sarah vs the world

Not a video game, not a comic, not a band, but an amazing adventure continues...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Link to my videos

Just in case you wanted to have a look at the Chedi or Dwarf Vidoes. Here is the Web Address. You will have to copy paste because it won't let me make it a link.


See ya!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oman Oh My!

So we have returned. Only 56 hours in Oman, but it seemed like a world away. So Thursday morning we got up at 5am to head to the airport. Our flight was at 7:30 on the infamous Qatar Airways. Probably not as glamorous as I would have expected from a self proclaimed 5 star airline, but decent nonetheless. And besides it was only for 1 hour, so who cares really. We stopped in Duty Free on the way out of Doha. Mel (or as some of you know her as Trashy) and I decided to make a small purchase and we each bought a new 80 gig ipod video. That is bigger than my whole freaking hard drive! Time for a new computer maybe. So we also bought 2 bottles of vodka and a bottle of Moet. Of course, it was still Ramanda and we really couldn't drink. Bars are closed, no alcohol for sale at the hotels, but the mini bar is all yours and you can drink in your room. So of course in true Doha gig style, we stocked up.

So as we flew into Oman we could barely control our excitement. The Chedi was just a visa purchase, a money exchange and a cab ride away. After sadly turning our thousands of Qatari Riyals into double digits of Omani Riyals, we ran towards the cab rank. Amy Wee, Sarah Richardson, Mel Stanton and Fiona Hewish and I were on our way to our beloved and highly anticipated Chedi. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the typical Omani guard complete with head turbin and Omani silver sword. Yes that's right - a sword. He carried our bags inside to the gorgeous lobby. It was decorated like a big tent with beautiful lanterns and the biggest comfyest couch I have seen in my life. Of course we wanted to just go have a great big pillow fight on it, but we remained calm.

We sat and waited for a bit while they checked us in. Liza, our sales exec who helped us book our room, met us and took us for a on a brief tour. There was the restaurant with open kitchens where you watched them cook. The Serai pool, which was crowded with children, but the cabanas were right next to the water which we liked. Then we saw there Ramadan Tents which were very quaint with cushions on the floor and very flash. Then off to the beach with white sand and a few pebbly stones.
Then we arrrived at the Chedi Pool - adults only which faced the water and appeared to go off into the ocean forever. We decided we wanted to hang out there until our rooms were ready. We ordered some lunch at the pool side restaurant. Ham and Cheese for Sarah and Mel - real ham that is. No turkey ham. I had a tomato and fetta salad. It was beautiful. We sat in the pool for a bit and by that time our rooms were ready.

Mel had her own room in the Serai wing which was very nice. Sarah and Amy and Fiona and I were in the Chedi Deluxe rooms which were a bit bigger and had a bigger bathroom. All of our rooms had enormous ceilings, rainforest style showers, huge beds, modern design and windows looking out to the sea. I did take this photo of the shower but it kind of doesn't do it justice because it was about 3 times the size of my actual head. I loved every minute of it.

After an exploration of the rooms, we all met at the Serai pool because the number of children had depleted and we were able to sit on the chairs just next to the water. We all had trashy mags and just napped for most of the time. We were up so early and all. 7 hours later and the pool was closing. Not too much sunburn the first day - in fact right now I think I am the tannest I have ever been in my life. I am absolutely loving it. The hardest thing about sitting by the pool was reading the menu that had lovely sounding cocktails but not being able to order them!! Ramadan still kicking our butts, but it ended in Qatar on Sunday night (when we heard the big cannon go off), so alcohol is coming back soon!

So we headed up to our rooms for showers (very long showers with lots of water) and got dressed for Souqing and eating. Not really sure how much I have mentioned about the souqs in Qatar, but it is the traditional bargain market. We got a few Oman only gifts but we found it a lot more expensive than the ones in Qatar so we didn't leave with much. Sarah got herself a rought iron fish candle holder. Amazingly we didn't leave with pashminas. I think that is all they sell to women nearly. We bought 3 traditional hats for our 3 lovely bosses, Phil, Ian and Gerry. Don't they look cute. They wouldn't stop wearing them. Stopped at the local shawarma shop. These (if I haven't mentioned them before) are similar to kebabs or gyros whatever you call them. This was a bit more make your own with plates of chicken, vegetables and sauce. Very nice and not too expensive. Bought some 7ups to take back to The Chedi to mix up with our vodka and stayed up drinking til nearly 1:00am. Had lots of giggles and listened to our favourite ipod tunes....

So up early the next day for breakfast buffet. 7am we met downstairs and put in our order for 2 plates of pig bacon. Yum yum. Had fruit, yoghurt, croissants, scrambled eggs, BACON, toast, tomatoes and pancakes. Along with some plunger coffee with a little jug of steamed milk.

Then it was off on our tour. Nabhan, our Omani ex-rally car driver, picked us up at 8:00 in the Land Cruiser. Sarah and I jumped in the back back (or way back for you Americans) to the fold out jump seats. Unfortunately they didn't have any seat belts but that did add to the fun of it.

We headed out to the outskirts of Muscat and I took heaps of photos of the mountainous area. Doha is just so flat and the mountains were an amazing change of scenery. We drove for about 40 minutes and we arrived at this amazing swimming spot. We never would have found it on our own, but Nabhan got us there in one piece. It was 67m/220ft from the top of the cliff to the bottom of the water hole. Apparently we were supposed to jump but there was no way I was going to. We all just took the friendly stairs. Had a bit of swim around. The water was half fresh half salt as it was close to the sea, but most of the water was fresh run off from the mountains. It was fantastic.

We got back in the 4 wheel drive and headed further down the unpaved road. I absolutely loved all of the fast driving, bumpiness of it all. I must have looked like a little kid. And of course Sarah and I were in the brace position (no seat belts and all) just giggling the day away. I tried to look at the speedometer to see how fast we were going, but the needle had been rigged to stay at zero. I have no idea how fast we were going, but I reckon at least 100km/60mph on rocky roads flying through the desert.

We came across this funny town that appeared to have been overrun with goats. Goats everywhere. There wasn't a single person in sight, but there were definitely goats! Nabhan assured us everyone was inside with their air conditioning on, but I don't know if we believed him or not.

We stopped a bit along the way to take photos as we were mostly driving along the coast. It was beautiful. We arrived at our destination - the Wadi Sahd. This means the "the way to the ocean". This is the point where the fresh water river that cuts through the mountains reaches the ocean. We parked the 4 wheel drive and were greeted by 2 young boys, Said and Sayth. They were 16 and 14 respectively, but they certainly looked a bit younger than that. We started walking into the forest that ran along the river. After a few slips, losing my thongs in patches where we had to cross the river more than once, passing a donkey, and 40 minutes of walking, we arrived at the place where we were going to swim for the rest of the trek. So we left our stuff on the side of some rocks and jumped in. We walked through reeds, and swam through most of it. But on the odd occasion we had to climb over the rocks to get to the next part of the journey. Now these boys made it look incredibly easy because they had grown up around the mountains and did this everyday. But trust me, when you are wet walking on a a combination of sandstone and quartz, it is really slippery. Just ask Mel! Her first attempt climbing up the little waterfall sent her sliding back down instantly leaving the rest of us laughing so hard we could barely climb up ourselves. But after much perserverance and lots of laughing, we got to the next phase of the journey. We got a bit nervous because Nabhan kept telling us to remain calm and just follow them. We inspected what we were just about to do and we did get a bit freaked out. We had to shimmy through between 2 huge rock formations where literally only our heads fit - and even then only if we did exactly what the person in front of us was doing. Once we made it through it was fantastic. We were inside a cave with a waterfall! It look just like Goonies - you know the part where they go down the waterslides and end up inside some sandstone caves?? It wasn't quite as big, but it was absolutely fantastic. So worth everything we just endured to get there. We stayed there swimming for quite sometime, shimmying through another set of caves where we had to go under the water to get out...unfortunately this didn't lead us anywhere new, but at least we conquered our fears of caves. The boys all climbed everywhere and jumped from ridiculously high places. We stayed in the water. Since we had to swim there, we didn't really get to take any photos, but Sarah took a few along the way to the water so you might get the idea. The cave was beyond anything we could have expected, and we felt very fortunate to get to see it.

The not so good part was the fact that we knew we had to head back exactly the same way to get to our car. There wasn't any waterslide quick exit way out, so we started back on our journey to the car. Of course, it did seem to take only half the time to get back which was nice. We gave our little tour guides a bit of a tip and then headed on our merry way for lunch. We started heading back in the direction we had come and parked near a little shelter on the beach and had our picnic. We had a swim in the sea then jumped back into the Land Cruiser for a bit more off roading through the mountains on our return to Muscat.

We stayed awake through the offroading part, but as soon as we hit the pavement we all collapsed. Too much excitement for one day I think. We were sore and tired. As we got closer to Muscat, Nabhan asked if wanted to go watch the sunset from the best place in Oman. We were racing the clock as the sun was definitely on its way down. We stopped to pick up some ice creams and we headed for some sand dunes on the west side of town. We drove to the top just in time to see the sun set. It was lovely. We bashed around on the dunes for a bit, which I absolutely loved and then headed back to The Chedi.

So back at The Chedi, we arranged for Nabhan to pick us up in the morning to take us to The Grand Mosque around 8:30am. Then we headed inside for a bit of a rest up before our 9:30 dinner reservation. We met up at Fiona and my room for a bit of drinks...filled up some water bottles with vodka and headed out to the lounge. We ordered 5 7ups and just sneakily added in a bit extra! Hehehe. We giggled for about 1 hour about our adventure. I actually got quite drunk just before dinner, but it was great fun! We went to the restaurant and all of us actually got to order from whatever part of the world we wanted. I had chicken tikka but shared a bit with Mel's Morroccan mixed grill. We got the piano man to play a few requests. We were there till about 11:30pm and by the time we got back to our giant beds, our heads hit the pillow pretty quickly.

We got up a bit early for a swim before breakfast only to find out that the pool wasn't open yet. But that was ok because I got a little bit more sleep before having to pack up our stuff for check out. We had another big brekky of bacon and eggs etc. And Nabhan was there to pick us up as scheduled, but this morning he was in his traditional garb. It was quite a surprise. He told us we had to wear long pants/skirts and long sleeved shirts. So we were already for our trip to the Mosque. Checked out extremely reluctantly of The Chedi and piled into the Land Cruiser again.

Upon arrival at the Mosque, Nabhan noticed that a few of us didn't have long enough sleeves so we had to cover our selves in shalls. Can't show wrists even. Then he did up our head scarves and we headed inside. Mel's skirt had to be pulled down because it was too short! No ankles really either. We couldn't stop giggling most of the time, but Nabhan spoke to the entry guards and we all got in just fine. After that no one really cared. We were able to take photos and they really speak for themselves. The chandelier is the biggest Swarovski crystal one in the world. The rug is also the biggest in the world in one piece made by hand by 600 Iranian women. We weren't allowed to walk on the real carpet. We just loved our quick visit to the Mosque. It was spectacular. Here we all are together and with Nabhan in his outfit. Fantastic.

So then we raced off to the airport and sadly departed our beloved Oman. The worst part was arriving back in Qatar to realise we had to rush off to work!! But hey, we have got our memories to last forever....and of course there are plenty of photos! I am collating them all so we can all have each other's plus I am making a quicktime movie of it. Will try to work out where I can post that so everyone can have a look. Maybe on myspace, but I am still working all of that out thanks to Sara VA.

Back in Qatar, Ramadan is over but Eid is on - the holiday following Ramadan. Three days when absolutely everything is closed and we will be hard at work. Less than 40 days to go now and we have a bit to do still. I am sure everything will be fine in the end!

Take care. Hope you didn't get too bored. I had way too much fun typing it out!

Lots of love,

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Photos!

Just thought I would add some photos that were missing from the last post...

This is my street name.

This is how some of our containers arrive - maybe not, but we think so!

This is what the Ramadan Tent looked like on the inside

More photos of the Ramadan Tent - Dancers, Sarah and I dressed up for the occasion, our table which was surrounded by one large curved couch for us to sit on.

And of course, the true reminder that it is Ramadan - water in the champangne chiller!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ramadan Kareem! (a typical Ramadan greeting)

So I need to do another post before November. Grandma Rita is doing a presentation to her bookclub about what Ramadan is like, and I think I will get into trouble if she doesn't get a bit more information about it.

So far we have had exactly 24 days of Ramadan. It is supposed to be finished around the 23rd October. I haven't exactly cruised through that massive stash of beer, but we have definitely made a dent in the Absolute Mandarin. And I think the Moet will be opened on Sarah's birthday - which will be themed Spring Racing Carnival. It nearly falls on Oaks Day anyway. What I have gathered about Ramadan in Doha:

1. Operating hours of shops and the like are 10:00 - 13:00 and 20:00 - 1:00.
2. All fasting Muslims eat at 4:00 and 17:00ish (or when the sun is sneakily hid just over the stadium).
3. They sleep at almost all times in between this. And the poor few who have to work are only allowed to work 6 hours a day.
4. Driving is very dangerous during the hours of 16:00 - 18:00. They are all madly trying to get home to stuff their faces and tend to drive like maniacs.
5. Some of them like to cheat as long as no one is watching. Especially ones who like to drink tea.
6. They do tend to stick to their religious 4 prayer times a day. This is amazing to me that this culture has so much faith in Allah. I wish I had something like this to trust in.
7. It is really impossible to get anything to eat during the day. Imagine going to the shopping mall and all the food outlets are shut. This actually happens here.
8. Alcohol is NEVER available anywhere. Only in my secret stash at my apartment. Hehehe.
9. DO NOT GO TO THE SUPERMARKET IN THE EVENING. Or anywhere else for that matter. They are all out in full force ready to fill up on Starbucks, Cinnabon and anything else that helps round them out a bit.
10. The Iftar Tents are amazing. These are set up all over town for a feast in the evening. I went to one at the Four Seasons just last Friday. Photos to come. For anyone planning to have their own Ramandan Iftar Tent, you must have couscous, fattoush, tabbouleh, olives, hummus, and lots of baba ghanoush. All of these things absolutely rock my world - not to mention the hot, freshly baked Turkish and Lebanese bread. Yummy. All of this combined together is called Mezze (I think it means appetizer or something similar). They also had an interesting cultural band and dancers. Not sure how realistic it was but it sure was fun.

Here is a bit about what it was like.
Adults and children alike will relish the very best of Arabic cuisine, from extensive mezze buffets and live cooking stations which display the art of cooking shawarma, shish kebab, and tandoor items together with grilled meats. And just to ensure complete authenticity we have flown in traditional chefs from Tunisia to prepare couscous and brik, and a Moroccan chef specializing in North African dishes such as tagine. Spare a little consideration for your sweet tooth, with 22 different desserts on display you'll be thoroughly spoilt for choice.

I have been collecting funny photos of the everyday happenings in this crazy place. Here is my latest addition of the smashed/stupid cars. Hehehe. It really is a dangerous place to drive.

So yes, needless to say, they all do stupid things here and I am glad I am not driving here.

Sarah and I have been very busy exploring the ins and outs of what really goes on here in Doha. We have both bought ourselves the esteemed climbing hat (affectionately known as a Spastic Hat thanks to a certain aerial man) and have been seen in Doha fighting fires on a regular basis. We also ventured out with Philby to Toys R Us. I should have taken a photo of the sign. The funnier bit was we parked in the carpark and then we had to walk the plank to get to the store. Literally. See Sarah! Oh precision and balance is indeed a required skill in this town.

Also since the last post, we have had several royal visits to site. Of course they aren't famous to you, but here they are pretty important. On one special occassion, Craig had decided to screw the Ramadan rules of covered shoulders and long pants because really it is pretty hot. He turned up to site dressed in a singlet and shorts. And of course, a surprise visit from the some important Qataris! So what did he do?? He covered up like a babushka in his dishdash and stayed hidden! Nice one Craig.

I still have yet to take photos of all of the construction but I am sure I will at some point. Here is a photo of some ruins right near our stadium. I promise I will get some crane action eventually.

Onwards and upwards - Sarah, Trashy, Amy Wee, Fiona and I are off to our fantastic holiday to The Chedi. Please check out the website because I will be here on Thursday - Saturday. It is going to be amazing. Google it if you have to. The Chedi Oman§ion=home (copy and paste)

Anyway, that's about all for now. I will definitely update after the Chedi. I will also try to get the photos of the Ramadan tent up before November Grandma so you have them for book club. Still undecided as to what's up next...thinking about Europe maybe?? Who knows.

Lots of love. Catchya all in some other part of the world on another day I am sure.