Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Garlic sauce!

Shu forgot to mention the ***garlic sauce*** they give with every platter.... seriously delicious and very potent stuff (imagine garlic breath cone for hours!)


(should you visit, expect to try it yourself!)

Comfort Food

I am so happy that I have found (and double-confirmed!) my first official comfort food in AD - it is the starter salad served at the Lebanese Grill restaurant! As shown below, the salad is composed of two small bowls of olives (dark and light), one dipping sauce (often hummus) and one big plate of various greens like fresh wine leaves, green onion, green pepper, baby radish, and sorted pickles. The best part is it is all *free* as long as the main order is a platter dish (instead of just sandwiches), which are in the range of AED 20 (~6 dollars or 4 euros). The main platter I had tonight had two grilled hammour fillets with fries and grilled tomato and onion slices. My breath stank terribly after indulging in such wonderful food, but oh dear, was my tummy happy! :)

Hooray for us, the restaurant is conveniently located across our building, and I am slowly becoming a regular since I go there sometimes when Q is at work and I don't feel like cooking alone. (The latter clause is quite redudant actually if you know me. ;)

Needless to say, Q likes it too since he was so enthusiastic to tell me about Lebanese Grill in the first place. :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Check out our new wheels!

Ok, ok, I've actually had it for over 10 days now... but still...

This is our new ride!

I surprised Shu with it when she arrived back from her travels in Central Europe, and the past 4 days we took it for a spin to the east coast of U.A.E., Fujairah, where we went diving as well!
It took me a good 3 months before finally deciding which car to buy, and it is this one, the Lexus IS300. A pre-owned car, with only 8000 km on the dial. It is in 'local' style white, and I had the windows tinted as well (which is both used as a fashion statement by the locals, but also helps with keeping your car that little bit cooler during the hot months).

And so far... it has been a dream to drive! And if all goes well, Shu should have her driving license (she needed to convert her Canadian one to a U.A.E. one) and will be able to drive it as well!

Here's a link with more info:
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I've passed!

After successfully doing my final practical, written *and* oral exam (yes, three exams... they love giving exams...), I now am a certified Air Traffic Control Officer in U.A.E. ACC! :)

I am one happy camper!

Blonder than Blond!

I am in Zurich. As I am typing up this post, I have no choice but putting up with my quite dry contact lenses for a bit longer, because I lost my prescription glasses, that and a few more things. (Yes, Troy, even the guts and smarts wear out sometimes. :)

So the story. After spending the past two nights in Salzburg, this morning I woke up at 5:30 A.M. to catch a train to Innsbruck, my last Austrian city for this trip. At 8:30 A.M, I arrived at Innsbruck train station. I quickly stored away my big backpack in one of the very modern and secure-looking luggage lockers and started exploring the city. Later in the afternoon I got back to the train statio to pick up my luggage before hopping on the next train continuing to Zurich. When I put the printed ticket in the machine, the locker popped open right away - except it was completely *empty*! Immediately I was thinking high-tech theft! I called the train station security, I went to the police station, I insisted on checking video survillience tape to find the thief, and did I mention I could't understand any of the converstations because they spoke German? Basically I was in pretty $hitty situation.

Mind you, I did have all the essentials like passport and credit cards with me, but boy, did I feel like a mother lost her child - for those of you who know, I am very attached to my bag and wool socks and a few other things. Anyway, long story short, about 1.5 hour searching later, finally the security officer got a callback from the video team. You should've seen my reaction when he told me that apparently I put my bag in one locker, and closed a different (and empty!) one!!! GOSH, did I feel stupid. No offence to anyone, but I was blonder than blonde!

Just as I was about to give up hope after we went through almost all the lockers, it dawned on me that we should check the lost-and-found department. A few minutes later, we received a call and very lucky for me a cleaner picked up my bag from some corner, but apparently the camera tape showed a young man discovered my bag, went through it quickly and took away some items on the outside pockets including my glasses, spare cell phone, flash light (that's "torch" for you Europeans), and some chargers for electronics - but I didn't care. I was just *so* happy to get my bag back. Anyway, here is a photo to prove the episode:
Thinking back, in retrospective, I would still manage if I did lose my bag, the more important thing like Q said "as long as you are safe."

I must also mention my CS stay in Salzburg was excellent! My host Michael led me transpassing private property to see an original movie location for The Sound of Music! That and a few other very Salzburg things like watching kayaks and outdoor opera screening. Here is a photo of my sleep corner, dedicated to the Toronto lunch crew. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Check out my new wheels!

No, the bike's not blocking the view of my new ride, the bike is my new ride!

It's a Pakistani bike! Not as sturdy as the Dutch counterparts, but then again, this was quite a bit cheaper!
So now I can bike to locations which I don't want to drive to (parking can be horrible) and are too far to walk to! And of course it gives me much needed exercise...

And it'll carry Shu on the back :)

(by the by, everyone I've seen biking on these Paki bikes leaves the bubble-wrap and cardboard wrapping on, so I do too! It might be the most vital part holding this thing together!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Couchsurfing (Mis)adventures

Greetings from Vienna! Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the summer! As you know, I have been on the couchsurfing quest for the past couple weeks while travelling through Europe, and thought you might enjoy some of my (mis)adventure stories.

So it all started with Rosario in Lausanne, and I have blogged about the experience in my last post. This is her showing where I slept, basically a mattress on the floor next to her dorm bed.

Then it was with Karine in Geneva. She took me in even when she already had another CS guest! Very sweet of her to do a picnic in the park with me - great outdoor music venue btw. I slept in the living room foldable couch-bed. Karine was very considerate to keep Socrates, her dog, in her room overnight to keep him away from sniffing me. :)
During my stay in the Netherlands, I was very well taken care of at Hotel Wijnberg, a.k.a. Wads and Bart´s (N.B. Q´s parents) house, and later on at Anne´s fabulous apartment in Amsterdam centrum. (Sorry, no photos avail here.)

Ivan met me outside Namesti Miru (Miru Square) church when I arrived in Prague a week ago. At his (and his three housemates) apartment, I stayed four nights. It was one of the classic communist-era apartment with high ceiling and huge gates - definitely a unique experience. Ivan was very nice to offer his own room, which I politely declined and opted for the kitchen/hallway/dining room where there was a futon-like bed. I had a great time getting to know two other CS hosts, Mats and Brano. Funny thing was all three of them were Slovak, not Czech! Here is a photo of Ivan on the train ride leaving Prague just before we said goodbye and I went on to Cesky Krumlov.
Cesky Krumlov is a beautiful small town in south Czech. Unfortunately there weren´t any CS hosts. Thanks to Jane, an Aussie girl´s referral, I stayed in Hostel Postel for one night - that was my first commercial accomodation on this trip, not bad, I say. At the same time, I also met Martijn and Quintus, a pair of father and son from the Netherlands. After seeing how beautiful C. Krumlov was, I decided to stay one night longer. Just as I was scratching my head about where to stay, it just happened Martijn´s hotel room had an attic with an extra bed. As he semi-joked about `you girls could´ve stay in the extra bed´, I happily took the offer, so the second night I was sleeping in a hotel room attic. How cool was that! Here is a photo ofo Martijn when we were rafting down River Vltara.
After the attic surf, I made my way to another city called Ceske Budejovice (the hometown to the original Budweiser), where I had the most trouble finding a place. Since the CS host I contacted didn´t respond to my txtmsgs when I arrived, I decided to look around bus station for a place to stay overnight since I had an early bus to catch the following day. The first hotel I saw was junk, then the second one looked better, but asked for a lot more money, so while I was trying to bargain the price down, a guy from the restaurant came up and asked if he could help, so I explained my situation, and it turned out Petri was a fellow traveller from Finland, and he recommended his hotel. Since my map of the area wasn't good, and I was also hungry, so I decided to join him for dinner and waited till afterwards so he can take me to the hotel. (N.B. I know how fishy this story sounds, but it gets better! :) After dinner and a pleasant conversation, we headed to Petri´s hotel, and surprise surprise, the hotel reception was closed!! Even though according to the sign, it was supposed to open till 10 pm! So I was stuck yet again, and it was already getting dark. At that point, I was debating going back to the second hotel and just bite the bullet, when Petri suggested (out of his guilty conscious for ´misleading´ me, but really wasn´t his fault), so he suggested that his room had two single beds and I could take the second one. Now, in a strange city, with a complete stranger, even I had to think about it, only if you could see how fast my head was spinning! :) So after a second´s thought, I responded, "That is really generous offer, but I have two conditions: one is for me to share half of the hotel room cost, and the other is to exchange passport info." And that is what we agreed! I txtmsged Petri´s info back to Q for safety sake. As luck would have it, a few minutes after we settled down in the hotel room, I got a txtmsg from the CS host, apparently the cell phone number she gave me earlier was off by one digit. GOSH! I still met up with the CS host very quickly and explained the situation but still went ahead with Petri´s room. In the end, everything worked out great, and I managed to get up at 4:30 am to catch my bus. All is well. (Sorry, no photo here either.)

After leaving Czech, I made my way to Moritz and Angela´s apartment in downtown Vienna. It is a very nice location and space, and I have my own futon bed - nice setup! The first night after I arrived, we went dinner with a few other CS hosts - apparently the Vienna CS group is very active, and there are regular and frequent meetings. Here is a photo from the dinner, from left to right: Pawel, Moritz, Angela and Stefan.

So thanks to everyone I met on the way, couchsurfing has been a great experience. Oh, and I must give a special thanks to my support team back home for helping with my CS search. Till next time!

p.s. After a few stops in Austria, I am heading back to Geneva next Tuesday, hoping to catch an earlier flight back to Abu Dhabi. *Fingers crossed!*

Monday, August 6, 2007

You know it's getting humid when...

...every time you step outside your (sun)glasses fog up...

It used to happen every now and again, but now it happens every time, day or night, stepping out of any building or your car. And the temperature is up as well, we've seen 46 degrees Celsius so far!

The good news... I'm still ok with it! Then again, it's still not at its worst, rumour has it... ;)