Thursday, May 26, 2011

Learning Mahjong and keeping busy

The biggest challenge since moving to Abu Dhabi has been keeping busy. As someone who has worked since the age of 15, I don't do very well with months of free time and no structure. I know that sounds horrible to some of you who would easily and happily keep yourself entertained, but for me, I've had to work at it.

The first thing I did was get into a job hunting routine. I have about 5 job boards I check every day and I probably send out 3-5 resumes each week to interesting looking jobs. I've talked a lot about the job hunt on here, so I won't bore you with any more details.

Another routine I started is the morning info gathering. I start with my email, then check in on Facebook, LinkedIn, then my Blogger dashboard to see if there are any new posts on the blogs I'm following, then the newspaper. I've never been a newspaper reader (only got the Sunday paper for the ads really back home) but have found it really helpful to get to know the country and culture a bit better. There is about a page dedicated to US news each day and it's been mostly about Obama's international visits and the tornados. It's very interesting to see what's covered and what's ignored. I have a feeling that when we visit WI in September, there will be a lot of things we'll have not heard about over here.

I've also starting cooking a lot more, so have been looking for recipes, grocery shopping and whipping up new things to eat, some which turn out great (African Chickpea soup) and some which bomb pretty badly (homemade Arayas), but it's fun and passes the time. Then, of course, there's cleaning and laundry, which is an ongoing battle given all the sand, dust and cat hair. :)

That's all well and good and between all those routines, the gym, the pool, books, hulu and the internet, I can keep myself relatively busy, but the problem is I can go literally days without talking to anyone but Brian. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Brian dearly, but ... well ... I needed to make some friends, for his sake and for mine.

That's why I joined a few of the ladies coffee mornings. There are oodles of them all over town so there's a good variety to choose from. The first one I joined is run by some British women and consists of primarily Brits, but all nationalities are welcome. You pay a fee and get coffee, tea, sandwiches, pastries and juice and it's just a social gathering place. They have a newcomers table, which is nice the first few times to get your bearings. They also organize all day outings to different places close by and have a book club, mahjong group and canasta games. Another is run by the Americans, where the majority are from the US and Canada (again all nationalities welcome) and I don't know if it was the familiar accents, the lovely cafe where the meetings are held or the people I met there, but this has become my favorite. They have about an hour of social and then have a speaker of some kind. The speakers might be about a charity, an event happening, sometimes sales people, a cooking demonstration where I learned to make the best hummous ever! They also have groups and organize outings (this is the group I went to Sharjah with) - book club, movie group, neighborhood walks, supper club. There are many more groups like this, but I think you get the idea.

I ended up in a Mahjong group a bit by accident. One afternoon, I was sitting by the toxic green pool (you'll be happy to know they have since figured out the correct chlorine to heat ratio and things are back to normal) and met Gill, who also lives in the compound. She told me about a group of ladies she knows from her many stints abroad and they have coffee on Mondays and play Mahjong on Tuesdays. After learning that Mahjong is a Chinese game played with tiles and a bit of a cross between Dominos and Gin Rummy, I decided, 'why not? I've got nothing better to do and I'll meet some new people.' So I went and totally loved it, to my surprise! I had already begun thinking about how I would bow out of future games, but to my shock, it was a blast. I've been now 3 times and really enjoy it. The other benefit is the company - a group of women from Scotland and UK and sooo funny, down to earth and welcoming.  And we've got a carpool system so I don't have to take the bus for an hour to get there, which is my normal mode of transit - with the temps rarely below 100 degrees now, a car ride is a blessing!

So now I play Mahjong and keeping busy has gotten a little less difficult.


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