Saturday, September 30, 2006

More change.

I decided to finally make a few changes to this blog [thanks to the new beta release of Blogger!], mostly aesthetic so you've probably already noticed the difference.

The new template has enabled me to post a few of my favourite pictures up on the sidebar - YAY! These are all photographs Gypsy Boy and I took on our adventures around the world.

Oh, and somewhere below above all these pretty pictures are the archive and post categories.

Well, for now anyway...

Suggestions are always welcome so if you do have any, please leave a comment.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Mmmm, nice rides

As we left our apartment to go out for dinner tonight, it was hard to miss the very shiny black Corvette parked next to us in the basement carpark. What's interesting is yesterday, there was a sparkling white Hummer parked in that same spot! Very preeeetty. We think they're new in the building as our previous carpark neighbours drove a white Landcruiser. Of course, they could've upgraded...

Anyway, we ended up at Gazebo for dinner - our favourite Indian restaurant. We like the excellent service and fabulous food at reasonable prices. In fact, the grub's so good we think it's probably the best North Indian food we've ever had. We decided to go for the lobster kurma, melt-in-your-mouth chicken, popadums, okra with tomato based curry, rice and garlic naan. I guess you can say that it was another case of our eyes were bigger than our stomachs [although we did eat it all]!

So, on the way home we stopped at the lights and a red Lamborghini pulls up next to us. Who are these people?!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where shall we eat?

Cafés, restaurants, foodcourts - the choices are endless. Well, usually anyway. Yesterday, I was hoping to take Joy out for a special Birthday lunch and we ended up having a bit of an adventure looking for somewhere [anywhere!] that was open for business.

Ramadan is here and I knew that some cafés would be closed but for some reason did not expect everything to be shut, especially not at the Mall of the Emirates. It's our first Ramadan here in the Middle East, and we really didn't know what to expect. Apparently, some cafés and restaurants need to get approval from the Dubai Municipality to stay open during the day in the month of Ramadan.

As we walked through the mall we noticed it was strangely quiet, then realised there was no music playing anywhere - not in the shops and not in the mall itself. It was so quiet I could even hear some of the shop assistants chatting to each other as I walked past! It's funny how you never notice something, but once it's gone, it's so obvious? Throughout the month, music is not played in public until iftar, when only soft background music is permitted. Live bands and dancing is forbidden during this period so nightclubs usually just shut down for the whole month.

It's lucky that I just live one street away from the mall, because we had no choice in the end but to buy a couple of salads from Carrefour and taking it back to my place to eat! Not what I had in mind at all for treating Joy to a Birthday lunch!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Green, and proud of it!

With the introduction of recycling in the early 1990's on Auckland's North Shore [where my family lived in NZ], the City Council ran huge campaigns educating its residents about landfills, how to recycle, and the benefits of going 'green'.

This made quite an impression on me and as a young pre-teen, I took the role of making sure no recylable bits ended up in the rubbish bin by fishing them out [well, whatever was at the top of the pile anyway] and reminding the main offenders in our household about recycling.

Since coming to Dubai, I have to say that recycling is not made as easy. Most people live in apartments and use the provided rubbish chutes on each floor. I've not seen a green bin since we've landed here outside anyone's property and definitely not in sight at apartment blocks.

I have to admit I got lazy and everything was going down the rubbish chute. I did feel guilty though knowing I was tossing out recyclable materials that would end up in some landfill. However, after a bit of research on the web, I have managed to find that there are a few large public recycle stations around the city.

Since then, I'm proud to say that I've been separating all my recyclables and taking them down to a recycle station each weekend where we have been going anyway to take Gypsy Dog for some long walks. I'd forgotten how much rubbish this cuts out - for us, at least two thirds!

Really, it's such a simple thing that everyone can do for the environment. So I encourage all of you to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

If you don't know how, find out more about recycling here.

Back to school

The new semester has started, and I've enrolled and had my first class at art school. The biggest surprise is that Gypsy Boy has decided to join me!

We have a 3 hour class in oil painting each Saturday this semester at the Dubai International Art Centre. Housed in a large villa, the Centre has a real community feel with a reception area, an art shop, its own cafe and of course, classrooms.

Our class is small with just five students - all with mixed abilities - and our teacher is from Bulgaria, but has lived and worked in France, Italy, Austria and now in Dubai. We had a choice of either painting from a still life our teacher put together or something of our own.

Gypsy Boy and I came prepared with our own photographs we had picked out earlier last week from our own collection. The photograph I picked is simply a close-up of some flowers while Gypsy Boy is quite a bit more ambitious painting from a shot we took of a street in Nice lined with colourful apartments, balconies and even a café scene with people outside!

Even though Gypsy Boy is doing the course just for a bit of fun, I was really impressed with what he has done so far! He definitely has more talent than he lets on. Anyway, the three hours really zoomed by and I am already looking forward to the next class. More updates as we progress!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan starts today. As it's our first experience of Ramadan in the Middle East, we're being extra careful to observe this special holy time for Muslims fasting during daylight hours here.

During this time, one should dress more conservatively than normal and should not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public during the day. The restaurants or few cafés that are open are extremely discreet with entrances screened off and windows blacked out so you cannot look in from outside. The usually bustling and busy terrace areas are also empty and closed off during the day so at first glance one would think the eatery is closed for business. Foodcourts in malls are also screened off, with food only available for take away. Finding a spot to eat it away from public view is another thing.

This afternoon, we did our usual grocery shopping for the week at Carrefour at the Mall of the Emirates. Expecting the usual weekend crowd also doing their weekly shop, we were instead faced with a crazed frenzy of shoppers packing their supermarket trolleys to the brim with meat, fruit and vegetables like there is no tomorrow.

I was a little taken aback when I passed refrigerated meat section. A handwritten sign was stuck on to one of the near-empty shelves I'm so used to seeing stocked full of pre-packed chicken breast, thighs etc. It read: Please refrain from taking excessive amounts. It's just as well I don't need to get any chicken this week! As for beef, well that's a different story. No NZ beef left on the shelves so we got some 'Low fat beef mince' [from who knows where!?] instead.

Needless to say, the queues were diabolical and we ended up queueing for 20 minutes at the checkout counter. I think we'll try to do our groceries next week a little later in the day during iftar, when the crowds should be home breaking their fast.

Thus we spent our first day of Ramadan in Dubai, what an interesting and special time to be here. Ramadan Kareem to you all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Snail mail

About 10 days ago, I decided to take my chances with sending some mail other than the electronic kind. Under the guidance of my friend Joy, who sends letters and parcels off quite often to the UK, I decided to send 3 articles: a Birthday card to my dear aunt in NZ, a Birthday parcel for my darling brother in Melbourne and some baby gear for a new nephew in Vancouver!

Brave for a first timer, I know. The thing is Joy's mail always seem to reach okay, however mine do have a much longer way to go...

Anyway we took it to a shopping mall, albeit at the other end of town, that does offer a postal service where you can get your letters/packages weighed as well as purchase stamps before sending them off.

Anything to do with the postal system in Dubai seems a bit trivial to me. I don't know what gives me this idea, perhaps it's that we don't have a street address and there is no such thing as mail being delivered to one's physical address or the fact that post offices are such a rare sight. In our 10 months here, we've actually only seen a post office once or maybe twice at the other end of town. It also seems to always be shut - I guess we just happen to go past during 'siesta' time or perhaps it was a Friday...

So yesterday, I was definitely pleased to chat to my brother online and find him [via the webcam] wearing his Birthday present - an apron with the body of Michelangelo's David! It's something Gypsy Boy and I saw while we were in Italy last month and thought it would make a perfect cheeky little gift for my brother. Later on in the day, I also heard that my aunt had received her Birthday card!

That's 2 out of 3. Now if the parcel to Vancouver could just get there before the baby grows out of the things I've sent, that would be perfect!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

As summer ends

Summer has come to an end in Dubai and we survived the heat!

Ok, so we cheated a little with our European Escapade but we did stick out 2 of the 3 months. It did get as hot as they said it would and also extremely humid. We're talking temperatures of up to 50 degrees C [unofficially, probably higher], and humidity levels of approx. 80-90%.

It basically felt like we were in an oven, but surprisingly we didn't find it unbearable or even all that unpleasant as almost every other expat we met had warned us it would be. Admittedly, we did not have to work in the heat - I still don't know how the thousands of labourers and construction workers do it - and most of the day we did spend indoors in air conditioning.

Anyhow, we are fast approaching winter and the temperatures have cooled off a little. The evenings are most pleasant when the mercury hovers around the high 20's while day temperatures are currently in the mid to high 30's.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's Showtime!

We decided to subscribe to Showtime last weekend and the installation guys came to set it up a couple of days ago. It's actually the first time we've ever had pay TV in the Gypsy household, and we are lapping it up.

Both Gypsy Boy and I are self confessed TV addicts so it's a good thing, as well as a bad thing if you know what I mean!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Snowboarding in Dubai

It's so surreal. It's 2230 and Gypsy Boy and I have just come home from Snow school! We've both been skiing before but it was our first time snowboarding, just so weird to have this experience here in the middle of the desert!

We've been wanting to try snowboarding for awhile, and so when Gypsy Boy came across a special promotion in a magazine yesterday, we decided to give this a shot! The promo included a snowboarding [or ski] lesson for 2 including gear hire and a 3 course meal at St. Moritz café, all for 220dhs or approx. NZD100.00!

...inside Ski Dubai...

As we live just behind the Mall of the Emirates where Ski Dubai is located, we've been past hundreds of times but have never been in. I have to say they've done a fantastic job with the place, it really is huge and everything was clean, new and felt pretty authentic. The place was huge and comes complete with the world's first indoor black run, lots of cafés and restaurants set up with a Swiss Alps feel.

...The Mall of the Emirates...

It's also really cold inside! After going in from outside temperatures of 40 degrees C, I was freezing! The snow was also really good quality and it wasn't icy at all as I thought it would've been.

As for snowboarding, I don't know that I'd like to do it again. It was ok but not as easy as I thought it would be? I am not a good skiier by all means, but I think I prefer skiing. We do like Ski Dubai though and plan to go back again soon, especially when it's right at our doorstep!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spaghetti ai tartufi neri what I cooked for dinner last night!

This is a Florentine specialty that I first tried on our recent trip there and needless to say it was love at first bite! In our 4 days in Florence, Italy, I must've ordered this dish at least 3 times! Before we left, we came across some bottled truffles in the food market and bought a small bottle to take home. We also bought a bottle of truffle and mushroom olive oil we found in a supermarket at our next stop in Venice.


Armed with these items, cooking up a simple dish of spaghetti with truffles is quite easy. Just add garlic, freshly chopped herbs and some parmesan. Yum!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another rant on rent

Ok. So an update on our rental situation. The one year lease on our apartment officially expires on the 6th of December this year. However, in a clause on our lease agreement, we have to give 3 months written notice if we do not wish to renew our lease upon expiry - a common phenomenon here.

So 10 days ago, I decided to ring the landlord's office [who by the way owns all the apartments in our block, plus some other blocks, plus a real estate agency, plus...ok I think you get the picture], keen to find out what the rent is for the new year and was informed by them that the renewal letters have been sent out and should arrive within 2 days. Should I have any trouble they said to see the building manager [over here better known as 'The Watchman'].

Well, the much awaited letter finally arrived yesterday evening - the 12th of September. Interestingly enough the letter is dated 6 days earlier, coinciding with exactly 3 months before the expiration of our lease here. Hmm... To top it off, a boxed paragraph at the bottom stating that tenants are reminded they have to give 3 months notice as per clause 123 in the lease agreement.

Now how does that work?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Belgian waffles in Belgium?

I love Belgian waffles, and there is a possibility that Gypsy Boy and I could be doing this very thing in November! How perfect!

It just so happens that we did not go to Belgium at all on our recent European escapade. Fingers crossed, will keep you posted on more as details unfold...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rent, Schment.

In the weekend, Gypsy Boy and I decided to check out some of the new buildings in our neighbourhood. There's a lot of construction in this developing area and we've noticed some very swanky, new apartment blocks coming up.

As the lease on the apartment we are renting is coming up for renewal in December, I thought it would be a good idea to check out what is available in the market. Rents have been crazy over the last year, but given that there are now so many new apartments almost ready to be released in the rental market, one would think that there'd be some sort of glut prompting market forces to bring down rents in Dubai.

Well, this is clearly not the case. Not yet anyway. One of the new apartment blocks nearby, is a pretty terracotta building with Parisian style balconies finished with ornate wrought iron railings. Inside, the apartments were spacious, light and really would've met all our needs and more. What is interesting is, 2 weeks ago a friend had enquired and found out any 2 bedroom in this same building was going for 100,000 dirhams per year. Now, they are asking for 115,000 dirhams!

Such is the current rental situation here. To put things into perspective, 115,000 dirhams a year works out to be approximately 940NZD per week - in rent! We're talking no sea views, no views at all really. Good area, but still 15 kilometres to the CBD...

It will be interesting to see what the rent will be for the new year in our apartment. Apparently the renewal letter is already in the mail. Oh, the suspense!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Coming soon: street names

So the rumour is we might actually get an address sometime in the future. The Dubai Municipality and the Road and Transport Authority plan to give streets names so that mail can actually be delivered to ones doorstep.

Believe it or not, at the moment there is no real address system and all post is delivered to PO Boxes. We had fun and games when we first arrived, unfamiliar with the city, trying to find specific locations of shops or offices. We had to get directions marked by landmarks and disclosing our home "address" to date is quite amusing! It's not unusual to find sections on forms where you draw out a map of the location of your home to aid delivery of furniture etc!

I digress. According to the article in the paper today, "each building will have a sign displaying the building number, street numer and community number". At this stage though, it looks like plans for this scheme will only be finalised by the end of the year. Alas, I await our street address with bated breath.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Oh no, not the Croc Hunter!

I couldn't believe when I read the news this morning about Steve Irwin's death. Gypsy Boy and I used to love watching The Crocodile Hunter Diaries on TV... he seemed invincible!

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Last week, I was really excited to hear about the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre opening soon just down the road at the Mall of the Emirates. It only gets better, I just found out today that the centre will also be housing an [English language] book library. Bring it on!