Saturday, July 30, 2011

Leisure Reading

I started to read a book today and I did not like it.  My response to this was to read on a couple more pages and then set it aside.  I’m not going to waste my time reading a book (for fun) that I don’t like.  There were many things that I did not like about the book - I didn’t like the setting, the characters or the way that the characters spoke.  That was enough for me. 

I know that a lot of people would persevere and finish the book, but I have never seen the point of spending your leisure reading time in that way.   It is not like physical exercise, which is supposed to be a challenge and may cause aches and pains, it is leisure reading – it should be pleasant.  The same goes for songs, television, movies and radio programmes – if I don’t like it I’m not going to waste time on it.

I do not see choosing to “quit” on an entertainment activity that is not fun as a character flaw.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Baby Update

A couple of days ago, our baby started crawling.  

Yesterday he started sitting up independently (i.e. for the first time he did not need us to place him in a sitting position).

Today he pulled himself up to a standing position by himself for the first time. 

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Farm Friends Day Camp in Fort Edmonton Park

This week my older son has attended Farm Friends Day Camp, which is a 1/2 day (morning) day camp at Fort Edmonton Park.  Fort Edmonton Park is an historical park located in the Edmonton river valley.  Each morning last week we dropped off my son at Egge's House right in the park.  I felt a little bit naughty driving our modern-day vehicle into the park each day!

The camp ran for 5 days from 9:00 am until noon.  The first time we dropped him off, my son was hesitant.  He cried for me to stay and was shy.  When I went to pick him up at the historical train station at noon that day, he bounced off of the train and told me he had fun.  He asked if he could go back.

The camp leaders did many crafts and activities with the kids, all based on a farm animal theme.  They walked around and looked at the farm animals and learned a little about each one.  They made lemonade, they made ice cream and they took a really cute class picture in old-time clothing.  The activities were at the right age level for my son and he seemed to learn a lot at the camp.  This camp was a great experience and good value.

Today was the last day of camp and there was a potluck lunch for the campers and their family.  We had fun lunching and playing in Gyro Park with the kids.  Then my son showed us the fire hall and all of the farm animals.  His doting grandparents let him ride on a pony and he surprised me my being brave and natural while riding the horse.  He got right on and sat happily while the horse wandered around the lot.

We walked through the Fort and then took the steam train back to the entrance of the park.  We adults had as much fun as the kids!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jurassic Forest

Today we visited Jurassic forest.  Jurassic Forest is a dinosaur-themed attraction in Alberta, located a quick 1-hour drive from Edmonton (we left from Millwoods), just past Gibbons.  The road to Jurassic Forest is paved until the last kilometer – it is gravel at that point.  Our party consisted of 4 women and 4 children.  We had one stroller along.  The admission fee was $14 per adult and $8 per child, which was expensive in my opinion.  The park had some visitors but was not crowded.  There was at least one school group touring the facility. 

The Jurassic Forest attraction celebrates it’s 1-year anniversary of being open to the public tomorrow.  Its website describes it as a “prehistoric preserve,” and this seems like a reasonable description.  The park consists of: an administration building with exhibits and a gift shop; a playground; picnic areas; boardwalks; an inside bug room and a concession.  Most of the park is outdoors and it seems to be very wheelchair and stroller-friendly.  Today was a nice day to be outside – we really lucked out, given the weather in Edmonton lately.

When you walk into the park entry, the gates look like the gates of Jurassic Park in the movie of the same name.  They are smaller, and you are walking instead of riding in a jeep, but the tone is set by the grand gates.  After paying the admission fee and organizing the kids we spent a few minutes looking at the indoor exhibits.  These consisted of statues of dinosaurs and animatronic dinosaurs along with educational plaques.  These were impressive displays.

Next we went outdoors.  We headed over to the North trail and walked through another impressive gate.  Before I talk about what we saw on the trail, I have to comment on the trail itself.  The trail is a slightly raised wooden boardwalk that runs through a prairie-bush forest.  The boardwalk is incredible – it is straight and flat and in perfect repair.  We had no problem pushing a buggy or pulling a wagon over the walkway.  On the trail, the first thing that we saw through the bush was a huge dinosaur.  There are sensors by all of the dinosaurs and when you walk past them the dinosaurs start to move. 

The dinosaurs are set out in vignettes of single or multiple dinosaurs along the trail.  Each vignette tells a story – some show a scene of dinosaurs fighting or eating, one shows a dinosaur laying eggs, another shows an ambush-style attack.  The dinosaurs are a good distance away from the trail - I would estimate a minimum of 20 feet  - and there are fences preventing visitors from walking too close to the dinosaurs.  Each vignette has signs with information about the various dinosaurs in the scene.  There are also signs with information about other flora and fauna along the way, including mosquitos!

The dinosaurs are full scale and seem very life-like.  Their animatronic mechanisms allow them to move in a very natural way.  Their movements are smooth and organic, not jerky and mechanical.  The dinosaurs have natural looking skin and haunting reptilian eyes.  From the distance of the trail they seem realistic, although somehow not real.  I’m sorry to say that I did not experience a suspension of reality in this park…I felt like I was looking at really nice animated dinosaur models.  The dinosaurs growl and make other scary sounds, but they do not ever go in for a cheap fright – nothing pops out or jumps at you to make you scream.

We took about ½ hour to walk around the first trail and then the kids went to play in the playground for a while.  Part of the playground is a palaeontology section where the kids can dig for dinosaur bones.  This area was a big hit with my son.

After our play break one of the mums in our group rented a wagon for the kids to ride in.  The wagon was very cute- it was shaped like a hatching dinosaur.  Unfortunately the wagon only seats 1 child comfortably and is difficult to pull around corners.  Our party then ventured on to the second trail.  The second trail contained some dinosaurs that looked just like ones from the first trail and some unique dinosaurs.  We completed the second trail much more quickly than the first trail.  The highlight of the trail was a really fuzzy caterpillar that the kids found on the trail.

After the second trail it was snack time – we munched on healthy snacks (and some not-so-healthy snacks) from home.  Then the kids went inside to a room that had an exhibit that consisted of projections on the wall and the floor.  When you “disturbed” part of the projection, the projection reacted in a logical way.  It was really neat.  Here is an example:  on the floor there was a forest floor scene projected from the ceiling.  If you stepped on an ant that was projected walking on the forest floor the other ants would change their path of travel and walk around your foot.  Here is another example:  on the wall there was a forest projected.  If you used your hands to sweep back the leaves in the projection you would reveal a dinosaur.  The kids played in this exhibit for a while before heading out to the playground.

We left in the early evening and had an uneventful drive home.  Overall it was a fun outing, but I found the park to be somewhat strange.  It is a new, well-maintained, clean facility that looks like it was expensive to build.  If today is indicative of an average day, it is my opinion that there are not enough visitors to pay for the building and maintenance of the attraction.  In my opinion, the facility as a whole feels very small.  The trails are short and there could be more dinosaurs along each trail.   I think that the park needs more attractions.  Also a couple of the dinosaurs didn’t work today (i.e. they could not perform their animatronic routine) and one of the dinosaurs that we really wanted to see was missing.

I also want to include a kid update in this post.  Yesterday (July 27) our baby started crawling in earnest.  (Those of you who are parents know how a baby can start crawling in one day; those of you who are not parents probably don’t care about a kid update and have stopped reading by now).  Now that he can crawl, he is trying to pull himself up onto the furniture and anything else that he can pull himself up onto.  We will have our hands full with this active kid!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Lovely Day in Edmonton

When I was a kid, I remember summer days in Edmonton that had near-perfect weather all day followed by a thunderstorm (or worse) in the late afternoon or early evening.  Today we had the near-perfect weather, but without a storm. 

It was hot out but not stifling like the heat of the middle east.  It was hot enough to discourage some of the mosquitoes.  there was a slight breeze and the sky was mostly clear.

Edmonton's extensive parks and natural greenery paired with today's weather made it an idyllic day to be in Edmonton.  It really is a beautiful city, and I appreciate that so much more now, having lived in Vancouver, Calgary and Dubai.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jackie Parker Park

We went to Jackie Parker Park with the kids.  It is a park in Edmonton near the Whitemud Freeway and the Millwoods Golf Course (right off of 50th street if you are trying to find it - better yet - just use mapquest).

Jackie Parker Park is an unbelievable facility that is free of charge (yes, I love free!).  It has: a splash park (or "spray deck") that is credited to the Lions Club;  different playground areas with various activities, such as a climbing wall area, a swinging area, a fort area, and others; a pond with ducks; a picnic facility with indoor washrooms and reservable sites; an off leash area; and pathways to connect all of these activities.  You can park right on site near the play parks or splash area and the walk to the facilities is negligible.

The splash park is huge with a number of large scale items that multiple kids can play on which are interspersed with more individual activities.  The theme of the splash park is animals, and there is a large giraffe that sprays waters, a lion and other animal-themed activities, including animal sounds.  Kids can control water-gun sprayers and run through fountains.  There is a randomly-spraying archway and many, many other activities.  The ground is made of rubberized, soft material that the kids can play on in barefeet or with water shoes.  On a hot day, this is an incredible family water park. 

The climbing wall section has different areas for different skill levels, something I appreciate with my 4-year old.  Each playground section has soft woodchips on the ground in case one of the tiny climbers falls down.  The play areas are visually appealing and they all seem popular with the kids.

When the kids get hungry and tired you can make your way over to the duck pond and use the picnic facilities for a break.  We didn't have a dog with us, so we didn't use the off-leash area, but it looked popular as well, with frisky pups jumping for balls everywhere.

I would highly recommend this park, it was great for a walk, for family fun or for doggie parents.

In case you were wondering about who Jackie Parker was (I was wondering this), here it is:  he was a football player and coach with the Edmonton Eskimos and he won many awards.  In his life post-football, he was an executive at Interprovincial Steel & Pipe Corporation, Ltd.  He passed away in 2006.  His football nickname was cute - "Ol' Spaghetti Legs."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Souvenir

When I found out we were leaving Dubai, one of the things that I wanted to do was to purchase a souvenir - something to remember my time in Dubai.  I am terrible about buying souvenirs, I generally don't like to buy or own tchotchkes and I hate to dust.  We travel a lot, so I have often tried to come up with a comprehensive souvenir "plan" but it has always failed.  For example, at one point, we decided to buy a Christmas ornament everywhere we went.  We bought exactly one.  Our fridge in Calgary does not hold magnets.  My mom always buys me a tea towel when she travels...at least I use them.

So, I really don't like buying or owning souvenirs, but I wanted one from Dubai.  I thought about it a lot, and I decided that I would like to get a picture or art for our house.  I would purchase something with the goal that it ultimately end up in our house in Calgary when we move back to Canada.  We have a lot of large, empty walls in Calgary and we need something to fill them.

With this in mind, I went to some art shops as well as artisan booths at the market.  The artisan booths were generally a bust, I didn't like what I saw and I hate to dicker on price.  In the art shops, there were modern paintings by many U.A.E. artists and also paintings of many U.A.E. locations.  I don't really like modern art, and I could not find any other paintings that I really liked.  (Although there was one artist who created an abstract print using a stamped outline of the Burj Khalifa - the painting using this print was pretty cool but I could not imagine looking at it every day).  So, I decided that I would like to buy a photograph.  I found a lot of photos of interesting and familiar places in Dubai, and many of these photos were artistic and beautifully framed.  Every time I thought about purchasing one, it did not seem quite right.  They were either too small or too dark or too stark.  I could not picture any of these photos on my walls in Calgary.  

I eventually figured out that the problem is not necessarily the photos or art on offer at the galleries.  The problem is that I don't want to look at a picture or painting of buildings.  I prefer to look at pictures of nature, scenery or plant life.  I found the cityscapes cold and not at all "homely."  There were, of course, desert pictures, but I could not find one that I liked because the colours were not usually very true.

In the end I did not buy art or a picture but a tile inlaid with stone in the style that we saw in the Grand Mosque.  The inlay is in a floral pattern which I find beautiful to look at.

OK - so I'm going to take a leap here - but I think this is a metaphor for my time in Dubai.  The buildings are beautiful to look at, but I could not see myself connected to them long term.  Just like the photos and art - some pieces are lovely, but, long term, not something I would want to be around all of the time.    There is a certain comfort level that I don't have for a "super-city" at this point.  I simply see more beauty and life in vegetation than construction and I feel that something is missing when my surroundings are entirely man-made.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nanny Culture in Dubai

I didn't have a nanny in Dubai and I have never had one in Canada.  In Dubai, many families have a housemaid that also takes on the duties of a nanny, and some families also have a qualified nanny or an au pair.  A housemaid does not make very much money at all, while a nanny or an au pair is paid slightly better.  A housemaid makes about 1/10 what a nanny is paid in Canada.  Because housemaids commonly act as nannies here, this is a more relevant comparison than comparing the wages of nannies in both countries.

Anyways, in Dubai we lived in a community where lots of families have housemaid nannies (I will just refer to them as "nannies" from this point on).  In fact, when we moved to Dubai, every time I looked out at the playground, all I saw were children with their nannies.  The nannies are the dominant ladies out and about with the children.  They are a closed group and rather unfriendly to outsiders (it doesn't help that they prefer to chat with each other in their native languages, which are usually not English).  Even when one of their charges is playing with my son, they are only friendly in a distant way.

The nannies in Dubai have a unique, closed culture:
  • they hang around in sub-groups according to race and religion
  • these groups meet regularly, often daily at the playground
  • some nannies/groups spend hours (4-5 hours) at the playground at a time - the children get bored after a while and cling to the nannies just like they would with their mums
  • many are constantly texting or playing around with their mobile phones
  • some are constantly exchanging sim cards from their phones - I can't figure out why!
  • many feed their charges dinner at the park
  • some of their charges speak to the nannies in the nanny's native language, although it is clearly not the native language of the children
  • the nannies rarely take the children to the pool
  • some of them wear the most uncomfortable-looking uniforms, made of hot looking polyester
Lots of the mums who have nannies here do not work.  I think this would create an odd relationship in the home.  

Speaking of the mothers - many of the mothers engage in some pretty surprising behaviors in relation to their nannies.  I have seen:
  •  a mother ignore her 3 children under the age of 5 at the pool while her nanny struggled to keep up with them;
  • nannies are expected to entertain the children in the mall while the mothers try on clothes in couture shops;
  • some of the nannies have to watch as the family eats supper in a restaurant, not being offered food for themselves; and
  • I saw a mother the other day tell a nanny to "shut up" her child! 
I think there is an odd relationship between "Madam" and nanny in many households in Dubai because the nanny is not valued much as a person.  There are so many news stories about abuse of nannies in this part of the world, and I often wonder what these women are told by their prospective employers before they leave their home country.




Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wall Sockets and Plugs


Wall sockets and plugs in Dubai are just silly.  The sockets generally have three really large prongs, but appliances and other items that have to be plugged in may or may not match the wall sockets.  Many appliances have two slim prongs and require an adaptor.  Some have the same three prongs and match the wall socket.  So…most people end up owning a bucket of adaptors.  Why not just pick one style of plug and wall socket and standardize it?


Luckily in Scotland the wall sockets are two slim prongs, so many of our "Dubai" appliances and lamps will work in Scotland without an adaptor.  Almost nothing from Canada works in Dubai or Scotland and vice versa.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Work on Progress



I encountered a number of strangely translated English phrases in Dubai.  Here is a list of some of them:

·      Work on progress…on a sign blocking two parking stalls that were under construction
·      An unexpected failure was happened in the system Please contact the administrator…appeared on a web page with an issue
·      Sewerage main holeon a sign by a sewer line
·      Pony raids…hopefully the children are OK!
·      Saloonthis one is particularly funny.  This is basically a “dry” nation, but there are saloons everywhere!  Almost every sign for a “salon” that I have seen is misspelled to “saloon.”
·      Dim Light Tailorshopefully that is not the recommended lighting for viewing their clothing.
·      It is finishedif something is sold out or not in stock, whether temporarily or permanently, the clerks tell you “it is finished”

Time Zone Adjustment


So, we are in Edmonton.  We are adjusting to the time change and it is pretty painful.  The first day in Toronto was easy – I think that the time difference had not yet hit us.  The next 2 days were not so great, the kids were waking at all hours and I was not getting enough sleep between the two kids keeping me awake.  I have spent a lot of energy over the last couple of days trying to keep the kids from waking each other.

Last night (the 4th night after leaving Dubai) was getting close to normal.  The kids went to be around 9:00 (I want the kids to have a 9:00 bedtime here in Edmonton so that we can enjoy the evenings and sleep in a bit) and woke at about 5:00.  This means that we are getting close to our normal nights, my older son usually sleeps for 10 hours and the baby 12 hours.

I am hopeful that after tonight we are fully adjusted to Edmonton time.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Toronto to Edmonton


We are in Edmonton now.  It was a long journey, but we made it!  Perversely the flight from Toronto to Edmonton seemed longer and more trying than the flight from Dubai to Toronto.  Not for any specific reason – I think the anticipation of being close to finished flying made the trip seem longer.  

We flew executive class from Toronto to Edmonton and the larger seats were perfect for holding the baby while I ate.  My personal TV on the plane was broken, but I had a book to read so I did not mind.  Both kids slept for most of the flight, they are both still adjusting to the time zone change.

It was a relief to get to Edmonton and see the grandparents.

While we were in Toronto, we stayed at the Sutton Place Hotel on Bay Street for 2 nights.  It was perfect for our visit.  It is very clean, and the rooms are huge.  We easily opened all of our suitcases on the floor and the kids still had lots of room to move around.  The staff was courteous and helpful and there was a 24-hour Tim Horton’s right across the street, where we ate breakfast.  I’m very happy with our decision to stay there.  It was a good “home base” for while we visited relatives.

A word on the heat – it was hot in Toronto when we were there – around +33 degrees Celsius with lots of humidity.  I didn’t feel hot at all!  Everyone was complaining, but I think I was acclimatized to the weather in Dubai.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dubai to Toronto

Yesterday I flew from Dubai to Toronto with my two sons (4 years old and 7 months old) and without my husband.  My husband will follow in a few days.  I was really confident when I booked the flight that it would be no problem to fly 13 hours alone with the children, but I’m not sure I would do it again. 
The children were really well behaved on the flight.  The baby stayed close to his normal sleep patterns, and was generally quite pleasant.  He did not eat any proper food for the whole day, he just breastfed, but otherwise his day was fairly routine.  My older son had a pleasant flight.  He watched movies nearly the whole time (we don’t have a TV at home, so he was getting 6 months’ worth of TV viewing in one day).  He watched, in this order:  Cars; The Princess and the Frog; Toy Story; Toy Story 2; Cars (yes, again); Dumbo; and some more of Cars.  He did not whine, cry, complain, run around, pester those around us or bug me.  He also didn’t play with any of the toys or activities that I had brought for him – the lure of the TV was too sweet.  He also ate the food that he was served and he had a nap when I asked him to.

Some of the other parents were not quite so lucky on the flight – their little tyrants had tantrums, fought with siblings, ran around the plane and were generally unpleasant.

Unfortunately, the airline, Emirates, seemed to be having a bad flight.  Normally I am a very enthusiastic Emirates customer, and I have raved about their service in the past.  But, on this very long flight, it all went out the window.

It started as soon as we boarded the plane.  We had booked our seats in the bulkhead row so that I could make use of a bassinette for the baby.  When we boarded, we were in an interior row with no bulkhead.  I started to panic and complained to the stewardess immediately.  All she said to me was “It’s not my fault.”  That might be true, but I was trying to get the problem fixed, not assign blame.

As more people boarded the plane, more people were complaining about their seats.  Other parents also wanted bassinettes.  Some window and aisle seat requests didn’t come out right.  It was a mess.  I asked again about the bassinette and the stewardess once again told me that it was not her fault.  I got frustrated and said “It isn’t mine either – I booked the right seats.”  After I said this, a couple of people agreed loudly with me, so I piped down.  Making her mad would not get me what I wanted. 

After everyone had found their seats, I whined some more – I was starting to panic about the flight with the kids alone and no-where to put the baby.   Eventually they found a way to move me to a bulkhead.  Strangely, the bassinette row had 4 unrelated people, and two businessmen agreed to move for me.  I was very grateful to them!

Once I had moved, our carry-on luggage became a problem.  Because all of the passengers were loaded, there was no space in the overhead bins for our things.  So, it got stowed all over the plane – I had terrible access to diapers.  But the bassinette was worth it.

The plane took off and I got the baby to sleep in the bassinet, and then the steward came around with the distraction swag for the kids.  We were given a backpack.  We have been given the same backpack on a couple of other flights and usually it is filled with games, toys and distractions.  This time, it had only 2 small things inside, compared with the usual six or seven.  I wondered why, and I soon had the answer….they had run out and they had clearly split the gear into smaller portions.  The two children sitting near us got some games but no backpacks.  For some reason, one of these kids started to cry bitterly for a pack.  When her father asked for one, the stewardess wandered off and returned with a small toy, which made the child even more upset.  I thought about giving her my sons pack (he already has one), but he growled at me when I mentioned it, and I decided to keep my own kid happy.

Then they served the meals.  They brought all of the kids out the kid’s meal, except my son.  The woman I was sitting next to noticed this and stopped the stewardess for me to ask her for one.  She said in a snotty voice “you have to order one when you book the flight.”  I was ready for this.  I said “I did, here is my flight paper.  I requested a kid’s meal and booked a bassinette seat.  Neither has worked out properly.”  Then she said they were out, but she would check.  She came back a few minutes later with a kids meal and snack pack.  Normally the snack pack is full of snacks.  This time, there were only three tiny, undesirable snacks.  When the adult’s meals came, I was offered scrambled eggs or omelette.  I didn’t really care, but I picked the eggs.  Of course, I got the omelette.

The hours on the flight passed by sloooowwwwllllyyy.  There was a little count-down clock telling us exactly how much time was left, and it was visible all of the time.  I decided to make a game of it – try not to look at the clock more than once an hour.  The first time, there was 11 hours remaining, and then the second time I checked there was 9.5 hours remaining.  This was pretty good.  Then I waited for what I thought was an hour and checked again – only 10 minutes had gone by!  I was pleased to note that we were over half way at one point, until I figured out that there were six hours left!

During the flight I had the distraction of caring for the baby and the periodic meals.  I tried to walk around once an hour, and on my walking route I found people to chat with.  For a while, when I could tear him away from the TV, my older son played stickers with another little boy.

They served us meals periodically.  One of the meals had 3 choices – mustard chicken, veg curry or mutton curry.  I hate mustard and curry!  That was a disappointing meal.  There was a yummy pizza meal, where, of course, they forgot to serve my son pizza.  I had to ask and make a bit of a fuss.

The service was patchy throughout the flight.  They would forget to serve an entire row drinks, or leave someone’s trash when they picked up the rest of the trash.  At one point, an overhead bin was stuck wide open and packed with luggage while the fasten seatbelt sign was on and we went through turbulence for 45 minutes.  This was unnerving because my kids and I were right in the trajectory of the luggage.

At the end of the flight, we disembarked last because our hand baggage was all over the plane.  That got me antsy – not a good thing when you are heading to border control. 

The next flight we have to take is only 4 hours – it should be a cake walk!

In the airport, we were directed to wait for one of the transport vehicles.  When I got there, the waiting area was packed with people (most of who seemed entirely able bodied, but who am I to judge…) so I took the kids and we walked a long way to customs.  When we got to customs, there was a massive room packed with people.  A lady in a uniform at the door was shouting “connection go here” and “no connection go here” problem was, she was doing exactly the same hand movement after both of these phrases.  When I got near to her, I asked and she just kept doing the same thing.  I decided to join the line and I lined up behind a lady with a red suitcase. 

A bunch of other passengers proceeded to try to shove in front of me and a lot of them were successful.  I decided that the best way to deal with this was to stand behind the queue jumpers and make sarcastic and passive aggressive comments about people not waiting their turn.  This, as you can imagine, was incredibly useful as a tactic in recovering our rightful spot in line – not!

The line was grim.  I could not see the whole room, but I counted 9 switchbacks each with about 100 people in it.  Everyone was fresh off of their flights and incredibly grouchy – me included.  I waited through the first row and a man came up to me.  He was in a blue uniform and he asked if I was a Canadian citizen.  I said I was and he then led me and the kids into a “secret row” right to the front of the line.  I felt so popular as all of the other passengers glared at me as we walked by – but I didn’t care.  My 4 year old son picked this moment to lose all ability to wheel his carryon and started to tear up in that over-tired way kids do.  I told him that he could wheel his bag, and I’d seen him do it.  Just straighten it up and get going.  Another mother (in the part of the line that we had just skipped) said loudly to her friend “I prefer positive parenting to criticising” and then she turned to her little darling and praised her  immensely for getting her Smarties out of a container.  Her child started crying, which, at the time and in the context I thought was funny.

Our customs interview was longer than usual, given our unique circumstances, but we made it through.  Then we went on to get our luggage.  Our flight had been completely unloaded before we had arrived in the luggage area, and the staff had quite helpfully strewn our luggage all over the luggage retrieval area.  I did a quick wander and immediately found 1 bag.  I found a second after a while as well.  But, the third was not there.  I wandered the area 4 times and I could not find it.  Finally, just when I was about to start the missing luggage paperwork, another passenger returned it.  Whew!

Next we took a taxi to the hotel and tried to stay awake until a reasonable bed time.  I gave my son an incredibly nutritious dinner of chips and apple juice.

The kids actually slept through the night!  They were both up for one hour in the middle of the night, but other than that slept well.  In the morning, we took the streetcar to visit some relatives and we had a pretty good day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cookies!

I have fallen in love with Fox’s Chunkie Extremely Chocolatey Cookies (sic.).  I imagine if I keep eating them I will fall into the category of “Chunkie,” just like the cookies, but they are luxuriously delicious and good for an occasional treat.  They are made up of a chocolate chunk cookie that is half dipped in milk chocolate.  This chocolate dip forms a melting-sweet coating.  Scrumptious!  Oddly enough, chocolate is not my usual favorite, I prefer sweet and tart deserts, like vanilla and lemon.  But these cookies are incredible.

I have not seen these cookies in Canada – probably a good thing – and I noticed that they are made in the UK.   I’m sure I will find them in Scotland, and I will have to purchase them sparingly, for special treats only.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It is finished





I spent a lot of time thinking about what to write on my last day here in Dubai.  I have enjoyed living here, and I am also glad to leave.  I feel that my experience was influenced heavily by the thought that we were staying for two years.  I think if I knew we would be here for only six months, I would not have bothered getting as comfortable with my surroundings, and that would have been a shame.

I have decided to make a couple of lists - things that I will and won't miss about Dubai.   Of course, the list of things that I won't miss is longer that the list of things that I will miss.  I say "of course" because this is my blog.  I am approaching this from my perspective, which generally tends to be hyper-critical, negative and pessimistic.  Here goes:

Things that I will miss:

               My friends.
               The feeling of community in our apartment complex.
               The beach.
               The pool.
               My truck.
               The weather - in the winter.  It has been great being able to live outdoors...that is until summer hit.
               No taxes.
               The ability to purchase almost any consumer good (except baking soda) at any time.
               The amazing selection of restaurants.
               The Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque.
               The Old Library.
               Driving down Jumeirah Beach Road.
               Jumeirah Baccalaureate School - where we had registered our son.
               The cheap groceries (for the most part).
               The fresh-squeezed juice.
               Seeing ultra expensive cars.  I saw a Tesla Roadster the other day.  In our parkade, on our short walk to the door are a Masarati and a Lamborghini.  Porsches and Corvettes are commonplace and in the parkade near our coffee shop there is a Bentley and Rolls Royce.
               The newness of everything - there is so much hope and potential here.  Even if it is false hope and unrealized potential.
               Private health care - no waiting for appointments or procedures.
               No booze - I can't drink anyways.
               Cheap beauty services.
               The names of the districts in Dubai.  I find them funny.  For example:  DuBiotech; Dubai Internet City; Dubai Media City; Silicon Oasis; Dubai Healthcare City; Knowledge City; Business Bay; Culture Village; and DubaiLand.
               Valet parking at the doctor.


Things that I will not miss:

               The Arabic-style Internet, with commands in Arabic and all of the margins (including the ones in this blog) automatically justified to the right.
               The arbitrary meaning of the word "yes."  When a service person says "yes" to you in Dubai, there are four possible meanings that I have come across.  I'm sure there are more, but here are my four:  (1)  I can't understand you, so I'm saying "yes";  (2)  in the best case scenario I could possibly deliver what you are asking for, so I will say "yes" to keep you as a customer; (3)  there is really no chance, but you are western, and I have a perception that you have more socio-economic power than me, so I will say "yes"; (4) yes.
               The sideways yes/no head nod that is inconclusive and can lead you down the garden path.
               The phrase "it is finished" - this phrase means "we don't have any in right now and we may get some later."  So, for instance if you are in a shop and can't find mushrooms and ask the clerk where the mushrooms are, she will say "it is finished," meaning that she has no mushrooms (I guess the mushroom distribution is finished for now).  Sometimes this means that the store will never again get mushrooms and sometimes this means that the particular shipment of mushrooms has all been sold and more will come in later.  The fun part is that you get to guess!
               Being called "Madam" (pronounced meh-dum).
               The weather - in the summer.
               The ability to purchase almost any consumer good at any time.
               Sand in my house.
               People driving like they are suicidal or insane.
               The line cutting.
               The property management company at our building, who have been difficult to deal with.
               Our landlord, who has been difficult to deal with.
               Being a slave to air con.
               Spice smells.  I have tried to like exotic flavors, but I am really a plain-food lover.  I stick with my four spices - bay leaves, rosemary, basil and cinnamon, and I really hate the ultra-pungent spice smells in our apartment hallways.
               Arabic perfumes.  These are "spicier" perfumes (less floral, more like food smells) and lots of people wear way too much of these perfumes.  There are also a myriad of malodored room sprays that I have run into here.
               Not having a street address.  There is no home delivery for mail here.  You can rent a post box if you want, but otherwise, there really is no mail.  There are no addresses for anything either.  When you are going somewhere new, you get instructions like this:  "after the third interchange on SZ Road in the direction of Dubai,"  or "just off Jumeira Beach Road after the Burger King."  With a system like this, you'd better know exactly what you are looking for and you'd better be a brave driver.
               The overt class system - I do not believe that I am better as a human being than the man cutting our hedges, the man cleaning our parkade or the lady working in the nail salon.  Problem is, they are seen as "lesser humans" here - their lifestyle is incredibly hard, and they are paid poorly for working long hours at backbreaking tasks.  I always get the feeling that I am incredibly naive about the reality in some other countries.
               Private health care - you have to pay when you go to the doctor!
               The human carpets at the beach and the pool. 
             Dates - I hate them and they are hiding in a lot of deserts here.
               No booze.