Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: December 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Another Bad Day at the Office

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

Christmas Time Again! Wooo Hooo!

As you know, I am not one that has to look far to find something to complain about, it's part of my nature to want my world to be perfect and I tend to get my nose out of joint when things don't go my way. This Christmas is one of those times.    

As might be expected, Christian holidays in an Islamic country are low-key at best. The twinkly lights, Christmas carols and other trappings of the holidays are usually found in the malls, tourist hotels and other public venues. Places I usually avoid unless absolutely necessary. The balmy weather is very un-Christmaslike, too with highs in the 80F range.

I have not been a huge Christmas fan since I was about 10 years old, but there is still something about the holidays that stir the old excitement. I always dreaded the shopping aspect of it and dealing with the crazed consumers at the stores, but I always took pride in decorating my house with the best tree I could find and competing with the neighbors for the most garish front yard display of lights. I risked life and limb crawling around on the roof of my house installing lights only to repeat the same to remove them a couple of weeks later. Some of the best times I shared with my ex-wife were spent drinking hot rum toddies in front of a roaring fireplace in our seasonally decorated living room.

I also hosted the "unofficial" office Christmas party in my home. Most all my coworkers looked forward to it and showed up. The booze flowed freely and there were more than enough stories created there to provide water cooler gossip for weeks afterward. I miss those times.

Fast forward to now. Most of my coworkers are out of the country visiting their own family and friends, there are no parties here that I know of . My right arm is swollen and painful with tendonitis and I am feverish and achey. This is more than enough to put me in a bad mood but because it is holiday time, it seems worse for my mental state.

I wish all my family, friends and readers happy holidays. For those fortunate enough to be with loved ones at this time, make the most of your time together, life is short!

I will be OK, its just a tough time to be so far from home and family. I promise I won't end up like this jolly old elf!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Latest from Uncle Sam

In keeping with the spirit of this blog, I am responsible for providing, from time-to-time, some useful information of concern to folks interested in visiting and/or working in the United Arab Emirates.

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

Haircut Adventures....Again!

Any resident in a new country and culture has challenges in discovering how simple day-to-day things are done. This includes grocery stores, dentists, doctors, traffic laws and personal grooming. The personal grooming, mainly haircuts, for us guys is probably the most difficult. There are hundreds of “Men’s Saloons”  in the city of Abu Dhabi but I live in the suburbs and the choices are slim.

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

In Transit---Part Deaux

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.

The good news is I did get the all important call, the bad news is that I was in the shower when it was made. After I dried off, I noticed that the little blue lights on the side of my Nokia were blinking, indicating activity. It was a missed call from a number I didn't recognize. I punched the recall button and my phone died due to battery depletion. I plugged the phone into the charger for a quick shot of juice.

After about 15 minutes, I tried the number again and it was indeed the dispatcher of the Local Internet Monopoly. He told me to call another number for the technicians on-site. I tried that number and I got a recording informing me the recipient's phone was turned off....just great!!! I waited another 10 minutes and tried the number again. This time it was answered and I told the guy who I was, my Complaint # and a brief description of the problem. I heard wind noise in the background like a car travelling at highway speed and considered that bad news. This was confirmed when the tech told me he had already left my apartment complex and maybe he would be back in the next three days. I called the dispatcher back and was told the same.

I waited the next day, and the next and then on the third day I called the dispatcher's number again and asked if/when someone would be out here to fix my problem. Over what sounded like a loud party in the background, he told me that it was a holiday and the techs would be off for the next two days which I realized would bring us into the two day weekend for a total of four day at least before another attempt would be made. He suggested I call the main customer service center and hung up.

At the customer service center, a pleasant sounding woman answered the phone. I told her my predicament and after I gave her the original Complaint # there was a pause and then she dropped the bomb! According to her, the original Complaint # had been cancelled back on the first day!!! When I asked why, she said the reason was that I could not be "contacted". I told her the tech tried to call me exactly ONCE and that I called back the same day and talked with both the dispatcher and the tech guy and made follow-up calls on the following days. The tech had cancelled the complaint after he could not get me on the phone with his single attempt. I was in the shower, remember?

To make a long story short (I know, too late!), I had to get a brand new Complaint # issued and start on the bottom of the stack again. Three days later the problem was fixed by two guys, one worked hard setting up my WiFi and his sidekick that used my bathroom without the courtesy of asking and then sat and watched a History Channel show that was on the TV. I didn't care as long as the job was done.

So I am all sorted out now. It "only" took the Local Internet Monopoly 3 1/2 weeks to shift my internet service to a different apartment in the same complex. I sure chose a hell of a time to take a shower on that first day!