Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quick trip to Malaysia

It was that time of the year again - to try out for the Sime Darby LPGA in Kuala Lumpur.  I was all set to travel on a Sunday, to arrive Sunday afternoon, practice on Monday then play Tuesday & Wednesday and then fly home on Thursday.  Yes, a quick trip!  Well, instead of 5 days and 4 nights, my trip was cut short to just 4 days and 3 night!  This was all because I did not have my resident visa in my passport.  Who knew!

My bags were all checked in and I had my boarding pass in my hand.  Once I approached an immigration officer and handed her my passport, she looked it over and handed it to the guy at the next counter.  And he then told me to wait to the side and off he went to see someone.  Well, that someone came back and told me "No travel".  I could not believe it!  Was this some kind of joke???  Well, no joke of course and I did not want to argue with this tall big officer!

So the next day, I headed to the immigration office and after gathering some paperwork and paid some money of course, I was back at the immigration office 5 hours later waiting in line for another 2 hours.  And finally, once it was my turn, I barely sat in the chair for a minute and the lady printed the visa, peeled off the sticker, and put it in my passport.  Hooray!!!  I'm glad Bobby was able to get off work to be with me at that moment because every counter I went to before that kept asking me "Who is my sponsor?" and "Where as he?"!

Anyhow, back to the airport on standby.  Thankfully there were 3 seats left and I was able to get on the plane. So not much of a practice round. It was straight to the golf course Tuesday morning and posting a 9-over par 80.  OUCH!  I had a good practice session with my caddie after that but a 78 on the next day was obviously not good enough.

So now it's back to Mommy duty!  It's been quite hectic waking up early and getting the boys ready for school and then driving at least 20 minutes to Graham's school.  We drive through the desert:
It's take about 11 speed bumps and 11 roundabouts to get there from Charlie's school. Some days are more as I may take a different route depending on traffic.  Here is one of many - along the desert the speed bump comes first before the roundabout, so people slow down and don't go dashing out to the roundabout in high speed!
One of many homes under construction along the way.  Everything is made out of concrete here:
People standing out in the sun at the bus stand.  I feel so bad because it's still so crazy hot outside!
By the way, back to the roundabouts - people stand by the side of them to wait for their ride. As in this case, the bus just stops right by the side of it, blocking traffic on the outer lane of course.
And this guy is here from early morning until who knows when - by the side of the roundabout, selling newspapers.  He has his bicycle and he's trying to get some shade from the light post.
And today, I spotted some wooden boats on the side of the road by the houses.  Hmm... can't really see it too well from the pic.
When we get home, a quick shower for the boys and it's nap time.  Graham and Charlie loves napping on our big bed so of course, I'm in bed with them too :-)  Sometimes I think I doze off before they do!  And then, it's back to cooking more at home.  This can be quite tedious at times because I have to go and get the meats the day when I do cook it. So it's a trip to the grocery store almost every day which is so unusual back in the United States.  The meats are packed fresh every day here and some are defrosted.  So there is a label on the packaging telling you not to refreeze it.  I've mentioned this to a few people about this and they have actually put the meat back in the freezer.  I may have to start doing this too!  Until at least the new plaza opens up next to us and hopefully there will be a nice grocery store in there.

Ok, time to make the "school bus" run.  I've been driving so much these past few days that the side of my body are actually sore. True story!  I did buy some Malay music while in Malaysia. Maybe that will keep me entertained in the car.  Hopefully I'm still able to understand the lyrics! :-)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

We finally went to visit the Grand Mosque.  We drove by it almost every day when we were staying at our hotel the first 2 months when we arrived in Abu Dhabi.
As a female, I had to pick up the traditional cloak known as the Abaya.
Here we are! Me and our friend Tammy, that's visiting from Malaysia.  Graham actually took this pic. He even managed to get Charlie in it!
The hallways are quite impressive:
Making our way to the main entrance:
Needed to put the hoodie on. I was politely warned by a local on my way in. Oops!
Shoes off!
Here is the main entrance.  There are these flower imprints on the glass that sparkle with the light.  Just stunning!
And you're greeted by a gorgeous chandelier:
View from the bottom of the chandelier:
And then, you walk in and there are even bigger ones on the inside!
The walls are amazing too with the Arabic inscriptions:
The pillars have tile inlays in them. So pretty! And the rug spans the entire mosque.  I believe it's the largest woven Persian rug in the world!
The floor is so pretty as well with the tile inlay.
And on the way out, more tile but this one is on the side of a wall.  So much work involved!
Once back outside, the boys enjoyed going in between the pillars.
It's always a successful trip when the boys are completely zonked out in their car seats!
Bobby didn't come along this time but when he does, I'm going to have him wear the traditional Arab outfit or thawb for the men.  Can't wait to see Bobby in that! :-)

Soccer or wait, I mean football

It's funny how only in the US it's called soccer and everywhere else it's called football!  It's actually been quite difficult to switch and I still refer it to soccer with Graham and Charlie.  They are both so excited to be enrolled in "football" here.  The dome that they play in is pretty cool, although rather warm at times.
Here are all the "greenies" as the head coach refers them to.  As you can see, Charlie was still in his blue SoccerCity uniform as he was under observation for the first session.  
The youngest class are 3 year olds and Charlie just turned 2 at the end of July.  He's so tiny compared to the other kids!
Well, thankfully size did not matter.  Charlie did great and is now officially a "greenie" too!  He does run out of gas after about 1/2 hour but hopefully that will improve as the session progresses.  As for Graham, he is completely out of gas when he gets home!
Ha ha! Too funny! :-)

New school for the boys!

School started a couple of weeks ago now.  Charlie is enrolled in nursery and Graham is enrolled in Pre-K or FS (Foundation Stage) 2 in the British system.  Charlie did so well during what they call "induction week".  We spent 1 hour the first day and 2 hours on the 2nd day at his new nursery.  He was so preoccupied and happy!
But once nursery really started, his separation anxiety kicked in.  Charlie barely lasted 2 1/2 hours the first day!  I had to pick him up early and when he saw me, he just cried and ran towards me with relief.  Poor fella!
Here they are in their school uniform.  Well, Charlie doesn't really have a school uniform but it's a polo shirt from his school.  It helps him though, knowing that he's dressed like his brother and they are both going to school.
Graham on the other hand, was more than happy to go to school.  The school term started a little late as the school that he is going to is brand new.  So the first couple of weeks, Mommy and Graham would show up once a week just to wander up and down the hallway to check on the school's progress.
And once school did start, Graham was already the teacher's pet after the first day!  Unfortunately, day 2 didn't go so well.  Things were a little chaotic in his classroom and he came home with some ink on his face. After further discussion with his teacher, it was decided that Graham be moved to the next class up - Year 1.  Thankfully there are a few more English speakers in his class. Can you believe it... I was told that 97% or so of the students in this school are non-English speakers. YIKES!
So this week, Graham is sort of in his trial week for Year 1.  His new teacher mentioned that he is a little bit behind when it comes to writing but "he's so sweet".  Ha!  Graham is such a charmer!  We'll see what happens by the end of the week.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A place to call home in Abu Dhabi

It's been almost 3 weeks since my last update!  We have finally moved into our new apartment a couple of weeks ago and finally have internet installed - hence the ability to finally update my blog.  I'm so glad we were able to furnish our place while we were at the hotel.  There wasn't too much to be done when we finally arrived at our new place.
A few exciting things during these past few weeks.  Graham and Charlie got to see Spiderman!  Graham even got to get up on stage.  Spiderman noticed his spidey t-shirt.  Kudos to Mommy for putting it on him that night!
Trying to do the "web" thingy with their fingers.  Tada!
And we discovered a huge fish, meat, and veggie market in this same mall.  The fish and meat market is like the cleanest one that I've ever seen.  It's air-conditioned and therefore it doesn't have that awful smell like most open air markets.  Amazing!  And I found a little spice shop in the veggie market.  Look at all the basil and rosemary for under Dhs 2. That's just a little over USD 0.50 cents!
I guess I paid for those twigs too as you pay for the spices by weight.  But for that price, I don't think it matters too much!
And speaking of spices, I found the largest ever built-in pepper grinder!
It's larger than the 4x6 picture frame! And we've also discovered what they call "milk juice" and also freshly squeezed juices and smoothies.  We are so spoiled now with these. There is also freshly squeezed avocado juice. I haven't been brave enough yet to try that one!
As for the apartment, we might have one more IKEA online order to go and hopefully that will be it!  The TV is sitting on the floor but at least we have cable now and are able to watch golf and yes, American football too!  I did get some new pillows for a little local flair.  Love them!
Of course, our sofa is never quite complete without toys on them as well.
The boys also enjoy playing in the kitchen.  It's good that there's enough space for everyone in this huge apartment!
So huge that the boys, especially Graham loves traveling by pedaling their new tricycle:
It's great that Charlie gets to ride in the back too!
video
The apartment has been working out great except for perhaps one little kink. The hot water in the shower is still disrupted with cold water after every few minutes.  It's not so fun especially when you're washing your hair. I haven't made a complaint yet. I wonder if anyone else in our building is experiencing this same issue. Even Graham wants to take a bath rather than a shower!
It's nice to finally have a place to call "home". We are all very comfortable here and I'm glad the boys are adjusting well!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Exploring Abu Dhabi

Well, it's not quite in the heart of Abu Dhabi but there is this place called Masdar City, which is actually just around the corner from our temporary apartment. Our friend suggested we all go to a Japanese restaurant there.  Right now there are just businesses there and also a university, but eventually it will be a residential area as well.
This city thrives on being it's own sustainable community - leaving as little as possible on the environmental footprint. So that means, using solar power and lots of recycling from what we could see.  And... these amazing looking electric cars!
The boys were definitely excited about these Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) vehicles! It was very futuristic indeed. So was the wind tunnel next to the restaurant!
Bobby was trying to explain this one to me. Something about hot air rising and then, something happens and then the cool air comes out from the bottom and it's suppose to cool the sitting area around it. It was cooler when we stood right beneath it but still not quite cool enough to just hang around! The boys' cheeks were so red from running around outside!
Dinner was yummy and the trip back on the PRT was worth the excitement for the boys. I'm sure we'll be doing this again!

Moving out of the hotel

Almost 2 months in the hotel and we finally decided to move out when our "lease" was up.  It was bitter sweet as we really enjoyed staying in the hotel.  The pool was nice and convenient and so was the food. The staff really enjoyed having the boys around too. But Bobby and I figured it was time to move into reality. Yes, having to wash our own towels!
We moved into a 2-bedroom apartment complex not far from Bobby's work. The entire plaza is actually owned by his company! There's definitely a lot more room for all of us.  Here's the kitchen, which overlooks into the living room:
By the way, here's the smallest electric kettle that I've seen so far. And it works great! Except you have to unplug it all the time when you need to fill it up with water. Hmm... that just sounded like a first-world problem!
And here's our living room. Oh yes... the mop and bucket.  For whatever reason, there was this hug puddle by the tv stand. I guess the cleaners forgot to mop everything up.  Well, the mop did not work very well so I had to call the one-man maintenance crew. It's too bad Charlie had to slip and fall prior to the call. Poor fella! He is surely having a tough time with bumps and falls since his arrival here into Abu Dhabi!
Well, after it was said and done, the boys were back to their regular routine:
And playing with their limited amount of toys here. It's amazing what they can come up with though. Graham was pretending to be some sort of announcer talking into his headphones. Charlie followed along of course, jibber jabbering behind into the end bit of their night light/rocket ship plug/socket. It was very cute!
And then, the sweeping. They were intrigued by the little sweeper and dustpan. Wait until they have to do it for real. Ha!
And as for sleeping arrangements... well, Graham was on the couch at the hotel and Charlie was in bed with both of us. Here, the two beds are smaller (hmm... another first world problem perhaps!) so Graham and Daddy are in one room and me and Charlie are in the other.  Some nights are good and others not so. Charlie has this "crocodile death roll" thing that he does. He will rub up against you and just roll around! It's not too bad when I can feel him but I get so worried about him rolling off the bed! And then, he loves making the letter "T" in bed. Little stinker!
It wasn't too difficult for Daddy to get back into this morning routine - newspaper and coffee!
And as you can see, Charlie is just in his own little world playing in the spare room.
Or playing ON the table!
I'm glad that the boys are adjusting really well to all the change and moving that we've been doing so far. I guess as long as we have a TV, they are happy!
Can never get them far enough from that TV!
Oh, forgot to mention - there is a supermarket and bakery within walking distance from here. And the boys love the bakery!
Chocolate donuts! YUM!!! And notice how Charlie just ate the top part of the doughnut where all the chocolate was. Sneaky Charlie! Thankfully Graham is a little bit better than that.
Can't believe he actually looked into the camera for this pic! Anyhow, I'm glad I got my money's worth out of his doughnut :-)
Last but not least, here's the view from our balcony:
It's just amazing how much sand there is here!  Well, here's the good news that we received yesterday. We are given the green light to move into our new apartment this Thursday!  We will be signing some papers and will officially be handed over the keys.  Hooray! Just in time as Charlie will start school next week and Graham the week after that. So glad we will be settling into somewhat of a routine when school starts. But can't believe the summer is already over. Where did it go??!