Sunday, July 26, 2009

This has got to stop

So for the past ffew weeks I have felt like I was actually making progress in the frustration department. I have been starting to let things slide a little more only because I know that the more I let things get to me, the more this place will wear on me. However, after today I have had it. If it means standing in front of the property management office with a sign and picketing, I will do it! and I mean it!

Many of you have heard about our traumas with the sinking sand and the breaking wall on the outside of our villa. We were promised it would be fied before we moved in which I am convinced was only a ploy to get us to sign the lease so they could get their money. Nevertheless, it was not fixed and the problem is only getting worse. The hole has gone from a hairline fracture to a huge gap so big that our dog can escape the back yard. This is caused by the fact that everything sinks in sand (quicksand) and the ground was not compacted properly before building on it. They assured us that the structure of our villas was not compromised by this problem and that the sand was in fact compacted under the foundation of the villa itself.

That's not all. They offered for us to switch villas to a much less desirable location but we were willing to do it. But, get this, they would not help us with any of the moving expenses. We have paid $1000.00 to have our backyard landscaped (grass and sprinkler system only, that does not work properly) and we have bought custom curtains to fit all the windows in our house. This is a must due to the fact that contractors think it is necessary to install windows the size of the Grand Canyon in every villa and apartment.

However, we might have decided to switch villas afterall had we known what I was going to discover only a few days later. As I walked around the side of the house I fell into the sidewalk. My foot stopped sinking halfway up my shin. The sand had settled so drastically in that area that the sidewalk, which is attached to the house, is falling in. This led us to believe that the sand under the villa is in fact settling. We were able to stick a broom handle down into the hole which is now partly under Isabella's room. Now, I am stressed that the concrete wall is going to collapse on our 7 month old daughter. If that doesn't make you nervous as a mom, what will?!?!?!

On top of that we have had numerous water leaks (approx. 7-8). Most of the time when maintenance arrives they tell us some sob story about how they cannot fix the problem and tell us to call them tomorrow. Now, when I call maintenance Pete tells me to use my "angry voice". Its the only way to get things done around here.

Needless to say, the reason I am finally fed up is the fact that Pete just went to open the patio door and the handle broke off in his hand! Maintenance has already been here once today and I am fed up!
So now I sit and wait for the director to call me back. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The house is finally ready!

Many of you have asked for pictures of the house so you can get an idea of how we live. Luckily our shipment of household goods finally arrived last week and we were finally able to get settled. Things were a bit hectic for a few days; we even survived a faiting episode (but not to worry, I am feeling fine).

Pete relished in the glory of his new drill and everyday after work he would scour the house for pictures needing hanging, etc.. He took his duties quite seriously and did a wonderful job placing all of our artwork.

We felt quite rushed due to the fact that we were working on a deadline. We had promised to host small group just a few days after the shipment arrived and we needed to have everything in order before then. As we unpacked the boxes we were in awe at the sheer amount of stuff we have. We also wondered why we packed certain things. What were we thinking! I was quite frustrated that Izzy was too big to fit some of her clothes or her swing :(

Anyways, here are the photos of our place now that we are settled.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Six Degrees to Izzy

We've been meaning to make a post just of our favorite pix that capture the ever-growing personality that Izzy has been developing. So here it is; the long-awaited Izzy photo essay!

Infant UFC -

Welcome to Fuddruckers! -

Stroller shyness -

Miss Giggles -

Ohh, toes...

Yummy Yams -

Golly gee guys! -

Adoration -

Gift wrap by Victoria's Secret -

Heaven sent -

A girl's best friend -

Super Izzy -

Zoolander: "I have a new look. I call it..."

'Blue Steel'

Sir Bani Yas Island Resort trip

So our much anticipated escape from the city has come & gone way too fast, but the experience was great! After a 12-hr shift at work, we packed the Rav-4 (and the ever-growing crack in the wall with various cardboard boxes so the dog couldn't escape from the yard while we were gone... pix to follow!) and headed out into the desert to our destination 180km west of Abu Dhabi. Situated on the southern-most coast of the Arabian Gulf lies the island of Sir Bani Yas which we were told was once connected to the main land 17,000 years ago. The late Sheikh Zayed (the founder of the UAE) established the island as a natural wildlife refuge to increase the population of dwindling species of native (and non-native) animals including giraffes, cheetahs, Arabian oryx, African antelope, swarms of peacocks, African cranes and many, many species of gazelle. Our stay began with a boat ride to the island followed by a short bus ride to the resort on the northern most point. Every aspect of the hotel was definitely 5-star and our suite was amazingly lavish and we fell in love with it immediately. Included in our stay were many activities to choose from though the first night we ordered room service and went to sleep early! We were even able to request a full size portable crib for Izzy, so we all slept soundly. The next day we woke early for b-fast and went on our first endeavor; a mini-safari in an open jeep around the different wildlife reserves. Needless to say; even in the early a.m. the heat was out and it was quite hazy so unfortunately the cheetahs were not out in the open, there was one curious giraffe however who poked his nose in the jeep to stare at Izzy. I'm not sure which was more mesmerized by the other! Later while the girls enjoyed the pool, I braved the elements and hiked around the large lagoon and the hills beyond to go geocaching and returned sweaty and dehydrated, ready for the pool myself to find that my girls had indulged in the plush bed and slept the whole time! We spent the rest of the day relaxing, enjoying the pool and of course I squeezed as much adventure on the side out of every possible last minute before we checked out the next morning by going on an early a.m. kayaking trip out to a buoy and snorkeling around the reef. We headed home unwillingly after our short stay determined to come back again soon!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Al Ain Zoo Trip

Yesterday we took Izzy to the zoo in Al Ain. Al Ain is about 1 hour away by car and is considerably warmer. The zoo did not open until 4 pm and we arrived around 5 pm. During the day it had reached a high of about 120 degrees and had dropped to about 115 by the time we arrived. Enjoy the pictures of Izzy's pink little cheeks. She was slathered with sunscreen and was not sunburned at all. She just suffers from the rosy cheeks that we pale people suffer from as well.
Stay tuned for pictures from our Sir Bani Yas trip. We will be leaving in one week and are so excited. We will be able to see giraffes and Arabian wildlife in the wild. Not to mention the fact that we will be staying at a luury resort.
Also, the countdown begins for our trip back to California. We will be leaving July 28th.
Love, love, love

All in a Day's Work

For fun I have decided to write about one of my weekly endeavors, grocery shopping. Today was an interesting day. I asked Pete for directions to a new shopping center which is closer to our house. I am used to driving into the city to do my shopping but decided I wanted an adventure. And an adventure I did have! I had seen the shopping center off of the highway but was unsure how to get there. Of course I got lost. I knew where I was but due to construction and a faulty GPS which does not update the road closures, detours, etc. I was unable to get where I wanted to be. Quite frequently roads will suddenly be closed all together. Such is the case with a main thoroughfare in Abu Dhabi, Al Salam Street, which has been under construction for months. The people have been promised completion within a few months but Abu Dhabi’s hopes of grandeur never quite seem to pan out like originally planned. As you can imagine, these types of scenarios cause major traffic congestion. Emiratis are known to drive like maniacs and this only exacerbates the problem.
So, here I was semi-lost and unable to make a u-turn. I drove and drove and ended up on the truck road. The lovely truck road which Pete takes to work every day and thanks God each time he arrives in one piece. Okay, I exaggerate a little but it really does suck. At this point I finally see my destination off in the hazy distance and begin to maneuver my way through the semis, towards the exit.
In Abu Dhabi all grocery stores are located in malls. It really is not a smart idea. Emiratis love to shop, not for food, but for high end designer labels. Their maids do all the food shopping. Anyways, the fact that they love to shop makes it hard to find a parking space. They love to shop so much that when they see a mall they do not concentrate on how they park their car. They can take up, up to two or even three parking spaces in their furry to get a designer bag.
As I walk into the store I notice a sign, “Ladies and families only: 7pm to 10pm, Mon, Wed, and Friday.” Only in the UAE would they discriminate against the type of people they allow in a public store. This is apparently due to the fact that the shopping center is in close proximity to many labor camps where the underpaid foreign national workers live and they “bother” the ladies and families. Ahhhh!
I need to use the restroom but have Izzy in the cart. I am informed by the nice guard at the front entrance that the women’s restroom is in the middle of the mall. When I arrive I am forced to take the shopping cart into the women’s restroom with me. This is quite difficult but I am assisted by the wonderful bathroom attendant. Yes, there are workers in every bathroom in the city. That is their job. They hang out in the public restrooms all day and hand people paper towels and talk to their friends. Of course none of the stalls are big enough to take the cart into so I ask the nice attendant to please go around the corner while I go with the stall door open. I cannot hold Izzy while I relieve myself and I do not feel comfortable taking my eyes off of her.
When we are all done we stop by the coffee shop. I need a jolt of caffeine before taking on this incredible endeavor. The male employee, who is obviously the supervisor, tells the women what to do in a not so nice tone but I deal with it. I am extra nice to them to make up for his rudeness. Then he hands Izzy a miniature Snicker’s bar. It was a sweet gesture but infants should not have candy or peanuts.
Here the shopping carts are incredibly innovative. They are equipped with magnets on the wheels. In many grocery stores they have escalator-like ramps that take the shopping carts up to the next level. When a patron glides their shopping cart, or trolley as they like to say here, onto the ramp the magnets become engaged and the cart does not budge. However, I find one problem with this; the carts are dangerous when the magnets are not in use. They slip and slide all over the tile floors and I find it very hard to keep from ramming my trolley into an unsuspecting person. Then there are the children who think it is amusing to race the carts down the isles while I stand there like a deer in the headlights, wondering if I am going to see tomorrow. All grocery stores have these carts even if they are single level.
So, most of the time, I have Izzy with me when I go shopping. This can be quite a challenge as I attempt to maneuver my trolley through the isles without hitting anyone or being injured myself. In addition, Izzy seems to draw a lot of attention from the employees. Today I had about five women gathered around me pinching her cheeks and talking to her. They asked for her name and then called her by name. Every time I turned a corner they seemed to be there shouting, “Isabella. Helloooo, hellooo.” My favorite is when they ask to hold her and then wave, “bye-bye” as if they are taking her home with them. One time we were eating at a restaurant when the hostess approached the table and asked to hold Izzy while we ate. She then took her to the entrance of the restaurant to greet the customers as they walked in. At first I was worried and did not take my eyes off of her when another customer noted my worry and explained they had been coming there for years and the employees had grown accustomed to holding their son while they ate as well.
All’s well that end’s well…not! After making it through the maze of the store and convincing a “trolley boy” (no, really that is what is written on the back of their uniforms) to assist me out to the car I was shocked by the behavior of the Emirati in the car next to me. It is easy to tell Emiratis from other men because they wear long white robes called dishdashas and head scarves. He pulls up and lets someone out and waits a moment before attempting to back out. During this time I go to the back of the car to strap Izzy into her car seat. Apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough for him, so he honks. Not once, not twice, but three times before I am able to finish and relocate to the driver’s seat.
I hope you find this blog amusing. It is just a peek into our daily life over here. There is so much more to tell. We are slowing settling in and it feels nice to finally feel somewhat at home.

FYI: Although a lot of this blog sounds quite cynical it is meant to be comical. I do not believe everything here is terrible; it’s just different than what I’m used to.