Thursday, 30 January 2014

A sweet addiction

I can't believe that January is almost over. Apologies that I haven't been blogging much, but it has been a busy time at work, and weekends have been busy too. Although I do have to admit that there have been times when I could have been blogging, but I decided to play Candy Crush Saga instead.

I'm sure you all know what Candy Crush is, but in case there is someone out there who doesn't, it is a "match three puzzle video game" (thanks Wikipedia), which in March 2013 apparently had an average of 46 million users a month. I'm rather late to the party, I've been aware of it for some time but have avoided downloading it as I had heard how addictive it could be. However that all changed a couple of days before Christmas when Ann (mother-in-law) persuaded me to have a go. Thanks Ann! ;)

From that moment I was hooked. Christmas and New Year passed in a blur as every spare moment (and some moments that weren't strictly spare) was spent playing, and this has continued throughout January although at a much reduced level as I have had to work as well (how inconvenient!). I've managed to make reasonable progress, enough to keep me returning anyway. And for those wondering, and I've had at least one email asking, you know who you are ;), yes, in the early days I did pay 69p once or twice so I didn't have to wait for my lives to build up again, but my total spending has been less than £3, and since returning to the UAE I have not spent a penny.

Away from Candy Crush our weekends have settled into a routine during January, usually involving doing something with friends on one day, and spending the next recovering. Two weekends ago we hosted a dinner party, which seemed to be a great success, although the song selection on Spotify did cause one or two tensions as the evening went on. This was due to the men (obviously) choosing proper music, but the ladies objecting to most of our choices as they didn't involve Gary Barlow, or couldn't be danced to.

Anyway the evening finished without major incident, other than one person landing flat on their backside whilst "dancing", and two people ending up with scraped knees due to forgetting about the steps outside our front door as they left. Needless to say the three individuals concerned were all female!

Last weekend some Australian friends on the compound decided to celebrate Australia Day with a "Aussies v Pommies" sporting challenge, involving cricket, netball and basketball. They had rounded up a number of their sporty mates, whereas the plucky English (plus a token Scot, Welshman and French man) were somewhat thrown together. Whilst we put up a brave challenge, unfortunately we were very narrowly (honest) beaten in all of the matches. We shall be better prepared next year, believe me, but it was a great afternoon and evening.

Action shot from the netball match

Work continues to be busy but in a good way. I'm splitting my time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai due to my new role, and continue to meet a wide variety of clients and targets. In the last week alone I've met organizations in the following sectors: health, education, dairy, retail, hotels (I knew my degree would come in handy eventually!), financial services, manufacturing, government, and night clubs. I certainly can't complain about the variety, and the important thing is I am really enjoying it.

Arab Health Exhibition in Dubai this week

Yesterday I did a 2.5 hour presentation at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, sharing my thoughts on audit committees, a relatively recent concept for the UAE. I wasn't sure whether I was going to be able to fill the time but there were plenty of questions from the audience so in the end it wasn't an issue, indeed I could probably have gone on for another hour! I managed to attract an audience of about 60, and got some really positive feedback, which I am really pleased about.

Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce

Jo and the kids are fine, having settled back into their routines. Flossie's reading is really coming on, Archie is enjoying playing touch rugby (despite rarely touching the ball, bless him), and Henry has relaunched his film career (see trailer below). Jo is as busy as ever, out and about exploring new parts of Abu Dhabi amongst many other things, and seems to be emerging as the social hub of the compound, the person who knows everyone, and everyone knows her.

That's all for now, I'll try and post a little more regularly from now on.

Thanks for reading as always.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

The end of a busy week

I'm sitting down relaxing at the end of a busy week. For various reasons I've had to trek to Dubai every day. It's an 80 mile journey but motorway all the way so it's not a hard drive, just a little boring in places, although I still get a buzz as I drive through Dubai itself and see the various skyscrapers, and particularly the Burj Khalifa.

Things should settle down next week and I'm hoping to settle into a routine of one or two days a week in Dubai, but most of my time in Abu Dhabi. Fingers crossed anyway.

Thursday is our new Friday evening, and therefore tonight should be "curry night" as it always was in the UK. However we have tried and rejected all of the places that deliver around here as the curries they delivered, somewhat surprisingly, weren't up to the standard we were used to in Bolton. Instead we've just had a lovely steak, so I'm hoping Thursday night may now become "steak night" instead!

The focus of our weekend plans is a dinner party we are hosting tomorrow evening. There will be ten adults and goodness knows how many children, and the plan is to feed the kids, then pack them off upstairs whilst the adults get on with enjoying themselves. Jo has been busy preparing today, including buying all the little bits we need that we didn't bring with us.

There was nearly a crisis earlier when Jo went to the alcohol shop, filled her trolley, then presented her alcohol license at the counter, only to be told it had been cancelled (the things I do to control her drinking!!). Thankfully they let her off on this occasion, but I - not Jo - have to ring up next week to find out what is going on. And there was me thinking that when we got Henry's Emirates ID card earlier this week (it has taken five months because he turned 15 during the process which caused all sorts of confusion, before they finally decided that this meant he needed to have his hand and finger prints taken as he is now an adult, but then it took two attempts to get these right) had finally completed all the formalities involved in relocating here. No such luck.

We'll try and get out to the park or something tomorrow morning to enjoy the nice weather and let the kids burn some energy off. I'm nursing a bad back and bruised ribs (maybe I was a little too enthusiastic in the impromptu football match last weekend), which have been pretty bad today, so I'm suspecting I may need to fit in a trip to the doctor.

I didn't manage to get round to doing the lifelogging post I promised in last week's post. I can sense the disappointment from here! Hopefully I'll get chance in the next few days so try and contain your excitement.

Until then I'll leave you with a few of the pictures I have snapped this week whilst out and about.

Can't complain about this as the view whilst eating lunch
Random view whilst sat at traffic lights
The view from a client's meeting room, including the Burj Al Arab on the right hand side
The sun setting over the desert this evening

As always, thanks for reading.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Many Happy Returns

There has been a public holiday today to mark the Prophet Mohammed's birthday, so we have had a three day weekend to recover from the first week back at school and work. Everyone seems to have settled back in ok, although we've been spared homework so far so it's been a fairly gentle start.

We've had a good weekend, whilst not too busy. On Friday morning Jo, Archie, Flossie and I headed down to the Corniche for a bike ride. It is about five miles from one end to the other and both Archie and Flossie did really well, Archie completing the full ten mile round trip, and Flossie managing about nine with some encouragement, and strategically timed picnic and ice cream stops. The weather was perfect for being out on our bikes, and there weren't too many people to dodge out of the way of two kids zig zagging their way along.

Friday evening saw us at a BBQ at a friend's house on the compound. They are from Canada originally so are expert BBQers, meaning we enjoyed some great food. We staggered home at about 11pm as the kids, and the grown ups, were ready for their beds.

Saturday morning was spent "relaxing" / recovering from the previous evening, then we dragged ourselves out to a local park in the afternoon. Khalifa City A is dotted with some great parks with kids' play equipment, splash zones, football pitches, BBQ facilities, etc. We decided to have a game of football, Archie and Jo versus Flossie and I. However within a couple of minutes a number of other children had decided to join the game. I never quite worked out what the teams were as there were a few language barriers, all I know is that most of the time it felt like everyone else against me. I've no idea what the result was either.

Last night we all, including Henry, went out for tea to Yas Marina. We admired some of the yachts which were moored there, including one that was once owned by Roman Abramovich, until it went to his wife in the divorce settlement, who then sold it for $300 million. Jo would like one for her birthday but I suspect that isn't going to happen!

Before I go I'll leave you with a little Slideshow that Archie made when playing on the iPad.

That's all for now, but I'm hoping to post again in the week, introducing you to my lifelogging project for 2014. Until then, thanks for reading as always.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Happy New Year

As I write this many of you back in the UK will be starting to think about returning to work tomorrow after (hopefully) a good break over Christmas and New Year. Having done this myself today, I wish you all the best for the coming year.

We had a lovely time back in the UK, catching up with as many family and friends as possible, although that wasn't a huge number due to limited time and busy diaries. In particular we were very well looked after by Jo's Mum, who ran around after us as we created chaos from the moment we arrived. We also had a good day at my parents between Christmas and New Year. Thanks to everyone who played host to us.

We were a little unsure how we would all feel about the prospect of coming home after our first trip back to the UK since moving here. As it turned out, whilst it was sad to be saying goodbye again, we were all happy to arrive home on Thursday evening. We were particularly happy due to the fact that we managed to get all our Christmas presents and sundry other items (toaster, sundry pairs of shoes, new suits, etc, etc) that we had had delivered to Ainsdale back safely - we left with three suitcases, and returned with five bursting at the seams!

I can't say I'm sorry to be away from the horrid weather the UK is experiencing at the moment. Spending yesterday at the beach, and getting a little sunburnt in the process, was a reminder of how lucky we are to be here. The weather is perfect for outdoor activities at the moment, and it is starting to become a distant memory about how hot it can get. We need to make the most of it, as it won't be long before the temperature starts going the other way. We are planning various activities at the moment before our program of visitors starts in February.

At the beach

I'd like to thank you all for reading my blog in 2013, and especially those of you who commented on my entry in the expats blog competition. Despite Jo's best efforts to drum up support I fell short of the number of comments to make the top three UAE blogs, but I was touched by the number of comments I did get, and the nice things that many of you said. It is nice to know that the effort I put in is appreciated.

I'll be continuing to blog in 2014, but now that we have settled into our new life, the subject matter will inevitably broaden a little. I still intend to keep everyone updated on what we are getting up to, and to share reflections on life in the UAE, but I also hope to start to cover some other areas which interest me, particularly aspects of "lifelogging" or "the quantified self", which appeals to my (boring?) love of statistics. More about that next time.

I may also start to add a food element to the blog. One of the winning entries in the blog competition was one that focuses on restaurant reviews, and that generated more than 100 comments (versus my 34). In addition to that I received an email a couple of days ago from someone who had seen my blog asking if I would like to apply to be a "mystery diner" for a restaurant review website covering Abu Dhabi. I've not applied yet, but the chance of some free meals is a tempting.

Until next time, thanks as always for reading, and best wishes for 2014 wherever you are.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Welcome to the Wild West

Hello, and thank you for being kind enough to read my entry for the 2013 Expat Blog Awards. My name is Peter Chambers, and in August 2013 my family and I moved from the UK to begin a new life in Abu Dhabi, following my appointment to a senior role with a mid tier accountancy firm in the Emirate.
So what are my reflections four months in? Has it been what I expected? What have I missed? And would I change anything? I answer these questions below in the form of six reflections which I hope will be of interest to anyone about to make a similar move.
Reflection 1: The job won't be what you were expecting
Starting with work, because that is what brought me here. It is fair to say that the role hasn't turned out to be what I was expecting. And from speaking to people, this is not untypical.
The difference is in a good way, because my role has rapidly expanded from focusing on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, to covering the whole of the UAE for the healthcare and education sectors. Given that these are the two sectors that the UAE Cabinet has just been deliberating during its retreat on Sir Bani Yas Island, they feel like good areas to be focusing on in the years to come.
A year ago I spent all my time working with public sector clients. It couldn't be more different here. On day one I was being taught about virtual oil fields, on day two I was immersed in financial services, and the variety has continued unabated; yesterday I was discussing the security industry, and today I am attending an auditors' forum at the UAE Central Bank.
So, come with an open mind about what your job is going to be like, and you won't be disappointed.
Reflection 2: Remember your Stetson 
Of course work isn't without its frustrations, and I know for a fact this is true for almost every expat I have spoken to. I blogged last week about the "interesting" approach to the procurement of professional services I am experiencing. But I have rapidly understood the need to take it all in my stride (insh'allah), and do my best to influence things in the right direction little by little. Before I came out someone described the Abu Dhabi market to me as the "wild west of the business world". I completely get this description now, so I have donned my metaphorical stetson and am out there panning for gold. I suggest you do the same.
Reflection 3: Take the opportunities and prepare yourself for many "is this a dream?" moments
How about out of work? I've had many surreal moments, where I've suddenly stopped and thought, "am I really here?". It still happens when I drive to Dubai and first catch sight of the Burj Khalifa, even though I've seen it many times now, and most mornings I still get it as I glance across to the Grand Mosque as I drive across Sheikh Zayed Bridge.
Having moved from the Northwest of England to a capital city, we've had opportunities (and grabbed them) to attend some great events as a family, and they too have caused "is this a dream" moments: watching (and hearing) the F1 cars arrive in front of the grandstand I was in for the first time; cheering Muse onto stage at the du Arena; as the Red Arrows arrived over the back of the stand and flew away over the expanse of desert at the Al Ain Aerobatics Show; and sat in a car park next to Sheikh Zayed road in Dubai, with Burj Khalifa towering above us, watching the Red Bull Car Park Drift competition. Of course there was lots to do back in the UK, but we have been more determined to get out and do these things now we are here.
Reflection 4: Get out of your rut
Please don't think I am being negative about our lives in the UK. We lived in a great house, had some wonderful friends (still do), and did some brilliant things as a family. Quite simply, we were happy, and we certainly never had a burning desire to uproot the family to move overseas (quite the opposite). But looking back, maybe the opportunity in Abu Dhabi was what we needed to get us enjoying life even more.
By way of illustration, lets look at how we spent our free time in the UK. I'm a self confessed numbers geek. I am known (indeed I suspect I am "laughed at" rather than "laughed with") for my very sophisticated household budget spreadsheet (copies available on request). But it's not just financial numbers that I like, it is any sort of data. I'm increasingly interested in the "quantified self" or "lifelogging" movement, something I will be blogging about in 2014.
How is this relevant to this blog post? Well at the start of 2013 I decided I would get involved in lifelogging, and started diligently recording data in a number of areas I was interested in understanding a little more about, including: alcohol consumption; exercise, and how I spent my free time.
We'll leave alcohol consumption and exercise for another day, but the free time data makes for interesting reading. In the six months that I recorded (January to June) we watched an average of 4.5 hours of television a day. I say watched, what I mean is we sat in front of the TV for 4.5 hours a day but we were probably playing on our iDevices, talking or sleeping, and every now and then one of us would look up and ask the other what was happening in whatever we were "watching". On their own Coronation Street and Eastenders took up four days in total during that period!
I haven't been recording the television we have watched here. I don't need to because I can count it up in my head - four episodes of The Choir and three episodes of Casualty, and one of Doctor Who for me. Our average has definitely come down. Yes, we still sit down most weekday evenings doing the same things as in the UK (without the TV on in the background), but we are much more likely to be out, or have people round, for at least one evening of the weekend, which is when we bumped our average up back in the UK.
A simple point, but I think it illustrates how things have changed.
Reflection 5: Of course it won't be perfect
So is it all as wonderful as I'm painting? Is there nothing I am missing? Of course there are things I miss. It goes without saying (but for the avoidance of doubt I'll say it anyway) that I miss family and friends. But I also miss some great people I worked with in the UK, being able to watch at first hand Burnley dominate (ok, maybe that is a little strong) the Championship, the countryside, being able to keep a stash of sweets and chocolates in my car without them melting instantaneously (although it actually means I have an excuse to scoff them down all at once, I never had that excuse in the UK but I still did it), and I've still not found a shop near the office that makes a half decent sandwich for lunch.   
Reflection 6: But it will quite possibly be the best thing you'll ever do
But those minor things aside, would I honestly change anything? Do you know, I don't think I would. When I made the decision to move on from my previous employer I spoke to a lot of people to get advice. Two themes came through consistently. Firstly, "you will end up doing something you could never have imagined". Well, that one has come true. Secondly, "you will look back in two years and say it was the best thing that could have happened". Well, I'm only four months down the road of my new life and have to say that it is looking good that this one is going to be true as well.
So, to summarize my list of reflections:
1: The job won't be what you are expecting, so embrace whatever it turns out to be like
2: Remember your Stetson, you are coming to the Wild West, not the Middle East
3: Take the opportunities to enjoy your new life, and savor the many "is this a dream?" moments
4: Keep on doing number 3, and don't let yourself get into a rut 
5: Accept that it won't be perfect every minute of every day
6: But rest assured, it will quite possibly be the best thing you ever do
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you over at my blog in 2014.
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Contest Comments » There are 34 comments
Zoe wrote 2 weeks ago:
I really enjoy Peter's blog. Living in Peter's hometown (ish) and having lived/worked in Abu Dhabi his insights feel all too familiar and amuse me. I rarely read blogs but always read Peter's!
Dad wrote 2 weeks ago:
As Peter's parents we really miss the family and grandchildren. However we think your blogs are so well written and informative that we really feel you are not so far away. Keep them going Peter, they are great.
Lydia wrote 2 weeks ago:
Really enjoy reading Peter's blogs - they are both entertaining and educational. I'm really pleased to see how nicely things are coming along!
Margaret wrote 2 weeks ago:
I read Peter's blog on a regular basis and really enjoy his balanced observations on many aspects of settling into a new life in a different country. The enthusiasm of the whole family for this exciting challenge and their ability to tackle new and sometimes daunting situations shines through with an accompanying sense of humour.
Cal wrote 2 weeks ago:
OMG Pete! You right the best blogs - they are always so real and really help me feel I understand your amazing lives in UAE. As an expat I completely get where you are coming from - we have a saying here with some UK expat friends .... "It's just like being abroad!!" because we always feel like we're on one big holiday and the weather and blue skies go a long way to help that! I am sooooooo happy your adventure is going so well - for me - anyone can make a big move a success with a POSITIVE attitude and approach like yours! Well Done! Miss you all thou!!! XxxxX
Ellen wrote 2 weeks ago:
Yet another inspirational blog Peter; you write very eloquently. It is lovely and a little bitter sweet, to read all about your exciting new life. Please keep on blogging. I love to read your take on the big differences, and the little day to day observations about being an ex-pat in Abu Dhabi. Best wishes.
Jane Banton wrote 2 weeks ago:
So just how much alcohol are you consuming then Pete?! Love reading your blogs. I wonder how many badgers have been in your garden in the UK recently?! Miss you can't wait to see you in February and you can show us all the ropes. Keep up the super blogging x
Natalie Skilton wrote 2 weeks ago:
Love reading your blog Pete, glad we are not the only family trying G to find our way in UAE. Very honest and informative blogging.
CAROL GANNON wrote 2 weeks ago:
Very informative, I feel like I understand the UAE much more now and am wondering myself what a life out there would be like for me and my family :-)
Vicky Lomax wrote 2 weeks ago:
A fantastic read! I look forward to reading Pete's blog. It's an amazing thing they have done and to be able to follow their journey is fantastic! Pete allows us to see everything going on and we can visualise it all. He lets us in on their life and at the same time educates us about a place I could only dream of visiting. He is honest and hilarious! I love reading everything he writes.
Jo wrote 2 weeks ago:
Peter, I love your posts. It's so hard to explain to people at home how things are here. You do this so well, with passion, humour and respect. I hope you win. X
Pam C wrote 2 weeks ago:
Fascinating and entertaining, these are very educational and we always look forward to getting them. Keep it up!
Emma wrote 2 weeks ago:
I have several friends who have moved to UAE & Peters blog makes me feel more informed about the place. My son misses Flossie too!
Jean Denoon wrote 2 weeks ago:
Pete, I really enjoy reading your blog. It gives me so much pleasure to keep abreast of what's happening with my favourite niece Jo and your lovely children.
Nik Xx wrote 2 weeks ago:
I have to agree with everyone else, always a pleasure to read the blogs, very entertaining!!
Rachel wrote 2 weeks ago:
Great blogging, fantastic insights about work ans family life in ad. it's wonderful to hear what you're up to and how things are going. I miss your spreadsheets;-)
Lyndell wrote 2 weeks ago:
Hi Pete, I really enjoyed reading your blog. After living here for 2 years it's great to see the UAE through "new eyes". I'm looking forward to reading more from your blog in the New Year and I wish you and your family every success here in the sandpit.
Amari wrote 2 weeks ago:
Love your stories Uncle Pete! I can't wait till we see you all in UAE - it sounds really exciting over there but I miss Henry Archie & Flossie xx
Kimani wrote 2 weeks ago:
Fantastic Blogs. Reading your blogs makes me feel like I know the place. You write with such clarity and humour, I love this style. I look forward to your Blogs knowing that they are going to be insightful. If I didn't recently make a similar move with my family from the UK to Austrilia, I would definitely consider moving to Abu Dhabi.
Kate Allatt wrote 2 weeks ago:
Pete as your sister-in-law back in the UK, I gave the greatest insight into the life and culture out there Abu Dhabi. In the words (sort of) of Bruce Forsyth 'keep writing' xx
Kathy Garrity wrote 2 weeks ago:
Really look forward to your blogs Pete. Very informative and easy to read. Gives me a real insight into your life in UAE. Love your style of writing,
Carol Davidson wrote 2 weeks ago:
Love reading Pete's posts, very entertaining, they always show how expat life really is!
Martin Bayliss wrote 2 weeks ago:
Look forward to reading Pete's blog, finding out what there up to and the places and experiences they are enjoying .
Henry wrote 2 weeks ago:
FANTASTIC WORK! You definetly deserve to win this as your blogs are very good, and very interesting! Good luck!
Harry wrote 2 weeks ago:
I am new to this whole "blogging" thing, but you clearly are not, your blogs are very well written, and very interesting! Keep up the good work Pete!
Cazzie Moody wrote 2 weeks ago:
Hi Pete, just love reading your blog. You seem to have a wonderful life in Abu Dhabi. Keep posting! Cx
Angelic Arthur wrote 2 weeks ago:
Really look forward to reading Peter's blogs, love his honest way of writing about his families new adventure here in the UAE. Funny, informative and real life. We'll done x
Ann Allatt wrote 2 weeks ago:
Peter. When you took your new job in the UAE we waved goodbye to our beloved daughter, wonderful grandchildren and of course a fine son-in-law. We were very saddened by this move and knew we would miss you dreadfully. However your funny, informative and up beat blogs assure us that you and your family are very settled and happy. We love hearing about your adventures and look forward to visiting in march to see for ourselves your new home and the UAE. Keep up the blogs Pete, they make us very happy.
Claire Cannon wrote 2 weeks ago:
Pete FAB blog again! I love reading what you and the family are up to it makes it seem that your not that far away! Life sounds good in UAE! Good counting Flossie with the flags! Look forward to the next one! Xx
Rachel wrote 2 weeks ago:
Really enjoying reading about your new life and work, it's always amusing and nicely balanced. And it almost makes me want to come out and join you - almost! Keep blogging!
Peter Denoon wrote 2 weeks ago:
I always enjoy your blog Pete, interesting, informative, funny and really well written. Keep them up for 2014
Emma Haslam wrote 2 weeks ago:
Hi Pete, Still feels like you are all just up the road! Its lovely to here how you are all doing in Abu Dhabi, your blog is great reading and a wonderful insight into your new life. Take care round the pool side! X
Caz.Speakman wrote 2 weeks ago:
Loving your blogs Pete. It sounds like you are having a great life out there in Abu Dhabi. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs very soon.
Iris Harmon wrote 2 weeks ago:
Are you the only entrant from Abu Dhabi, Peter? Well done for managing to get such a handle on things after such a short stay. Hope your business associates see the funny side of your 'wild west' jibe - I certainly did. Keep the stetson handy and keep blogging - lol.
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