Sunday, March 29, 2009

Couchsurfing in the UAE in our newspaper!

As most of you (should) know (by now), we’re avid CouchSurfers, by both hosting surfers as surfing ourselves. When we first travelled to UAE, the website was blocked (censorship, but why?!), and the number of CS hosts in Abu Dhabi was less than 10. But since the huge influx of people in the country, and the fact that the website is now off the blocked list, the amount of CouchSurfers has sky-rocketed to almost 1000!

Our newspaper, The National (and here the online version), recently published an interesting (full page, and on page 3!) article on CouchSurfing in the UAE. One of the the interviewees is a good friend of ours here in Abu Dhabi! Couchsurfing is how we got in contact in the first place!

You can read the article by clicking on the ‘read more’ link below:

A cushion in hard times

The National - News
28 Mar 2009

ABU DHABI // When their passion for music brought the Aflaki brothers to Dubai from Iran, they were faced with a major challenge: where to stay on a shoestring budget? Nima and Sina’s pursuit of their idols Iron Maiden, the heavy metal band, saw more...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

String quartet performance

Shu and I were invited to a small string quartet performance last Saturday. Two of our friends, Rachel and Emma, play in this quartet. The performance was a small hour or so, with beautiful pieces being played. The crowd was mixed, with kids and elderly, and everything in between, around 30 people or so in a gorgeous 15th floor apartment on the Corniche (the word that is used in this part of the world for the promenade/esplanade).

 A collage of the photos I took during the performance

It was my first time to take pictures again since my accident with my leg. Usually I’ll be all over the place taking pictures, but with my leg, and of course the small scale setting of the performance, prohibited me from moving about. I ended up taking all the pictures during the performance from the same chair :)

Nevertheless, good to be photographing again! Have a look at all the photos here!

  Cello being played

A big thanks to all who sent in emails, instant messages, snail mails, etc, wishing me all the best with my leg. It’s always good to know that being out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind.
Please drop us a line to let us know what you have been up to! We’d love to know!

One small thing, contrary to what Shu mentioned in her previous post, I will not switch to a brace when this cast comes off in 10 days. Instead, I will get a walking cast for another 6 weeks, after which I will start with my physiotherapy. This is actually the part I’m not looking forward to; having to learn to walk again after not having used my leg for 3 months! But I’m sure I’ll be fine in the end…

Cello case in the hallway

And finally, as some of you observe in these pictures, I have re-started putting ‘copyrights’ on my pictures. I publish them under the Creative Commons license, a license which lets people use my work under certain conditions. If you would like to use my pictures, please read what this particular license entails.

Jogging, Tai Chi and Vipassana

Maybe it has something to do with hitting the big THREE-O age bracket, maybe it is driven by the stressful and lazy life style in Abu Dhabi, maybe it is the urge to be responsible for my own well-being... Regardless, I have become more active with my spare time since beginning of the year.

I started jogging along the water front as a late-night exercise regularly. Every time I manage to drag myself out to the Corniche, it always amazes me how the refreshing sea scent relaxes me instanteously. It is surprisingly peaceful and tranquil. I encourage every Abu Dhabian to give it a shot! :)

Corniche at Night (image source)

A while ago Q and I started taking Tai Chi Chuan (太极拳) lessons together. We both enjoyed it, but Q had to bail out after a few lessons with a pretty valid reason. I continued on my own and have now learnt 7.5 of the 24 forms Yang-style Tai Chi. It's so cool! I feel so cool! As our friend Steph calls it, I can finally let out my inner Jackie Chan! :)

Image courtesy of Q's photoshop skills

Compared to the above two, the Vipassana development is rather bold. Just a bit of background, a few years back I had this idea of being silent, blind and deaf for one day - just to see how I would react to the loss of the senses and how my other senses would be heightened. Then a while ago I read a book called Eat, Pray, Love (thanks for the book, Em!), in which the author described her extended meditation experience in an Indian ashram. I knew right away that was what my heart desired.

After much consideration and with Q's support, I signed up for a Vipassana meditation course in mid-April in India. The course will require me to stay in a meditation centre near Mumbai, where I will learn and practice ancient meditation techniques with a few hundred other practitioners! The task is very simple yet difficult: sit still and observe noble silence for ten days (see the code of discipline here). The idea is self-discovery - physically, emotionally and spiritually. Now that I've booked my trip, I find myself absolutely excited and happy with these two thoughts: "This is gonna be *such* a challenge!" and "I am sure you can do it!" Regardless I know it will be a one-of-a-life-time experience and I will have a great time! More will follow, so stay tuned. Oh, the part that I'm looking forward to *most* is to eat Indian food non-stop for almost two weeks. YIPEE! :D

Golden Pagoda at Dhamma Giri (image source)

Vipassana meditation (image source)

Haha, isn't life so exciting!?! :)

p.s. Many thanks to those who were concerned about Q's leg, you will be happy to know that Q is on his third and final cast before moving to a foot brace. The healing is taking a long time, but it's getting there - langzaam maar zeker (slowly but surely).

Correction: Apparently Q will have a fourth and final walking cast after the current one as the doctor thinks the risk of re-rupture is too high with just a brace.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Abu Dhabi Greetings

If you were a Chinese woman living in Abu Dhabi like me, you are likely to hear the following greetings from strangers:

- During the day in taxis or streets or restaurants, it could be "Where you from?", "Where you working?" and/or "Married?" A complete stranger even went as far as stopping me in the middle of street and asked, "Are you Malaysian?"
- In the streets at night it's often "How much?"

They are in your face and there is no running away from them. The best I've learnt to do is to ignore them. I've become stranger-unfriendly.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Welcome to Abu Dhabi - This is Not My City

Twice now I've been rubbed the wrong way on my residence status here in Abu Dhabi.

Recently I had a chat with a manager who is here for a year-long assignment and has been living in a furnished apartment for several months himself. We talked about getting more resources on the team and that's when he went on saying "you know, we need more local-based expats like yourself." "Local-based expats"? What oxymoron! I wouldn't think it makes me more local just because I came here a year earlier!

Another slight irritation came at the end of walking around Abu Dhabi with a friend who came here three or four months back. He sincerely thanked me for showing him "my city". "My city"? What, because I actually took interest to get to know it better when a lot of expats are more than happy to just hang out at the beaches and hotels?

Abu Dhabi is merely where Q and I live. It's interesting to see none of us expats have a sense of belongingness!

...which makes an interesting question - if not Abu Dhabi, which city is my city??? Hmm...

What are Pockets Made For?

What are clothes pockets made for? According to a 20-year-old UAE resident, carrying around FOUR cell phones "impresses girls. Carrying around many mobiles is not easy, but that is what pockets were made for.”

Although UAE's "steroidized" consumerism doesn't sit well with me, I thought I got used to it. Well, it still managed to amazed me to read the consumer culture on why there are almost twice as many phones as people in this country. Some of interview quotes from the article include:

"It is cheap to get a new [N.B. cell phone] number and it impresses people if you are seen having many phones."

"I have four mobile numbers. I use two Etisalat and two Du numbers. I use one for my girlfriend, one for family, one for work and one I keep in case I need to transfer credit to another phone."

Image from The National article.

"I sold a number about a year ago for Dh25,000 [N.B. 5000 euro or 7000 dollars]. He [the buyer] was only about 17. His family paid for it."

"They [N.B. teenagers] don’t necessarily want their parents to get their telephone bill and see who they are calling. So they get a new number and a new phone that they pay for, which they can keep secret."

As for Q and I, we each have one cell phone and an extra number for visitors. None of those multiple phone nonsense for us - our pockets are quite happy to be empty!