the day. Also the traffic will apparently change. Right now, the roads are empty close to 6:30 pm because Iftar is at 7 (breaking of the Ramadan fast) so hungry Muslims all over the city are anxious to eat and are home or somewhere getting ready to eat.

Also, people have told me to be aware of cranky people around late afternoon because they are all so hungry. Honestly, I haven't noticed this. I wonder if it's worse during the beginning of Ramadan, as opposed to near the end when you are used to it?

The Muslim calendar depends on the moon.

So, the end of Ramadan is determined by when the new moon is sighted to cross the horizon. There is a "New Moon Committee" in Abu Dhabi and they monitor when the new moon is seen "by the naked eye" to cross the horizon. Once the new moon is seen, the following day is considered Eid.

Because things are so out of the norm during Ramadan, lots of expats (what I'm now called as someone who is residing in a country that I am not a legal residence of) go on vacation and there are less people here.

It feels like there are tons of people here, so I can't imagine lots more.

We'll see how different the next few days are. I've been without a Mocha in the afternoon for a couple weeks now. I supposed I'm free of the I stay off or resume? I'll have to try a Starbucks here just for curiosity......

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

My social calendar is coming together

So...I'm getting myself out there and working on making friends for myself and the kids (nothing happens if you hole yourself up in the house you know). I had a blind (play) date.

I have a couple websites that I frequent Expat Woman and Abu Dhabi Woman

They have both been great. There are forums where you can ask questions and peruse information about life in Abu Dhabi.

So, I started posting in January when we knew this was happening and made a few connections because of it. A week after we arrived, I started seeking playdates.

Today was the first. I took the kids and drove about 20 minutes from here to a stranger's house in the hope of making a friend for me and for Cameron. It sounds so much weirder here than the whole thing was, really.

One of the things I'm trying to work on is to not be too judgy. It's hard for me. I sum people up pretty quickly and tend to stick to my first impressions of people pretty strongly. But, I'm in a different place and people are different, so...trying hard to not be too judgy.

I went to this gal's home and she was very nice and her family and staff were nice too. The kids swam and played with her son and the au pair and she ended up inviting our whole family for a BBQ later this week, if we are available, otherwise we'll get together a different day. Turns out her husband golfs and maybe Brian could play with him sometime. Not bad for my first blind (play) date.

Tomorrow we are working to finish unpacking everything.

On Tuesday, we are heading to Al Ain with a mom I met through someone else online and her friend. They both have boys that will be in class with Alexander and one has a daughter who will be in class with Isabella. The girls have been corresponding through email for a couple months.

On Wednesday, I am going to check out a weekly group called "Bumps and Babes". It is for pregnant women and moms of toddlers/babies who meet once a week for coffee and playtime.

There's the start of my week!

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Air Freight Arrived

I'm having IPad issues. I wrote out a whole blog entitled "Feeling Petty & Cranky" and now it's not on here to send. Argh! I don't feel like retyping it and I feel better just writing it all down anyway so never mind my bitchy, whiny, petty post and I'll do this instead...

Our Air Freight shipment came today. This means our essential items, or whatever I thought was essential 2 months ago when I fervently packed it, has arrived.

It was 800 pounds of Christmas!

6 of these large boxes came off the truck for us.

Every box is filled with smaller boxes......

The mess of a foyer.

Cameron asked if I had batteries in my pocket for his car....(I don't)

My disaster of a kitchen.

I can't wait to have it all together!
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Grand Mosque Visit....Take 1

My day never seems non-stop busy, really. But, when I start to put it all down here it sounds like it is.

Here's Bella looking adorable with her hair pulled back, I hope she does this for school this year, instead of the wild Amazonian hairstyle she went with last year (the I'm too tired to brush my hair in the morning look).

We decided to try a new fruit today: Snake Fruit or Salak. Found a neat website about fruit species and it tells you more about it here: Fruit Species

It comes from Indonesia. It is easy to open and the skin peels right off. It shouldn't look like this though. It was rotten and smelled nasty.

We opened another one and it looked better. It has three big garlic-clove-looking things in it with a an inedible pit in each one. Bella and I tried a bite.

We both decided we didn't like it. Smells awful, tastes soury.

We went to a place called the Abu Dhabi Co-o Society. I thought ....ooh a Food Co-op. Um, no. More like some food mixed with Walmart quality clothes and some toys. The kids told me to take a picture of the Giant Cabbage heads though.

Then, we came home for a swim and lunch before heading out for our big event of the day: The Grand Mosque.

It's a "must-see" thing to do in Abu Dhabi. Today is Friday (Brian's first weekend day) and it is the Holy Day for Muslims (like our Sunday) and have I mentioned that it's Ramadan (the holiest time of year for Muslims)?

So...we checked the Internet (which I should know by now is NOT a reliable source of information for times) and it said there are guided tours on Fridays at 5 pm (it listed other times too and EVEN mentioned that the morning tours don't happen during Ramadan).

I thought, great! I wanna go, let's check it out. we went.

You drive about 10 minutes from our house and see this AMAZING building. It is like a palace of white, rising to the sky. Incredible.

There were a few people around the outside area.

We read ahead of time that you need to dress conservatively and women should cover their arms and wear skirts to the ankles and cover your head. Men shouldn't wear shorts.

Bella donned a cute gold scarf that my mom's cousin Marina gave me as a gift for just such an occasion.

I decided to wear a Red dress with a purple scarf over my head and big sunglasses. (obviously not an attention-getting outfit or anything..). Looking back, I may have appeared as Victoria Beckham's Fat Sister. I walked quickly, with my head held high like I was supposed to be there and on a mission. People tend to leave you alone when you do this.

As we walked closer in, there were lots more people....ummm... Muslim men. Maybe one or two Muslim women.

Everyone was staring at


We got to one area where there was security and the gentleman said "women only this way" (usually there is a separate women's and men's mosque so I figured he was directing me to that)

Brian asked where the tour was held and the security guard explained that there are no tours on Fridays in Ramadan. (Duh....ignorant American)

Brian tried to explain that the website said there was. We were told again that there isn't.

This is us leaving.....

It is moments like this that I'm glad I don't understand those around me because I'm sure the looks and whispers weren't good.

We'll try again tomorrow.

Then Brian took the kids swimming and I relaxed with a few magazines....ahhh touch of home (so glad my trashy entertainment mags get delivered here)

We decided to venture out to dinner at Mondo Pizzeria, a place Brian has visited before. They are located at the Country Club and they deliver.

It was fantastic. (my dish was at least) We were the only ones there and had three or four waiters helping us. Great service. I'm getting used to being called Madam ("Mah-Dom") a lot.

I forgot to take a picture of my main entree but it was a seafood dish with lobster, scallop, squid, Sea Bass, Prawn, Mussel and Hammour (local Amazing-melt-in-your-mouth fish).

I finished with a little mousse....(dark chocolate, white chocolate and milk chocolate). Glad I had four people to share it with.

The bill was 500 dhs before tip. That would be $150. So, there's our big night out for the month. Ouch!

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