Archive for December, 2009

A short update

Posted in abu dhabi, Christmas, Thailand, Vacation, Weather, Work with tags , , , , , on December 23, 2009 by Amanda

Not much has been happening which is nice after so much happening since I’ve been here. The only thing of any significance that has happened in the last week is that I have planned a trip to Thailand for January. I only found out last week that I would have this time off. I had thought of going to some other places (eg. Jordan or Turkey) but ultimately decided that I would rather go somewhere warm. Though I had originally thought I wouldn’t be taking a vacation before March, I am now really looking forward to my vacation. I am particularly excited about the Hill Tribe Trek! I’ll be doing a tour called Tribal Thailand with Gap Adventures.

I know Christmas is in a couple days but it doesn’t really feel like it at all. Sure, the malls are decorated and there are some Christmas decorations for sale some places but that is about it. I certainly don’t expect it to feel like Christmas in a Muslim country but it still feels weird. I think the weather is what really makes it not seem like Christmas (not that I don’t prefer the weather here!). Also, it is isn’t dark when I leave work at 5pm! We are having a Secret Santa thing at work tomorrow afternoon, so that may make it feel somewhat more like Christmas. Anyway, I think this will just be a normal weekend for me.

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Credit card(s)

Posted in abu dhabi, Banks, Credit cards with tags , , on December 15, 2009 by Amanda

I’m writing for the third day in a row but don’t expect this trend to continue!

Today my credit card package arrived. It actually came the day I was told it would! Anyway, I opened up the package and saw a credit card and figured that was it. But I found another and then another. So, I was sent three credit cards. I had previously been sent a text message telling me my credit limit which was higher than I had expected (three months salary) and each of these credit cards said it had a credit limit of that amount. Naturally, this was a lot more of a credit limit than I’d ever, ever want! Upon signing up for online access, I found that the credit limit is for the three cards total.

I managed to activate the Visa card by text messaging the end of the card number. By the way, it is unbelievable how many things are done text messaging here! However, one of the Mastercard’s activations didn’t seem to work as I didn’t get a text message confirmation back and other one needed to be activated by actually calling. So I called and talked to some idiot (surprise, surprise!) who asked a identity confirmation question that I hadn’t been asked when I applied for the card and my answer apparently didn’t match. So, I just gave up as I only wanted one credit card in the first place anyway! I may go in person to the bank sometime and discuss this with them but it isn’t currently a big priority. I may also may switch my bank account there as it will make paying the credit card easier and I am not very happy with my current bank but that’s a whole other story!

The other surprise about the card is that it is a platinum card. It has a bit of a fee on it but as getting a credit card is a bit of an ordeal (again: surprise, surprise) I think I’ll keep it for this year and look for something else within the next year. My family was, of course, really impressed when the bank called them at 4am! Anyway, I’m not that upset about the fee as I will get gift certificates of the same amount once I make my first credit card payment and the card has a bunch of other free benefits that I may make use of. I have never had a platinum card before and it did sound kind of special at first. But a quick internet search revealed that in Canada you only need an income of $35,000 to get one so I now it certainly doesn’t seem that special as you clearly don’t need much of an income to qualify for a platinum credit card.

Rain!

Posted in abu dhabi, Driving, Rain, Weather, Work with tags , , , , on December 14, 2009 by Amanda

I am shocked at just how much rain came down the last few days. It rained a bit on Friday and Saturday but it REALLY rained overnight Saturday and all day yesterday. This is apparently the most rain there has been here since 1991!

At home this would be not an insignificant amount of rain but nothing worthy of writing about. The problem here is that the roads and some buildings simply aren’t made to handle any quantity of rain whatsoever. There is nowhere for the water to drain. There are a some trucks that come and suck up the water but they can’t come close to dealing with the problem quickly. Fortunately no rain came through the windows of my apartment. The same thing cannot be said for work: we had rain coming through the ceiling and through the windows. It was like it was raining indoors too. I really need to start bringing my camera everywhere! I wish I could have taken some pictures. Some of the students were climbing out of classroom windows on the ground floor and running and dancing around in the rain. Rain is a big novelty for them.

Between my building and the one next door


The flooded park of the parking lot at home

The parking lot at work was not great but roads were really scary. I was so excited to come here as I wouldn’t have to deal with driving in snow and freezing rain but the flooded roads were just as scary! The really annoying thing is they haven’t had more than dusting of snow at home yet! The roads still have some flooding but they are improving. I wish I could yet pictures but it really wasn’t safe to take any, as my drive to and from work has only roundabouts not stoplights. So, the pictures in this news article will have to suffice: If you read the article you will noticed that Khalifa City, where I live and work, was especially hard hit. I’m lucky that I use main roads because there is no way my car could have made it down a lot of the side streets!

The parking lot at work today

Dubai Mall

Posted in Driving, Dubai, Shopping with tags , , on December 13, 2009 by Amanda

On Friday I finally visited Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world. Some stores haven’t opened yet, even though the mall have been opened for over a year.

Like all malls here, it is very nice inside.

One of the highlights was visiting Kinokuniya, a large bookstore. This is the bookstore everyone here talks about. It is definitely the biggest and the best. Most bookstores here are very small. When I first entered the store it seemed like a large North American bookstore but upon further inspection I would that it had a very good variety of books (some were of quite obscure topics) in a number of languages though English is dominant and there is a good selection of Japanese books. Few books there have more than two copies so there are a lot more titles than it seems like first. They also had some interesting, though overpriced, non-book items such as forks that you can stick in a cake with candle holders on top.

Kinokuniya

The other store I really enjoyed is called Candylicious. I was really good though! I only bought a few Jellybellys and pillow.

Candylicious

When I arrived it was pretty quiet there but by the time I left it was very busy. However, the many high-end stores do not seem popular. The normal stores seem to be doing fine. I think I saw most of the mall but I obviously didn’t have time to go into a lot of the stores because there were so, so many.

Here are a few more pictures of the mall. As usual, I have a few more on Facebook.

The Gold Souk: a mall within a mall


An interesting fountain


The Fashion Avenue area of the mall

I also went outside the mall and took a look at the Burj Dubai which is the tallest building in the world and scheduled to open next month.

The top part of the Burj Dubai

It took a while to leave the mall. This mall has 14,000 parking spots and they seemed to mostly be full when I was leaving so there were lots of people driving around underground. Once I finally left the mall itself it took a while to be able to make a u-turn to go the correct direction. After that I followed the signs to get on the highway. Luckily the signs were clearly because I had to drive in circles to get on the highway because of the construction. It was raining a bit on the drive home but nothing compared to what has happened since. I’ll write more about that next time.

Return of my car, Mamma Mia on Ice, and Sharjah

Posted in Al Ain, Chevrolet Spark, Dubai, Sharjah, Vacation, Women with tags , , , , , on December 7, 2009 by Amanda

These things all happened a few days ago but I’ve been too lazy to write about them until now.

So late Thursday afternoon I finally found out that my car was ready. I rushed to the bus station and went to board a bus but was told that I had to wait for the next bus (half an hour later). I then noticed that there were about eight available seats towards the back of the bus. In this country women are supposed to sit at the front of the bus which I am okay with. However, I am definitely not okay with being told that I can’t take a bus with empty seats because some men decided they wanted to sit in the third row when there were plenty of seats towards the back! I had previously witnessed another bus driver tell men to move to the back so that women could seat in their seats but not this bus driver! So I said that as those seats at the back were empty that I wanted to sit there and the driver didn’t argue with me. The sign at the front only said “Priority seating for ladies;” it didn’t say that women had to sit there though that is clearly the expectation. Anyway, I got to Al Ain fine and with relatively little hassle got the key to my car and took a taxi to the kind of scary industrial area where my car was. I drove back home without incident. The problem seems fixed but for a number of reasons I thinking of not keeping this car for that much longer.

Anyway, Friday I drove to Dubai to see Mamma Mia on Ice which I had previously purchased. So I was happy to have my car back! The show was good but it was at least half empty and there were some people who let their kids run around during the show. Kids running around with no parents in sight seems to be really common here at places like malls.

I then headed to Sharjah. I was definitely glad I arrived there while it was still daylight as driving there is a bit scary to say the least. I found my hotel though I had to drive around a little to be able to actually enter it. I had it valet parked as that seemed to be the only option there. The major problem is that large numbers of people walk out on the street with no warning. But I later found that there is really no provisions (like crosswalks) made for pedestrians.

I found Sharjah very interesting as the contrast between the rich and poor seems even more pronounced than it is elsewhere in this country. This city definitely is the place with the most preserved historic areas, which are full of souks and museums. Yet there seem to be few tourists. The museums are all very insistent that you sign their guestbook. I guess they need some proof that some people actually visit! There are also a bunch of very attractive mosques in Sharjah.

One of Sharjah's many beautiful mosques


Historic buildings


Souk Al-Arsa

Saturday, after leaving the hotel, I drove a bit out of the city to the University City area where are the colleges and universities are located. They are all very fancy-looking with lots of grass and flowers.

University City

I ended up on Emirates Road, one of the two highways going through Dubai. I had previously only taken the other one. This is the highway with roundabouts which is just insane (especially since there are so many turcks)! As the traffic was pretty light, I didn’t have any trouble but I really don’t like this highway and will try to avoid taking it again!