Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fun games you can only play in the UAE

How many times can I cheat death while driving about my business during the day
-I often think about the astonishing number of accidents I avoid daily. I am usually almost sideswiped at least once on the way to work (it is about an eight-minute drive) and once on the way home. A day off involving several errands could bring the tally to five or six. Should I head down Sheikh Zayed Road to Dubai, the stakes grow ever larger. Particular close calls include finding yourself in the middle of several racing cars, someone passing you while you are in the fast lane, and they are in the inside lane, which almost everyone knows is not a lane. The only thing that soothes my soul at these times is remembering all the taxi mentality I used to endure. At least I'm the one with my feet on the gas and the brake.

Will the delivery match the order
-You may remember my milk/lock story (it happened twice by the way, that I ordered milk from the corner store and got a padlock). Particularly relevant with lunch and corner shop orders. With all the different languages spoken here, you just never know what you are going to get. It's much easier to just go with it, borrowing the reaction a fellow Canadian once used to sum up the experience: "Why yes I would like some chips!"

Spot the other Westerner
-Living among hundreds of nationalities is one of my favourite things about Abu Dhabi, and it never gets old. I always forget about this game until I go outside my apartment building (in Hamdan Street) on a Friday. It's basically where South Asia meets, everyone hanging out in their Sunday best. I've heard Global Village is another good place to play. It's always a bit funny, and a bit of a comfort, when you spot the other Westerner in this situation. A look will pass between you, and I like to think it's a combination of emotions: like suddenly you realise you are having an adventure, and how strange and different and wonderful it is, and you are (for a few seconds) sort of in it together.

Should we risk ordering lunch from the new place?
-A flyer marked "free delivery" may look enticing, until you get everyone's order organised and call it in only to be told "no delivery". Or you can tell from first phone contact that they are just impossibly organised. Or that they won't find your office. Or they will phone-stalk your mobile trying to find your office while you are in a meeting. Or the order takes two hours and the department mood dips dangerously low due to hangryness.

Guess what gave me food poisoning
-In a place where it's not uncommon to pick up breakfast, order in lunch and eat dinner in a restaurant, it's always hot and sunny and food standards are still a work-in-progress, residents find themselves asking this a lot more than you'd think. I had to play this the other day after a beautiful Friday hotel brunch in Abu Dhabi. The odd feeling set in about 5.30pm, the vomiting about 7. Was it the scallops? The oysters? The sushi? Ugh. Never. Brunching. Again.

Honking: it's all about perspective
-One of the first things I notice when I go to Europe or North America is how quiet it is. (Not you New York). Cars are driving everywhere, but no one is honking. For a person living in the Middle East, it is ear nirvana. Really. It's a constant mind game here, having the person behind you honk the second the traffic light turns green. Anger instantly flares up, and it's very easy to spend the next 10 minutes hating your life if things are not exactly going that well at the moment. At the very least, you are going to think   "how rude" and get very judgy of the other driver. When this happens I remind myself, and it usually works, that the person behind me doesn't think honking is rude. They don't think anything of it. They are probably in their car, thinking about the next thing they have to do, not trying to be a jerk, not trying to noise-pollute an already noise-polluted city, rather just providing what they see as a normal reminder that the light is green, so go already. 

Overheard in the newsroom: Crazy noodle Sunday edition

Help! I'm surrounded by nerds.

I never recognise when there is an earthquake, it's starting to piss me off.

You can tell in the morning I have a bunch of tweets I thought up in the car.

Do you want Noodle House?
Ooooooh, I do love Noodle House.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Abu Dhabi Police are on the case, within about four months for sure

A friend of mine submitted a suggestion to the Abu Dhabi Police via their website (she suggested they have liaison who provides info to all the radio stations with the latest on traffic, instead of radio stations relying on listeners). This was the automated response she got:

Thank you for using the feedback management system (FMS) and sharing your experience. Be assured your suggestion # 31323 has been noted for special consideration. Expect a response to your suggestion within 126 working days.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I get press releases: Kellogg's to pour massive amounts of cereal in a Guinness World Records bid at Dubai Marina Mall

When Susan Sarandon told me in an e-mail interview this week that when it came to launching one of her SPiN ping-pong clubs, her answer was "why not Dubai"? It's that kind of thinking that brings us to this:

On Friday April 26, Kellogg's will attempt to break 2 Guinness World Records™ titles (the Longest Breakfast Table and Largest Cereal Breakfast Attendance) at the Dubai Marina Mall Promenade in Dubai, from 8am-1pm. 

Everyone is invited to participate to the record and receive a free Kellogg’s Corn Flakes breakfast. 

Thanks for your support!

So this, but times a thousand. On a table. At a mall.

Dubai Golden Cup: World figure skaters come to Dubai Mall

I very much want to attend this event, but cannot, so I am hoping someone reports back to me on all the awesomeness that ensues. I have never heard of this competition before (and indeed, actually attended the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, last month), but it is an International Skating Union-sanctioned event featuring 220 skaters from 20 countries over three days.

My favourite part of the description? The feats that will be seen "include spins, jumps, moves in the field, throw jumps and death spirals". Too bad, in my 10 years as a figure skater, the "move in the field" was one of those I never did manage to master.

Admission is free, so check it out! It runs today through Saturday, from 9.30am to 6.30pm. The guest of honour is two-time Olympic silver medalist from Russia, Irina Slutskaya.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Only in Abu Dhabi: Lululemon controversy gets an Arab twist

While waiting to start a pilates reformer class, a Canadian and an Arab woman are discussing the merits of Lululemon. The Arab woman says she loves Lululemon (and indeed, she is clad in it from head to toe). She mentions the recent "sheer" pants controversy. The Canadian woman gestures to her own Lululemon top, which was once a brilliant pink, but no longer, and says the quality has waxed and waned over the years.

Arab woman: I think you really have to hand-wash them.

Canadian woman: I think it's a bit much to ask, to hand-wash my workout clothes.

Arab woman: That's why I get my maids to do it. 

What's not to like? Susan Sarandon, SPiN Dubai and a golden ping-pong table

UPDATE: Our email interview here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meet Giddy, the family-friendly giraffe who lives at Dubai International Airport

I've become a little bit obsessed today with Giddy, the mascot for a restaurant called Giraffe in Dubai International Airport.

My interest was piqued after receiving a press release this morning, titled "Giddy the family-friendly Giraffe enjoys a warm welcome whilst making new friends at Ski Dubai". 

First of all, I love that Giddy gets a press release sent out when he goes somewhere new. And the tag "family-friendly" just sort of suggests that somewhere out there, exists an un-family friendly mascot giraffe. A non-PC mascot giraffe, who loves cigars and strippers. That kind of thing.

I love how you can see the face of the person inside through that netting in his neck. And lastly, look how much fun Giddy is! I mean, the guy is having an absolute ball.

Overheard in the newsroom: Payday edition

Person A: When is payday?

Person B: The 28th, the 29th?

Person a: Soooo, not the 25th. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

I get email: The 'are you still here?' edition

Subject line: Are you still in the UAE?

Iam a 29 years old doctor visiting uae and tryin to make friends.people worn me about low of trying to know women email me if you r still here

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pop up yoga in the sky: The adorable Traveling Lotus strikes again

If you look carefully, you can see the corner of my yoga mat at the bottom of this picture! My Saturday started out with a bang, as one of my favourite yoga teachers in the city (and also one of the go-getter free agents making it on their own - and nicer for those of us who love yoga and love being outside while we do it), Jennifer Stewart, organised a pop up yoga class on the massive Al Ain Towers balcony of one of her students. There were about 10 of us, a gentle breeze blowing, the blue Gulf straight ahead. Loved it. Heaven.

Jen teaches at a couple of very nice hotels around the city, namely the St Regis Saadiyat Island and the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa. Send a message to to get on her email list. Do it!

"Keep Calm" with a Middle East twist

Last week felt crazy all over, didn't it? There was that earthquake, right after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the manhunt, the fear and unease among Arabs and Muslims at irresponsible reporting in the US. The price of gold is dropping, and in this region, summer is definitely coming. It was oppressive and turbulent all at the same time. It was also a perfect time for Gallery One to introduce its cheeky new "Keep Calm" series. I like "Keep a Camel and Eat Dates" myself (having one of those magical creatures for my very own would keep me calm always, I am sure of it, and I am currently obsessed with medjool dates, or, as I like to call them, nature's perfect food). The stationery, posters, badges etc cost from Dh15 up to Dh489 and are available at locations around Dubai and Abu Dhabi's Souk Qaryat Al Beri.

I am also a big fan of the latest, "get back to normal Boston" version that was circulating Facebook this weekend. "Keep Wicked Calm and Say Hi To Your Mother For Me." Best if said in a Mark Wahlberg accent.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Snap caption: Look what my teeny car can do!

Driving a small car in the UAE is terrifying. I average about three sudden swerves a day trying not to get smushed by giant SUVs. Don't even get me started on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road corridor. Shivers.

But then there are moments like this when it all pays off.

Hello? Hello? I think I finally cracked the Arab-Canadian telephone greeting gap

I have had a massive epiphany today. It dawned on me after almost two years of frustration, wondering why when I answer the phone, things don't proceed the way I think they should.

Usually my "Hello, Ann Marie McQueen" is greeted with "Hello?" (What do you say to that, when it's coming from someone who calls you?) And not once, but often several times of going back and forth with the same word.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai: It's kinda hot to wear these costumes!

Well that was really fun. Who knew there were so many cosplayers in the UAE? Here are my favourites:

Slender Man (right) and Venom, with an Arab twist!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi provides setting for UAE and Canada to make up: Today in totally awesome news

Finally. See what a nice cup of coffee and a little chat can do? 

A Canadian in Abu Dhabi turns 5 OR today is my Abuversary

Somewhere in the desert, 2009.

Five years ago today, I walked out of Abu Dhabi International Airport early in the morning, squinting out against the bright sunshine. There were five suitcases piled on my trolley, the Lululemon hoodie I was wearing was way too hot (and I didn't want to take it off for fear of exposing my shoulders) and the driver who was supposed to meet me did not show up.

Tim Hortons in Abu Dhabi, UAE and Canadian foreign ministers edition

What on earth are Canada's John Baird and the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed talking about, do you think? Let's hope it's that pesky visa issue.

Today around 1pm, Abu Dhabi Mall location. 

How to be a happy expat

Because a cloud wall makes you want to take a selfie.  After 10 years living in the UAE, some of that time happy, some miserable and ...