Friday, December 25, 2009
It happened Tuesday in Kingston, Jamaica. Approach in heavy thunderstorms resulting in a runway overrun.
American Airlines B737 from Reagan International, USA.
AA 331 crash
Very fortunately, no fatalities.
Look how close the aircraft ended up to the sea!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Many months ago, I did my duty and registered my presence here with the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. I did this with reluctance as I am not generally fond of getting on "lists" and leaving a trail of bread crumbs behind me, but in this case I thought it would be prudent so if I contracted a debilitating illness or had an accident, my family would contacted and I would not end up with a "John Doe" toe-tag somewhere.
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi is a strange looking angular building surrounded by embassies of other countries on the same quiet street. I expected to see heavily armed US Marines wearing starched uniforms at attention surrounding the place but what I saw were Filipino contract security guards. They were friendly but very professional and the security in the background seemed very tight. Metal detectors, bulletproof glass and cameras were everywhere. All the doors were very heavy with that special glass installed and had prison cell type latches that made a lot of noise. It is literally a fortress and for good reason considering the events in the last few decades.
Make no mistake, I am sure every eventuality has been considered. I have no doubt there were USMC personnel somewhere on-site, its just they are not visible to the casual visitor anymore. No photos were allowed...anywhere! I had to leave my car keys and change at the front entrance.
Another reason I registered is that although the UAE is very stable and safe, it is common knowledge that their are some "tensions" in areas outside the borders here that historically have caused some volatile events on occasion. In that unlikely event I would expect to receive a call on my mobile phone advising me that a fleet of US Navy ships were "haze gray and underway" to get my scrawny ass out of harm's way. I was in the USN years ago and I know a priority is to protect American citizens living in foreign lands in case of a conflict. One of the things that the US does well is take care of it's own and allies.
I have never felt uncomfortable being an American here and do not obsess of such things but it is good to have that kind of insurance policy. Here is a youtube link to a dynamic situation the famous New York chef Anthony Bourdain experienced in Beirut when he was filming an episode of his show "No Reservations" for the Travel Channel. It depicts how things can get ugly real quick! No Reservations Evacuation
I am om the Embassy's mailing list and have included the link to an updated email I received today from them. After living here for awhile, I would have to say that except for a few embellishments IMHO (I will let you guess which ones), the rest of the information is spot-on and a worthwhile read! UAE Update
Friday, December 18, 2009
I recently posted about going to a local barber and was asked if I wanted a scalp massage in addition to the trim. As one that will try anything once, I agreed and was treated to what I would call a handful of pink axle grease worked into my hair. At least it washed out!
A few weeks ago, I decided to try a barber in a nearby 5 star hotel. The barber did a good job and was friendly. At the end of the haircut, he noted that I had some stray hairs in my ears and suggested he “wax” them out. Again, being the adventurer that I am, I consented.
I felt him put some warm substance inside both of my ears and after the heat subsided, I felt a sharp pain in my right ear followed by the same in my left as he ripped the wax, and wayward hairs, out. The sting lasted for 20 minutes but was not all that unpleasant.
I now admire people who get more “sensitive” and much larger areas waxed.
In the US, I went to a traditional barber and knew what to expect when I settled into his gold metalflake chair, a trim and bitching about the government with him and the other guys that were waiting. There were old hunting/ fishing /car/motorcycle/gun magazines to read while you waited as well as conversation with the crusty regulars. A real guy's place. My barber's name is Cliff in St. George, Utah USA and his shop is on Bluff Blvd. Go see him if you are in town. Haircuts and opinions.....$10.00.
Cliff never offered me a Brazilian ear waxing although I obviously needed it. That's where I thank my newly found barber in Abu Dhabi.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
When I left you last time, I was awaiting a phone call from the technicians that were to arrive at my humble abode and finish the job of internet connection the previous guys left incomplete. What follows is a tragic comedy of incompetence, bad timing and piss-poor customer service.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
The following is my response to an email I received from an American woman whose husband had recently accepted a job in Abu Dhabi. She was naturally anxious about the move and wrote me asking some questions about my experiences here. She said would have to leave her own job, rent their house for less than the mortgage, leave friends and family behind and was apprehensive about her role of being a Western woman in an Arabic society.
I also have a house I am renting to someone back in the States and the rent doesn't cover the mortgage I have to pay. Plus if you get a bad renter you could find yourself with months of no rental income. That will take a big chunk out of your Abu Dhabi salary. That and other things that happen "back home" are much harder to deal with and settle from here. Get a trusted friend in the US and open a joint bank account with them to help you deal with issues that arise(an they will!) back home. Get a rental management company to deal with your house, that should help. The stuff that has occurred to my interests back in the US has been as stressful as some of the things here.
I have found out the idea is to keep thing simple here and back home as well. Try to reduce your US financial obligations before you come. Consolidate your debt so you will only have one or two bills to pay from the UAE. Sell all you can before you move. Put the rest in storage on an "auto pay" deal. The almost unattainable ideal situation is to move here with no assets, debts, propery or vehicles back in the US.
As far a simplicity goes in the Emirates, do not succumb to temptation and purchase a new car with a five year note here as soon as you arrive. Most people do this (I did and regret it). It is easy as the banks are very accommodating. You can get a brand new Mercedes or Land Rover here with as little as two months on the job and a signature. You will get the payments too, of course!
While the car may seem like a nice symbol of your new lifestyle here in the UAE, it will become a millstone around your neck if one of both of you decide the Sandbox is not for you after a year or two. If you quit your job, the employer has to cancel your resident visa, you have 30 days to vacate the country, your bank is notified and the account is frozen. You then have that 30 days to sell the car (probably at a huge loss even if you CAN sell it in 4 weeks) and repay the bank. If you can't sell the car or settle with the bank and try to leave you can be detained and arrested at the airport. It is illegal to leave the UAE if you owe money. There are no bankruptcy laws here. The only other option is to sneak out and leave your employer and bank holding the bag. That won't make for peace of mind or expected good recommendations from your ex-UAE employer for future jobs. There are a lot of dust covered cars in airport parking lots left by people who saw no other way out.
My best recommendation is to lease car(s)on a monthly basis. You stay financially agile that way, the most you would owe is one month's rent. These leases are quite cheap here and usually include insurance. In other words, don't bet your freedom on a long term financial commitment with such an unsure thing as moving to and working in a foreign country. The rules are different here. You can always buy your dream car later after you both feel happy and comfortable.
Another thing to keep in mind is accommodation. Rents are still insane in Abu Dhabi (they are easing in Dubai). Most landlords want an entire year's rent in advance. Some want only 6 months but it still is a lot of money.
In this case, you would have to get a personal loan from a bank or an advance from your employer to secure a pad. Unfortunately that puts you right back into the long term financial obligation category that is to be avoided.
If you paid for a year in advance and decided to leave before then you lose the balance or,if you had a loan for the rent from a bank or your employer, you will have to sneak out of the country or get detained at the airport again if you quit properly. see the pattern here?
I am lucky to have a very nice apartment given to me gratis by my employer. That is what you guys should strive for, employer supplied housing, it is much simpler that way, you owe nobody.
As far as most employers go, the usual probation period is six months, you must be with the same company for a year before you can change (and even then you need permission to do so) and if you don't stay with the same employer for at least 3 years there are financial penalties such as owing back the "Settlement Allowance" they fronted you to move here. However, if you stay 3+ years there seems to be some substantial financial benefits to doing so. Have Hubby check his contract carefully. Two years sounds too short You will need 3 years anyway to save any amount of money to make the move worthwhile.
As far as the emotional ups-and-downs go, there have been plenty for me. But I am a guy and probably cannot sufficiently convey those to a woman's satisfaction. There are the usual experiences of lonliness, isolation, homesickness and irritation at the different ways of life over here. For me, these were most intense between the 3rd and 9th months after getting here. The first few months are full of excitement and after about a year here you become more acclimated.
As a background, I was divorced about 5 months before I was offered my job over here. Newly free, I considered it a good idea and still do. Personally, I don't think my ex-wife would have flourished over here and I would not have considered it in my wedded state but that is me. Additionally, the position I was hired for what is considered the pinnacle of my profession and I would get experience that was not to be had in the US.
I too left a good job back in the States. I was at that job for 10 years and made many good friends that I still love and miss dearly. Not to see them everyday pains me. However, I felt I was getting stale there and I considered this an adventure that not many people get to do in their lifetimes and when I get down, I reconsider that thought and I get a better attitude.
Your big difference that you have that I don't have is being in a married situation. That can be a great asset or a problem in my opinion. I am sure you are tired of hearing "It's all what you make of it", but part of that is true. It seems that some don't, but you may "find your paradise" here. It's up to you and how adventurous and open you are. If your marriage is strong now, it will continue to be strong. If not,then problems will be exposed. This is not a place to "fix" a relationship.
The expat community is great over here and you will find a lot of help and kindred spirits. The cultural differences between males and females over here is not as great as you may have seen on the American TV network news. You do not have to wear a Burkka and you can wear bikinis at the wonderful beaches. You can get a job if you want. I work with many expat and local women. The travel opportunities are great and it has been life enrichening for me to live and work among many different nationalities. The US is somewhat isolated and it has been a breath of fresh air to get out for awhile.
I realize you guys have already made your decision to move and I remember how crazy I was the last few months before my departure, it was overwhelming! I was almost catatonic most days. It gets better.
Good Luck and keep in touch!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
This is video taken from a police camera in a tunnel near Dubai airport. Note the selfishness, aggressiveness and the total lack of spatial awareness displayed by some of the drivers. These are somewhat extreme examples, but lesser degrees of these behaviors are observed on almost every trip to the supermarket, restaurant, parking lot or petrol station. If you are lucky it is at much lower velocities!
The scary thing is that these probably are not drunk drivers, In a country where there there is ZERO tolerance for driving under the influence (you will be jailed, lose your job, bank account frozen and deported). I find it hard to believe there are that many chemically impaired drivers on the road. They are just naturally dense and/or clueless.
The U. A. E. is a melting pot of many kinds of driving from a multitude of countries and they don't mix well. I am not going into the distinctive driving habits of certain ethnicities here, but take it from me, one can guess quite accurately after a short time from a long distance who is behind the wheel!
The link below is to a long, dry and somewhat dated discussion on the matter, but there are a lot of statistics and graphs:
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I am a Wingnut myself. If I am having a conversation with you and I hear an aircraft passing overhead, forgive me if I look up into the sky in mid-sentence in order to look at the plane. It's not personal, I am not being rude but you must understand that I have an illness that causes involuntary upwards head movements whenever I hear a turbine whine or an unmuffled, aircooled horizontally opposed or radial engine overhead. Cessna, Boeing, Piper, Lockheed, Grumman or McDonnell-Douglas, it doesn't matter. I am gonna look.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Liwa is an oasis community in the extreme Southwest area of the Abu Dhabi emirate bordering on Saudi Arabia known as the Empty Quarter. The name accurately describes the environs. There you will find the the real Emerati culture as it was a mere 40 years ago. It is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi City and Dubai and is just 2 hours down the road.
I always am surprised at the resiliency of the human race from the Eskimos in the Arctic regions to the residents of Liwa that have not only existed but thrived in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Because of a freak geological formation, the water table is unusually high in Liwa which allowed date palms to grow in a limited area. These seeds of the date palm are what sustained generations of Emeratis in the past centuries.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Late last year the U.A.E. suddenly announced that EVERYONE (expats and citizens alike) residing within it's borders would have to get a new national I.D. card. Apparently it does not suffice that I have a driver's licence, a residence visa, a liquor licence, an employment sponsor, auto registration, health cards and that they have numerous copies of my passport-sized photos, NOC (No Objection) letters from my employer, copies of my passport and a scan of my retina.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I am regretful that I have not written on this blog for awhile but there are good reasons for that which I will detail later.