Sunday, September 15, 2013


So I'm back home after a great summer.  I spent a week in Luxumbourg and then the rest in Canada with family.  Had a good time in both places but it's nice to be back in my own bed.

While I was home, I tried to talk some family members into coming for a visit.  Here is a great tourism video about the Emirates if you have 25 minutes to watch.  My city is a 9:00 minutes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A little culture

This week at the college we’ve been having some different cultural events.  To start with, we hosted an art exhibit for local artists including expats and students at the college as well as other people in the region. 



I was particularly impressed with some of the photography. 

There was also music all week including; our college rock band


We also had a visit from one of the only Emirati veterinarians (trained in the US and working here in Al Ain at our zoo).  He has given a talk on and addressed issues with animals and education.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Flamingos and Flamenco

Went up to Dubai again last weekend to see a Flamenco show.  We stopped at the bird refuge along side the highway and got a glimpse of the flamingos.

Flaminco 003

Unfortunately the refuge was closed so I want to go back when it’s open for a closer look….it’s right on the highway so very easy to get to on the way into Dubai.

Then we hit Seville’s for our dinner and show.

Flaminco 004

The food was not very good the but the flamenco dancers were great.

Flaminco 022

Flaminco 018

Thursday, April 18, 2013


“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”
Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone

This is the kind of quote that pushed me towards Prague and some of this quote actually felt true as I floated down those meandering cobblestone streets, past costumed musicians and pastel rainbows of buildings.

Phraha 029

Phraha 034

There’s a certain quality of the fairytale both in the fantastic and the gruesome stories of Prague.   Here’s a picture of the ornate and almost overwhelming St. James Church which has an actual human arm hanging over the front door.

Phraha 020

The legend is that a thief broken into the church and tried to steal a gold medallion from around the neck of a statue of St. Anne.

Phraha 017

The statue came to life and grabbed his arm before he could get away and froze in place with the thief’s arm trapped.  When the priests arrived in the morning they decided to cut his arm off rather than damage the statue.  After quite a bit of screaming and bleeding, the arm was almost detached when the statue came back to life and released him.   To ward off any other thieves, the priests hung the arm over the door and there it still hangs.

Phraha  192

Apparently, the thief returned later, impoverished and crippled.  He was given a job by the priests and spent his life working in the same building as his arm.

Of course, that doesn’t beat the gothic cathedral of St. Vitus which was  begun in the thirteenth century by King Charles the IV to house the arm of St. Vitus. 

Phraha 060

The elaborate carvings on the door the church make it pretty obvious that the builders had no idea which arm it was because they feature both the right and left arms.  There is a good chance that the arm never made it to the cathedral but, never fear, there is a body part within. 

Phraha 062

At the alter is a large silver tomb that holds the tongue of St. John of Nepomuk.  Before John was a saint, he was the head priest at the cathedral in the fourteenth century.  One of his duties was to hear the confession of the king and queen which turned out to be bad luck for Johnny.  The king became convinced that the queen was having an affair so he insisted that John tell him what she was confessing.  John refused to betray the confessional and was tortured.  The King eventually had his tongue cut out and his body thrown off a bridge.  There has been some speculation that John was the man that the queen was having the affair with that’s definitely not the official story.                    Luckily for all of us, they saved the tongue Smile.

It gets better!  About sixty kilometers outside of Prague is the medieval town of Koutna Houra which was the minting capital of Bohemia for four hundred years.  During the crusades, one of the local priests brought back some soil from the holy land and spread it around the local church in Koutna Houra which made it the place to get buried.  All the rich and famous wanted to be laid to rest in this 'almost’ holy place.  This continued for about three hundred years, through the black plague and through wars and revolutions.  So, a lot of burials. 

Jump forward to the seventeenth century when the Hapsburgs are ruling Bohemia and new Catholic churches are being built to replace the Protestant ones that the locals preferred.  What do to with all the remains of all these burials???? Hmmmm…I know, lets build a church out of them.

Phraha 162

We’ll make chandeliers and pillars from their bones.

Phraha 167

And hang festive skull streamers from the ceiling.

Phraha 165

This place puts the ‘grim’ in Grimm’s fairytales.

On the other hand….

Phraha 152

Karlstien Castle, forty kilometers outside of Prague, has perched atop this mountain for seven hundred years.  It’s a bit bare bones inside but the walk through the little town while looking up at it was lovely.

Phraha 144

The magical astronomical clock in Prague town square was built in the thirteenth century and was a wonder of the world for it’s time.

Phraha 001

These three characters, representing different sins, all shake in fear at death when the clock strikes on the hour.  Music plays, the apostles come out of the clock and a golden rooster crows.  Very exciting!

Phraha 002  Phraha 003

For those looking for a more sophisticated show, there is the fabulous art-nouveau Municipal Hall which was where the end of communism was announced twenty-five years ago as well as being Prague’s seat of power for hundreds of years and is now a museum, concert hall and a collection of fantastic cafes.

Phraha 089

I listened to the Prague Royal Orchestra play Mozart and Vivaldi in the Smetana Concert hall inside.

Phraha 119

I fell in love with Alphons Mucha in the Museum.


Once past the Municipal hall and in the Old Town, the buildings are beautifully preserved with tourist shops and restaurants tucked inside them.  The town square was filled with food stalls and shops for the Easter festival.

Phraha 028

This is their version of a waffle cake.  Delicious!

Phraha 180

After checking out the square, it’s a short meander to the famous Charles bridge (where they threw the ill-fated John from).  As previous bridges kept getting washed away by floods, King Charles IV wanted to make sure his bridge would stand forever and consulted astrologers, clerics and mystics and they provided him with an auspicious date and time to begin the construction ….it’s still standing seven hundred years later so I guess they picked the right day.

Phraha 033

There were a lot of good restaurants and pubs.  I really liked the restaurant at the Municipal Hall which was where one scene of Triple X was filmed and at a pub, later during the week, I tried a traditional pork knuckle with sauerkraut and one of many fantastic Czech beers .

Phraha 155

It was freezing in Prague so I’m relatively happy to be home again and I spent the last day of my vacation baking my friend Mary’s birthday cake.

Phraha 190

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Joshua Bell in Abu Dhabi

Had a great day up in Abu Dhabi with a group of friends.  We got dressed up and went out for French food at Le Beaujolias in the Mecure hotel.  I would recommend this place to anyone.  The food was fantastic, the decor adorable and the desert came on big chocolate mouse came in a cereal bowl and was tres manifique. 

Just look at the sizes of these deserts!
Then we went off to the Emirates Palace which is amazing and I have mention in a previous post.

This was taken during the day on a previous visit..we went at night this time and
it was lit up beautifully.
We bought tickets to see Joshua Bell and the Czech Philharmonic this winter and I've been looking forward to it for a while. 

The show was fantastic and we got to stroll around the grounds during intermission.

A great day and I've got one week of classes to go before a two week break and my trip to Prague.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TESOL Arabia weekend

Had a great weekend in Dubai with friends from work.  We went up for the TESOL conference and job fair but also for the socializing, eating and shopping. 

The first night we ate at the hotel restuarant....excellent food and we got a great discount because one of our group got locked in a malfunctioning bathroom. 

Sharon, Liz, me and Stacy
The next day I attended a few speakers at the conference.  It was pretty much a waste of time as the prsesenters were unprofessionable and hopelessly outdated in their topics.  I heard the same thing from other attendees all day.  Apparently this is normal for this TESOL Arabia because of the pressure put upon teachers to present regardless of whether they have time or interest.   I did get a good grammar book at the book fair so it wasn't a complete waste of time and we ate at the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel while enjoying the views of Dubai.

Another reason I attended was to see how the job fair works for next year when I'm looking for a job.  It's very bizzare.  The institutions that are hiring put up their job postings and applicants hand their 'paper' resumes to a collection desk.  Then applicants wait to see if institutes want to interview them and what time their interviews are.  There is no communication between the institue and applicant while this is being done so you just have to wait and be available the whole weekend.   I'm not looking forward to doing it next year but I guess it will be a learning experience.

On our last night, we went to a sheesha bar on the Dubai Creek and relaxed outdoors with the lights of the city twinkling accross the water. 

Rick, me, Jackie, Stacy, Tanya (Sharon is taking the photo)
Here is me with the sheesha can smoke all kinds of flavored tobacco like apple, mint, strawberry and peach.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dubai Literary Festival

Went up to Dubai last weekend with Patreshia and met Rick for a day at the Dubai Literary Festival.  It was being held at the Intercontinental Hotel right on the marina...beautiful boardwalk lined with restaurants and, I can't believe I'm going to say this, it was a little chilly with a breeze off the ocean. 

My first author of the day was Alan Dean Foster who is an extremely talented and prolific writer of sci-fi.  He also writes novelizations of sci-fi movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens and many more.  It was wonderful getting to listen to his views on good vs bad sci-fi.  I was impressed enough to download a couple more kindle versions of his books this week.

Then, Rick and I went to listen to Dan Rather talk about his new book.  He was just stopping by  Dubai on his way to Afganistan to do another the age of 81.  Crazy!!!  His book was mostly about how CBS booted him out over his coverage of the Bush campaign.  He demonstrates how huge corporations are buying up news outlets and forcing them to censor themselves for the 'good of the corporation'.  Nothing new in my opinion but I guess it was interesting to hear it right from the horse's mouth. 


Rick and I enjoyed a nice lunch outside at M&S and chatted about the fate of the world...didn't solve much but the company was nice.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jebel Shams

I have been  a bit lazy about exploring the countryside in the last few months so I thought I would fix that by going off on a weekend excursion with Al Ain Weekenders this past weekend.   My friend Patreshia and I loaded up the jeep and joined the convoy over the border and into Oman bright and early Friday morning. 

The first day was relaxing and fun.  Our first stop was to see some bronze age tombs.  While we were up on the hill exploring them, the Friday Sermon was being broadcast out into the valley so it was quite surreal.

JebelShams 003

Then we had lunch in an oasis and explored an abandoned village.  A lot of villages were abandoned when oil was discovered and people moved to the coast….this is the same in the UAE too.

JebelShams 018

JebelShams 024

After lunch we 4X4ed along a dried riverbed up to a dam and then hiked up to some pools where we relaxed for a bit.  My jeep handled the off-road driving really well.

JebelShams 045

JebelShams 046

JebelShams 051

We spent the night in Bahla which is supposed to be the center of witchcraft in the region.  It’s odd because Islam forbids that sort of thing but they all believe in the ghosts and assorted stories anyways. 

The next morning we headed up the insane mountain road to the top of Jebel Shams.  This has got to be the most ridiculous road ever built.  One 180 hairpin turn after another at a 45 degree incline.  Then the pavement ended and we continued the same craziness on slippery gravel.  My jeep’s temperature got almost into the red but we made it.  Poor Patreshia was clinging to the door all the way up and we could smell the brakes burning on the way down.

This should have clued me in to what I was in for on the hike but I foolishly held on to the idea that this was going to be a pleasantly flat stroll along the canyon ridge as it had been described to me.  It wasn’t.

JebelShams 061

There was a lot of scrambling up and down rocks which I have no pictures of because I was too busy scrambling up and down the rocks but it was a beautiful view when you could lift up your head and take a look.

JebelShams 063

The path was a bit treacherous at points.

JebelShams 077

At the head of the canyon there is an abandoned rock village that was occupied by rebels who were hiding out from the previous government.  They grew all their food on man-made terraces.  Once the current Sultan killed his father and ended his reign 34 years ago, the people moved to the top of the mountain but they’ve been separated from the rest of the country for long enough that there is significant inbreeding evident. 

JebelShams 075

It was a good weekend but I was sure glad to see my shower and bed at the end of it.  I think that I may have inadvertently smuggled half of Oman back into the UAE on my tires and in my hair.