Highway design

Everyday the drive to and from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is an adventure. I noticed this week that the main street thru Dubai (called Sheikh Zayed Road) is about seven lanes wide. Lots of room to zip around town, but many a day it is still bumper to bumper.

On the way to Abu Dhabi this week, the seven lanes narrows down to four lanes each way. Well actually the way some of the folks drive around here, the four lanes turned into six lanes. Yes, some folks decided to make the outside shoulder and the inside shoulder into a passing lane. Usually the far right lane is the slow lane dedicated to trucks only. Then going from right to left you have the next faster lane, then a little faster then the fastest lane, but then when you really need to make it to your appointment that you are running late for, you pull off on to the far left shoulder and just floor it……be sure your headlights are working so that you can flash the slower speedsters and tell that you are coming up on their left side. If you need to speed up to the next exit ramp then you can just go extra fast on the far right shoulder and pass the slow trucks.

One thing you need to watch for, if you decide to speed on the far right shoulder is the fact that every so often the DOT has placed small speed bumps on the shoulder………..maybe if you hit a small speed bump at 90 miles an hour you might be airborne for a bit and the shock to your system will not be that noticeable. I think I will just plug along at 70 MPH in the second lane. I will just keep waving to the speedsters as they pass the rest of us and hopefully they will make it to their destination a whole five minutes before I get there.

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Who Would Have Thought

Today was a new adventure for me. I took care of getting my UAE driver’s license without any help from any local residents. It did take a little longer to get the proper paperwork organized for this event, but once I got things sorted it was very quick.  When I drove up to the license branch I was a little worried that the process was going to take a long time, since I saw guys washing cars in the parking lot while people go in to get their license.

Since my company is registered in Abu Dhabi, all of my paperwork has to be verified and coordinated with the Abu Dhabi authorities. I keep thinking that the UAE is one big state, but the UAE is divided into seven emirates. Each one has their own way of doing things. Sort of like, living in Indiana, but working in Ohio. I needed to get an Abu Dhabi driver’s license even though I live in Dubai.

You need the following documents to get a driver’s license…….1. Eye test    2. Color-blind eye test    3. Copy of your passport    4. Copy of your UAE residency visa      5. A letter from your company sponsor that says it is OK to drive in the UAE    6. 25 AED for the eye test    7. 200 AED ($55) for the license     8. Color Passport photo  9. Arabic translation of your existing Indiana drivers license

Once you have all of this stuff ready to go, then the process takes about 15 minutes and that includes 5 minutes for them to create your card. The license is good for ten years. Pretty good if you ask me.

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What day is it…….

I have been in Dubai for one year now………the weekend in the UAE is Friday and Saturday. I do not know why, but my body clock is telling me that Sunday is really Monday.  It is nice to think that Hump day is a Tuesday and this week we get a three day weekend, so I will really be messed up on Sunday of next week.

The weather is getting very nice this time of year. The folks at the villa sit out by the pool each night and chat and sometimes we watch movies on the wall of the villa. The pool water is getting a little cool for some, but I think 80 degree water is pretty refreshing compared to what we dealt with in the middle of July and August. (90 degree temps)

There is a rumor going around that we might get some rain this week……..I will post pictures if that happens. My landlord said that he has not seen rain in two years.

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Possible to be more spoiled

Counting down the days to my next trip back home. Can’t wait to see everyone from Indiana to California. Lots of air miles in my future, but it will be worth it.

This week was a good week. Got pampered a bit more here and there. At the construction job site, I usually get to the job trailer about 20 to 30 minutes before the weekly meeting starts. This gives me some extra time just in case the traffic from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is backed up. Usually there is some sort of fender bender on the road to the jobsite every week. When I arrive at the trailer I go to the conference room and get settled in. The coffee boy brings me my coffee and a bottle of water before the meeting starts. He has my special request of just black coffee in a larger cup all worked out now. I was a little surprised that he took the time to put some water in the refrigerator before hand. My bottle was chilled, everyone else got a warm bottle. Do you suppose he knows that I work for the bank that is paying for the project……hmmmm….I thought it was out of the kindness of his heart. Maybe both……..

I stopped by the neighborhood mall to pickup a few things last week. The car wash guy came up to me and wanted to know if I needed a car wash. Mind you, the cost is 10 AED or $2.75 to get a full wash. I felt generous, so I said “Sure”. I told him I would be about an hour and he said, “No Problem”. When I got back it was spic-and-span. He was working on another car and gave me a look to see if I liked the job he did. I gave him a big thumbs up. Well we had a little sandstorm the other day and my car was a little dusty so I went to the nearby Starbucks at the neighborhood mall and my car wash buddy saw me drive in. He rushed over to see if I needed another car wash. “Sure, let’s go for it”, I said. He had it all buffed up nice and shiny when I got back after my afternoon iced tea. I gave him an extra 5 AED and he was tickled to death. Now I have my very own car wash guy. Do you think I should go thru lots of mud puddles to give him something to do….?? Wait a minute, what mud puddles, have not seen one of those in nearly a year.

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New surroundings

One of the guys that works at my construction site lives in Dubai and drives over to Abu Dhabi each day. He gave me a call and asked if he could hitch a ride with me since his car had to go to the repair shop. I picked him up at the nearby mall and we headed of to Abu Dhabi together. His name is Tarek and he was born in the UK but his family is Jordanian. He has lived in Dubai for about 15 years. Good guy….we had a good conversation on the 1.5 hour trip to the job site.

When I brought him back to Dubai, he wanted me to meet his wife and daughter and see his villa. Turns out he does not live very far from my villa. His daughter is studying to be a chemical engineer at the American University of Sharjah. His wife is an architect and is the QA/QC manager for her firm. She is also a very talented artist that works in watercolor and chalk.

On the way to his villa, I noticed a new shopping center on the way back to my villa. I stopped off there the other day to grab a quick bite to eat. There is a little cafe/coffee shop located in the shopping center called Tim Hortons (I think it is a Canadian company). Not only did they have good sandwiches and berry drink smoothies, they had this large section devoted to DONUTS. Since my Dunkin Donuts shop closed down after Christmas and my Fuddruckers hamburger joint folded up and my Mexican restaurant On The Border was no longer around, I was thrilled to find a new place to spend my hard earned dirhams.

Let me tell you, these Tim Horton donuts are great…..the cinnamon rolls were pretty good sized and very tasty. The chicken/lettuce wrap was good and the mixed berry smoothie gave me a freezie tumor. The trip back to Tarek’s shopping center was well worth it.

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Who would have thought………..??

On my way to dinner last night, I was trying to decide if I wanted to go for Mexican food or go to my favorite hamburger joint, Fuddruckers. So after a hard day’s work at the MAKE internet cafe, I stopped by Fuddrucker’s to get a burger. What?? The doors were locked and the lights were turned off. Even their signage on the side fo the building was taken down. Now I have to drive all the way to Abu Dhabi to enjoy my Fuddrucker burger……………so I went down the street to complete my mission and have a burrito at the local On The Border. I turned the corner and lo and behold, OTB was closed. The lights were off and the signage was taken off the building. I am starting to think that there is a conspiracy going on and someone has been following my every move and has decided to make my life in Dubai unbearable. What to do next…

Across the street from the OTB location is a restaurant called ScooZi. Sounds Italian, so I popped in there to get a pasta dish and a salad. I was a little shocked when the hostess asked me if I wanted to sit at the sushi bar. I said, “isn’t this an Italian restaurant??” She said “Yes and Sushi….”  Sure enough, ScooZi is both Italian and Japanese in one location………..”Dual Sensation” is their tag-line. The sushi portion of the restaurant has the sushi going around the bar area on a conveyor belt. Very clever.

I was not in the mood for Sushi, so I stuck with the original plan and had a pasta dish and a side salad. I was still upset about my two strike-outs. I guess I will have to do some cruising around the neighborhood and figure out how to replace my favorite food resources. Wish me luck……………

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People watching

I know that a lot of people are worried about the recent activities in the Middle East. So far things in Dubai seem to be normal everyday activities. I only hear about what is going on outside the UAE thru my USAToday website and info that Carol shares with me from state-side. I will do my best to keep everyone updated as best I can.

I bought a mobile internet connection so that I can email or text from anywhere in the City, so I should be able to do a better job of keeping everyone up to speed.

I was at the Mall of the Emirates today getting my mobile internet connector. I noticed a couple of interesting things while walking thru the Mall. One we have a new IHOP in the Food Court area. It was packed on Saturday morning….just like the USA. I also noticed a family pushing their elaborate stroller thru the Mall. They pulled over to the side of the aisle-way to fix their flat tire. Yes, the Dad had an air-pump out to pump up the back tire. That baby must have a pretty smooth ride with air-filled tires………..

I stopped by the Shake Shack for lunch and while I am taking my meal back to my table I noticed a teenaged girl painting her toenails at the table with Mom and Dad. I realize that most people in Dubai wear sandals and they like their toes to look nice, but I am not sure if I have ever seen that sort of thing in the USA. Learn something new everyday.

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Where Am I ??

OK, I have almost been in Dubai for one year. I got here at the end of October, 2011. For the life of me, I do not know what it is about me or my car or maybe it is the way I zip around town in traffic……but in the past month or so, I have been asked by locals (or what appears to be locals) for DIRECTIONS.

One day it was a young man dressed in his dish/dash with his grandfather in the front seat and they needed directions to Al Barsha which is the next sub-division near my villa. A few days ago, a group of locals in a new Mercedes, pulled up to me at the stop/go light and asked directions to a major highway East of my villa. Today, an Indiana woman pulled up to me at the stop/go light and asked for directions to another area of town near my office. I told her to follow me since I was heading that way. She was following me for about three blocks and the next thing I knew she pulled off on to another road and went her own merry way to a different part of town. I hope she got to her destination.

Do you think an American in a little Toyota looks like he knows where everything is in Dubai?? Maybe since I am wearing my new Ray-Ban sunglasses, maybe they do not know that I am not a local………let me know if you have any thoughts on this matter…….

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Extra points

Today is a red letter day……….besides it being a Friday and the first day of the weekend, I have also been named “The Mayor” of MAKE Business Hub. MAKE is the internet cafe that I hang out at when I am not in Abu Dhabi at the job site. To be the Mayor is a big deal. With this honor, I will receive my food and beverages at MAKE at HALF price.

The concept of Mayor is thru an app on my iPhone called FOURSQUARE. This software can tell what restaurants and businesses I am near in Dubai. The database is quite extensive. When I arrive at MAKE I use the app to register my location. The app keeps track of how many times have been in a certain location. If you are at the location a certain number of times in the past 60 days, then you become the Mayor.

I met the previous Mayor at MAKE and I intend to try and keep my new title as long as I can. Wish me luck……..

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Method to their madness

I thought I would sit down while I am having this four day weekend and talk about some of the great little features that I have discovered in Dubai.

Many of the streets and alleyways are brick cobblestone streets. Yes cobblestone……some areas are a more realistic and very rough stone pavement area, but others are a very smooth brick like material. I always wondered why they would want to do that. Well, it turns out that a new fiber optic cable needed to be laid to the building where I hang out to use the internet. The workers took up the bricks and dug around and hooked up the cable and then put the bricks back down. The total time to dig up the street and put in the new line and then put everything back was about three days. The street looked exactly like it did before they started the project. No blacktop patching, to change in color….looks great.

Another feature that I think is cool around here (we know the temperature is not cool for another month or so), is the idea of having red and green lights above all of the parking spaces in the parking garage. As you are driving into the garage, they have digital signage to tell you which floors have open slots and then when you are looking around, you can quickly look for green LED lights at each parking stall. Saves a bunch of time in finding an opening.

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