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so i am a camel hunter in the deserts of the uae. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

if that were a date, it would've been a record!

Eleven hours later, I'm home. And it's just 4:15pm. And I'm ready for bed. and might smell like a horse.

Should I back up 11 1/2 hours as I crawled out of bed? or two days ago... or even four months back?

... Two days ago I got a phone call telling me that it is time for endurance horse racing and learning to ride.

... Four months ago I sent an sms asking if it was riding season... (delayed response).

...11 1/2 hours ago I crawled out of bed, hoping I had not waken up in vain and would be remembered by S. The phone rang 15 minutes later saying that it was time to go. Where was I going? How long would I be there? What would I see? I didn't have an answer to any of these questions. Who really knows what a desert endurance race is without having been? I sure didn't. Nor was I prepared for the 6'C it was this morning. S meet me near my house and we drove towards Abu Dhabi. An hour later, after a petrol and prayer stop, we arrived at the Endurance Village. We were late, the race had begun. So we tore into the desert looking for our racer. Today's race was a 120km race through the desert. 4 laps, 30km each, with a mandatory half hour rest break and vet check between laps. Not only must your horse be fast, but it must also survive.

The course was pretty phenomenal. 30km of desert track, woven between two lanes designed for 4X4's to follow along. Thus I never had to get out of the vehicle, just clutch the sides of the seat as we swerved between the cars in our Escalade, tracking our favourite horses. Police cars patrolled along with us, protecting the horses from us, and us from ourselves. Every 100 metres, guys would jump out of the trucks and race onto the track to give a 1 1/2 bottle of water to the jockeys to keep the horses cool, with maybe a sip for themselves (I'm not sure about the recycling programme... just a thought).

And thus finished the first lap. The horses are pampered and examined by the vets, the ones who are deemed fit to continue are soaked with water and massaged, while the other ones return to their pens in shame. While we took a coffee break and assessed the damage.

Then someone would realize that the 30 minute wait time was nearly finished and we'd jump up, prep the horse, and then race to the vehicle. I'm not sure when the actual race ended, I may or may not have fallen asleep during one or two of the laps. Our horses were deemed lame after 2/3 laps (we had two horses racing). Hopefully they'll be back racing in 3 weeks times, and I'll be there to cheer them on.

Maybe I'm not meant to be a runner... being a jockey must be easier on the knees!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

half marathon

Hey, my friend Sarah and I are running in the RAK half marathon (www.rakmarathon.org) on February 19th, 2010, here in the United Arab Emirates. That's just three weeks away!! This past weekend we finished the Dubai Marathon 10km race in 1:00:22 as a preparation for the half marathon and we're both all psyched for the 21km race. Sarah and I really wanted to raise some money while we ran.

Both of us LOVE running, the second we finish running. SO to encourage us through our run, we decided to ask YOU to be a part of our run by donating your coffee or movie money to the victims of the Haiti earthquakes. You may have donated in other ways, and I really appreciate that, as do the survivors in Haiti. I was privileged to go to Haiti when working for Royal Caribbean. The cruise line owns a private island called Labadee, where many local Haitians work. Over christmas we were able to go into a village on the mainland and give out gifts for the children. Sarah and I weren't sure where to start when we decided to fundraise for Haiti, but found a way through facebook. Facebook has teamed up with many well known charities and created "causes" where you can go to the site and directly donate to the cause. We chose Oxfam America's Haiti relief fund, here's a blurb from Oxfam:

Earthquake hits Haiti – help urgently needed

Your donation goes to fund this project organized by:
Oxfam America, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit

A major earthquake has struck Haiti near the capital of Port-au-Prince causing catastrophic destruction across the city of two million people in the western hemisphere's most impoverished nation.

Oxfam has an emergency team based in the capital responding with public health, water and sanitation services to prevent the spread of waterborne disease. As soon as our assessment teams have a fuller understanding of the emergency needs Haitians across the region face, Oxfam will work urgently to meet them.

The people of Port-au-Prince need your support.

To join our Facebook Cause, please cut and paste the following link into your browser and "join cause". If you're not an active Facebook Member, I'm not sure if it will let you donate on the site, Sarah and I are also collecting donations and will be directly donating to the fund.

Thank you for your support as we run!

Hannah (and Sarah)


Sunday, January 24, 2010

a lion, gazelle, teradactle and a flying dunebuggy

Right now I wish I were Joben, who could take an SAT story and turn it into a blockbuster. . . or Jason, who could take a few phrases and make them into a depressing love poem, or Josh, who could weave together make belief and reality and create a masterpiece. because last week was amazing, and there is no way I can articulate to you the meshings of a gazelle, teradactle dinosaur, and potentially a flying dunebuggy?

It started when I rang my friend N and asked him when I could play with his pet lion. Yup, he lives a few villas away from me and has a lion in his compound (he decided one day that he needed a pet lion so he purchased one). I haven't seen it since it was just a few months old, so I thought I'd play with the cat. N wasn't home, he was out in the desert, and since his farm was on my drive home from Dubai, I stopped by for another exciting Emirate evening. Good thing there was a fire, as I was pretty cold. I perched by the fire for about an hour, chatting with the cousins and agreeing to marry one 21 year old (helping him get a Canadian passport) - and then phewsh... there went a ... gazelle? Yup, a pet gazelle went prancing by. Good thing the lion was back in Al Ain or we'd be having gazelle for dinner.

Maybe it would have been nice to have gazelle... I tried to leave around 9:45pm, but was informed that it was almost dinner time and that I 'should' stay (meaning, you are staying). Forty-five minutes later, dinner arrived. I'm sure it was a taradactle. It looked like it had a beak, but there were definitely teeth inside. And if there were wings, they were tiny. In reality, it might have been a baby goat, but as I crouched around the platter of rice and meat, surrounded by 7 Emirate men, all I could think was, "I'm eating an arabic dinosaur... with my hands". Cutlery was optional, and I optioned out. It's much better to eat with the right hand, using the yogurt to help hold the pieces of food together! I think I finally got myself out of there around 11pm and raced home to my warm shower and bed.

So the flying dunebuggy, how does that fit in? Since you asked... the farm that I was at belonged to M. He's half brother to N. And he's into extreme sports, most recently a flying dunebuggy. This is an odd contraption where two people sit (one in front of the other) and have a huge fan-like thing-um-a-bob strapped to the back. Rising above them (Inshallah) is a giant parachute. M had tried to describe this contraption to me around the campfire to no avail and realized the only way I could begin to understand would be if I were to see it for myself. Two days later, as the sun was setting over the gargantous sand dunes, I found myself strapped into the contraption, hoping it would fly. We taxied down the sand, hit a tree stump or two, and were off! M even let me guide the parachute around the desert, though he ensured that we stayed well above the power lines.

What's the moral of the story? Maybe giving up on a latte for a few days can create a wickedly amazing unique adventure...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I've been scheming to discover ways to cut down my commute, and finally it's paid off!! Today I got my computer formated with some sortof VPN allowing me to access work's database and emails from a remote location. And that remote location is... drumroll (not my bedroom)... the local office!! I'm still going to make the drive into the far office twice a week for meetings and motivational speeches from the team leaders... but my quality of life is going to improve as I'm not commuting forever through dubai! And my poor lil' racecar is going to appreciate a break.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Business Class

I found favour in the eyes of the Emirates Airline gods and was bumped to Business class. Now I'm a spoilt rotten brat. I had a chair that massaged, reclined into a bed, and four course (or was it five) for every meal. They even greeted me with champagne... unfortunately, jetlag still affects the elite travelers. My first night back I slept from 11pm - 5am, waking up 4 times. But lucky for me, I slept from 8:30pm - 6:30am, only waking up twice!!! And it's the weekend!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


So I it's ironic that after posting about travels, and not knowing if you'll make it to your destination until you actually get there, that I'm sitting in my brothers living room in Laguna Hills. My plane just landed in Dubai... but I'm in California? I got bumped from my flight in Houston, convinced the guy to let me lay over in LA rather than San Francisco, rang up Jo-ben, and now am in the hills for 3 days until Emirates can fly me home! Not a bad deal. Guess I won't be going back to work on Sunday.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I don't usually cry at airports. Not often at all. BUT I might have shed a small tear or two saying goodbye today. It's not so easy saying bye to a 2 year old who is going to change so much before you see him again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm starting to learn the rules of traveling. I know I've been doing it for awhile, but I am finally now just piecing together some important factors. For instance, I am planning on flying to the UAE today. I really intend to start my travels today and arrive there tomorrow. However, I've learnt that you can't really plan or count on a trip until you actually show up at the destination (I'm not promising that it's going to be all you counted on, but at least you've arrived).

For example, sometimes you might arrive at an airport and not be allowed to check in because they say that you're too close to the departure time (90 minutes before the flight: Elaina's Eid holiday 2008). Or, arriving at the airport 15 minutes before take-off (Greece... not sure how we planned that one - delayed takeoff for 2 hours, but without us on the plane). Other times, you can get al the way through check in, 2 security checkpoints, and then AT immigration find out you can't leave the country (UAE). You can also be on a plane, headed for your destination, and then wake up almost back at the original point (New Zealand/Australia)
new zealand has been an adventure thus far...

let's rewind.

March 1st 2007, I left my hostel at the crack of dawn... well, 4:45am to be precise... after hauling my overpacked, overweight baggage a few km to the train station, up and down the stairs (joking, the lift) and all the way to the international departures. Everything was going well at 7am when we took off and were headed to Auckland. My 6+ month stint in Australia was over.

I had just nodded off when was rudely awaken by the captain, announcing that there was a refridgeration problem and we'd be returning to Sydney. everyone remained calm until we landed and noticed a considerably heightened security force waiting for our arrival. As we taxi'd down the tarmac, we were joined by 6 firetrucks and a few other blinking lights. We weren't even alloud to go back to the terminal but were forced to park the plane down by the cargo holding area. I was a bit confused, as I'm not sure how a "refridgeration" problem needed so many firemen... So after the firemen came onboard and deemed the area safe, we were evacuated and shipped off to the terminal via bus.

After hours of being bounced from area to area, ignored by the airline... i finally confirmed a flight at 4pm to Auckland... After I spent nearly 11 hours at the airport, I took off - again - and made it to Auckland this time...

Moral of the Story: if you're getting stuck at an airport, make sure that there's free internet and good coffee.... and that you can use your meal vouchers on any type of food or beverage!! :)

Moral of the Story: Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that though I am planning on flying back to the UAE tomorrow... who, other than God, really knows. Inshallah I'll make it... or at least get a Starbucks!

Travel Competition

Becca posts all the time, like more than once a day. Which is one of the reasons that I started blogging in the first place. I want to share things with people things all the time, and lots of the time, nobody will listen, or I'm all alone. For instance, everyday, at 7:30am, I pass by a camel racing track. I like watching them for the 14 seconds as I drive by. I always wish someone was experiencing this with me. Other times, I get caught up in the randomness of my life and just wish that others really understood what it's like to be living my life. SO - I became a blogger. For all 4 of you who regularly read this, and all 1 of you who comment (again, thanks Becca).

blahblahblah. continue.

I came back from the UAE this Christmas with two suitcases - 0ne inside of the other, with the intention of leaving one suitcase here. I've accumulated quite a few suitcases in the UAE and needed to transfer one back to the parents attic. Unfortunately, when I started packing tonight, I realized that I'd be filling BOTH of them up? I guess that I could blame the two costco sized boxes of Cheerios, or maybe it's just my poor packing skills. I'm not sure.

I doubt I'll live in the Emirates forever, so I've had to think about what I'm going to do with all this crap, and therefore I've decided that I'll have to have a competition. I won't be able to bring all this stuff back to .... wherever I go next, so I'll need one of you to help me. I reckon it'll be cheaper, or at least more fun, to fly someone over to the UAE to help me transport my stuff. You'd be allowed a hand carry, and I'd take care of the rest of your luggage. Sounds good, eh? A free trip to the middle east?

I dont know what sortof requirements this competition should have, nor am I moving anytime soon. But I just wanted to throw this out there to get you all thinking to yourselves (all four of my readers) - what do you have to contribute to this competition? Aaron is out in the lead, as he's given himself a lot of points for random reasons... he is a biker, going to build a tree house, and was sipping starbucks as we were chatting. Raquel got some points too, as she can't say no to a dare (so long as you dare her 3 times). So here's where everyone stands in the running:

Aaron: 34
Raquel: 14
Mateo: 100 points for cuteness* (can't travel alone, nor can he carry his luggage)
BMac: 12
Damaris: 20

Wednesday, January 6, 2010



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

rugby call center

my dad said to me tonight, "i'm not sure if it's a step forward to go from being a college hooker to a professional arab call girl"

moral of the story: even hookers and call girls love starbucks.