Tuesday, July 31, 2007

26 hours in The Emirates

July 8, 11.00PM a KLM-plane dropped a bold headed, unprepared globetrotter in the heat of Dhubai. At the airport, the welcome committee was there to assure a soft landing. Although there were no welcome boards, the welcome committee was not to be missed; between
some Arab Princes a Philipino guy could easily be recognized and in the women-line a Chinese lady on flipflops looks still rather different than the burka-women out of the Emirates. Q's Knight Intelligent Two Thousand (KITT) brought us in 1.5 hours to the residential scene of Abu Dhabi. In one of the fine looking high-story buildings, I got introduced to the more familiar gadget household of King Q III. Probably it will change a bit the coming weeks when his lady is fully installed as well. Another soft landing was the cold beer from the fridge, the good-old "haringmaatjes" taken along from Schiphol and the small birthday songs for Q and Shu.

Next day sightseeing in the heat of AbuDhabi................... And there is far more to see than just white sand!!!!!! Everything is under construction and the most astronomous projects are rolled-out (all with very good taste!!). It turned out that Q's KITT is one of the least expensive cars driving around. And apart from that you will also notice that the Westerners are 2nd rank citizens here; beautiful houses, shops, cars, palaces and mosks show that there is some money to spend. The Emirates is a way of living which this globetrotter has not experienced yet and unfortunatelly my stop-over lasted only 26 hours, but I can assure you Q and Shu you'll be having an excellent experience the coming years! Q it was good to see you after such a long time and I bet it's not the last time that you'll see me in The Emirates. Thanks for everything,

Sailing was great!

Shu and I paid a quick visit to The Netherlands -the first time since I left in May- to attend a wedding (congratulations N&F!) and go sailing with some friends.
It was a very hectic few days (would you expect anything else from us?), but definitely a lot of fun.
I'm already back in UAE, back to work, Shu's in Amsterdam staying with a friend and leaving for Prague tomorrow.

We were very lucky with the weather. Predictions told us to basically expect anything, from rain, showers, occasional lightning, the works... But thanks to the ever-reliable Ferdinandt Goed Weer Garantie (Ferdinandt Good Weather Guarantee), we stayed dry the whole time and even enjoyed a very welcome 4-5 beaufort wind, which made for excellent sailing!
At night, around 10 of the 30 people were very busily preparing dinner, which resulted in a very delicious (if I may say so myself) barbecue! Yes, there was saté-sauce made by yours truly! ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Let the Travelling Begin!

Greetings from the beautiful Lake Geneva in Switzerland! :)

Nobody saw it coming, but it did happen. Under the spell of "inshallah", I was able to get my UAE residence visa (and therefore my Canadian passport back) last Thursday, which allowed me to travel again. Since my cousin Fang from China is on a business trip in Switzerland, I decided to meet up with her - with Q's wonderful support of course. So the next thing I know, I was on a plane to Geneva.

I love the fact that I get to meet some really interesting people when travelling. The guy sitting next to me on the plane was a Lebanese who grew up in Saudi and UAE, studied in Switzerland, and now work in Boston. My couchsurf host last night is a Mexican, studied in Montreal and now study Ph.D. in Switzerland. There were so much stories shared - it's truly amazing.

So yes, I managed to couchsurf again - yipee! My CS host Rosario was totally cool, and I was apparently very lucky to find her because she is not busy with work at this point and between travelling herself. We had an amazing time biked down along the lake and bought freshly-made baguette, prosciutto, cheese, tomatos and spinach from grocery store, borrowed cutlery from some restaurant, and asked for some salad dressing from another picnic party - bueno, a nice picnic on the beach! C'est la vie. :)

In five days, I will be flying from Geneva to Amsterdam, reuniting with Q for the weekend to attend a friend's wedding and also some motorcycling and sailing! After that, Q will go back to Abu Dhabi, and I'll take my travelling on to Prague. My current return ticket from Geneva to Abu Dhabi is booked for early September due to over-sold flights, but I hope to return earlier and will try to do standby in late August. The rest will be inshallah. :)

p.s. Did zou know the Swiss kezboard has letter 'y' and 'z' switched? Now zou know. ö

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Everything is Inshallah

Q on the phone with mobile support:"So when can I hear from you about the problem we just talked about?" Support staff:"Soon, sir, inshallah." Q again with another question, and support staff again, "Inshallah, sir".

"Inshallah" means "if God's willing" in Arabic. I heard of it long before I arrived. It's really the universal law that things are based on here - from food delivery to visa application, from test drive reservation to newspaper subscription - everything is inshallah, and people use it in daily conversations, all the time.

So it's been a week since I've arrived in the sand pit. What's changed? Well, the weather for an important one. Except for the first day, I haven't found the hot weather to be a problem! I try to avoid going out at noon hours, but more active in the evening and night like other locals. Most of the local businesses close btwn 1-4 pm and stay open till 10 pm. The city becomes a lot more lively at night when it's cooler.

Another thing I've been getting more used to is the address system here. All the major roads are numbered, like 3rd or 6th street, and they are also given a proper name, like "Sheikh Zayed the First Rd" or "Hamdan bin Mohammod Rd", but neither is used in reality, instead their nicknames are used, like "Najdah Rd" or "Passport Rd" - and you don't find these nicks anywhere in the map, Q taught me most of the ones I've managed to memorize so far. :) And when people describes their addresses, it's never number + road name, they are referenced by the major building landmark nearby, like hotels, malls or banks. For example, when I ordered my first food delivery, I gave my address like "the Emirates Bank building next to the Nissan showroom on Najdah Rd (N.B. nickname for the 6th Street), Rm ####" and 20 min later, I had hot food knocking on the apartment door! And it's not just the delivery service, taxi and other locals do the same thing. Of course it gets even more complicated when within each major blocks there are local numbered streets like 3rd or 6th street, but the trick is that they are in green signs, whereas the major roads are in blue! :D The system is so confusing and tricky - we both love it. :)

(P.S. Mailing addresses are different though as apartments don't deliver mail - no, I'm not making this up! Everyone uses PO Box here. Q and I have decided to go with the PO Box from his work for now.)

A couple days ago I made my first official shopping visit to the Abu Dhabi Mall - 15 min easy walk from the apartment. And to my pleasant surprise, I met a fellow Canadian woman in a sweet shop (where else?!?). We only had a quick 5 min conversation, but managed to exchange contact info for a possible future meetup (I hope!). When I tried to describe to her our apartment location - take this - she actually cut me short and asked me which building it was nearby! The moment I mentioned the Nissan showroom on Najdah Rd, she gave me the got-it look. :) Gotta love the system.

Anyway, my first week went by very fast, and everything has been great - even when Q and I had to learn how to share a thing or two around the apartment, like the laptop. ;) We shall manage though, inshallah. :)

N.B. Next time I (or we) should talk about the foods here - just had yummy and cheap filipino dinner in a ghetto neighbourhood joint - LOVE it! :)

Monday, July 9, 2007

My First Day in Abu Dhabi

After 13 hrs flight, I arrived in Abu Dhabi with one purse, one carry-on bag, four bottles of duty-free single malt whiskey and two check-in luggages - which I must mention were packed using computer monitor boxes for maximum weight-volume capacity. *Insert nerdy smile.*

My first surprise came when I walked through the arrival gate, and there was no Q! Apparently because the flight arrived early and a malfunction in Q's cell phone, he was still at home and I had to spend the first half an hour in AD alone at the airport! I didn't mind it though - it turned out to be quite an interesting experience, as I barely fit in my cart in the tiny elevator in order to get to the washroom a level up - it's hard to believe that there is an airport that is more inconvenient than Toronto Pearson! Anyway, at 8 am local time Sunday morning, Q managed to get to the airport and we finally reunited - yay! And we managed to fit all my luggages in his Ford Focus rental car - double yay!

SO my second surprise came during our drive back home. As we were getting back to the city and just going with the traffic flow, there was a car sticking out from the left-turning lane next to us at the intersection. And just as we were driving through the intersection, there were car tire squealing, a loud bang and next thing you know, car parts flying everywhere - we were at such a close range to witness a quite serious car accident! It looked pretty much like what you see in Hollywood action movies, except too real to be entertained about. Our guess is that the car was trying to make a left turn and didn't see the incoming traffic, oh well, bad situation, good traffic lesson for me. Wowie!

As for the weather, two-thumbs-up to Q for not even complaining about it once in the past two months. I have to admit that I was quite surprised how hot it felt to me. At ~7 am in the morning, it was 30 degrees celcius - ok, still managable. But about an hour later when I stepped out of the car after arriving at the apartment building, oh boy, it felt like my leg was getting steamed when I put it out - I almost pulled it right back in the car! Definitely much hotter than I expected. Later on as the day progressed, I got a lot more comfortable with the heat level. It's funny that when we stepped from air-conditioned indoor shopping mall out to the parking lot, my glasses fogged up instantly - like how they do when we step back indoor in very cold Canadian winter weather! :)

The apartment. Yes, I'm finally here, and typing this posting to you from the living room of *our* apartment. Q did a wonderful job with picking it out and setting it up. And the aparment itself is actually more spacious than I thought. We (yes, "we", not just Q! :) even cooked our first meal in the afternoon - both of us very happy!

My first day in Abu Dhabi ended with a drive with Q to Dubai airport - that's right, two airports in one day - to pick up Q's friend Pim who's visiting in transit between Amsterdam and Shanghai. It's only a one-day short stay, but hey, Pim's our first official visitor!

I'm signing off now - it's 4 am local time. So all in all, a very busy and interesting day, and everyone's happy! Ahh, never a dull moment, huh? ;)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Shu: Welcome to Abu Dhabi!

Welcome, sweetie, to Abu Dhabi and the start of us living together! :)
(that was the personal part of this blog ;)

As I'm writing this, Shu's airplane should be leaving the Canadian airspace on it's way to Abu Dhabi!
After having spent two months 'setting up camp' here in Abu Dhabi, I am very much ready for Shu to arrive and enjoy this new experience together with me.
To sum things up: everything's going good so far! I'm really enjoying myself, although I very much want Shu to be a part of it. Work has been great, I will blog about this topic soon, I know you all want to know how I'm fairing. Basically, I've done two months training and I need only one more month before I checkout.
I've made new friends, mostly through work. I really like our apartment, it's a nice size, centrally located, I get to work in under 20 mins, walk almost everything in the downtown area.

The next thing I'm looking forward to is Traveling! As most of you know, both Shu and I are avid travelers, and I (we!) can't wait to explore the Middle East, Africa and Asia region, which all are very close! When that happens, this'll be the first place you'll read about it!

(photo taken by my friend 'Mr. G.', it's the Sheik Zayed Grande Mosque, still under construction. It's gigantic! They actually had to scale it down because the original size would've made it bigger than the mosque in Mecca, and that's a big no-no of course!)

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Dance

At Jin and Jason's wedding, I was already quite emotional photographing Neil slow dancing with Jin like a pair of loving father and daughter. After it was over, to my surprise, Neil turned around to me, "Would you like to dance?" Almost instantly tears just welled up in my eyes. "I might cry", I said to him. To which he answered with such a kind smile, "That's what the shoulder is for." You should've seen it - it was so sweet.

Thank you Neil. Thank you Jin.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

W-1 =)

Only one week before Shu arrives in Abu Dhabi! And I have to tell you, I can't wait. The last time we were together was when Shu left The Netherlands on May 1st, and it has been the longest period in our relationship that we have not seen each other for.
Apart from that, I think her arrival will really mark the start of our new adventure.

Shu: good luck, my dear, the coming week with everything that still needs doing. I'm awaiting your arrival eagerly. Our place is all ready!

And on the very same day our first guest will arrive! But he'll be landing in Dubai, so we still have to figure out how to get him to Abu Dhabi. Anyways, to our first guest: we will have the spare bedroom setup for you to enjoy!

In the meantime... I've been playing around a little bit with Google Maps, and here's the result. Mind you, it's a work in progress, I actually intend to use it as our reference map! But you can find our house in there, and if you click Hybrid or Satellite, you will get to see our actual apartment building!

Shu: see you in a week! q:)