Friday, January 30, 2009

Party Time!

Right after our last break - half a semester ago now - we had a party at Dar Al Uloom. It was to celebrate Eid - well, the holiday we had just had.

There was a (very big) cake.

Underneath that perfect creamy icing, half of it was chocolate and half was vanilla. It was a bit like Alice in Wonderland eating from two sides of the mushroom.

And then there were drinks

and lots of other yummy foods

even doughnuts, and Arabic coffee

and crisps for those who don't have a sweet tooth.

And everyone came (staff and students), and had a good time. But I can't show you any pictures of the party-goers.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gotta love Ikea!

I had never been to Ikea before (really!), although I was familiar with the ads.

Our students in Norwich had to do a project about it for their business studies. And I heard people in China telling of how lounging around in Ikea was a favourite Sunday afternoon activity, especially when the weather is unpleasant and home is not so comfortable.

But now I have been there, several times! There is a great restaurant, and it is generally an all-round interesting place to spend a few hours in this you-can't-walkabout-outside type of place.

Buying Furniture

Of course, buying furniture at Ikea is yet another adventure in itself. You walk around the "Showroom" part of the store and there are little pencils and pads for you to note down the numbers and prices of items that you fancy. Then you go down to the warehouse section and select a cardboard box that in no way resembles the item of furniture!

The price is "right", because when you get your cardboard box home there is still a fair amount of work to do and tools needed.

Peter is quite the carpenter and home handyman and has created furniture from scratch (and from scrap) in the past. But when Stanley (our Indian driver) caught sight of our cardboard box he became quite excited. Obviously when he was a little boy he always wanted (and didn't get) a Meccano set or even Lego!

So Peter was quite happy to sit down and let Stanley play. A chest of drawers is actually remarkably complex, I learnt, especially when it's a good one.

So how did it end up? Was it like one of Homer Simpson's spice racks??

Look at that! Perfect - just like a bought one! And the drawers glide in and out as smooth as silk.

So now that we are in the bedroom, why don't we take a little look around? In the UK we bought ourselves a "Kingsize" bed, and it was 5' wide. In Oz, of course, that is only "Queensize", and Kingsize is 6' wide. Well, here they like their beds BIG.

It's impossible to get perspective in a photo like this, but this one seems to be Royal Family Size.

And then, with our indoors lifestyle, we had to put aside the wiggy little TV that came with the apartment, in favour of a real TV. (It still looks small in this spacious room.)

(Yes, it's a Sony). And yes, all TV programs seem to come with Arabic subtitles.

With all this space and no outdoors, this is where we play our sports as well. It was really difficult to get a clear picture of Peter playing "Wii sports".

Now we have two sets of remotes so we can play together at the same time against each other. FUN!!

When you have to live indoors a lot you need two things - TV and Internet.

So here is our Internet setup.

That white thing with the aerials is our modem which picks up the Internet wirelessly, and then is connected by cables (lots of cables!) to our computers. We also have a modem in the sitting room supposedly picking up TV channels, but quite honestly there is rarely anything to pick up.

So - we are well set up, and comfortable, despite not being able to run in the park.

Moving Mountains

Yeeeessss I know it's been a while, but I've been very very busy. My job grew and I'm no longer just a teacher, so I don't get a lot of time for my favourite activity - writing.

Flat Riyadh - ?

Riyadh gives the impression of being a very flat place with no hills.

But it isn't entirely true. If you look closely.

That building in the distance that looks a bit like a bottle opener is the Kingdom tower in the city centre. And just in front of it to the left a little you can see the remnants of a hill.

In some countries we would build on the hill. But here the hills are dug away and the materials used to make the buildings.

Where we live we are surrounded by building sites.
The building next door on one side of our building is almost finished.

And on the other side there is a large vacant block.

And then early one morning we were awoken by a lot of noise out there on the empty block.

At first we thought, "Oh, no! Now they are going to start building on that block and it will be noisy all the time!'
And over then next few days the trucks just kept on coming and dumping dirt.

Soon the pile was higher than the first floor. And then they started adding rocks as well.

So now we have our own hill.

One morning I was startled to look out of our living room window and come face-to-face with a chap on a digger. (He looked pleased with himself, after all I wasn't wearing an abaya!)

Do you think I should run up and down it a few times??

So what is it? (I hear you ask). Well, they are building a new building down the road, and first they have to dig the foundations, basement etc. In the next street there is a very big hole, and they had to dump it all somewhere.