Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Cars jammies!

Kaden has been getting braver every single day with his “cruising” around on the furniture. He has taken to hanging from the entertainment center… safe, huh? I keep feeling like he is bound to walk soon, I guess we will see.

So, try as I might, I cannot seem to find chicken stock here. We shop at a store called LuLu’s Hypermarket (don’t let the “hyper” part fool, it is just a grocery store). I like it because it is right across the street from our house, so we don’t have to go far. With the traffic here, that is always a plus. The problem is, they don’t have a lot of “American” items. Most of it I have gotten over and have just learned to alter my preferred tastes or just eat new or different things. But I keep running into recipes that call for chicken broth or stock. Sooo, I decided to apply my domestic genius and make it myself! Below is a picture of my fabulous stock, ready to be cooked. It turned out so much better than I would have hoped! Even though it takes hours to make, with the wonderful smell making you feel starving the whole time, it was definitely worth it. I got about 2 quarts worth of stock.

So last night, using the cooked veggies (I cut them up) from the stock and some chicken pieces, and of course, a few cups of the stock, I made a chicken and dumplings soup-ish-stew thing! Haha It was supposed to be soup with dumplings in it, but then it got pretty thick and chowder-like. It tasted like my Mom’s “chicken pastry” that I ate so much as a kid, just with pieces of carrots, onion, and celery in it. It was fabulous!

As I mentioned in my last post, Stu started Brazilian Jui-Jitsu. Here is my handsome man with his gi. Isn’t he a stud muffin??? Kaden and I went to practice with him again last night and he is actually a lot better than I would have guessed against these guys who have been doing this a LOT longer. We had learned a lot in Boise it turns out. It is a blast for me to watch them fight though. I am way more into the research and observation end of the sport, and then it is something we can talk about technically and both understand in different ways. So yay.

Stu in his gi.

Here is a closer shot so you can see the patches.

Anywho, that’s about it for me today. I just did 175 jumping jacks and I feel like I’m going to pass out! I think Kaden and I will go have lunch now.

Kaden helping Mommy sing "Baa baa black sheep".

Monday, April 28, 2008

Them There's Fightin' Words...

So last night Stu started taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the Abu Dhabi Combat Club. We both went there on Saturday to look into joining, and as with everything else in this god-forsaken country, discrimination prevails: They will not train women.

The guy actually laughed in my face and said, “den da men would fight woah-men” and looked at me like I was an idiot for not thinking of such an obvious inherent problem. I thought to myself, “Yeah, they’re just worried about getting their asses handed to them by a girl.” Whatever. I’m used to it by now, but it is still spirit crushing. Back at our old dojo, our sensei told us the first day we started training with him that, “All of my women should be able to take a punch in the face from a 250 pound man, then shake it off and put him on the ground.” And he meant it. And we could do it. And now it’s beyond frustrating.

Aside from that, the club its self is actually very cool and world-renowned. On Saturday, one of the fighters we talked to (who just happened to be there, they do not have class on weekends) said that last month Carlos Gracie, Jr. came in to train them and that they have a lot of “guest trainers”. That sounded cool enough and then last night I am reading my book after Stu fell asleep and I had to wake him up to read a passage to him that talked about Abu Dhabi being synonymous with the biggest “purse” (winnings, money) in Jiu-Jitsu fighting. And talked about how some of the best fighters in this particular art have trained with ADCC.

The club was created by Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nayanson of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, former president of the United Arab Emirates, who became a fan of grappling and now holds this Cup every year that is basically a “who’s who” of ground fighting. (the likes of Tito Ortiz, Marcelo Garcia, and Roger Gracie have fought in this tournament) Come to find out that there are two members of the royal family that train with ADCC. Pretty interesting stuff. And the coach apparently trained in Brazil under the Gracie’s.

So basically it is learning from the best. I think it is a great opportunity for Stu and I am really excited for him. I told him (as a consolation prize of losing-by-not-having-a-penis) that I just want a bag at home so I can work on the Muay Thai and Kickboxing end of things that I enjoy more anyway as opposed to grappling (As a form of exercise since I am NOT going outside here after June begins… I heard people here actually get Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD] from not going outside during the SUMMER).

In other news, I found a picture of the infamous “hole in the ground” potties I keep battling with here. See what I mean??? (You’ve got to love the “traction” on the sides. Sigh.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Al Ain and Oman

This weekend was pretty eventful. We bar-b-qued on Thursday night as usual, which was a blast. We went to bed WAY too late though. We had a pretty lazy morning on Friday and then went clothes shopping at LuLu’s for a few shirts for me. Tried to find a bathing suit but there were like three (total) to choose from and they were way too big. I got a sarong though!
Kaden playing on the roof during the BBQ.
Look at those feet!
Stu and I got KFC for dinner which was totally weird. I can’t remember the last time I ate anything fried and it made us both feel kind of icky. But here, they don’t have those fabulous KFC biscuits… you get hamburger buns that are just not sliced. I’m not kidding… hamburger buns. Ok. Then there is also no such thing as mashed potatoes and gravy, you get the Arabian version of coleslaw, and French fries that appear to have been boiled, not deep fried. So it was interesting to say the least. But we watched a movie while we ate. King Arthur. It was pretty good.

About half way through our movie, Lucy came by (the movie lady) and we got some DVDs. So at least now we have something new to watch. That makes me happy.

On Thursday, Josh had mentioned that he was probably going to Al Ain on Saturday, if we wanted to come. Al Ain is a little city an hour and a half away from Abu Dhabi, where they are putting the new guys who come here to work with our guys. So they have an hour and a half commute every single day. That has to suck. Anyway, so we got up on Saturday and Stu and I decided we’d go ahead and go with him.

Al Ain is situated up against the Omani border so we figured since we’re getting close to our visas expiring, we’d just run across the border, thereby leaving the country, get new stamps and be on our way. Not so much. (story later)

Al Ain is much "shorter" than Abu Dhabi, as seen here.

This is a large sand dune... typical Arabian Desert. Very pretty.

Al Ain has a zoo and we decided to go ahead and see what they had. First of all, I should note the idiocy of our decision to “go to the zoo” right at 12:30 until like 2… the hottest time of day. I had sweat droplets literally running down my back and poor Kaden looked ready to kill me. We got some pretty decent pictures of the animals though. Once you get past the whole “should these animals really be out in this heat?” the zoo is very pretty and, in the winter, I’m sure is a very pleasant visit.

I had another “bathroom” problem at the zoo… no potties again, and no toilet paper. This time though, I was prepared for such a thing and brought some baby wipes in with me! Haha

Here, kitty kitty.

This "kitty" is ready to pounce on a bird he sees outside of the cage.

Pink flamingos!

A really weird bird... in really gross water.



Just about the biggest ostrich in the world!!!

A rhinoceros

After the zoo Kaden decided it was too hot to function and started wailing (making himself more hot and sweaty) and was literally inconsolable. We decided it was as good a time as any to grab lunch and found this little random Arabic restaurant that turned out to be a lot like the Flower, as far as choices went. Kaden got to have something to eat, in air conditioning, and the rest of us got to dry out and relax some. The food was fabulous and I wish I would have remembered to note the name of the place. I only remember it was the something (insert common Arabic name here) bar-b-que, but “bar-b-que” was spelled something like “barb-q”, that’s all I remember. Anyway, it was very nice to sit and enjoy the food and the air.

We found this guy tied to a tree... in this pic he was moving toward us and we started to flee! haha

Then we decided to go ahead and do the “visa run” now so we set out in search of a map. After three stops, it turns out that there must be no such thing as a map in Al Ain. I’ve googled it just fine, but nothing in print. Right on. So we ask the guy for directions to Oman and “eet is seemple, my friend.” (sure it is) He points this way and that, and eventually we start seeing signs to Oman. We find a border crossing and the guy confiscates Stu’s passport and tells us in heavily broken English to turn around. We do so and he informs us that we are at the wrong border (Qua? This isn’t Oman?) and we must go to Hili border crossing to immigration to get into Oman. Now, I should note here that often, in this country, lots of information is lost in our inability to communicate in Arabic. We head to the Hili border (unsure why) and try to go through again… A new border guy tells us we must “just turn left” and go to immigration. We miss the turn and end up on the Omani side of the border looking toward UAE… luckily the border is not strict and we just cross again and go back to Immigration (the second trailer on the left). This guy makes us fill out a pink sheet of paper so we may get an exit stamp. After a good 20 minutes we got said stamp and then after getting lost again with directions and turned around twice more, a police officer gives us directions to the Omani border (where we were previously told we’d just need an entrance and exit stamp, then we can come back to the UAE). His instructions are “go true geet, saycon roun-bout, go left, turd roun-bout go right.” I asked him to repeat them to be sure. He did. Thankful, the gentleman (who mercifully spoke English well) at Immigration previously told me the Omani border was about 32 kilometers away, so I assumed it would be a slight drive before we found it.

Now, let’s consider something, UAE says we can leave their country, but Oman hasn’t actually said we can be in their country yet… now we are supposed to go 32 or some kilometers for them to tell us we can be there. Cool. So we take a left at the second round-about and there are signs to Al Ain. Cool, there must be an Omani border between where we are now and Al Ain, right? So we head that way. We cross the Omani side of the border and there is no one there. No one. There is a single police car but it is unmanned and there is NO ONE else patrolling their border. (I begin speculating about our own borders back home and am entertaining theories about our illegal immigrant problem…)

So of course we get to the UAE border and the agent tells us we need an entrance and exit stamp (yeah, we can’t FIND a border agent, buddy!). “Yes, shukran, do you know where we can FIND an Omani border that has said stamps?” He points behind us, toward Oman. “Shukran.” Sighhhhh.

So we stop a man walking down the side of the road and ask him where to Oman border is. “Go to round-about and take right, go straight, only road, it is there.” He tells us it is about 18 kilometers from where we are. “Shukran.”

So we make our way through Oman, which is very different than UAE. It is very rocky and there are hills!!! On our way to Al Ain there were sand dunes as high as some of the Boise foothills, but no actual rock formations. Oman is pretty in its own way.

Thankfully at the end of about 18 kilometers we go up and then down a mountain and see the Oman border!!! After spending a good half hour there, filling out more cards for visas, we are stamped in and out and are on our way back to the unmanned border, to head back to UAE. I think the next time we go will be easier since we know what to expect, but it was an interesting experience.

These are pictures of Oman.

On the way back we ran into a herd of men on camels. So cool. That made the trip for me! We got home at about 8 at night after having left Abu Dhabi at 10 in the morning. Pretty long, sweaty day for the most part.

The Omani Border!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"You can't handle the truth."

Kaden and his cool new sunglasses that Aunt Marcia sent him!

Just had to share my FABULOUS lunch... a chicken salad pita and watermelon and carrots. It was so good! :)

Well, the past few days have been... interesting. To say the very least. I'm not going to go into it, but it's been humbling.

I think I’ve finally come to the realization that I am here, in Abu Dhabi, and I have to stay here. If it seems like it has taken a long time to come to this realization, Stu will assure you… you have NO idea! Heh.

I woke up this morning though and some days, today being one of them, it is still weird for me to think that we just left our life as easily as we did. It feels so unfinished. Like I need some sort of closure from Boise. Sounds so stupid, but it really does feel like a loss of, let’s say a well-loved pet (not quite the caliber of losing a family member…).

I’ve been reading a book by Sam Sheridan called “A Fighter’s Heart.” It’s about his journey through the world of fighting, particularly MMA (mixed martial arts), back when it was in its infancy as a sport in the US. It’s a fascinating book, and is very well-written. I especially like it because it takes me out of Abu Dhabi and allows me to follow this man through Thailand, fire jumping, and ultimately cage fighting, in the search for who he is. I think anyone can relate to such a thing. I doubt we ever find out everything about ourselves (I’d even venture to say I feel like I know others better than I know myself… For example, I have a much easier time knowing what Stuart would want or need than what I do). Since Stu and I got so into MMA before we left Boise, it feels even more familiar. Anyway, it is just a good book so far, and my favorite thing is getting to really escape into a book. Which is why Mary Higgins Clark and I are so tight. That woman is a literary genius.

Anyway, per the request of… everyone I’ve ever met… I started a “book” of sorts. Sort of a the-things-I-can’t-say-in-my-blog journal about this place. Who knows if it will ever turn into anything more than just a file on my computer for my eyes only. But for now, it’s simply another avenue with which to stay sane. (Lord knows in the coming months when it will get too hot to breathe, I will need all the help I can get.)

Summer school at Boise State starts in less than a month, which will give me even more to distract myself with. So that is good. I’ve been feeling more positive about life in general (particularly these past few days, oddly enough). I am at a good place with myself right now and Stu and I are figuring out where we belong here, and I think we’re both satisfied with it.

Last night we went up to the roof to BBQ with just the three of us. Kaden was so cute, getting disgustingly dirty playing on the ground, Daddy reassuring me, “Ohhh, He’s a boy! Let him play!” As I spent my time running around stepping on ants and flicking weird critters away from my happily playing baby. Typical Mom for you! But it was very enjoyable.

In slightly stranger news, Stu and Nick (the guy he carpools with to and from work) got clipped by a taxi yesterday not a block from the house. Stu called me to tell me he’d be a little late. Well, it turned out that once the cops got there, they couldn’t determine fault (here, SOMEONE is always at fault, and they were hell-bent on keeping both parties until one became at fault) so they took them down to the Police station! They had our Emirate liaison come down to speak Arabic with the cops and other driver, and ultimately, the cabbie was found at fault. But Stu didn’t get home until an hour and a half after the wreck and poor Nick was sorting out the car situation with Avis (trying to get another rental car... which they didn't end up getting) until almost 8 at night! Everyone was fine though, so that was good news. But they had to bum a ride to work today with someone else. Hopefully they get it figured out soon. Poor boys.

Anyway, other than that, I don’t have much to report. Just truckin’ along as usual.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


This past Thursday we bar-b-qued on our roof instead of going over to Matt's building. We figured that they would then come over to our place since we pack up the kid and go over there every weekend, but no one from that building came, so...

Anyway, it was a blast. Our roof is set up differently and it is nice because you can actually see over the edge without standing on chairs, so we got to watch the sun set and then the lights of the city come up. Very pretty. Josh bought a grill for up there and we had steaks and chicken and some sides.

It was really great because Kaden got to sleep in the bedroom in there in his carrier and it is air conditioned so he didn't sweat to death! And then we got to stay until ten talking up there because we were right next to his "bed" just downstairs. Handy.

Anyway, so it was mostly people from our building there, which is slightly different than the people we've been bbqing with. The composition of the conversation is noticeable different. So here are some pics from that night.

View from the roof, looking down our street.

Kaden feeding himself dinner.

Tommy, Jason, and Deborah in the background.

Tommy bringing up the grill!

The construction workers on the building next door.

MEAT! :)


Stu, Josh, Kaden, and I went to Dubai this weekend. (Finally, right? Lol) The drive there was nothing spectacular. In fact, it was boring as all Hell. Those who have had the opportunity to drive through Nevada know what I am talking about. It was just sand. And then more sand. Followed by sand.

But Dubai is pretty cool. It is a lot like Abu Dhabi, but much cleaner. It felt more like a “real” city. Meaning it felt familiar, American, in a sense. Abu Dhabi is a great city, but it is very second world still. The UAE is a developing nation and Abu Dhabi feels right at home there. Dubai is much more modern. It had the same designer boutiques Abu Dhabi has. Which, coming from Idaho, is still pretty exciting every time I walk into a Mall and pass a Gucci, Armani, and Coach to get to Starbucks.

It’s more visually friendly there as well. They have done an impeccable job making sure the beautification is well beyond adequate. The streets are almost all lined with very green grass and flowers or trees. The streets are kept swept, and the architecture is even more stunning than we are used to in Abu Dhabi (which says a lot, actually).

I can never avoid an adventure on my trips out of the apartment and this trip was not to let me down. We stopped at a rest stop between Abu Dhabi and Dubai because I had to use the bathroom REALLY bad. We go into what in the States would be the COOLEST rest stop EVER, but seems pretty normal here. It was like a mini shopping mall. It had a food court with Popeye’s, Burger King, etc. and a place to buy trinkets or clothing…. And it had bathrooms. Sort of. I found the “ladies toilet” after an exhaustive search and finally looking BEHIND the door the Arab man kept motioning toward that said “Employees Only”. I go in and here, all of the stalls have full-length, latching doors. They must think we are truly barbaric if they visit the US. Anyway, but to my dismay, behind these beautiful, private doors, is but a hole in the floor. A very clean, porcelain hole, but a hole nonetheless. I pray that this particular stall is just a hole and start looking in all the others hoping in vain for a hole that has a toilet situated above it. None such luck. So I start working out the physics in my head about how in the world I am going to squat over this thing and not pee on my shoes, or worse my PANTS, and then I realize not only is there merely a hole, but there is no toilet paper. Sighhhhhh…

I have been warned of the certain places here that don’t supply toilet paper, (all toilets are equipped with a spray nozzle that looks like the one on our typical kitchen sinks back home… yeah, that just “sprits” away and call it good) but I have had the good fortune of avoiding such places in favor of the more “touristy” places (malls, etc.) that supply paper. Since we are 75 kilometers from Dubai I know my options are to just “go” here, sans toilet paper, or to see my pants in the car. I decide on the latter.

Just kidding. But I went the whole rest of the day grossed out that I had to “rough it” even more so than camping (I at least bring toilet paper!). Aside from that slightly mortifying experience, the day was pretty cool. I absolutely loved the mall we went to, it was shaped like a Pyramid and had all the Egyptian themes you would expect. Very intricate. And then in the bottom was an absolutely gorgeous souk. We ended up buying three paintings there and the guy gave me a jewelry box for free. I had mentioned how a lot of the things in there reminded me of a jewelry box my Dad brought home for me when he was in the Middle East ten years ago. He said a lot of Syrian crafts have the jewels inlaid in the wood, and use this dark, beautiful wood. I have no idea what kind it is, but it stands out as unique. And familiar in this case.

These are the paintings we bought.

We decided to eat dinner at this little Italian restaurant at the Jumierah Hotel. It is neat because it too has a little souk set up within it, and you can see the Burj Al Arab Hotel. It is a staple of Dubai and has been acknowledged as the “best hotel in the world” by Institutional Investor Magazine and World Travel Awards 2007. It is designed to look like a billowing sail and is 321 meters tall. When you book a room there you get a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce and a butler. Needless to say, it is ungodly expensive, but very pretty! As I was writing this I got interested in what a stay there would be and I checked the rates. To stay in the very cheapest room, at a discounted off-season rate, is nearly 7,000 Dirham per night (about $2,000 American)!

Anyway, that was basically our first trip to Dubai. We took lots of pictures so enjoy them!

This is what it looks like the whole way from Abu Dhabi to Dubai...

Stu was pretty excited to see this! :)

Hard Rock Cafe!

This is the Burj Dubai (in the middle, through the haze). It is currently under construction and as of yesterday, April 19th 2008, (the day we were there!) it became the tallest free standing man-made structure in the world, as well as the tallest building in the world! The final projected height is being kept secret, but it also holds the record of being the building with the most floors (currently 164, and counting). Previously the Sears Tower held this record. It also set the record of vertical concrete pumping on any building at 1,483 feet surpassing Taipei 101.

A typical street sign, with both English and Arabic.

Dubai has a Subway!

A tunnel.

The waterfall in front of the Hyatt.

This is outside of the Pyramid Mall I was talking about.

Pretty cool, huh?

Inside the mall: one of the many designer stores we don't see a lot of in small-town America. This is Versace.

Again, in American malls, there is not this much detail!

The ceiling

That little "nook" is a huge store inside with secret passageways and very over-priced-but-cool items that feel sort of "Edgar Allen Poe".

This is the souk under the mall. Gorgeous or what?

Look at the detail in the railing. I must have taken literally forever to carve this much wood!

Josh and Stuart. Look at the doors and the hanging lights. It was so pretty.

Jesus!!! In Arabia!!! Will never see this again. Also in this souk I found the first cross necklace (crucifix) that I have seen in this country.

The outside of a window to a shop.

A door to a shop.

Burj Al Arab

I like this one. We are standing on the beach with the Burj in the background.

Hello Gulf!

A pretty Mosque.

I just really liked this picture. City in the background.

We drove out onto the trunk of the Jumierah Palm and these are some of the condos that are there. Everything is extremely expensive there.

This was as we were leaving dinner. You can see the resturants along the water.

Men and their Italian sports cars, eh? Stu is with a Ferrari. A common sight here. And Porches are a dime a dozen here. (or they SEEM to be as many as are here)

The hotel where we had dinner. You can see a man to the right standing in a boat. They take you on a cruise or to your room if you are staying there. Very intimate and romantic.