Friday, April 25, 2008

Through the eyes of strangers

In the past few weeks, I have met up with a few friends (or friends of friends) who are new to the region.

One is a friend who just moved here with her husband and daughter, and the other is a family who is here for a few days, visiting their relative (who also happens to my relative) for the first time. Both groups are North American and have never been to the UAE before.

Talking to these people makes you realize how much we take things for granted sometimes... Seeing the UAE through their eyes is a truly enlightening experience. They're amazed at the grandeur of the choices that are the shops and stores and restaurants we the weather and the beaches and the the fact that this is an Arab country...and that this country is probably unlike anything they've ever seen or imagined.

And it makes you realize...that beyond the daily traffic woes...and the ever increasing cost of living...and the overbearing heat and humidity in the summer, and the sometimes poor quality of customer service...and the often useless bureaucracy of governmental institutions...beyond all that, and despite all that...this is a great place to live in.

A friend asked me a few months ago whether I liked living here. I told him these words exactly: "I live comfortably, I have a good job, I do not pay taxes, my family's close, we have great weather (and great beaches) almost all year, I have a great group of friends that I've known since high school (if not longer), and rarely a weekend goes by without it being chock-full of activities...what more can one ask for?"

Really...what more can one ask for?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Maybe they'll block this? The Du saga...

I've been a Du subscriber for 3 years now...Actually, I was a SAHM subscriber and then became a Du subscriber when Du came to life.

They've been crediting my account directly, from my credit card, every month.

Last month, I get a bill from them (I guess they changed their bill format because the bill looked different), and I notice a Dhs 1200 overdue amount. I was slightly stunned because I had not seen such amount before, so I go back to my 2 previous bills, and in fact, the amount was NOT there.

So I call them, asking for an explanation of the amount. "It seems like we have not credited your account since June 2007" says the woman at the other end of the line. "Why is that" I ask. "I'll file a complaint with the complaint department" says the woman, "they should call you back within 48 hours".

OK, fine.

50 hours later and no answer. I call back. Same thing "your account has not been credited since June" says the man. "Yes, I know that, but I was waiting for an explanation and no one called back". "OK I will file a complaint and we will get back to you" was the answer again. This time,he gives me a complaint number.

Later that same day, I get an e-mail, saying that my credit card details have not been updated, which explains the amount. And they send me a new credit card form to fill out.

I write back saying that I understand that my credit card details have not been updated, but I want to understand why it took 10 months for them to reflect that on my bill. I get another e-mail asking me to fill up the form again.

A little frustrated, as you can probably imagine, I send off another e-mail asking for further explanation.

I get another e-mail asking for my customer ID number "in order to assist you farther (sic) in your query". I do not respond, but I do get another e-mail a day later stating that "your query has been forwarded to our Collection Team who will be responding to you shortly."

That was a week ago....and I have not heard anything since.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

3 years and counting...

Today marks the 3-year anniversary of my return to the UAE.

3 years!

Time flies!

Things have changed for me since I first moved here. I feel more at home here, and I'm having fun. A good group of friends has a lot to do with this change in perception.

A couple of months ago, I was away on business for about 10 days, and I surprised myself a couple of times in thinking: "I can't wait till I get back home". HOME! I think that was the first time I considered this place to be "home".

This is how I was feeling last year, and this is how I was feeling the year before....

We'll see what this year has in store for me :)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dubai World Cup

I've been in Dubai for almost 3 years now and I had yet to attend a World Cup...but this year, a few of us decided to check it out...I had only heard good things about the event so I was really looking forward to it.

So we headed there at around 5PM, and got stuck in traffic before the roundabout leading to Nad el Sheba. The reason? Cops directing cars to head into one direction or another. 45 minutes later, we find parking in a sandpit, then we start walking. And we walked. And walked. And walked (in heels). We finally arrive at gate 7, only to find lineup that was so long and so deep, I was about to turn around and just walk away.

We sneaked in. Yes, I'm ashamed of it, especially as people had been waiting there for ages, but it really was ridiculous!

Anyway, so we're in, and by now it's past 6PM (so over an hour after we left my house).

We find our friend in the Bubble Lounge, hang around for a bit, get pushed around by people left, right and center...we mingle with a few friends then decided to grab a bite to eat. We wait in line for a pizza (but it moved pretty quickly thankfully), look around for a place to sit, can't find one, so we sit on the grass to eat (semi)-comfortably.

Back to the bubble lounge where we find friends that have a table, so we can finally rest our tired feet. A couple more drinks, then we decide to head out because a) we wanted to beat the crowd, b) we were tired after a long weekend of celebrating a friend's birthday and c) some of my friends had to still drive back to Abu Dhabi.

The friend that drove us to Nad el Sheba was staying a while longer, so we decided to take a cab...which meant having us walk on a sandy and rocky path (in heels!), which lead to a 20-minute lineup which was growing by the second. At one point, the cabs became scarce and we were worried we were going to spend our night waiting in line, but mercifully, a cab showed up and we were finally on our way home, black shoes turned dusty white, 3 hours and 20 minutes after we had gotten there.

All in all, I'd rate this as a pretty average experience for me (if not disappointing). Some people have told me that the event has increased in size compared to previous years...Regardless, I was slightly appalled by the organization (or lack thereof!), but again, it seems that previous years were much better on that front.

Oh, and I did see the back of a horse!