Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: January 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Back on Track

Due to my mental state in the last few months, I have strayed from the original intentions of this blog, that is to provide valuable  information for folks looking to relocate here. I apologize for that.

Abu Dhabi literally means Father of the Gazelle. The story is that some Bedoin tribesmen followed some gazelle (a type of deer) tracks until they found the tracks ended at a fresh water spring on an island. They then moved to the island and started a thriving business of pearl diving, fishing and trade. The island became known as Abu Dhabi. It occupies a very strategic position in the Arabian Gulf. One does not refer to this body of water here as the Persian (Iranian) Gulf as it risks a fistfight. They are the same though.

First some background information. The United Arab Emirates became a country in 1972. Before that it had been a loose association of Bedoin tribal factions and the British  government known as the Trucial States or the Pirate Coast. This was in Britain's colonial days and they agreed to defend the area until their money ran out and they pulled out of the region.

This sudden decision by the British left the area in chaos. There were several Bedoin tribes that were hostile to each other and they fought to maintain their power and territory. However there was a visionary Sheik known as Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan that changed history. He was a natural diplomat and convinced the warring factions that it was in their best interest to unite into one country. He is the equivalent to our George Washington. He is much loved by the citizens here as they know he had their best interests in mind. He loved his people. He died in 2004.

Vast oil reserves were found in the U.A.E in the late 60's and Sheik Zayed wisely knew that for his young country to progress, the talents and expertise of Western expats was needed. He set up the system as it is today that foriegners are allowed to live and work here, but only for the betterment of his country. He made Abu Dhabi the most livable country for expats in the Middle East. And I can even get beer here! His legacy is a clean, safe, prosperous country. The U. S. can take some lessons from the U.A.E.

 I instantly took a liking to the guy when I saw a video of him driving a huge 60's era Chrysler over the sand dunes with an ear-to-ear grin. He also had a nickle-plated Audi 500 specially built for him. He could handle camels, shoot guns, fight with a sword, and was respected as "one of the guys" from his peers and citizens. He was also an expert falconer and loved his land, people and traditions. His son rules the country now and he would be wise to follow his father's footsteps.

Sheik Zayed's policies make it possible for me to enjoy a good life over here. I am happy and his people are happy. I wish I could say the same about our own crappy politicians in the U. S.

Unfortunately, the U.S. media portrays Muslims in a very bad light. I know them to be a freindly and warm people. They do not hate us, but American policies of late have them confused. Be assured that the vast majority just want to get along like the rest of us. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Obama Inauguration

I had a day shift today so I got to see the Inauguration on CNN tonight in primetime-7P to 11P local time.

Barrack Obama was not my first pick to be President, but neither was John Mc Cain. I tend to vote third party as I have not been very excited in the direction our Federal Government has been going in the last few decades. I tend to be a more strict fan of the original founding father's Constitution and vision of the United States than the majority of politicians of recent history. 

That being said, while watching the ceremonies I was very proud of of how the Constitution does work. The peaceful and dignified transfer of power is a cornerstone of our Republic, and it does my patriotic soul good to see it in action. By the will of the people, Obama in-Bush out. The law of the land, no questions asked, no undue drama.

In the part of the world I currently live, the changing of the guard does not happen so easily. Every week there are news reports here of violent power struggles in nearby countries that usually end up badly for their innocent citizens. That is not fair. Being a U.S. citizen on the outside looking in at our civilized way of doing this makes one very appreciative of the the system we have. No riots, no bombs, no bloodshed.

I work with a diverse, multicultural crew and was asked a lot of questions today about what would happen on CNN when the Presidency changed hands. Some of the people were from countries that things weren't so nice when events of this magnitude occurred. I told them to go home, watch the coverage and prepared to be mildly bored. I was confident it was good advice. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I wish the new President well though. Maybe a fresh breeze in D.C. is just what we need. My fellow citizens expressed their desire for change. Sometimes though, you gotta be careful for what you wish for, you just might get it. He inherits a tough situation. Take it from me, the "World" loves the guy. I hear it everyday. I just hopes he doesn't feck-up a good opportunity. 

I really did snicker though when Obama "brain-farted" the oath of office. Talk about deer-in-the headlights look, it was a classic!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Someone Reads This Blog

Who says managing a blog doesn't have it's fringe benefits?

I saw this on the comments page a few days ago and at first thought all my efforts of dragging my net throught the vast seas of cyberspace had paid-off in spades!

Here was a woman who I could run through grassy fields with hand in hand. We could take long walks on the beach at sunset and talk about our future together over candlelit dinners. I could introduce her to Mom! We would be soulmates forever.

But it was not to be, my heart shattered into a million pieces when I clicked on the "gooooooood girl" link and and was abruptly greeted with the "This Site is Blocked" logo from the U.A.E. Ministry of Porn.

I think I will get a tattoo next week that says "I like your blog......" . I won't tell you where, but I expect it will hurt like hell!

The Honeymoon is Over indeed, but there are always those International Ladies of Goodwill that are available downtown that will take the edge off the pain for a small donation.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Beer Run +

I had the day off ofter a grueling 60 hour work week so after a long and refreshing sleep I decided to take care of some business downtown. Earlier in the week I got a call from the company uniform shop that my uniforms were finally ready. Yes, uniforms are required for my position at work, they are similar to aitline flight crew uniforms with black trousers, white shirt and black epaulettes with gold stripes. They look like what we called in the Navy "Salt and Peppers". I got measured for these back in October so I figured it was about time. The excuses for the delay were that they were out of fabric(!?!).

So since my beer supply was at Code Orange-marginal but not yet critical-I decided to combine the uniform collecting trip with a beer run to the local booze outlet, Spinneys. Spinneys is a British institution that has a franchise in Abu Dhabi which combines a Western style supermarket with the firewater outlet. The liquor store is in the same building but has a separate entrance on the outside somewhat like Albertson's in the States. Both locations were in the city but on opposite sides of town. I like to combine objectives for my trips into the city as I would rather take a beating than to drive into town due to the insane fellow motorists I have to share the road with. Since I HAD to drive into town for the uniforms, I might as well replenish the suds supply as well.

In the supermarket, there is a room in a back corner separated by automatic sliding glass doors from the rest of the store. This room is where all the pork and ham is displayed for sale. Apparently the idea of consuming pork is so abhorrent to the locals it has to be sequestered from the rest of the store. That's OK with me as they have all varieties of pork there and I love pork. Oscar Mayer is the most visible brand. On my last visit, I bought some hot dogs -an off brand- and when I got home I noticed the small print on the package that said they were made in Kenya. Now I don't know about you, but that was not too comforting seeing how hot dogs made in even the most developed countries have questionable ingredients. As a friend of mine Jon put it, "everything but the squeal", so my imagination is running overtime about what is in the Kenyan hot dogs. I will try them and report back here, film at eleven. Spinneys is the only place I know where to get pig in this town, I call my trips there Beer, Bacon, and Tobacco (BBT) runs.

Anyway, my work at Spinney's done where I scored a case each of Pilsner Urquell and Amstel tall boys, a fifth of Wild Turkey 101 and a Blu-Ray DVD of "The Dark Knight", I headed across town to the uniform shop. I found a parking spot without grinding my teeth to nubs, always a good sign.
The collection of my uniforms went smoothly with the help of a cute and bubbly Filipino attendant and I was soon on my way. I decided to take a different route back to the suburbs as I was in a good mood and the weather was perfect so some sightseeing was in order.

After a few blocks, I encountered uncharacteristic bad traffic in an upscale suburban area. I sat in the Jeep inching forward a few feet at a time for 20 minutes and soon I saw the flashing lights of an Abu Dhabi police truck on the left side of the road. They had the left lane closed (out of three). I was in the center lane and I thought there was just a fender-bender, but as I cleared the police truck, I saw one of the most astounding sights I had ever seen. There, in the lane next to me, was a young camel lying on the asphalt in a large pool of blood. It was definitely dead. I don't know what happened, there didn't seem to be a damaged car nearby but it looked as if the poor beast had been hit. What was was surreal was that this was in a well groomed urban neighborhood where one wouldn't expect camels to be running loose. Maybe it was someone's pet. Anyway, I felt bad for the animal, he was definitely out of his element in the urban setting and unfortunately paid the price. It shook me up for awhile. You never know what you are going to see here when you venture from the house.

Ironically, two days before the uniform shop called to inform me my duds were ready, us employees were sent an email saying that uniforms would no longer be required and business casual will be the new dress code. That's too bad as I now have 6 shirts, 3 trousers and a double-breasted blazer (with sleeve stripes), all custom hand tailored at my employer's expense, that I cannot use. Oh well, I needed some rags to wax the Jeep with, and there is always Halloween! 
I could go as Isaac from the "Love Boat". Or maybe not.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Photos

Thank gawd for recognizable logos and trademarks

Or I would not know what any of this stuff was.

Saudi Arabian Oprah. The hussy on the left is showing "hand'.