Friday, April 1, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized

I love how there is no April Fool’s here! I get so nervous about this day at home and it was completely a non-issue here! Yeah! All three of us went to Wild Wadi Waterpark today. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an actual outdoor waterpark! It was perfect temperature out today and because we got there when it opened, the lines weren’t too bad at all. It was kind of a maze inside the park, but the slides were fun. The odd thing about it was that there were no stairs! They used water to push you up the slide – in a tube before you went down! It was kind of interesting. It was cool to see what the ladies were wearing at the park. There is a burkini that covers everything including the head and there were a few females wearing that. Most seemed to be wearing leggings and a longer shirt – all out of swimsuit material. It was very interesting. Of course there were the indiscrete tourists with their bathing suits that barely covered anything. Some things are hard to enforce, I suppose. And, as Megan pointed out, for most of the Europeans, wearing their tiny bikinis is probably more than they typically wear at home…odd! Ohhh!!! And it is sooo cool because the waterpark has a night where it is ladies only! I think it is soooo neat that there are enough people that cover up here that they can support that – although I’d bet we could pull that off in Edmonton too!! We hung out at the park until about 3pm when Megan and I went for tea at the Address Hotel. It was a beautiful hotel, but not the insanely expensive tea that you hear about! It was really fun. Megan and I did some serious reminiscing from junior high and high school…all the teachers and kids that we went to school with! It was kind of fun. When we got back to the apartment we found Brandon and we all walked to the mall to get ice cream for dinner! Awesome food day, eh?! Then we watched a few episodes of Brothers and Sisters…quite a nice evening! Sad that tomorrow is my last day! It is kind of weird though because my “last day” is going to be about 50h long…uggg. Later! -AJ

Advertisements

March 31, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized
This morning I went to the tailor with the skirt that I bought in India and asked him to make a copy for me! It’ll end up being about the same price as a skirt would be at home, and definitely not as cheap as it was in India, but that’s okay. I love this skirt and the style doesn’t exist at home, so it will be worth it! And, to top it off, it is zebra print! Totally excited! I then took a cab (ugggg) down to the Jumeirah Mosque. It wasn’t nearly as spectacular as the one in Abu Dhabi, but the tour was very interesting. They make you pay Dh10 to get in, which I thought was odd considering how small it is. However, here they have a center for cultural understanding where the money goes to create awareness, so I guess it is a good thing. There were two British ladies that (I believe) have converted to Islam that ran the tour. The inside of the mosque was colorful, but small. We all sat down as they gave us a lot of information about the five pillars of Islam and answered questions. We got to see one of the ladies pray and learned information about the different styles of dress that the females can wear. It was interesting to learn that the big women’s rights issues that are seen on TV that appear to be as a result of Islam are actually the result of the country and not the religion at all. That is a huge westerner misconception! I walked along the beach for an hour or so before going to the zoo! It was only Dh2 to get in, and it was kind of a heart-breaking experience. The poor animals are in these tiny cages and are all separate. There is only 1 gorilla all alone. The bear has a concrete cell that is no bigger than my bedroom at home. I think the only animals that were happy were the birds and the turtles. They both seemed to be doing okay! For an up-and-coming place like Dubai, you’d think they’d work on their zoo a bit! I met Brandon, Megan, and their school friends on the Palm Jumeirah for lunch. We went to this little bar-ish restaurant which made me kind of sad because I love their fake alcoholic drinks so much! Here there were just real drinks! Oh well! The weird thing about the Palm is that it is so big you can see it from space, but you forget that…and I was anticipating being able to realize I was on a shaped island…duh Allison! Nice houses out there, however! At 3:30 we got picked up by this tour company called Arabian Nights so we could be driven out into the desert to go dune bashing. (I should be shot for all the things I did that were awful for the environment today….ugg! I don’t normally care this much, but it was a tad overwhelming today!) We drove out in this white 4WD and there were about 50 cars like that. When we got to the desert they let air out of their tires so they wouldn’t pop as we were driving around like crazy people. The driver is pretty skilled, I must say! So, basically we drive around and on top of the sand dunes and slide down the sides of them – in a car! It was kind of insane! I thought I was going to be ill by the end of it…pretty much like a roller coaster with no track! It was cool to do, however! We then went to this camp site in the middle of nowhere where we could try sand-boarding, camel riding, henna, sheesha, and got to eat dinner and enjoy a belly dancing and whirling dervish show! I was the photographer of the group for the camels…it was about a 3 minute ride and the animals were clearly in pain! I couldn’t get on!! There was a falcon at the camp as well, so I got to hold him. Falconry is the national sport, I believe! The food was awesome and the dancers were spectacular. The belly dancer was great and did some really neat tricks with canes and swards, but the whirling dervish was unbelievable. He probably turned in a circle for 15 minutes straight! He had these 3 skirts on and they lit up with Christmas lights and he spun them over his head and crazy things! It was very unique and very cool. Pretty neat evening!

Night

-AJ

P.S. I just about forgot the funniest part of the whole day! I was in the sheesha area taking pictures for Megan’s friends at the camp thing and some local guy was pointing to me and Megan to get out. When we were closer to him he pointed at Megan and said “you okay” and pointed at me and said “you no”…as it ended up, he thought I was 15 years old! At least I am consistently “younger” everywhere in the world and not just at home!

March 30, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized

This morning I managed to sleep in until 6:30! Yeah! The problem with getting up so early is that there is nothing to do until 9 or 10am ish! That is the issue! I should probably be hard-core studying during that morning bit…but I’ve only managed to review a bit of Econ… I went to the grocery store and bought some lunch before going to get a pedicure this morning. The lady that was doing my feet was from the Philippines. There are a lot of Filipinos here! It is amazing. Her name was something like Diz and we talked for a good two hours! It was probably the best part of getting my toes done! She explained to me about her payment system for her family: She moved here 5 years ago and sends over half of every pay cheque home to support her dad and 2 sisters that are still in school. When her eldest sister finishes university they will send her here to work, and then she will support the youngest and Diz will be off the hook! It is an impressive cycle, actually (don’t get any ideas, Kendra!). It was also interesting to learn, in terms of her ‘payment’ schedule to her family, that as a female she tries to give as much back to her family as possible before she gets married because once she is married, she’ll have to support her husband’s family! I guess that is why the replacement circle of payments is important! And, on top of paying for her sisters and dad, she has bought a piece of land at home in the country where her family is currently living. She’s managed to pay off the mortgage on the land and the house on it last year, and soon, she will start saving again for another house to be built. All of this not for her, but for her sisters and dad! Kind of makes me feel completely nauseous when I think how selfish that makes me – and pretty much all of us Westerner’s! Uggg… She also explained about her marriage and everything. She is Catholic, as are most Filipinos, apparently. Her grandma died a while ago, when she was on holidays at home (which she gets to do every 2 years), so she couldn’t get married when she was at home because they believe that you have to wait 40 days for the spirit to leave Earth and you have to wear black and honor that – ie no celebrations! So, she is getting married here in two weeks, with no family, in a civil ceremony. She says that when she gets back home in another 2 years, however, she will have a big wedding/party! After my “cultural pedicure”, I walked over to the park that is closest to the apartment. It was nice to have a lawn to sit on, actually! I totally just veg’d there for a couple of hours – napped and read and listened to the birds! It was really nice. There isn’t ever any shade on the beach, so this was a great equivalent – but with grass instead of the beach! When Megan and Brandon were done, we all headed to the Dubai Mall (much nicer than the one near us, I think) and went to the aquarium that is there. It was neat to see the sharks and rays swimming all over us as we walked through the tunnel. There were also penguins and crazy weird fish that ate monkeys and spat water and stuff! Then we got to go up the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world! Megan was smart enough to book tickets in advance, which meant they were only just over 25$ each! It was a really cloudy day, however, so the visibility from the top wasn’t nearly as nice as it would have been yesterday. It was too bad, but better than not going at all!! Once it got dark, the view was pretty amazing as you could see all of the buildings all lit up below! That was probably my favorite part. The weird thing was that you couldn’t really tell that you were up that high at all! I think that even mom could have handled it, to be honest! I think the Eiffel tower was scarier than this was and the heights don’t even compare! Probably because up here was more like being in an airplane than being in an actual building! So, the tower is the tallest in the world. It has 140 flight elevator that moves at 10m per second. The concrete used to construct the building is the equivalent to 100 000 elephants and the rebar could cover ¼ way around the world. The building produces 15 metric tonnes of condensation annually that is collected and used to water plants! And, it can be seen from 95km away! Pretty cool stuff! We went for dinner at a place beside the tower so we could watch the water fountains go off every ½ hour. The man that designed the fountains in Vegas at the Bellagio also made these ones here too! It was nice to eat dinner outside! (I had a rootbeer float for my beverage! ) Later -Allison

March 29, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized

Wow, that was a long day! A lot of hours on the bus, but I saw a lot too!! My bus leaving Dubai was around 7am. Well, rather, I wanted to catch the 7am bus because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t late for the mosque tour in Abu Dhabi at 10am. I got there without any problems and got onto the bus with no issue and arrived in Abu Dhabi 2h later. I missed actually seeing the mosque as I arrived into the city because I wasn’t at the window and the guy beside me had the blinds pulled! But, apparently, the mosque is built up higher (I want to say 8 meters) so that it is the first thing you see when you enter the island. Abu Dhabi is an island essentially and has 3 bridges to get into the city. When I got my cab and went to the mosque, however, it was just as stunning. The sky was bright blue, so the white marble and gold peaks really stood out against the sky. The mosque is named the “Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque” after the man who brought the separate pieces of the Emirates together to create the U.A.E. I didn’t realize that this country was formed so recently – 1971. He wanted a mosque that wasn’t just for worship. He wanted it to be a place where non-Islamic people could come to visit and learn about the culture and religion. There is even a library on-site! So, in many ways, it is a very unique mosque. The mosque is huge! It can hold 40 000 worshipers at one time!! It is the eighth largest in the world! The building itself has 80 domes inspired from Indian architecture. Over 1000 pillars that are decorated with semi-precious stone inlays, and 24 carat tips that are covered with Italian glass for protection. The walls inside the foyer are covered in flowers that were made from different colours of marble from all over the world. The carpet in the main hall is the largest hand-made carpet in the world. There were over 1200 women working on it for 2 years to finish it! The chandelier in the main hall is made up entirely of Swarovski crystals and is 15m high and weighs something like 5 tonnes. It was absolutely beautiful!! It had an entirely different feel than The Taj Mahal, but they look pretty similar! Very different reasons, however Sheikh Zayed is buried on site here as well!! There is actually a live reading of the Koran in his tomb 24/7! Craziness! To do this tour, all the women had to get dressed up in the jilbab/abaya – the black dress and black head scarf. It was really cool to wear those for an hour to see what it would be like. They are not as hot as I thought they would be. Apparently they chose black because it was the color that could be the lightest weight without being see-through. After the mosque I went to visit the Palace hotel. It is a ‘seven star’ hotel, but the highest the scale goes is 5 stars! It was very beautiful and looked pretty much like a palace. There wasn’t much that you could actually get access to because there were bellboys everywhere, but it was neat to get an idea, in any case! I walked over to the beach from here and managed to find a Baskin Robins as well! Talk about perfect: Eating ice cream for lunch on the beach! I was a happy girl!! There weren’t many people at the beach because it wasn’t the weekend or anything today, but there were a definite lack of females. I found one other Caucasian couple and put my stuff close-ish to theirs! Kind of a weird experience, but the beautiful sand and water definitely made up for it. It was kind of a gong-show getting home and I ended up being later than I wanted to be because Megan was going out with some friends for dinner and I was supposed to go with them. I was 7 minutes late, but Brandon told me she’d left ½ an hour earlier in any case…so I wouldn’t have been home on time even if I was “on time”! I hate that! Oh well! I went downstairs and got some really great hummus for dinner! Yeah!! I am totally wiped from all of my craziness today! I think tomorrow is calmer…which won’t be a bad thing! Later -Allison

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized

I woke up early this morning! At about 4am I was so awake that even with my amazing sleeping ability there was no way I was ever going to fall back asleep! So, I got up and studied Econ! Gotta make use of those notes I brought! It was surprisingly enjoyable – I am so weird! It was neat being awake so early, however, because at 5am I heard the call to prayer! It was much more clear and nice sounding than the siren wail that it seemed to be in India! Definitely worth while being awake to hear! Once it was late enough, I took a cab down to Deira neighbourhood where the Souqs are located. I wandered around the various neighbourhoods for a long time! I saw the gold souq, the textile souq, the spice souq, many mosques, and the Dubai museum. It was a lot of walking, but everything was interesting to see. I got some awesome people pictures too, which was great! I can’t get over how many different cultures/languages/religions are everywhere! It is sooooo cool to see (and try to figure out!). I took the wooden abra cruise (water taxi) to cross the Dubai creek. It was Dh1 and it cut off a lot of walking! Along the side of the river were these huge barge-like boats that looked as though they were going to fall apart any second. They were completely packed with boxes and bags of everything that you could think of – from computers to macadamia nuts to stuffed toys! I can’t decide if the boats are permanently there and the people that clearly live on them sell to the local stores or if they are actually transport boats from India or somewhere. I decided that I needed to start using the metro. I think Megan is pretty fond of the taxis here, and although they are convenient I don’t really like taking them. The prices do add up when I’m going downtown every day and there isn’t any interesting people watching when you’re in a cab alone!! I found one of the main bus depots across from the Gold Souq and managed, after many attempts, to figure out how to buy a plastic card and put money onto it. There was this guy following me around as I did this and he was driving me nuts. I couldn’t decide if he was trying to help me or if he wanted me to help him! I kept ignoring him, in any case – I don’t do so well with the creepy people!! Apart from the bus ticket experience, it went really well. I found the bus to take me to the metro and then took the metro all the way back to the Emirates Mall, which is then a 10 min walk from the apartment. It made me happy to figure it out – and there were definitely a lot more interesting people on the train than there were in the cab! Megan was a good enough sport to go skiing with me at the indoor ski hill at the mall this evening. Brandon is there every week because he takes a group of kids from school. What I thought was hilarious was that he is learning how to snowboard! In Dubai! So weird!! I was pretty impressed with the overall set-up, actually. You buy a pass, which you present to the boot counter and the ski counter. You are also given a snow-suit, because I don’t suppose many people own those here!! We got all organized and went up an elevator to get to the hill! Once inside we did a couple runs on the magic carpet on the bunny hill ‘cause Megan isn’t really comfortable skiing at all. I honestly just couldn’t stop laughing at the entire concept. But, I guess, it is just like us having a water park inside. Just opposite! I did 2 runs on the real lift – like actually, a real lift – the snow wasn’t the best, however (duh!). The best part was really looking at all the locals trying to ski! It was really interesting. They also charge people for a full ride of the chair (ie all the way up and all the way back down) for Dh50, if they don’t know how to ski. I tried so hard to get a picture of this muslem couple with their full gear on who were sitting on the chair lift! It was priceless to see the lady in her black covering with only her eyes showing and the man with his red head dealeo on! Made the trip to the ski hill even MORE awesome! All three of us went to this African restaurant for dinner. The food was great, but even better were the drinks. Brandon was explaining that because there isn’t any alcohol, they really do an awesome job of making fruit juice and other non-alcohocalic types of drinks. I had this awesome coffee-ice cream thing that made me happy! Early day tomorrow because I am off to Abu Dhabi! Night -Allison

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized

After I had breakfast at the apartment (awesome raisin, carrot muffins that Megan made), I
made my way over to the LuLu Hypermarket – basically a supermarket. It was the cleanest, most organized grocery store I have seen in my life. It made me think of what a grocery store would look like in the middle of the night, where everything is perfect. All of the shelves were fully stocked and they looked as if the distance between each box of cereal or carton of milk were measured! It was bizarre! It was interesting to see that they have everything you could think of, however. It was like going to a grocery store at home along with one from France combined. They have all the France cheeses and breads, but have all the packaged junk that we have at home. It was really impressive, actually. I guess they want to please the entire expat community!
From there I walked over to “The Mall of the Emirates”. I got there around 9am, but everything actually only opens at 10am, so I had a nice walk around before things even opened. This is the mall that has the ski hill inside of it! It was really odd – but no different, really than going to West Ed and seeing a theme park or a water park inside the mall! Here, too, it was like combining North America with Europe – all of my favourite stores from France like Pimpki and Oxygène were there as well as American Eagle, and The Gap. They even had Cinnzeo cinnamon buns and Seattle`s Best Coffee. Kind of an odd feeling of displacement, but it was interesting.
There weren’t a lot of people around first thing, but it was interesting to see and hear the mix of cultures, religions, and languages. There are the Dubai women who wear their hair piled high on their head and cover the back half with a scarf. There are the Muslims, who Megan says typically come from other Muslim countries, who are covered all in black. There are a lot of Indian women and men in their typical dress. There are many Asians, French, Italian, Spanish, and North Americans too. It is kind of like being in the United Nations!
I visited a lot of the stores including the Persian carpet stores – they are so pretty! I asked about the prices of a couple…that started at Dh7000! It is a good thing that I have expensive tastes, eh?! I left those stores and went and bought a t-shirt from Pimpki – close as I’ve been to France in a couple of years ☺.
I saw my first GOLD ATM! There were different weights of gold being sold in the machine
including a Canadian maple leaf coin! It was really cool!!
For lunch I bought a petit pain au chocolate and the equivalent of a booster juice (I wanted to
buy strawberries but for 6 berries the cost was more than ½ of a juice drink!). There were no seats in the entire mall so I wandered outside and found a tiny piece of grass outside of the parking lot where I sat down to eat my lunch. Ahhhh the looks I got! I don’t think people ever sit down on the grass here (well, there isn’t really any grass here), never mind have a picnic outside of the mall! It was gorgeous, actually! There are palm trees and birds singing. I had no problem ignoring the cars going by – better than the piles of snow at home!
I decided I want to go to Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, so I had visited a travel agency in the mall, but
they were rather useless. They only have tours, which are highly overrated – and won’t let me have time to get to the beach to get the sand I need! So, when I got home I researched the local bus schedule to get there instead. There is a 2h direct bus there for Dh15 (about 3.5$), so I will be taking that at about 7am on Tuesday. The tour of the Mosque is at 10am, so I want to make sure I don’t miss it.
Megan was teaching ultimate Frisbee after school today so I went and joined her and her kids
for the game. It was really fun ‘cause the kids were really good. I couldn’t believe where they were all from. Out of the small group of about 8 they were from Canada, Spain, Ireland, Izbackistan, Italy…all over!
The school is really nice as well. They have a full gym and pool and big sports area outside.
Megan even has TA’s for her science class! It is very well organized and clean. I guess that it helps that it is a ‘for profit’ school, for sure.
Megan and I took a cab over to the Karama area, which is basically the Indian area that has a lot of the knock-off shops! It was dead quiet when we were there, however! Very un-India like!! It was good to see, as it is supposedly something that has to be done, but I didn’t buy anything. Megan bought a hanging, however! She wants it to decorate her apartment here.
We had the most awesome hummus and pitas for dinner! I think I could eat that every night
while I am here, actually! They have a little restaurant at the bottom of their building and it just came from there – about 2$ for a big tub of it! We also each ordered soup, which was really good as well!
Yum!
I am just about to go watch a couple episodes of “Brothers and Sisters” as Megan has them on
DVD! Brandon and Megan already went to bed because they were both totally wiped from getting me from the airport yesterday/this morning! Uggg…I feel bad! ☹
Tomorrow I am going to visit the Souqs and when Brandon goes skiing with his kids tonight I am going to go too! Not often you can say you went downhill skiing inside!
Night
-Allison

P.S. I’ll try to get pictures uploaded…but the resolution is too high for this high-tech program at the moment! 🙂

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dubai, Travel, Uncategorized

I’m guessing that there will be two entries today because today is actually yesterday at home – even though it is Sunday here today! It is 6:30am on Sunday and I am awake because, well, honestly, I slept a tonne on the plane (as mom predicted!), but also because Megan and Brandon teach on Sundays! School here runs from Sunday – Thursday, so their weekend is Friday and Saturday. When I found that out yesterday, or rather, today, when they picked me up from the airport, I felt awful!
The travel days were long, pretty much! Friday went according to plan: Finish work, catch the sky shuttle to the airport, and get on the plane. It was cutting it close, however, ‘cause I didn’t want to miss any work. I wasn’t able to check in the night before for some reason, so I had to do that extra step at the airport. When I made it through security (where I was randomly selected for a full-body scan), they were boarding. I lucked out and got the emergency exit row, however, so that made the flight to Toronto that much more enjoyable!
In Toronto, I only had a 2h connection time, which was pretty tight, but again, I made it to the gate just as they started to board. However, then they stopped boarding and were delayed because of a mechanical error. We ended up taking off 1.5h later than originally planned. I met a nice vet student going to work in Ethopia and a Sweedish guy working in Maderia while I was waiting, however. As someone said on the plane, “no one actually goes to Frankfurt” – we were all connecting. This fact was the problem with arriving 1.5h late – almost ½ the plane missed their connecting flights! I had less than an hour to get from where we landed and take off to Dubai! So, I RAN! Literally ran through the airport. Until I got through security, where they thought it would be fun to make me take all of my things out of my bag. I told them I was about to miss my flight and they didn’t make me do it!!!!!!!!!!!! This ended up being a very good thing because, again, I made it to the gate as they were boarding! I hadn’t checked-in to this flight yet because I wasn’t allowed to do it at home, so I got the last seat in the plane. If it had been a US airline instead of Lufthansa, I wouldn’t have had a seat any longer.
I got to Dubai around 11:30 and found the visa pick-up location without any problem, but Megan hadn’t submitted it on the other side yet! I think we arrived a little early, so I had beat her to the process. I waited about ½ an hour for the visa to “cross”, but there wasn’t a problem picking it up at all. Then, I waited a good 1/2 h in the eye scan line. There were five kiosks available and only 1 person working. Uggg…. However, by the time I made it into the HUGE customs hall, I was only 2 people behind the girl that sat in front of me in the plane! And that is where I waited for 2 HOURS!!! It was the longest customs line of my life! People had warned me it would be an hour, but this was insane! At least it was well organized and air conditioned. It could have been worse!
I made it through and found Megan and Brandon no problem – but felt absolutely awful when they told me they had to get up at 6:30 tomorrow morning (ie today) because they had to go to work! We made it to bed at 2:30am.
I think I am going to go to the mall today and perhaps the beach. Megan’s made out this fantastic itinerary for me (I am so not used to that!) with ideas of what I should do every day! Also, they both have their own “after school” activities that I am welcome to join, so today I have the chance to go play ultimate Frisbee with Megan and the kids, so we shall see!

Later
-Allison