24 December 2014

Goodbye to Dubai

It was a short-lived stay. Nine months ago, the Meandering Murphys thought we'd be in a completely different scenario than the one we're in now. 

If you look back through the blog posts, you can see the high hopes that began to dwindle as the calendar pages turned.

April.  We began the preparations to leave Lexington for a new job with a smaller company for a bigger and better position in Dubai. We called the international moving company, and our Dubai shipment patiently waited in Cincinnati for us to pull the trigger for the move.
First Day on the Job

May - June. Chris temporarily moved to Walnut Creek, California - right outside of San Francisco. He began training for a new system that his new company had implemented. I stayed in Lexington to finish the shipments and rental agreement, then traveled between Walnut Creek and Greeneville.
Yosemite National Park next to a fallen Sequoyah

In late June, Chris's new Dubai position began. This was the first international family-move for this company, and we were its guinea pigs. It's going to be fine...

July. Chris immediately had a surprise business trip to Japan --  just in time for Typhoon Neoguri to swipe by Okinawa. He returned to Dubai ready to grab his visa and look for an apartment. My ticket was originally scheduled for July 23rd.
Granny's 90th Birthday

August. Since the Japan trip threw off the visa schedule, I waited until after my grandmother's 90th birthday to fly to Dubai on August 23rd. This was a tough call because that visa would be ready AT ANY MINUTE. Chris and I were worried that he'd get his visa SO QUICKLY that he'd have to pick the apartment without me.

September. Ah, feel the scorching hot temperatures. No visa. No apartment. Still waiting to pull that shipment trigger.
Chris in front of the Burj Khalifa

October. Mild panic. We had a trip to Sri Lanka that we had planned months before -- certain that the visa would have long since arrived. Will this trip delay the process?? No need to worry. No visa. No apartment. Back to the hotel.
Sea Turtles in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Crocodile

November. No visa. No shipment. No apartment. Nice hotel but come on.... seven months in a hotel....

December. Clearly, this is not working like we had hoped. Let's try something different. Cancel the shipment.


There were heaps of other factors in the decision to leave Dubai -- the visa and endless hotel stay being only a part of it.

Despite the lack of support and resources from the company itself, this is a pretty awesome job for Chris, and they really think Chris is pretty amazing at what he does.

So Chris approached them with an alternate plan -- let him work out of the Oak Ridge office and travel as needed to Dubai or the projects he supports. 

The company was all for it. 

This is a much, MUCH better setup for us -- financially, mentally, and emotionally.

I came home for Thanksgiving to visit with an Aussie friend (Cheryl!), and then Chris arrived into Knoxville a week ago.
Cheryl and me at Biltmore

At Cheryl's first UT game

The Family at Thanksgiving

We are spending the holidays in Tennessee, then Chris will return to Dubai to wrap up a few things. He is planning to return to Tennessee at the end of January. I will stay in Tennessee and begin the resettling process.

Miles, my 4-year-old nephew, decorating the Christmas Tree
I want to make a side note: I can't say it was Dubai's fault we left. In fact, I'm going to miss parts of Dubai, and I'm a little bummed that we didn't get to enjoy it the way we would have if we had gone with a larger, more internationally-experienced company. Maybe another time.

But for now, HOME.

We did not do Christmas cards this year, but we hope you and your families enjoy the holidays. Thank you for taking the time to read and keep in touch. Your notes and comments make coming home even more enjoyable.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Oh, incidentally... Chris's visa arrived December 14th -- the day before he flew home to Knoxville.

10 November 2014

Christmas in Dubai

Snow in Dubai? Unless you are on the indoor ski slope at the Mall of the Emirates, you'll have to get your snow fix from the window dressings of the local shopping centers. 

Notice the sign on the far right is from Mississippi,
which gets less than an inch on average annually.
I guess since the sign is white, it seemed like a good fit. 

Vending Machine for Gold

With all the talk of the price of gold in the news, I found this little gem (no pun intended) fitting: 

Gold To Go
The Gold ATM

09 November 2014

02 November 2014

Shoe Shopping Is the Same Worldwide

As I was walking by the Manolo Blahnik store in the Dubai Mall, something caught my eye, and for once it wasn't shoes.

13 October 2014

A Personal Update From Dubai

Not much has changed since my arrival to Dubai, but I thought I'd give an update on where things stand with us. 

As of today, we have been residents of the City Premiere Hotel Apartments for 50 days and counting. If we are still in a hotel on November 5th, then Chris will have spent exactly six months living out of hotels and a suitcase.

On May 5th he went to Walnut Creek, CA for training for two months. Then after a four-day trip to Tennessee, he moved to Dubai and has been in hotels ever since.

The Southern Province: Bentota River Cruise and Galle Fort

After leaving the turtle hatchery we headed south to Bentota for a river cruise. There were many river cruise companies waving from the road to select theirs, and I'm not sure which one we picked. I'm sure all of them are about the same price and have basically the same tour.
View from the front of the boat

08 October 2014

The Southern Province: Turtle Hatchery

After the toddy tapper demonstration, we headed down the coast to a turtle hatchery. 

There are several turtle hatcheries in Kosgoda, and we stopped at the Sea Turtle Project.

The Southern Province: Toddy Tapping After Breakfast

After such a great day with our tour guide Mark Thamel, we hired him to see a different part of Sri Lanka -- the Southern Province. 

Mark picked us up at the hotel, and we headed south out of Colombo. We saw several things on this day so I'm going to break up the posts. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as we enjoyed seeing them.

Our first stop was a true Sri Lankan breakfast at a place Mark knows along the highway. It was an open air buffet with all the typical Sri Lankan breakfast foods.

Sulferino Hut Restaurant

05 October 2014

Seeing Sri Lanka: Elephant Orphanage, Tea Plantation, and Kandy

After a rough start, we finally had a great day touring Sri Lanka. We used the private tour guide my trading coach had suggested, and he turned out to be a wonderful asset to our visit of the country.

His name is Mark Thamel and primarily does the day trips from the Ocean View Resort in Negombo.*(Contact details below)

Mark drove from Negombo to Colombo to pick us up at our hotel. We had a very early start at 6 a.m. and needed to hit the road to catch our first activity high in the hills at 9 a.m.

Inauspicious Start in Sri Lanka

Because of the Eid holiday in Dubai, Chris wanted to take advantage of the extra days off and visit Sri Lanka. I was a little surprised at this selection, but he had heard good things about it. The biggest factor was that it was tropical with nice beaches, so off we go.

Admittedly, we didn't do much planning for this trip, so we really felt like we were winging it from the moment we got off the plane. I'm not sure why we didn't pre-plan. Maybe because Chris was working around the clock, and we didn't have time to do our normal planning together. When Chris did get a little free time in the evenings, planning a vacation wasn't at the top of the list. In the meantime, I've returned to stock trading so my free time has been limited, as well.

After about two minutes in Sri Lanka, we knew we should have done a bit more research.

29 September 2014

Holiday Break for Eid Al Adha

This week marks the celebration of Eid Al Adha on the Muslim calendar. Businesses are closed for three or four days, depending on the industry.

Eid Al Adha is celebrated by Muslims to honor the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Moments before Ishmael's demise, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. (Qur'an 2:196)

Does this story sound familiar?

27 September 2014

Same News Story, Different Details

Our hotel gives us an English-version of the local newspaper almost every day (we've yet to figure out the schedule of the paper's delivery - some days it's there, some it's not. But when it is, I feel like I've just won a free gift).

Having a background in Journalism, I always find it interesting to read the news in different countries to see how it differs from media reports in America.

Today is a newsier day with only
a quarter page ad below the fold.
The newspaper our hotel distributes is The Gulf Today, which seems to primarily cover news in all the Gulf States (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman) and the Middle East, in general. There is also a large section for Indian news with smaller sections for news from Europe, Australia and the Americas (North and South), although sometimes these stories are mixed throughout the paper leading me to wonder why there's even an Americas section in the first place.

09 September 2014

Life in the Fast Lane: Dangerous Driving in Dubai

Now that I know the rules of the road, here's the fun part.... the dangerous side of driving in Dubai. 

Many years ago my parents were telling me to be careful driving back to college after a weekend at home. I can remember reminding them that I was a good driver, and they don't need to worry.

My mother responded, "It's not your driving I'm worried about. It's the other idiots on the road." 

Never were my mother's words more true as now when I'm driving in Dubai.

Life in the Fast Lane: Driving the Roads of Dubai

Before moving to Dubai, we had read our fair share of warnings about the driving habits of local drivers -- all of which seemed insane to the point of exaggeration. 

Excessive speeds on the highway mixed with third-world driving behavior means that driving in Dubai was NOT for the faint of heart. But before I could jump into that mix, I had to figure out the rules of the roads.

I couldn't wait.

08 September 2014

Smoking Shisha

In an Islamic country, alcohol and recreational drugs (and several prescription drugs) usage is forbidden. I would have assumed that that also meant smoking tobacco, but it turns out that smoking is one of the more debatable transgressions.

In nearly every Arabic restaurant we have visited in Dubai, smoking shisha (flavor-mixed tobacco) is not only allowed, but arguably, encouraged in some restaurants. In many restaurants the lunch specials include the price of the meal plus shisha (the lunch specials are called 'Happy Meals,' which was highly hilarious to me or maybe it was just the shisha talking).

My first exposure to shisha was in Turkey, and there it is called hookah.

No, I take that back. It's possible that both your and my first exposure to shisha was in Alice of Wonderland. The caterpillar is smoking from a shisha pipe and blowing smoke rings while repeatedly [and annoyingly] asking Alice Whooooo are you?
Alice in Wonderland

Renting a Car in the UAE

There's nothing more freeing than a set of wheels. I feel like a bird that has been caged for two weeks then set free to spread its wings. Not that I've actually been caged, but the miserable heat makes exploring or doing anything outdoors... well, miserable.

This weekend I rented a car for a month. It's just a little car -- a white Nissan Sunny, which equates to about a stripped down Nissan Sentra. It came with a handful of small scratches and dings, which is exactly how I like my rental cars. That way if I add to them (or someone else adds one), then it's less likely to be noticed.
Nissan Sunny

I decided to rent from a company that we have in America, because I thought the process would be similar to rentals back home.

It sorta was. Kinda. Not really.

01 September 2014

Friday 'Brunch' in Dubai

In my last post, I highlighted eating out and grocery shopping in Dubai. Apparently, food and where to get more food is a favorite topic of mine. 

All meals in Dubai thus far have been interesting, flavorful, and with the exception of a few nuances, not really anything out of the ordinary for a typical restaurant endeavor. 

Which brings me to the next dining experience we had. 

Friday Brunch is practically a national pastime in Dubai. Since Friday is akin to the Islamic Sabbath Day, most everyone is off work. Almost any upscale, sit-down restaurant across Dubai offers what is known as 'Friday Brunch,' and from what I can tell, the only accurate part of that nomenclature - in the traditional sense - is that it happens on Friday. 

Eating Out and At Home in Dubai

As I mentioned in my first impressions, the food selection in Dubai is something to behold. I can't imagine that there is any place else in the world that could possible match the variety that is found here.

Local Cuisines
Any and every ethnicity of food is available, although some types are more available than others. Of course, Arabic food is plentiful, and most of it in the form of Lebanese restaurants (I haven't seen an Emirati restaurant yet).

27 August 2014

Undercover: Dressing Conservatively in Dubai

When writing my first impressions of Dubai, clothing and dressing conservatively was one of the first things I observed, even though I had researched and thought I fully understood what this meant before I arrived. 

After I began writing how I felt about it, the topic seemed to warrant its own posting, although I must admit that I'm a little nervous about releasing this post or even addressing this issue in a public forum.

Since I was feeling so perplexed in my emotions regarding Muslim attire, I decided to back up and reflect on what it is that I wear, in addition to, my very first dealings with someone in Middle Eastern apparel.