Monday, January 23, 2012

Nights with stars

The last few days here in Dubai has been positively cold and miserable.  Yesterday was 18 degrees Celsius and today 19, the occasional howling winds are not really helping much.  Over the weekend (Friday and Saturday over here) we even had rain.  I miss my warm clothes - at my parents’ house in Saldanha – definitely bringing it back when we’re coming back from SA at the end of summer holidays.

The school here has the most interesting extramural activities for the children to choose from, they have to do three extra murals every week.  On Sundays Louis does chess and Skye chose Manuscript Illumination (you’re going to have to ask her about it – I don’t know,) on Mondays Louis does Film Appreciation and Skye does 3D Art and for the Wednesdays extramural session both of them joined the Robotics and Astronomy club.  Last week Wednesday the club had an overnight camp at the Dubai Astronomy group’s camp site, just outside of Sharjah.  (I’ve included the link if you’re in the UAE and want to go yourselves – really worth it, they have programs or you can just go for the night – camping site or chalet-type accommodation available.) 

Although I didn’t think the overnight on a school night was a good idea, the experience opportunity swayed the balance and since the school invited parents along we all decided to go.  If you’re into sky-watching you’ll know that on winter nights the skies are generally clearer than on summer nights but the down side of that is that it gets really really cold.  The school provided tents, food and drinks we just had to bring our own sleeping bags.  And it was amazing; the astronomer looked like he could have been personal friends with Galileo Galilei with his long white beard, dish-dasha and wrinkles that almost completely covered his smiling eyes.  

He entertained the children with stories of Cassiopeia and Orion, pointing at the stars he spoke about with this ultra-cool green laser-light thingy, and later on all of us had the opportunity to see the planets and stellar bodies that was overhead through his telescope.  The camp is close enough to the city to be bothered by the light pollution, but nevertheless, being out under the stars, with a campfire and a telescope is still among my favourite things in the world.   Around ten o’clock the academic stuff started to wind down and as a result the children - around thirty teenagers’ energy (read irritation factor) started to climb proportionally. 

The parents who came but decided not to stay over started leaving around then and frozen as we were, we made a snap decision to also go home, rather than face the typical early morning after a desert camp, with sand in everything from your teeth to your toast, not to mention the close to zero overnight temperatures.  Louis was quite happy to go, but Skye gave us the silent treatment (she’s so cute when she tries to ‘glare’ at you with those soft brown eyes of hers.)  We will have to do a proper desert camp as soon as we have our own 4x4, hopefully that will be within the next two months.

On Friday evening Tinus’ company had a New Year’s function.  I thought that was such a nice idea, instead of having another end-of-year party, a party at this time of year gets things started off on a (in this case – super spectacular) high.  The company has grown so much, I knew very few people there, but it was wonderful to see some people I knew again, most of whom I haven’t seen in ten years.  The theme of the evening was a night at the Oscars.  I though the person who did the planning timed it perfectly, since, as those of you who follow things like this will know, the Oscar evening in America took place over the past week.  
Not only was the theme great, but the idea behind the evening was this:  Each department had to make their own version of a popular short film, starring the personnel working in that section.  The categories were Action, Drama, and Musical or Comedy.  The best per category films were chosen by the panel of judges (I think they were the company exec.) there were also awards for best actor and best overall film of the evening.  The winners received actual Oscar statuettes but the most beautiful part for me was that each winner chose a charity; the company then donated money to the chosen charity on behalf of the winners.    

The venue was the Raffles Hotel, next to the Wafi Mall.  After our Egyptian holiday the beautifully done Egyptian hieroglyphs that adorn the hotel’s walls was even more striking and the décor for the evening was perfect. The tables were covered with ice white linen and golden brocade overlays with silver stars sprinkled – quite tastefully, everywhere.  The shiny long stemmed glasses mirrored the literally millions of crystals hanging overhead off the chandeliers, grouped in threes over the vast ceiling of the hall, with gigantic prints of Oscar statues on the walls, strangely echoing the giant Egyptian statues of Ramses II on either side of the  huge wooden doors.  I love to dress up, and I think these days we don’t do it nearly as often as I would like to.  Fortunately everybody was donned in their best elegant wear, the Indian ladies’ saris are stunning and the all the beautiful people in their stunning outfits made the evening complete.

Tinus’ group did their own special rendition of Braveheart – Al Braveheart, I’ll try to insert the video, the massive sword is the handiwork of Louis and Skye, and the narrator is Tinus - real good Scottish accent I think :)  In the action category they were up against Terminator II, which sadly, won, many people agree with me that they were indeed better, but that’s how life goes sometimes.  Max was nominated for best actor and their film was also one of the final three in the best all over movie, but sadly once again, they were bettered by the Terminator, but I believe they “will – be – back” next year. 

Somewhere between Slumdog Millionaire and Mama Mia I went outside for some ‘fresh air’ only to discover that it has been raining.  What a brilliant feeling!  I tell you, even in the middle of a very modern city, rain in the desert is still special.  I felt like dancing in the rain and had a bit of a moment with one of the locals I ran into.  His face also bore one of those brilliant involuntary smiles as we stood outside, talking about the weather, both of us, almost, “singing and dancing in the rain.”

P.S.  (After the update on 25 Jan) The video is the final version shown at the event, this version also includes the Terminator II movie, so what do you think, Al Braveheart or Terminator II ?? :)  Click here to see if you can see video, it's very big so I hope you get it up/down loaded.

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