Sunday, 29 April 2012

Day 29 in Dubai

Ok, so it's day 30 really, as my energy levels were not up to doing this last night, so I'm doing it on Monday morning instead.

First off, school photo's which I hear there has been some demand for.  This was the first day of school:

The kids were really excited, if a little daunted, but the it all seemed to go really well. They were given buddies to help introduce them, which helped.  We're now a week on, and there is a bit of moaning about "I don't want to go to school".  In Olsey's case, that's just usual grips (he comes home telling you all the good things he has done everyday), but with Charlotte, she is struggling a little more, as her "buddy" plays with Barbie during break time, not quite Charlotte's scene....  Otherwise all good after week one.

Olsey has played in a couple of football training sessions after school. Last night he was made captain of the team and got player of the match!  He seemed to really enjoy it.  He also got given "George" the tiger to take home from school on Thursday.  George gets to go home to a special person each week, and Olsey got him as he had had a good first week at school. You then have to take George to do good stuff and take photo's of him with you, then write a diary about it.  We took George swimming round a friend from work's house, then to the beach club where they come round with free ice lollies every hour!

Jumeirah Beach Hotel Club:

We were finally able to get out onto the balcony!  I found out that if you sign a disclaimer, to say that it's your fault if you kiill yourself, they will unlock it, so hey presto!

It enabled Rach to take a few great photo's one on a clear day:

And one with a large cloud of san heading across the city!  All very Mission Impossible (if you have seen the latest film you'll get that)

In other news, we found a house!  A really nice villa in Jumeirah 1, the heart of the community, a 5 minute walk from the beach, and with lots of nice little shops, coffee shops etc all within a short walk.  We are really chuffed as it took kissing quite a few frogs before we eventually found a good one!  There's a nice sized shared pool, with a gym, table tennis table and squash court, and just enough room for visitors!

Cafe culture!

We also ordered a new car.  We went for a Ford Expedition in the end, mid range spec, with a 5.2litre v8 - well you have to, don't you?? We should be getting it this weekend once the windows have been tinted (or pimped...).

Right, off to work now - temperatures are around 36 degrees at the moment, nice in the shade, but really quite scorchio in the direct sunlight.  Have a good week everyone.

The Goodies

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Day 22 in Dubai

Rich has decided it is my turn to do our weekly entry, so I apologise that it won't be as witty and will be more girlie this week!!

So here goes, a week in the life of myself and three very hyper children. I started out the week by taking the kids to the cinema in one of the few small/manageable malls. A friend recommended we go for a morning showing as the locals are not early risers and they tend to be very loud and go there for a gossip in the cool. We went for the 10.15 showing of The Pirates! The Band of Misfits 3D, excellent film especially as it was a private showing...yes we were on our own! After, I took the three kids grocery shopping which is always a joy.....Luckily we got back to the hotel and were spotted trying to carry a large amount of shopping, so we (I) were rescued by the bell boy who took it up to our apartment for me. Sometimes it's not so bad living in a hotel.

The following day, I put the kids in the car, plugged them into their iPods and did a trial school run. Missed the turning but managed to find the school after 20 minutes, not too bad for me. Then we hit Creek park again for a picnic and play. I was persuaded, or shall we say was bullied into, renting a four person bike thingy at 11.30am, therefore pretty warm and then basically peddled them around for half an hour while they argued who got to steer - but deep down, I did quite enjoy it. Then we spent the next few hours trying out the different play areas and watching seaplanes taking off. On my return I found out my little sister had had her baby girl which was fantastic news but did make me a little (a lot) homesick so had to go up to the bar for a Margarita to celebrate.

One of the ladies, Jane who has taken me under her wing, signed Oliver up for soccer circus which basically meant he went to play football all day with lunch at Mcdonalds with a few of his new friends from school. He had a lovely day and unfortunately for the girls we went looking at more villas and little bit of shopping for the new baby. I was going to take them to get their nails done but I got slightly lost after dropping off Oliver - oops!

The other lovely lady, Emma (my primary school friend who I have not seen since I was 12) who has looked after me and the kids since we have arrived took us to a soft play area in another mall (she doesn't even have children and she was willing to go to one of those places - that's a nice person for you.). Met one of her friends who had two small children, then went to Costa so Lucy could still have her babycinos and luckily they do come with a marshmallow! That evening we had been invited for dinner at one of Rich's colleagues houses. Had to take the kids but they behaved really well and we had a lovely evening out, first in two and half weeks which is a little unheard of for the Goodies. They live in a very spacious villa on a partially built compound so a little eerie at night.  It actually rained while we were having dinner too!

Continuing on with my mad week, I tagged onto a trip with Jane to the Al Ain zoo which is about an hour and quarter from Dubai through the desert (kids very excited to see wild camels). I would have been one hours if 1) You don't need petrol (but only cost me £20 to fill up from empty), 2) One of children doesn't need a picnic wee and 3) We knew where we were going. A 2 hour journey there and back with walking round a reasonably good zoo in the midday sun. I was shattered by the time we got back, I was asleep by 8.30pm, kids were up with Rich until 10ish as they slept all the way back!

Yippee, I had made it to the weekend and even better Richard's phone (not known at the time) had been cancelled so he didn't get emails all weekend. Great for us but as the weekend went on he was getting a little aggetated. The kids and I had a joyful morning following Rich around a mall, buying new glasses, work and casual clothes. We then dangled Ski Dubai in front of the kids while we had lunch and walked away with our normal saying "we can't do it today, but we have loads of time to do these fun things". We did treat them to a couple of fun fair rides (in the mall) which are very cool and not too expensive.

Friday night we had another social engagement, a bbq with Emma and her husband and another couple. Lovely evening, Rich sank numerous beers to try to catch up on his average intake, which has taken a bit of a knock lately, and discussed the ins and outs of how rubbish it is to set up your life in Dubai as new people........

Saturday we had the joy of car shopping and then picnic in the park before viewing a house in a compound - 15 minutes to the city and school but is just like the Truman Show. By the end of the day Rich and I were very confused over cars and houses - too many decisions. Charlotte started getting nervous about school starting today. They all had an early night.

School went really well - we got lost again on the way there!!!  But once there, the teachers were lovely and the kids were made to feel at home instantly.  They can't wait to get back there tomorrow and continue their Arabic language lessons!!

Right, that's your lot this week - more piccies and video next week, we promise.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Day 15 in Dubai

Wow, I have managed to keep to my promise of another weekly update - unbelievable

So what have we been up to this week?  Well I had my first full week of work, which went very well, and felt very odd when I finished for the week on Thursday.  Friday did still see lots of blackberry activity, which is not ideal and does put me in the bad books with the Entertainments Manager at home, but the bills must be paid.

Rach met up with a friend from work and his family at the Jumeirah Beach Club, a 5 start hotel where you can join on a yearly membership to use their facilities, private pools (x5), private beach, use their dinghies, windsurfers, gym, etc, etc.  All sounds lovely and Rach and the kids had a great time with everyone, and met a few kids who go to DESS (Charlotte and Oliver's school).  The only unlovely part is the price - about £11k a year for a family of 5!  That rules that one out then!

On Wednesday I had my performance review at work.  That went well so we thought we would hit a restaurant at the Fountains at Dubai Mall to celebrate.  It's the Worlds Largest fountain show, and this video doesn't do it justice, but I will post it anyway.  The big building I zoom onto is the Burj Kalifa (Tallest building in the world at the moment).

Rach and the kids hit the park behind our hotel a few times this week.  Picture here is copyright Charlotte and taken from our apartment:

Later in the week we booked to view a villa.  It wasn't quite right, but the agent showed us a couple more he had on his books while we were there.  They also weren't quite right but all for different reasons.  The hardest thing we are struggling to get to grips with is the "taste" or rather the distinct lack of it, in the bathrooms.  It is like going back to 1950's England with green suites, pink tiles and brown flooring, but this is in a 5 year old house, or a "fully renovated" bathroom.  It beggars belief and would actually be difficult to live with.

On Saturday we viewed another villa, which was the best we have seen to date, but still lacked a certain something.  The agents then showed us another, which was absolutely lovely and only 2 mins walk from the beach, but as in all good "New House in the Country" programs, which are essential viewing for all respectable housewives, when they revealed the price, we were rather disappointed.  It was about £8k pa over budget, but they could be flexible apparently...  A call to the agent today revealed that they seem to have suffered from a bout of arthritis this particular week....  So the search continues.

Friday saw us head to Creek Park, which is a gorgeous park right by the Creek and right behind the kids school.  The aim was for us to test the school run, but it took us no less than 3 attempts to get the correct exit off of Sheikh Zayed Road.  The roads are just so confusing here!  After an hour wasted finding the school (actually not wasted, essential to avoid stress next Sunday!) we hit the park.  They have a cable car that stretches the full length of the park, but high winds meant it was out of action which was a shame, so we had to satisfy ourselves with Frisbee (didn't realise that Frisbee is a brand not a "thing" - interesting), climbing frames and round-a-bouts.  All good fun.

On Saturday we switched he hire car for a larger number, a Toyota Fortuner (mid sized SUV).  We have signed up for a month, so that we can take the pressure off of finding a car and a house at the same time - but then I went car hunting again in the afternoon!  I dropped Rach and the kids off at a colleagues house to go for a swim which Craig, Olsey and I headed to Al Awir, a massive used car place 15 mins outside of Dubai.  They have about 50 car dealers in one place, with around 5,000+ cars of all makes and models.  Think of the tackiest car dealer back in the UK, which is probably called "Quality Motors R Us" and double the tackiness, then lose the ability to communicate with any sales flair (or indeed English), add in the term "Full Option" (which they say about every car they have), and then park all the cars so close together that you can hardly get past them, let alone in the bloody things - and then you pretty much have Al Awir.

The strangest part is that you can buy pretty much any car you care to think of - be that a Hummer, Porsche (I wish), Ferrari, Lambo, right next to Ford, Audi etc.  You walk into the cheapest looking building and it has 3 supercars in the showroom with a grubby looking salesman who has just woken up from his 3 hour afternoon nap.  All very strange.  Craig got a prize to part ex his current car for an updated version, but he wasn't impressed with the price.  We bid the guy goodbye and then got followed to the car with questions of "how much do you want for it?"  It was all a bit Life of Brian "You haven't even haggled yet! I can't sell it to you until you haggle!".

I liked a few cars, but we got there at 3pm and they all close from 1 to 4 for their afternoon nap.  We tried to wake one of them up, as we could see him asleep on the sofa inside, but telephoning while waving at the window did nothing but raise his eyelids for a few seconds before they closed again.  Oh well.  We did wait until 4 to get a price on a Mercedes GL450 (none of the cars have prices on!!) - a lovely bit of kit, and with good reason, it was 50% over my budget.  So I guess that means I can't afford the GL500 down the road either then....  Back to the Ford's for me then!  We came away empty handed but I will go back (when they are open!) to look at a few more in a couple of weeks.

This next week should see us view lots more houses and hopefully find the perfect one - fingers crossed.

Right, off to do a couple of Skype calls now - that thing is excellent and have saved us a fortune in call charges!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Day 8 in Dubai

Well if we manage to keep to 1 post a week, we'll be doing well - let's see shall we.

So what's happened in our first week?  We have done lots of swimming in the roof top pool - at least twice a day appears to be mandatory.

We have picked up our hire car - a rather "smaller than I expected" Toyota Corolla.  A good little car, but it requires arms like Mr Tickle in order to strap 3 children avec car seats in the rear.  We thought the Saab was bad!

Venturing out onto the roads for the first time was a little daunting, even for a class 1 expert driver like myself.  We hit Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR) after 10 minutes, a 7 lane each side highway that runs straight through the middle of Dubai. The road itself isn't the biggest worry, it's the concern that you may never be able to get off of it. We could end up in Abu Dhabi or, even worse, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)!  Dubai's drivers leave a lot to be desired, but KSA is a lot, lot worse.

Eventually we managed to get off of SZR and after a few missed turns and U turns (which feature a lot when driving in Dubai) we made it to Dubai Mall.  Unsurprisingly for Dubai this is the Largest Mall in the World (there are lots of "in the world's" here).  The place is enormous - think Bluewater, but multiply it by about 10.  We got a third of the way round the triangle, spent £200 in Hamleys, I spent an hour on a conference call to work while the others watched the Largest Aquarium in the World (features sharks, rays, etc and you can go scuba diving in it! It's in the middle of the mall).  We then mooched back to the car to get home.  Parking was a doddle, and free (unless you want to valet park).

Tuesday night and I had an email from a friend from Birmingham who was in town - his hotel was just over SZR from ours!  That evening saw a few room service beers, followed by a few more roof-top-bar beers when Rach went to bed.  2am came very quickly and we were still in t-shirts and shorts drinking beer on the 43rd floor - very bizarre.  Great to catch up with someone from home and a lovely surprise.  Here's to more business trips for friends from Angleterre.

View from our kitchen of our visitors hotel - he was on the 47th floor!
Wednesday was Atlantis day - what a place.  Situated at the end of The Palm, an enormous man made structure which protrudes out of beach and into the sea.  You drive up the "trunk" of the palm tree to get to Atlantis, which is at the top of the furthest "frond".  There are motorways and tunnels on the Palm, as well as hundreds, neigh thousands of houses and apartments.  The size of the thing beggars belief.  It was not there 5 years ago - ridiculous.  Atlantis hotel is huge, and very impressive in a "mock old" kind of way.  The water park is fantastic.  Several aggressive rides for people 1.2m or higher, and a huge spagetti of rivers, some with rapids, running round the whole place.  You can stay on these rivers in one of several thousand inflatable rings for the whole day, as you have two travellators which take you up higher so that you can start the whole thing again without ever leaving your ring!  They also have figure of 8 rings so two of your can go together.

1.1m tall Olsey was, of course, up for the big rides, which include a tube ride which goes through the middle of an enormous shark/ray tank.  Our first attempt to gain entry resulted in a ruffle of his blonde hair and a "see you in a few months" from the attendant guarding the main gate.  After a bit of consulting from yours truly, the second attempt saw Olsey hidden behind my figure of 8 float, past the guard and into the tube!  There was a black bit at the start which didn't seem to phase him, then we shot through a wall of water and into the shark's tank!  We could see the other Goodies waving from outside the tank, and sharks, rays, and other large fish (which are not nameable by me) swam over and beside us.  It was really cool.

The rest of the day consisted of a large (expensive) fast food lunch, a whole pineapple which was cut into segments in the skin (very cool) and lots of sun cream.  The kids loved it, and so did we.  The most memorable part for me being when Lucy was in the front of my figure of 8, Olsey in his own ring and we were hurtling down white water rapids, with Lucy just grinning from ear to ear and screaming "Weeee" with delight - at the end of the rapids Olsey shouted "Lucy, you're the best little sister in the whole world!". Cherished moments.

Thursday was the day to visit schools - we left ourselves 45 mins to get to DESS (Charlotte and Olsey's school which is 10 minutes away).  It took us 40 minutes.  We were stuck on the wrong side of SZR and took the wrong turn off, followed by another 5 or 6 wrong turns!  We eventually made it with 5 mins to spare, but had no change for the parking meter. We took a chance and got away without a ticket.  The kids seems to love the school.  It still had the same friendly, happy, but undeniable driven, feeling about it.  Olsey took one look at the kids in the gym and said "this school is better than ours at home because you are allowed to go to the top of the climbing frame, Henham make you stop at the black tape which is only 1 step up!".  He is now happy with the school.  Even the oft quiet Charlotte was impressed, and saw all of her classmates.

Next we headed to Lucy's nursery, which seemed lovely. We met her teacher and her class and she has not stopped asking "Are we going to school tomorrow" since.

On the way to Lucy's school I had to fill up the car, which was running on fumes.  I didn't know how much to ask the man to put in (you don't even get out of your car, a guy does it all for you) so I went for Dhs30, which managed to take the tank from empty to over half full.  Dhs30 is £5!!!

Now I have written too much already, so in short, we have also viewed a few cars, test driven one (a 5.7litre V8 - see above for reason), hit the beach and been to work for a day.

We will try to get better at video and photo's, but that's all for now folks.... now we start to find a house....


Monday, 2 April 2012

Day 1 in Dubai

Well we have made it!  After so many months of preparation, talking about it, packing, cleaning, more packing, more cleaning, etc etc etc, we are finally here!

The flight over was pretty seamless.  Oliver watched movies non-stop, Lucy barely managed one (but did seem to like Herbie Goes Banana's) and Charlotte suffered a few "Horrid Histories" episodes, but otherwise generally annoyed us.

On arrival at the airport, I (rich) got off the plane first, with most of the bags and all of the children. Rach was just behind us.  The 4 of us got off at the first exit and waited for Rach...she didn't appear.  We realised there were two exits so went to wait at the point they both come together....she didn't appear.  We went a bit further into the airport...she didn't appear. In the end, and after 20 mins of waiting we found Rach a kilometer away, near passport control!  She was a bit freaked out, as were we, as she had got off at the second exit from the plane, not realising there were two, and just kept walking, thinking that we had stormed off in front!

Anyway, fast forward through passport control (where the immigration man fell in love with Lucy) to the mini-bus into town.

Lucy fell asleep, but the other two were mesmerised.  Got to the hotel about 9pm, dumped our bags and went up for a beer on the top floor open air bar.  The pool was hand tested for temperature - very good, so we headed back down and tucked them all into bed.

The next morning was a quick doughnut/danish at Tim Horton's, followed by a swim, back to the room, out to the little local supermarket, which wasn't too badly priced, them back for a swim.

Here's a little idea of where we are staying at the moment, along with some very groovy dancing....

Tomorrow it's time to pick up the car (2 mins from hotel) have a medical, have a conference call with work, then hit the big supermarket for a proper shop.  Oh what fun...

More to follow, and I'll try to get a few piccies uploaded too.