Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shu and the falcon!

Somewhere deep down inside one of the albums of the previous post, there is this photo:
And I thought it was too cool not be featured on the front page of our blog, so here it is!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sand, Rock and Grass - We Play Them All!

While Q is having fun in Vietnam, I stayed at home and participated in a few of rather interesting events during my work (i.e. job searching) breaks: Desert Challenge, hiking trip in Oman, and Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

My friend G and I went to the Desert Challenge as valued customers of our bank, which was one of the key sponsors. It was an annual off-road rally with vehicles of different categories driving up a 300-meter-high sand dune with, take this, a 50-degree incline! The goal is to get the fastest time - sounds simple enough, but it turned out as a new driver, I didn't have a good level of appreciation of how difficult it was until the first two cars blew up their engines before even reaching the half-way point. I was told the engines were about 800-900 hp each, lasted about 30 hrs for their life cycles, and cost some ridiculous amount of money. It is one of those AD phenomenon - so environmentally unfriendly and bizarrely intensive, I found myself having trouble pulling away from it at the end of the night. Among the total of about 40 carts and 4x4s, my estimate is that about 1/3 of them managed to blow up their engines spectacularly - including the winning 4x4 just before it crossed the finishing line. FYI, the fastest time was around 9.7 seconds. G joked that his second-hand jeep wouldn't even be able to do that fast on a paved flat road. Here is the video clip of some guys practicing before the actual competition and here are some photos. Yep, that's sand play for ya.

A few weekends ago, a few other friends and I went to Oman together for a hiking trip. It was our first time, so we took it easy and enjoyed a 4-hr round-trip hike to an abandoned village. The area we were in was know as the local Grand Canyon - a lot of bare rocky mountains with sharp and huge drops. At night, the temperature dropped to just above freezing, and it was actually terribly cold - I think my body got acclimatized a bit too quickly. Here is the photo album. That was us playing in the rocks.

Then this weekend I volunteered at the AD Golf Championship which was hosted at the AD Golf Club. I am not a gulfer, in fact, I often spell the word wrong (so much for having a spellchecker!). I did it for a nice walk under the sun and an opportunity to meet other community members. AD shocked me again with a green grass covered 18-hole golf course - I couldn't believe my own eyes when I first saw it! I was assigned as one of the marshals (that's the people holding the "Quiet" signs and walked the course with assigned pair of golfers). For you golfers out there, I was with Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington. All in all, it was a pleasant day and I did manage to talk to a few expats, but not too much since most of the time I had to hurry and catch up. Here is the photo album, and that's fun on the grass.
Besides the above events, a few things worth mentioning include: watched a Dutch movie "Ober" at a European Film screening - international movies are rare opportunities here and are much appreciated by film junkies like myself; offered a casual beginner salsa lesson to a few friends taught by yours truly at our apartment; and survived driving in a terribly-flooded Dubai after some record amount of rain (see photo below): 500 car accidents were reported by 10 am of the rainy day within the city and I saw at least a dozen crashed cars in about 100 km highway stretch!
I shall continue to survive and update you with more "interesting" stories from Abu Dhabi.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thoughts on Bush's UAE Visit

When I stay over at someone else's home, personally I'd like to have as little impact to their normal life as possible - that's the least I can do to show appreciation to their hospitality. The US President G. W. Bush obviously does not think the same way.

Dubai made a public holiday yesterday (Monday) due to Bush's visit in UAE. It sounded all nice at first, but really it's because of some major road closures and motorists were "advised" to stay home and not to drive on that day. And the "holiday" was only announced one day ahead, that's right. This is the gridlock caused because of the unannounced road closures. Not to mention the other visiting tourists have to revise their travel plans.

And this is Mr. Bush's convoy of vehicles. Nice. ...I know who NOT to invite to my home.

P.S. For the record, this posting is by no means political. It is a basic courtesy discussion. Cheers!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A quick update before...

...I fly to Vietnam!

My bag is packed... well, two bags. One for clothes, one -of course- for my camera equipment. Well under 15 kgs, I'm happy! I fly in under 9 hours!

Okok, so I haven't really updated anyone with what's been happening for more than a month now. So here's the quickie!

Last days of November and first few days of December was my trip to Kuwait! Or rather, to the Ruis' family... hehe, because I ended up spending a whole lot of time with my friend Erik, his wife Marlène and their oh-so adorable daughters Marlo and Evie, and not so much exploring Kuwait. But it was great fun, I had my first-time-out-of-The-Netherlands Sinterklaas celebration, and yes, he visits Kuwait too, I even saw him in person (although no gift! I must have been bad this year ;)
And I got my first 'off-road' driving experience (in the passenger seat, Erik was having wayyy too much fun ;)
Thanks again, guys, for having me over! And a big HUG for Evie and Marlo!

Then we had our second overseas visitor -> my mom! She stayed for a whole week, and not a moment got wasted. We did the sites in Abu Dhabi, went to Dubai for a day, saw the desert, cooked, cleaned (thanks), met people. Fun filled. And we were seriously pooped when she left. But all was good, and it gave my mom the chance to have a look at the new city we live in, the apartment we have, the new friends we met.

On the 18th of December... tragedy :( on my way to work I had an accident with 'the Lexus'. I had to do an emergency break due to a car that had stopped in a different lane, and other cars wanting to enter my lane. The car behind me wasn't able to stop in time, and he hit my car. I'm doing ok, 'the Lexus' not so good. We've been without ever since... annoying.The whole theatre after the accident with calling the police and the towing service is a story in itself, but I'll tell that one another time. Let's suffice to say that Shu's experience with the police when she had her fender-bender was not a one-off... (me calling the emergency number: 'I have had an accident with my car on Salam Street between 23rd and 25th!', person on the other side: 'I don't understand!', and this went on and on and on and on... *gosh*)
Anyways, we're waiting for the go-ahead from the insurance company. Don't know why it would take this long, either the guy's insurance pays (which they should, I got the 'pink slip', which indicates that I was not at fault), or mine does, either way we're insured. But it doesn't work that way, so patience's the word.

Christmas and New Year were great fun. Spent a lot time with friends -and in the kitchen-.
And we ---finally--- have put up things on our walls -> paintings, display cabinet, wall rug, and much, much more. It feels more and more like home! (thanks again Mike and Lorri for 1-0-1 on drilling and hanging stuff!)

So... what's next, I hear you ask. It's Vietnam!
It'll be me-myself-and-I, Shu wanted to continue looking for a job (and landing one too). I fly to Bangkok tomorrow, stay there for one night, then fly to Hanoi the next day. No plans yet, I have my ever-faithful Lonely Planet to help out and plenty of tips from friends. Can't wait! Any tips are welcome of course ;)

Friday, January 4, 2008

2007 Review and 2008 Forecast

Many of you have asked us how the Christmas celebration was like in this part of the world. Well, let's just say the consumerism is well-globalized phenomenon. There was full-blown ad campaign to encourage holiday shopping just about everywhere. Snow domes and Santa Clause photo booths can be spotted in just about all major shopping malls. For X'mas Eve, we had a few friends over for drinks. And on X'mas day, Danielle and Johan from South Africa kindly hosted an outdoor party at their place and other guests include friends from Wales and Switzerland. here's a photo taken from our X'mas day meal. The temperature was in mid-20s, so no snow. ;) There was a constant stream of jingle-bell music and they even had a little x'mas tree. All in all, a very cheerful celebration.

Looking back, 2007 was a wonderful year for us, and I can't agree with Q more - we have all our family and friends to be grateful towards - thanks again for all your support! As for our new year's celebration, initially I was so caught up in job searching that I didn't even want to do anything. But a day before that when I was writing one of the "Happy New Year" emails, it occurred to me how much we have accomplished in 2007! It overwhelmed me to recall our experience with moving to AD, and just amazing and exciting people we have met through my/our trips in Central Europe, Indonesia, Sigapore and Abu Dhabi(Obviously!). After this realization, we toasted to 2007 with lotsa bubbles, enjoyed an amazing four-course dinner by Chef Q, together with a couple of friends from Edinburgh. It was a very cozy and great celebration! Here is a photo of the main course with Stephanie and Richard enjoying it! For the foodies out there, it's pea risotto with fish fillet and homemade sun-dried tomato. YUMMMM!)

Another worth-mentioning event was that 2007 ended with a loud bang, literally. Q is overdued with his report, but I will give everyone a little hint - it involves our beloved Lexus. ;)

Looking ahead at 2008, we expect more family and friends to visit AD, and explore more places ourselves. So far Q has a two-week trip to Vietnam coming up, and we both will go to the Philippines in February for the family reunion. The rest of trips will follow in due time and I am sure we'll find ourselves in the middle of nowhere pretty soon. ;) As for me, I am also very excited about wrapping up my job searching soon and hopefully starting to work within January. I will post separately about that since I am sure some of you would want to know the juicy bits in detail.

All in all, in 2008 we will continue following the wise words of Mr. Mark Twain:"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in you sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." (psst, Q: I don't see an "Xbox" anywhere in the trade winds, do you? ;)

Happy New Year and Cheers, Everyone!