Saturday, December 31, 2005
See, we've planned a camping trip on Bahrani island, around 20 minutes away from Abu Dhabi by boat. We've called the met office yesterday and today, and the outlook is not so great. Whenever we ask them whether it is OK to take the boat out, they say "no, no good". It seems the winds are too strong and the waves are too high.
We went camping for New Year's last year as well. It was a fun experience (my first camping trip ever), we were around 35 people, and there was another group of around 40 people on the same island...We had a blast. And it's amazing to wake up the next morning, and have a view of the beautiful blue sea in front of you.
Today's camping trip however is still surrounded by uncertainety. Will we be able to go? What happens if we don't go? What's plan B? What do we do with all the meat and chicken we got for the barbecue? And the 4 disposable barbecues? And the hummus and baba ghanouj? And the chips and drinks?
Friday, December 30, 2005
More good news today: an excerpt from my blog was published in Emirates Today. Every Friday they publish a few snippets from UAE blogs, and today my blog was amongst those snippets! They took a few lines from the post where I talk about television schedules here. If you click on "page 4" you can see it (make sure it is today's date, i.e. Friday, December 30th).
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Aaaah, who am I kidding? I was actually just messing around with this AdSense thing which allows Google to place some ads on your blog and you get paid or something like that. Anyway, for some reason the ads always showed up on top of my blog, right above my first post. I tried to delete the code from the template and it kinda messed up my blog. So I decided to give my blog a new look alltogether to solve the problem (and I've decided to give up on AdSense).
In the process of changing looks, I lost my counter for a while, but I managed to get it back! I am at 977 hits right now and I am waiting impatiently for it to go up to 1000...C'mon people, keep visiting!
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
First of all, we are always 1-2 years behind when it comes to new shows, if not more. For example, Showtime has just gotten Desperate Housewives and Lost, shows that have debuted over a year ago in the US. We are also a few years behind on older series, like ER for example. Some channels still air shows that stopped being produced ages ago, such as Seinfeld, Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Cosby Show (yes, the old one, where he was Dr Huxtable!), Beverly Hills 90201, Melrose Place and Joe Millionnaire (both editions of that stupid show!)
We get shows that are just moderately successful in the US, or even shows that were cancelled after just a season or so, such as I'm with her. Some shows I've never even heard of, like American Princess (or something along those lines).
There also does not seem to be a structure when it comes to scheduling these shows, i.e. no "daytime, primetime, late-night" concept here. Comedies, usually aired during primetime in the US, are aired in the afternoon here. Oprah and Dr Phil on the other hand, air at 9-10 PM, whereas they are considered daytime shows in North America. I am not so sure what airs during the day as I am never watching TV during daytime.
Shows don't end on the hour, or on the half hour (depends on the channel of course, but I still get confused). For example, some shows end at 8:45, then the channel airs some stupid "time-fillers" like the latest box-office movies (usually the same "time-fillers" are aired several times a day/week), or endless boring ads. Shows don't necessarily start on the hour (or half hour). Sometimes, Oprah starts at 9:55...sometimes it's at 10:05PM...go figure!
I still don't know when seasons start and seasons end....Is there a summer hiatus here, where re-runs are usually shown?
There also does not seem to be exclusivity when it comes to which channel airs which show. So, for example, MBC4 and One both air Friends...except both channels are not airing the same season, adding to the whole confusion!
And don't even get me started about movies aired on TV: usually it's the same movies being shown over, and over again (depends on the channel of course, some are better than others), and some channels show movies I've never heard of before in my life!
Is anyone else confused by all this? Is there some sort of a system I am not aware of when it comes to which shows air when and on what channel? Please, help me out!
Monday, December 26, 2005
Here are a few examples of how the customer is not always king in this part of the world:
My sister wanted to buy her friend an IPod Nano for Christmas. They had run out of them in all the Abu Dhabi stores, so she called the Apple store in Dubai and they told her they had the 2GB ones available, but no 4GB Nanos, but that they were getting a new shipment next week.
My sister wanted to buy her friend the 2GB, just so her friend could have some sort of a gift under the tree come Christmas day. She would then ask the friend not to open the box so that they could exchange it for the 4GB Nano when they arrived. Thank goodness she checked their refund/exchange policy because it seems there is no such thing as returning an item that is bought, even if unopened.
I bought my dad some shoes from Aldo for Christmas, which turned out to be too long, so we decided to exchange them for another style. There is no refund policy at Aldo, only exchanges or gift vouchers (which is really weird because in Montreal, they refund you a full thirty days after you bought the shoes! And Aldo is a Canadian store....why the discrepancy in refund policies?). Anyway, we ended up finding new shoes, which were cheaper than the first ones I bought. They could not refund me the balance, so I asked for a gft voucher. They could only give me a 50 dhs gift voucher (I needed 70 dhs back), because it seems they only have 50 dhs denominations for gift vouchers!! So we decided to buy my brother a belt, because he needed one anyway. I have returned worn shoes in Montreal, because the strap or something else broke! I have even gone back to store 2 weeks after purchasing an item, and gotten a discount because the item had gone on sale just a few days after I bought it.
When I moved here, I had to subscribe to a TV service provider. I had the choice between Orbit and Showtime. Not knowing which one was the better option, I went with Orbit. A few months later, I wanted to change to Showtime (because they get better shows), so I called Sahm/DIC, who informed me that I had to pay Dhs500 in order to change before my yearlong contract with Orbit is up...So I said no thank you, I will live through a few more months of Orbit until my contract is up! Why should I be penalized because I mistakenly chose the wrong service provider?
There are many more examples of un-friendly customer "service". Haven't stores realised that offering their customers better refund/exchange policies will give them an edge vis a vis their competitors? And that this may just help boost their sales? And improve their brand image? And make customers come back to their store more often? Whatever happened to "the customer is always right"?
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
After lunch, we wrapped the gifts, placed them all under the tree, then I decided to go wash my car because it was filthy, especially after the Dubai-Abu Dhabi drive yesterday. For some reason, there are always birds who decide that my car is the one that deserves to be showered with exploding diarrhea (my brother's expression...can't take credit for it!), and there are always insects who believe that they will be able to fly through my windshield, and end up dying an unexpected and messy death (SPLAT!).
Now I need to rush to my manicure-pedicure appointment (what a dreadful life I lead...I know!).
And tonight we are having a yummy fajita dinner, courtesy of my sister (it's the only meal she knows how to cook!).
What about you bloggers/blog-readers out there? Any plans for Christmas Eve?
Friday, December 23, 2005
Plus, my sister got me another smaller gift, that looks like it could be a pashmina, but I don't think it is, because she got me one for my birthday, so I doubt she would get me another one for Christmas!
I'll just have to wait till Christmas morning to find out...The curiosity is killing me!
Thursday, December 22, 2005
I have a long day of shopping ahead on Saturday however...of course, I leave everything to the last minute! I still haven't decided on what I am buying for everyone. I am hoping that while I am browsing through the stores at the mall, something will call my name out and say "BUY ME!". We have decided to go all out on the gift-giving this year. Usually it's a non-gift giving Christmas in our family (except for money from my dad), but this year we are all buying each other gifts. It's the first year we are all employed and earning money (my sis and bro did not work last year...Now, they are finally in the money-making league).
My sister told me they got me my gift yesterday, but I have no idea what it is! I am so curious! She said it's the size of a DVD, and despite numerous guesses, I could not figure it out (she would not tell me anyway, I am sure). Well, I'm not telling her what I am getting her either! Ha!
I leave you with a cute Christmassy link: http://www.icq.com/friendship/pages/browse_page_16959.php
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
So what next? Does the government want to implant a tracking device in my arm to follow my every move? I am sorry but I don't understand why the government needs a sample of my DNA? Apparently it's to help police solve crimes but how do I know that my DNA information will not be misused? Are there any privacy laws in the UAE?
Isn't it enough that I have to give practically everyone I meet a copy of my passport? And 12 passport-sized pictures? And a copy of my driver's license? And a letter stating my salary? And a copy of my father's passport? And a blood sample? And my mobile number?
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Don't get me wrong! I could not be more thrilled! I just love getting to work early in the morning (not that early...anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a morning person)...anyway, I like getting to work around 15-20 minutes before everyone else. I prepare myself a nice cup of coffee (I have switched to instant coffee here, instead of my regular cappucino, for lack of a good coffee shop nearby), flip through the newspapers quickly, read my e-mails and send a few as well. I really enjoy that quiet time I get in the morning, because it's pretty much the only quiet time I get during the day (unless I stay past 7PM, which happens quite often).
When I first moved here, I had a hard time concentrating with all the noise: people calling each other across the office, music blasting, people talking on the phone, people watching ads on their screens, mobiles ringing...It's like a zoo sometimes! Now I kinda got used to it. It's such a vibrant atmosphere...Keeps you motivated, alert and excited.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The article included many tips on how to make sure your brain does not rust as you grow older, by always challenging yourself and keeping your mind busy.
One of the suggestions is to learn another language, and the headline of that subsection in the article was "Tu pableo Espanol". Huh? What language is that exactly? If I am not mistaken (and I know that I am not) the proper way of asking someone if they speak Spanish in Spanish is "¿Habla español?". I don't even think "pableo" exists in Spanish.
The quality of journalism in this country is abysmal. I always find mistakes in newspapers and magazines. Not just small mistakes...flagrant ones! Haven't publications in the UAE realised that there's a thing called proofreading??? I am not a journalist, but I do have some basic knowledge about how newpapers and magazines work (I am, after all, the sister of the best journalist in the UAE...and I did work in the publishing industry for over a year), and I believe that any publication that wants to be respected should:
1) Have journalists proofread their own work
2) Have all articles proofread by the editor
3) Have a proofreader/fact checker go through the article
Makes sense no? And another piece of advice to all "journalists" out there. If you're not sure about an expression or a word, then don't use it! Find an alternative!
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Outrage in the Greens at topless bathing
Three women sparked outrage in a Dubai residential community yesterday when they stripped off their bikini tops to sunbathe.
The trio, who also took turns jumping in the water, eventually covered up and left when a man who was at the pool with his two children told them they were acting totally inappropriately.
A number of people living in The Greens complained that women were exposing them selves next to a swimming pool in the early afternoon.
Last night a spokesperson for Emaar, which runs the management of The Greens, told Emirates Today such behaviour would not be tolerated. It said complaints of topless sunbathing would be investigated and urged residents to report such incidents.
By the time Emaar was made aware of what was happening the women had left, but the company says that if it receives complaints it will speak to those involved.
“Handbooks are given to all residents with a code of conduct and it has a section on appropriate behaviour,” the spokesperson said. “Topless bathing is not appropriate. We would tell residents to behave in a way that is acceptable in the UAE.
“They have to respect the country and culture. If residents need to make a complaint of this nature they can be assured that we will try and speak to the people involved. There are signs at the swimming pools about suitable swimwear and not having a top on is not suitable.” One resident at the pool where the women were said: “They were treating it like the Costa Del Sol.
A lot of people were tutting when they took off their tops but they just giggled and started jumping in the pool.” After the father with two children told them they were acting inappropriate, they left.
I may sound a little unpolititcally correct here, but I just cannot stand expats who come here and do things that go against the values and traditions of this country. It is such a blatant lack of respect to Emiratis and other law-abiding citizens!
Think of it this way, if you were a guest at someone's house, would you act in a way that would offend that guest? If you're a normal human being, then my guess is, probably not. Why should it be any different with expats living in the UAE?
Come on! Topless sunbathing in a residential community? What were these women thinking? I bet you they would not even do something like that in their own country...It's like women who walk around wearing a string bikini on the beach...another big no-no in my opinion (unless you're in St Tropez or Brasil and have Elle McPherson's body)
We are blessed with having a very privileged life here in the UAE. We are relativelly well paid, the weather is amazing, we have nice places to go to, we can walk around pretty much anywhere safely, and the dress code is rather lenient compared to some of our neighbouring countries...So let's not take things to an extreme by pushing the boundaries of this country's morals and values. Let's appreciate what we have... and let's respect our hosts who graciously let us live in their country.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Not much to write about tonight. I'll try to be more interesting in my next post...promise :)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
1) Guns n Roses
2) Smashing Pumpkins
Some are more obvious than others. I have not found them all yet....(you might need to zoom in to see some of them so if you want me to send you a JPEG, just e-mail me)
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Oh how things change in a year. Now that I've moved back to the Emirates, I am finding it hard to feel that warm Christmas spirit. No snow, no decorations (or barely any, I have not been to any malls lately although I hear some are decorated), no Christmas carols.
But we did finally get our Christmas tree in Abu Dhabi. And it's beautiful. It was my first time decorating our family tree in 10 years, and it was lots of fun. We did run into some trouble, but the result was well worth the effort.
About a month ago, my dad and I were in Ikea looking for a magazine tray for my sister, and we ended up buying half the Christmas decorations in the store! See, my dad decided that it was high time we got new decorations for our tree, and that we stick to one color: red. I agreed (I don't need convincing when it comes to buying new decorations!), and we ended buying everything from little red Santas, to shimmering stars.
The only problem was, we did not buy enough lights (we find this out yesterday of course). So my brother reluctantly volunteered to get us some extra ones. One glitch though: Ikea had run out of lights. But, he managed to find some nice lights in Carrefour. Great.
Well, not that great. He got home, and we find out that these were lights that were meant to be used outdoor (400 lights!!!). It took us about an hour to untangle them, and then another hour to figure out what the best way to install them on the tree would be. Finally, after a team effort, we managed to get all the lights on, and all the decorations on, and like I said, the results are stunning.
Oh, I almost forgot...I finally got my credit card today! Yaaaaaaaaay....I'll consider this an early Christmas gift from my bank, given that it's been almost 3 months I initiated the process of applying for a credit card. And now it's finally here! I must throw a party to celebrate!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
In related news, Dubai's transport authority wants to introduce road tolls to reduce traffic congestion. Maybe this will help ease the traffic, but many other measures need to be implemented to help eradicate this problem:
1) Build more roads. In a city where a new building is erected every day, there should also be new roads being built every day. More buildings = more people = more cars = more roads. Logical, isn't it?
2) Implement tougher traffic laws: where are the cops? Why aren't they on the roads arresting dangerous drivers? Why aren't they revoking the licenses of repeat offenders?
3) Make it harder to get driver's licenses. I am not sure about this, but it seems like driver's licenses are handed out too easily to anyone who can turn the ignition of a car on.
4) Encourage carpooling, introduce a carpooling lane on highways...By encouraging people to share cars, this will cut down on the number of cars on the roads
5) Introduce a clean, safe, reliable public transport system. If there was a metro that took me straight to Media City, then I would gladly leave my car at home.
6) Change the road setup...One highway in the middle of the city is simply not smart....Highways should be built around cities, not in the middle of them!
7) Eliminate all those heavy duty trucks during rush hour. They really slow down traffic...I know they need to get around somehow, but maybe at least eliminate them during rush hour!
I can't think of anything else right now...Any other suggestions are welcome. Any thoughts?
Friday, December 09, 2005
We got there early (10AM), had some manakeesh for breakfast, swam, chilled, listened to music, read, played frisbee, had amazing barbeque for lunch, lots of beer, some really good watermelon, amazing weather and a beautiful sunset.
It's days like this that make me love this country...What more can one ask for?
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
An article in today's paper discusses the results of an 8-country survey concerning mobile phone use, and it seems UAE residents are attached to their cell phones by the hip. Out of the 8 countries surveyed (Britain, Spain, South Africa, Russia, Italy, Germany and France), UAE residents claimed they would have the most trouble living without their phone, and their bills were the highest with an average of Dhs 380 per month (more than $100 Canadian).
I manage to only pay around 60 Dhs per month (less than $20 Canadian) thankfully. I call everyone from a land line, and only use my cell phone for emergencies and text messaging. I also buy those prepaid cards which makes me spend less time on my phone cause I'm always afraid of running out of credit.
I must admit that when I first moved back here, I was suprised at how indispensable cell phones are. People carry them around everywhere! My first "culture shock" moment here was when I attended a meeting with clients, and phones were ringing here and there...people send text messages during meetings and even take calls (they whisper but they still take the call). This was quite shocking to me, coming from a place where no one takes their phone into a meeting, and where cell phones are only for personal use.
My clients all have my cell phone number meaning I can almost never avoid talking to them by pretending I am not at my desk. I actually get upset at the fact that my clients sometimes call my cell phone before calling my land line...if I am not at my desk it means that I am probably busy doing something else somewhere else! What's also annoying is when clients call during lunchtime...arghhhhhh...please let me eat in peace! I usually do not answer when I take my one-hour break, unless I am expecting an answer to something important.
If someone does not have a cell phone in this country, then they are dubbed as just plain weird. After 7 months in this country, even I was shocked by the fact that this guy at work does not have a cell phone!
In Montreal, cell phone use is more scarce...I did not even have a cell phone there for many years. People there do not rely on their phones as much. I guess Canadians use their phones less because a phone owner has to pay for the call whether he/she is the caller or the receiver of the call, which is not the case here, where only outgoing calls are charged.
All this to say, after a few months here, I no longer find it shocking to have people take calls during meetings (I am guilty of doing this once in a while), I no longer get bothered by all those annoying ringtones, and I no longer find it weird to give my cell phone number to everyone I meet. Now if that's not adaptation, then I don't know what is!
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I open up my blinds this morning and all I see is a blanket of fog covering the pool and play area in front of my building. You know it's winter in the UAE when it starts fogging up like that in the morning. This morning's temperature was 17 degrees, the lowest I've seen it so far.
I have had a couple of foggy landings in the past few years. I'd be flying back here for Christmas, the plane would first land in Dubai, then continue on to Abu Dhabi...Well, on a couple of occasions, the plane would land in Dubai and stay there. The visibility was too low for it to be able to take off and land again. So we'd have to ride in buses that took us to Abu Dhabi. I would rather have flown there despite the poor visibility. Because the ride to Abu Dhabi was just as dangerous, if not more, with a crazy speeding driver almost driving into a wall!
Anyway, here are a couple of pictures a colleague took from his building on Sheikh Zayed Road. They look pretty cool!
Monday, December 05, 2005
Have you ever thought of the amount of time we women spend taking care of ourselves, making sure we look presentable every day? I mean think of it. There's the manicures and pedicures (takes up an hour and half every two weeks or so), the haircuts (an hour and a half every 3 months), the haircut with the highlights (3-4 hours every 6 months), the makeup (10 minutes on a regular day, 20 minutes to half an hour for a special occasion), the blow-drying of the hair (10-15 minutes every day in my case), the hair removal (can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on the preferred method of hair removal), the facials (an hour and a half every 3 months), the massages (an hour every 2 weeks), the spray-on tan or the self-tanner (an hour every week...does not apply to UAE residents who get the sun 360 days a year), the removal of the makeup and face cleansing (10-15 minutes every day), the moisturising of the skin (5-10 minutes every day)...
...and it goes on...
And what do men do to take care of themselves? Take a shower? Maaaaaaaaaaybe put some gel in their hair before they run their fingers through it? Oh, there's also the clipping of the toenails once in a while...And when the man turns 50, he just might decide to trim the hair in his nose and ears. That's pretty much it.
Think of all the useful things we could do in the time we waste making sure we look good! And what I want to know is, who decided that women have to make sure they do not have a single hair on their bodies other than on their head? Why couldn't it be the other way round?
It's so unfair.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
It was supposed to be much more relaxed given that my clients had the day off today, and that I had already caught up on a lot of my work yesterday...but it wasn't. I will desperately need the few days off I have taken between Christmas and New Year's. Although my latest holiday was less than 3 months ago, the past few weeks have been so exhausting in terms of work, I feel like I haven't had time off in a year! I wish I could be lying on a beach in Mexico again.
I could have desperately enjoyed a long weekend. As mentioned in a previous post, the private sector did not get any time off for National Day, whereas the public sector got 3 days off. Some private sector companies did end up getting either Thursday or Sunday off (like my clients for example), but we did not for some reason. The government really should do something about this. It's just not right.
I also hate the fact that we usually only find out at the last minute whether we are getting a day off or not. In Montreal, we used to get a list of holidays at the beginning of the year. So we knew how to plan our long weekends months in advance.
In the UAE, we often find out a couple of days before the actual holiday whether we actually will get some off or not. This is because we need to wait until the government declares how many days off the public sector is getting, and how many the private sector is getting (if any). This is just absolutely frustrating, especially for those who like to take full advantage of their long weekends, by going on a road trip, planning a camping weekend, or going back home to visit their families.
All this to say, I am just frustrated at the lack of regulation when it comes to the time off that we get here. This has been going on for years now (ever since I used to live here more than a decade ago). I have not heard of such a discrepancy in any other country in the world. If the UAE truly wants to live up to the expectation of being a modern country, then it should abolish its old-fashioned regulations and treat all its residents equally.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Today's newspapers talk about 2 criminals that were recently executed. One is a young Australian drug smuggler, who was hanged in Singapore. Apparently he had tried to smuggle 400 grams of heroin from Cambodia to Australia (he was in transit when he was caught in Singapore). 420 people have been executed in Singapore between 1991 and 2004, which is a huge number.
The other story was about America's 1000th execution since 1976, a murderer who killed both his wife and his father-in-law in front of his two children. The story in Emirates Today claims that "Boyd (the murderer) was wheeled into the death chamber, strapped down on a gurney and injected with a fatal mix of three drugs".
I really think the death sentence is barbaric and should be abolished. Many criminals deserve to die of course, especially considering the severity of the crimes they commit, but I don't think it is up to us human beings to decide whether a person gets to live or not. I don't think it's right that we get to decide to kill someone, no matter how guilty that someone is. I don't think it's right that we punish killers by killing them.
I say, let these criminals rot in hell for the rest of their lives in prison. Let them suffer the pain of hard labor. Let them live the rest of their lives knowing that they will not be able to ever leave the confines of their prison. And if they ever get their conscience back, let them live with the weight of their guilt for the rest of their lives. But don't kill them. Don't commit another crime for the sake of punishing the guilty.
And if you want to see original footage of his Oprah appearance, here it is:
He's absolutely lost it! I feel bad for Katie!
Friday, December 02, 2005
I still think my brother's version is the best though! I wish I could post it here too, but I don't have it as a link.
We left at around 11:30, and the traffic on the way to Sharjah (so the opposite direction) was horrendous! Bumper to bumper! What are these people doing out on a Thursday night at 11:30...Granted, it's a weekend, but still... Is all of Sharjah out?
And if it's this bad on a weekend, how bad is it in the middle of the week, during rush hour? Some of my colleagues live in Sharjah and commute to what's considered the beginning of Dubai everyday. How on earth do they do it? I really think that if I had to be stuck in traffic for 4 hours every day, I would kill myself! What's the point of spending 4 hours in a car? I would rather spend more for renting an apartment in Dubai than spending 1/6th of my life in traffic!
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I was on my way to work this morning, listening to the radio as usual, and as I was parking in front of my office, a song came on.
I leave work almost 10 hours later, and as soon as I step into my car, the same song is playing on the radio.
That made me think: what happened in between? Nothing. Nothing important. Sure there was work, meetings, phone calls, e-mails, laughter, stress, boredom... but what does this all mean? Will any of this matter a year from now? Or even a month from now? Probably not.
Hearing that same song twice made me realise that life is all about routine. We wake up every morning, go to work, come back home, work out, watch TV, have dinner, sleep, and start all over again the next day. It made me realise that if we want things to happen in our lives, then it's up to us to make them happen by breaking that routine. It's up to us to find a way to make our lives more meaningful, to go beyond the daily grind, to seek new experiences...it's up to us to (without sounding too cliche) stop and smell the roses, to not get absorbed by our work, to shift our focus to the things that really matter the most at the end of the day.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Last Wednesday, I get a call from a bank employee telling me the passport and driver's license copies I faxed them are not clear, and asked to come to my office to pick up clearer copies. He shows up, I give him the papers, he makes me fill out the application form again because there was a small scribble on the old one. He tries to sell me a special edition World Cup credit card, I say no thank you. End of story.
Or so I thought.
The next day, I get another call from the same guy asking me for my mother's maiden name (you try to spell that name on the phone, talking to a guy that can't construct a proper sentence in English). Then he asks me what my permanent address is in Canada. I tell him I live in Dubai now. He then insists I give him an address in Canada because my passport is Canadian. I say, but I don't have a permanent address there, I live here now. He simply would not understand and was only satisfied when I gave him the name of the Canadian city I lived in. End of story.
Or so I thought again...
Today, I get a call from another person at the bank: "Hello does T.H. work there", I say yes, I am T.H. "Oh..no can I speak to someone from HR?" (It seems they do this to check the validity of the information you have given them). So I try to transfer the call to someone from HR. I ask the woman to hold the line. Try to call one person in HR, no answer. Fumble with the phone while I try to contact another person in HR. Finally manage to dial that person's extension. Phone rings a few times before HR picks up. As soon as HR picks up.....the bank person hangs up!!!!! And doesn't call back!!!!!!!!!!! Arrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhh.
And so the saga continues...
In other news, I read this morning that a container carrying chewing gum overturned in Dubai yesterday, and fell straight on top of a cab killing its driver and passenger. The stupid truck driver was apparently speeding and had to break suddenly. Also, it seems the containers were not properly fixed on the trucks. I don't know why but I was so upset about this! Because of some stupid idiot's bad driving skills and lack of conscientiousness, 2 innocent souls have lost their lives! How can 2 people die just like that, because of a freak accident? You can check out the pics of the horrific accident on Gulf News and Emirates Today.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Of course I did not feel any of it. The one time something interesting happens in Dubai, and I do not even experience it! I was in the Mall of the Emirates at the time it happened, and did not feel any shaking. But I got back to work and saw that a bunch of colleagues were standing outside the building. It seems the building was evacuated following the tremor, for safety reasons.
I ask a guy on my way in why they are all waiting outside, he says "Earthquake"...I replied: "Yeah right". I did not believe him. Until I got inside the office and saw that everyone was talking about this.
All the major towers in Dubai were evacuated as well, and no one was allowed back to the offices for the rest of the day.
It makes you think about what would happen if a major earthquake hit here, God forbid. All those super towers that are being built...Did no one think of the possibility of something like this happening? Is there a plan? Granted, we are not really in an earthquake-prone zone, but what if the earthquake that hit Iran was stronger? What if the aftershocks we felt here were stronger? Then what?
Saturday, November 26, 2005
But one of the things that upsets me the most about driving in the UAE is when I see young children, toddlers even, jumping around in cars, unrestrained. I am not sure if there is a regulation here about children being strapped in special seats until a specific age, but if there is, then it is definitely not being enforced.
Last time I was driving home behind a car where the back window was open. A 2-3 year old child who was sitting unrestrained by any seatbelt or chair was practically hanging out the window, about to fall out!
Sure, we can blame the police for not being more strict about this issue, but really, the ones to blame here are the stupid, ignorant parents who allow this to happen. Don't they understand that this is a danger for both the child and the driver? Drivers can get distracted, children can get hurt, and in the case of an accident, having the child jumping around in a car like that can prove fatal.
Friday, November 25, 2005
December 2nd is the UAE's national day. This year, it falls on a Friday. Friday is a weekend here. In other countries, if a national holiday falls on a weekend, you get an extra day off on the weekday to compensate...so for example, in Canada, if Canada day falls on a Sunday, you get Monday off....But this is not the case here. Not for the private sector at least. It was announced last week that the private sector will not getting any days off to mark National Day. But, the public sector is getting not one, not two, but three days off!
So here are 2 questions I'd like to have answered:
1) Why the discrepancy in holidays between the private and public sectors? Do employees in the public sector work more than the ones in the private sector (therefore deserve more of a break?). How does the UAE government expect to have more locals working for the private sector when there is such a difference in the number of days off we get (and this is not just the case for National day. It's the case for every single holiday we get in the UAE).
2) Why does anyone need 3 whole days to celebrate National Day? One day is more than enough.
Unless of course the government decides to match the private sector holidays with the ones for the public sector. Then 3 days off to celebrate National Day sounds just perfect :)
Today's Word of the Day:
black friday: The day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. It's traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year (and sometimes considered to be the beginning of the Christmas season). A.K.A.: Green Friday
In the Emirates, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving...Therefore we do not have Black Friday.
(corrected after my wiser sister pointed the mistake out)
Today's Word of the Day:
Turkey drop: This happens when a dating couple try the long-distance relationship thing when they go off to university or college in September. Typically, when Thanksgiving rolls around and everyone goes home for the holiday, someone gets dumped. Hence the turkey drop.
He didn't know what hit him... Laura and him never made it past the turkey drop.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
One of the problems we hear about very often here is the one of unpaid wages. And the individuals that are most affected by this problem are the ones that can least afford it.
It's the people who come here, dirt poor, hoping to be able to provide the families they left back home with a better future.
It's the people who live in groups of 10 or 15 in a one-bedroom apartment.
It's the people who work in the blazing sun 10 hours a day.
It's the people who earn an average of $500 a month, and send more than half their salaries back home.
It's the people who have no choice but to keep working for the company that does not pay them, because they cannot go anywhere else.
To all the people managing companies who are guilty of not paying wages to their workers: you should be taken to court, and your sentence should be to live the life of one of your labourers, work as hard as them, live in cramped apartments, save every penny....Then, maybe, just maybe, you'll understand that you are committing a crime.
My sister told me that one day at work, she overheard a conversation between a labourer and a fellow reporter. The worker was crying (yes, a grown man, crying) because his company had not paid him for several months.
Luckily the Dubai government has finally decided to do something about this, by setting up a hotline workers can call to be able to fastrack any grievances...I really hope that this will actually make a difference. I really hope it's not too little too late.
Today's Word of the Day:
Cold turkey: A way to quit smoking. Just by simply not smoking and not using any products to help you with the process. Usually is extremely painful and freaking annoying as hell.
I doubt it will be hard for me to go cold turkey on posting Word of the Day.
(not sure if this is correct, but who cares!)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I watched Flightplan yesterday, featuring Jodie Foster. We got some free tickets from the client and decided to check it out. Without revealing too much of the plot, Jodie's character has just lost her husband and decides to take his body to the States to burry him (she lives in Germany). On the flight, she loses her 6-year old daughter, goes nuts, and drives everyone else on the plane nuts, in order to try to find her.
It was not the best of movies (and I am being kind by saying that), the plot was weak, the acting was so-so, and the ending was just too much. How does one lose an entire human being on a plane? Well, that was the only cool thing about the whole movie: the plane, which was a double-decker type huge plane, with a really nice lounge/bar inside, and many other cool features. Other than that, nothing really to rave about....OK to rent on a night when you reaaaaally have nothing better to do, but don't pay the price of a movie ticket to watch this one.
Today's Word of the Day:
bio break : n. Neo-geek terminology for visiting the bathroom, especially when interrupting a meeting/gathering/workflow.v. performing bodily functions
Today's meeting was so boring, I had to pretend to go on bio break just to keep myself awake!
Monday, November 21, 2005
Today's Word of the Day:
subterfuge \SUB-tur-fyooj\, noun: A deceptive device or stratagem.
He was so adept at subterfuge...he made her believe she was eating chicken, when really, the meat on her plate was rabbit!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I am hoping that perseverance will be the key to the success of this endeavour... (see what Word of the day can do to you? It can make you write phrases like that!)
Today's Word of the Day:
ingenue \AN-zhuh-noo\, noun:
1. A naive girl or young woman.
2. An actress playing such a person; also: the stage role of an ingenue
T. was an ingenue: she thought that customer service in Dubai is as efficient was in Montreal.
Here's today's experience: I get home (late of course), turn on the TV, and all I get is a white screen. I turn the receiver on and off, and on and off again...Nothing.
This is not the first time this has happened. It seems the last time this happened, it was a generalized problem because my colleague who lives in the same area had the same issue. Fine.
Today, I want to find out if this is a problem with my receiver, or a generalized problem yet again, so I decide to call DIC (Dubai Internet City, who are the service providers). I go to their website, click on the "Contact us" tab, and get their phone number. I dial the number, and what do I get? A message saying "This service is not compatible with this call", repeated over and over again....Huh? What is this supposed to mean?
This is Dubai Internet City for God's sake! This is their Website! And they can't even update it with the correct phone number?
For all I know, this blank TV screen staring at me could be due to the fact that I have not paid my TV bill in 6 months. Why? Because I haven't gotten a single bill in 6 months either! I did ask DIC about this a couple of months ago, and the only answer I got was "don't worry, it will come".
Worry? I ain't worryin'!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Here's how it works: every day, I publish a new word and its meaning. I'll attempt to use it in a phrase. And I invite each and every one who reads this blog to write a quick comment...Just one phrase...Using the Word of the Day of course! I'll test it for a week, to see what kind of response this gets...So come on! Start writing! Do it!
Today's Word of the Day:
anodyne \AN-uh-dyn\, adjective:
1. Serving to relieve pain; soothing.
2. Not likely to offend; bland; innocuous.
1. A medicine that relieves pain.
2. Anything that calms, comforts, or soothes disturbed feelings.
Nothing is more anodyne than spending a day on the beach.
There you go! Simple, no? Now your turn...
Featuring Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Spanish actress Paz Vega (who looks a lot like Penelope Cruz by the way!). A sweet story that deals with cross-cultural relations. It's nice to see Adam Sandler acting in something other than the stupid comedies he usually acts in. Paz Vega is quite simply charming in her role as a Mexican immigrant who works for an American family to give her daughter a better life. Tea Leoni over-acts a bit, but it's 13 year-old Shelbie Bruce (who plays Paz's daughter Cristina), who steals the show. A good rental movie.
Featuring former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, this is another movie that deals with cross-cultural relations, this time between India and the US/UK. Very cheesy at times (especially the Bollywood-inspired song and dance numbers), it's an OK movie. Miss Rai is not the best of actresses, but this movie really made me want to visit India badly! The scenery is so beautiful and colorful! One of the scenes takes place in Goa, which looks simply stunning! Visiting India is definitely going on my "must do before I die" list.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, and Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn (Cate does an amazing job in this role!). A good movie, a good story, Leo is also impressive in this role. I admire the way he always picks challenging and interesting roles...He could have gone the Ben Affleck-road and chosen all-American big-budget blockbusters after the success of Titanic, but he didn't. Good for him!
This is my first birthday celebration in Dubai, and although I had a good time, it still doesn't feel right. I am not with my real friends. It's not the same when you don't have your loved ones around you, the ones you care about the most...the ones who matter the most. But I am thankful...knowing that my friends will be thinking about me on my birthday...knowing that no matter what the distance that separates us, it'll always be the same between us...knowing that even after not speaking for months, we can pick up right where we left off...knowing how lucky I am to have friends like that in my life.
Friday, November 18, 2005
What's artificial rain? It has something to do with hydrogen bombs, spraying "special substances" in the cloud, and using a small plane to do this. But the whole procedure is eco-friendly apparently. Yeah right!
Anything that is artifical cannot be eco-friendly. I don't understand why people mess with things like the weather. The UAE is a desert. And it will always be a desert, no matter what you plant in it. Why do we need to change the way a desert functions? The whole things sounds a bit too sci-fi to me...
Thursday, November 17, 2005
1) The weather...it's especially easy to appreciate the weather around this time of year. Montreal has had its first snowfall already, while it is finally starting to feel nice and breezy in the evenings here.
2) The beach. Such a blessing! Just like my father, I truly believe there's something therapeutic about the beach. Nothing compares to the way you feel after a long day of swimming and tanning. And the absolute best time to be on the beach is around sunset...it's simply incredible.
3) An easier life. Despite my long work hours, I find living here less stressful in some ways. How? By getting people to do things for you. Like honking outside the bakala (depanneur) and asking the guy to bring whatever you want to your car! (I don't do this by the way...I am not that lazy!). Or by calling the bakala 5 times a day and have the guy deliver things to your house.
4) Driving my car. I just love driving, and blasting good music. And the roads here are so well maintained...nothing like Montreal's potholes!
5) Good Arabic food.
6) Being closer to my family and seeing them (almost) every week.
You'll notice that my "What I like about the Emirates" list is shorter than my "What I miss about Montreal"...
Maybe this will change eventually. But I just spent 20 minutes trying to think of more things to write, and I couldn't.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Well....I kinda saw him.
He was in Dubai to promote the opening of the new Virgin Megastore in the Mall of the Emirates. He was supposed to appear at 1:30 PM, but in fact only showed up about 40 minutes later. In true Branson style, he showed up in a red Ferrari, preceded by a couple of guys on motorcycles. Inside the mall! He then went into the store, at which point we were also allowed to go in. A couple of people asked him questions (not sure if they were journalists or just members of the public). All I remember was one guy asking "What does Virgin mean to you", and Sir Richard answered "Well, it was a long time ago". He said a couple more words, then just almost ran out of the store, a bit like he was upset at something...not sure if he was though.
He eventually showed back up to sign his book. But I wasn't interested anymore. We were famished by now (I was with 2 colleagues) and all we could think of was the large buffet of sandwiches, seafood, salads and desserts that was set up in the store.
I also finally saw part of the newly built ski dome in the mall. It's quite impressive, it looks like a winter wonderland in there. I could not make out how big it is though, I'll have to go back and check it out. Such a funny concept! People will actually have to wear gloves and ski jackets and hats when they're skiing! Then they go back outside and it's 30-45 degrees celcius, depending on the season!
Going back to the celebrity topic, Jacko's in town again. He seems to have taken a liking to visiting this part of the world, and has even bought a house in Bahrain apparently! The first sighting of Jacko (on his most recent trip...because this is not the first time the Gloved One has blessed us with his presence) happened in the ladies' bathroom at Ibn Battuta mall. Yes, you read right, the ladies' bathroom! Such a bizarre incident! Such a weirdo! Why is he even here?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Although the regulation on rent increases in Dubai is commendable, I do not understand why "Dubai residents go ecstatic over rent cap" (Gulf News, November 12). A 15 per cent increase is nothing to be ecstatic about! In Canada, rent increases are limited to about 2 per cent every year and can go up to about 4 per cent if (and only if) the landlord carries out some renovation that adds value to the building.
In my case, a 15 per cent increase translates to Dh10,000, which is ridiculous. The rent allowance allocated by many employers will not increase proportionally to the rent increase. From A Reader Dubai Name withheld by request
Of course it was slightly edited...I am especially upset that they did not print the last phrase of my original letter:
Does the government think we are idiots by making it seem like a GOOD THING to have a 15% rent cap? Come on!
After discussing with some colleagues at work, they told me that in previous years, rents would increase by 20, 25, sometimes even 30% from year to year...Can you imagine! So now I understand why residents are "ecstatic"...But I still think 15% is a ridiculous amount. We'll see what happens when I have to renew my lease 6 months from now.
1) Walking...I didn't have a car there, so I mostly walked everywhere (I also miss public transportation believe it or not....the metro is a blessing!)
2) Not having to be stuck in traffic every day (goes with point number 1)
3) Easy banking (refer to previous post)
4) Decent rents
5) My morning cappucino from Second Cup, on my way to work
6) Being able to buy booze directly from the SAQ...no need for an alcohol license....or no need to call a shady guy we only know as "Booze Guy"
7) McGill College street lights around Christmas time
8) The sound of fresh snow under my boots
9) Chapters and Indigo....I could spend hours in those places browsing through all the books
10) Working shorter hours
11) Watching ER on Thursday nights (they only play older episodes here)
12) My yoga classes at the YMCA
13) Our cat Shrimpie (he now goes by the name of Cat, or Catkout)
14) The Jazz Festival/Comedy Festival/Fireworks competition/Francofolies
15) Our apartment on De La Montagne street
16) Toasted bagels with cream cheese
17) Old architecture
18) Cool hangout places like Gogo Lounge and Whisky Cafe (not that I was a party animal, but I love the atmosphere in those places)
19) The Quebecois accent (it grows on you...eventually)
20) All the friends I left behind
Monday, November 14, 2005
I have been trying to open up a payroll account at my bank for the past two months literally, and I think I have finally succeeded...I made the mistake of opening up a savings account when I first opened up my bank account. I then discovered that with a payroll account, I can get free cheques and a free credit card for life...hence my decision to switch accounts. But of course, I needed to fill out an application form, get a letter from my employer, submit the application form manually, only to find out the letter from my employer was not in the right format, so then I had to wait another couple of weeks until the new letter was ready in order to re-submit my application. OK...at least my application went through! I am finally getting somewhere with this banking thing!
So today I go to the bank to pick up my credit card and cheque book (because of course, they do not mail those, you have to go pick them up yourself....and I did try to call the bank around 10 times this morning to make sure these were ready, but the line was always busy. I guess they've never heard of an automated answering system), only to find out that I did not in fact get a credit card, and that I had to fill out another application to get it!
So here I am, 2 months later, with a payroll account, a cheque book, but still no credit card! I was told it should be ready in 10 days, at which point I will have to go pick it up from the branch, of course. And to think that in Montreal, all it took was an online application, or a quick phone call, to get all my banking needs fulfilled!
Speaking of banking needs, I still cannot pay my phone bill online! The phone company is still not equipped to accept online payments from its customers, so every time I have to pay a bill, I have to physically go to the phone company and pay in person!
The only other option they give me to pay my bills is by credit card....
But it's still too hot and humid to be able to enjoy an evening out. The month of November is very moody that way. One day it's really nice and breezy, and the other it's hot and stuffy. But I keep reminding myself that I could be in good ol' Monty adding one layer of clothing on top of the other. So I am not complaining...Although I do go through the odd moment of nostalgia, where I wish that it were cold outside, while I am indoors all nice and warm, wearing a nice thick sweater, looking out the window. That feeling of coziness is unique. It goes back to my high school days in Abu Dhabi when it used to rain, and we'd turn the lights on in class. I just loved it! Maybe because it was so rare, but it really made me happy.
I cannot end this post without talking about another irritating factor about Dubai: I cannot STAND the way the roads keep changing every day! This morning I was going to my client's offices and they had closed the exit I usually take...so I had to take an extra long detour and take the exit a few kilometers away, setting me back 15 minutes (I was already late to begin with so this did not help). And this is not the first time this has happened to me...The area I live/work in is a complete construction site, so this happens quite frequently. Will Dubai every be a city free of the construction madness?
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Today's front pages of the newspapers all mention Sheikh Mohammed's decision to put a 15% cap on rent increases until the end of 2006. Ha! 15%!!! And us tenants are supposed to be happy about that? I guess the government want us to feel happy and thankful that there is finally some sort of regulation about rent increases (which is an important step I must admit), but 15% is just a ridiculous amount! Because, of course, landlords will not increase rent by 5%...or 10%....or even 14%...No! They will use this decree as an excuse to increase rent by the maximum amount.
I don't know if you realise, but a 15% rent increase equals a Dhs 10,000 increase per year for my tiny 1-bedroom apartment in the Greens (that's more than $2,700 US per year for all you North Americans who may be reading this). Speaking of my 1-bedroom apartment (I ain't complaining...it's really nice and I have a beautiful pool and gym and I am only 10 minutes away from work by car, when there is no traffic....the traffic in Dubai requires a separate post alltogether, I am sure I'll be mentioning it a nauseating amount of times in the coming posts), I am paying the same rent for a 1-bedroom apartment here as we were paying for our enormous 2-bedroom apartment in Montreal, located in the heart of the city. Now that's what I call a ripoff! It's not like we're in New York, or London! Why isn't there some sort of regulatory body (like the Regie des Logements) that controls these things?
Why is it that some people who rented the same exact aparment as mine a few months before me pay less than me...and why is it that some people who rented the same exact apartment as mine exactly 3 months later pay almost Dhs 10,000 more a year than I do? How can that be right? Something needs to be done about this.
The whole point of me living in Dubai was to be able to finally save a bit of money (and be closer to my family)...but at this rate, I'll be borrowing money instead of saving it!
1) Find interesting things to write about
2) Push myself to do more interesting things in my life...so I can write about them on my blog!
The world of blogging is new to me. So why am I doing it you may ask? Well, I find the concept of blogging to be an interesting one to say the least...especially in this part of the world. More and more newspapers are publishing posts from various blogs, about how people feel about living in Dubai and the Emirates. And it's not all flowers and candy for a change! The media here is finally realising that there are so many things that are wrong with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the other Emirates...and they seem to have at long last broken with the tradition of sugar coating all the news and have started writing about how residents really feel!
But this is not the only reason I have finally joined the world of blogging. I must give credit where credit is due, and the credit goes to none other than my sister...She started her own blog not so long ago, and by doing so, has given me the courage to start doing it as well! Her blog is Abu Dhabi Sunshine, which is why I decided to call mine Dubai Sunshine. Her blog name comes from a song we used to listen to on the radio when we were kids (does anyone know who sings that song?) and I decided to call my blog Dubai Sunshine, to create some sort of sisterly relationship between our blogs. Oh but I must say this: my brother, who is the first blogger of the family, named his blog "Abu Dhabi Sunshine and Boredom", so really, all the credit goes to him! (He has not blogged in a while so hopefully this will act as an incentive to bring him back to the world of blogging).
That being said, I look forward to receiving many comments/reactions to anything I post here...This is a open forum for anyone from anywhere to write about anything! So, welcome to my blog!