Saturday, November 22, 2008

Two-Wheeler, Italian Food, and Dutch Tea in Abu Dhabi!

Life in Abu Dhabi can be annoying (here is a sample UAE soap), but never ever boring. Here is a few recent developments in our lives:

- A few days after the motorcycle purchase, Q got yet another set of two-wheeler and has been loving riding it - with a safety vest on of course! :)

- We had an Italian couchsurfing guest last week, Roberto from Pesaro, who absolutely cooked up an storm in our kitchen. A three-course homemade good-hearted Italian meal - it was heavenly! Grazie tante, Roberto! I know I've said this before, and I will say it again - Couchsurfing is absolutely one of the best ways to travel without leaving home!

- As I am busy preparing for an upcoming exam, I developed a habit of drinking herbal tea while studying. And I was able to finally try out a gift that one of Q's friends gave us - Dutch-made Yogi Tea, I like it! To whoever gave us this cute and thoughtful gift, please come forward as Q forgot who you were - thanks bunches!

p.s. As I am typing this, Q just arrived in Minsk, Belarus, where it's snowing right now. And Abu Dhabi is only uhm - not to make anyone feel bad - 30 degree celcius and sunny. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Got my wheels!


I've finally bought a motorcycle here in Scaby Dhabi!

It's a Honda CBR600F4i, bought second hand from guy in Dubai with a mere 9,000 km on the clock. It looks spic-and-span!

And to top it off, I might just have the shortest license plate I'll ever have, with only 4 digits (it's only 4 because it's a special motorcycle license and there aren't that many around (yet) in Abu Dhabi).

I'm one happy camper!

Now I only have to sell my Aprilia Falco back in The Netherlands... anyone interested? :)

Friday, October 24, 2008


The bread we get in Abu Dhabi is crap, pardon my French. I've only been able to find two places that will sell half decent bread at most, one of 'em charging as much AED12 (around EUR2,50/$3) per loaf of around 6, maybe 10 slices. And I do love my bread...

Ok, I admit, I was spoiled while living in Holland, the Reinkenstraat especially. There were two excellent bakeries within 100 meters of my apartment. Nice 'n fresh, crunchy crust, soft bread, choice of tens of different kinds of bread, from plain white to exotic whole grain multi-blah-blah :)

So I was in the mood to find an alternative, and baking it myself seemed the best option. People have suggested I get my own breadmaker, but for those who've seen our kitchen: ain't gonna fit... and besides, mankind has made bread for ages without the assistance of a bread maker!

Last June while in the States, I picked up a mix of 10-grain stuff to make a loaf, and I still have to try it. But even if it's good, even if it's delicious, we can't get the stuff here, and shipping it over is just plain ridiculous, just for some bread.

Then I stumbled upon a posting in the website Get Rich Slowly (highly recommended, not just for frugal people ;), titled Easy and Cheap home-made bread, now how could I resist?! Here's the result:
Doesn't that just make your mouth water? I did with us! And it not only looks delicious, but the taste was awesome!!! We'll be doing this more often!
Go ahead, friend-cooks of mine, give it a try. It will not disappoint!

And while we're on the topic, this was the veggie dish I made yesterday (along with Poached Salmon with Caper-Egg sauce):
Look at those colors! It's called Roasted Autumn Vegetables, in honor of the fact it is autumn (although it's hard to tell here in Abu...). It had, among others, pumpkin, carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips, red beetroot, drizzled with a little olive oil, bay leaves, rosemary, thai curry leaves and some peppercorns. A treat!

Both recipes came from one of my new additions to my collection, Saveur Cooks Authentic American, which I picked up while in Toronto in a discount book store (we brought with us over 20 books in total, of which 5 cookbooks! Two of the others were The Professional Chef, weighing in at 4 kg(!), and La Cuisine de Référence (thanks, dad, for picking this one up!), both very interesting reference books with a gazillion tips and recipes in them, both well over 1000 pages! (La Cuisine is in French, but it has pictures too! ;) check out the first chapter in PDF format)

(oh, right, our trip to The Netherlands and Canada! More on that later... we had a great time, met up with a million people (thanks for everyone making time for us and even throwing schedules around to meet us!), surprised a handful of them, enjoyed plenty of yummy dinners (Troubadour!), lunches, brunches and whathaveyounot, had great weather most of the time. A big thanks to our dear friends who let us stay at their place! More to follow!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Belarus Trip

As Q mentioned previously, I managed to pull off a five-day trip to Belarus last weekend. For those of you who don't know, Belarus is a small country next to Russia, and was part of former-USSR. And the name Belarus means "White Russia" for its people's fair skin color. Anyway, I found the country uhm interesting in its own way. FYI, I posted some photos in this online photo album.

- Language barrier. In my defence, I was too busy to learn some basic Russian before hand. So after many "denial and error", I only figured out at the end of Day 2 that places with big signs of "PECTOPAH" are restaurants. You see, in Russian alphabets, "P" pronounces as "R", "C" as "S", etc. Thank God for sign language.

- Minsk is also the most un-touristy city I've been to so far. There's very little information in English and I was under the impression that residents were just not used to seeing adventure-type tourists, although I understand there's plenty "other" type tourists. When they see a foreigner wandering their shops and streets, the first guess is likely that he/she is there to study.
- I managed to meet up with a Canadian guy who studied Russian there (Thank you, Jon!) and got some downloads from him that Lonely Planet would never tell. Several thing in particular are that Belarus is a relatively closed country with resticted immigration policy, service in general is horrible (that would explain why sales staff would ignore me most of the time), and apparently a lot of Belarusians are openly racists towards Asians and Africans. Hum.

- Almost all of Minks was rebuilt after destroyed badly during WWII and the USSR regime managed to put in all sorts of KGB-looking concrete buildings, so yeah, the city didn't give off a very romantic feel. Luckily my hotel room has a veiw of the riverside park.

All the interesting things aside, there are two things I would definitely go back to Belarus for: leather boots and ballet/concert/opera performances:

- The national unofficial outfits for Belarussian women are skirts and boots, and the younger they get, the higher the boots go, the taller the heels go, and the shorter the skirts go. Needless to say they have wide variety of good quality (and relatively cheap) leather boots. I only got uhm pairs of shoes - hey, they all fit in my carry-on bag!

- Watched two national ballet and one philharmonic orchestra concerts with row 3 to 5 seats, for a grand total of $18! The cheapest seat only costs $2!! WOW.

All in all, I am not sure if I quite found the pulse of Belarus, but I have a feeling that's probably because it's still sleeping. ...That's my report, from yours truly.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Better Than Sarah Palin

According to the US VP candidate Sarah Palin's theory, I am better than her in foreign policies! That really should not come as a surprise since I've lived in Canada and actually visited a former-USSR country. As a matter of fact, so are the Indian dry cleaner, Pakistanie cab driver, Phillipino cleaning lady - they all have more foreign policy experience than Palin! Now that is scary. Oh wait, we can't play flute or smile as pretty, but surely real foreign policy experience counts as something in a political election?!?

I am not American and I am already so embarrased when I saw her in the interviews. Seriously, just about all of the expats I have spoken to want to see Obama-Biden lead one of the most powerful countries/economies, so for all you Americans reading this, please do the world a favor and pick wisely.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

You know you've been in the Middle East too long if...

(and in between a few photos I took recently out and about in Abu)

  • You're not surprised to see a goat in the passenger seat
  • You serve coffee in a thimble
  • You think everyone's first name is Al
  • You need a sweater when it's 25 degrees Celsius
  • You believe that speed limits are only advisory
  • You expect all police to drive BMWs or Merc's
  • You know whether you are within missile range of Iraq

CRW_1504.jpg Man at fish market

  • You believe that the definition of a nanosecond is the time interval between the time the light turns green and the time that the guy behind you begins to blow his horn
  • You have more carpets than floor space
  • You expect all stores to stay open till midnight
  • You understand that 'wadi bashing' isn't a criminal act
  • You make left turns from the far right lane
  • You accept that there is no point in asking why you are not allowed to do something
  • You send friends a map instead of your address
  • You understand why huge 4x4s must slow down to a snail's pace whilst crossing a speed bump yet hurtle through a wadi at 100 km/h

CRW_1494.jpg Some of the older high-risers in Abu Dhabi

  • You think that "howareyou" is one word
  • You never say Saturday instead of Friday or Sunday instead of Saturday
  • When you can tell the time by listening to the local mosque
  • When you expect queues to be 1 person deep and 40 people wide
  • When you overtake a police car at 160 km/h
  • When you realise that the black and white stripes in the road are not a zebra crossing, just bait to get tourists into the firing line
  • When you know what night is ladies night at every bar in town
  • When seeing guys welcome each other with a kiss no longer disgusts you

CRW_1491.jpg Shaun the Sheep keeping a watchful eye in the doctor's waiting room

  • When you carry 12 passport size photos around with you just in case
  • When you think its a good night if there are fewer than 10 men for every woman in a bar
  • When phrases like 'potato peeler', 'dish washer', and 'fly swatter' are no longer household items but are actually Pakistani job titles
  • When you start to say "Insha'allah" when you actually mean "No f**king chance!"
  • When Habibi isn't just the ex-president of Indonesia
  • When you can smoke a shisha in public without expecting to be arrested
  • When you think 10Dhs (approx $2/€2) is expensive for the latest Playstation game

Sorry, it's a cheap shot... I got it from a friend by e-mail. But it made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it with you!

CRW_1501.jpg Fish being cleaned at the Abu Dhabi fish market

Meanwhile. Yes, I know, I haven't blogged in a long while. All is well! We've been travelling around quite a bit. You've read about our trip to Italy/Switzerland, and our trip to Iran. Other than that, I've been back to The Netherlands (to pick up the bike that we used on our Italy/Switzerland-trip). It was the first time since July last year since I was back (and actually leaving the airport, I made a quick stopover going to and coming from The States in June). So it was a good opportunity to meet up with my parents and friends. A few trips are coming up, but I'll blog about that in due time!

Also, Shu is now in Minsk, Belarus. 'Why?', I hear you ask. Well, because it's there! :) well, that, and there was a special offer on by our house airline Etihad Airways since this was a new destination for them. I couldn't come because I have to work. I'll go in November instead! The intention was to go CouchSurfing (hurray!! for being unblocked in UAE!! btw), but the entry process seemed more like old Russia than anything else. To enter, one needs an invitation from a hotel or tour company or private person. The duration of the visa given is exactly the amount of days that the invitation specifies, not a day longer! Not to burden the people on CS, we shelled out to make reservation at a hotel, which ended up costing more than the ticket! But I'm sure it'll be worth it.

And the fish just before putting it in the oven, it was quite delicious!

As a last note, as you can see in the picture above, I've been cooking more lately. And I've really been enjoying it. I was able to try out different cookbooks I hadn't tried before, there is my Spanish one, a Chinese one (approved by Shu!) and a Jamie cookbook. All have been great successes! And that in our tiny kitchen :)

(last, last note, I've made this post with a new piece of software, if formatting seems weird, that'll be the reason!)

Friday, September 12, 2008

My New Desktop Wallpaper

Mark, Q and I, the three of us, rode two motorcycles for one week in northern Italy and Switzerland a week ago. And the things I've done since returning from it?

1) Plotted out the places we've been to and made the map image my new desktop wallpaper.

2) Researched about expats in Italy, and bugged Q about it, repeatedly.

3) Daydreamed and drooled over my remininsense of the crisp fresh cool air after thunderstorms rolling over the the mountains and heavenly pasta from kitchens run by old and tough Italian women.

Sounds familiar? Yes, it seems that I have a case of "love-at-first-sight" with the Italian Alps.

Mark and Q were the superheros for driving the motorcycles from the Netherlands all the way to Zurich to pick me up before we embarked on the journey. Q only tried to 'murder' me on a few occassions, including pulling off 202 km/her on Italian highway - thankfully all attempts failed. Special thanks to the Ziolek family for hosting us in a lovely quaint little Swiss town, and wow, yummy cheesy raclette!

Mark and Q's loyal rides
Another motorcycle passing by us.

A typical Italian small town where the view from a bathroom is wayyy better than our expensive Abu Dhabi downtown apartment. Ahh...

Hair-pin roads of the famous Stelvio Pass, only 50 marked 180-degree turns before reaching the top! ;)
Looking back at the way up Stelvio!

Whatever goes up must come down.

Another pass just south of Stelvio - we liked it even better!

It got so foggy and scary and exciting!

How about soccer practice at a green field surrounded by the Alps?

Dropped (and broke) my camera after I took this photo of the hotel we stayed at, and that was only day 2 of our trip in Italy. :S

* Viva Italia! *

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chinese Calligraphy for "The National"

A few days I received a phone call from a friend who works for The National newspaper - basically they needed someone who can translate and write the title for a feature article in Chinese. Getting paid (albeit insignificant) to practice writing Chinese in ink - how neat was that! The result was published in today's newspaper.

Sometimes I do feel like "the only gay in the village" (note below) as there are few Chinese expats in Abu Dhabi. I doubt such opportunity would come knock on my door had it been elsewhere.

(Note: Those of you who are familiar with the BBC comedy "Little Britain" know the character Daffyd well. He constantly tells people that he's "the only gay in the village" even though there are plenty others around. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Iran's Best Kept Secret

Q and I made a 4-day trip to Iran last weekend because, well, we wanted a short getaway to somewhere cooler and close by, and Iran fits the criteria! I know what y'all think the moment you hear "Iran"... As it turned out, more than the crazy nuclear stuff and a history longer than that of China, the extremely friendly and curious Iranian people were the country's best kept secret. In fact, here is a statement that I would never thought I could make prior to the trip: among all the countries I have been to, the Iranians were hands down the most welcoming to visitors - by a far stretch! Read on for our stories...

typical way of selling spices at bazar (local market)

Story #1: Q and I arrived at Tehran Railway Station, only to find out that the train tickets we wanted for that night were "sold out". So there we were, tired and desperate, stuck at a big and crowded waiting hall, clueless with the signs and announcements. Then the fellow Iranian travellers were only too eager to help us even though they were waiting for the same last-minute train tickets: they pushed us to the front of the waiting line, passed us waiting ticket stub all the way from front, and signaled to us when we had no clue what the announcements were all about. If not for the special treatment, we wouldn't have been able to sleep on an overnight train later that day. I know it's hard to imagine, but they were really desperate for their own tickets, and yet they still managed to be sweet to "the guests to their country".

All signs look the same at Tehran train station.

Story #2: Q has a running habit of trying barber shops in different countries he travels to, and Iran was no exception. When we had trouble finding one, two university girls were only too happy to ask around for us and took us to a barbershop around street corner. After realizing it's closed for prayer break, they ventured out to find us another one that's up two flights of stairs in a residential lowrise! The girls ran around for us for quite a good while, all just to satisfy a tourist's rather silly request! You see, to them, there's no silly requests when they are from visitors.

Story #3: After waking up from our overnight train ride, we were immediately greeted by a family of Iranians staying in the same compartment. When we exchanged our farewells just before getting off the train, the mom said to us,"Welcome to Iran!" and proceeded to give us a souvenir gift! Can you imagine that, really!

Other than the stories, here are a few other discoveries that you wouldn't normally see on TV:
- The traffic in Iran is, haha, to some degrees worse than that of Abu Dhabi, or Manila or Beijing! Our dear friend Sara would've had a hundred heart attacks over it! :) Even I was very shaky about crossing. Go on, all you die-hard drivers just have to go there to experience the thrills!

- Iranians were hooked to this South Korean drama series. Everywhere we went, the TVs were tuned into it: at airport visa office, train station, grocery store... :)

- Their opinions of the Americans are interesting! When I asked one of the two girls who helped us find the barbershop what she thought of the Americans, she gave me an answer I would have never guessed, "I don't know. I have never been to the United States... ... I heard they were nice." WOW, how beautiful! A souvenir vendor we chatted with told us they've had a lot less tourists in recent time (go figure!), and when I asked him if he's seen any Americans lately, he laughed,"Nooo! No Americans... But maybe in two years. I hope."

- Abu Dhabi is trying to become the art and culture capital of the middle east - Isfahan already is.

- Public mass transportation remains one of the best ways to experience the local life: form the morning rush hour metro jam in Tehran, to defying all lack of information to find that late night bus ride to the outskirt train station, to taking three free bus rides with the drivers refusing to take our money. It's so scary, unpredictable and awesome! ;) Here is a photo of Q trying to get on a packed metro train after failing with previous three - the keyword is "trying". Well done, sweetie! ;)
- We took a short break from normal sightseeing and watched the Olympics opening ceremony at a hotel restaurant. The live TV broadcast was mostly okay but would be cut back to boardcast studio whenever any female figure is featured on screen, like a dancer wearing skirt or an athlete showing hair. That's a bit taste of local media censorship.

- Right, I did have to wear a head scarf, but most of the time it didn't bother me - I only forgot occasionally when I walked insid
e hotel lobby or restaurant but immediately had to pull it back on. :)

Okay, so if there's one message I would like to conclude this post on Iran, it's gotta be "Politics People!" From yours truly... :) (:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Abu Dhabi in 2030

A very interesting artist impression of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. Well worth watching!

Or click here to watch the video!

That's a lot of change in a space of just over 20 years! If you, for instance, consider that public transportation just got of the ground with 4 bus lines, in the video you see trams and metros zooming by! Wow!

Although I think it's safe to say we won't still be living here by that time. Then again, who knows... :D

On a different note, we're both very much looking forward to our visit to Iran this coming Wednesday!! We're going for 4 days, not very long, I know, but we still hope to catch a good few glimpses of the place. Heard awesome stories about the country and its people! Shu's already practicing wearing a head scarf! :)

(those subscribed to our blog through the mailing list, you might have to go to the website to see the video -> click here!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let there be Art!

If there's one thing missing in Abu Dhabi, I'd say it's Art. There's plenty of plans to get art to the area, like a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and also the Louvre Abu Dhabi (very cool design! check the pics in the bottom of the post), but until they are finished, day-to-day art is hard to come by. No galleries, no museums to speak of, so until the Saadiyat Island project is finished, we have to make due by going to museums while we travel.

'Sacre Coeur' by Picasso, one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition

But every now and again we do get exhibitions, and this week, Shu and I managed to go to something quite exquisite for the region: the Picasso exhibition in the Emirates Palace!

It was wonderful to actually see such an abundance of art in Abu Dhabi, and what was even (almost) shocking, was that there were nudes on display! Certainly something normally very much frowned upon, or rather: banned! The internet, for instance, is shielded for any display of nudity (even the likes of a very popular photo website as Flickr!). But this exhibition had several pieces which in Europe/North America are considered part of everyday life, but are definitely not so here.

The exhibition displayed works borrowed from the Musée National Picasso in Paris, and included both pantings, sketches and sculptures, and to top it off: the entrance is FREE!

I applaud the initiative, and can't wait to see more exhibitions (museums! galleries!) in the city!

Louvre Abu Dhabi by

Louvre Abu Dhabi by

Louvre Abu Dhabi by

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oooh, I love traveling!

As most of you know (by now?), I love traveling, Shu loves traveling, we love traveling! It's not completely a coincidence that we met while traveling!

Last week a blog of a friend of mine pointed me to a video/blog of one Matt and his (dancing) travels. Have a look (check out the full HD version on Vimeo for the best quality):

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

I love the innocence in the video, I love to watch all the people dance, so carefree! This video just makes me super-happy! Watch it, and enjoy :)

Speaking of traveling, I've just (well, 10 days ago by now) come back from a two-week trip to the States. I flew Abu Dhabi - Amsterdam - Minneapolis. I had about 5 hrs to kill at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Just enough time to meet up with a few friends enjoy the Hollandse Nieuwe! They were DELICIOUS (thanks again, Maarten, for bringing them!)!

The first week was a family reunion (#2 this year, a first, we usually only meet every few years!) held at my aunt and uncle's house in Stillwater, MN. It was a grrrrrrrrrrreat success! There were a total of 25 people at the busiest time, and of course the main theme of the whole event was Pood (=food, for you non-pamily-members out there). It shouldn't come as a surprise that at almost all hours of the day you could find people preparing food in the kitchen! My cousin (Vanes)Sa and I assigned ourselves to whip up a tapas-buffet on Saturday night!

People from almost all continents were there (Latin America, Africa and Antarctica were missing), and I got to meet my new nephew Cooper and niece Violet, as well as see Isabella, Lili and Olivia again!

Meet Cooper and Violet!

I joined Sa back to New York, where I spent the second week of my trip. I managed to excercise my credit card there, getting thingies which we can't get in U.A.E. or are cheaper. Staying in NY (with Sa) is always one big partyyyy, and she did not let me down this time :) we frequented all kinds of places, including restaurants, kewl lounges and a true Biergarten in Queens, the works! We even got to do a little bit of culture as well!

All in all, a very exciting, exhausting trip. And it was too bad that Shu was not able to join me on this trip. Her work tied her in, unfortunately. But for the next trip we'll be able to travel together -at least most of the time- again :)

(o, and sweetie: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Back to Bus, Back to Basic

For those of you who are not bus enthusiastic and haven't lived without them for over a year, you might not be able to relate to this, but I have taken the new AD public buses twice now and it feels sooo gooood!!
(photos courtesy of Gulf News)

I haven't been so nervous and excited about riding a bus for a long time - c'mon, to find the bus stops were like scavenger hunt when the low-res route maps (a.k.a. treasure maps) finally appeared as attachment in a forwarded email! Prior to the experience, a couple female friends voiced their concern about possible unpleasant experience on a rather cramped space. Well, I'm happy to report that so far it has been great! The passengers were mostly friendly and courteous Indians and Filipinos - mind you their understanding of personal space is very different from mine, but I can see where they come from. The part I appreciated most was how it gave me a real good sense of the community in AD. For example, I noticed that when an Indian guy recognized his friend in the back of the bus, immediately there was a wonderful smile on his face, and all he did was raised his right hand in the air, and did a wrist-twist wave and head side-shake - the happiness was so infectious it made me smile too.

(photos courtesy of Gulf News)
The most trouble I had with the whole experience is when I waited for bus alone at bus stop late at night. There were at least four cars slowing down and honking for my attention. Very annoying, but that reminded me to bring the emergency whistle Q bought back from the States, so if blow is what those guys want, they will get a deafening one!

All in all, even though the travel time somewhat doubled, the bus is such an enjoyable experience, I didn't mind at all for pace to slow down a bit in this chaotic city.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sara's UAE Trip Review

Q and I met Sara on a bumpy Cuban bus no more than half an hour after we met each other. Sara is a Spanish (Bacelona!) girl living in London, UK, and she visited us in UAE back in March after our trip to the Philippines together. This is her posting on her UAE experience, enjoy!

Shu and Sara in Cuba in December 2004


Well, well, well… I know the deadline is far long gone!!!! … but I still would like to blog about my stay in AD with my favourite couple in the world, Q and Shu! It seems so long ago, the London mood has taken over me again but it was a wonderful experience. Shu and I arrived (back) in AD after our adventure round the Philippines, Q was already back – as I write this I am thinking of the people there, currently suffering the effects of a terrible typhoon. I hope everyone in San Fernando is alright.

The weather in AD was perfect every day, my ideal temperature, for a pseudo Londoner that thinks that 20 degrees is the peak of summer! The food was gorgeous, both in the markets and the restaurants, and Q’s cooking creatively delicious. QandS’ flat is very cosy, modern and v. warmly decorated with beautiful pictures all over the rooms. I loved the guest room. Now I can picture them sitting in there whenever we chat online.

Coming back to the food and after a few experiments in the Philippines (balut and crickets, also both recommended) I drank camel milk for breakfast. Also ate kebabs, Thai and on the last day with Q we “eat as much as we could” hotel brunch with Chocolate fountains and an infinite pool.

AD is a city of contrasts. The local culture is well present and interesting to live with and there is plenty of choice due to the internationality of the population. Mall (s)hopping was basically my way of staying cool and avoiding my heart to suffer every time I had to cross a street!!!! Honestly, for me that_was_hard!!! Not being able to walk everywhere – well, one of my TIAD experiences (dixit) was thinking that walking 3 sets of traffic lights was going to take me the same as in UK but nope, it took me over 2 hours (adding 10 min every time I had to cross an eight lane road!). I was hungry, angry, worried Q and Shu were waiting for me as it was way past dinner time and had a weird marriage proposal on the street. I was glad to make it home!

Another TIAD experience was on my first day, with Q – a problem for one is a problem, for two is an anecdote. When I accompanied Q to pick up a shiny fixed Lexus, the petrol deposit was empty giving a 0 km reserve; when we tried to follow the guy from the shop, he took us to a very busy highway with millions of cars and trucks. We thought we were going to be left dry in the middle of it all so Q pulled to the side and had to walk to the station while I waited by the road (highway) with huge trucks and crazy Abudabhians (sic) crossing the streets. And I had my first mechanics lesson from Q, pouring petrol onto your car with a newspaper funnel whilst dodging the aforementioned speeding trucks.


Now, I also had one of my best life experiences, the desert. I looooooooooooved going on the 4x4 dune bashing, despite being terrified at first, I really enjoyed it and from the front seat I could scream even before the car turned onto a 60 degrees inclination! Arggggh!!!!! It was amazing and fun and exciting and got my adrenaline going! Also standing there, in the middle of a sea of sand gave me an indescribable feeling. Briefly rode a camel (N.B. see photo below), sand surfed – a few second(s) standing only as I rolled down the dune. Sunset and amazing starry night. Arabic food, coffee and dates, delicious again. Smoked shisha and watched (and danced) a bit of belly dancing. What gave me a real taste of the culture difference was the experience of trying a Hijab, full body only showing my eyes. It was really different to see the world from the insider’s point of view. Felt very constrained but also protected in a sort of weird way. I had to cover up again when we went to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Astonishingly pretty architecture, fine decorations and the biggest carpet in the World. It reigns the view from the road and you can appreciate its beauty day and night. At praying time it was busy but silent and tranquil at the same time. I thought that being so huge it would be overwhelmingly grand but it is very delicate and spiritual.

And well, my holidays were coming to an end, but before that we tried to go to Dubai as we encountered another TIAD road issue. Fog – that caused the previously blogged multitudinary crash with 300 cars involved. So, I missed Dubai, this may be a good excuse to come back to visit you my friends!! And I also would like to visit the islands you are working in Shu, the new crazy buildings projected for AD and the turning apartment blocks. I was positively surprised by the city and really thank you both for your hospitality and inviting me to share Philippines and a bit of your new AD life together in a mad sweet new world.

Thank you guys! I miss you both and the Cuban spirit may last!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Couchsurfing in AD

In the past three days we hosted three couchsurfers (okay Q is in the US, but he was involved in the process, well, most of it!): Johan (sp?) from Germany, Gaby and Ber from Shanghai (although Gaby is Argentina and Ber is Spanish). It is amazing how much I got to travel through them!

I picked up Johan as he was wandering the streets carrying a huge backpack at mid-day (40+ degree!) on my way to the dentist's office. For those of you who don't know already, 200 dhs (~50 euros or 65 dollars) hotel rooms do NOT exist in Abu Dhabi, try 200 dollars to start! Needless to say couchsurfing was the only option. It's mind-boggling to see an 18-year-old German speak Thai and haggle with notorious AD taxi drivers better than me. And Gaby and Ber, wow, they could turn just about some of the most horrible travel experiences into great bedtime stories - after getting their passports, credit and ATM cards stolen in Guilin, China, they were able to adapt by changing their travel plan - instead of travelling through Vietnam, they lived in Shanghai for seven months and loved it!

Actually come to think about it, these days I am constantly awed and inspired by the talented people that we have met in AD - and boy, are there many! It is tricky to be content with self when you hear stories of so many accomplished people (What Mick, sailing for six months alone when still in high school?). Oh, I also want to mention Ryan Rowe's website. Ryan's a fellow Canadian expat whose blog provides wonderful insights to life here in the sand pit. He also responded to my email inquiry a year later, but hey, better late than never, right? ;)

Today's post end with photos of Gaby demonstrating how to prepare and sample the Argentine national drink - Mate tea! I was blown away by how potent it was!

Wooden straw for sipping tea. Yes,

Pour warm water into tea cup carefully (and strategiclly) filled with Mate tea.

Sip and then pass this popular drink onto everyone at social gatherings! yes, a bit like how people share shisha.

CS brunch gathering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates!