The day after we returned from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, we went on a desert safari that took place in the evening. (Step-dad stayed in since his stomach was still hurting.) Travel Friend left Dubai – as he was departing via Abu Dhabi airport to return to the States the next morning – and met us in Abu Dhabi to go with us on the safari. Another travel group member (Travel Friend 2), who was in the United Arab Emirates at the same time as us, drove from Dubai and wound up going with us at the last minute. We had a good time.
We went on the evening desert safari with the Abu Dhabi Desert Safari company in Al Khatim Desert. There isn’t much to say; hopefully the photos speak for themselves. (I didn’t include all photos; I didn’t want to post photos of anyone just in case they prefer privacy.)
After returning from the safari, step-dad was up & about, feeling better. Even though we didn’t get back until a little after 21:00, our host (an expatriate who’s also a travel group member) surprised us by taking us on a bit of a tour of her part of the city. (Travel Friend 2 went straight to the airport after the safari to catch her flight home.) There isn’t much to say here either; hopefully the photos speak for themselves.
By the time we finished eating, it was almost midnight so we called it a night. Tomorrow was our last full day there, Travel Friend had a red-eye flight, and we (the 3 of us) had a couple of things to do before our departure.
This is just a small sample of my photos taken in 2012. Feel free to look at my archived Weekly Photo Challenge posts for more.
Here it is again. I went solo this time. I won’t write much because the Chocolate Festival is pretty much the same every time. Just check out the photos and related links below.
December 2011 festival https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/ukchocolate-festival/
April 2012 festival https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/miym-cf_030412/
Reblogging my own blog post. Cheesy? Yes. Do I care? Not really. It saves me the energy of writing another post about today, since the same thing happens every year. ;-)
Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night) is an annual celebration observed on the night of November 5th involving fireworks displays and, of course, bonfires involving Guy Fawkeseffigies (and sometimes Pope effigies) throughout cities & towns in the United Kingdom (and some other countries). (Food is a major bonus.) Guy Fawkes attempted to overthrow King James I on November 5, 1605 in what’s now known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He & his co-conspirators got caught & executed and the king’s subjects, only knowing that an uprising almost happened (they didn’t know the who/what/where/when/why behind the attempted uprising), celebrated their king being saved by having celebratory bonfires.
I bought myself some bangers & crumpets to eat in solidarity. ;-) There have also been fireworks going off throughout the week in my area, as well as other areas through which I travel. When this…
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I wrote a post about the Chocolate Festival a few months ago. Well, it’s back in a few towns again and unlike the last time, I went with a friend & met up with 3 people from Meetup. I also got to buy myself a couple of treats this time (no laughing ATM for now). Rather than write the same things that I wrote in the last festival post, take a look at a few new photos instead. In the meantime, I’ll have a bite of my brownie with white chocolate chips & a bite of my piece of red velvet cake, please & thank you.
As an added bonus, here’s some beef chilli flavored with dark cocoa and topped with pico de gallo & shredded cheese. It was surprisingly good.
And these are for me. Sorry, no sharing. :-|
One of the best inventions known to man is online grocery shopping. As someone who has a hectic job, no car (yet) or energy sometimes, this is a (lazy/tired/exhausted/working) woman’s dream come true. So once I got settled into my own flat, I took full advantage. I pick up items from the big-box versions of (online & non-online) stores when basic items run out or I need something quick, but most is online.
Most people in the United Kingdom get paid only once per month, so we’re careful with grocery shopping. While I don’t have a family to feed, I make sure that I have enough cash to buy food along with paying annoying bills. So I was quite annoyed a few months ago when I missed my grocery delivery from a certain store because of its terrible customer service.
I’d just been paid and, as usual, placed my grocery order. I thought that everything was fine until I received a text message from the grocery store (something to the effect of)
Please contact customer service as soon as possible at (phone number), otherwise today’s order is canceled.
Again, I don’t have a family to feed, but I have to eat just like everyone else. So even though I was on public transportation and hate talking on the phone in public, food is important so I called back. The customer service representation, a woman, said “We’re having trouble getting your payment for your order.” I said
Alright. I’m on my way to work, so I’ll go to the bank and see what’s going on because I know that the money is there. I’ll call back afterwards; maybe there’s an issue at the bank.
So instead of going to the office, I went to the bank first. After waiting in the queue for a few minutes (rare), the bank teller (known as “cashier” in the United Kingdom) was ready for me. I explained the situation, she checked my account and said
Everything’s fine. You have more than enough to cover the order.
Would you mind if I called (grocery store) in front of you to see what happens? For some reason, my order isn’t going through.
There were very few people in the bank (rare) so she let me go ahead.
I called customer service & spoke with a different representative. I explained the situation, requesting that he attempt the order again. He tried it and the order didn’t go through. He said (something to the effect of)
It’s isn’t going through. You don’t have enough money, so you need to go to your bank and see what’s going on.
Sir, I’m in the bank now standing in front of a cashier who already checked my account, and there’s more than enough to cover the order. Please try again.
He tried again and said
It’s not going through. You don’t have enough money. It’s not a problem on (grocery store’s) end.
I repeated myself again and added
It has to be on your end. I’m telling you, the cashier is showing me the computer screen with my account information as we speak and there is more than enough to cover it. You can even speak to her if you’d like.
(By this time, she was speaking loud enough for him to hear that the account is fine and that it has to be on [grocery store’s] end and not the bank’s end.)
He stated that it wasn’t necessary because it was the bank’s fault and “the bank needs to fix the problem, not (grocery store).” I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor, and he said that no one was available (liar).
By this time I was late for work, annoyed & hungry since I didn’t have breakfast, and pissed that I wouldn’t have groceries because my refrigerator was close to bare. I also had a strict exercise schedule after work so if I had to go to the store myself, it threw a wrench into my after-work plans. So I let him have it nice & loud. (That’s also the day that I realized the strength of my New York City accent and boy, did it come out that day.) I can’t remember every word, but it went something like this:
I’ve lived here for a year. I’ve ordered groceries from this store ever since I moved here. I’ve given you my business each month without fail, and this is how you wanna treat me? I told you for the hundredth time that I’m in the bank in front of a cashier and the money is there, I asked you to let me speak with a supervisor and you said no, and you refuse to bend. You refuse to consider that (grocery store) have the issue, not me. So you know what? Cancel my order and my account. I’ve had it. You’ve lost another customer.
He said “Okay.” and I hung up on him. Friggin’ jerk.
I thanked the teller, apologized for being loud in the bank (she understood), and went to work. I told my co-workers what happened and while they found it amusing, they also found it annoying. I didn’t know that customer service in this country was so… lacking.
Coming from the United States, I’m used to better customer service overall; some representatives even brown-nose when it’s unnecessary. I salute good customer service representatives because I know the nonsense they have to deal with – rude & downright disgusting customers, terrible pay, sometimes no health or vacation benefits & terrible bosses/employers. I’ve worked in customer service as a teller & in other capacities and know how bad it is. I’ve walked away from a few customers in the past – didn’t wanna catch a case. :-|
So, I “get” it. Customer service isn’t the best job to work in. Been there, done that, the customer is not always right. I also understand, having been to European countries, that Europe’s overall culture isn’t into customer service that brown-noses like the U.S. But no matter the country, representatives should offer a level of service such that the customer is helped as much as possible. That level of service is lacking here overall; even native Britons complain about it. (I’ve heard that France is worse.)
I doubt that it’ll ever change and that’s fine. I don’t have to like it but I’m used to it. I’ve written this rant for wanna-be expatriates and/or travelers: no country is perfect, including so-called First World countries. You’ll run into annoyances like this sometimes. You don’t have to totally assimilate into the adopted country’s culture, but understand that some things are standard & may never change. Figure out ways to deal or return to your home country.
Epilogue: I e-mailed a complaint to the store. A woman e-mailed me and her response was utter garbage – no apology for her colleague, no request to stay with the store, no offers to make me reconsider leaving the store – nothing. That evening, I skipped the gym and went food shopping at another store. I order online from the new store instead & haven’t had any issues since. I also found out that the former store is a Wal-Mart affiliate. Now it all makes sense. :-|
Does anyone have any annoying customer service stories? What’s customer service like in your adopted country? Do you prefer customer service in your home country, or is it better in your adopted country?
What does chocolate remind you of? Does it bring back childhood memories? Does it bring back adult memories? (*evil grin*)
When I think of chocolate, I reminisce about being a kid and drinking Nestle Quick chocolate milk. I remember learning how to make S’mores in home economics class. I reminisce about the different varieties of chocolate chip cookies that my mother would bring home – Chips Ahoy, Keebler, Pepperidge Farm, Mrs. Fields, Sean’s cookies, local grocery store bakeries. I think of my all-time favorite ice cream cake, Carvel, with the layer of chocolate ice cream and chocolate cookie crumble. Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes aren’t too bad either.
The memories. *drool*
While I’m far from a chocoholic, based on my nostalgia I can understand how millions of people worldwide have such unconditional & undying love for chocolate. So when I found out that the annual Chocolate Festival was coming back to town 12.09-11.2011, I decided that unlike last year – when I was more lazy & colder than I am now – I’d definitely attend to see what the big deal is. I wanted to go with at least 1 person, but life doesn’t work out the way that I want it to so I went solo. And as usual, it was nice.
(Well… except when the cash machine laughed at me when I tried getting cash to buy some chocolate. Maybe that’s a good thing for my health.)
The Festival was held for a full weekend and took place on 2 levels – street level and inside a venue. I didn’t feel like going into the venue so I stayed on the street.
For someone who isn’t a die-hard chocoholic, that was enough for me. Check out these photos to see why:
Along with buying ready-made chocolate products, one vendor sold kits for people to make their own chocolate and has a program specifically for 16-24 year olds to make & sell their own chocolate – entrepreneurship at its best. One of the partners, Kieran, said that he & his business partner are available to visit schools to showcase the business. In this terrible economy, I applaud them for giving others the opportunity to make a little legal change.
Although I couldn’t buy anything, I took many samples and collected many business cards. I plan to give 1 or 2 of them my business in the future.
Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night) is an annual celebration observed on the night of November 5th involving fireworks displays and, of course, bonfires involving Guy Fawkes effigies (and sometimes Pope effigies) throughout cities & towns in the United Kingdom (and some other countries). (Food is a major bonus.) Guy Fawkes attempted to overthrow King James I on November 5, 1605 in what’s now known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He & his co-conspirators got caught & executed and the king’s subjects, only knowing that an uprising almost happened (they didn’t know the who/what/where/when/why behind the attempted uprising), celebrated their king being saved by having celebratory bonfires.
I bought myself some bangers & crumpets to eat in solidarity. ;-) There have also been fireworks going off throughout the week in my area, as well as other areas through which I travel. When this occurred last year, I didn’t know much about the celebrations and thought that the fireworks were gunshots. (I grew up in a rough neighborhood so I can’t always tell the difference between the two.) Now that I’m settled in here, I not only know what the noises are, I’ve also taken on a few British customs – Bonfire Night being one of them. One of my co-workers also gave me some history about it because a few months ago, there were rumors that a certain council wasn’t going to celebrate this year (those rumors were later confirmed to be false), and since I only knew the basics about the celebrations she was kind enough to send me some information about the full history.
‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!’
A children’s song for Bonfire Night
Wanna learn more about this festive celebration and its history? Take a look at the links below.
Guy Fawkes http://www.guyfawkes.me.uk/
Bonfire Night http://www.bonfirenight.net/
Guy Fawkes Night (Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_Night
Bonfire Night recipes (BBC Good Food) http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/recipes/occasions/bonfire-night/
Gunpowder Plot of 1605 http://www.gunpowder-plot.org/
What if the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded? (The Telegraph) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8870255/What-if-Guy-Fawkess-Gunpowder-Plot-had-succeeded-in-1605.html
Guy Fawkes mask inspires Occupy protests worldwide (CNN) http://articles.cnn.com/2011-11-04/world/world_europe_guy-fawkes-mask_1_mask-protests-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange?_s=PM:EUROPE
Guy Fawkes Day: Remembering the straw man, bonfires, and treacle toffee http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/10799095-guy-fawkes-day-remembering-the-straw-man-bonfires-and-treacle-toffee