This week started with a trip to Amsterdam for a work conference. As always with this type of thing there wasn’t too much time for sightseeing, although I did manage to spend an hour or so wandering around the Christmas markets on Sunday when I arrived. And on the Monday evening we were treated to a boat trip by our Dutch hosts, which took in a number of the impressive displays forming part of the Amsterdam light festival. There was a bit of a panic on the boat when the beer pump was found to be not working, but after some frantic tinkering by the crew there was a huge sign of relief as the drink began to flow.
Another week ends and it has been a reasonably quiet one as life gets back to normal in the sandpit. It’s certainly been quieter than the same week last year, I was reminded yesterday by my “timehop” app (great app for you social media users) that yesterday was the anniversary of my “accident” in the compound swimming pool, which resulted in being rushed to hospital (when I say “rushed” I may be exaggerating, Jo recalls it as more of a leisurely drive) and receiving a number of stitches. You can read about the incident on my previous blog here should you be so inclined.
We spent a couple of interesting hours at ADIHEX today. ADIHEX is the Abu Dhabi International Hunting & Equestrian Exhibition, one of the four biggest hunting shows in the world, which has been running for the last few days at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
It's been a busy couple of weeks with everyone arriving home; first Jo, Archie and Flossie; and a few days ago, Henry; but we're all back now and ready for year two in Abu Dhabi to start in earnest tomorrow.
It's ten days since I waved Jo and the kids off at the airport, and 17 days (not that I'm counting) until I see them again. I am missing them like crazy, even the bickering and crying (and that's just Jo I'm talking about ;@)), so the time is passing very slowly.
They have definitely done the right thing escaping from Abu Dhabi. Whilst the temperature hasn't really increased since they left (still early 40s most afternoons), the humidity certainly has. It was over 50% today which meant that the heat index (what the heat feels like to the human body when the temperature and humidity are combined) went above 51 degrees centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) this afternoon. I'm now at the stage where my glasses steam over every time I set foot outside, which is a little annoying.
Two days from now I will be saying “ma'a as-salaama” or “goodbye” to Jo and the kids as they head back to the UK for the summer. As I've said previously many expat wives and children do this as soon as school finishes because the summer heat is far too punishing to spend any amount of time outside, and there are only so many times you can go bowling or to the cinema.
I'll see them again in four weeks time when I fly into the UK for a few days before we head off for our summer holiday in Spain, and then I'll return to the UAE about ten days ahead of them. Before you ask, I know it is a little strange to holiday in Spain when we have a whole new part of the world to explore on our doorstep, but the holiday was booked before we even knew we were moving to the UAE (so much for long term planning!). Next year we hope to be holidaying in this part of the world.
Back to the matter in hand, I know four weeks apart isn't long at all compared to many people's circumstances, but it's the longest we will have been apart as a family, so it is going to very strange not seeing each other for so long. It will be even tougher because as a family we have done so much together over the last year. Of course there is always Skype, a godsend for many expats, although the children haven't yet got past the stage of clamming up or acting silly when given the opportunity to speak to grandparents so I'm not sure how much interaction I'll get from them!
Anyway, enough of the self pity. The summer here is a time for lots of goodbyes, not just families disappearing for the summer, but also people moving on permanently. Contracts may have come to an end, employers may be sending staff to a new country, or people may have decided to head back to their home country. Whatever the reason, one of the things you have to get used to as an expat is the transient nature of this part of the lifestyle.
It affects all of us. Two of the best friends Henry has made have already moved on with their families, and a couple of Flossie's classmates won't be returning in September. One of the first families we made friends with, and very much enjoyed spending time with, headed back to the UK a few months ago (or the wife and children did, the husband will follow them in a couple of months), and a number of Jo's friends are heading off on new adventures.
Jo recognized very early that it is important to develop and nurture a wide circle of friends, so that things don't have to start from scratch if a friend disappears. She has been unsurprisingly good at this, helped I think by the fact that many of the wives have the same attitude, so friendships tend to develop very quickly because everyone is in the same boat. The husbands of course, are hopeless, and find it easier to allow our social lives to be organized for us. Still, it all seems to work pretty well.
Archie has a very healthy attitude to the whole thing. When we were chatting about it over dinner a few days ago he was reflecting on the different countries his friends come from, and how the expat life means that he is “going to have friends all over the world”. It was great to hear him say that, especially as he was the one that we thought may struggle with the move.
I'm starting to plan how I will spend my time whilst I am on my own, especially as during Ramadan I will have a couple of extra hours to play with most days. Obviously (honest) I'll be in the gym opposite the house every day, and will be developing my domestic skills (mind you, there is a long list of restaurants that do deliveries here that I need to work through), but I've also started a list of places to go and things to see (actually if I'm honest there's only one thing on it at the moment, but I'm thinking hard).
And of course, you'll all be delighted to hear that I'll have more time to blog. You have been warned!
As always, thanks for reading.
PS: I said I'd report back on how I am finding Ramadan. Three days in the main things I've noticed are that the roads have been quieter on the drive into work in the morning, and a little busier on the drive home. It's been easy enough to find somewhere private to have a bite of lunch or a drink. There have just been a couple of instances where I have been desperate for a drink but unable to have one as I was in public, but that's not much of a hardship really.
So the plan was we would go today, getting there for opening time so it would be quiet (with it being Friday prayers). This was all conditional on Jo being fit to go as she was going out with the ladies from the compound last night. It was looking increasingly unlikely it was going to happen, then at 9:15am she opened one eye and announced that we had better get ready as we needed to leave in 20 minutes.
Earlier in the week we’d ascertained that Henry wouldn’t be joining us (“I don’t like swimming, I’ve never liked swimming, why would you think I would want to come with you”, etc, etc), so the rest of us grabbed a quick breakfast, jumped in the car and headed off. We arrived just after opening and other than embarrassing ourselves arguing with the lady in the ticket booth about a voucher we had, when actually WE (that’s the “royal we”) hadn’t read the small print correctly, getting into the park was pretty smooth.
As we had hoped it was quiet at that time of the morning, so we slapped some sun cream on, put our stuff in a locker (cue second embarrassing episode in ten minutes, when I complained that the wrist band they had given me wouldn’t lock the locker like it was supposed to, only to be told politely that the reason for this was that I was trying to use a big locker but sir had only paid for a small locker), and headed to the rides.
I won’t bore you with each of the rides we went on, other than to note that they were all great fun. We did the roller coaster, a number of slides of one shape or another, and two lazy rivers (actually one of them was really a very energetic river as a huge wave came rolling along behind us every 30 seconds or so). Archie and Flossie loved it, other than Flossie declining to go on one or two slides, and Archie having a brief “will I or won’t I” moment at the top of a steep, dark ride – he did, he loved it, and we went on twice more. We also splashed about in the main pool area for a while, having great fun when the wave machine was switched on at regular intervals.
As the morning progressed the park got busier, the sun got hotter, the party girl started showing signs of relapsing, and we all got hungry and thirsty. We decided to have lunch but before that we stopped to watch the lunchtime show at the small amphitheater in the park. The seats look onto a water tank in which two ladies put on a short underwater acrobatic show, which was pretty impressive. I think I read somewhere a few months ago that at least one of them was in Aquabatique, who were on Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago.
Next stop was one of the food outlets for a spot of lunch. It was the normal theme park choices (burgers, chicken nuggets, etc) but the food was of a good standard, and the service was very good (friendly and helpful, and more than happy to give us extra empty cups so we could split drinks and so on, something that wouldn’t have been allowed by the “jobsworths” in other parks we have been to).
After lunch the kids spent a happy 30 minutes splashing about in the kid’s play area, whilst Jo and I relaxed and watched them, and then we headed home having had a very enjoyable day.
As the day turns to evening we are enjoying a drink on the roof terrace, catching the last of the sun. If we remember we’ll be back out here later to see if we can hear the Justin Timberlake concert from here (he’s playing at Yas Arena tonight), and to see if we can spot any of the Camelopardalis meteor shower (which I am sure I read somewhere earlier in the week is named after ……. a giraffe, explain that one to me) that is due this evening, although I suspect there may be too much light pollution, perhaps we should have planned a trip into the desert.
You can find more information about Yas Waterworld here.
Thanks for reading as always.
Another week is nearly over and still I haven't got over my case of “blogger's block”. However as Jo is currently with Archie at the hospital (nothing to worry about, he hurt his foot getting off the climbing frame at school today, it's been x-rayed and there is no break) I thought I should take the opportunity to write a few words.
This is my first post on my “new” blog as well. I decided to “rebrand”, not really sure why, but welcome to “The Quantified Expat”, where I shall continue to entertain / bore (delete as appropriate) you with tales of our life in Abu Dhabi, but will also share posts on the theme of the “quantified self”, something that I am becoming more and more interested in.
On to business. Life here continues to go well. Work gets busier and busier, but I'm still enjoying it so that's fine. As the heat (appropriate description) map below of places I have been to this year shows, I am spending a lot of time in Dubai, probably two or three days a week. The reason for this is that so many of the opportunities I am chasing are up there, as are a number of my team. It's a longish drive, about 80 mins door to door, but it's infinitely better than spending time on the motorway network of NW England in the rain, so it really doesn't bother me.
As if I'm not busy enough, this week I have started volunteering for INJAZ, the UAE version of Young Enterprise in the UK. Over the next couple of weeks I am spending four sessions with a class of 25 female Emirati university students, helping them think through how they want to take their careers forward. I did the first session yesterday and it seemed to go ok (I didn't get thrown out anyway), so I'm looking forward to going back tomorrow, when the topics for discussion will be oral and written communication.
Jo has found herself a job in the last few weeks, as a sales agent for a detox programme. She gets commission on each pack she sells, and the more she sells the cheaper she can buy the packs herself. Unsurprisingly she has been doing very well, so there are now expat women (and one unfortunate man) dotted around Abu Dhabi drinking what looks (and tastes) like pond water at regular intervals. She got her first commission payment today and headed straight to the alcohol shop to spend it. Something doesn't seem quite right there.
Henry is still here I think. At least I can hear banging and crashing from the top floor, so it's either him or a very large cockroach scuttling about. He's a teenager so we don't see much of him except for the occasional mealtime. He's got end of year exams at the moment so (hopefully) when he is locked away in his room he is studying hard. After half term (which is next week) he is doing a week's work experience. He has managed to secure himself a placement at CNN, which is a great achievement, and should give him a good insight into the world of TV, which is an area that really interests him.
Archie and Flossie are still getting stuck into their new lives, enjoying school and making lots of new friends. They are both having piano lessons now, and Flossie has recently started singing lessons (which are her reward for doing her piano practice which she hates doing). She is enjoying the singing very much, although she refuses to sing anything other than One Direction songs! She was very pleased to hear that 1D (I think that is how I am meant to refer to them) are coming to Dubai to do a concert in April 2015, and Mummy and Daddy are under strict instructions to do whatever it takes to get tickets (it looks as though I will be queuing up in Abu Dhabi Mall from a very early hour on Thursday). Mind you she said if we can't get tickets, “we can just arrange to meet up with them whilst they are here anyway”. Bless.
As for the weather, it's getting hotter and hotter. More often than not it's already above 30 degrees when I leave for work shortly before 7am, and is getting close to 40 degrees most afternoons. It's certainly too hot to spend prolonged periods in the direct sun, and we are close to the point where it is too hot to go for our Tuesday evening cycle round the Grand Prix circuit. Nevertheless we are still keeping ourselves occupied with indoor activities, or playing in the pool.
Well, the injured soldier will be back soon. Hopefully he'll be able to stagger to school tomorrow, although as it is the last couple of days before half term I suspect they won't be doing much anyway.
Thanks for reading, and it's good to be back.