Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Chaine

Last night I was invited to a dinner for the Chaine des Rotisseurs club. It's a world-wide club that holds fine dining events for it's members. Only 50 members are allowed per city so that the events can remain the best quality. Here in Al Ain, the dinners are rotated between the big hotels as they have the best, most creative chefs. My friends Sharon and Serge are members so they invited myself and Linda, another co-worker.

This dinner was held at the Hilton, out in the gardens. It's about 23 degrees in the evening so it was perfect weather these days and there was a nice breeze.


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The dinner had a Halloween theme  so all the servers were dressed in costume and some of the food was designed to look scary.  The smoked duck and pumpkin soup was served from a cauldron and one of the starters was oyster margaritas in test tubes.

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Apparently the dinners are usually seated but this one was a buffet and we had a huge variety of dishes to try..  Quail, lamb, beef medallions wrapped in bacon, and the best rosemary roasted potatoes that I’ve ever had.  There was also a good selection of wine and cocktails before and during dinner.  Of course, my favourite part of the meal was the dessert.  Fruits, berries and chocolate all mixed together in amazingly good morsels. 

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Linda and I were both told that we might be able to become members and I might do it.  The dinners are a bit expensive at $75 but I met some nice people there and the food was really good.  I also got to buy a new dress and get all fancied up for the evening which was fun. Next week there is a wine tasting event held by a different group so I’m probably going to that as well. 

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Trivia with Britney Spears

Had a good weekend.  Went to a trivia game charity event on Thursday night and was embarrassed to be the only one on my team to answer the Britney Spears more top 40 for me.  I did know a couple of other questions but these people were fierce.  Jeopardy champs all the way. 

The event's dinner was catered by the organizer's wife who is Thai.  Of course, we had Thai food and it was delicous.  Got her number because she apparently delivers.  We also raised enough money to buy cameras for the local elementary school so the kids can use them for class projects. 

You can see the bamboo, character, dragon, flower, wind and circle sets in this picture

The next day I was invited to sit in on a regular Majjong game because one of the players couldn't make it.  The players were very sweet and let me practice on the first round of the game...apparently there are tons of different aspects to the real game when you get into it so I hope that I can go again soon before I forget when I learned. 

The Saga of Etisalat

The Internet Saga

Day 1: apply for high-speed connection with the state-run internet provider, Etisalat.
Day 20: visit internet provider to ask when the connection might be coming.  I am told two days.
Day 25: call provider to ask when the the connection might be coming.  I am told two days.
Day 33: receive a call saying that a team will come to connect my internet.
Day 38: wait four hours for the team.  They say they will come in two days.
Day 39: the team comes but tells me that the connection is not possible due to 'technical problems'
Day 41: provider says technical problem will be solved in two days.
Day 42: problem is not solved.
Day 52: Visit provider.  I'm getting really good at navigating customer service.  I am told to wait one week but they don't know what the problem is.
Day 60: They still don't know what the problem is.
Day 65: While the customer service rep at the counter is looking up things on his computer, I call the customer service number on my cell phone.  The man at the desk says it will be fixed in four days while the man on the phone says it could be three months.  I give up and order a slower service which they tell me is crap.
Day 75: A man calls and asks me to stand on the road so he can find my house.  He is coming to install 'something'.  He throws a cable off the roof of my building and drills a hole into my building wall.  The cable is put through the hole and connected to my computer.  Internet does not work.  Apparently, it will magically begin working the next day.
Day 76:  It works for two hours.  Stops and doesn't start again.
Day 77: I call and the man tells me that I have been disconnected because I didn't pay for my internet for the past two months.  I take a deep breath. 
Today:  The man is coming today to fix the connection problem and I'm worried that there won't be an ending to this saga as they deport people for murdering internet service providers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Busy Week

This week has been pretty busy for me and I've been getting out a lot.  On Monday, I joined some friends for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner at the Palm Sport Resort.  It was a nice setting with red being the theme and little Canadian flags here and there.  Unfortunately, the food was somewhat lacking.  Great turkey but bizzare stuffing and no pumpkin pie.  The Halloween party will be there later in the month so I have to look into getting a costume made up.

From left to right; Sharen, Serge, Louise and Julie...I'm in the window/mirror

I also locked myself out of the apartment on the way to the dinner.  I hadn't put an extra key anywhere because I hadn't found a safe spot yet so I was stranded out in the hallway when I came back from the hotel.  Interestingly, the procedure would normally require me to call the police who would verify my occupancy and then sign a document allowing a locksmith to break in for me.  This apparently takes hours so I was relieved when the handyman from the college came with his tools and banged away until we got in.  He replaced the lock for about $30.  I now have a spare key in my purse and another one hidden away so that shouldn't happen again. 

On a happier note, I went to Abu Dhabi for the Film Festival this weekend. 

Cotton Candy in a cup from our gas station stop on the way to Abu Dhabi

I went with Patreshia, Tania and Lisa and we stayed at the Hilton which was on the beach and within walking distance of the main theaters and a huge mall.  We spent our first morning at the Emerati Palace Hotel looking at the incredible fixtures and art.  There was even an ATM for buying ounces of gold. 

The Palace
The gold ATM...seriously!!!

The view from the palace

There was also a museum in the Palace and we could see old pictures of the city as well as future models of an incredible plan to make Abu Dhabi the Culture Capital of the's pretty impressive with a whole island devoted to museums, aquariums, galleries and performance halls.

Abu Dhabi beach in the 1970s

Abu Dhabi beach now

A future cultural center
We hit the film festival later in the day.  It was fairly well run and I had bought my tickets online.  I saw two films which were worth mentioning.  The Cave of Forgotten Dreams was a 3D look at a cave in France that has the oldest known cave paintings.  What amazed me about this was that the artists had used the curvature of the rock to emphasize movement and musculature of the animals.  The 3D imaging really made this clear.  The other movie I saw was City Dark and it was fantastic.  It was about how we're loosing the night sky due to light pollution and it dealt with the emotional to the physical and everything in between.  It was fantastic and, I think, as important as Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth.

The others saw more artistic type movies so we had a lot to compare over our meals and drinks.  I also got some shopping in so I now have my boots and a backpack for my trip to Nepal...I can't wait.

From left to right; Patreshia, Lisa, me and Tanya at the Hilton lounge in Abu Dhabi
This has been a bad week at work.  We had a big meeting about holidays.  It was bad news on the holidays and then there was an email giving more bad news about housing allowances.  This, compounded with a freeze on wages this year has really soured a lot of my co-workers and everyone is grumbling and talking about leaving.  Not the greatest environment for me to be starting in and it seems like it might be an indication of future trouble for the colleges and the country.  To add insult to injury, my boss insists that I give up one of my weekend days next weekend to sit at a conference.  

To end this on a positive note, I'll show you a picture of a restaurant I went to last week.  Great butter Chicken.

We aat outside in the back, under the palm trees and ate our dinner on lounges...very cool!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jazzing the Gulf

Went to a jazz performance by the North Rhine Westfalia Youth Jazz Orchestra the other night.  It was held at Toowoomb Hospital which seems like an odd place for a jazz concert but they have a good concert hall/auditorium there and the building is quite attractive all surrounded by palms and covered in scrolled and flowered iron works.

While there, I learned that this was the season's opening performance and that I should expect pretty good things to come.  The Sheikh and his mother, the Sheikha sponsor all kinds of great acts.  Last year they had Yo Yo Ma perform outdoors in the fort and before that was Winton Marsalis with his band and Bobby McFaren.  The tickets are always free or very cheap.  Last night was free.

The show was a interesting mix of styles with two German conductors and one Argentinian and each musican had a solo of one sort or another.  They had everyone dancing in their seats including me.

There is a pretty famous local DJ working a dance at the Equestrian, Shooting, Rugby, Golf Club (yes, that really is the name of the place) this weekend so I might hit that next. 

On another front, I've booked a flight for Nepal this November so I'll be celebrating my birthday at the foot of Everest.  I'm pretty excited about it.  It's too bad I left my trekking boots in Canada because now I'll have to break another pair in but I guess I can always use that as an excuse to walk slowly if I want.  :)