Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No snappy titles tonight...

I just threw together a not so unhealthy and surprisingly tasty meal. I'm still kind of shocked when these things turn out well and doesn't kill me. I don't think a Cab was the right wine for it, but it's what I decided to try for today. Who knew I would start expanding my horizons at 32 (almost 33).

SO I've been kind of sparse with writing. I did write the diatribes about the round the world tri. I'm still wishing I was gallivanting around the world. I plan to do more, but finances are a little tight at the moment. More on that later.

I've pretty much been hanging around either Atlanta or the 'ville. I've spent some time at G's a couple weeks ago, and made some quick visits around town. Oh yeah, and went to see Bono and the boys play a little gig. It was a good time and Grace, as always, was a fabulous date.

Back in Louisville, it's just a lot of working and gym time. I've managed to get into a size jeans that I haven't worn since sometime around high school I think. It' been a while to say the least. I'm surprised at how much I've lost, but I still have a little ways to go before I think I'll say "ok, lets have a pizza!". Or maybe a chili cheese dog, onion rings, and a FO from the Varsity... yum.

I did however screw up my iPhone but letting it upgrade. And it was locked. SO, I did what i should have done in Hong Kong, I bought a new one. A new, in the plastic, unlocked from the factory 3GS. I paid a lot, and I'm gonna say how much to spare me the ridicule. But in the end, it was cheaper than switching to AT&T. So, now I have a nice new phone and love it again.

I'm also kind of concerned about the future here at UPS, in the near term at least. Lat year I barely scraped by staying in a dispatcher position (versus an assistant) and I have a feeling the powers that be are going to try and pull that again. I have mixed feelings on this. I wouldn't mind the better schedule, but I would hate the 26% pay cut. We'll see probably after Christmas. I'm not going to dwell on that now.

I was trying to find away to hit a 5th continent this year, but I don't think i can work it out. It's be a good year for travel, but I'm not done yet :-)

Coming up soon, I have plans to head to Colorado for some fun time with Sean. And then to Atlanta for my birthday. That should be a fun time and everyone should come to a party I think we're trowing. Costumes will be encouraged! That's it, I'm going to settle in with my Cabernet and watch The Lord of War. Something about gun running appeals to me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

See the world in green and blue, see China right in front of you.

A few randomish thoughts from the trip and returning home, in no particular organizational pattern.

I’m immensely glad I pent the money to do this. I think I really needed it I’ feel I’ve gotten a little bit of the youthful wanderlust back. It’s going to be hard to stay home. And I managed to totally not stick to the budget…. I blame the Marriott in Deira for most of that.

But I realized in the 4 hours or so in Cologne how much I dig Europe. The old feeling of a lot of the buildings, the cafes spilling out into the streets, and, in Cologne, the ever impending and ever-impressive Dom.

Dubai was a study in culture mixing. A very progressive Western style newness slamming against the Arab (and Indian/Paki/etc…) old school feeling of being somewhat far away from home. You can shop in some of the largest, most well appointed malls known to man. But for the real fun stuff, hit the souks. Where everything is negotiable. Add to that the feeling of (in newer areas) money being thrown about and the Arab dress and language all around, makes you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. And it’s cool.

Hong Kong had much the same feel. Language I don’t understand, writing I can’t read, and I don’t look like 99% of the people. As with Dubai, a couple different sides of HK can be found… upscale new and down to earth old. The more local the flavor the more fun.

Though I think I’ve seen more Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Armani Exchange, Ferrari dealers, etc… than I ever though I would in my lifetime.

Other fun things; I like how Europeans and Aussies seem to be much more into going everywhere. With kids in tow no less. Should I ever have children (no worries, not happening anytime soon), I’m going to drag them all over the world. I think they will be better for it. Travel is a real education in other cultures and seeing the best in other cultures and people that you can never get in a classroom or from a book.

The hotel in Hong Kong was the crew hotel for both Untied and Lufthansa. I saw the different crews checking out today, and talk about opposites. The Lufty crew, while not all that young, was very attractive and well put together. A few of the ladies were very hot in that German sort of way (the others were still quite attractive) and the guys looked well groomed and dress sharply, even in the uniforms.

The United crew, well I expected a sewing circle or bingo game to break out at any moment. Very old and frumpy, sort of worn looking. They were just leaving for the trip home. And I understand that long haul flying takes a lot out of you, but I don’t think the Germans had been on any longer of a layover than the United people.

I’ll pick Lufthansa, if only for the scenery and air or solid professionalism.

One consistent thing… Indians love to sell “copy watches.” Everywhere!! The souks of Deira, the markets of Tsim Sha Tsui. And pushy, which I really hate. The Chinese were not very pushy… some bordered on inattentive. Not the Indians (or Paki’s or Bangladeshi), they start coming at you 10 feet away and follow you down the road.

Or maybe I look like a sucker in need of a fake watch.

So, now to find a trip for the next adventure. I am planning on heading to Thailand in March, but I need to get some where far away soon.

I just got back from Jennie's wedding. It was so good to see her and her family. They're such good people and like family to me. Jennie still looks the same to me as the day I met here, something like 17 years ago. Wow, I'm old! The place they held the wedding was a cabin resort near Pigeon Forge, TN. It was kind of cool there, and I wouldn't mind getting a weekend trip together for a group of us to hang out. I think it could be fun! ANyways, it's the first wedding I've been to that lasted less than 15 minute (way to go!) and the reception was football themed. Not in a tacky way, but since the groom's family are staunch UT Vols fans, Jennie and friends (including me) are Auburn fans, and a large portion of her family are Bama fans... well.. they had to accomodate all. So, the tables at the reception were color coded by teams. Off course the reception was wrapped in plenty of time for everyone to go relaxe then gather again for the Auburn-Tennessee game. Not a bad way to spend a weekend! Thank you to Jennie and Aaron for inviting me and arranging for me to have a couch to sleep on and for both families and friends being very accommodating.

Now it’s time to get back to work. I’m not enthused. Tuesday I have a hot date with my fake girlfriend for U2 in ATL. I’m looking forward to that and hopefully I’ll get to see a lot of the Atlanta peeps. Later!

Around the world in a daze: part 6

Hong Kong - 30 September 2009

Didn’t write yesterday, this will cover a couple days span.

First the 29th: I was going to hop out via the MTR and a ferry to one of the other islands. A small one with an allegedly nifty fishing village and supposedly old school, non-city stuff. I made it about halfway when I read in the guidebook that there are only two scheduled ferry runs. I had already missed the morning on, so back to the city and off to Lantau Island to see the “Big Buddha” and accompanying monastery.

Said Big Buddha sits atop a hill, and there’s a scenic cable car that links the MTR station and the reproduction “traditional” Chinese village at the top. The village had been authentically reproduced down to every detail, included the traditional 7-11 and Starbuck’s.

I can only imagine this is a very scenic cable car ride, as I hit the clouds about 5 minutes in. This cable car ride up was the first stupid thing Jamie did yesterday. I’m not a big fan of heights, and I’m in a glass bottom gondola suspended, oh, a 1 miles above the ground. Then the rain started, I was in the clouds and could see about 20 feet ahead. Then the wind picked up followed by the swaying. Not happy! You’d think not being able to see the ground would help alleviate the acrophobia. Nope. Now I can star down, through the glass floor, into the grey nothingness and just imagined falling for days before reaching terra firmly and coming to a rather abrupt stop. The only comfort came from passing gondolas going the opposite direction. At least I know they’re not blowing off the wires up ahead.

Finally, I made it to the top, only to discover it raining harder and more sideways than below I had an umbrella, which I purchased Monday when I realized I couldn’t will the rain to stop.

Not that the umbrella did me a lot of good in this case. After winding my way through the “authentic” Chinese village I found 2 things of interest, a bust sop (which meant I didn’t have to endure the terror of the glass gondola I just escaped from) and a long staircase up to the Buddha base.

And now, I make the second stupid decision of the day. I figured I had come this far and the rain was letting up, so I should go to the top. And I started up. Each step seemed to bring more intensity in rainfall. Soon, the steps had a waterfall appearance to them. By the time I’m halfway up, I’m seriously contemplating jumping the rail separating the up and down stairs, and heading down. But no, I persevere.
As I get neared the top, feeling the burning in my quads, the rain stops falling and starts blowing in a more sideways direction. The umbrella has now being held at a 45 degree angle and basically just there to keep water out of my eyes.

But I’m almost there!

When I reach the top, the umbrella inverts itself. I make for the little shop/museum entrance under the Buddha statue. Oddly enough, I’m ridiculously thirsty. From the climb in the rain. Inside the base, there’s a museum (that I didn’t buy ticket for) and some vending machines… and of course lots of replica “Buddha’s” for sale. None actual size though. I took off outside lone enough to snap a couple pictures (with my old, slow camera) and then ducked back inside.

I’m quickly losing interest in the chatchkis and decide the time has come to make my descent down the stairs/waterfall. It’s now that I realize wet rubber New Balance sneakers and wet smooth cut stone stairs have a coefficient of friction that’s way to close to 0. Now holding the railing for dear life with one hand and the umbrella/wind sail in the other, I gingerly make my way down.

ON the way, I pass and Australian family heading up the stairs and here the dad practically daring the two small kids to see who can make it to the top first. I suddenly feel like a big pussy. They did have the advantages of ponchos and no “sails” in umbrella shape to encumber them.

I get down safely, and head toward the monastery that’s adjacent to the Big Buddha. Apparently commercialism is no problem for the Buddhists. There were more shops and a vegetarian restaurant next to the temple. I’m assuming this particular temple is a bit more grandiose than most, seemed a little glitzy inside.

By this time, I’m over the rain. I’m soaked and I hate the sloshy wet shoe thing I’ve got going on. Time to trek back to the hotel. And since I don’t want to waste my round trip cable car ticket, I forego the safe city bus ride down and load up in another gondola. I should have taken the bus.

It was much windier this time, and I felt the urge to figure out how to get out through the roof hatch and climb down one of the towers if needed. James Bond did in a couple movies. I’m sure I can make this work

Every now and then I hear the sounds of ducks. I was really hoping that its just some recording through the speaker in the gondola and not that a lost duck flying blind in the clouds is going to smack into me.

I survive and make it down safely to head back to the hotel.

One thing I discovered about HK is, in Central at least, you can go from building to building without stepping into too much weather. Either there’s an underground passages or a covered walkway above the streets. I was thankful for this as I sloshed from Hong Kong station to Central station.

Once back in the room, I found dry clothes and relaxed a bit. FYI, it’s only 1 pm and I’m le hungry. I took a stroll to this hole in the wall place I read about in Lonely Planet. It looked interesting. I ordered some noodles with chicken (I think) and green tea (well, I didn’t order the green tea, they just brought it and didn’t ask if wanted an alternate beverage). The noodles came, and they were effin hot (burned my tongue), but yummy. And in a feat of wonder, I managed to eat the whole meal with chopsticks without the other restaurant patrons pointing and laughing. Being the only Caucasian in the place, I feel this was a great accomplishment.

I took off on the MTR to the IFC mall. I had read about a bar (again, thanks Lonely Planet) that had some pretty awesome views called The Red Bar. And it’s not just a clever name, the bar is actually painted red. Unfortunately the place was not open, as it was crappy weather and the bar being all outside. So instead, a glass of wine at an enclosed venue a couple floors down worked as an adequate substitute.

While meandering the mall, I saw a computer store that was all Apple products, but not an “Apple Store” per se. I went inside to check out the prices. In the process, I learned the iPhones are sold unlocked in HK. I was sooo tempted t get a new one that I went and checked around a couple markets for a good deal. None found, but for future purchases I’ll be back.

I stopped by Delany’s on the way back, thinking it was early enough to avoid being accosted by another old lady trying to get me in a strip club. I was partially wrong. This time one of the young “hostesses” grabbed my arm. Again, I pulled away, but I’m still a little curious t see what goes on in one of these places. Purely intellectual curiosity.

After a pint of Kronenberg, I headed back to the hotel (avoiding the “hostess” clubs) only to discover the lounge act was back on stage in the lobby. Two attractive Chinese girls (I’m guessing, definitely Asian but one was named Maybell… hrrmm traditional Cantonese name) and a piano player. Some of the songs even came with choreography. The girls were actually pretty good singers. The piano man, not so much. He had a pretty think accent going on but it made me laugh. SO I had an oriental pizza (BBQ pork, roasted duck and chicken, a few dirty martinis, and enjoyed the show. The most distracting thing was, well, second most distracting after the Jerry Lewis look a like Asian piano man’s singing, one of the girls had not planned her underwear choices well.

The girls wore matching red dresses which had an oval cut out on both sides at the hips with a couple red straps across. One girl had a black strap in addition, which followed the lines of the thong she was wearing (the dresses were tight). SO now I’m just sort of mentally picturing her in just that. It was good.

After the finished, I headed up to bed. I toyed with the idea of going out, but sleep won. I probably would have just gotten myself in trouble anyways.

I woke early. Much earlier than I planned. Again, some one from home called. Actually it was the same some one who woke me up in Dubai (and showed up blocked number on the caller ID, wanted to make sure it wasn’t my bank calling to say they’re going to freeze my ATM card for unusual charges) who wanted to know if I could work for her tonight. I told her I couldn’t make it. I decided to continue the iPhone pursuit at the Western market. I apparently missed the part where that market is all about fabrics and clothes.

So, I packed up, cleaned up, and checked out. Took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon and took a short walk to the crew hotel. Checked my bags with the bell desk there, and spent some time meandering about. I ended dup back at the IFC mall, and was going to spend the money for a new 3G phone. However, they only had the most expensive 3G-S model in stock and I wasn’t up to paying that much. I took this as a sign and moved on.

Met the crew back at the hotel and took off to the airport. Made it through customs and security (I don’t know why, but I always feel like I’m getting away with something when I get through customs without getting stopped and interrogated). And here I sit in my big seat upstairs on the 747 winging my way toward ANC. Now, it’s time to eat and then a nap. Later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Around the world in a daze: part 5

Hong Kong – 28 September 2009 part 2

So, I did get out tonight. I took off to the Temple Street Night Market. I also broke down earlier today and bought and umbrella… one of the best investments so far this trip.

The market had all kinds of interesting (and not-so-interesting) crap. But I really dig it. More fun than all the malls. After walking through the market for an hour or so, back to Wan Chai to find a couple beers. The Irish Pub tour of the world continues! This time it was Delany’s, rated the best in HK… different location than the one in Tsim Sha Tsui I was at a couple days back.

On the way from the MTR to the pub, one of the old ladies that work for the strip clubs grabbed my arm as I walked by and tried to physically pull me in. Seriously, she had a death grip on my bicep and was spouting something I couldn’t understand. I picked up a few words like “nice girls” and “one drink”. I managed to break free and make to the end of the block and refuge in the Irish pub. Others tried to entice me in, but at least no one else grabbed me. That sort of technique doesn’t bode well for the quality of the strip club, if you have to manhandle clientele to get them inside.

After a couple pints, I decided to head to the room for sleep. However, I got sucked into the lounge act in hotel lobby bar. They weren’t too bad, may have something to do with the 2 girls singing were cute. I may be developing a thing for Asian women. While I was there enjoying the music and a martini, I did spy a tall Caucasian male making for the elevators with a much younger Asian girl in a much less than modest outfit. Hrrmmm… I was tempted to wait and see how long it would be before she came back down alone… but I’m le tired.

That’s it for today.

Around the world in a daze: part 4

Hong Kong – 28 September 2009

Early writing tonight, I, due to poor planning, managed to endure the morning and afternoon rush hour on the MTR. The plan toady was to head off to early to the ferry terminal for a day trip to Macau. I had lots of ideas on what to do. Unfortunately, the rain put a stop to that. SO I spent the day in the casinos.

Macau is a little like Vegas; all the big names are there. I took a walk through the Wynn, the Venetian, and City of Dreams (home of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino). Of the three, the Venetian wins. It’s the largest casino in the world, a massive place that dwarfs the Vegas version, in both size and over the topness.

OK, I got a little ahead of myself. I trekked in the light rain from the hotel to the Wan Chai MTR station. Little did I know there was a covered walkway form the hotel to the station I discovered later in the day, but oh well. Took the train to the Central station and walked up to Central Ferry Pier, which is exactly where I shouldn’t have been. Turns out the Macau ferries leave from a different terminal a few blocks down. So off I go in the rain, though to be fair most the walk was under cover.

The ferry ride to Macau was not unpleasant. I didn’t get on one of the hydrofoils, but a jet-cat. All for about 200HKD (FYI, $1 = about 7.6HKD).

OK, interlude here… A large percentage of the population wears the surgical masks. H1N1 (swine flu) seems to be a big deal here. I guess they still remember the bird flu from a few years back that spread rapidly. When you enter the country, a thermal camera screens you, and if you have a high body temp they quarantine you until an examination can determine if you are a carrier. For the record, I went through this twice today, so I guess I don’t have the flu. Also, most public buildings have a sterilization regime ever 2 hours. They sanitize doors, handles, handrails, bins, and pretty much anything that gets a lot of touching. They take this stuff way seriously.
So, a lot of meandering in casinos. I lost some money, which is my standard way of operating in casinos. I think in all I was out $40, but that’s like 300HKD (or Macau Patacas, they run about 1 to 1 with HKD). But it feels like I’m laying down some heavy bets, and it makes me feel a bit like a baller.

Every now and then while walking around I stop and realize I have developed this stupid grin on my face. I had it going on in Dubai occasionally too. Why? Because I’m doing this. It’s not like Europe or Australia where there’s a small chance of looking like I belong there. Nope, I’m a different tint that the natives. Yeah, I occasionally see some Europeans and Aussies (or Kiwis) meandering about, and a couple of rare Americans. But as a people we don’t seem to get out much. Too bad.
I am a little disappointed I couldn’t get out and see the non-casino part of Macau. Guess I’ll have to come back.

Now, I think it’s chill time. I’ll watch the light show from my room, then maybe head out. I want to check out the night market over in Kowloon, or maybe bar hop around Wan Chai. I saw a “bar fight” last night, or more accurately the end of a bar fight. There must have been about 20 of Hong Kong’s finest gathered around, with riot gear… nice! Till Later

Around the world in a daze: part 3

Hong Kong – 27 September 2009

Let’s recap. I woke up Saturday and found the hotel gym. Well, I was awakened by a call from some one stateside to inform me it was jeans and team jersey night at work if I was interested. I told her I was not but thanks for calling. Since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I decided to spend 45 minutes ellipticizing (I just made that word up). After that, being only 9 AM, I decided a shower and trip to the Deira souk was in order. I spent a couple hours walking the gold, spic, perfume, and general crap souks. You can get just about anything you can imagine there. It was early and many of the shops were just opening for the day, so you would see the merchants putting out the goods, the windows of the Gold shops opening (and very shiny stuff that look ridiculous and would make awesome Bling for back in the ATL).

I had been contemplating getting one of the traditional Arab gowns and head towels. I’m sure there’s a more official name for said garments, but I don’t know what it is. So I stopped into a shop that had some for sale. The owner was asking 1250 dhm for the high quality “gown”, with head towel and rope thingy that holds it on. I asked how much the lower quality “Chinese import” was, since I don’t plan to wear this every day or anything, I didn’t think I need the “Armani” or gowns. The owner wants 950 for the low quality. So, I went with the low quality, and bought it for 200. I think I did ok on the bartering thing. Plus I had to unload the money before leaving and I have a spiffy Halloween costume!

Then back to my hotel, another shower, packed, and off to meet my crew, not looking forward to the 8-½ hours in the 767 cockpit with 3 other guys, but the price is right.

Once again, one of the crewmembers suggested I skip Hong Kong and go with them to Clark (formerly Clark Air Force base in Angeles City, Philippines). Why? Hotel rooms for less than $50, $.87 beers (yes that’s 87 cents) and a girl to go home with you for the night at the price of $20. Yes, for the price of a date in the US, including dinner, drinks, dancing or movie, and coffee/desert, you can have an all night 4some. Of course, you could also catch something penicillin won’t get rid of. I hear they have a new AIDS vaccine that’s promising maybe when that’s perfected…. Right…
So we got to HK about 3 AM local time, after clearing customs (and getting a passport stamp!!! Finally, the 3rd country I enter finally decides I need a stamp), I ride to the crew hotel with one of the layover crew, and take a cab from there to my hotel across the harbour. 5 AM and I crash into my bed.

I had planned to get up earlyish and head to Macau. That didn’t happen. Instead, I bounced around Hong Kong, went up to Victoria Peak, took the Star Ferry across to Kowloon, walked down Nathan Road a little ways in Tsim Sha Tsui, took in the HK History Museum, and the water front for the views and the light show. Lot’s of walking, and I have the blisters to prove it.

Every night, at 8 PM, the skyscrapers in Hong Kong proper are lit up in sequence to music. I highly recommend checking this out for its freeness. Tonight, the narration was in Cantonese, so for all I know they could have been telling everyone in the crowd to find and American and laugh at him. After the show, I took a Star ferry (which, if you come to HK, it’s a tradition, its only 2.50HKD each way and there are great views) back to Wan Chai, the area on Hong Kong island where my hotel is. I went looking for some food and beer. This is when I discovered that Wan Chai is strip club central for Hong Kong. And being a solitary young(ish) male I must be the prime target. Each one had an older lady in front with a few girls who I guess were either the “model dancers” or the old lady’s grand daughters trying to entice people in.

It’s bedtime, tomorrow off to Macau.

Around the world in a daze: part 2

Dubai – 26 September 2009

Last night, Trish met up with me here at the hotel and we set off downtown. At first, I was a little disappointed with Deira, the part of town my hotel is, I’m much happier I decided to stay here. It seems more “foreign” than the newer parts of Dubai down my Sheikh Zayed Road.

Trish and I spent most of last night down on Sheikh Zayed road at a hookah bar place she frequents. She ordered up a pineapple sheesha and I ordered up a chicken pita. The pineapple tobacco tasted nothing like pineapple to me, but it wasn’t bad. Better than any cigarettes I may have or have not ever smoked. SO after I bummed a few puffs of her bong, er hookah, and had some food, we went to a bar called Long’s. Long’s claims to have the longest bar in Dubai, which since it was an oval shape one could make the argument that it goes on indefinitely and never ends. That’s a bit too esoteric for me at the moment. That being said, all the bars in Dubai are part of a hotel, so chances are the claim for the longest bar is easily justified. The best part, they had Victoria Bitter on tap!!! After Long’s, we taxied back to my hotel.
Taxis are ridiculously cheap, plus the meters only run on mileage. Sitting in traffic and not moving cost’s you nothing. That being the case, the drivers don’t like to sit in traffic and tend to speed around town. Reminds me a bit of NY driving.
Back at the hotel, Trish and I played a couple games of 8 ball in the bar there. We tied at one game apiece. Then off to bed. I’d been looking forward to sleeping a stationary bed and was le tired.

We got up earlyish and took off to see some more of Dubai. First to The Mall of the Emirates, where Ski Dubai is located. Then out to the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Resort. Apparently, next time we need to make a reservation for drinks at the Burj to get in. The hotel is very impressive, pictures don’t do it justice. Of course, we had to “sneak” into the Jumeirah Beach Resort to get good pictures. After that, and a brief air-conditioned respite in the Jumeirah, we headed off to the Hard Rock Café. Which was closed. Bastards! Apparently they’re remodeling and building a hotel (I found out later).

We then headed off to the Dubai Mall. They take malls seriously here. This one has a huge waterfall inside, an ice skating rink, and a massive aquarium that you can scuba in for a nominal fee. We had hoped to see the Burj Dubai from an observation deck. Unfortunately it has not opened yet, and neither has the Burj Dubai. Trish informed me that when the Burj Dubai opens (and it’s the world’s tallest building) you will need a medical certificate of some kind to go higher than the 104th floor. Seriously?? I think 104 will be high enough for me.

We had attempted to catch the new metro rail earlier, but apparently it doesn’t open till 2 PM on Fridays. Good to know.

After lunch at the Dubai Mall (where Trish made a bee line for Taco Bell… I declined for something more exotic…. Thai. I guess being away from the states will make you crave certain things after a while), we headed back to the hotel to relax before the desert safari.

If you go to Dubai, you have to do the safari thing. It’s really very cool, and it get’s you out of the city. We took of with Saleem in a Toyota land cruiser. We picked up a couple from Poland and 2 other guys from somewhere, probably Indians or Paki’s. The last 2 people we had to track down in Sharjah. On a side note, Sharjah is way bigger than I expected. I guess I was thinking it was like Macon is to Atlanta. It’s more like if you put Atlanta 30 minutes from say Charlotte. It’s a respectable size place. No idea what there is to do there, and didn’t look nearly as nice or moneyed as Dubai.

Anyways, after a drive out to the desert that was about 30 minutes out of town… ok I guess technically the city is in the desert, but now we were out in the middle of nothing. Initially we stopped for water and to let air out of the tires. Then met with up with the rest of the land cruisers and just sort of walked around the sand until everyone was ready to go. There was some light entertainment in the form of some one in a very expensive looking Audi who was trying to plow around the sand. Didn’t go so well for him. And off we went, over and through the sand, occasionally sideways. After a stop for some sand boarding, where Trish went down the dune like a professional and I wiped out big time, we headed back across some dunes to a “Bedouin” camp. There you can do a camel ride (a short circle but I have now ridden a camel, all that matters), henna tattoos, Sheesha, play dress up, and have a nice dinner of local food (whatever it was… I know there was something that tasted like chicken and some hummus). After dinner, there was some belly dancing.

All pretty neat for the price. Again, I recommend it.

On a more, say, non-tourist side, it’s interesting to no the vast differences you see here. Almost everyone who “does” anything is an immigrant. Out taxi drivers haled from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sudan. They ranged in time in country anywhere from 2 years to 33 years. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, and given that Dubai never developed a system of street addresses, confusing to get anywhere unless you know exactly where it is.

Anyways, some of the immigrants have it rough. Deira is almost all immigrants and driving back into town from the desert you see the busses that shuttle migrant workers parked all along the road in front of the “housing”. The housing areas make the projects of Atlanta look almost luxurious (I’m thinking of the old Techwood homes). Everywhere there are people out in the grassy areas (especially at night or in the shade during the day) just sitting, eating, and sleeping. Trish told me they earn about 50 Dirhams a month, roughly $80.

So like the Egyptians, the amazing monuments in Dubai were built on the backs of slave labor. I’m sure some have found great opportunities here, but you don’t see how the vast majority live while driving between the towers along Sheikh Zayed Rd. Then again, for all I know they got it better here than in Bangladesh.

Still, I would like to return and spend more time here, perhaps when it’s slightly cooler. What’s funny is Trish seemed so happy it finally cooled off to 95F highs. She’s acclimated and will probably freeze through a Georgia winter, if she ever comes back ☺

That’s all from tonight. I’ve washed most the sand off and tomorrow it’s off to Hong Kong.

Around the world in a daze: part 1

These are a serious o things I wrote while gone. Some things have been added since I returned to make things sort of clearer. Enjoy. I did!

Dubai - 24 September 2009

As I watch The Simpsons on TV, with Arabic subtitles, I’m reminded how things are everywhere are sometimes just a little different.

So after 23 hours in transit, I made it to Dubai. It kind of reminds me of a sandy oven. It’s about 100F or so out, which is perfect weather for walking around outdoors.

But first, getting here… a slow process with me taking refuge in a “jumpseat” from SDF to CGN, including a 2-hour stop in PHL. Once in Cologne, the original plan was to just relax at the UPS offices there, but after a chat with the crew van driver, I realized I had about 3 ? hours to spare. SO I rode with my crew to the hotel, where I was given a key to the UPS crew room. Basically a lounge for the pilots to hang out and socialize together. Apparently they can’t be bothered to stop at the numerous café’s that surround the hotel. Having spent the last 8 hours locked in a small space with pilots, I decided to stretch my legs and walk to the Cathedral Square and back. A very nice distraction. Reminds me how much I miss Europe, even if it’s occasionally interrupted by a random group of American youth smoking pot by the Rhine. Way to not be obvious about breaking drug laws in a foreign country. Look for them on an upcoming episode of Locked Up Abroad.

The cathedral, or Dom, just dominates everything in the center of town. A huge focus, and unlike last time I was in Cologne, the squares were open and the cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, etc spilled out into them. And this was at 11 PM. Last time I was there the Christmas markets were up. A nice change. Did I mention I really dig Europe?

After the walk, I went back to the hotel, freshened up (which amounts to washing my face, brushing my teeth, and applying more deodorant), and met my crew downstairs for the next leg. I liked these guys, they were way more amusing than the previous crew. Of course along the way, every pilot seemed to have a dispatch question about something. Which doesn’t bother me, it’s good to have the communication with them, especially face to face. Plus I was being allowed the privilege to fly with them. Imagine some one coming and just hanging around your office for 8 hours?? Of the 6 hours in flight from CGN to DXB, I spent about 4 ? of them horizontal in the crew bunk. Yay for sleep! I slept some on the flight cross the Atlantic, but sleeping in a chair, no matter how comfy that seat is, doesn’t compare to a bed. I probably could have gotten in one of the bunks on the way to CGN, but I didn’t want to be in the operating crew’s way.

After the nap, I went out, ate, change back into my clothes (for long haul flights, standard procedure is to change into sweats and t-shirts/sweatshirts shortly before or after departure.), and landed in the land of beige. It was hot, damn hot, Arabia hot… and not the nice desert dry heat you get in Vegas. Why any one would chose to stop here and live I have no idea, well before the invention of A/C anyways. TO make the process easier, I rode again to the crew hotel with the pilots (in the large Mercedes with cold bottled water and a cold, wet towel provided… love the service). At the hotel, found an ATM and got some local dinero (or Dirhams technically) and took a cab to my hotel. After some discussion with the staff at the Deira Renaissance about how I was on a discount rate… ugh. Anyways, I got into my room, cranked the A/C down, and changed to go for a meander. Took a cab across Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai) to Bur Dubai and toured through the Dubai museum. After that, I walked through the “Hindi” lane, a Souk. Most the shops were closed but it was a neat little place. I walked down the waterfront until I started feeling like I could sweat no more (I was wrong). I thought it would be fun to take an Abra across the creek to Deira. It was only 1 Dhm (as opposed to the 15 a cab would cost). Keep in mind, 1 Dirham is about $3.67. Turns out, I was the only Caucasian on my boat (which turns out hat most the time I was in Deira I was usually one of 5 or so Caucasians I would see all day, which was kind of cool). I wondered through the Deira Souk for a few minutes, and then decided I need to find Air conditioning. SO off to the hotel to wait for Trish to stop in and the second shower of the day since arriving in Dubai (4 hours earlier).

And here I sit, watching the Simpsons. More later