Saturday 30 April 2011

Is Social media a good thing for you

I have been on it for few years now, most of my students add me on facebook, or i add them, and placed one advert on FB, but didnt generate any leads. I think like anything else in advertising the whole media market is overcrowded with so many products on it now. so the more mediums the more products, the more advertisers, the result is the same, you can be overshadowed by the other advertisers. I asked my son (the guru in media studies) today on how we can be like the royal wedding, a billion people watching it around the world? he said that the royals do not pay to be on the media, the media pays them, as they have 100s of years behind them, and plus they are royalty, and poeple are suckers for royalty, the conclusion, to be known you have to be there for ever, and do stuff that makes you known to people, not just advertise, like for example having a charity runs, participating in sporting groups, or funding children's art exhibitions, in another word do anything that will make you known. or (this is the best) let a royalty use your product in public. Channel is known because a royalty wore her tiara in 1936, hence Channel can charge exorbitant prices.

Friday 29 April 2011

Road trips

I am not sure why a considerable period of my life was spent mainly working, even the holidays that I presumably take have an element of work quilted on them due to the presence of you know what, and you know who, and I don't need to add more reasons.

One thing I really miss is taking those road trips that we did a lot of while living in New Zealand. I still remember my second day, we just woke up, and our friends were at the motel door with other five or six cars, asking us to be ready to go on a road trip. Of course I had to drive, my husband at that time was still unsure whether he will be able to drive on the right side of the road, and you know me, I took the car keys, stuffed any food that we had and drove off. The magic scenes, the beaches, and the greenery were breathtaking. Of course being amongst over 25 children, who have to stop for the bathroom, or a run or anything silly like, there is a bee in the car (that is my little one of course, few nights ago she woke me from my precious sleep saying that a bee is attacking her, how funny is that?) so we all take those chances to take the coffee and the tea out, have some biscuits, and walk a bit to see the various species of shrubs and how on earth does the greenery is one meter away from the shores? Anyway we reached our destination, it was a waterfall in a little town called Whangarie (everyone used to spell it as wa, it turned out to be a ph) to get to the water falls one needs to walk downhill and once you are down, the water fall is a magnificent water fall that you can smell, it is sort of mixed with the smell of the lavenders and other plants and herbs that grew in that area.

I took the kids for a walk around the little forest, at first we were edgy, a while later we were jumping hoops, and discovering things. Of course you could be stepping in some mud, and as we were not prepared, I allowed the kids to swim in the cold water lake, and they all did, the adults of the road trip party were not very happy about my suggestions, and I was sure that deep in their mind they wanted to remove my name off the list. Due to my jokes and stories, they couldn't do that of course. About these jokes, at first the women were not as lively as they should be when they hear them, on the second trip a hint of a smile was on their faces, by the fourth trip, they were asking me for more jokes? I resented this of course as I was not the only joker in the group; however more jokes came their way.

Then on, my friend Salwa would call on the Friday to see if we are preparing for a road trip? It became a habit, were we would just take the kids and make them breath fresh air, play football, swim in the beaches, or just walk in parks, bush, or river tracks. The men will of course be sitting waiting for us to prepare the food, and discussing politics? I wondered at times, why we the women do not discuss politics. Not sure? Are we not politically minded enough?

Anyway, one day during one of the road trips, we stayed at a new motel, it was like the sheets had just came out of the packets, the paint was fresh and everything about this motel was nice, except a tiny detail that we have omitted, the town was so small that it literally takes you 3 seconds to go around it. So that night we cooked and baked at the motel, gathered and played cards and other board games. I happen to talk to the owner of the motel, and she asked us what we were thinking of doing? I said the kids want to see cows and sheep farms. She said, oh my brother has a farm (did that sound like o McDonald has a farm?) and an orchard, and that she will ask him if he will take us there so the kids can see what they liked. Early morning we were all ready prior to the appointment, and drove behind the motel owner to the farm. Once we reached there the sheer size baffled all of us, something like 350 hectares???? And guess what? The owner was under a truck trying to repair it? When he came out to greet us he hurt his forehead so the blood was dripping and he didn't even care about it. To make a long story short the kids watched every step of running a farm, including birth of little cows, milking and artificial insemination! Yes they know now how a cow becomes pregnant, get the picture!

The end of this farm visit was to the kiwi and avocado orchard, the owner told us that it is end of the season so the kids are welcome to pick some kiwis and avocado. I tell you, it was a great experience, the kids didn't only pick kiwis they also ate them. If you know about kiwis you will laugh as one cannot eat them straight away, they need to be stored. This we found out the next day when we met the owner in another city, and he laughed while asking us if the kids enjoyed the raw kiwis? We said great they loved it, and then he explained, so to put it plainly, we were the talk of the town for days and months to come.

So on this trip of mine, the girls and I decided to do another road trip, great it was and instead of it being one day we stayed for three days, we stopped at every orchard, bought fruits, tried the local homemade ice creams and the fresh farm smoothies. One feels young afterwards, so when the friends that we stayed with in Christchurch suggested a trip to broken river caves, we jumped on the opportunity to try out something different. The tea and coffee we had inside the cave, and the girls falling in the cold water was so much fun.

Now I am back, and reminiscing on these memories, so I would like you to check out the photos. Hope you can imagine the trip and its beauty.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Starting a Business

Okay, I am sure that all of you will be surprised to see this blog, as most of us think that there are thousands of books that talk about starting businesses and teach the mechanics of it, in terms of having an idea and the capital to introduce the idea to the world. Also most of the universities and colleges teach the ins and outs of what the business requires, and most of the laws in the country cater for these requirements. Contract law was established 100's of years ago when the contracts were established between two or more people verbally and required a witness or two so that both parties to the contract fulfil their obligations properly. The witness will serve as a go between or a conflict resolution factor. Contract law was the first ingredient for any business, as all businesses engage in a sale of a product, a service or both.

However, three things are not taught in business schools. How do I know this? I am a breed of business schools and a lecturer too at many business schools. Hopefully one day you will be studying in my business school to witness the fun of my teaching.

Firstly, the capital, how do we know that a certain business requires a certain capital? And when do we know that what we had calculated is not enough? Now and after running the business for almost 9 years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that starting an SME on a shoe string is not a fantastic idea. The capital requirements need to take care of the rent, the staff, and other costs of the office, advertising and marketing and also needs to take care of you and your family. Thus if you had calculated that the business will breakeven in 1.9 years, and you didn’t take into account your personal expenses, then the breakeven is wrong. Many people struggle to make the breakeven point and many wrap up prior to even starting to make the money. So first rule is add up all your costs and do not be conservative. Most of the SMe’s start making money after few months, when a lot of their capital has been spent on advertising and promotions. Panic starts to tick in, as one sees that the bank account is draining with more debits and fewer credits. Of course it is important to note that the number of people buying your product or service depends on how you approach your clients. Merely having a corner shop and hoping that people will pass by to buy is not intelligent marketing.

Secondly, the price, of course here you will have to follow the market price or what the market can take. however if you find that the price you are asking for is higher than that due to your high capital input, or high return required, then differentiate yourself. Say that you are the best and be the best. One of the hairdresser ladies charged a higher price for haircuts, her adverts always insisted on the high quality and care to her clients. We went there and witnessed it, and continued to go despite her higher price. So differentiate yourself.

So far maybe nothing is new; however my third rule which is not taught at all is the ethics. You must run your business in a very ethical manner. Ethics my friend is the main ingredient to any successful business. What do I mean by ethics? Do not lie to the clients, people are very intelligent, one day they will find out, and one unhappy customer will tell ten. Always remember that the food on your table came from that customer, so be sure that what you are putting in your stomach is money earned in an ethical way (we say halal money) as every cent of illegal earning will affect your body and your children for generations to come.

I hope I haven’t upset anyone in saying this. I am writing this blog because I have witnessed unethical behaviours from many companies and banks. If you see that our company is doing something unethical, I urge you let me know to change course.

Monday 25 April 2011

Strangers? are we living with strangers?

Who can believe that you live more than two third of your life with people and when you see them after a while you do not know them or do not have a feeling for them? Then you wonder why on earth are you having this annoying feeling? And what brought it up?

Life to me is like the waves in the sea on in a pond, when you threw a stone the circles are so vivid and strong, but these taper off after a while, they are there, they never end, and according to science they stay perpetually forever, so you are the pond or the sea, and people who come into your life are the stones.
Some of the stones are nice, shiny, the type that I collect whenever I see them on other people's plants (or in emirates lounge for example, my daughters will relate to this very well) some are Gems, important and have to be kept forever, some who will dissolve after a while in that pond and may mix with the water and either contaminate or purify it. When it purifies it then you know that these people have become part of you for good, and they are non separable, I guess these are like your children, your siblings and at times your partner in life. But when that stone contaminates the pond, then it could be explained as the acquaintances that you acquire and are the reason for you to go down the spiral of bad luck. Unfortunately one never knows the type of stone that is thrown on ones pond, until a bad situation surfaces to the forefront. But who wants that to happen?

The gems also can be segregated, as they could be diamonds, i.e precious stone, or jade, i.e semi precious, hence the superficial relationship that one can have with ones siblings, children or partners. Of course i am not even mentioning the reason for you having a life, your mum and dad, these are not part of the waves or the ponds, they are merely the reason for your existence and you thank god for that, and never ever think of them as annoying or strangers in your life.

I know your next question, why am I writing this blog? And who is the strangers that I am living with and getting annoyed by? Well, many really, not one only. The unfortunate thing is I cannot classify them into a specific type of stone that is dropped on my pond. It could be a dog’s dropping or a bird’s dropping. I am trying to purify my pond from it, and it is annoying me to the max.
Very annoying

Saturday 23 April 2011

Learning from movies? True or false?

Some people watch movies for the purpose of entertainement, I, on the other hand, try to learn something while watching them. For example I loved Devil wears Prada, as the woman toaght me how to be strong in dealing with others and how to put my ideas though. I loved seven pounds as it taught me not to use my blackberry while driving, I loved the Bucket list as it made me wonder of what I would like to do before death thus I have now my bucket list too and I loved the pursuit of happiness as it portrayed how people can be cruel, and how some mothers are not worth having kids at all.

However, the one movie that made me think really hard is Morning glory! Don't be surprised, it is a check flick I know, and the story is normal, a girl who is persistent and works on changes, of course many discussions between my kids and I had revolved around it and until I watched on the plane that I realised why I liked it. It's her proving to be against what her mother had told her. Of course I hated the mother when she asked her daughter to find any simple job and stop chasing her dream, as when the daughter was eight it was adorable, when she was 18 it was inspiring, but when she is 28 it is embarrassing. This is the exact sentence she used to kill the morals of her daughter?? To me mothers killing their daughters dreams or fathers kiling their sons dreams, and the combination goes on; It could be a country killing it's citizens dreams. Who has the right to kill?  Dreams are real things, prophets had them, the kings had them, the interpretations consider them real, and people in india buy them. 

I had a dream once that I own a university where students teach the teachers rather than vice versa, where the books are not written but created at the moment of teaching, where the knowledge unfolds during the discussions, where the discussion itself is a reminder of friendship between the teacher and the the student. Don't you think it is far better to have a class of a hundred student reply to your research survey rather than sending it by post, over here the students will have to answer the survey questions, but by post people may never do! What is better than having a theme that is created from every day walks of life, than to teach a theory that could be redundant. Do we really need a lesson plan? Instead we could have a structure by which we progress the running of the class.  Should we have teachers and listeners? Until when are we going to be autocratic?

Well, let us visit reality, first friends will laugh at me, and say? What? You want to own a university? Then the banks will laugh and say that first I have to have an audited business plan, then a real credit history, and of course the most important part is! Oh no, we forgot, you are a woman, so you cannot be trusted.  The best would come from the ministry, first, build the place, prepare the curriculum, hire the teachers, hire the rector, build the library, buy the books, prepare financial statements, then we will visit to inspect, if all is in place, we will provide an approval in principle, if not, go back to stage one.  The programmes, oh my god, these will only be approved when you graduate the first cohort of students; to get the first cohort, you have to whisper about your existence as you are not allowed to advertise, so your first cohort will be a bunch of ugly, no hopers, rejected students (as one of the schools that I had just visited told me). So if these students graduate, by that time you would have forgotten about the unfolding knowledge and the flow of newly discovered theories, and of course the banks will be correct, as a woman you couldn't fulfil the conditions and defaulted on the payments, then the ministry will inspect and provide you or not with the accreditation. 

I love rules, don't take me wrong here, but all rules were created to make our lives easier; however these rules were created to cater for the ordinary, not for any new development. No matter how one can convince the government that the project is worth it, it will not be a go as they are not accustomed to it.  

What do we do in these situations? Of course you start by eliminating the negatives, one of them is do nothing, but that is not on,as any idea requires positive thinkers to make it happen. The second elimination is  to find like minded people at the government level to agree with you. This of course is not an option, as we all know all losers of the world work in goverment organisations. Then you would think that I should think of a different idea. Who wants to have such a university? It is a problem from the start. First you have to have the right calibre of students, then the right calibre of teachers, then the correct examination methodology, then the correct books that shows the how not the what? So all of the elements are not available at least in the first 100 years. So the project is a work in progress or an R&D. Which takes me back to why I wrote this blog. People put you down and discourage you, and if you are my type, you will give up. 

Sorry guys, I give up. There will not be a univrsity that unleashes the potential of it's students. So go find your studies somewhere else?

Thursday 21 April 2011

A report from under the down under

You must excuse me for being away for over a week now. You see, my Ipad is not linking to a wifi where I am and because I got used to writing my thoughts on its notes, and applauding them afterwards, I forgot about the power of Microsoft words, and the umpteen things we can accomplish on it.

I still have few blogs written there, so when I return from my trip, you will have to watch out as you will be bombarded by one blog after the other.

Woke up this morning at around 5ish on the sound of birds, thought to myself that this cannot be right as last night it was pouring with rain and the wind was so strong that the streets were filled with leaves of the trees, of course it being autumn also doesn’t help. Yes I did say autumn, southern hemisphere is like looking at yourself at a mirror, weird but nice. Imagine you stand still but your image moves in the opposite direction?? Sorry I just had to say this to make it seem like a Harry potter movie.

Anyway, I picked up the blackberry, read all the weird notes the people send nowadays, messages about Bahrain, jokes, poems, funny stuff about preventing people from eating chocolate (I thought it is another scare) unless the sender is with them, and most recently cake recipes, so the BBM became like your laptop, which means you need to do some filtering and keep those that send you a lot of forwards in a folder on their own to read them later in the day when you are not busy.

I did this to my friends who send me forwards, I called the folder “from friends to be read later” of course this so called “later” never arrived, so I have more than 10000 emails waiting to be read in that folder? One of my friends figured this out, and one day she asked me which email account is on the blackberry, I told her innocently, the next day I received the same forward on all my email accounts, including the work account which should be only for students and as it is the advertisers got hold of it, and is filling with junk now. Sorry guys, I am not doing it on purpose, it is just that I prefer to spend more time on my work than on reading forwards. Please also in the future be selective on what to forward, what I see forwarded to me is as if I had never gone to school and my friends are trying to educate me on poetry, history, geography, science etc. Some of the stuff is interesting of course, but to be left for later on in life when one is retired.

Back to when I woke up at five this morning; I looked at my emails, 75 of them, looked at the important ones, deleted 60 of them, and answered two. Then of course I got bored, so went back to sleep. But the singing of the birds didn’t allow me. Had to come down to the hall, and made my breakfast, muesli, yogurt, milk, toast, peanut butter and jam, of course my tablets on a try, my coffee was ready, and the newspaper was at the door, took all of this to the balcony, and started reading and eating. I tell you guys, these people have seen nothing of what we saw in our lives. If you look at the newspaper, the headlines is about training kids on rugby by the players themselves, who fly to the various cities and do camps to train the children. The other headline is about a group of football players holding their cherished equipment guarding the net to prevent an amateur person from scoring a goal; a cry for scientists to count the various species of butterflies so they dont become extinct. Or talking about those that go out of their way to stop violence, or the Danish boy and his Dutch mate sentenced to jail for beating an innocent person in the streets of Queenstown. And so on and so forth. Of course many more news about the earthquake in Littleton, and how money is pouring in from various parts of the world to help rebuild that city. So you see, it is all about self indulgent, we care about what happened here and now, and to our people, not what is happening to the world. The world section is merely a one page talking about top issues only (Bahrain didnt feature at all).

I subscribe to a newspaper back home, to begin with I have to remove a hundred pages of classified, property listing, various advertisements, and some supplements that no one would read. And then I remove the sports pages, and I start with the Tabloid, which has pictures of the 85% nationalities that live in UAE, read my horoscope which really doesn’t resemble me at all, and then throw that too. The main two sets are the news part and the business part. The business part is depressing as it keeps on reminding us of the economic crisis that we are still living in, the slide in property prices, and the increase in interest rates. The central bank also has a lot to say about how business is run by the banks. Then I go to the main pages, we feature our beloved rulers, as you must see them on the main pages more than once, then the world news, and more world news and destruction. Nothing that will make you happy or smile, and I am wondering why? Why do I subscribe to a paper that makes me depressed for the rest of my day? I would rather see what we do and what other people do to improve the living of our town than what destruction is happening every where in the world. We focus on the negatives, but they focus on the positives. That is to me the main difference. They flourish themselves, and talk about their people’s achievement, we hide the achievements, and talk about how we should neglect ourselves and pretend that we do not exist and rather see what is happening around us. As if we do not count in our own countries. Over here when a name is mentioned it is a name of a person known to the community, over there we have to Google the name to see who that person is?

What should we do? This is terrible, to me that is the reason why we never grew as a nation, we do not influence the world, as we have been put down even by our own newspapers that we pay for?

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Ethics?? do we have them?

If you gathered already, I am in Australia attending an education workshop and having lots of food, both for stomach and for thought. Interesting really this country, even though I have been passing by so many times, never did I land in it, so this is a great opportunity to see for myself what the students see, and at the same time tell my new students about the various things that they can engage in and what they can accomplish when they are here. I also met many Arab students of course, mainly from Saudi though, both men and women and children too. Fun, they said when I asked them how they find it. So I am glad that our third largest sector for students’ enrolments is loved by the students.

Most of the education consultants including myself were not happy about the visa changes that the government had introduced, we all complained and nagged about it to each other and to the education institutions that we met, and we all thought that it is not fair for both parties, and for the student that visas get rejected on the grounds that students are not genuine or do not have enough money etc. However, the lecture by John Moorhouse today was an eye opener. After giving us all the information about the growth in the education sector, and the wealth that it brought to Australia and, and, he started to talk about the reasons behind the changes that took place last year, and are again going to be stricter. ( if you check this link, you will be appalled for what some educational consultants had been doing just to increase their earnings. At the end who is the victim?? Our beloved student, after all he is the one that loses on the hands of those that pretend to be carers of education and passionate about learning.
Okay, let me start from the beginning. Some education agents, start their agencies, then go to Australia and establish schools, that are a cover up for bringing people and letting them loose to look for jobs. So a student come to them, they first of all charge him for their services, then help him to obtain a loan from a bank, submit his file for the visa, which gets approved, the student pays the fees, departs, reaches Australia, finds out that the school is just a recruitment agency, that finds him a job that pays enough so he survives. The numbers of students hit the roof, and the exploitation of employers was evident, so the government smelled the odour that was coming out of the gutters, and with the death of one of the students, the whole thing was exposed. Of course, what the media had blown up in all proportions was nothing but rich agents/schools owners paying media men to write rubbish in the newspapers to stop fresh students from applying to Australia. I dont want to remind you about what happened in Bahrain and how the media turned everything around and smudged the real story, the same had happened here too.
Imagine a country changing its rules because of unethical behaviours and striving to be richer than rich on the back of students whose only crime is their need to study and improve their livelihood.

Whom do you trust these days? I for one do not trust anyone any more as each and every person I meet either has an ulterior motives, doubts or lying, and what happened to our office is a gigantic proof of the behaviours that the Australian immigration had found out. We have schools that stole the money of the students, agents stealing money from the students, agents who we worked with shut us up even though we had the documents of their students to bring them offers from universities, and started to work on their own after years of training and establishing the office for them, we had schools that came to us and did a whole promotion around the gulf with our help, and when the student went they found the owner in prison and nobody in the school but them. So, what I am really trying to say here is that, people beware, and watch where you are going. As they are all here to get you.

Monday 11 April 2011

We learn from Japan

Japan's characteristics during the earthquake

I got this email in Arabic, I agree with it totally, so here it is in English for those who cannot read arabic. I must add that I don't know who is the writer, the email did not attribute it to a name:

عشرة أشياء نتعلمها من اليابانيين في محنتهم
ten things we learn from the Japanese people during during ordeal:

ولا منظر لضرب الصدر أو النواح. الحزن بحد ذاته يسمو.  
one cannot see crying people or those hitting themselves, sadness is a majestic thing by itself, why amplify it.

٢-الاحترام. Respect
طوابير محترمة للماء و المشتريات. لا كلمة جافة و لا تصرف جارح.
respectful queues for water and other purchases, no one utters a bad word or an impolite gesture

٣-القدرة. Ability
معمار الفائق الروعة. المباني تارجحت و لم تسقط.
their strong architecture, their buildings shock but didn't fall.

٤-الرحمة. Mercy
الناس اشتروا فقط ما يحتاجونه للحاضر حتى يستطيع الكل الحصول على شيء.
people bought what they need for now, so everyone receives their share.

٥-النظام. The organisation
لا فوضى في المحال. لا تزمير و لا استيلاء على الطرق. فقط التفهم.
no chaos in shops, no blowing of car horns, no overtaking on the roads, just understanding

٦-التضحية. Sacrifice
خمسون عاملا ظلوا في المفاعل النووي يضخون ماء البحر فيه. كيف يمكن أبدا ان يكافئوا؟
50 workers stayed in the nuclear reactor plants to pump sea water in it, in what way do you compensate them?

٧-الرفق. Taking care of others
المطاعم خفضت أسعارها. أجهزة الصرف الآلي تُركت في حالها. القوي اهتم بالضعيف.
The strong took care of weak, restaurant reduced their prices, and the ATM machines were not touched.

٨-التدريب. Intelligent training
الكبار و الصغار , الكل عرف ماذا يفعل بالضبط. و هذا ما فعلوه.
Young and old knew what to do exactly and went ahead and did it.v

٩-الإعلام. Communication and media
أظهروا تحكما رائعا. لا مذيعين تافهين. فقط تقارير هادئة
not a single lie (this may remind you of certain TV stations????!) from presenters, total control of the situation in total calmness

١٠-الضمير. Conscience
عندما انقطعت الكهرباء في المحال أعاد الناس ما بأيديهم إلى الرفوف و مشوا بهدوء.
When electricity went off everyone returned what was in their hands to the shelves and walked away in total calmness

 احلى صور
هذه صفات الاخلاق الحقيقيه، ولكن اليابانيين فقط من طبقها.  ننحني لهم تقديرا واحتراما  شعب فعلا راقي!

واغلبهم اما ملحدين او , وثنين حسب اعتقادنا فمن اين جاؤوا بهذه الفضيلة ؟

These characteristics came from people who we call non believers.  I guess beside learning religion in school we need to learn to be non believers, maybe we will do what the Japanese people did?

Saturday 9 April 2011

Eco Tourism!

Well, first of all I must admit that I haven't been on a proper holiday for more than thirteen years, previous to that the family and I would decide on a destination, check what we want to do in that destination, whether we would join a tour company or do it on our own, and just disappear. Those days, you are not carrying your fully loaded mobile phone, your IPad, your laptop and all the other gadgets that make you work 24/7, so literally you can disappear. So if I say that an eco tourism holiday is my ultimate, I mean the ultimate as I would revert to a time pre these gadgets and would most certainly have a great holiday.

This piece is a remembrance of the time we spent in New Zealand and the various places we visited during that time. The bush walks, the river tracks, the 90 miles, and the sand dunes amidst the greenery when my kids went wild as if they were not born in the desert! But when they saw everyone else had brought their boards and were sliding on the sand dunes, they wanted to do the same too.

But the best time was spent in Stewart island. This amazing place is literally a place where time had forgotten itself. The lush environments, the mixed terrain, the chirping of the birds, the mud, and the cliffs, all of this and more is what you will encounter during the hike.

So, let us start right from the beginning, first you would only reach this island that is fully protected by boat or ferry, the sea is rough so Dramamine or any other seasickness tablets are a must have. Your backpack need only have the necessary items, like good pair of boots, or gumboots, a good pair of walking shoes, a couple of jeans, some teeshirts and a jacket or two. Food is essential, there is only one fish and chips shop, one small dairy (grocery shop), and maybe one pharmacy. No cars are to be seen, there could be one police vehicle cum ambulance that is not to be driven except in extreme cases. Of course in terms of hotels, Don't expect to have a 5 star place. The ones that are there mareore like a cabin or a backpackers place. You cook your own food, or with the group. Night entertainment is limited to reading, playing boardgames or cards, or for those who love nature can look at their photos and write their diaries. forget the TV, and forget anything related to technology.

The journey starts early morning, a visit to the toilette is a must as there will be none on the way, the hike takes the whole day, with one stop on the hour every hour. Make sure to look into every detail of the surrounding, as you can see some birds that you have never seen in hour life, your camera should be the quite one so you do not disturb the habitat. The trees, shrubs, flowers and ferns are a real beauty, the smell of vegetation is great, to me it smelled like freshly cut lawn, I loved it.. Of course because one is pre-occupied you may not notice that your legs are covered with mud and that your face is also smudged from the leaves and branches that could have touched it.

Then you arrive to your stop in the evening, with toilettes that have no flush, and no water unless you found yourself a stream and filled a small bottle just in case, you will be sleeping without a good scrub to your feet and the rest of your body, but that is fine, as everybody else will be in the same shoes. Just hope for a good weather and don't forget to watch the sunset as it's a beauty, take as much photographs as possible you will enjoy them afterwards. The drill starts when you get to the cabins, with the people preparing sandwiches or eating canned food or previously prepared dishes. The games start, or the reading, discussions, or the mere sleeping as one would have walked for a good 10 hours and is fully exhausted.

The next morning you walk back but on a different track, you would wonder if you will witness the same of what you saw the previous day? Not really, as every spot in this island is a world by itself. The Lakes and ponds are so clear you can actually fish without a rod, but some did fish with rods and caught some fish too, of course I am not that great in this sort of thing so I preferred to watch and enjoyed the smell of the vegetation and took more photographs. A real strange feeling came over me, if you had seen the movie journey to the centre of the earth, this place is similar to the one the boy and his uncle had witnessed when they slid to the centre of the earth, imaginative and magical.

Another long hike, and the time just evaporated, we were closer to our backpackers hotel; tomorrow we leave but the journey would stay in our minds for ever. To me, this is far better than shopping and sightseeing holidays, I would do it anytime again, surely before I turn 60 and I am sure I will still enjoy every minute of it.

Here are some photos of the place from the link.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Handy men, Women or children, or should I say handy people. 

This morning I am not going to feed you on the regular head-hurting, heart-pumping news and make you feel that OMG! Suad is going deep and deep down a dark road :), I had some humerous thoughts and decided to share, 

I often wonder what it feels to have a handy person around the house, you wake up one morning and the false ceiling drops on your head (metaphorically of course), your partner screams: call the maintenance! So you do, they qoute, you accept, you pay  and then they repair, sometimes this could take a week! All the time you are scared something may come out from that whole in the ceiling (you know like in the ghost busters movie, as that is the maximum horror I can subject myself to), so you imagine that if there was a handy person in the house, first he or she will cover the hole with newspaper, then will run to Satwa to buy the piece, runs home and fixes it in a matter of hours your kitchen is back to normal again.  

Fixing paintings around the house is my biggest worry, I tried that once and we had too many holes to cover, we had to re-paint the whole wall!!! If there was a handy person those paintings that are now sitting idle in the corridor of the house would be already hung or stashed away in the storage until such time that we will fix them.  The cracks and smears on the Walls of the house are also ugly, if there was a handy person, a paint job would be faster than blinking your eyes! I wonder what would have happened if we had a handy person around the house?

To all the handy persons around the world, I salute you. And my advice to my son and daughters is to marry handy persons, as us, I mean my whole family, cannot hit a nail with a hammer without rushing to the hospital to bandage the finger that you hit with the hammer instead. 

Do you think that after one finishes school or university one should go to a school (let's call it the school of life), whereby, one learns all that is needed to learn in order to have a comfortable life, like sewing buttons, altering dresses, pants and other clothing items, or even re modelling one of the old cloths to a new dress or shirt. Also one should learn the simple day to day jobs like changing a light bulb (i wonder if you remember the joke that goes, how many women are needed to change a light bulb? Five, one fixes the bulb and four carry the woman hehe),  I don't mean here that this school should be specific for girls or boys, these general skills are like typing or learning how to use a software, we never link this to gender, why on earth  when it comes to doing jobs around the house, or sewing, or cooking or gardening, we attribute these jobs to gender and of course the jobs are the ones that suffer, as they will remain there for ever.  

Did you know that the house is a living organ! it breaths, has a heart,a urinary system, veins, blood etc. So if we the people who live in that house do not look after it, the house will soon die, it is the same as a human being who has been neglected, we need to look after our homes, and give them a bit of positivity, and change their look and freshness. 

If I go back to being sixteen again, I will go to a cooking, sewing, plumbing, carpentering, painting, picture hanging, masonry, gardening, you name it of classes I will do it. This needn't take longer than a year and could be counted as  the gap year that we all need to do prior to embarking on university studies.  Maybe we even need to learn marriage skills, child bearing skills, problem solving skills, and the many skills that they never teach you in universities or business schools (I don't want to say 10 things you never learn in Harvard business school)

To me, I think we should change the way we run our lives in totality, schools need to have an after school time for learning life skills.  Tell me how many of you never learnt how to swim? I for example cannot ride a bike? And can only swim in the shallow side of the pool, that is disgraceful! Don't you think? 

Who is going to do this for our new generation?

Sunday 3 April 2011

Why am I living in the UAE?

Dear king, well, I am not sure how to start this story, it seems that you are bombarded by letters and petitions from everyone in Bahrain so I have to send you my twopence worth too.

I came to the UAE thirty years ago, why? Why didn't I stay in Bahrain and help build my own country with my brain? Thanks for asking, it is a very difficult subject for me, and for years I was angry at my country for letting it's daughter leave and establish a life in another land just because if a certain situation. 

I wrote letters and went to Bahrain so many times, to the embassies of Bahrain in many countries and fought for my return, nothing happened, hence I stayed here and I am still here. 

I met my husband in 1975, he was iraqi at that time, then in 1980 he was kicked out of Iraq by Saddam HUSSAIN along with a million other people because their seventh ancestors were Iranian.  This, I am not going to complain about, as he died now, so there is no point, and even then there was no point, as we all know why.

Anyway, we tried to get a visa for my husband to come to Bahrain, but all trials of my dad (god has mercy on his soul) had failed; he happened to talk to his friend who used to work with the late sheikh Rashid, and in a matter of hours a visa for my husband was in my hand;  i went to Iran, and managed to smuggle him out of the country.  One year later, my dad was still trying to get us to move back to Bahrain. When all attempts failed, dad moved my mum, brothers and sisters to Dubai too.  My dad's friend got us jobs, and helped in settling us in Dubai.  We continued to live in Dubai until one day we found out that my son needs to leave Dubai when he becomes 18!! I almost Hit the roof, so I came to Bahrain, and went to the passport and naturalisation department, wrote letters, called people and tried every thing on this earth to be able to get the kids visas to enter Bahrain (their Mum's country) to no avail. 

Thus, we had to go to a country that can provide a passport that is neutral so the kids can travel anywhere and work anywhere without being limited to Dubai or Iran, and at the same time, my son can also stay with us until he gets married of course. The hunt started, we had to research all the immigration options available at that time, we choose New Zealand for its temperate weather and nuetrality.   The point system was a piece of cake, as with all my qualifications, languages, and great health, plus of course having enough money to live on, the acceptance was quick. So we landed, and not wanting to just wait for the papers, I made a life, went to university, became an arabic teacher for Saturday school, worked at the university, became a member of so many clubs,worked as a finance and planning manager as well as looked after the children, grew veggies, made jams, cheese, pickles, took the kids to crafts classes, and made so many friends.  Well that is a summery of 5 years, but so much happened in those five years, waiting for the passport is one thing, and living is another.  Life is tough as we exhausted our funds, so we took up many jobs to cover the expenses and the mortgage, beside not being able to have a house keeper (something that we the gulf people are accustomed to) I was working literally for 18 hours a day.  

What happened when the kids got the passport was really strange, they all decided that they had to go to Bahrain to see it and find out why they couldn't enter it when their passports was Iranians but with a kiwi passports they can? They didn't understand! They said mum but we are the same people (in a kiwi accent)! I know, I said,  but didn't want to dwell on this point, they were happy to see the land of their mum (as they called it then) and I was happy to see them happy.

Their discussion  really made me sad, I remembered when my boy was 9 months old, I was in England then, I went to the Bahraini embassy to get him a visa to go with me to Bahrain, and almost everybody at the embassey was baffled, their faces said it all,  I put my tail between my legs and left, feeling so disturbed, thinking what would he had done being of young age? I went alone and kept him with his dad even though he was still breastfeeding.

The amount of money we spent on this was phenomenal, we had to leave our jobs, leave our house vacant and spend our savings. What made it worst is that when we came back to Dubai jobs were not as easy, we decided to borrow and start a business. Thank god that we were positive and where able to support our kids until they finished their schools, and now universities. But the scar is still there, I am still upset about the fact that if the government allowed my husband to enter Bahrain, our life as we know it would have been different.  I could be a minister, or an advisor, or anything of value to my country; after all, one can do anything in ones own country.  The UAE is my country now, but I am looked at as a Bahraini, I cannot do what the Emirati people do. When some one says Suad Alhalwachi, they add that Bahraini woman, not just Suad Alhalwachi whose father is known for being the first electrician in Bahrain and the one who fixed the street lights in the 1940s, whose uncle runs a maatam, whose grandfather made halwa, Rahash and khanfaroosh, whose entire extended family lived on one road in Manama. I was isolated, things happened in Bahrain while I was sleeping (as they say) and changes happened while I was away. I missed all of that. My kids cannot speak arabic, and cannot recite Quraan the same way as me, as there was no Mutawa in Dubai, if I was in Bahrain I would have taken them to Muallema Khatoon to teach them Quraan and hit them on the head with her stick if they didn't recite properly while smoking her Gadu. They would have gone to Kabab  basheer and had khubz muhalla from uncle Jaafar's shop, they would have played in the allies of Bahrain and spoke in a Bahraini accent.  They would have joined probably CP scholarship programme and could have been sent to study abroad by the goverment.  Many things would have happened. But it didn't, why? Because the goverment decided that my husband would be a threat as his passport and nationality where from a country that Bahrain didn't like for some reasons.  

You will ask why I didn't write to you personally? Well, do I have an avenue to reach you? In the UAE every sheikh has a majlis, and I personally went to these Majalis so many times, it is fun to go there as the palaces are open, no guards on the gates, the Sheikhs and sheikhas are very welcoming, and will jump to help. In Bahrain, this is not something that is followed unfortunately, which is a reason for the eruption of anger in the past one month.  Thus since every one is pouring their emotions out, I decided I will too.

 I think for government to correct what happened since 1981, an apology to my kids and to compensate me for my losses.  I am not talking about financial loses, i am talking about emotional and career losses.  How can they  do this?

I have been trying to return to Bahrain since the kids got the passports, but the passports and naturalisation department had another view, they wanted me to first get a visa for the children, stamp a residence, get the ID card, then submit the passport, to receive the Bahraini passport? Why? Well "we must follow a process" they said? What process and who created it? We are only a few, our information can fit into any small computer, countries that have billions of people know everything about their citizens, and we in Bahrain do not even know that there were families living abroad because some government departments cannot move their fingers to punch few words on a computer?

Somethings need to change, and the change will not happen by calling neighbouring countries to fight the few hundred thousands. It will happen by you and the rest of the goverment officials embracing the fact that every member of the Bahraini society matters, no matter what religion he or she has, no matter which class he or she come from. Each one of us has something to contribute, if we were given the chance. So give the chance rather than suffocate the life out of the youth and not so young