29 December 2009

Back In Galway

So yesterday was a very long day spent travelling, made longer by the time difference. My yesterday must have lasted about 28 hours instead of the usual 24. When I arrived in Dublin I then took the bus to Galway which is really the easiest option. And the busses have the internet! But what would you know I hadn't thought to charge up my computer's battery so I couldn't make the most of it anyway. The scenery was very pretty though, instead of the usual rain everything was covered in frost, all the trees looked white and fuzzy. Unfortunately I could not take a decent photo throught the bus window.

Well last night I had to go to bed really early to make up for all the travelling and lack of sleep. And by the time I wake up this morning what would you know but it is raining again! And I thought that all this clear frosty weather would last. So eventually I make my way to work to start feeding barnacles again, and when I arrive I realise that I have left the adaptor to plug my computer into at Mum's! So I decided to dash into town to get another because I really like to be able to use my computer, especially seeing as despite being at work I don't actually intend to do any work.

So I dash off to the only shop that I know for sure has an adaptor to fit my NZ plug, Tesco. And while I am there I get a cheap kettle for the lab because it was really cheap, only 7 euro. And I got some gloves too because it is absolutely freezing out there today. And I am on my way out of the shopping centre, in a hurry because I left things running in the lab that had to be turned off, and what would you know but I have lost my hat! On a freezing cold day! And I rushed back thinking it would be right there on the counter of the shop but it wasn't, it's just gone. So I am hatless and it is cold. Luckily I have an umbrella otherwise I would be wet too.

When I got back to the lab everything was ok, nothing had died in my absence, and there were people here to talk to yay. But I go to show off my proud purchase of a jug for the lab and the box is empty!! I was in too much of a hurry and grabbed the display model box (though you would think that empty boxes would be kept in a store room or something wouldn't you?). So I went back to sort it out sooner rather than later because I was offered a lift, and it was no longer raining, now it was sleeting!

I went back to tesco and sorted out my kettle problem (I have to be careful to say kettle here instead of jug otherwise people don't know what I am talking about) and decided that since I am back in the shopping centre anyway I would get a heater for the lab, because it is the holidays and the heaters aren't going, and even when they are going it is cold in here anyway. I have avoided it for ages because electronics here are really overpriced compared to NZ. But it is cold so I brought a heater, only slightly on special but better than nothing, and what do I care anyway? I got my back pay and it turns out they paid m for October too, so I got three pay-checks in one! So I feel quite rich for the time being.

Anyway I leave the shopping centre with my purchases because if I have to work in the weather I might as well be warm, and now it is not just sleeting but actually snowing. And it is still going, like a half hour later! The guy that sold me the heater reckoned it would freeze again tonight, so once again I will have to be careful not to fall on my arse with all that ice around. I can see the snow throught my office window, it is very nice to look at from here at least. I'm not much looking forward to walking home in it though. I guess I will have to buy a new hat. It is very much like Invercargill snow though, it looks ok through the window but when you are out in it it is very wet and cold and slushy.

26 December 2009

Christmas Aftermath

Today, my last full day in Abu Dhabi, was supposed to be spent at the beach in the sun. It might be winter but it is, after all, a desert. Unfortunately this morning I got up and it was overcast! But it was only early so I hoped it would get better later on.

In the meantime the cats finally knocked over the Christmas tree. I'm surprised they hadn't done it as soon as it went up; it's rather miraculous that it survived through Christmas at all. They knocked it down and then Nunu proceeded to try to eat it. Then they got really hyperactive and chased each other around for awhile.

After lunch the sun came out so we went down to the beach club and got settled. The Beach Rotana is just down the street, about 15 or 20 minutes walk, not at all far but you have to wait a long time to cross the big roads. It is joined on to the Abu Dhabi mall so is really very convenient. You can do your sunbathing and shopping all at once.

It was a bit cloudy and a bit windy, but it seemed alright. Of course we were being far too optimistic, and before we knew it there were clouds with no end in sight.

We were not even there for that long before we gave up, stopped in the mall to grab a couple of things, and went home. I saw this really cool couch in a shop. When I have a house one day it might just have a couch very similar to this one.

We had left in the nick of time it turned out, it began to spit just as we were getting in the taxi. Now it is not really supposed to rain at all here, but I think that perception is going to have to change because it looks like the climate definately is. And today it was only spitting and raining a bit, but you cannot take the risk that it will remain that way because more likely than not it will become a torrential downpour and may even last all day.

But at least the clouds and rain made it seem appropriate to eat Christmas pudding and custard which we were far too full for yesterday. So that was dinner (very nutritious I know, not to mention all the chocolate) and now I guess all that is left to do is to tidy up the tree/decorations/presents. Back to work and things. What a shame.

25 December 2009

Christmas in Abu Dhabi

I am very tired and full. It is quarter to seven at night and I am still full from lunch. I don't think I can manage to write. Pictures will have to suffice.

We will start with decorations.

This is Al Wahda mall which is close to where mum works. You see they manage to work their national colours (green, red, white, black) into the Christmas decorations.

This is the foyer of the Beach Rotana Hotel where Mum has joined the beach club. The next two are also the Beach Rotana. The gingerbread house is real gingerbread and lollies. It is big, life-size - there is a girl inside selling sweets out of the window.

These next two are in the Abu Dhabi mall, which is a short walk from Mum's apartment. Santa is inside the hut that has the penguins on top. This is one of the smaller malls but had the best decorations. Santa and his elfs are Philipino.

I made Christmas cookies this year. We took them to Mum's work and gave them to the teachers. They worked out really good. They are not gingerbread but spicy, with cinnamon and cloves. Everybody loved them, I will definately make them again. Can't believe I never had made them before. I must say the trees, snowmen, stockings and canes were the best. The stars and snowflakes were alright. The men and angels and bells were boring. In my opinion that is.

And of course seeing as Abu Dhabi is hot and full of palm trees, it just would not be Christmassy if you did not cover them in coloured lights.

So today we went out on a boat for lunch. It is a yacht, but just a small one. Here is the Marina, which is across the water from the city. Basically Abu Dhabi is built on the coast, on a spit of land that has mostly been reclaimed from the sea. There are islands all around, but you don't notice it because you can drive across to them. The Marina Mall is on one such island and as you probably get from the name the Marina is right there too.

The yacht is called the Shuja and belongs to a hotel, Le Royal Meridien.

So we went inside and chose a table, and one of the waiters took a photo of us. And then about a million more so that everybody had one on their own camera.

Then we decided to move because it was nicer upstairs on the deck. So another waiter was asked to take another stack of photos. And we are me and Mum, three other ladies that work for Cognition Consulting, but in different schools to Mum. And a man who used to work with Mum at one of the other schools and was stuck in Abu Dhabi alone for this year.

Here is a view looking back as the boat moves away from the Marina.

Here is a view of the city as we travel along the waterfront, the Corniche.

And to finish, some snowmen:

24 December 2009

A post about Abu Dhabi

So Abu Dhabi is full of really tall buildings. Out on the Corniche, which is the waterfront, they actually look quite nice. They are all spaced out, and lit up real pretty. Plus there are no buildings in front of them due to the water and all that, so you can actually see them properly. But other than that the tall buildings are not at all impressive. You don't even notice them really. A lot of them are all new and shiny like this one:

And others look really bad, yet people are still living in them. And when you think about it they connot even be that old, seeing as oil was only discovered here in the desert 40 years ago. So all of the big buildings must be 40 years old or younger. Apparently they look bad because all that time ago they just built the buildings like any other buildings, whereas nowadays they know how to build buildings so that they can survive the heat and sand.

Then of course there a buildings that just look a bit ridiculous, like this one:

And then there are all the buildings that are under constructions, and the skyline that is dominated by cranes.

And like I said you don't actually notice them very much after awhile. What you do begin to notice is the stink. There are a lot of reasons for the bad smells, like all the people (some of them are so smelly, even in the open air - I don't understand how they put up with themselves) and the food smells and the sheesha pipes. But the biggest reason for the stink is this:

So there are these huge dumpsters on every corner, everything is chucked into them, they are sitting in the sun, and they are often just left open. It is gross. Of course, what else can they do really? And it does provide a source of food for the millions of cats, like these ones:

This visit to UAE I have noticed the cats more than in the past. Perhaps they are out and about more or something. I have so far seen two tiny kittens as well. And it turns out that all these cats that look a bit different to your usual cat, including Mum's cats, are not just funny looking desert cats. They are now a recognised breed, and they seem to only breed amongst themselves so they are all purebreed as well. The ones on the street don't really look anything special for the most part:

But Mum's cats are quite interesting looking:

There are also heaps of chickens around. They belong to the people in the houses, but I'm not really sure what for. They seem happy enough.

Of course the city can be nice, and it can be very impressive. When you manage to get a glimpse through the buildings the sunrise and sunset is pretty.

And when you stop to take notice the size of everything can still be very impressive.

As is the gigantic hole they are digging as a part of the roadworks. It looks like maybe they are going to build a tunnel under the road, so that there will be one road underneath the other.

And you should see the way they decorate, this last photo is some of what is left of the National Day decorations.

Of course they don't go so overboard for Christmas being Muslim and all but some of the decorations are quite impressive. But that can wait until tomorrow it is late now.

22 December 2009

From Snow to Sun

This last weekend in Galway was really cold, and on Sunday it snowed a bit. Surely it is not really colder than New Zealand gets, but I am sure it never gets so slippery back home. I wasn't expecting the ice, it was all over the footpaths and if you didn't watch where you were stepping you could so easily fall over.

I did a very small amount of Christmas shopping because this year I am using the whole being in Ireland thing as an excuse to send no presents (and thus buy no presents). I will do presents next year. But I will definately get them early, you should see the crowds here!

One thing that I have really noticed as being different from Christmas in New Zealand is the huge number of buskers, carolers and people just collecting money in general. They are everywhere.

Anyway the travel was nothing new. I had never been to Heathrow before but really it was nothing special, not like Singapore Airport. Plus the people at the security check were rude and really rough with my computer. You would thing that if they want to bang them around like that they would make the trays out of foam or something. And the internet wasn't even free! I didn't sleep at all which was not very good. But on the Etihad flight they gave us Haagen Daaz ice-cream, it was really good. Although I think Basking Robbins and Ben&Jerrys is better. If only they sold it all in bigger tubs like back home.

Now I am in Abu Dhabi where it is winter but still about 25 degrees. Yay. Except that Abu Dhabi is really smelly and full of people. Lots of tall buildings, lots of cars, heaps of tooting. As if that's actually going to help. It's warm out but not too hot for the most part, and sometimes even a bit cool. I am very tired though, I think it must be harder to move forward through time zones than backward.

19 December 2009

On the Granuaile

So on Thursday morning after the Christmas party I went home and got about an hour's sleep, and then had to be up and ready to go out sampling. After collecting the gear from uni we leave Galway about 4am, with one of those GPS navigation things to tell us where to go. And they are so great - it was easy to use, and if you took a wrong turn it just adjusted and gave you the next option, and we got there easily enough so obviously they work.

The drive didn't really seem that long, but then I wasn't driving so perhaps I should not be the judge of that. We got there early, and then the boat wasn't there at the time we were told anyway so could probably have had a bit more sleep. But you know if we had been late the boat would have ended up being early.

The boat was anchored in Lough Swilly, and we were picked up from a tiny pier in Portsalon. Had to suit up in steel-toed gumboots and waterproof pants, put on a life jacket and get on this little boat to be taken to the big boat. Maybe you would call it a ship, I don't know. Just so you know, it is called Granuaile (Gran-ewe-el) which is the Irish name for Grace, and is named after a lady pirate who was notorious back in the day of Queen Elizabeth the first. And the boat belongs to the Commissioners of the Irish Lights, who go around taking care of the light-houses and navigation buoys (thus the name Irish Lights).

Once on board we were taken inside where it was a lot warmer, taken up to the brig to meet the captain and then sent down to the galley to be given breakfast. We were not expecting to be fed. All the crew and the cook were really friendly, and the officers seemed friendly enough too, but perhaps not overly impressed to be taking on board a couple of students. It was about an hour until we got out to where the buoy was, and then there was more waiting while they brung it up out of the water with a big crane.

Finally we were allowed to go have a look for samples. Unfortunately there were not many barnacles on the buoy, mostly mussels, but it was still interesting. Freezing though, it is very hard to get barnacles off of a buoy with a scalpel when your hands are frozen. There were heaps of other things on the buoy as well, starfish and anenomes and urchins. Since there were not many barnacles to collect we grabbed some other stuff too, just for the fun of it. The barnacles were huge and covered in seaweed.

Anyway we were done, we had our buckets of samples, so now I could go back inside and get warm again. We watched the rest of the work from the brig and talked to the captain a bit. Then it was time to have lunch and head back to shore, and from there have another long drive back to Galway. The drive back took longer because there was traffic and we were tired, then back at the lab the barnacles had to be fed and the new samples taken care of. But finally I got home and got to go to sleep. It was a hugely long day.