Archives for October 2009

Hello and goodbye, Weekend.

The important thing is to remember to sleep.

The standard here in Abu Dhabi, and the rest of the world I suppose, is to work for the weekend. You go about your business with limited social interaction Sunday through Thursday afternoon… then hit full speed ahead Thursday night through Saturday afternoon. (Have I mentioned our work week is Sunday to Thursday?)

This weekend in particular was packed with events and good times.

Thursday night we celebrated Halloween… it’s not much of a to-do here. Imagine that in a Muslim country. A few stores had a little section filled with cheap orange and black junk, but in general you could ignore it.

One of the teachers volunteered to host a Halloween party… and teachers can party! All in all it was a pretty fun night complete with live music, in which I stayed up way past my bedtime. Molly was a good sport to actually get up out of bed to attend the festivities with me. I played off one of my favorite song lyrics (“How can you stand it, when I run when I run like a bandit“) and dressed as a… bandit. Yep, that’s my basmati rice bag magically transformed into stolen cash. Molly went as the cutest explorer I’ve ever seen on safari.

Abu Dhabi Halloween

Friday we headed back down to the Corniche for more Formula One celebrating. I just love free entertainment!

Beats on the Beach

The night’s event was “Beats on the Beach” … a concert featuring a very famous Lebanese singer, Ragheb Alama, a famous DJ from the UAE, and … Timbaland. Yes. You can laugh. I attended a Timbaland concert! (Did I mention it was free and on a beach?!) And it was bad. Like, really bad. For those of you like me who are only vaguely familiar with the gent… Timbaland is a big time producer and rapper in the Hip Hop/R&B/Rap world having worked with tons of famous entertainers such as Justin Timberlake.

Beats on the Beach

To put it bluntly… he’s that guy in the background of the song making the grunting sounds every few measures. And that’s pretty much what he did on stage last night. It was like listening to your sibling sing over a recording of a rap song they think they know. To make it sound even worse, his DJ kept cutting the music every few seconds so the crowd could sing along. That would have been ok… except the crowd didn’t know the songs. But don’t feel too bad for Timbaland. He didn’t know the crowd. After telling us it was his first time in Abu Dhabi he declared his love for Dubai. That’s a no-no. Then he explained how much he loves Arabic music…”I love Arabic music so much I was the only one who went to India to be in a Bollywood film and brought the music back in this song” [cue Big Pimpin’]. Oh and you want to know how much he loves UAE? “I love this country so much… my trainer is from Kuwait!!!” Nice. He became pretty frustrated with the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm and resorted to randomly playing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. I have to say… that’s a strange way to revive a crowd at a Hip Hop show. But it worked.

Beats on the Beach

I’m finding my outlets for entertainment are vastly different than what they would be at home. For now I’m just trying to roll with it. We’ll see…

xo, jill

Like a champ.

If you were curious about the medical care in the UAE, I am now qualified to answer that question. It’s pretty top notch.

I woke up in the middle of the night after having moved into my new apartment on Sunday feeling very strange indeed. Like something on the inside very desperately wanted to be on the outside… hello puke fest. I’ll spare you the best of the details… but let’s just say a half packed suitcase is not the best receptacle in such situations. On the other hand, I also found a new use for my bidet! And the moment I realized I had vomited all over the next day’s lesson plans was when I realized I probably wouldn’t be needing them.

The next morning I caught a taxi across town to the medical center to see a doctor. Normally, I wouldn’t have bothered but I needed a doctor’s note to be excused from work and I wanted to get cleared for H1N1. (I don’t want to be that girl.) She suggested I may have food poisoning or a slight virus and prescribed me 3 different types of medication. A little overboard, if you ask me. In addition to the meds, she put me on a bland diet and 2 liters of water a day. I told her that I wasn’t keeping water down and she suggested I be put on an IV. Ridiculous! Naturally, I declined.

However, as I was getting ready to leave and paying the cashier I pulled a classic Jill move. Public fainting. Nice. The exchange between the cashier and I went a little something like this:

Me: Where’s the restroom?
Her: The what?
Me: Restroom? Bathroom? … I think I need to see the doctor again… [putting my head down on her desk and gripping the edge]
Her: [looking bewildered] Madame, go sit down!
Me: I can’t walk. I can’t walk. [plop, assuming a semi-squat position to avoid hitting my head on the marble floor]
Emirati man who came to my rescue: Miss, what is happening?!
Me: I’m fainting… [and then I start crying, because that’s what I do at these times]
Nurse: Get a wheelchair!!!

It was all very dramatic. In the end I was admitted to emergency care and required to receive an IV. I wasn’t super pumped about it at the time… especially considering that I was so dehydrated my veins had collapsed and the nurse couldn’t get the needle in, which led to me crying again. Luckily, the nurse was actually very kind to me. She covered me in blankets and encouraged me to sleep until I was released… which was just a few hours later. After the IV I felt much better and was able to get to the grocery on the way home. The rest of the day I spent lounging about and trying to recuperate.

My favorite part of the experience? Doctor visit, IV in the Emergency Care, and 3 prescription drugs came to a grand total of 53 AED, approximately $13US. What a deal.

Abu Dhabi Meds

xo, jill

The nest.

You’ll be so jealous of my bathroom tile.

Housing has been a bit of an… issue. To say the least. Let me quickly share a few of the details I had been purposely withholding.

Originally, my employer stated that teachers would be given an unfurnished apartment and approximately $5,000US to furnish it. Well… it seems as though (before I arrived) the real estate contractor backed out of the deal. At the time this seemed a little sketchy… however, having lived in Abu Dhabi for nearly 2 months, it isn’t all that surprising. Unfortunately, this put my employer on short notice… scrambling to find a few hundred people places to live in a very competitive and expensive market. Without sounding too judgemental, business moves slooowly here. Needless to say, by the time I arrived I still didn’t have an apartment and circumstances had changed.

Now… teachers (unless they had pets or families and needed pet/family appropriate housing) would be housed in “hotel apartments.” These are basically furnished apartments and therefore do not qualify for the $5,000US. Oh well. It’s actually quite a bit better because the added stress of finding furniture and then deciding what to do with it in 2 years is not very appealing.

My Abu Dhabi Apartment
My Abu Dhabi Apartment

But still… it took about 7 weeks to actually get my apartment. Because of the Formula One, this town is going crazy. Hotels are fully booked (even the really junky ones) and the rooms are going for amazing amounts of money… as in increasing rates by 2,000 dirham (about $550) per night. Basically, our employer had to get us something permanent or open their own homes to us. There are a few people still waiting and I am incredibly grateful for my place. Someone had to move out for me to get it… although I’m not sure where she went.

My Abu Dhabi Apartment

My favorite aspect is the natural lighting. If you live in a big city with high rise buildings… you know natural light is scarce. I feel so lucky to have natural light in every room and especially the kitchen (bathroom excluded). There’s a tiny little balcony too!

My Abu Dhabi Apartment

I’d say my apartment is pretty on par with Molly’s apartment and much nicer than a few other buildings where teachers were placed. Molly’s apartment has a more convenient location and people she arrived with living there… but my apartment has better internet and parking. So it all seems to work out in the end.

My Apartment

Last night was my first night sleeping here… so of course I began to enthusiastically puke all over it. But that’s a different story.

xo, jill

A few bits.

I thought you might be wondering.

1. I’m against inbreeding. We’ll talk later.
2. Sharing your shade with strangers at the bus stop is a nice way to show kindness. Thank you, fellow bus rider.

xo, jill

On parade.

It’s kind of a big deal.

CornicheI can’t say that personally I’m excited for the Formula One Grand Prix… but this town sure seems to be. I couldn’t even tell you when it is… but I know it’s coming up. There’s a countdown on a big billboard along the Corniche keeping track of the moments until the grand event.

CornicheI do know however, that the festivities kicked off last night, and I was there.

CornicheIn honor of the Brazil bit of the circuit, Abu Dhabi decided to party Brazilian style with live music, a parade, and Formula One themed booths. (I’ll let you decided which of the three I bailed on).

CornicheOne funny little cultural bit is that the Brazilian dancers wore colorful body suits under their skimpy little costumes to avoid baring any skin in public. Love it.

CornicheThe weather was fantastic and the event was the perfect finish to a fantastic day at work.

Cornichexo, jill

What makes you feel normal.

The movie theater will do it.

The Middle East International Film Festival was held here in Abu Dhabi over this past week. Wrapping up today, I believe.

I splurged and bought tickets to four films although there were many more I wanted to see. Tickets were only 20 dirhams, which is about 5 dollars. Regal Cinemas, take note.

Funnily enough, the drama started before the film in 3 out of 4 cases, but in the end we always made it.

Film #1:
Earthwhispers Mother Earth
Profiling 10 environmentalists living in New Zealand and their efforts to protect and embrace nature. This film was painful… in a good way. You can’t exactly compare the desert of Abu Dhabi to the lush green forests, mountains, and pastures of New Zealand. I’ve never missed my garden more. One of the subjects showed his composting efforts and soil transformation. Amazing. Then there was the guy (who closely resembled Santa) that felt the only excuse for not riding a bike or walking to your destinations was “well… maybe if someone didn’t have legs or something…” .

Film #2:
Wild Grass
A non-genre specific film following a man who finds a woman’s wallet and becomes obsessed with knowing her. I really liked this film… but I would never claim that I understood it. Especially the last scene… so you all need to go see it so we can discuss. Get on that.

Film #3:
On the Way to School
The story of a first-time teacher from Western Turkey who travels to tiny remote Kurdish village to be the only teacher at the village school. He only speaks Turkish… the students only speak Kurdish. All to relatable. There were times in the film that the main character spoke my mind. Something like, “It’s like I’m wasting my breath… I talk and they don’t understand.” Plus, the kids were adorable. Adorable.

Film #4:
Laugh Until it Hurts
This was a special program and my favorite of all the films. In a historic moment, this showing was the first time silent film accompanied by live piano music has ever been shown on the Arabian peninsula. Four silent films were threaded together and accompanied by Neil Brand on the piano. Brand is apparently one of the best silent film accompaniests… and I didn’t even realize that was something to aspire to. He did a fantastic job accompanying Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant, Buster Keaton’s One Week, Charley Chases’s Mighty Like a Moose, and Charles Bowers in Egged On. Completely hilarious and a unique way to spend the afternoon.

xo, jill

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