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!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Free If You can Find It!

This is hot off the press! Abu Dhabi is getting a major boost on the public transportation front by introducing 4 new bus routes on Monday! And 21 in total by early 2009! – All for free till the end of 2008. Great news, right? Well, not if you don’t know what routes the buses will run on. Noooo worries, the AD Department of Transportation provided a toll phone number which was published in the Gulf News newspaper: 800-55555 – how convenient! Wait a second, how come an automated voice told me that the number is invalid? Okie… Hey, The National newspaper published a different number: 800-5555! Let’s try that… “Hello, you have reached Dubai Investment Bank…” *majorly confused!* I guess it's gonna be some sorta scavenger hunt on Monday- the bus rides are free if you can find 'em!

Gulf News:

The National:

Apparently this is not a one-off communication-gone-wacky. Previously a colleague received a subscription flyer from The National newspaper (happy two months!), but when he called he was told, “Sorry sir, but we cannot take your subscription for another three weeks.”

Oh well, TIAD! (This is Abu Dhabi.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

I Heart Toronto

Knowing me, some of you probably is already wondering what's up since I haven't blogged for a long while. Well, I am a tad bit tired from my flash visit to Toronto.

In mid-May, I made a six-day trip to Toronto (four days on the ground and two days flying) to see my parents. Living in UAE is the first time both Q and I are apart from our parents, and it bugged me that I plan all these trips to elsewhere but not to them. It's one of those things, and I finally realized that I needed to visit them - even for no particular reason. And I'm very glad that I did, but it is quite sad and depressing to leave them again, as much as I wouldn't like to admit. So if anything I've learnt from the trip, keep regular contacts with parents - both physically and emotionally. It ain't easy I know.

Parents aside, I didn't realize how much I missed Toronto until the plane started circling above the city prior to landing, and I talked like a baby during the first couple hours driving in the city, "Trees! ... Flowers! ...Dogs! Green trees! Real trees!" People say that you don't realize how much you've lost until you lost it, for me, it's until I returned to it.

All in all, it was an awesome trip. I never knew a road trip could be so much fun - many thanks to my navigators: Mom and GPS. Yes, after getting used to driving in AD, driving in Toronto was real easy - 1000 km in 3 days, baby! (OH YEAH, some of you should be shivering with fear now. :) I just had to remember NOT to exhibit three typical UAE behaviours: U-turn at traffic light, no honking and no high-beaming others who move slow (including pedestrians).

Here are some photos to end the posting!

Friendly welcoming Dutch ;)

Dim Sum!

Cherry Blossom

New maple leaves


Algonquin Park

Wolf Centre - very cool!

Tree canopy walk - 70 feet above the ground!

Pampered by lovely B&B owners: Paul & Anne-Marie