Archive for the ‘answers to questions’ Category

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The Big “Why?”

September 14, 2014

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

stone house ruins in the foreground, hills in the background open lawn area and large deciduous trees
three story building with ice palace restaurant building with scooters parked in front and laundry hanging from the awnings

Both in the United Arab Emirates before our move and in Shanghai after our move, we have been asked “Why?” Why would we want to leave the wondrous UAE? What brought us to China? The answers given depended on how well we knew the person inquiring, but mostly boiled down to “new job, better job.”

The laws regarding libel in the UAE are such that one can be charged with libel for publishing anything negative, even if it is true. Therefore, I cannot do a side by side comparison to show why we chose to move on and out. I can, however, tell you about my new job and new home city.

  • My salary is higher.
  • Housing is provided by the employer and we were driven directly to our apartment without any time in a hotel upon arrival. The internet was already connected and the air conditioning actually works.
  • Not once have I been warned that I could be fired at the drop of a hat for a minor infraction.
  • My coworkers are happy and cooperative and collaborative.
  • My library has a budget. A healthy budget.
  • I have two assistants to help with the workload.
  • Human Resources has been nothing but helpful and truthful.
  • Visa paperwork processes are being handled in a timely manner.
  • HR arranged for the bank and immigration to send representatives to campus for the convenience of new staff.
  • When I put in a request with I.T. services, they respond and get it done.
  • The cafeteria food is not like any cafeteria food I have experienced before. There are at least 6 different choices each day and a salad bar.
  • The curriculum includes multiple languages, music, art, theatre, sports, and character development.
  • The students are motivated to learn and to read.
  • Shanghai weather is lovely and frequently rainy. It varies from day to day. It actually cools off over night.
  • Shanghai people are polite and friendly. They wait their turn in line. Even crowds in touristy areas are polite. (While in Germany, I got so tired of being bumped into. No one made any effort to avoid collision or said “excuse me.” While walking down a crowded Nanjing Road, not once was I bumped into.)
  • Shanghai driving is crazy, but not aggressive, mean, or vindictive.
  • Our utility bills are WAY lower. There aren’t a bunch of hidden fines and fees related to housing.
  • Public transport is cheap and plentiful. (We traveled 20 stops on the Metro and it cost 5 yuan – $0.81 / 3 AED.)
  • We are serenaded morning and evening with music from the park next door. This morning it is lovely traditional Chinese flute music.
  • The cats, Oliver and Bert, seem to be happier here than ever before. They are frisky every day, multiple times a day. Oliver is living without his calming collar. We can’t explain it. We just appreciate it.

Are there negatives, of course.

  • The air quality is poor and sometimes enough to warrant wearing a face mask. (Although that has not yet happened since we arrived here.)
  • The tap water is not safe for drinking regularly, due to the likelihood containing heavy metals pollution.
  • Moving was an expensive and extremely stressful experience. My head might have exploded if it were not for the help of dear friends.
  • We had to leave our many dear friends behind, but they are welcome to come visit us here!

I predict that the thing that will get on my nerves will be the traffic. It is very difficult to safely cross the street even when there are traffic signals and a clearly marked crossing. The pedestrian simply does not have the right of way and you have to be totally aware of what is going on around you. You need eyes in the back of your head.

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Let Me Introduce You

July 16, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

Linda has asked for more information on Fujairah. We’ve only been here a little over two weeks, so my knowledge will be only skin deep. I might have had something to write before now, but much of our first week was spent driving back to Dubai for one paperwork errand or another. Only two paperwork issues remain in-process (that I know of) and only one will require another drive to Dubai, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Soon, we should be able to begin to deepen our appreciation of Fujairah.

The most recent population figure I’ve found is 180,000, but it is likely that this number is for the whole emirate, not just the city. It is significantly smaller than Dubai’s 1.5 million, but not really a “small town” either. There is a large amount of new construction, both newly finished and in process. Several new hotels, apartments, office buildings, and mosques. The city is a mix of these shiny new structures alongside older, thriving businesses.

view of north part of Fujairah at dusk

The oil industry is centered around refining and shipping. Since Fujairah is located on the east coast shipping to and from here eliminates the need to actually enter the Persian/Arabian Gulf. There is an underground pipeline delivering Abu Dhabi oil to Fujairah for shipping.

The fishing industry has a long tradition here. It has been hit by weather conditions this year. The monsoon season in India is causing higher tides here and rougher seas.

Agriculture is also significant here due to the geography and climate. The Hajer Mountains and Oman Gulf create a cooler, moister climate. (Remember this is all relative. I’m not saying that it is cool and moist here, just less harsh than the western region of the country.)

view out our window

The expats here are primarily involved in the oil industry or educational institutions. Last year when I was investigating the possibility of moving here, I was warned by an expat that “there is no culture here” which I knew was not true. We had already been out to see the bull butting several times. That counts as culture. I am sure she meant that there is little or no Western culture here. That is fine with us. We don’t need the opera, orchestra, ballet, although we could use a little theatre.

Just this week an expat asked me if I had found “our one and only supermarket – Lulu Hypermarket.” Actually, we have found several excellent grocery stores. I even found rice milk (which is rare) for the same price as soy milk in one of those overlooked stores. I was greatly excited. The one time I found it in a Dubai store, it was twice the price of soy.

The most obvious cultural difference that we have had to adjust to, so far, is the afternoon shutdown. At 1 or 2 pm, businesses close and reopen around 5 pm, with the exception of government offices and banks which just close at 2 pm period. (Imagine our fun having to run around doing paperwork making sure we got it done by 2 pm. If you think American bankers hours of 8 am – 5 pm are difficult to work around, be glad it isn’t 8 am – 2 pm.) The government and bank closures are the same in Dubai, but most other businesses go right on without closing.

Once the heat of the day/siesta is over and businesses reopen, then things get to hoppin’. Shopping is done late in the evening 8-11 pm. The town is lit up and busy. At least two new shopping malls are being built and we are concerned about the impact on smaller businesses. There really isn’t a need for malls here.

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Answer to a question

November 8, 2009

Pictures of the mussel dinner show some of us imbibing alcohol, which leads to the question of is it legal and how does that fit with this being an Islamic country? Sorry it has taken me so long to reply.

I believe each Emirate has it’s own set of regulations regarding alcohol. In Dubai, only particular restaurants are licensed to sell alcohol. Alcohol in restaurants tends to be quite expensive. If an individual wishes to purchase alcohol in bottles for home consumption, an alcohol license is required. One needs to have a permission letter from their visa sponsor, in my case my employer, and some other paperwork. There is a limit on how much one can buy per month (a currency amount). Depending on what you buy, it can be quite inexpensive by the bottle. Liquor stores are very low key and few in number. You have to know the name of the shop (MMI or Africa & Eastern) because there will be no mention of liquor in the signage and no windows, let alone window displays.

As for Muslims, drinking is considered wrong, but is a matter of individual conscience. In fact, that evening two men, who by their dress and appearance, seemed to be Emirati came into the bar. I did not check to see exactly what they were drinking and can’t assume it was alcohol, but they were clearly socializing with other drinkers. There were those in our group who are Muslim and were drinking non-alcoholic drinks. We may also have Twitter friends who would have liked to have come, but chose not to do to the location being a bar. It’s all about personal choice.

That being said, drunk driving is another matter. Driving under the influence results in a jail term and hefty fine. I’m not sure if being deported after the first two punishments is a given, but it is certainly a possibility. According to “the grapevine,” there is a zero tolerance rule, so if you are involved in a traffic violation and found to have any blood alcohol level, punishment applies. I have yet to find this in writing from a reputable source, so cannot state that with certainty. The grapevine here tends to say a lot of things that are not necessarily true.

There certainly are countries which are more strict on issues related to Islamic religious practices and requirements. Dubai would be considered liberal by many and conservative by others, but there are still things that remind us we are living in a different world. Recently, a man walked into a mosque here and declared himself to be Jesus. When someone in America walks into a church and declares himself to be Jesus, it is generally recognized that he is probably mentally ill and in need of care. He may be arrested for disruptive behavior, if he is physically threatening, but, generally, he is more likely to be committed for psychiatric evaluation than to be charged with a crime. Here, the man has been arrested and is being questioned (and may be charged) for having offended a religion. This is a punishable offense. Mental illness still has some stigma attached to it here, although there is increasing awareness of other psychological conditions like autism, so there may be hope for acknowledgment of depression, etc., in the future.

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Replies to Comments

March 31, 2009

Yes, the food was yummy. No, you cannot have any! Actually, it was an Italian restaurant and I had a calzone with the MOST AMAZING tomato sauce ever. It tasted as if the tomatoes had actually been allowed to ripen and were freshly turned into sauce that day.

I’m not sure I could explain shisha, so you are better off with consulting Google or Wikipedia. It seems to be a fruit, molasses, tobacco concoction smoked through a water pipe. The smoke actually smells nice due to the small amount of tobacco and the large percentage of fruit.

Women and dress – you will see it all here. Abha is actually an Indian and has opted for western dress. The Indian women I work with wear a form of traditional dress – not the sari (which is considered too revealing by the locals), but the salwar kameez. Personally, I’m heading toward that myself. It is a loose fitting pair of pants (salwar), a long tunic (kameez) and a scarf (dupatta). Muslim women wear a variety of clothing also, depending on which country they come from and how traditional or liberal they are. The head scarf and lack of bare skin are the common factors. The Emirati traditional dress is the black scarf (shayla) and black robe over their clothes (abaya). Some go so far as to wear black gloves and a veil over everything but their eyes, so that there is no skin showing except the small area around the eyes – and some even have a solid sheer black veil with no “eye holes,” if you will. But these conservatives are in the minority of the minority.

Basketball – yes, they do “play” at playing basketball. The hoop was put there on “sports day” which was a special event to encourage the students to participate in a variety of physical activities. It was popular, so has been left out for use. No one is playing serious one-on-one, but any physical exercise is a good thing. And, yes, they do it in their abaya. πŸ™‚

The coffee cups and tea cups are marked as being made in Japan, so I suspect that they are really just tea cups. One can find a variety of coffee here – Americana, Latte, Cappacino (funny thing – the Arabic for Cappacino in the menu where we had shisha was Al Bachino – Ha! no “P” in the Arabic script, no intentional homage to Al Pacino either), etc. Turkish/Arabic coffee is very strong, served in small portions. It is supposed to have grounds in it. We often get tea at the end of a dinner which is served in small glasses (almost shot glass size) and is usually sweetened for us. It is very close to being syrup – the ultimate sweet tea.

Finally, and most importantly, a full English breakfast at the Horsebrass pub is most definitely on the top of our list of things to do this summer in Portland. Along with tater tots and a Ruby at any and all McMenamins. I told Daddybird that we should just put out the word to everyone that we would be at McMenamins every night and they should drop by if they want to see us.

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Answers to your questions

March 12, 2009

Questions have been piling up, so here are some answers.

Are we coming back “home?” and will we bring the furniture we are buying with us? ***Don’t really know. Here’s the deal. We came here with the intention of staying until it is time to retire, which should be around 20 years. 1/2 of the first year down, 19 1/2 to go. So, we are buying good quality furniture that will last. Now, most anything could happen and we might not stay the full 20 years. We do intend to ship the best pieces to wherever we might move. It will cost a bundle, because they are hardwood and heavy and worth it.

Jon and anyone else is welcome to visit. We recommend January. The weather is wonderful then and I have two weeks off, perfect for sight seeing.

The toys are made in China. No, they have not been tested for lead content, but I wasn’t planning on putting them in my mouth.

Why do all the toys (so far) have flashing lighted eyes? ***No idea. Perhaps they are part of a plot to overstimulate children.

If men gather for kushti wrestling, what do women do for fun? ***Unknown. There are probably interesting things going on, but we haven’t discovered them, yet.

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Gainfully employed…

January 23, 2009

Well it’s happened. I have a job. I thought perhaps I had escaped the noose of a steady paycheck for the duration and could relax with a certain future of sitting on the couch, watching soap operas and eating bonbons. (Well, the Arabic equivalent of soap operas, and perhaps baklava instead of bonbons, but we *do* have a couch!) But despite my efforts, work came looking for me. “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

When researching our move to Dubai I checked into the Macintosh activity in the area and found out about the well established Emirates Macintosh User Group, which I contacted even before our move. So once we got here and got reasonably settled in I attended a meeting and joined up. They’re a particularly nice bunch of folks and definitely birds of a feather. Also the ringleader of the group, Magnus, has for a few years published a Macintosh related newsletter/magazine, Shuffle. Last summer, with the help of an Emirati partner, he took it from being an in-house thing, re-branded it a bit as “Shufflegazine” and started distributing it to the general public on newsstands. It’s a fledgling operation, but growing and well liked in the community here.

One day, when I made a mention of playing World of Warcraft on my Mac, Magnus sent me a message asking if I’d like to write an article on that for the magazine. “Of course!” So, I wrote the article, sent it in and Magnus gave me positive feedback on it. A nice experience, and I figured I’d throw a few more articles at him if I thought of something.

A few weeks later Magnus contacted me again and had proposition. Would I be interested in taking over as proofreader for Shufflegazine when their current proofreader left? The current guy had read my article, thought it pretty good, and suggested I might be a good replacement.

That took me all of 5 seconds to think about. He said there would be some, if not a lot of pay, but that’s not a major concern right now, and working with the magazine was a big draw. Such fun! So, soon after I dipped my toe in the water and helped proof the upcoming issue. I also took on writing a few more articles for the magazine, which they also pay a little bit for. More fun work!

Not long after that, Magnus again contacted me, saying he needed to have another talk with me, about “good things”. He had said before that in future months they were planning on hiring another regular writer, and if I was interested we could talk about it when the time came. Well, they had decided to rearrange some duties on the staff, and they needed more writing help right away, so he offered me a part-time position, proofreading and writing for both the magazine and the Shufflegazine.com website.

So that’s what I spend a good deal of my time working on these days; proofreading, working on articles and following Apple news for writing and blogging on the website and getting paid to do it. It’s a rough life! And all the writing/proofreading is done online, so I can work on it from anywhere I have Internet connection! Not bad, eh? I’m still working on getting into a rhythm posting to the website; we had a bit of a crunch for a few weeks as we were trying to get ahead of schedule on the magazine to set up a better publishing timeline. Now that we’ve caught up there’s a little more breathing room and I can work on getting news feeds set up for easier daily research.

Even though I can do the job from pretty much anywhere, I like going into the office most of the time because the co-oworkers are great and some things are easier to get accomplished there. (Especially when we are going over the pages just before sending them to the printer!)

Another cool thing about the job: Shufflegazine is published in both English and Arabic, which surprisingly is pretty rare. It’s also a challenge as a lot of technical terms don’t yet exist in Arabic. They certainly have technology here, but in the past they have generally depended on Hindi techies to maintain it, so tech terms in Arabic have been slow to develop and even slower to be adopted. Hopefully the magazine will help with that for our sake and that of the region.
Pretty exciting stuff!

So if you want to keep tabs on me, job-wise anyway, just look for the entries with my name on them on Shufflegazine.com!

(posted by Daddybird)

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Answers to questions

December 2, 2008

Yes, English is an official language here. So everyone speaks it to some degree, although with one of our security guards (in the apartment building) if you get beyond “hello, sir” and “goodbye, sir” he’s lost. The other security guard is from Nepal and was delighted when Paul said hello to him in Nepalese. His English is better, so Paul talks with him sometimes. At the college, all instruction is done in English, although the ladies (as the students are called) come in with varying levels of English and much of the instruction is to get them up to speed in the language.

The standard work week is Sunday through Thursday. Friday is the holy day. Most people have Friday off, except for the construction workers, service workers, retail clerks. The malls open in the afternoon on Friday. Some people work 7 days a week, but it may be by choice. They are here to make money to support their family back home.

Germany will be appearing in future blog entries. I won’t be taking my computer, but Paul will have his and we are supposed to have internet access in our hotels. I will be whipping my camera out frequently. It is supposed to be 39-44F in Heidelberg, so we may not have pictures of snow.