All posts by Serial Nomad

Writer & Wanderer

A new chapter down under

I’ve been back in Australia just over two weeks now and although I’ve been compelled to write, I’ve also been experiencing internal debate as to whether or not I should start a new blog; and if I did, what I would write about.

Being home brought back a flood of trail emotions I must have buried while in Abu Dhabi. Being back in the environment where I was planning to set off on one of the most exciting adventures of my lifetime was difficult with the realisation that I no longer have the PCT to look forward to anymore. It now only exists as a memory.

Keeping active filled that dark empty hole when it surfaced, and having some real time to relax has done the body and mind wonders. It’s going to be a bit of a whirlwind as I’m heading back to Abu Dhabi post New Years where I hope to have some time to develop a new blog to illustrate a new chapter. It may take some time but it’s coming.

For now here’s a quick insight into my 11 hour road trip from Sydney to Melbourne. Merry Christmas to all and hope to be back in the New Year!

Heading Home

The whole notion of ‘home’ has never felt quite so foreign to me as it does right now. I’ve never not had a physical address which I call home despite flit floating across the globe for the last 8 years. But for the first time flying back to Australia is giving me such mixed emotions it’s really hard to gauge exactly how I’m feeling. Out of touch is probably the best way to describe my position in the world right now. I’ve lived in two very separate bubbles this year. The trail being the most significant and then Abu Dhabi which was like a whirlwind of hard work, amazing people, stress, anxiety and fun all blended into 5 weeks.

I have absolutely no idea how my friends are, my new niece is already 4 months old, my sister and her husband have moved to the country, and as a result the only address on my drivers licence and every other registered identity now belongs to a complete stranger. On the top of my list of things to do when I return to Australia is to change my address. The question is, what do I change it to?

I’m not often phased by long flights, but I made the huge mistake of not selecting my seat when I checked in this morning and now I’m sandwiched in the middle of middle seats between a rather large hyperactive gentleman and a more subdued guy on my right. I can’t even use the arm rests and I’m scared if I fall asleep I’ll wake up drooling on one of their shoulders. There’s also an un identified person passing gas close by who should be put into isolation.

My biggest fear heading back to Oz is the sudden loss of independence and relying on others for a place to stay. Loss of purpose is another one, and shifting down a few gears to a possible state of laziness. Having averaged 4 hours sleep for the last week I think some decent rest is on the cards, but I’m also adamant to maintain some form of momentum.

I met some of the most incredible people during this project. It’s not unusual for the team to feel like family because you spend every waking hour together, but in such a short space of time it was amazing how well we all gelled. I think this project was a god send to me. Nothing can or will ever top the life I experienced this year between April and September. There’s still much to process, but I was blessed with this timely distraction which showed me once again that there is so much to discover across this crazy planet, and so many incredible characters to be found. I’ve realised my true fascination in life are people, and it amazes me that no matter what our background, race, religion or sex, how similar our minds really do work.

I feel a bit like a caged animal on this plane waiting for the hostesses to come around and feed me. For some reason I’m absolutely starving, and I just received a bag of sliced apple which I wish I could trade for cookies or chocolate. The lights have been off forever, and my body just isn’t cooperating with this forced night time during the afternoon. The little plane on the person’s screen in front of me has been crawling ever so slowly over the Indian Ocean and has just touched the edge of Western Australia. Why does this country have to be so wide? We spent two hours sitting on the tarmac this morning after missing our take off slot. It was so misty this morning in Abu Dhabi that a lot of flights were delayed, which meant people that landed in Abu Dhabi late were still able to board our plane more than an hour after it should have left. Great for them, not so good for poor middle seat me. Those two hours were actually the only part of the flight where I actually slept, so I guess it could have been a lot worse.

I’ve watched The Great Gatsby, The Internship and Lost in translation. My eyes are stinging from the screen and my ears hurt from the headphones. For not watching TV most of the year this is an absolute overload, but I have to watch another one, otherwise I may literally lose my mind. I’m going to watch Monsters University and hope that the food trolley comes back around soon!!

Flying is such an unusual activity. Firstly the act of sitting, sleeping, eating and watching movies next to a complete stranger for 13 hours is odd, especially when you don’t say more than two words to the person. I often find on flights that most words are exchanged at the end after landing. Once you open the door of conversation it’s impossible to close, so I think a lot of people hold out until the plane’s landed and they know there’s a quick escape. The busybody on my left is looking for any excuse to talk. Every time I move he looks over as if it’s an invitation to talk. I’ve avoided all unnecessary movements because of this. I think he’s staring me down as I’m typing this. Is it possible he can read what I’m typing? Let me do a test! If you can read this man on my left raise your hand and cough twice… No reaction… I guess not. Well only a few more hours to go and at least one movie and hopefully a little snooze! See you in Oz!

My birthday surprise

It’s the second last day of the event and it’s got to the point where I can participate playing limbo and bounce around on space hoppers because the crew have got it all under control! At the end of the first day I’d been running around for so many hours I’d completely forgotten it was my birthday. After debriefing the event staff my boss Flora pulled me towards the stage saying there was an issue with security. Suddenly the stage lit up, music started playing and my team emerged with UAE flags singing happy birthday!

It has been an eye opening experience. The kids here are a different breed and the language barrier has been a challenge, especially with lost crying children who don’t know what you’re saying when you ask them their name. I’ve seen some very creative parenting during the event. One father buried his kid in the sand to 1. Keep her warm and 2. Stop her from running away.

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I’ve completely lost my voice from talking on the radio and briefing my 40 event staff at the start and end of each day. The team have been incredible, and we’ve somehow made setting up and packing down 200 rugs and cushions at the start and end of each day a bit of a game. Today we’ll try and beat out record of 20 minutes.

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It’s National Day today and we’re expecting a huge crowd. We had over 22,000 people yesterday with a peak during the fireworks which are 300 meters off shore from the beach. We’re so close we had cardboard falling on us from the sky but as long as it’s not on fire we’ve been told not to worry. We do have Civil Defence and all of our fire extinguishes on the ready though just in case!

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I’m having a ball and will actually be quite sad once it’s all over. It’s hard to believe in a few days I’ll be back on a plane to Australia. What a whirlwind!

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One more night

I’ve fallen off the radar these last couple of weeks and thought it time for a quick update. I’m going to stop posting on this blog once I get back to Oz in the hope to start up something new. But for now I wanted to say hi, let you know I’m still about, and share yet another random video of my walk back to the hotel this evening where I was told by a cranky driver ‘this isn’t your street’. I assume he was referring to the road. Unfortunately when the pavement’s been dug up there aren’t many other options…

A few pics from the event site:

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Chronically early

I’ve had a problem all my life where I’m always early to things. I’ve spent hours, days, months of my life waiting because there’s nothing I fear more than being late. I took it to a whole new level this morning because I thought my pick up time was 7:20am, and I’ve only just discovered it is in fact 7:45. Add in my early factor and I’ve wasted a good half hour. This wouldn’t be such an issue except for the fact I got home from work at 1:30am this morning, and could have used the extra 30 minutes sleep! At least it’s given me a chance to write.

With crew heading to the site today there’s much to be done in the short time frame left. This morning I’m off to renew my visa so I don’t get kicked out of the country before the event. Then we’re meeting with local police onsite to discuss security around the event on the Corniche.

I got an email from Timberline Lodge in Northern Oregon yesterday to say they’ve finally located my long sleeve smart wool top that I lost there. Where could it have been all this time? After a week I decided I’d never see that piece of clothing again, and was gutted that I didn’t have it through freezing cold Washington. But after two months it’s found it’s way back to the facilities team. Bizarre but fantastic!

After my crazy windy beach excursion on Friday I headed home to continue with some work. The sun did eventually come out at Al Bateen, and I ended up swimming and sitting in the sun until midday. A few more people populated the beach while I was there, but essentially it was me, four lifeguards, and a giant yellow floating car.

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There was a two hour gap in the evening where I was waiting for some documents to come through, so I decided to take a walk along the corniche. Because it was Friday it was busy on the walkway, and there was a science festival close to where we’re celebrating National Day so it was jam packed. Just as I’d used my last few dirhams to buy a frozen yogurt my phone beeped and the email with my floor plans arrived.

When I looked at the time I realised I only had 1 hour to complete my security plan and submit it to our health and safety experts. It took me an hour to get to the frozen yogurt stand, so walking wasn’t an option. As I had no money for a cab I knew I’d have to run. What surprised me most was the fact I could actually run. I haven’t jogged in about 5 years because my body doesn’t do well with the impact, but with a little urgency and my remaining trail fitness (which I thought was long gone), I was back at my hotel in 30 minutes and got my documents through just in time. I might keep up this whole jogging activity, it was the first time since the trail that my body actually had to physically work and it felt amazing!

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I’m now in the middle of my very intriguing visa renewal process. You go to a line of stores, with touts outside trying to get your business. You pick one, hand over your passport, then once registered head to another building. In the second building because I am a woman, I skipped the queue, handed over my passport, got a number written on a sticky note, then took it back to the first building where I started. I then handed my number and passport over, went to a third store to get my passport photo taken, and took my photo back to the first building. Thank goodness our driver George has been through this process hundreds of times, as it’s running smoothly so far. What could take an entire day will hopefully take us less than two hours.

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We then headed over to the health insurance building to get a certificate. I handed over my passport and forms and they worked their magic until I finally had a policy. Maybe I can get my teeth fixed here! From this point we got a little confused. We went back to building two which directed us to building three. Then the man at building three directed us upstairs to join yet another line to get a number. I wonder if this is the final step?

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When our number was called we handed over our passport, forms and health insurance policy. Papers were shuffled, forms were stamped, and our passports were handed back with a sticker inside! Halas!

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What a beach

I thought about skipping breakfast upstairs this morning and just having cereal out of a glass, but because my fridge doesn’t get cold enough my milk had turned to yogurt. It’s my final day of freedom before the 5th of December, and I thought instead of sleeping in I would make an early morning trip to the beach. I was the only one at breakfast this morning and had the whole gang making me tea and packing away my plates literally the second I’d finished my food. I was also the first one at the private section of the beach. I think I picked the only cloudy day of the year. In fact, I’m almost a little cold!

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Fast forward about 10 minutes and there seems to be a severe weather system coming through. The wind has picked up, the sky is grey and people are starting to leave. Since when did I need to start checking the weather of a morning? Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, cold and windy, but only on the one day I want to go to the beach! 😦

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I’m determined to stick it out, and get my 50 dirhams worth of sun lounging. At this stage it may not be worth it. I’m still the only sucker here, the smart people who check the weather are still in their warm cosy beds!

The key to happiness

I’ve spent 30 years travelling the world, experiencing new activities, cultures and people; all in pursuit of happiness, when all along the key was waiting for me down at Costa Coffee this morning.

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I guess there’s some truth to their sentiment. Treating yourself regularly is important, in some form or another. My daily treat is a cup of coffee and sometimes a low fat berry muffin, but tonight my treat was walking, despite the fact I left the hotel at 9:50pm after work.

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During my walk along the corniche tonight I was disappointed to discover that they specifically ban camping along the grassed area. I wonder if anyone actually ever tried to camp along the walkway amidst the stray cats. It’s a shame none the less, but it was the last point that really got me.

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I joked about people falling in the fountains last time, but I have to say I got pretty close tonight as I was typing and walking at the same time. If it wasn’t for the noisy little pump pushing the water in the air, I may have gone straight in.

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Most of the cats must have gone to bed already, but I found one furry friend who was actually nibbling on cat food. Maybe people do come and feed them. He’d obviously been in a few fights and was a little beaten up, but he was super friendly and insinuating that I should take him home.

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It must be close to 11pm and I still haven’t had dinner. I usually scavenge around the office for boxes of digestive biscuits and other snacks strewn on people desks. All I could find tonight was a stray honey stick siting on my bosses desk. My diet has been absolutely horrendous here. A few nights ago I bought a packet of ready made popcorn from the small shop opposite the hotel for dinner and ate some of the free fruit they left in my room. I finally got rid of the old milk in my fridge and replaced it with a fresh litre, but I still don’t have a bowl to eat cereal out of, and have come to the realisation of how ridiculous it is to eat cereal with a tea spoon out of a glass. I have to say I was better equipped out on the trail!

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Absorbing the culture

The breakfast room is filled with a German aircrew this morning. During the F1 it was Japanese tourists, but generally it’s just a scattering of random business folk and me. Finally the staff have stopped asking for my room number, and are close to predicting my pot of tea request depending on who’s serving. Today they have pancakes, they’re rubbery, but with syrup they’re still good. They have a pretty constant buffet selection but sometimes they go all out with French toast or pancakes. There’s one particular dish I pass up every morning called ‘Foul Madamas’. It’s probably one of the most unappealing sounding foods on their menu, but I really should try it, at least to say I’ve eaten Foul Madamas during my trip.

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I got up early today to do my 30 minute cardio kickboxing DVD I’ve had for about 10 years. It’s hosted by that really annoying personal trainer from The Biggest Loser and after 10 years of hearing the same jokes repeated, predicting the same stuff ups and the part where she stops to tie up her hair, I’m kind of over it. It does mean I can exercise without leaving the comfort of my room though, and it was the first time I actually stepped foot in my lounge room since I arrived. I could seriously sublet half my apartment if someone was willing to sleep on the couch. I’ve barely even used the kitchen and should probably empty the milk that was in the fridge the day I landed. That’s pretty much all that’s in there still.

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The whole breakfast room has cleared out except for two other guests. I guess this gives me free rein of the pancakes and foul madamas. It’s going to be another busy day. No beach visits sadly, but I’ve moved to a desk right next to the window so at least I’m getting some natural sun light during the day. Hopefully I’ll get back on the corniche again soon, Jillian Michaels and the treadmill just ain’t doing it for me!

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Instead of an afternoon tea break today, we went on a cultural excursion to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque just minutes away from our office. I almost declined the opportunity as I had my head buried in health and safely documents, staff numbers, and other ‘real world’ concerns until I realised the need to seize opportunities when they arise. I’m so incredibly glad I did. It’s the 8th largest mosque in the world with 82 domes, 1000 columns and 24 carat gold chandeliers. It was absolutely breathtaking.

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Cats rule the corniche

I just finished eating some very strange tempura vegetables from the Japanese restaurant close to my hotel, following a 2 hour long walk along the corniche. The vegetables included a giant piece of raw onion and the end of a green pepper. I feel a little ill.

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The cats were out in force tonight. I was hoping I could replace my missing pet pigeons with a couple of kittens. I’m sure if I had food I could have coaxed an entire troop of them back to my room. They’re everywhere!

I turned on the television when I got home for the first time in so long. Oh my goodness it was dismal. Despite the fact that most of the channels were in Arabic, the most interesting channel was probably the Italian one. I closed my eyes and tried imagining I was somewhere in Italy, but the smell of tempura and the noise from the nightclub made me feel like I was in an Asian/Italian fusion disco. I ended up watching the most horrendous program called ‘Married to Jonas’. At the beginning I couldn’t figure out who Jonas was, and even when I did, it was so extraordinarily awful I sat there with my mouth agape in some kind of zombie trance. I had to force myself to take control of the remote and switch it off to preserve my remaining brain cells. I’ve decided from this point forward I shall refrain from switching it on ever again.

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It’s now the next day and I’ve just come back from the beach where we’re hosting part of our event. It’s not every job you get to spend the morning walking along the sand. It’s one of the few perks I planned early in the day before the sun melted me into the ground. While I waited for the driver outside the office to pick me up, I was watching a host of oddly shaped planes take off from the airport next door. An old style army helicopter, and something that looked like a mix between a blimp and a jet flew by. You never quite know what you’re going to see over here, I was just disappointed I didn’t have my camera at the ready!