Tuesday, 27 December 2011

New Zealand for Christmas


We are in New Zealand for Christmas.
This is Hubby's first christmas back in NZ for three years.

It is certainly nice to be home again, though I admit the Christmas commercialism and the push to Buy, Buy, Buy!, followed the very next day by SALE, SALE, SALE is really annoying.

It has always perplexed me why the sales are after Christmas.  It makes one question retailers perception of Goodwill to all Peoples.  That is one good thing about being in Saudi Arabia for Christmas....you will not find it advertised in public anywhere.

Not that I pay much attention to the advertising,

Immunity to in your face advertising for the Festive Season kicked in about the same time as our debt reducing strategies and both have helped us sail through that hideous present buying stress we now watch others suffer.

A huge arse credit card bill in our first year together buying presents for Hubsters 7 brothers and 1 sister and my 3 brothers and 2 sisters, along with any nieces and nephews and other rellies who were promising to turn up on Christmas Day, and that took a year to pay off, brought us to our senses about over spending at Christmas time quick smart.

We decided many years ago that we'd only buy for the kids.   Adult Chrismas, we decided, is about spending time with family, eating good food and watching kids who still believe in Christmas magic opening presents from Santa.

Now that our kids are grown, we only buy for our moko's and even then we don't actually do the shopping.  As we live overseas we transfer over the cash and their parents do the shopping.  How stress free is that!

Except for this Christmas of course.  As I'm in the country I did go to town and buy two gifts, for two moko's.  It took me about two hours which included drive time and coffee time.  It also helps to know exactly what you're getting.  That's part of our grandparent gift buying strategy - ask the parents what to buy.

It all sounds very unexciting, but for a person who detests shopping, it's a perfect system - stress free, and credit card friendly. 

Hangi Master
Being in debt should not be what Christmas is about.  The weather at Christmas time in New Zealand is way too nice.  It's perfect for beachside picnics, back yard Bar-B's or, our family favourite, a hangi.

Yes I am enjoying being back in New Zealand for Christmas and the most stressful thing I had to do was make enough sponge cake decorated with strawberries and cream for the whanau to share for dessert after our Christmas Day hangi.




Ka Kite,
Kiwi

Friday, 23 December 2011

Riyadh No Longer a Mystery




Riyadh is no longer a mystery.
A few weeks ago, while using Google Maps to send a fellow kiwi new to KSA directions to our compound, I discovered that the Google Mapping Bunnies have been busy.  There are new satellite pictures of Riyadh,  street names have been updated and, best of all, it is possible to get Google Map directions from one part of the city to another that even include use of service roads and u-turns.

This is BIG news.

Many is the time my friends and I have headed off to coffee mornings with a sense of adventure, grasping written instructions with hand drawn maps.  Some hand sketches have sufficient detail to get us where we need to go, others are a test of intelligence.  Fortunately we have a lot of brain matter to go around. 

In a normal country it is always good manners to show the driver a map of the intended destination, particularly if it is obvious he isn't familiar with where we want to go.  In Saudi such a move can often be a mistake.  Drivers tend to assume we mere females have no idea what the map says - why else would we be showing it to them?  They take the offered piece of paper (that we have learnt not to hand over as it sometimes takes threats to get it back) study it, nod, say something incomprehensible and set off - in the other direction.

Many drivers can't read and only pretend to know what the map is showing.  If we don't keep on eye on things, they will go round in a very large circles racking up $$$ on the meter.

It has always been helpful when hand written instructions include the name of a popular landmark that drivers will recognise when we mention it.  At least then we have a greater chance of going in the right direction, though we are wary of drivers who've learnt the English word 'short cut' and have no idea what that actually means.

Now that Google has uncovered Riyadh, we can get into the vehicle with a Google generated map and the intended course highlighted.  Though, to be honest, I'm guessing it doesn't matter how lovely the map looks, the reaction will be the same - take the offered piece of paper, study it, nod, say something incomprehensible and set off none the wiser.

Mr Noor, of course, never has such issues.  He knows Riyadh very well.  And the short cuts he takes really are short cuts.  He can also read should I hand him a Google Map.
 
Initial excitement at Googling headway gave way to a feeling of....well, sadness.  Riyadh is no longer a mystery, well, not to anyone who can read maps anyway :).



Ka Kite,
Kiwi

Monday, 12 December 2011

Riyadh Gates


One of my passtimes is driving around taking pictures of Riyadh Gates.  Riyadh has a lot of gates.  Not the farm gate variety either.

Being a country girl at heart I quite like a farm gate.  My favourite farm gate is the Taranaki gate.  You know the kind made with battens and barbed wire and attached to the uprights at each end with loops of No 8 wire.



I haven't seen a Taranaki Gate in Riyadh.  Hardly surprising.  Farm gates would never do in Riyadh.  People would see right through a farm gate.  Riyadh gates are designed to complement Riyadh living....keeping people out and preventing any view of any female who may reside behind the tall walls.

Yes, we of the tender gender must be hidden behind black in public and every effort is made to keep us just as hidden from any prying eyes in private.

Should a passer-by get a sneak peek behind the imposing barriers via a gate as it opens to allow vehicular passage (and yes each time I pass an opening gate my eyes do turn that way just to see what the huge, monstrosity of a home looks like behind the gate), villa occupants (ladies) can be rest assured they are safe from view because most homes also have either teeny, tiny windows, or barred, tinted and textured windows covered with heavy curtains so no-one can see in and it's not that easy to see out.

I like this wall because of the greenery. 
Most walls are simply brown and barren.

Hubby and I did consider moving into a villa not so long ago but, after viewing what was available, decided to stay in our one bedroom apartment on the compound.  The idea of living behind 10 foot (sometimes more) walls with very little external space to be utilised for a garden and not being able to see out my lounge or bedroom windows was, quite frankly, making me jittery.

When one is used to a more open environment, walled in living can get quite claustrophobic

Though our compound is surrounded by high walls the internal space is green and open, with little water features, and a tennis court and pool and I can walk around in my shorts and my t-shirt and see the sky.  It's an inner city residence, so it's not as large as the western compounds further out of town where you can jog around the internal perimeter.  Being people who prefer coffee drinking to jogging anyway, lack of running space doesn't really concern us much.

The entry to our compound is a couple of thick-as concrete and metal gates.  Aesthetically not that appealing.  When I drive, or rather am driven, around town, homes that have combined style with concealment functionality do catch my eye.

My friend was in the car with me this day,
so I got to pose in front of the gate as she took the picture.

Noor and Inam are used to me saying, 'Did you see that gate?  I gotta get a picture of that gate.'
They smile, back up and wait patiently as I retrieve my trusty camera from the bottom of my bag, where it almost permanently resides so I can take snaps of the lovely gate.

Here are a few of my favourites to date....

I loved the whole picture of this gate...the tiles, the lights and the trees hanging over offset it beautifully.


A close up

I liked the rope handle details on this smaller entryway.



This has a more Arabic feel...




Here's a more contemporary feel to classic pillars.  The studded criss-cross pattern reminds me of castle gates.

This is my favourite....



Check out them tusks.  I'm presuming they're metal.  One day I may sneak up to run my hands up and down them.  Of course, if you live behind this Riyadh gate, I'm happy to accept an invitation for coffee!


Ka Kite,
Kiwi

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Spin in a Bugatti Veyron


We went for a spin in a Bugatti Veyron.  And a Rolls Royce Ghost.  And a Bentley - a Mulsane I believe.
They were awesome.

A prince owns the cars and very kindly gave permission for them to be provided so a small, select group of people could try them out.   The blokes could take the cars for a spin themselves, while we ladies were chaffeur driven - the prince also sent along drivers. 



I'd like to say I'm on chummy, chatting terms with Saudi princes but....no, though a fellow Kiwi who has lived in Saudi for twenty odd years is.   We were all very grateful to her for organising this day.

What did I think of the Veyron?    It's a sports car so isn't designed for an ambling ride on supersoft suspension.  You feel the road beneath you.  Obviously, this car is not designed for the gravel roads up to the farm in Kaeo.  But, I'm sure if I was given free reign of the Bugatti on straight, flat good quality roads, you wouldn't see me for dust. 






My favourite car was the Ghost.  Oh soooooo nice.  Super soft seats, roomy.  And unbelievably quiet.  Definitely a classy car.  Hubster gave an enthusiastic response to my request that we get one of these.  It's so nice when he says, 'Yes Gae, Sure' even though I know he means 'Dream On Baby'.





If hubster were to buy me a Bently, instead of the Rolls I wouldn't be averse to it's ownership either.  (More Dreamin').




We thought of suggesting that the New Zealand government obtain a Bently for the Ambassador because he looks positively at home next to one.  Me thinks we were all dreamin with that idea.



Agreement was unanimous that we would be highly unlikely to see these three cars in the same place in NZ, much less get to tutu (Maori word for 'play about') with them.  Living in Saudi Arabia isn't all bad and our day having a spin in the Bugatti Veyron, the Rolls and the Bentley really was awesome.



Ka Kite,
Kiwi

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