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Wednesday, 06 June 2012

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

For those die-hard fans that’ve visited this page, I thank you for your interest! Of course, you haven’t seen much since winter, but as I explained to my friend Alison, the longer we live here, the more ‘common’ things become. Yes, things become more commonplace; it’s not unusual to see four or five Ferraris a day; laborers irrigating lush plantings in 110 degree heat; shamals (sandstorms) so persistent that the dust blows through closed windows; petrol that costs about a buck a liter. Interesting stuff…but I guess I’m getting complacent! I don’t even notice the prayer call much.

We fill our days with school, muay thai boxing and sleep (Zach)….work, work and work with the occasional jog (Philip) and the dog, yoga, cooking and learning canasta (me)! It’s all good fun.

Zach has had some terrific adventures with his friends here in Abu Dhabi. He has two buddies who are Emirati and they have graciously entertained Zach with meals out, boat rides, trips to the desert and ATVing. Going to the movies is also a weekly event given the heat and humidity. Zach just signed on to two years in the International Baccalaureate program at his school, so this summer will be his last chance to ‘rest’ before taking on a demanding academic program. He’s also going to Romania (Transylvania to be exact) in October for two weeks with the Habitat for Humanity. It promises to be a great experience for him.

As for stories; there are some funny ones and some not-so-funny ones. Here are a few:

Funny: I caught a Bedouin woman in full hijab napping on a day bed in Ikea. When she saw me glancing at her (because how often do you see that in the States?), we both started laughing!

Funny: After camping in the desert near Fossil Rock, we found a baby scorpion under our tent. It was clearly hiding to stay cool. Zach caught it photographed it and let it go. Glad we found it AFTER we woke up and not before...I don't think we would have slept knowing that there were critters under our heads. The animal and insect tracks we saw everywhere the following morning in the fine sand were amazingly intricate! What was going on while we were asleep? Creepy.

Funny: We know a Yemeni guy, Abdullah, who travels from villa to villa with a beat up Land Cruiser full of carpets. He knocks on the door, walks in and throws carpets on your floor. He tells you the price, chats a bit and lowers the price, chats some more and lowers the price a bit more then drives away leaving you with a pile of carpets to consider....even if you don’t want them! No money down!

Not funny: While walking Annie around the block, a young girl stopped playing and came over to us. I thought she was going to pet the dog, but instead, she spit on Annie. How do you tell a child that her action is unkind and rude when her family and cultural mores teach her that dogs are dirty and evil? Any suggestions?

Funny: (Zach can tell you this one in full detail when you see him….) After spending an evening boating and swimming, Zach and his friends (all in shorts and T-shirts) were whisked off by his Emirati friend to a ‘event’. No one had any idea where they were going but they ended up at a red carpet restaurant opening at a 5 star hotel where the friend (dressed in traditional clothing after swimming) had to stand in for his dad at a ribbon cutting ceremony. The rest of the drippy, bedraggled boys sat sheepishly eating dinner with the Austrian Ambassador much to the dismay of the people in charge! Too funny!

Not funny: Our friends who just moved here from the UK had plans to travel back with their infant son to attend a wedding. Sadly, all three passports were stolen the week prior and they could not leave the UAE. Our friend, Will, who was the best man, had to give his toast via Skype the night of the wedding. Thank goodness for technology, I guess…but who would steal a passport for a 5 month old? Worrisome.

Funny or not funny depending on how you look at it: The ROACHES came back recently due to the change in weather and brought their smaller-bodied kitchen cousins. After stamping, slapping, spraying and cussing out the management, the roaches have finally moved on (knock wood). Ironically, we have a MASSIVE honeybee nest in the bougainvillea in our back patio area. I think those bugs can stay ☺!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Time passes and we measure it in different ways. We tick off days on a calendar; live weekend to weekend; or some of us measure time by our use of household items.

We have been here for duration of time it's taken us to (collectively) use 3 tubes of toothpaste. Or this morning, I marveled that I would have to buy yet another super sized concentrated Dettol cleaning solution. Incredible, we've been here as long as it's taken to use the WHOLE bottle??

We arrived in the UAE in September with our sights set on our eventual trip home in December. It was nice to have that to look forward to.

September through December zoomed by with the flurry of activity and angst that besets a family making a residence abroad. Ridiculous tasks, like trying to purchase stamps or find decent alarm clock, filled our days and before we knew it, we were scrambling to prepare for our Christmas trip. Who was paying attention to deodorant use or how much Listerine is left. Not I!

Now we're back here in the UAE and it's already January 15th. Annie is with us and it's life as usual. School, dog walks, work, dog walks, boxing lessons, yes--another dog walk; and time marches on.
The honeymoon and craziness of our initial entry into Abu Dhabi life is behind us and now the LIVING begins.

I am off to the Hypermarket to buy that super sized bottle of cleaner. Yes, it's a bit mundane but it's interesting and a little exciting to think of what might happen between now and when we run out of Dettol again.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Question of the day: "What is 'wow'?"

Zach and I took a taxi back from a visit to the Sheikh Khalifa Sports Complex tonight after checking out the youth hockey program. Yes, they play ice hockey here. It's hard to believe but when it's too hot to make ice, the kids skate on plastic.

Anyway, I digress...

The taxi driver saw that I had gotten a map out of my bag so that I could see what route we were taking to get back to the downtown area. I explained that we were newcomers and I was still learning my way around. I asked him where we were.

The man excitedly told me in broken English how the streets were organized and why he had selected the route we were on.

Since we were instant friends (many drivers enjoy chatting with the customers), I asked how long he had lived here. He said 19 years, to which I replied, "Wow, that's a long time."

He shook his head and looked at me quizzically via the rear view mirror (shouldn't he be looking at the road??) and asked, "What is 'wow'?". I was so caught off guard I muttered something about it meaning surprise or shock, to which he said, "You English say wow too much."

I agreed. How easy it is to overuse a word-or in this case, an exclamation. Here in the UAE everyone tries their best to speak proper English. I don't know a word of Arabic and I was mortified by my lack of inventiveness when speaking to our driver. He was translating from his native tongue to engage in a conversation in English. I couldn't even craft an intelligent comment to match his efforts to speak in an common language.

I was embarrassed and learned at that moment that we cannot lapse into our lazy American slang in this part of the world. The Queen's English is the language of choice (after Arabic, of course) and I better brush up on my lexicon. If I'm not going to make the effort to speak the native language, I better make a stab at not 'Americanizing' English.

When our ride was complete and Zach and I were safely deposited back at our compound, I gave him a tip (something drivers aren't always accustomed to). I thanked him for the geography lesson and told him he had taught be quite a lot during our short ride home.

Tuesday, 08 November 2011

Location: Rub Al Khali Desert, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The Conners have just returned from a quick out and back trip to the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The most AMAZING thing happened while were driving out of the's's It rained for about half an hour; which really is unique because the turbulent weather has ushered in gloriously cool temps and clear skies.

We were fortunate to have nabbed a room in a beautiful hotel near Liwa just before we left town. This week is Eid Al Adah, so many families are traveling around the UAE for quick get-aways and rooms are scarce. The hotel is perched on the edge of the Rub Al Khali desert but near the Liwa Oasis. The Liwa area is famous for three things; camels, dates and dunes.

To reach our hotel, we had to drive past a camel track; complete with camels, of course! Apparently, this was the same place where the largest camel beauty contest in the Middle East is held every December. Camels are judged on things like length of their eyelashes and the size of the cleft between their toes. If you don't believe me, take a look at this article:

In addition to waving at the camel jockeys and admiring their charges (which included baby camels sporting 'robo jockeys' called Spankies) we drove to town of Liwa to peruse the date farms that produce the finest dates in the Emirate. Zach was most taken with the multitude of tricked-out dune buggies that the local kids and teenagers were careening around on. Pretty awesome place to be a kid.

The Rub Al Khali was impressive for it's subtle colors, undulating dunes and extreme climate. I think we all sensed that the desert was fiercely determined to take back what men had put there. Everything we saw, perhaps the high tension wires that stretched for miles in every direction being the exception, was about to be swallowed up by the sand. There were men sweeping the sand constantly from patio areas, the lobby, parking lots and pool decks. The camel track road was relatively sand free when we arrived and was in need of bulldozing when we left. Granted, it was pretty windy during our stay; but it's usually breezy in the desert.

So, here we are, home again, home again, jiggedy-jigg. It was a lovely respite away from the city (and from our friendly friends, Periplaneta americana). Please check out the photos that Zach took of the desert if you have time.

Friday, 04 November 2011

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Periplaneta americana

In addition to adjusting to a new home with it's weirdnesses (for example: having to switch on individual hot water heaters for showers) we are waging war with Periplaneta americana. I can't even type the regular name it makes me ill- if you read this, you'll have to Google it!

Zach and I suspected we had a couple critters and bought a bait trap that we set in a odd cupboard that houses utilities.

We knew we had a serious problem when we walked in last Friday to over 50 carcasses lying all over the first floor of the house (NO, they are NOT in the bedrooms thank our lucky stars!)

Little did we know that the bait combined with what the exterminator had put down would drive the critters out of their dark, dank hiding holes OUTSIDE into our INTERIOR ventilation system.

Apparently, according to the pest control guy from the maintenance department, we have an -insert Darth Vadar voice here- infestation.

220 dirhams and three chemicals later, no more bugs...we hope.

Keep you fingers crossed for us and don't let it deter you from visiting...the pest guys are coming back for a quarterly assault on our six legged enemies.

Tuesday, 01 November 2011

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Today, I was waiting to check out at the grocery store and I saw green pamphlets stacked up next to the nice Filipino man who usually checks out my purchases. I picked up the pamphlet (then I noticed the pamphlets were literally everywhere) and admire the very cute cartoon sheep on the cover. He has a thought bubble over his head and he's thinking.......

'Do you know the benefits of slaughtering animals in the slaughter houses?'

And I think, "As opposed to what?"

Well, I opened the pamphlet and it's about why you shouldn't kill animals in your home. It's apparently very common here, especially during Eid al Adha, which is the Islam Festival of Sacrifice. Muslim families traditionally slaughter an animal and share it with people less fortunate than themselves.

I checked out the website on the pamphlet,, and found a wealth of information about food sources and food borne illness. They also have all the UAE product recall information on the website (which is plentiful!). It's a site I will check often!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

We have been consumed the past two weeks with 2 things: getting out of the hotel and finding wheels. Good News! The villa that we found early on in Khalidiya Village is where we will hang our hat and a used 2011 Toyota Fortuner will be our vehicle of choice. After many hours of emailing and calling the housing gods at Philip's office, traveling back and forth to the bank and taking more than one SUV on a night-time test drive (crazy traffic and roundabouts included), Philip made all the pieces fall into place for our lives to 'begin' here in Abu Dhabi.

We have made at least 5 trips to Ikea (120 dirhams round trip...ouch) for furniture, lamps, sheets, kitchen supplies, etc., etc., etc. Though shopping was fun at first, we were soon depressed at the thought that no matter what we purchased, we had the same thing back in the US. Such is the expat life. We'll ship our most 'missed' items back at Christmas time.

So, now that we're here....we've found the market, the liquor store that 'looks the other way' if you don't have a liquor license and a great Lebanese fast food place. What more do you need? Actually, I need a post office and that seems to be something they are in short supply of here in the UAE!

Wednesday, 05 October 2011

Location: United Arab Emirates

It's hard to believe we've been here for three weeks. Philip's job has launched him into the roller coaster world of global real estate. Zach has adjusted to classes like 'Arabic as a Second Language' and has made friends from countries like Japan, Mexico, Jordan, Egypt, India and of course, the UAE!

We've learned the ropes about taking the silver taxis (never the yellow or green as they'll charge you a fortune) and have witnessed more than one insane traffic violation in this busy city of BAD drivers! The electronic adapters are still puzzling; the Arabic names of roads make us dizzy. I'm still stumped about ordering things like dates, meats and cheese because I haven't learned the metric system. I need a tutorial on metric weight but have started to be able to convert dirhams to dollars in my head.

It's amazing how things like seeing women in abayas and shaylas, Phillipino nannies chasing after little people in malls...oh, yea...spending time in endless mall corridors has become sort of normal. The heat is still oppressive, but at least it's in the 90s this week and the forecast is for cooler temps as the month wears on.

Photos - Click Below

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Recent Messages

From alison schuckman
Its about time you updated your blog! I love all the pictures, especially the chicken!!! Hope all is well with you guys we are all doing fine. Finally got a snow storm this winter. it came on saturday so no snow days yeah! Send our love to all and licks to annie from Kelev. he barks like an nut every night looking for her out back!! We have not gone down your street. don't want to make him sad. still so soon, he will remember i think.
Response: I think he would remember...she hasn't been gone all that long. It's sad to think that Annie won't see snow for a while. She loves it! Glad you still have all your vacation days for spring break still!
From Julie Funk
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. You have great writing skills! I am impressed with the travelogue. Keep it up and I can be with you through words. Love, Mom
Response: I'm happy that you enjoyed my ramblings..musings..or gibberish! The pictures are fun to look at and revisit our adventures.
From Philip & Connie
Thank you so much...the content and format are terrific.

It is a treasure that you are documenting your grand adventure so well that we can all share.

What a fabulous opportunity for all of you

Philip (Dad) & Connie

Response: Thanks- I always enjoyed your blogs and posts from Epilogue. We are very blessed to be's a unique place to spend time!
From Connie
You are a superb writer! Consider turning your blog into a "how to" guide for ex-pats, a book, or novel!
Response: This is a real compliment coming from a published author! A child's book on the UAE may be my speed!
From Roberta
Love all the pics! Glad to hear Annie is settling in and dog walks are back in Laura's routine. What do the neighbors think? :-)

Miss ya'll. Still enjoyin' my dates.

Response: thanks for checking in. I was just editing some of my terrible spelling errors. I used to be a teacher?? for shame. Neighbors in the compound are perfectly fine with Annabelle...the people outside our walls, not so much. Dogs are really an anomaly here and to see an unaccompanied woman with a dog is downright bizarre. You should see the laborers gawk from their buses when I drive around with Annie in tow. You can either laugh at them or ignore it. Though difficult to do, I try to turn a blind eye. The local kids are super curious...and often call after us on our walks. xo L
From alison schuckman
i figured out a way that the inaccessible stairwell won't eat all your tennis Balls. Zach will just have to hop the banister at the bottom, it looks doable. Pups played the other day, they were going nuts with eachother. it was so cute. Planning on going over tomorrow too. Kelev was wiped out! Old man!! Not much on the updates on your page, its been a month... how goes the bug situation????
Response: Wow, you're right. It's been an age since I updated this. I think I don't do it often because the page is hard to use. I should have started with blogspot by google. Dummy that I am! So far only 2 balls have fallen into the pit and yes, Zach did climb over the rail to get them...he is the only one limber enough to do it. I am getting way out of shape. Back to YOGA!!!
From sandra
Hahaha, I can work on her hump, but its going to be on the opposite side... (you might notice that she had gained some weight :D I have nothing to do with that... I think she wakes up in the middle of the night and munches on treats! I am noticing that her treat stack is getting alarmingly low these days! - My most recent life motto is "its her (Annie) fault!" yep, thats dogs life! (somethimes, more then ever, I wish I WAS one of them)
Response: Yikes, I haven't checked or updated this in a while! Annie looks great! She only weighs 60 pounds according to the vet here and she got a clean bill of health! Today was the first day she tore into the puppy you gave her. She was bored because I was working on putting her pictures on this blog site! Goofy!
From Sandra
Hey, I am sure Annie will love the desert! (aaaaand, she can easily beat the camels in the length of her eyelashes - in proportion to her body size!
Response: Do you think she'll like it here ? I'm not so sure...I hope so.
If she can't beat a camel in the eyelash category, then she'll have to work on her hump.
From alison schuckman
Great Blog Laura! Love the pictures, did you get in trouble when you drove out to the heli pad? I don't suggest Phillip tries that two wheeled stunt when he gets back in his mini here in NJ. Surprised he didn't get one there as well. Yucky welcome to your new home, glad they are all gone. Annie would have fun chasing them. We played with her the other day. She may need a hair cut soon, let me know if you want me to send her with Kelev. Looking forward to reading more. PS where did you ever find a pumpkin?? We had none this year, they both rotted before halloween!! Take care. XXOO Ali and Michael
Response: Oh, Philip misses his mini so much that we'll be shipping it over in Dec.! I would love to have Annie groomed so let Sandra know when you're going. Also, let me know how much it costs and I'll send you a check! It doesn't take long for mail to get to the US. Zach's teacher got the pumpkin for him...I have NO idea where she found it! Maybe at the veggie market by the port. Not sure. Glad you like the pix. I'll check in again soon! xo La
From Ellie & John
Great photos!! Desert moon rise spectacular! Keep the travel report and pictures coming to us less fortunate In the USA. XXXOOO
PS: Rain was amazing1 How long did it last?
Response: The rain was so strange. Everyone was outside whooping and hollering! Of course, everything was SO dirty afterwards and humid too. Oh well! I'm posting more pictures today...xo
From Diane
Love this blog La! Can't wait to see more photos. Do you need anything US that I can send? Hugs from us to all of you! xo
Response: We just need Annie, that's all! Save a moment or 2 for us at Christmas (if you're around). We'll be in MD from the 25th to the 28th. xo
From Johanna
Well this is just a great way to bring us along with you -- love your stories and descriptions and the photos to go along. This is helping make the UAE a real place in my mind. What an adventure you're having, cockroaches and all! Grandpa's going to be amazed when I read him these entries. Love to you three from Tom and me.
Response: Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I'm going to work on uploading pictures of the desert now. Zach took some beautiful shots! Check back in soon!
From Jerrilyn
Hi! This is soooo cool!
Response: It's a great way to share with everyone rather than emailing. It's hard to keep up with all the stories via email. xo
From Connie
Great blog, Laura! Fascinating details and I appreciate the map so we can remind ourselves exactly which countries are near you. What is the value of the dirham to the dollar or euro?
This definitely is the experience of a lifetime.
Response: Thank you for the compliment. It will be difficult to follow you, though. One dirham is $.27, so a dollar goes a long way here. Labor, gas and most foods are inexpensive; so it can be a bargain depending on how you spend your cash.
From Ellie & John
Great reporting! Absolutely fascinating to hear and see how you are living. Glad the roach problem is solved and hope it continues to remain solved! Car looks good and the villa seems quite roomy and liveable. We look forward to hearing and seeing sights from your trip to the desert. We miss you but are glad you are happy!!
Response: Thanks for visiting our page! I think this is a better way for me to post things. I worked on it a little just now and added captions. I'll do another page after our desert adventure...I can't wait! We'll feel like Lawrence of Arabia! xo