Monthly Archives: January 2008

On identity

Applying for your residency visa involves filling about a ridiculous amount of forms and getting a medical. But some of the questions asked on the application throw up questions about myself.

One is “religion/sect”. I seldom refer to religion when talking about myself — I don’t like labels. But this was a required question: and so down on the form went “Christian/Catholic”. I can’t say I’m accustomed to referring to the divisions of Christianity as sects, even though that’s exactly what they are. For me the word conjures up images of small, close-knit groups.

Of course such divisions do not apply solely to Christianity, there is a large one in Islam as well. But again — and even though I’m familiar with the word from Northern Irish history — the word “sect” doesn’t quite capture it for me. My brain doesn’t seem to want to accept it.

I’m not used to thinking of myself as a “Westerner” either, though the term is in common usage regarding surveys by one of the papers here. Is that my own bias, or do people of all nations who relocate find themselves in the same jarring situation?

My name has also proved interesting. Nobody can pronounce the English form correctly, so there is much confusion when they see my Irish one. Which, incidentally, has had at least five different spelling variations since I got here. Trying to explain that Irish people have names in both the Irish and English languages doesn’t seem to work as well as I’d like. That said most people seem cool with it. I just wish people would spell the damn thing right!

ADDENDUM: Facebook has again been blocked at work, so I can’t regularly check messages or play Scrabulous etc. Getting the web at home is not as straightforward as it appears, as is much here. FB access depends on finding internet cafes, and I may only get in once or twice a week until further notice.

Abu Dhabi drizzle


It’s been raining on and off for the last four days. The drizzle is considered lucky here as, apart from, y’know, falling in the desert, it coincided with George Bush’s visit. Curiously, it also coincided with my recovery from a head cold that kept me off work for a day (this is bad for me). Ah well.

Above you see a genuine Abu Dhabi puddle, complete with a genuine AD taxi — incidentally if you ever visit, the white and gold cabs are the cheapest. Silver ones cost much more.

Much of the city’s lustre is lost beneath an overcast sky. Perhaps it’s that I live in a developing part of town, or perhaps it’s something else. Certainly this is very much a city of contrasts — rent is sky high, food and taxis are cheap. There are wonderful new buildings alongside ones that are fit to be torn down (and probably will be to make room for new, shiny highrises), as you can see below. Abu Dhabi is both wealthy and poor.


The familiar is very different here, as evidenced in the below photos. That’s not to say it’s bad — I like it here — but it takes time to adjust. That I was able to settle into the apartment so soon is helping a lot. That my Arabic is still rubbish is not, even if it’s not the barrier you might think.

n692570829_468049_3077.jpg  n692570829_468050_3380.jpg

There’s still so much to see here, and I will post more photos when I get a chance.

Oh, sweet irony

I’m living in a desert and yet I have the worst cold I’ve had in a year. Friendly neighbourhood pharmacist to the rescue… with tablets the overdose manifestations of which range from depression to euphoria to death. Mmm, tasty.

UPDATE: And just to add to the fun, today is the day the company has decided to take headshot photos of all employees. The red and runny nose makes for a winning portrait, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I'm still alive

I haven’t forgotten about the blog, I’ve just been busy kitting out my apartment and getting to grips with work. Also, I have yet to get the internet hooked up at home and Facebook is blocked at work, so my apologies to all those I’m playing Scrabble with — I shall return to the boards anon. Once I get a broadband connection in the flat I’ll upload a few pics of the place.

As I write this it’s hazy and cold in Abu Dhabi. It may even rain soon, something I’m told hasn’t happened in the city for almost 12 months.