Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: January 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Carless In Abu Dhabi

I had to make a major lifestyle decision a few weeks ago to sell my car. This was not taken lightly as I am a certified automotive geek who has been known to perform major repairs under a shade tree and show up to fancy social functions with grease under my fingernails. I love automobiles, they represent engineering prowess and are the tool for the ultimate personal freedom for one to go anywhere at anytime. I have not been without a car since I was 15 years old and that was many moons ago.

I actually sold my Jeep yesterday. You may wonder "Ace, if you are such a car guy why sell your own vehicle and have no plans to replace it?" Well ladies and gentlemen, that is a good question and the answer is complicated and multifaceted.

After a lot of contemplation, I came to the conclusion I just didn't need it. After 2 1/2 years I have only put 10,500 KM's on the thing. I only used it as a "grocery getter" a couple of times a month shuttling back and forth to the liquor store and the few odd appointments downtown. I concluded it had became not much more than a $500/month paperweight.

You see, when I go anywhere from the relatively tiny country of the UAE, my vehicle of choice burns kerosene and travels at Mach .88 39,000 feet or so above the earth.  I relax with a fine wine while catching up with the latest movies. Although in large countries such as the US, a car is essential because of the distances involved. Not a factor here.

At times, I like to partake of adult beverages in the city with friends. The UAE, being a Muslim country has severe penalties for driving under the influence of drink so I always took a taxi for these events. My Jeep was not a transportation option for these occasions.

After a Night on the Town

When I first moved  to my current location, it was quite isolated and taxi services were sporadic at best. Just to get to somewhere for groceries or a meal was a logistical nightmare without a car. Now the complex where I live has grown up and sports a grocery store, medical center, pharmacy, spa, coffee shop, gym, dry cleaners, restaurants and much more. Most of my needs are available within a ten minute walk. I can even rent a car here when I need one. My workplace is literally across the street so I can walk there.

Khalifa City Moonbase, View out of my window...Really!

With the growth of the area, there are now many transport options. At least a dozen taxis are at my beck and call 24/7 and free shuttle buses are available to many venues.

I liked my Jeep and hated to let go of it but I just couldn't justify keeping it. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I will have to make adjustments in my life but the extra money I will realize and the freedom from tickets, insurance, fuel costs, car washes and the bad drivers here will more than make up for it.

Right now, being without a car feels to me like being naked, but that will pass as I adapt to the situation. I still have my beloved Mustang GT convertible back in Utah, USA to fall back on!

I  just had to throw this in, I am enchanted!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Road to Morocco

I would like to ask for some help from my readers on behalf of a friend. She is a university student in France and has entered a contest where she has created her dream adventure. The idea is to have the most comments on her chosen itinerary. Currently she is in second place with almost 200 comments so there is a good chance we can put her over the top! Go to this website  It is in French so use the translate feature in your browser, then leave a comment at the bottom, its that easy! The winner will get a trip to Morocco. Below is Anna-Lou's dream adventure:

Anna-Lou Prepared to Carve some Trails on her Mountain Bike

My itinerary is not yet fully defined, but I know I want to see:

Yemen: Yemen's capital, Sanaa, go to the university there, interact with students (I myself am a student), then I would bury myself in the land and go wadi wadi (Wadi Dhar Wadi Doan etc. ..), from village to village ... Visit the towns of Seyun Al Joola, Al Khoreiba, Bukjan, Mukalla, Bir Ali, Aden, Jebel Sabir, Taiz, Zabid ... Climbing the Jebel  Hadour Maswar!

Then join OMAN:
Salala Sur, Masquat, Dibba, Musandam ... 'll Also wadi wadi, meet local people, swimming with dolphins, see the turtles in the south. Climb Jebel Shams and sleep under the stars!

As a young student in multimedia and sensitive to what is unusual, this corner of the world attracts me a crazy way. We hear so many things, often different from reality. I think it would be nice to show the true reality ... I have already spent a few days in Oman, but I was frustrated not able to see the country completely. There is so much to see! And Yemen attracts me a lot ... this country to look beautiful and much different from my native Chartreuse!

I realize that my trip might seem a little dangerous. That's why I like to do together, I'll make sure to find the best partner suited to my energy and boundless thirst for travel!
I really want to highlight the expertise and local traditions, to go to meet people. If I can achieve my dream, so ... wow!

I had the pleasure of meeting Anna-Lou last year when she was on a work-study program here in Abu Dhabi.  She impressed me as very intelligent, driven, fearless, and possesses a great sense of humor. I can't imagine anyone more deserving to win. Anna-Lou is an accomplished blogger in her own right so if she wins, she owes us a guest post and photos of her Morocco trip on this site.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Tragedy in Tucson

Last Saturday, a disturbed 22 year old Jared Loughner attempted to assassinate US Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords in a supermarket parking lot where she was meeting with constituents. Six were killed including a Federal District Judge, a US Marshall and a 9 year old girl. Giffords was shot in the temple and survives in a coma after surgery. Twelve other bystanders were injured in the attack.

This morning at work, a coworker from a European country where citizens are forbidden to own firearms smugly made an insensitive comment to me about how us Americans are somewhat barbaric to settle our differences with guns. I realize the majority of countries in the world forbid the private ownership of firearms and a lot of folks consider our Constitutional 2nd Amendment Right to bear arms a relic of the old Wild West and was responsible for the recent rampage. Nothing can be further from the truth!

For example, I notice there are a lot of  IED bomb explosions in places that forbid firearms. Some groups have even used occupied and fuel-laden civilian airliners as a tool to express their opinions in my own country. My point is that a mentally unbalanced individual and/or group will find a way to cause mayhem with whatever is available. No guns,  make a bomb.... no bomb, poison sarin gas will do.... no poison, hijack some airliners, ad infinitum. Blaming the tool is missing the point. Do you ban automobiles because bad drivers regularly kill innocent others?

Back home, I own several firearms, some pistols, an SKS semiautomatic rifle and a 12 gauge shotgun, all legal. I purchased my first rifle at 12 years old and learned from my dad how to handle and respect their power. I am a sportsman/target shooter like the vast majority of gun owners in the US. I find it an enjoyable skill as well as a useful home defense against the bad guys if necessary.

There are millions of responsible gun owners in the US. Purchase and ownership is not extended to felons or those who don't pass a background check. Unfortunately, there will be some weapons that fall into the hands of the criminals and crazies. Ironically, the areas with the strictest sanctions against legal firearm ownership have the highest crime rates. Washington DC comes to mind. If the bad guys know their intended victim is likely to be unarmed, they will be emboldened. If guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns that are obtained illegally.

A free society with generous rights bestowed upon the citizens is inherently more risky than a totalitarian state as some of those citizens are free to make bad decisions. There is a natural trade-off between freedom and security. Personally, I prefer more freedom and will take my chances with that rather than exist under a "Nanny State" that promises total safety. I am responsible for my own welfare and I resent those that say they know better what's good for me.

Mr.Loughner is one of those fringe, unstable people that make-up a small percentage of any population. He would have tried to kill Gabriel Giffords anyway with a hammer, baseball bat or an IED bomb if he could not have obtained a gun, such was the intensity of whatever demons he had. There are bad apples everywhere. Don't judge American society (and the vast majority of gun owners) on the actions of a lone lunatic.

My deepest sympathies to those innocents killed and injured in this horrible tragedy and I hope justice is swift and sure for the perpetrator(s).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My 2011 New Year Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is the time which many take stock of their lives and endeavor to make a fresh start to improve themselves or their lifestyle. Most of these self-promises involve getting rid of bad habits such as smoking, drinking, overeating and replacing them with healthy diets, exercise and other good practices. While this is a noble cause, I wonder how many people stick to their resolutions. Studies show that it takes at least six weeks for a new behavior to replace the old one. That’s a long time to be inconvenienced!

As for my own New Year plans, I pledge to:

--Eat and drink what I want, when I want. Food and drink are here for our pleasure. My consumption indirectly provides valuable jobs to farmers, ranchers, brewers and restaurant workers and who am I to deny them or myself. Win-win, don’t worry, be happy!

Scene from Monte Python's The Meaning of Life

--Lead a sedentary, lazy life. I believe one is born with only so many heartbeats left in their future. Why accelerate my demise by exercising and using my allocated heartbeats faster? Pain, sweat, odor and bad joints are also unpleasant byproducts of vigorous activity. I plan to keep my pulse slow by spending long, uninterrupted hours watching TV and taking frequent naps.

Keeping the Pulse Rate Low

--Quit worrying about money. If I want that cool new mobile phone or other gadget that will make my life easier, I will buy it no matter how little cash I have in the bank. Isn’t that what credit cards are for? Money is nothing than dirty paper strips without merit until I convert it into a shiny new trinket I can brag to my friends about.

Buying Stuff is Fun!!!!

--Stop stressing about all the clothes on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink. The clothes are easier to find that way and I might hurt my back by picking them up all the time. Washing dishes causes unsightly wrinkles on my hands. Why bother? I plan to switch to all styrofoam/plastic tableware and toss them out in the trash when soiled. My dishes and cups will be filling that landfill south of town instead of my kitchen sink. Problem solved!

No more going through cramped drawers or closets...its all right here!!!

Goodbye dirty dishes,,,I am going disposable!!

--Drive as if I am the only one on the road. I am only cheating myself by being safe and courteous, no more letting that guy merge in front of me. As for using my turn indicators, forget it, that only makes the light bulbs burn out sooner. Speed limits are not for me anymore, I am going to drive like my hair is on fire as my reason is  more important than my fellow motorists’ reasons for being on the road! Double park, you betcha! Screw 'em!

Heena Khan/Gulf News Photo

I believe that these resolutions will be real easy to keep. I like to win and hate to lose so I think I have made a solid plan for 2011 that will have a very high likelihood for success! Feel free to adopt my plan and modify the resolutions to fit your own lifestyle. You will be glad you did! I will let you know how it is going in six weeks.