Monday, October 18, 2004

Household critters

“Our house is a very very very fine house, with two cats in the yard….”
No, wait a minute, that’s two cats in the house and at least a half dozen alley cats in the front and back yards at any given time. A mom and two kittens live around the back door and make a fuss until we feed them each evening. They were smart enough to recognize a ‘soft hearted, sucker-for-animals type of guy’ and made their presence known soon after Bob moved in, before the rest of us got back in August. I guess they all adopted each other and now we regularly feed them at the back door.

Plus, we have inherited two indoor/outdoor cats from a friend who left to go work in Iraq. These cats are called Hoppy and Banshee. Hoppy, a male, is a rescued alley cat who had a broken leg and, as a result sits with his leg sticking out at a rather awkward angle. However, that hasn’t stopped him from playing ‘tough guy’ with cats who venture near our front gate. Banshee, a female, is appropriately named because of her vocal abilities. She was apparently rescued as a kitten after being stuck in a sewer and teased by kids for about a week. She sure has an annoying wail…lucky thing she has such a pitiful history and we feel sorry for her. Her yowl is the main reason that she and Hoppy, who were acquired as indoor cats, have now become indoor/outdoor cats.

There are alley cats everywhere in Abu Dhabi although they are more prevalent in residential areas. They hang out around the garbage containers. There isn’t a household garbage pick-up system here. Instead, there are garbage containers placed every block or so and you take your garbage there and then city workers empty those containers regularly. One day, soon after moving in, Bob was dropping off the garbage on his way to work. He drove up close beside the garbage container, rolled down his window and tossed the garbage bag into the container. Instantly three cats sprung straight up and shot out of the container. Bob said he nearly had a heart attack. Thank goodness they didn’t shoot out diagonally and in through the car window or that would have done him in for sure. We are much more cautious now when dropping off the garbage in that manner.

There are other critters in and around the house. We see geckos in the house now and again. They usually appear in the evening and hang out (literally) on the walls. They don’t appear to do any harm and I presume they eat insects so that’s probably a good thing. They’re kinda weird/creepy in a cute sort of way. They remind me of ‘gummy worms’ because they seem sort of transparent. Mostly I just try to ignore them…the kids see them too and aren’t bothered by them...‘ho hum, just another gecko on the wall’.

We think we might have occasional visits from mice. Bob saw a mouse early on when he was living here before the rest of us got back from Canada. Hopefully Hoppy and Banshee are earning their keep by scaring away the mice. It’s a wonder though that we don’t have even more visiting critters because the gap under the front door is big enough that they can march right in. The gap in some places is more than an inch high … the sort of opening you’d have to fix for a blustery Canadian winter….but as long as Hoppy and Banshee play bouncer and the winter temperatures don’t drop below 25 degree Celsius I think we’ll just leave it as.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Our New Villa

That has quite a ring to it, doesn’t it? ‘Our new villa’. However, it sounds more exotic than it actually is. A villa here in Abu Dhabi is sort of like a townhouse in Canada and they come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of maintenance nightmares.

We moved into a villa this year for a bit more space. Our apartment was lovely, with beautiful views of the Persian Gulf but felt a bit small ---Bob was going through bbq withdrawal and I was into plant/garden withdrawal. The kids needed some space to have friends over without feeling they were tripping over their parents. So we found a villa on the other side of town, a five minute walk to school for Eric and Emily.

The move was the easiest I’ve ever experienced, probably because I wasn’t here to experience it ! It happened during the summer when Bob was here by himself and I was in Canada with the kids. I highly recommend this as a moving strategy! Bob organized the packers and reinstalling of the telephone and computers, as well as overseeing the cleaning and painting when the villa tenants moved out. It was great…by the time we arrived, after our 30 hour flight from Canada, our stuff was moved in and the computers all set up.

It’s a three story villa, the middle villa in a cluster of three. The ground floor has the living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, storeroom and an open “I don’t know what to do with it” area under the stairs. Second floor has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and laundry room/storeroom. The third floor has the ‘maid’s room’ and another bathroom, so we use that room for kids to hang out with a tv/playstation. There are also two large decks off the top floor – we haven’t done anything with them yet because it’s way too hot but as it starts to cool off I think we’ll put outdoor furniture and maybe some games etc up there so people can hang out there as well.

There’s a little yard out front, with room for a bbq and a couple of chairs and plants. There’s a huge tree out front which provides some much appreciated shade although it makes the living room a bit dark.

On one side of us is an American family with a couple of teenage boys, and on the other side is a local family with a couple of little kids. It’s generally a quiet area. The main sources of noise come from people who pull up in front of the house across the street and honk impatiently and constantly for whoever they’re picking up.

The other noise is a ringing, clanging sound that can be heard up and down the street usually around meal times. We weren’t sure at first what it was….turns out it’s the ‘gas man’ who rings and clangs to let people know his truck is in the area and then he comes back again in a few minutes and by that time people are supposed to have their gas tanks out there to be refilled. Most people here have gas stoves. We bought an electric one though because we didn’t know about this gas refill system and thought we’d have to constantly be taking our tank to be refilled at a gas station like we had to at home for the bbq. Also, I confess I picture these stoves with attached gas tanks as lethal weapons in my kitchen, and with my lack of domestic skills they could easily blow up and shoot up through the three stories and out into the Persian Gulf.

Oh, and any description of our neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the telephone-less booth that is at the edge of our neighbor’s driveway. Abu Dhabi seems to have a mixture of telephone and telephone-less booths. Ours doesn’t seem to have ever had a telephone in it ….perhaps it was intended as a ‘telephone-less booth’…another ‘hmmm, that’s odd’ moment.

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