Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Runaway

If you've read my previous post about the cats behaving badly ... okay, actually if you've read any of my posts about our youngest cat, Petra, you know that she's a naughty little thing. Full of energy and mischief, she keeps Rogue on her toes and us wondering what she'll get up to next.

What we didn't expect was that she would make a break for freedom.

Both cats love to be outside in our little garden area.
We do! We love it out here!
And so, when the weather is nice like now, we let them out for most of the day on the weekends when we're at home. There's a wall around the garden and while they could probably make it to the top of the wall, it's quite a leap off the other side and neither have ever really seemed interested.

Until the day of the escape ...

I looked out the window to see Petra walking along the wall. Thinking to scare her back inside, I went out and made a big noise and yelled at her ... and over the other side she went.

Brian then came out and went over the wall himself to try and get her. The closer Brian got, the farther away she ran until she jumped a neighboring compound's wall and went up and over their fence.

Like a typical cat, she went over a wall we knew she'd never be able to get back over and home again, so Brian set out to go looking for her in the neighboring compound. He printed a few flyers and talked to the neighbors whose wall she jumped over. Luckily, they are cat people too and promised to keep a look out.

So, all that afternoon, evening and night we worried that our naughty little kitten would again become a stray in Abu Dhabi. We called for her, Brian went back to the compound to look again, but no luck.

The next morning, Brian made the rounds again and we finally decided that we would just have to wait and let her come back, if she could, on her own time.

And then the phone rang ...

Our neighbors found her curled up under a tarp on one of their patio chairs and they were able to carry her inside into one of their bedrooms. We came over with the cat carrier and got her safely home.

And do you think we got one tiny thank you for all of that effort? Not a chance, the devil was tormenting Rogue within the hour.
I TOLD them they should have just let her go, but no one listens to me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Grocery Shopping

Okay close your eyes ... oh wait, don't close your eyes, I need you to keep reading. Imagine the following with your eyes open please.

You walk into your favorite grocery store and 80% of the items on the shelves are brands or products you're unfamiliar with. The ones that are familiar to you are unreliable. For example, you walk in one day and your beloved Cheetos are right there on the shelf. The next week, you couldn't find a Cheeto if your life depended on it. And then, after surviving 3 months of powdered cheese covered carb withdrawal, you walk in to find a whole wall of Cheetos!

This, is where I now live; where a trip to the grocery store is an adventure because I never quite know what I'll find there. 

So, today's post is intended to give you an idea of what grocery shopping is like here in Abu Dhabi. First, there are three main places people shop for food:
  • The corner markets - small, independently owned shops that stock the essentials and are located all over the city and in most larger housing compounds.
  • Ex-pat Groceries - at least that's what I call them. These are medium sized groceries that carry lots of imported brands and have a small pork section in the back and a bottle shop (liquor store) nearby. There are probably 10-12 around the city and they are primarily used by ex-pats. You pay a premium here, but can find some of your home favourites ... like Oscar Meyer bacon and caffeine free diet coke.
  • And last are the Hypermarkets. The Hypermarket is like a Super Walmart where you can buy electronics, appliances, clothes, home furnishings and your groceries.  These are the most popular and largest and carry an assortment of local and imported goods. This is where the adventure is as the stock changes unexpectedly. One week you can find sugar free pudding and then won't see it again for 6 months. We're currently waiting for the Jennie-O turkey bologna to arrive back in the country - haven't seen them in a long time.
Inside the store itself, things are pretty much as you would expect. Aisles of goods, fridge and fresh food around the perimeter. The expat groceries and hypermarkets have a bakery, deli, fresh fish section, meat, veg & fruit - the usual. A few differences:
  • The fresh fish section consists of whole fish and shellfish that you can choose yourself. Like a meat counter, you can ask them to clean the fish for you and there's a decent variety. The only issue is the smell and all those dead fish eyes staring at you.
  • The meat counters have lots of things I either haven't heard of or have no idea how to cook like lamb hearts. Okay, actually lamb in general - just not something we're used to eating.
  • At the fruit and veg counter you have to have your items weighed by the staff before you head to the checkout, so there's a line of people waiting at the scales.
  • One really cool thing in the spice counter where you can literally buy a pinch of paprika. They are sold in bulk so you just ask for the amount you want, no matter how small and they package and ring it up for you. You can also find nuts, dried fruits and coffee in this section.
Not as different as you might imagine, but a few things we've had to get used to and certainly a few things we'll miss when we eventually move on.

Monday, March 11, 2013

When your cat behaves badly

We love our cats, but sometimes ...

Our youngest, Petra, is a sassy little thing and has conveniently forgotten that we rescued her from a life of limited food, hot outdoor conditions and constant fear of being run over. Instead of eternal gratitude, her attitude is more like "what have you done for me lately". We have to conintuously remind ourselves that:
a) she's still a kitten and will probably calm down in another year or so
b) she's a stray and not used to trusting people
c) she's a brutal carnivore that enjoys playing with her food

The other day, I was sitting on the couch writing one of my blog posts and Brian was at the table on the phone with a co-worker trouble shooting some computer issue they were having. I had my iPod going with my earbuds in and was facing away from the table.

Suddenly, Brian put his phone on mute and called out to me. I turned around and he was holding a mangled dead bird that Petra had brought in from outside. It was very dead so we're pretty sure she didn't kill it herself was just having a grand old time chasing it around the apartment. The most amazing thing is that neither of us noticed that she had brought the bird inside ... until after she had thoroughly enjoyed playing with the thing. Brian said he finally noticed as something was floating up from the other side of the table. Petra was tossing the bird in the air and batting it around like crazy.

Well, let's let the photos speak for themselves ...

There are also a few bird blood streaks now on the dining room wall, but I'll spare you any more photos of the carnage.

When Petra was confronted with this mess, her only response was, "Hey, I was bored." Rogue was overheard muttering, "I told you she was trouble."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Random trip photos

Just a few remaining photos from the family visit to end this series of posts. Enjoy!
The Burj Al Arab 7 star hotel in Dubai 
The crew posing in front of the Burj Al Arab. Unfortunately, it was quite sunny and windy so they don't look as happy as they really were. :)
 On top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
 Enjoying a cocktail at the bar on the top floor of the Radisson Blu where we stayed in Dubai.
Our view of the Dubai creek from the bar.

We had a great time with family and are so glad they made the long trip. Isn't it time you started making plans to visit? :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When your guests lose their camera in a taxi

One of the interesting adventures of the trip for Brian's mom & dad was losing their camera in a taxi. We went to the Lebanese Flower restaurant for dinner and took two taxis. Shortly after we arrived, my mother-in-law realized she didn't have her camera and while we all hoped that she had left it at the hotel, sure enough, she had forgotten it in the taxi. It was day 2 of their 2 week stay.

Luckily, we had a spare camera she was able to use, but they were still upset about losing the camera - mostly because inside the camera bag were some memory sticks with photos of the grandkids that hadn't yet been backed up. (lesson learned, I'm sure)

Now there is something you need to understand about Abu Dhabi. It is extremely safe and most of the people living here are extremely honest and helpful. Clearly if you left your camera in a taxi almost anywhere else in the world, it would be gone forever - in fact, you might not even bother to look for it as you'd be so sure that it was now stolen. But here, there is a very good chance of recovery. There have been several stories in the papers over the last two years of taxi drivers returning cell phones and even one where a driver found a bag of cash and returned it to the owner.

So, we had some hope and called the taxi company to file a report to see if the camera could be recovered. The hotel (shout out to the Staybridge on Yas Island) also helped by filing their own report and following up almost daily with the taxi company. And, you guessed it, the camera was found - the driver had turned it in to the Police.

Bummer. We were really hoping the driver would return it to the hotel and that would be the end of it. Getting the police involved created a bit more adventure. But hey, the camera was found, right?

Two trips to the police station later, my in-laws had their camera back and a really good story to tell back home.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A trip to Al Ain Oasis

We love to take guests to Al Ain because it's such a nice contrast to the big cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The city is beautiful and very green and still works hard to maintain the Arabian feel and culture. We did three things on this particular day trip: Al Ain Oasis, Jebel Hafeet 'mountain' and the Al Ain museum.
This is a view from the top of Jebel Hafeet. It's about a 30 minute drive up a huge wide curving road. It was a gorgeous day, but a little hazy.
This is a view within the Al Ain Oasis. The Oasis is a collection of date palm plots owned by local residents. There is an old irrigation trough running through the oasis that allows the plots to be watered. You can drive through the area and stop along the way to take photos. All the plots are fenced off so you can't walk through the trees but can see them from the road.
We had lunch at a hotel near the top of Jebel Hafeet. This isn't the hotel, but a private residence near it that looked in the process of being built.

We then went back down the mountain and spent some time at the Al Ain museum, which is small but well organized and interesting. We realized the jet lag was taking it's toll as we started to hear snoring while watching one of the videos in the museum. It was time to head back to Abu Dhabi.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Global Village in Dubai

During our guest's two week stay, we spent a 3-day weekend in Dubai and one of the adventures there was the Global Village. We had heard about the Global Village since moving here more than 2 years ago, but this was the first time we had visited. An adventure for sure!

Global Village is part theme park and part shopping opportunity. Think of Disney's Epcot center with a little less educational exhibit but a lot more authentic. The grounds are huge and have pavilions designated to various countries of the world. In fact the place is so huge that we only saw a small percentage of the countries even though we were there for over 3 hours! Here are a few photos.
This photo gives you a sense of the crowds. The place was mad! It was a three day holiday weekend, which made a bad situation worse. It took us almost an hour to find parking! The bright pavilion in the background is the one for Yemen.
And here's a view of Egypt. Each pavilion is filled with goods, foods and sometimes performances from that region. Interesting to see what's important to each country and to see how similar they sometimes are.
A beautiful lantern and glass store. This was also in the Arabia area of the village - I didn't see that it was specific to any country.
 Saudi Arabia pavilion - amazing dates and Arabic coffee. And they let you sample all kinds of things. We tried a bunch of different date varieties, coffee, a date cake, some figs ... yum.
 The village has a canal running through it and you could take little boat rides from one side to the other. The line was just too long for us to even consider it.
Some performers in the Lebanon pavilion, I think.
I think this was also Lebanon - jams, honey and pickled vegetables.
 Performers in the Egypt pavilion.
There was also a small midway with a huge Farris wheel and a few other rides.

It wasn't just Arabic countries as my photos suggest. We also saw Africa and China on the side of the village where we explored. There was a whole other section we didn't even get to that had USA, UK and a bunch of other European and Asian countries. I'm sure there was also something from South American somewhere. If I can ever convince Brian to go again, we'll have to check out the other section. (As you can imagine, huge crowds and shopping wasn't exactly his idea of fun.)

The Global Village is all outdoors so only open from Nov to Mar each year.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Falcon Hospital Abu Dhabi

As mentioned, Brian's parents and godparents visited us in Abu Dhabi for 2 weeks in January. One of the highlights of their trip was the Falcon Hospital and Brian went along with them. A fascinating place and a well run tour that ended with a nice Arabic lunch. Here are a few photos from the adventure.
When they first arrived, they were taken to a waiting room of sorts where they got to see some of the falcons coming in for the day. The Emirati above let them take his photo with these two falcons.

The falcon hospital is a mix of hospital and day spa for the birds. They got to see some medical treatments, like repairing a wing and also some cosmetic treatments like trimming their claws and beaks. Unfortunately, Brian didn't take a lot of photos so I only have these, but if you see the Stolls or Vickers as them to show you some of their photos - really cool.

Here's one falcon hooded. Similar to the blinders for horses, they are used so the bird doesn't get overwhelmed and upset. Last thing anyone would want is an upset falcon in a closed space!

They were told that some of the wealthier Emirati families have more that 200 falcons and bring them in for treatments 15-20 at time over a period of weeks. WOW! I can't even imagine where one would keep so many birds.

The hospital also has a aviary where the birds can fly and get some exercise. Next set of visitors, I'm definitely going myself!