Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nine (9) Evenings of Thanksgiving

I should have started this piece exactly 4 days ago. Unfortunately I am constantly bogged down with life's little coffee breaks. As part of the Filipino tradition, the simbang gabi or the early morning mass is being practiced by most in order for a wish to be granted. It was believed that if you complete these 9 morning mass, your wish will be granted. You can wish for whatever you want - money for more financial freedom, a dream house, a dream car and the most common, a wish for a love life. No wonder more teenagers attend this mass not for the celebration itself but to people watch. *sigh*

As I grow older, I no longer pray for trivial stuff, although I slipped into the selfish mode once in a while, but my perspective is no longer the same when I was 20 (sorry I'm a late bloomer).

This year, instead of asking something for every night that I hear mass, I send God little notes of thanksgiving ( I hope He reads this).

First Night:

For your constant hand in my life, thank you Lord for giving me the opportunity to experience love every waking hour. I am blessed to sleep and wake up next to my best friend whom I share the gift of laughter and tolerance with, even during the time when our faith is shaken. I am forever grateful for giving me the most generous husband who always put me in the pedestal - whatever shape I'll be in.

Second Night:

Although I'm not a big fan of technology - still I am grateful because despite the miles that separates me from my family, we are still connected. Thank you Lord for the gift of science and technology. It made it possible for our family to stay in touch. To hear a chorus of hello's and to see a cacophony of waves and flying kisses - it makes staying apart bearable.

Third Night:

Thank you God that chivalry is not yet dead and friendship is still worthy of gold. I guess there are still golds among these sand here in Abu Dhabi. I'm glad that there are still a few people who are still willing to give up their seat for girls. And I am thankful that I stumbled upon a few people whom I consider gemstones in the world of friendship. Friends who are willing to stay up late as long as you have coffee and listen to you babble about nonsense stuff. These people who will tell you straight in your face if you stink. Honesty, sometimes may be brutal, but it is always refreshing.

Fourth Night:

We have been so blessed as the year opened. Thank you Lord for giving us the opportunity to work and live comfortably here in Abu Dhabi. As what the priest said in his homily last night, You always provide for our needs. You continue to help us attain financial stability that we are also able to help our family who are in need of such support. Thank you for your generous heart.

Fifth Night:

It has been a year since our journey in trying to have a family started. Although each month was a constant challenge for me and my husband emotionally, still we are thankful. After one major surgery and bucketful of medicine we are still thankful for little signs of hope. There is still a promise that it is still possible. It is just a matter of timing - God's timing. Thank you Lord for keeping our faith strong.

Sixth Night:

Thank you that the art of giving never runs out of style. A lot of people still practice it. I am a recipeint of generous hearts. I am thankful that you You have taught me to widen my generosity. As Fr. Troy said, the more you give the more you receive. Just keep in mind that when you give don't expect something in return. The fact that you shared with open heart is enough.

Seventh Night:

Thank you Lord that we have freedom. Freedom to do whatever we want while living here in Abu Dhabi. Being an OFW, this freedom is luxury. Freedom to go wherever we want, freedom to eat whatever we want and freedom to enjoy whatever there is. We pray for those who have stumbled on the wrong side of the law here in Abu Dhabi, we pray for that they may have the strength for this challenge they are facing. God has mercy.

Eight Night:

Thank you Lord for the gift of time, chance and opportunities. Time that we are able to do the things we need to do. Extended time for everything rushed. Slowed time for those moments we can't rewind. Chance to grow as better person. Chance to be a good daughter, sister and wife. Opportunity to improve our lives. Opportunity to be a good advicer, friend and believer.

Ninth Night:

For the last nine (9) nights, it only boils down to one big thank you for the gift of prayer. I'm thankful that a lot of people still believes in the power of prayer. Prayer heals. Prayer gives hope. Prayer gives light. Prayer shares love.

Merry Christmas everyone. For those who are spending their Christmas with their family - enjoy it. Laugh in every opporuntiy, share a hug in every opportunity and give a kiss on every misteltoe you see. You are lucky you get to be with your loved ones on this special occasion. Cherish it. For those who are celebrating away from their family - that's ok. we will always have another chance next year. To my family, we'll just move Christmas on another time - I will miss tearing gifts while shrieking with delight after seeing the content of the box. I will be missing gobbling up pastries and calorific goodies with my brother and sister (tatay is not invited in this activity). I will be missing cleaning up the mess after all the gifts are opened and all the plates are licked. For now, Skype will do, I may not be able to kiss all of you on Christmas day, but know this, I will be doing that a thousand times in my head by the time the clock strikes 12.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Simbang Gabi in Abu Dhabi

The nine (9) days before Christmas has officially started last Thursday, 15 December 2011.

Traditionally, simbang gabi is celebrated during the early morning nine (9) days before christmas eve. The mass starts around 4 or 4:30 in the morning. But since we are here in Abu Dhabi, Simbang Gabi is celebrated on the evenings. The mass starts at 8:00 pm but if you want to grab a good seat you have to be at the church at 7:00 pm. The open ground of the church is full packed and stampede is likely to happen if anything bad happens. The cold weather is perfect with the venue.

More vendors are selling food goodies outside and a lot of kids ran and shout while the mass is going on. But this is what a Filipino community is all about.

I miss simbang Gabi in the Philippines, but I won't trade this opportunity of attending my first Simbang Gabi here either. My first Abu Dhabi simbang gabi is also my first simbang gabi with my husband and first away from my family. A mix of happiness and sadness, I guess we have just have to add another chapter on our life journey - this is how we grow.

Christmas Bazaar 2011

December is one of the most awaited month of the year for the Christian community. For one, it is the birth month of Jesus and Christmas is celebrated. When you say Christmas everything red, green and shiny can be seen everywhere.

To start off the Advent season, St. Joseph Church of Abu Dhabi had their annual Christmas Bazaar. All nationalities who congregate in this community will have their own booths/stalls selling any goodies and games for a good cause and good price.

The bazaar opened at 10 a.m. on December 9, 2011 at the Church open ground. An entrance fee of AED 10 per head can be bought at the stall outside the gated area. Once inside you can have your money change into coupons with the equivalent value. You will be using this coupon to pay for the goodies you'd like to take from each booth.

First stop - the bookvendor. If I remember it correctly the booth's name is Santa's little helpers. Wide array of books lined up on their table. A mixture of used and new books. So you really need to have a good eye and be the first pick up the good ones. I was lucky enough to get two books. One is brand new and the other one used. Both only cost AED 5 each. Good buys? Definitely.

Next stop - food trip. We went straight to the Filipino stalls where the mouth-watering smell of pork bbq brings tears of joy. This grilled goody costs AED 5 a stick. Haven't eaten this stuff for almost a year already. Then we went booth hopping.

The french booth displayed delicate goodies that I can't honestly prounounce without sounding silly. So I did the most basic thing to do in an unfamilair market trading - point to a thing - "how much?" - if the price is good enoug - sign with my fingers for how much I would be buying. The thing I bought was delectable. A soft biscuit similar as that with cream puff but with a hollow middle. But its pretty good. smack! smack!

Then my favorite - Italian booth. What makes this booth really interesting is the people tending the stall they were wearing this vine like head dress. It looks like a vine twined to look like a crown. Plus the other lady has this fiery red hair with a matching piercing green eyes. She looks like a goddess. I bought this bread that looks like calzone. Using the same dough as that of the pizza and folded with mozarella and basil filling. One serving is enough to give my tummy a heavy thud.

We didn't stay long at the bazaar but it was fun romaing around the area. I hope next year this bazaar would be a 3-day event so we could enjoy the food, the games and the moment 3x more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy 40th UAE!!!

December here in UAE started with a bang. As in an actual bang. At exactly 8:00 pm of November 30, 2011 fireworks lighted up the Abu Dhabi night. Watching the fireworks at corniche is the way to start off the holiday.

First is to celebrate the new Hijri and to celebrate the 40th National day of UAE. Everywhere you go the city is alive even at 11 pm. The city is still buzzing with excitement.

On the first day, 01 December 2011. All malls in the city is doing fabulous discounts on their merchandises. Sad to say, most of the working class (expats particularly) don't have enough moolah to splurge on this amazing sales. Most salaries were not released before the holiday starts. So we make do with window shopping.

As per schedule for December 2, 2011 another fireworks display is to be held at corniche again. We went there to witness the show. And honestly, it was packed. Literally packed wtth so many spectators who also would want to watch the show. The show was supposed to start at 8:40 pm - 8:50 pm. The 10-minute show would be highly anticipated since it was posted on the monthly scheudle of Abu Dhabi.
A good lesson to remember on this day, being it the official national day of celebration for UAE, it is not recommended to roam around the city when 4 pm starts. Every street corner is clogged. Cars beautifully decorated are everywhere. The color of the UAE flag is pasted, painted and decorated into every sizes of car flock the streets.

It was riot in a good way. It was like a street party. Kids running around spraying snow sprays and confetti's to passers by. My husband and I were one of the hundred victims. But we jsut shrugged it off in the spirit of the celebration.

We stayed at the corniche until 10 pm but no fireworks display. Must have been mixed up information on what is the schedule for the holidays.

If you didn't see the air show and firework display. Or if you haven't enjoyed the discounted rates on the store. There will always be next year. It would help if we prepare for it and enjoy it with a bang.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Angst of an OFW

A lot of articles were already written, printed, reprinted, told, and retold about stories of the life of being an OFW. These stories rarely end up in happily ever after. Even the beginning didn't start off as exciting as a fairy tale does. But this is the life, this is the reality of being an Overseas Filipino Worker.

Working abroad, as I bitterfly discovered is not for the faint hearted. Placing a thousand miles of distance between you and your loved ones is one herculean sacrifice in the hope of providing a better future for yourself, for your family and for your relatives.

Movies are filmed and stories are written about the life of every Filipino all over the world. Their life, their work and how they deal with the realities of actually being on their own.

I admit there are horror stories everywhere. Every country where Filipinos worked their butt off for a good amount of money has feed the media stream, but sometimes, it doesn't deliver the exact message.

I can only say my piece on the countries I have lived and worked at. I had a short stint in Singapore, but life there for the Filipinos is acceptable. They can earn even a low salary of SGD 1200 and still be able to send some money to their family and save enough for themselves.

In Abu Dhabi, I am lucky I am living a reasonable life. My husband and I can afford to rent a room on our own. Privacy in Abu Dhabi is quite expensive. And some people would rather not have any of those just to be able to save enough and fill that Balikbayan box before they get home. What's in a balikbayan box? It's basically ordinary grocery goods we find in every grocery store in the world. Every payday, this box is filled with whatever is on sale at the grocery store. Thinking not only of the immediate family who will be benefitting from it but also the neighbors who are undoubtedly be doing housecalls by the second day of your vacation.

Most Filipinos think that working abroad makes any OFW rich. And that they can afford any luxury and indulgences in the Philippines. LIttle do they know that, some would just skip eating meals to have enough savings. Or resort to bank loans to have enough money to feed the entire barangay when they get home. Some even go with taking boyfriends so somebody could sponsor their groceries. OFWs would do all sorts of unspeakable things just to provide for the family.

I hope the people back at home knows the horror that OFW's have to resort to in order to stay longer in a country of sand and sun.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coffee Break!

What is a day without a coffee break? People from all working class would probably end up loopy before the week ends. Most people can't live without their caffeine fix. For most it became the energy drink to start off the day. And some its the morning slap that wakes them up. Its intoxicating. Its addictive. Its coffee.

After a year and few months of living in Abu Dhabi, you would understand the importance of coffee in their culture. Its like every hour they need to sip a cup of caffeine. I used to be a coffee monster. I could finish off 2-3 cups of coffee in a day. Plus this coffee is loaded with creamer and sugar, imagine my horrific reaction when I learned about the total calories I am chugging down with just a cup of coffee. So I stopped. Occasionally I reward myself with lattes but not as often as I want.

Abu Dhabi is home for coffee connoisseur. If Italy have their espresso that shoots up caffeine straight into your brain (well, that's how my father described it) UAE have their Turkish and Arabic coffee. If you prefer to drown yourself with strong coffee while inhaling endless cigarette smoke then Turkish coffee would be the perfect blend for you. For experimental purposes, I asked our office boy to give me the lowdonw on turkish coffee. The coffee is served in small portion. They used small cups that looks like small china tea cups. The coffee is prepared using the cezve. It is a small pot directly placed on top of the electrical stove. First hot water is put inside and let it boil for a few minutes. Then put 2 spoonful of that powdered coffee bean and sugar. After a minute or two it is poured on the glass. No Need to stir. Boil and serve.

In our office we have a lot of cezve, because many of the employees request for Turkish coffee. According to our office boy, they can't prepare another turkish coffee using the left over of the first batch. It is haram as he said it or not allowed in their religion. One batch is only good for one drink also.

I tried tasting this and I must admit it tasted ok. Like bitter and sweet combine in one but the smell is definitely a stinker. It smelled like feet. No offense meant.

The arabic coffee is not for the faint hearted. If Turkish coffee was strong Arabic coffee is way stronger. I didn't dare to sample it. But the taste of the Turkish coffee is enough proof that its probably stronger.

The perfect way of enjoying this cofee is with a hookah/shisha, but that would have to wait for another blogging day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Night at the Desert

You have never been to Duabi/ Abu Dhabi if you haven't done dune bashing. Seriously. This is the ultimate adventure when you are visiting Middle East.

I have been living in UAE for almost 2 years now, and I just recently bashed the dunes. And I must say it was totally awesome! Is this too much? I actually don't care. I was really fun. Ok, to the business - let me tell you about Desert Safari.

Unlike Africa, the safari here in UAE is not about observing and taking photagraphs of animals in the wild, but instead, you take a ride on a 4 x 4 wheel drive SUV's and drive along the sand dunes.

Once inside, you'll probably end up being tossed around during the whole trip. But it was a shake worth taking. After 15-20 minutes of dipping and climbing sand, we are dropped off in the middle of the desert where an enclosed area is set up. Outside the enclosed area is a long queue for tourists to take a ride with the camel. Another queue for those who want to do sand boarding and another for those who would like to try the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle). The ATV is not for free, it will cost you AED 100 for an hour of bashing the sand.

I took a short ride on the camel. I must say it was weird and exciting at the same time. Weird because I was expecting it would feel hard and solid and it won't be that high. When I sat on its rump, I could actually feel it breathing and when it stood up I realized I am 4 meters above the ground. Skittish me, had my eyes shut the entire time.

After the camel ride, we went inside and tables on carpet everywhere. A barbecue was going on the left side of the enclosed area. A queue for the henna was at the right side. Another side of the enclosed area, was a queue for the welcome drinks and welcome snack. We roam for a bit to look for a perfect spot. There were so many people too difficult to grab a table with a good strategic location.

The welcome drinks were all soda and water. You can drink all you want. Beers are sold for AED 30.00 if you want to get wasted before the belly dancing performance.

The snack consisted of a vegetable samosa and some fried eggplant. It was good. The main dinner will start after the belly dancing show, which was around 8:00 pm. The belly dancer was not that interesting. I've seen better dancers and sexier. But it was ok.

The dinner was good. There plenty of briyani rice and some grilled chicken and lamb. It was filling. enough for everybody. During the dinner another dancer performed. A guy wearing this huge skirt. He was twirling and doing a lot of pretty nifty tricks. I loved that show.

After that, we were already summoned by our driver. It was already late, around 10:30 pm when we reached the drop-off point. We even had trouble finding the bus that will take us back to Dubai downtown area.

The trip back to the city proper took almost half an hour. Despite the long trip and sand everywhere. It was fun. I would definitely do it again and again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Undas Abroad

Among the festive public holidays in the Philippines, I always look forward for undas. Undas in vernacular simply refers to the two public holidays of November - All Saints Day and All Souls Day. People all over the country flock the cemetery to visit departed love ones and spend the entire day and sometimes overnight with the rest of the family.

I never get the chance to do the overnight thing. Strict parental rules. But that's ok. I remember way back during undas at the cemetery the festive air usually start the day before. October 31 is the day when you set up the tents, mark your property line (that is if you don't have your own mausoleum) then the electrical lines, the furniture and other portable appliances that you could squeeze into your tent. Also, the day before the big undas day is the time when wives and girls of different ages will prepare picnic food to take. Whether it would be for a meal or just for pica-pica. Kakanin or the native deliassies are a big hit during this time.

The sort of 'party' start at dusk. When the sun sets and all prayers have been said and candles lit, people with good vantage locations will take their position and start people watching. Or sometimes, will go roam around the area and visit friends and acquantances grave. Booths are set up on some free areas of the cemetery where food are sold even toys are also a big hit specially the ones with the lights.

I miss this. I miss the noise and and I miss the food. But let us not forget the reason for this day. This is the day we particularly celebrate for out departed love ones. Though we visit them and include them in our payers any day and any time of the year, this is their special day.

A thousand miles away from all of this, my husband and I attended the mass and lit candles for our loved ones in celeration of this special day. Minus the usual raucous activity of the cemetery, the church was also packed with church goers, canlde lighters and even kakanins are sold outside.

I guess undas can be anywhere you want it to be. For our dear departed, they will always be in our prayers.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Abu Dhabi with Love

It's the most wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer It's the most wonderful time of the year...probably on the other side of the globe for my case. While Christmas decors bedeck the walls of every establishment and Christmas songs are blaring from every radio station in my home country, I am the complete opposite of the joy this season brings.

If only I could skip December and make it January after November ends. This will be my first Christmas away from my family and it feels like torture. Anyway, most OFW at this point are already saving up to send money and balikbayan boxes to their loved ones in the Philippines just in time for the exchange gift day. The thing about sending balikbayan boxes, you need to check the price, the inclusive charges and most especially the number of days it will be delivered.

My husband and I have one (1) retainer when it comes to sending out packages. Below are the lists of couriers that delivers to the Philippines.

1. Omeir - (highly recommended) We have been sending boxes via Omeir Cargo for three (3) years now. And I must say, they truly deliver right on time. Omeir cargo is via air freight. Luzon destinations particularly the Metro Manila area will only take 4-6 days. If you want to have it shipped farther south like Mindanao, the delivery will take more or less 10-15 days. Costs for Metro Manila area is only AED 150 for the first 30 Kilos plus 20 for the airwaybill thingy. For Mindanao shipment will be 10.75 per kilo.

2. LBC - the good thing about LBC is that it is one of the oldest and trusted courier by almost all Filipinos abroad. When I was in Singapore, we sent out a small balikbayan box too and it went well. However that was sent October not during the Christmas season. Back to LBC Abu Dhabi. You can call their office and have the box delivered at your unit. The box costs around AED 15 - 20. The downside of going with LBC is the number of days it will take to deliver your package. If you want your package to reach the address by Christmas you have to send it by September. The shipment is via sea freight. Imagine how long the waiting period for the package to reach. It is advisable not to include any perishable items in the package.

3. Khoory Clearing and Forwarding: - This courier was already tested by an officemate and sea freight will take around 45 days if it is Metro Manila Area and costs AED 225 for super jumbo size box. They also have air freight which is quite expensive. for Metro Manila area AED10 per kilo and for Mindanao area is AED 14.0 per kilo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The De-stresser

Before I came here in Abu Dhabi I am frequent visitor to massage salons or spa as we call it in the Philippines. I never forget to book an appointment every other work. Or If I just got back from an official business trip, the first thing I do is pamper myself to one of man's greatest invention - massage.

I have tried a few affordable spa/massage salons in Davao and I must say I miss going to those places. It has been more than a year since a warm comforting hand of a masseuse touched my back. I am burden with the thought that I might not get pregnant if I have a massage, plus the massage here in Abu Dhabi cost a fodtune.

Anyway, I received an awesome gift from my awesome sister and that is a voucher for a scrub and a massage. I was so ecstatic that I called for an appointment the soonest possible time.

So, the day came for my scrub and massage session at Wellness LIG Spa in Electra. It was a bit difficult to find because no signages along the side of the building to show that the spa is in that building. Anyhoo, for those who are interested, Wellness LIG Spa is located at Rose Tower in Electra Road. Landmarks are Abu Dhabi Coop, Adnoc, and Mary Brown. Those are the nearest establishments that could identify you. The shop Veet rent a car is on the same building. Right across Elak Saloon. The spa is located at the Penthouse floor.

When I arrived I was immediatley ushered inside by the masseuse, her name is Ms. Nadine. I'm not exactly sure what her nationality is but I think she is French.

The place is jsut small. It only has 3 beds. I was assigned on the corner bed. It was still dirty, plenty of used towels and pillows are on the floor. Ms. Nadine was still tidying up from the last customer so I have to sit and watch her do her routine before I could have my turn.

Next, I was told to go the washroom and do whatever I need to do before the session. She gave me a towel and told me to take off my clothes. Before the scrub I have to take a sauna bath. I was practically clapping when I found out about the sauna. I haven't done that too for a long time. My eagerness was short lived because turned out I'll just be using the portable sauna. I have to sit inside this little tent where steam will be blown inside. It was as good as a sauna could get.

After the sauna bath, I was told to lie down on the bed. I was butt naked by the way. By the time I was asked to take everything off a deja vu ofmy KL adventure came into mind. I sure hope this isn't the same.

The bed was covered in plastic before laid down then the scrubbing began. My body was so tensed because it was my first time to have body scrub, and believe me every nook and cranny of my body was scrubbed. And I mean everything! After the scrub I took a shower. The thing about the shower thing, she asked me to get up and go to the bathroom, I was only covered on the front. I was walking butt naked with just a plastic covering my back. Good thing though nobody else was inside the area.

When the massage started, I was pretty excited. But only for the first 10 minutes. The massage was not I was expecting. I was used to the precise slow patterned strokes of massages I had in the Philippines. What she did was hurried strokes of feeling and kneading my muscles. Not exactly the relaxing type.

The whole session lasted for 1:45 minutes. It was quite an experience, but I don't think I'll be coming back to that spa in the near future. I'm still thankful, a quarter of stress that I was carrying was taken out.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Addicted to Shabu-Shabu

From the Japanese word that means, "swish-swish" - shabu-shabu became a rage for the yuppies who are in search of a new to dining out in style.

I first heard of shabu-shabu when I was in Singapore. We went to this Seoul Garden in Bugis. I thought it was Korean sans the name. But after a few tinkering with Google i have found out that its actually Japanese. Anyhoo, they are all the same to me because of their common denominator - noodles.

One hot Thursday afternoon, we have decided to eat out to this shabu-shabu for lunch. Though its not really a good thing slurping hot soup on a 38 degrees temperature, we decided to check the place.

Hiding among the buildings along Airport Road. This restaurant could definitely bring out the noodle monster in me. The name of the restaurant is something you would defintely forget after 30 seconds of reading it. The name above the entrance door is Inner Mongolia Xiao Wei Yang Catering China. How's that for a mouthful?

But the plate says Little Lamb. quite confusing, I'll stick to the little lamb name thing. It's more recognizable and easy to remember. So we ordered a big hot pot with the shape of yin yang symbol. The other half is for the ordinary soup and the other red one is the spicy one. Thin slices of beef and chicken were next to be delivered on our table. Then the noodles, the seafoods and the vegetables. We dunked everything into the hot pot and wait for it to boil.

After a few stirring, it was boiling and everyone can't wait to dig in. We sample the spicy first, and yes it was as good as I imagine it to be. Tangy and spicy. Just the way I like it. The noodles were also good but too slippery.

We also ordered grilled chicken wings. Definitely the best chicken wings I have tasted. This I think this is one of their best sellers. No wonder people are queueing just to dine in this restaurant. We were 11 sharing that huge hot pot and we only paid AED 252.00 Not bad.

But apart from this restaurant, I was also informed that another shabu-shabu is also offering the same but with better tasting food. That remains to be a quest I have to conquer. Till next weekend I guess.

For now, I will settle for a good meal at this LIttle Lamb.

Friday, September 30, 2011

More on Masdar City

I got a small guide book on our way out of the institution and I'd like to share it here.

- There are more than 35 different panels being tested, including both thin-film and crystalline. The results o the first round of testing helped in the selection of the roof-mounted PV panels used for one of the Masdar Institution buildings. Since this city will be a self-sustaining community, most of the energy to be used will be from the surroundings. One of its sources is the solar. Being in the Middle East where the sun is always smiling, why not use it to produce electricity.

- Another source of highly advance technology of producing clean electricity is the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). They call this the Beam Down Project. Although still in the R&D stage, initial results show that the 100kW tower could generate 75-85MWh of clean electricity a year, enough to power 10-15 homes.

- For water supply, the deep drilling of underground water is conducted. They are searching for geothermal water which is sufficiently hot. This will be used in thermal cooling and domestic hot water.

- The 10 MW power plant has 87, 777 polycrystalline and thin-film modules that covers an entire 22-hectare of land at the periphery of Masdar City. The farm aims to produce 17,500MHh if clean electricity annually, thereby offsetting 15,000 tons of carbon emissions per year - equivalent to taking 3,300 cars off Abu Dhabi's roads.

- On a 12-hectare site the contractors and builders of this incredible city bring their construction waste for separation and processing in accordance to recycling. Masdar City and its contractors are diverting up to 96% of construction waste from landfill and using it in the build of the city.

- Upon entering the city, you will be welcome a modern design but with minimalistic theme using less waste. Hanging from the ceiling of the PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) station are numerous glass-reinforced concrete panels. Copper pipes carrying chilled water run through the panels, cooling the concrete, which in turn provides highly efficient radiated cooling to the station.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

A City Within a City: Masdar City

It was one of those few occasions that my husband and I decided to explore the city and look for good eats. So we picked Masdar City.

I first heard about Masdar city from an officemate. My curiosity was piqued when she told me about solar panels and driverless cars. That I've got to see. It was not the food and the cost of the food. It was what the city was all about. So I began to learn about this city within the city.

Masdar city was planned and built to be sustainable and energy efficient city. Every aspect of the place is a product of thorough research of maximizing the space, the location of windows and doors, even the shadows that will be cast by the buildings are being considered.

Going there was quite tedious, despite the printed map I got from their website, the going there was simply different from what you read on the directions. So we took Airport Road taking the road heading to Dubai. There were signages that indicates Masdar city and Presidential flight. We took two wrong turns that's why we ended up driving for nearly an hour just to look for the place.

The institution is a working progress. Ongoing construction activities are evident when you enter the area. Only a few streetlights were being used so there are dark areas. Some guards are scattered in the area and they could give you directions going to the main building entrance.

When we got to the parking area. We went through an entrance where a receiving area is decked with the scale size model of the entire city is in the center. A big screen of a world map is showing packets of information about demography and environmental issues of every country in the world. on the other side of the receiving area is individual doors where the driverless cars are parked. They call this the PRT (Personal Rapid Transit).

Excited to try out this technology, we head to the available car and took the ride going to the main commercial area. The 2 minute ride was pretty fun. The interior of the car has two seats facing each other. A screen on the right side shows information about the city. What is amazing about this driverless cars, it doesn't have train tracks where it moves. I was so impressed.

Then we get there, and asked some directions going to Sumo restaurant. We took the stairs and another door and a turn to right, and we saw this huge open courtyard where the restaurant is located and a tall tower is standing tall in the middle of the courtyard.

We were the only customer at Sumo. I ordered Beef BBQ and hubby ordered Chicken Katsu plus gyoza ramen. I was so ecstatic because they have gyoza. We didn't wait too long for our order, and it was all sumptuous. Plus the price was not that high. Total cost for the dinner was AED 125.00

We walked a little around the courtyard, and realized that tower housing a lighted structure inside is one of the energy storage from the solar panels that lights up the city. Fantastic.

Since it was already late, we didn't roam around more. But with everything that has been complicated and are already running, the place has definitely the potential of finally presenting that a sustainable city is possible if we are going to pursue it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheap Eats Abu Dhabi

There will always be a time within the working week, that you'd get bore of the usual home cook food and end up buying fast food. This also happens, if you got out of work late and too lazy to cook. This is the moments that keep fast food alive. But if you're keeping a tight hold of your wallet, fast food doesn't really have to be quite expensive to give you a satisfying fill.

For the last 6 months, I have discovered a few names of fast food that are cheap, satisfying and delivers. Delivery is a gift to all the couch potatoes and busy peeps.

First in the recommended cheap eat is Taza. If you are Filipino this is definitely the place to be. Taza chicken taste almost the same as the Filipino's Favorite fast food chain - Jollibee. Minus the gravy, the garlic dip is compensating enough. A broasted meal includes 4 pieces of chicken, a handful of fries and bread with drink for only AED 16. If you want an additional garlic dip you only have to pay for AED1. There are two branches of Taza in Abu Dhabi - one is in Hamdan area and one at Abu Dhabi Mall.

Next is Sea Shells. Not really the typical fast food type but still sells the basic sandwich and fries combo meal. This restaurant gives quick fix for the hungry working class without bruising the pocket. A favorite ordered items are egg omelette sandwich and fries which costs AED 3 and AED 4 respectively. The egg omelette is a scrambled egg with fries and tomato wrapped in kubus. Worth every penny paid for it.

Another delivery joint favorite is Lebanese Flower. This is one of the famous Arabic restaurants here in Abu Dhabi. Famous for their roasted chicken and kababs. One whole chicken with fries, kubus and usual dip costs AED 36.00. Another hunger buster and easy order is their shawarma and chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich is a must try. Roasted chicken with garlic sauce and pickle is sandwiched panini style, only cost AED 7.

Cheap but very good shawarma are also available from Automatic and Lulu supermarket, which costs AED 5 and AED 4 respectively.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Courtship in Different Language

Just because I'm feeling a bit heartbroken right now, let me write about love. Not the kind of love that makes you want to jump on couches. Just plain love. But could love be really as plain as a vanilla ice cream? I doubt.

I have been living in Abu Dhabi for quite some time, I have seen the different faces of love or something like that. With exemptions of some that I don't want to include in this wholesome piece.

From what I know of the Middle East culture, most partnership or marriages are often arranged. Often done by the parents of the couple before they reached adulthood. It is quite fascinating, I was raised in an environment where courtship is a celebrated event in a teenager's life. And I can't imagine going through life without experiencing the heady feeling that is brought by courtship.

Everything starts from a simple admiration. Morphing into crush stage which eventually leads to an overpowering attraction that usually open the gates to the courtship world.

Though, I must say, I am no expert with the courtship drama. Mind you, I was only seriously courted twice. No boyfriend till I graduated college. That is one serious House Rule. Anyway, from what I know, courtship is initiated by men who fancy women and wants to win her affection.

It all starts with a rose. Or whatever flower is given, this signifies that the guy likes the recipient. Then an invitation to watch a movie or eat out or just plain hang out. Burning the telephone lines at night or texting all night helps build up the anticipation of finally asking the girl that big question - Tayo na ba? (Would you be my girlfriend?) Just like marriage proposal, but less intense. This girlfriend-boyfriend commitment is a step closer to the big time serious relationship a.k.a marriage. This is the basic flow, but I took the less travelled road - no I did not marry immediately! - my courtship lasted for 22 months.

I rarely see courtship here. Maybe because it is restricted. I saw one young adult from my office window, two Filipino teens, the girl was holding and smelling one single rose. Ah, sweet courtship. The chivalry of courtship is still alive despite the cultural difference in the country I am living at.

But as more Filipinos get involve with other nationalities here, the courtship phase is slowly rubbing into the other male counterpart. I sometimes see Filipina going out on a date with other nationalities. Some received gifts and flowers. The usual trinkets that complete a courtship stage. It brings a smile into my face. And it leads me to the arrange marriage thing.

From what I know, no courtship happens before the marriage. Only after. This is the stage where you get to know very well the partner you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with. This is the time the men woe the women.

Truly love knows no perfect time and situation. I mean, look at them, even if they just met during the wedding ceremony, still they have made a compact to stay true to each other and care for each other for the rest of their lives. Love doesn't have one way of finding it. There are a thousand and more ways to find it, receive it and live it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dubai Outlet Mall Adventure

Because its Eid and no work, the people from Abu Dhabi are hitting the highways going to Dubai and enjoy the holidays. Most would be heading straight to the beach resorts and enjoy the sun and frolic in the water. Or is it the other way around? Who cares, right?

My husband and I decided to do early christmas shopping. Not that malls here will be busy by then, still, its the perfect time to take advantage of the holidays. So we packed our stuff, wore our lightest outfit and headed out to Dubai. This will be the first time that we are driving to Dubai without any guide - well except for google maps.

The trip started around 10:40 am. I know its already late, but who's keeping track of time? So we took Road No. 10 heading to Shahama. It was quite a long trip. So if you are planning to do a road trip, be sure to pack some chips and lots and lots of water. It also helps if you talk non-stop it will keep the driver awake.  For my case the driver was already annoyed, I guess I'm a talker? (big grin)

After Road No. 10 we took exit 11. While cruising road 11 (Sheik Zayed Road), we were looking for the Truck Road to head to Road 311. Unfortunately, we can't find Truck Road and ended up going straight Road 11. We found exit 53 and took it, which luckily connects to Emirates Road or Road 311.

Along Road 311 we looked for Exit 57 that will lead us to Road 611 which is the main road going to Dubai Outlet Mall.

The road signs were a bit confusing, so we ended up entering the city proper. Road 311 actually leads straight to the city center, watch out for the Burj Khalifa, it will guide you. We took Business Bay road, and eventually found our way back to road 311. We took 311 and looked for Road 66. Luckily Road 66 and Road 311 is almost the same road. While cruising the road, we finally saw the mall's signage. It's a postive sign. Finally we saw the Universal Studios Gate that's when we knew we found the right road.

The trip took almost 3 hours, that is because we got lost. But when we went back to Abu Dhabi, it only took us almost 2 hours. We still took Road 311 but we just followed the signage that heads to Abu Dhabi.

The trip was fun, while I navigate, and check every signage in the street, it was a test of wits. Next holiday, we might check out other emirate city and do another adventure.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Realities of Working Abroad

Living abroad has its perks and downsides. And sometimes, downsides weighed more than the perks. But still people go out of their country in the hope of grazing on the greener side of the fence. Horror stories of the life living abroad attracts attention once in awhile,but most of them were just discarded and forgotten.

I have my own share of nightmares. My recent was just yesterday, 21 August 2011. It was one of those times that we are blamed for being Asian and because we are not Arabs. One Wednesday on the month of Ramadan, August 04, 2011, around 1:30 pm we were asked to assist the engineers to prepare a BOQ. For those who are not into the construction and engineering field, BOQ is Bill of Quantities which is usually submitted to tender for any project being bid. To make the story short, the BOQ preparation was hurriedly done, we were given the day before the deadline to complete a 4 inches thick BOQ. Being Ramadan and all, we were ordered to stay in the office and finish the job until 11:30 pm without lunch. Good thing, one of the office mate lives nearby cooked instant food, we hid in one room to grab a bite and that was already 4:30 pm. Anyway, we ended up not getting the job because of huge discrepancies. And ho and behold, we are being blamed for it. We only wrote the numbers and we didn't calculated the value. One of the Managers threatened to deduct from our salary for not getting the project. WTF. Sorry, but that really sounded unfair. The good side though, it was not implemented.

My Singapore experience was a different story but still connected with the filling up of BOQ documents. Unfortunately, I'm the only QS doing the BOQ that time. So the manager, told me to work beyond working hours and even on Sundays. There was one Sunday that they made me work and didn't let me go home. My husband, my fiance then who was vacationing in Singapore that time, decided to push me to resign. The way they treat employee is simply unacceptable.

I guess, there really is no such thing as the perfect work - where you will be working with the perfect boss and perfect salary. But I always believe, there are still some humane managers out there who will treat you like a human being and not a slave or a robot. I pray, that once of these days, I'd bump into one of them and change my stars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Abu Dhabi Iftar 2011

One of the most fascinating happening during Ramadan here in the Middle East is the way they carry out the whole routine for a solid month. For Catholics like me, is quite a feat already because I only get to fast from any indulgences for 3 days during the Holy Week. And sometimes, forgive me, I do it begrudgingly.

As we all know, Ramadan is the time when our Muslim brothers and sisters fast from sun-up until sun down. Until then, they break their fast for the day through Iftar meals. Iftar dinner is done after sunset and often began by eating dates and water. Since Ramadan is also a time to be charitable, many organizations, groups, families and companies, give iftar dinners. Our company recently just had one on 15 August 2011. As per our colleague who already had 3 Iftars with this company, this dinner gathering is basically the main celebration for the entire company for the year.

The dinner, per the invitation, starts at 7:00 pm. When we got there it was 7:15 pm and everybody was already eating! No tables available anymore. I say poor coordination or it whatever reason. But since we were assigned at the table near the big bosses, we were not able to eat immediately. Most of the attendees, after eating went out already or went home. Not much fuss over dinners like this one. Since the crowd is already thinning we decided to go back to the buffet area to get more food, but unfortunately, the staff were already doing the “buffet out.” It was exactly 8:00 pm and they are clearing out already. It was a sad dinner. I was not able to eat enough and enjoy their food.

Ramadan is almost over so no more Iftar dinners in almost all restaurants. I still have a long list of restaurants and fast food I would like to try before this month closes. Here’s my list:

Ponderosa – Caravan
Electra Street, Hamed Center
55 per head.    
Good food, nice place and very light I the pocket. Plenty of food to choose from - American/Mexican, Arabian and Italian. Sad part, the plates are too small! We have to go back to replenish. Must try their lemonade.

Beach Rotana Hotel
Tourist Club Area
Very nice place to dine out and have an intimate dinner, but the timing for the clearing is simply disappointing.

Le Meridien
Tourist Club Area
Cost: AED 155 per head

Holiday Inn
Cost: AED 125 per head

Yas Hotel
Yas Island
Cost: AED 145.00 per head

Vision Hotel Apartments
Tourist Club Area
Cost: AED 90.00 per head

Grand Millenium Al Wahda
next to Al Wahda Mall
Cost: AED 160.00 per head

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Singapore 4 Day Itinerary

When going for a vacation, the best way to maximize your stay in a foreign country is to plan, plan and plan. You study the country, what makes it interesting, what are the places to visit, where to try out the best food and how to go around the city. Nowadays, vacation planning is no longer that tedious, because there are a lot of material to read and absorb in the internet that you don't have to stay inside the bookstore to look at the maps and you don't have to buy travel books to guide you.

When in Asia there are two cities that are tourists magnet - Singapore and Hongkong. If, that is if you are into shopping vacation. Here is a simple 4-day itinerary for those who are planning to visit Singapore. You don't need to book a tourist guide to discover the city. Do it on your own and in your own pace and have your own Singapore story.

1 Day - Arrival
Since it depends on the time your arrive, we will just start off with the check in time in hotels. Usually, check in time is at 2:00 pm. After checking in, the best way to head out is the city's central business/shopping district - Orchard. Known to be along the red line at the heart of the interconnecting MRT lines. Stroll along the shopping malls in Orchard. Take a snack by trying out their 1 SGD ice cream. Recommended flavor: bubble gum.

When dinnertime is almost near, you can hop on to the MRT and alight at Dhoby Ghaut change MRT and take the purple going to Clarke Quay. This is where fabulously expensive restaurants and bars are located. Favorite stop is the Hooters. But aside from the restaurants, fast food is also found inside the Clarke Quay Mall if you are in a budget. At night, the lights filled the river with changing colors. Benches are scattered everywhere. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try out Gmax or the Bungy Ride. If you had enough for the night, back to the hotel to make way for the next day of walk.

Day 2:
If you are checked in to the hotel with a buffet breakfast, it is always a good thing to be one of the first guests to be in the dining hall. you'd get the freshest juice and food. Not that the rest won't be fresh anymore, but the staff is more accommodating if you are one of the first to be in the restaurant. Be sure to pack in enough food because you'd be walking most of the time. Before going in to your events of the day, make sure to buy a bottled water to keep you quenched. Plan for the day is Sentosa Island. Take the Purple line MRT going to Harbourfront station. The MRT exit is inside Vivo City Mall, the ride going Sentosa is found on the 3rd level of the mall. Spend the day roaming Universal Studios and Sentosa Marine Attractions. Click here for more information on the entertainment of the island. Make sure to stay until around 7:00 pm to enjoy that Songs of the Sea. Kids would love the show.

This day is good as exhausting. Back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

3rd day:
Start the day early, and prepare for the most exhausting day (again!) Nature tripping and visit Singapore Zoo. Take the red line MRT again and get off at Ang Mo Kio. From the station go to the nearest bus interchange, signs will lead you there and take bus no.138. You'll get off right in front of the zoo. After 3 hours in the zoo, you can start shopping. Going back to where you began, take the Ang Mo Kio MRT going to City Hall Mrt Station. Alight at exit D going where Funan Mall is located. If you are in serious need to buy the best deals in IT gadgets, this is the place.

After Funan Mall, go back to to the MRT station where you can walk going to Suntec City. One of the biggest Mall in the city where the biggest fountain is located. Fountain show starts at 7:00 pm. It's free. Inside the walk going to the mall, there is a way going to Esplanade. Singapore's famous landmark. And just a few steps from Esplanade is the Merlion. Take a res and enjoy the view. AFter the walk and the picture taking, time to take the the MRT again and go to Bugis Station. Shop and Eat. Nearby Bugis Junction is Sim Lim Square, famous for selling gadgets like cameras and cellphones. visit the palce and don't forget to haggle.

For the last night in Singapore, why not make the most of it. Visit Mustafa - the 24 hour Mall. It is located in the Purple Line. Alight at Little India, the Mustafa Mall is located behind Serangoon Plaza. Buy all the souvenirs you need for a cheaper price.

4th Day:
Last day, checking out. Once in the airport, the shopping continues, shops are also located inside the airport. Before boarding that plane, don't forget to have your GST. Tax refund. GST counter is visible in the airport, you can have all the items you bought checked so you can have a refund.

Actually, the 4 days in Singapore is not enough to enjoy everything in Singapore. This is just the basic must visits in the city. If you have a thicker budget, you can extend a few more days to discover more of Singapore

Monday, August 1, 2011

My First 30-Days of Ramadan

01 August 2011
8:15 am
Today marks my first Ramadan experience. Though, I was already here last year for the Ramadan season, but, I was not working then, so I wouldn’t really know. So to prepare myself to the big no-eat, no-drink event, I ate breakfast. Usually I just drink milk. I ate a sandwich and apple juice. Hopefully this would keep me satisfied until 2 pm. Good thing, work timings are shortened. Otherwise, I’ll end up unconscious before the working time ends. Around 9:50 am, I slipped a candy because I’m getting thirsty. Four (4) more hours before work time is over. Hopefully we don’t have to extend.
13:36 pm
So far, I’m doing good and surviving the no-eat, no-drink day. I have only consumed 2 candies. No water yet, and amazingly I have peed twice already. A few minutes more and I’m off. I’m counting the minutes already. I’m hungry.
14:20 pm
Hungry…..still at the office. :(

02 August 2011

8:02 am
The 10-minute walk to the office got me thirsty. Good thing, not much people were at the office and was able to get some water. I'm hiding it in between file folders. I do apologize, I just can't help it.

8:28 am
Took a small sip. Does this make me bad?

11:26 am
My stomach is already grumbling. I think I'm overusing my brain again. Lol. I want to go and buy some groceries at Choitram when I get off. I wanted to buy all the food available in the grocery. I am so hungry. There is something about fasting from water and any solid for a number of hours, it makes you crave for everything you could afford to buy. My brain is in such a frantic mode in searching what good restaurants are available in the city. Perhaps, I should convince my husband and try out the Iftar dinners in the city. hhmmmm...

5:30 pm

Went to the nearest grocery, Fathima Supermarket, to buy additional ingredients I need for the dinner I am cooking. Good thing I asked my husband to accompany me. Everybody inside the supermarket are men! What happen to the women in the area? Were they too tired to do some groceries? Anyway, it was kind of freaky. I was the only woman inside the store. So this is Ramadan here in the middle east. Most women are in their homes doing the cooking. Additional information from my very keen husband, meal time during Ramadan, men eat together then the women afterwards. They don't eat the same time. This is for one month. Wow.

03 August 2011

7:50 am
Pass by the grocery to buy candy to keep me sustained during the entire working time. I also had a bottled water on the sideline in case I need a sip or two.

10:00 am
Pretty busy the entire time.

3:00 pm
Still in the freaking office. All of us non-muslim working are asked to work without eating. I mean, SERIOUSLY???

4:05 PM

04 August 2011
12:42 am

I think my eyes are going to fall off any moment now. I can feel my extremities refusing to move. My brain is simply telling me to get some rest and sleep. As expected, we went home very late already. Only 30 minutes more and its already the following day. But good employees as we are, we still came in today right on the dot! Despite the lack of sleep and no water and food (slightly) I am going to crawl going home. Seriously.

Was not able to tell more about last night, we got out of the office around 11:30 pm. I was surprised that Khalidiya is still buzzing with acitivity. However, still, only a few women are roaming around the area. Even though we went home late, it was not so scary to walk home.

12:46 pm
Keeping my eyes open and keeping a sane mind is really a feat right now.

05 August 2011
12:35 pm
Friday at last! So I woke up at around 7:45. hohum (i know!) But then, I don't have to get up immediately, we just spent like half an hour talking about plans for the day and our budget for the eid. What would be our final plan. That is something we should ponder every single day since Ramadan started.
I cooked some brunch, cleaned the flat, and now I am just typing away. We wanted to visit IKEA the thing is its too hot right now. The heat feels like its melting your brains out. No use roaming the the downtown area too. Most restaurants will be closed as well as stores. Groceries are the only establishments opened at this time. The malls, open at around 3 pm. So the shopping thing will have to wait till later. Not much to tell, despite the load of work at the office, I still like Ramadan so far. Earlier time of going home. I can't remember going home right on the dot. If we do, the look on our boss' face would have us backing down and opening our computers back on. That's how working in Abu Dhabi is, they don't literally force you to work overtime, but the look on their faces simply tells it all. :(

6:30 pm
After church, we decided to visit Abu Dhabi Mall for window shopping. Since its Ramadan, the foodcourt would probably open a bit later since eating time is 7:00 pm. Aroung 7:15 we went to the foodcourt and was amazed. The place was packed. Almost all fast food chains have long queues. It was a nightmare. Even tables were not available. We have to wait, so we decided to take the food away and eat it at home instead. This is eating out during Ramadan, it was total chaos.

06 August 2011
10:16 am

I am surviving. I still have a bag of m&ms inside my drawer. My water bottle is half empty. But so far, I am doing ok.

07 August 2011
7:55 am
While walking to the office, I can't help but notice that today is way hotter than any other summer mornings. When I arrived at the office, which was basically and slow 10 minute walk, I was perspiring profusely. Like I was going to be put into trial. It was really hot, so I made a dash to the pantry to replenish my self. We still have enough chocolate supplies in my drawer to keep me going until 2 pm.

10:00 pm
Despite the occasional servings of chocolate bites, I still feel hungry. I had some toasts and two spoonful of tuna pasta and half a glass of milk. I'm still hungry. All I could think about is going home and cook whatever I can find from the fridge.

2:50 pm
Home at last! Made chili-garlic pasta. smack! smack!

12 August 2011
11:30 pm.
It has been a hectic few days. Was not able to do some recording of the days. Anyway, few update since the last time I wrote something. A new mall opened, Mashrif Mall. We saw this advertisement flyer for the opening and some stuff on sale. It opening on the 10th. We went there the following day hoping to buy that 10 pc Tefal set. To my dismay, the stock were already gone. I guess, plenty of people saw that flyer too. But i can't imagine how fast the stock was sold out. RAwrrr...Anyway, I will continue to prowl the city for more great buys during Ramadan. By the way, Carrefour is also doing some sale thing. We bought this 6 pc tumbler Luminarc for only 10 AED. How cool is that? We are starting to buy some stuff to send to Phil. for Christmas. *sigh* I'll be spending it here this year. Really really sad.

13 August 2011
8:50 pm

Another long Saturday. Started like any other working day. The thing is, I woke up lazy. Meaning I don't feel like doing anything. Even drinking milk was too tiring. Seriously. Good thing most of the bosses arrived late. The sad part is, there's still plenty of work to do. Went home at 3:30 pm. Sleepy and hungry, I trudged home and hoping to get a wink. But if you are living abroad and on your own, you have to do chores. That dreadful chores. So I have to iron clothes. This is the life of the OFW.

19 August 2011
It has been 5 days since the last time I placed something. I am supposed to make another psot for the next 15 days. The other Monday, 15 August we went to our office Iftar dinner, but I won't tell it here. It was fun, but it was quick to end. We didn't even enjoyed the entire dinner. sheesh. And last thursday, 18 August, we attended a baptismal. The baptismal started at 4:30 pm and ended like around 5 pm. It is customary that after baptismal ceremonies, guests are invited to partake a small get together sponsored by the parents of the child. However, since it is Ramadan, every restaurants will only serve food starting at 7:00 pm. Big dilemma. What we did, we just went 'malling' a.k.a. window shopping for a few hours to kill the time till its dinnertime. It ended well, good eats with good friends. What a way to start the weekend.

26 August 2011
Another week has passed and Ramadan is almost over. So far, there are plenty of things I have realized about this time. For one, the early going home, I mean, even though our memo says we are only working from 8 am to 2 pm. we always go home around 3 or 4 pm we can still go home earlier than dinner time. If we could go out around 2:30 it is already a treat. And when I get home, I could have a short nap and rest. Do other chores and prepare dinner earlier. Plus the no eat most of the time helped me lose weight! I'm definitely loving it! The end of Ramadan is closing in, so we are planning big time on what to do on the two days holiday. I'll write more next time.

30 August 2011
1:00 am
Eid Mubarak! Ramadan has come to its completion. At exactly 8:30 pm last night, 29 August 2011, (a few hours from the time I made this entry) cellphones have been ringing and its from our bosses, not that they want us to go to work at that hour, but to let us know that Ramadan is over and the holiday is officially started. Perfect timing because we also planned to have a party on that night. Now that it was made official, everybody can drink all they want till they drop because they could nurse their hangover for two whole days. I left the party earlier, 12 midnight, like Cinderella. While walking home, the streets of Daruthalmiya, Khalidiya was buzzing with life. The party ambiance is everywhere, and everybody seems to be in high spirits. Despite the humidity, everybody was out in the streets, sitting outside smoking and eating. We passed by a gent's saloon and plenty of people inside. One even was having a mud pack on. Truly celebrating the festive day of Eid ul-Fitr.

Though this is my second Ramadan here in Abu Dhabi, this is the first time that I have experienced it as part of the community. Last year, I was hiding inside the room the whole time. No time and venue to observe what really was going on during this Holy Month. Next year, I have set a new goal, that is if I am still here in Abu Dhabi. I'm planning to try all the iftar offers in the city for 30 days. That would be fun, but the thing is, how will I lose those weights I'd probably gain in that one month. Hmmm. Dilemma. But! That's for next year, who know, I might think of other things to do for that eventful 30 days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Letter from Room 506

Dear Al Salama hospital,

If I could pour everything out to in one seating, I could take up the whole day telling you what happened to me and my husband during my stay with you.

On one frantic Friday early morning, we rushed to your emergency room, in the hope of getting immediate relief for a stomach ache and senseless puking. As what we have hoped for, we were immediately facilitated by your friendly staff. Kudos for hiring plenty of Filipino personnel who are willing to work during day offs. But I have to say, there are a few bumps along the way of our journey with you. This I will itemize for you:

- Good: We were facilitated immediately and medicines were given to my husband. Although, some of the technician were not readily available, the nurses check on us and update on what needs to be done before proceeding with any procedure.

- Good: We were informed to visit the doctor the following day for the final diagnosis and what needs to be done. Turned out that my husband has gallstones so operation is required to remove the stones and we will just be informed of the schedule once the approval from the insurance is obtained.

- Good: Insurance confirmation was received and scheduled on Wednesday 9 am. We were informed to check in around 8 am for the 9 am operation.

- Bad: Upon admission, we were facilitated immediately and given a room. And the bumpy ride began. Around 9:30 no one has informed us regarding the operation schedule. Per the nurse, the procedure was moved to 12 noon as the operating room is still being used. When 12 noon crawled, the schedule was moved at 5:00 pm. The waiting was making me itch all over and worry more. By 5:30 pm, a nurse came in told us that the operation will start. I was a bit confused because no wheelchair was around to take my husband. We were informed that he will just have to walk going to the OR (operating room) wrapped in blanket. Oooowwwkaaaay. Not.

- Bad: The operation was a success and we were told he would be discharge on the 3rd day. At the start of the 3rd day, we were waiting for the nurses to inform us what time we can go home. By the way, during the stay, my husband’s gown was not change and the beddings. No toiletries were also given to the patient even if it was indicated in their manual. Anyway, the nurse changed the drainage bag attached to his tummy and gave us the go signal to go home. However no prescription was given because the doctor didn’t leave one. What the?! We were only told to call the doctor for the prescription.

- Bad: We kept calling the doctor and even called the hospital. Until around 6 pm, the doctor called us and informed us to pick up the prescription the following day. Since my husband can not just go out anytime, I did the picking up, only when I came there, I was given a queue number. Meaning I have to wait again and consult with the doctor because my husband’s prescription is not yet in the system. Now, the prescription collection which should only take 15 minutes actually took 2 hours.

- Bad: When my turn was up to remind the doctor of the prescription, the doctor told me to bring my husband the following day so he can take a look at the tube/ drainage bag and maybe remove it already. My husband was so relieved because this tube gives him discomfort when moving and sleeping. We came at the hospital for the night clinic, when we got there, we were informed that the doctor will not be coming in for the night. So we were kind of pissed off because we were so looking forward to have the tube removed. We called the doctor and was informed that he had too many operation for the day and was so tired so he will not be coming in for the night. So he rescheduled my husband for the following day 10 am.

- Bad: Right on the dot, at exactly 10 am the following day, my husband was at the clinic and was hoping to have the tube taken out already. Again, the doctor was not yet in because he attended a meeting. He came in around 11 am and was accommodated at around 12 noon already.

- Bad: This is not really important, but I would just like to have it posted that the bathroom was not well designed. Although it was clean, we cannot take a bath, because the drain is far from the shower area. Water would flood the area which is not good for the other patients using the bathroom since the bathroom is used for two patients in one room. Just so they would know.

I apologize for ranting. I have been keeping mum about this.
Well, not entirely because everybody from my office knew about it and even my family know about it. Howell, will not go back to that hospital for sure.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Emergency Doors

When conversations veered to health issues, people tend to turn off their listening skills and silently doze off into daydream land. Well, this is practically the case if you are not medically inclined or are married to one who is medically inclined. We often think about health, hospital and medical insurance only when we are sick and needs medical help ASAP.

For me, this is that moment and some moments in my history. I’ve been in and out of hospitals since I could remember and I treat emergency rooms like it is just part of my bedroom. Being asthmatic will immediately make you an elite member of any hospital frequent user club. No matter how good the rooms are or the food they serve or how funny the movie being shown on the tube, still remains the fact that you are inside the hospital and it totally sucks. It sucks more if you are with the patient who is undergoing any operation. Being sick and away from the family is worst than having your pedicure during night time. (seriously)

And so I brave this out and hopefully will live the day to tell the whole story. Since arriving here in Abu Dhabi, I have searched for the best hospitals and inquired on their services. Just to prepare myself in whatever health related activity I might be getting into in the near future. Apparently, I am adjusting pretty well with this humid country. I didn’t have any major encounter with the hospital for the last 12 months. I’m quite happy about it except that this time it is my husband who is going to be checking Abu Dhabi hospital’s facilities.

Enough about me and let me tell about the hospitals we have visited for many different purposes. The first hospital I have ever visited here in Abu Dhabi is SEHA. Known to mean as health in Arabic, SEHA is not known for its actual company name which is Abu Dhabi Health Service Company. This is where I had my medical checkup for my husband visa and employment visa. When you enter the main entrance, you go straight to the reception counter which is directly in front of the entrance. They will direct you to wherever you need to go. The medical examination for women is upstairs. If you are accompanied by your husband, a waiting area on the left side is allocated. If you happen to take your medical during lunch break, you will be requested to return after 3 pm and instead of going upstairs, you will go to the ground floor clinic at the right side once you get inside the hospital. Fast service and systematic. The place is also clean and its more like an office than a hospital. Well, that’s how I see the place.

When I had my first pregnancy false alarm, my friend recommended her OBGYN at A Raha Hospital. She and her husband were trying to have a baby and after visiting this OBGYN she finally got pregnant. So I was pretty excited to have an appointment with that OBGYN. The hospital is at the 2nd floor of the building. When you enter, the floor, the reception counter will ask for your insurance card and prepare your papers. Since, it is my first visit I have to go and check with the GP (General Practitioner) as this is part of their SOP. When I finally had my turn with Dr. Iman, I discovered I had 2 huge cysts on my left ovary. That’s how I got heartbroken, but that’s another story and I’m still waiting for a good ending. The facilities in the hospital were updated. It is clean especially the toilet and laboratory. The personnel are also very accommodating. However, I have this one time when this cashier (she’s Filipina, sad to say) she was very rude.

Another time, when a housemate got sick and was confined to Sheik Khalifa Medical City, I came to visit her. The building is an obvious reminder of where you are in the Middle East. The big entrance welcomes you with a reception counter where you can inquire for directions. The building is quite old. And the atmosphere inside is really like a hospital. A bit old kind of hospital feel. She was confined in the isolation area. Her room was quite big and clean. A good view outside and enough sunshine to keep you energized. The good thing about this hospital, according to my housemate is that you can choose food according to your nationality. And you can even order food for your visitor, absolutely free. And also, the room is equipped with wifi.

Going back with the baby business, another friend recommended her OBGYN at Dar Al Shifa. And so I went there, unfortunately, the system was not that good and the doctor is only available on hours that I have work. So have to go back with Dr. Iman. My officemate also recommended Al Noor Hospital. Dr. Sherri was an in demand OBGYN, the thing is when I called to set an appointment it was already packed until the following month. I can’t wait that long to have that check up.

When one dawn my husband woke up vomiting with horrible stomach pain, we rushed to the emergency room of Al Salama Hospital. On a Friday, the hospital was clear of patients so we were accommodated immediately, turned out my husband has gallstone and is scheduled to undergo operation. Before we proceeded with the operation we went to another hospital for a second opinion. We went to Lifeline Hospital. It is a massive hospital. However, the elevator is quite small and it is packed. We arrived there around7 pm and were accommodated around 9 pm already.

For now, this are just few of the hospitals we have visited. Hopefully, no more hospital to add in our list.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bambu Restaurant - Abu Dhabi

When traveling, one of the interesting things to do in a foreign land is to eat. So let me tell you about good eats. I have always believed that the easiest way to know a city is through your belly. The local food, plus the ambiance and the people surrounding you is enough to distinguish one city from another. But for those who want to play it safe makes a head way to the nearest fast food chain when the meal time bell rings. International food chains are usually cheaper, recognized and too calorific.

Here in Abu Dhabi, I have discovered a few fast food chains that are worth the visit and no food poisoning episodes ever occurred (in my own opinion).

Recently, we visited this Asian-inspired buffet restaurant at the Abu Dhabi Marina Club – Bambu. We called for reservation on a Sunday. The location can be easily spotted since it’s the area between Le Meridien hotel and Abu Dhabi Mall. The entrance has an archway that states Abu Dhabi Marina Club. The parking lot was deserted at 7:50 pm. It was difficult to locate the restaurant. On one corner of the building there was a sign for Bambu, unfortunately, no door nearby. We looked for the entrance then we head straight into an arched entry way and asked the personnel on one of the open kitchen near the pool. Then finally we were pointed towards the restaurant.

Once you open the door, a small lanai will greet the guests. A small bridge runs over the garden and towards the bar section of the restaurant where you will be greeted by their waiters. We were herded to our table near the television. Although the restaurant was located by the shoreline, the view was covered with bamboo sheets. The buffet costs AED 175 per head inclusive of drinks if the drinks are excluded it will only cost AED 125. We chose the AED 125 buffet. This is a sit-down buffet where you can order the soups, the appetizers, main courses and desserts that you want. We tried almost everything in the menu, except some seafood. By the time we were half way through our main course we already felt like bursting. Though the servings were in small portion, the quantity of variety is plenty. We had to stop and was planning to skip dessert altogether. But the ever accommodating staff insisted we should try their dessert, and we did. I had fried ice cream. It was good, but not that great to be considered unforgettable.

We stayed up late to avoid getting nightmares because of full stomach ache (or so what our old folks say). If we will be asked if we would come back to Bambu again, we’d probably say yes, but not in the near future. The staff was ever accommodating, the food was good the restaurant needs refurbishment even the A/C needs to be changed. The only thing that lured us here is that they are serving pork. In Abu Dhabi, restaurants that serve pork is hard to come by.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi

It is one of those few days when you get to have a break from the humdrum life of the working routine. A day where you get to enjoy for yourself, and not think about what to cook for lunch tomorrow or washing clothes and ironing some that have already dried. Just doing something that you'd enjoy like exploring.

And in one of these rare occasions of exploring that we end up visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It was a Saturday a day after Eid. We hailed a taxi cab and head out to the mosque.

It was pretty hot that day. At the height of summer season in the middle east is like being cooked alive under the heat of the sun. Everything is glaringly bright. The clear blue sky is just perfect for a good sun tan moment but only for 5 minutes.  Beyond that, you'd end up bein toasted.

When we arrived there, we were not expecting it to be packed with visitors. Since, it was posted in the magazine that there will be a free guided tour on that day, I guess, everybody saw that small ad.

Before we proceed with the guided tour with the rest of the curious tourists. Women have to wear the abaya, to show respect to the holy place of worship. Abaya, is the black dress that covers the whole body of the women. A shiela is like a black scarf that covers the hair. Free abaya and shiela are being handed out on the east wing of the entrance. So I got my own abaya and tried to don the black dress and cover everything except my face. The hair should be completely covered, for whatever reason, I forgot to ask.

Then we picked a group where we could join and start the tour. We were lucky because our tour guide speaks clearly and very engaging in telling the details of the mosque. The columns, made in marble but have precious stones embedded in the shape of flowers and vines. All columns that surround the mosque.

Next stop is the the inside of the mosque. But before we entered we were asked to take off our shoes in the open area. Take note, it was around 11 am that time but the marble floor outside still feel cold. According to the tour guide, these marbles were fabricated from China that repels heat and keep the floor cold despite the increasing temperature. Then we head inside through a huge door which is elaborately adorned in vines and flowers. Inside the prayer room, are two halls. One big prayer room for women. The prayer room for women, has a beautiful ceiling that has the exact design as the carpet that covers the floor.

The main prayer room, is the grandest among the structure. The chandelier that adorns the beautiful ceiling just takes your breathe away. Made in Germany and in Swarovzki crystals, natural lights just dances rainbows on the walls of the prayer room. The columns of the inner prayer room is just astounding, marble columns with flowers and vines designs, but instead of precious stones embedded its mother of pearl. The walls are covered with white cold that protects the etchings. And the huge carpet that covers the entire prayer room was hand woven by Iranian women. A quick trivia on the carpet, a subtle line is visible to align the people who are going to pray, to maintain order and no overlapping will happen.

The mosque really deserves the name grand, because of everything it stands for and everything that is made of. It simply is a work of beautiful architecture and everything expensive roll into one.