Friday, May 25, 2012

Farewell Gathering Central Stores Mafraq Hospital

Our time in the Emirates is drawing to a close, as Scott was informed his position will now filled by an Emerati national. This is a government edict to replace ex-pats with Emerati citizens. Scott's employees in Central Stores at Mafraq Hospital held a farewell gathering yesterday on 24 May. In preparation for his leaving his post, he has been cleaning out his office. He laughingly told me yesterday that he finally got a corner office with a window (3.5 windows to be accurate) and only got to enjoy it for three years. Here he is in his really clean office.  Note there is not one piece of paper besides the one front and center on the desk and the board behind him have never been wiped totally clean before.  He is smiling because all the hard work of moving on has been accomplished and he is waiting for the party to start...

And let the festivities begin...

Several of Scott's senior staff:  Naseer, Scott, Shuhul, Mr. Nor and Fouad, truly  international as this group represents India, America, Singapor and Lebanon.

Several Porters, Delailah (Secretary), Thangal, Shamsudeen, Shahul, Fouad, Scott, Amad, Abdul Razak, Racheal, Sanji, Talat.  Additional nationalities in this group are Phillipines and Canadian.

L - R: Purchasing Staff,  Mohammed Saleem, Nadeem, Scott, Salem (Emirati, note the kandora and headscarf), Shahul & Abdul Razak.  This group was headed by Noora Al Mansouri, who left the department last autumn, she is greatly missed.  She came to the gathering specifically at Scott's request, however, out of respect for her cultural beliefs (Emirati) her picture will not posted.  She is such a lovely lady and Scott will miss her tremendously, he noted at the gathering that she had taught him so much and he was greatly in her debt.

L- R Lamia, (Palestinian) in the pink headscarf is Purchasing Dept's secretary Amad, Mohammed Saleem, Shamsudeen, Ghassen (Syrian, an employee that Scott helped to find a really lovely position in private sector),  and Sakkeer.  As you can see the smaller boxes with the pastries that lined the outside of the table are disappearing quickly.  The larger containers are wrapped-stuffed grape leaves and wrapped-stuffed cabbage leaves... Scott was in his glory!

 A very pretty and tasy cake - yes, the icing was lovely!

Mr. Mohammed Nor, Scott right-hand man in Central Stores.  A Singaporian, he is the kindest and most gentle, of men and yet efficiently runs the storehouse with an gloved fist!  Here is his giving Scott huge kudos by noting (with statistics) the differences in the departments output from three years ago to present.

Scott's employees all put together this this gathering and presented him with a really nice watch.  He was touched by the comments of his staff, as was I.  Scott's last day at Mafraq Hospital is next Thursday 31 May.  It has been quite the adventure. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail."  Cannot think of a better expression of Scott's experiences in Abu Dhabi. 

Watch for further updates as we celebrate this evening with our circle of friends and trust me it will be a "spirited" gathering.

Love to All, Christine (and Scott)

Gotta go and sell some more furniture!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TRI YAS, April 13, 2012

Bateen Beach is a new beach on Abu Dhabi Island. Scott did some training here prior to the Yas Tri due to our clubhouse pool being closed for maintenance. The beach is quite nice with toilet and shower facilities. A beautiful bridge under construction is in the background, it crosses to an island that will be developed for more housing.
View up the Bateen Beach, note the few beachgoers. Scott swam to and from the white breakwater all the way down at the end of this photo. We went twice the week before the Tri and he improved his time significantly.
Scott's group at the pre-tri briefing. He was in the third flight (a.k.a. wave) of swimmers to begin their race. The flight included all 19 of the olympic-length swimmers for the relay teams. After the briefing, the 100+ swimmers walk down a ramp and over to the edge of one of the docks in the marina on Yas Island. Swimmers jump into the water and swim out to a gathering point. There were 7 waves of triathletes; each wave had a different color swim cap - this helps to distinguish between swimmers and quite helpful for the spectators. One of our friends ended up in the "pink" cap wave; he was not thrilled with PINK!
Scott's group has heard the starting horn and begun their swim. Scott is just about center.(can you see him?) Sprint-distance swimmers (750 meters) make their way out of the berthing area and make a right and swim in an oblong pattern then head back down this corridor to the exit ramp. Olympic-distance swimmers (1,500 meters) swim the oblong pattern twice.

Martin Hutchinson lives in Dubai and is good friends of Katherine and Hendrik Atsma. Hendrik was competing in his first triathlon (Hendrik was the runner for Scott's relay team in the Abu Dhabi Triathlon in March 2011) Martin was standing beside me when Scott's flight went off; he had come from Dubai to help cheer Hendrik along as he completed the entire triathlon - Hendrik's first. "Well Done" to Hendrik!
The building behind Martin is a hotel. The F-1 track actually goes between the two buildings which make up the hotel. Can you imagine being that close to an F-1 race? The outer covering of the hotel is lit purple at night, it is quite a lovely sight.
Scott as he exits the water and heads up the ramp on the left. He has to make his way to transition, where the timing chip (look at the black strap around Scott's right ankle) is removed and passed to Stephan Saenger. Stephan may now put on his helmet and un-rack his bike for 7 laps around the F-1 racetrack (40KM). After he completes his portion, Stephan must make his way back to his original position in transition, re-rack his bike and THEN remove the chip and hand it over to the runner. Only then may Stephan remove his helmet. Our new runner is Ruedger Darsow. An anestheologist at Mafraq Hospital, he will has been waiting at transition.
After attaching the chip to his ankle he begins 2 laps of the drag race course adjacent to the F-1 track, the length is 10 KM.
5th place of 19 Olympic distance relay teams. Scott, Stephan and Ruedger - The Mafraq Hospital teammates. Their time for the entire event: 2:25:29 Scott's swim portion: 29:12 Stephan's cycle portion: 1:05:34 Ruedger's running portion 46:17.
The Simpson Family: Paula, Philip (on Spring Break from his university in Canterbury, England), Emily and Martin. Martin is a tri-athlete and has completed his race, hence, he is looking exhausted and was sucking down water! Emily was preparing to compete in the 15-17 year old Duathlon. She had to cycle 2 laps of the F-1 racecourse (11KM) and run 3KM, this was her first experience. Of course, we stayed to watch her complete her race; "Well Done" to Emily and Martin.
Tri competitors must be 18 y/o to swim and there was also a shorter distance duathlon for ages 11 to 14. Scott and I were most impressed by the number of young people involved in these 2 events. We were totally in awe of the father, who having completed his own triathlon, met his daughter at the running transition area and ran the 3KM with her.
Yas Triathlon is very different than the Abu Dhabi Triathlon. This is a family atmosphere (see above paragraph), whereas the A.D. Tri is a world class performers event - entrants from all over the globe. Yas Tri has a lovely atmosphere where we were astounded by the number of participants we knew and how many family members were there all day long to support and encourage.
It was fun.
Love to all
Scott and Christine

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abu Dhabi Triathlon 2012

All athletes bikes are racked and ready at the first transition area. We crossed the street just beside those tall buildings and are looking back at the city with the beach at our backs.
Stephan Saenger, Scott and Catarina Saenger just before the premier male athletes take to the water in the first heat. The premier female athletes are in the second heat. The 3rd and 4th heats are athleted completing the same long course as the premier athletes.
Scott's heat, the fifth start of the day takes off. They are in the green swim caps. The racers you see in the forground in blue swim caps are from the third heat. These racers have already swum the course once and have gotten out of the water at the exit. They run along the shore line and do a second swim around the course.
Here is Scott exiting the water. He will run right by me and chip in his ankle strap records his swim time as 28 minutes 16 seconds. He will run from here to meet up with Stephan at the entrance to the racked bicycles. They hand off the ankle strap and off went Stephan. He came in at 2 hours 55 minutes 9 seconds.
This is our Dutch friend Reinier Van Der Val after the first portion of his swim. You can see the huge flag pole and performing arts area across the water.
Among those wating at the second transition area are Catarina and Jonathan Saenger. It really is enjoyable watching all of the cyclists coming in and then literally racing off to complete the runnin portion of the event. It was not nearly as warm this year (90's in 2011) and better for racers and spectators
Jonathan (young man on left in green), Stephan in grey removing the ankle strap and Catarine in coral shirt and cap. By this time the wind has come up and the many cyclists on the course are struggling.
The Finish Line - Yes, there was a group of Emirate Nationals performing traditional dances at the finish line! The skinny canes are part of the dance and black holsters are for guns (well, honestly, where do you put your handgun in your kandora? You can see an Emerati woman in her abaya in the foreground; she is standing at the table with all of the medals.
The race has just finished for our team. Their official time: 4 hours 15 minutes 43 seconds. Catatina's run time 46.25. All of our team members did very well and am so pleased that Scott has found a way to compete. Louisville friends, please note that Scott is wearing a Louisville Bats t-shirt.
Scott worked out his stats: 151 swimmers finished the swim in the 5th heat. Scott's was the 45th person from his heat out of the water which put him at 29.8% Scott is quite pleased with his time and placing.
Also, I incorrectly reported that Scott was the first in his age group - OOps, he was merely 2nd! But he has told me that all the 60 y/o and above swimmers were faster than him - Animals !
Scott and Stephan are looking for a runner so that they may enter the Yas Island Tri Athlon next month. Catarina will be in Germany.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What a Great Weekend

Last Friday was a lovely day south of Abu Dhabi. Only an hour away is:

A mountain peak straddling the UAE/Oman border - Jabel Hafeet is a wonderful place to take guests. This is a beautiful view which we enjoyed over the weekend when we were invited to accompany the Simpsons and their guests for a day trip to Al Ain. We had not been to the mountain in over two years and were still amazed at the steep serpentine road up to the top.
Another view of this starkly attractive mountain. The mountain is riddled with an extensive cave system, some caves have been used at burial sites in ancient times.
Wish this pictures was better, am attempting to show you the strata of the rock formations. We had a picnic lunch at the top of the mountian and then drove back down toward Al Ain and...

Found an amazing public garden call "Al Ain Paradise". These beautiful Italian glazed pots were huge, gorgeous and empty... Sometimes we simply do not understand the way different are handled here.
This is right at the entrance. Christine is standing by the Guiness World Record Certification for the most handing baskets in a garden - there were just a handful less than 3,000.
Petunias were by far the most utilized flower in the garden, aovelyt least 10 different varieties and all lovley.
also planted flower beds - white daisies flanked by petunias. Please note the different colored bricks paths leading visitor throughout the entire garden.
We posed here to show the metal frames holding some of the hanging baskets
A different variety of metal hangers in this area. The colored stones were glued into place which made for an easy walk and easy maintainence. The gardens were overflowing with visitors; you can see 3 women in abayas (the traditional Emerati dress for women).
These heart frames were plugged with vines and petunias. Please note the large picture of the ruling sheik at the end of the path.
A wall of flowers - these petunia pots were plugged into wire frames attached to the walls. Can you imagine trying to keep these plants watered? After the gardens, which are only open Oct to April, we drove over to the museum in the former fort-home of the rulers of Abu Dhabi. We spent a further hour exploring the different areas, living quarters, kitchen and stores, bedrooms, receiving rooms and public garden at the fort.
Saturday we were invited on a Desert Safari. We were picked up in the SUV and driven to this camel farm out in the desert. I had no idea that camels came in so many different colors. The camels are all hobbled (note the rope tied between their front legs). They were so friendly and wanted petted - hey they have feelings, too!
The camel farm had probably 2 dozen newborn camels. The mothers were very protective and would lead the babies away if a person got too close.
Fresh Camel Milk - sweet, warm and delicious. However we had just come from half an hour of dune bashing in the SUVs and my stomach was not prepared for anything but water for the rest of the day!
Walking among the camels; One of our SUVs s in the background
Ever since watching Laurence of Arabia last year I have wanted to ride a camel and say "On to Aqaba!" It wasn't a hard as I thought, but it was a short ride.
This is how you get onto a camel. It is easy enough to get on. The difficult part is when the camel gets up, she rocked forward then backwards and then repeated the process - you had to hold on tight.
The safari encampment where henna tatoos are offered, a belly dancer performed, some climbed huge sand dunes and sand boarded down. A lovely fire was lit after dinner and we all enjoyed the warmth as it gets cool and windy when the sun goes down. Some guests smoked shisha - we passed on that option and enjoyed looking at the gorgeous stars. Dinner was a very nice buffet and beer was available, which surprised me. However this is strictly for tourist trade and some rules are relaxed a bit when the local population will not be "offended" by western practices.
Our group: Emelio, Sami, Georganna, Scott and Christine. we are sitting on huge carpets right on the sand. There are pillows and low tables all around the stage where the entertainment was...
a belly dancer. She did several numbers and then took a 36 inch stick and pointed right at Scott. He did not need any coaxing... Up and on that stage within a NY minute. This dance she put the stick between their bellies and they had to keep it there. All the ladies went up and danced as well, but I'll spare you all those photos.
There really is a fair amount to do here in the winter when all the locals and the expats find reasons to be outside enjoying the beautiful temperatures. Scott and I have gotten excellent at responding with a hearty "Yes" when ever we are invited on outings. We have been rewarded by enjoying outings with out friends and meeting people where ever we go. The adventures continue...
Stay safe and enjoy,
Christine and Scott

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Colombo Trip, Sri Lanka

Joseph looking out the window on the way to Colombo. Several things of note are just how close the train tracks run beside the ocean and the clean clothes lying out on the ground to dry (shades of India). The scenery was beautiful and we all enjoyed the ride up to the Capital City of the Country.
The train station. It is about a 2 hour train ride to Colombo if you do not take the express train. We opted to stop at all the stations to get a feel for the area. On the return trip we had to twice get off the train and wait for a different train to pick us up and take us further on down the line, this seems very odd to all of us. The airport and train stations are infamous for "touts" a.k.a. scam artists.
Christine right outside the central train station in Colombo. Things to note here are the corrigated metal roofs on shops lining the streets, these shops sold everything from clothes to sunglasses, phones to jewelry. We were all impressed with how clean Colombo was and compared to India, even the high-traffic areas were quite clean. There is also a woman in a sari right behind Christine, most women seemed to wear full-length cotton skirts, so the sari was notable.
Just past the train station is this monstrosity that begs to be titled "Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!" Actually it is a monument to the Sri Lankan telecommunications systems; we all found it rather weird.
We walked from the train station to the Old Fort area (yes, old fort area in both Colombo and Galle). This photo shows the landmark old lighthouse which has been changed over to a clock tower. An "off limits" harbors is just behind the clock tower. The presidential palace was to the right past the clock tower and security was very much in evidence. This old part of the town has mostly colonial-era structures, many are in good shape and others are being renovated/restored.
Katherine was so excited to go to The Pagoda restaurant because the Duran Duran "Hungry Like The Wolf" video was filmed here in the 1980's. This is one of the oldest eating establishments in the Fort area. However, it was also undergoing a massive renovation and only available for drinks and pasteries. We were all disappointed, so the women went shopping at Lanka Hands, a multi-level store selling local crafts (including Sinhalese masks, batik and lacework, basketry and way more). Christine filled her backpack full!!!
Cargills Ltd, a once-grand Department Store built to supply imported luxury to British Planters and Colonial Administrators, was established in 1844. The building still features gorgeous glass, mahogany cabinets and lots of brass; it is a living mercantile museum.
This photo shows the still beautiful red-brick victorian Cargills Emporium. The company still has a major retail influence on the nation, in 1993 Cargills began a supermarket chain. We even shopped at the one in Wadduwa; it wasn't huge, but it was clean and air conditioned.
Scott simply had to have a picture of this! I was trying to figure out how to make a "B" with my arms to do the YMBA dance.
Beautiful Hindu Temple - bright colors are quite popular in Sri Lanka.
View from the passenger seat of a tuk-tuk. Please note how the driver is actually over the center line - very common driving practice, cause it is all about passing the guy in front of you. We took the tuk-tuks across town to another restaurant Katherine recommended.
This victorian house is the Paradise Road Gallery Cafe. We had an excellent lunch at the 2nd floor cafe. The first floor and much of the second were all retail; amazing array of housewares, home accessories and lovely gifts. Scott and I both shopped while we waited for our lunch, but as we are on the 5-Year Plan, what we bought were gifts. So much of the store reminded me of Ozzie's - great merchandise, fair prices and good customer service. As we were flying home, the terra cotta garden pieces were for looking only.
This is a sacred Bodhi Tree, we saw them all over the country and like this one, right in the middle of the road! Cow also roam freely, but we saw very few of them in Colombo.
This white-domed building is known as "Old Town Hall", but the locals call it "The White House"
Just across the street is Colombo's largest park, Viharamahadevi Park (say that 5 times fast!). It was originally called Victoria Park, but like many places and streets, was renamed in the 1950's. Working elephants sometimes spend the night in the park eating palm branches - bet the gardeners love to clean up the mess?
These are Indian Flying Fox. The are the largest of three types of fruit-eating bats in Sri Lanka
Groups of roosting bats, numbering in the the hundreds, will take over the large trees in this park. They decamp after sunset. A gardener in the park led Scott and I to the roosting bats. He took a huge fallen tree branch and wacked at the ground until the bats flew up in a flurry. Their wing span is 1.3 meters (4.2 feet) and they made an awful screeching sound, yikes! Imagine that flying over your head?
See all the bats still hanging in the trees? They were amazing and we watched them two different times - even the local population was enthralled (and probably glad that the bats eat only fruit). After the gardener got the bats to fly up several times, he looked at us and put out his hand. Scott gave him some Sri Lanka Rupees and he looked at Scott and said "I need more, I want American money". Scott prompted pulled the note out of the man's hand and said "this is all I've got, you want it or not?"
The park is extremely large, with lots of play areas. Scott noticed this bridge over a small lake in need of repair. We were surprised at how many things needed work, but Sri Lanka's economy is in the same straits as most countries.
We saw this Boy Scout monument to the Golden Jubilee (1912-1962)of the Ceylon Boy Scout Movement. We both smiled and felt it rated a photo.
It was a long, long day and the little guys passed out on the couch, we let sleeping children alone!
The Sri Lankan who took care of us for a week. Miss Pushba was out cook and Mr. Thulak took care of our house and several others in the compound. They made out holiday restful and relaxing.
Sri Lanka was a lovely trip for us, a place that we probably never would have visited if not already living over overseas.
Hope this little slice of a our travels was enjoyable. Stay safe and warm,
Scott and Christine