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!