Thursday, March 29, 2012

spellcheck please!

Once back in high school I won a spelling bee and was awarded a medal come recognition day - I was quite proud really bacause because (thanks Neil for pointing that out LOL! *bows head in shame*!)  at least I know I am good at spelling which I so badly hope would make up for my lack of mathematical skills.

Now I think my spelling skills are deteriorating. Spelling mistakes are not uncommon here in the UAE where English is not the first language or the second for that matter, so often times people would just write words phonetically. It is not to say that they are slow just that its much easier and when it comes down to it they get their point across anyway besides is good for a laugh.

I guess we are so used to this that one time at the grocery my officemate really thought that the reason a certain snackfood was on sale was because they had misspelled the brand name on the packaging. We had a good laugh about that with me convincing her that is was about a sports promotion and her honestly believing there had been a mistake.

Fun times at the grocery

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

whistle blower

If there is anything that can instantly ruin my mood it is people who makes cat calls and whistles while you walk past by - I am not being a prude or anything but living here in the Emirates where people often stick to the notion the Filipino women are 'easy' I find these acts not flaterring but degrading and insulting specially if they call out the word 'kabayan' which can be translated to mean 'me fellow countrymen'.

Such incident occured this morning - as I turned the corner out of my building to the main road a bunch of guys began calling out "uy si kabayan! kabayan!" as I ignored them and continued walking a little faster I hear them begin to argue with themselves as to what nationality I am all the while calling out to me their guesses - this really irks me and I can not assume they are being friendly because it sounded more like verbal harrassment to me. Sometimes I want to answer something sarcastic back at them but I figured they might not even get my sacrasm and think of it as something akin to flirting so I just walk on in my own little bubble.

I wish people would stop doing this - If they want to be friendly there is a proper way of introducing themselves right??

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Identity crisis

Finally after much cajoling and sometimes threatening, my brother has at last applied for the Emirates ID.

Aimed to Identify and Verify a person as per International Standards - I have gathered that they are already in use in many countries including most European countries and some parts of Asia, the US and UK however are still in debate on whether the proposed system is feasible - it is mandatory for all legal UAE residents above the age of 15 years. With the National ID being linked with visa services and will eventually replace the Labor Card (within three months) it is as urgent as ever to apply.

There has been much confusion before over the system and procedures and deadlines of applying for the ID, I for one relied on the information via my friends and just went to apply my ID after work without any schedule but much pleading with the officers to please please admit us in, even if we have to wait and be put at the very end of the queue – which they pityingly did thank god, resulting in the very haggard looking picture of me on the card.

I am quite relieved (for my brother) that now it is much more organized. The application can be done online or via typing centers, after which you are to expect an SMS for information on when you are scheduled to make a trip at the Emirates ID Authority office for the finger printing etc, then you can rest easy and wait for another SMS informing you of the availability of your card and where to pick it up.

Here's hoping you have applied for your ID's already!

Friday, March 23, 2012

the girl who was on fire

... so with all this hype about the book (and movie) The Hunger Games from the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzzane Collins, I decided to go on and read the book - I had just finished actually and it was a good read, short and concise it is with only 190 pages.

The plot of fight to the death for survival though not new is given new light in this book, set in the future in a nation called Panem consisting of a wealthy Capitol controling 12 poorer districts, girls and boys from age twelve to eigtheen are pitted againsts each other for fame and fortune in the (controlled by the Capitol) wilderness. The heroine Katniss Everdeen is not your ordinary damsel in distress but a strong willed and self sufficient young woman making the book a much less sappy story though you can tell that a love triangle between the three protagonist is brewing.

It was a good read and though the plot is different I found the writing simple, it is not to say that I could have written a better version only that I would have wanted more back story and details - details that make go back a few pages to string everything together, but I guess being told in the first person it is kind of limited.

The movie is showing now in cinemas worldwide (I guess) and I think this is one of those book to movie adaptation where the movie is better than the book.

I look forward to reading the next books and maybe I'll eat my words and declare it a great (not just a good) read.

chanelling Katniss Everdeen with the side braid

Thursday, March 22, 2012

close that tap!!!

Close all your taps and check for leaks, not a single drop of water should go to waste (today and everyday) because today is World Water Day!

First proposed in the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, March 22 has been declared World Water Day and has been observed so since 1993. Each year the celebrations highlight a specific aspect of freshwater and freshwater resources and this year’s theme is Water and Food Security with the tagline ‘The World Is Thirsty Because We Are Hungry’.

Needless to say, water is essential in producing goods and services each individual consumes – I know that much, what I didn’t know was that it takes about 140 liters of water just to produce a cup of your favorite Starbucks CafĂ© Late!. Just imagine how much water is consumed to produce just one Burger Meal and most people don’t even finish their serving.
In my household, specially here in UAE, me and my brother make it a point not to let even the smallest portion of food go to waste, whatever leftover we have is stored in sealed containers to be reheated or ‘dressed up’ as another dish for the next day. What was a conscious effort to keep within our food budget and avoid food waste helps reduce my water footprint as well and I am glad.

So I encourage all of you out there to conserve water and avoid wasting food and other resources as well. Here are some actual things we do at home to save water, food, other resources and ultimately money – because the middle class abu dhabi expat can not afford to waste any of these!
- when cooking for 2 or one person its better to use smaller pots and pans, smaller cookware ‘fool’s you into thinking you have cooked a lot which in actuality is good enough for two persons
- store left-overs in sealed containers and reheat or dress it up for the next meal. Left over roast chicken for example can be used for chicken sandwiches the next day
- when eating out, order only what you can consume

Most of the utilities here in the UAE are built in with rent payment so most don’t bother conserving water and electricity because they think ‘it’s free’ but it’s not so please reduce water and electricity consumption by:
- using buckets to flush the toilet or use the half-flush button is available
- use the ‘speedy’ cycle on the washing machine for unsoiled, once-used clothes
- use the two sides of paper. In the office I was shocked at how much paper goes to waste, with the abundance of A4 stocks most of my office mates don’t mind throwing out papers from misprinted documents. I started compiling them and re-using them and am glad my office mates now make an effort to do the same
- turn of the AC and remove plugs when you leave home
- and as much as possible reduce, reuse and recycle

Lets all do our share to keep mother earth alive!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

happy Mother's Day!!!

Happy Mother's Day mom and to all the mothers out there!

Most of the Arab world celebrates mother's day today and I remember being confused when I was new in the Emirates - banners began to pop up everywhere with promotions for flowers and chocolates, I knew for certain that this particular occassion is celebrated in May but not knowing when exactly I panicked and in a frenzy I messaged my mom and greeted her - she must have been as confused as I was because she replied by asking me "isn't mothers day in May?"...

... well if you live in the Philippines, United States or 70 or so other countries it is, on the second sunday of May to be exact but here in the middle east it is today March 21 - so Happy Mother's day!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LULU skip to my lou!

I recently went on a photowalk with some of my mates from the photography club that I have joined a few months back.

We went on a field trip to Lulu Island. I have heard a lot of news about the development of the man made island opposite the corniche -as I remember there was a ferry ride you can take from the Marina breakwater to the island, a bus to take you around the island and a few amenities like beach huts, artificial lakes, restaurants, tracks for horse and camel riding and bike rentals for visitors - the rumors was that it would be developed into a private hi-end beach club but I guess all plans are halted as it has been closed to the public and can now only be accessed by private boat.

We were lucky one of my mates 'knew' somebody thus we were able to go on a day trip and practice taking pictures on manual camera settings.

here are some of my shots

Monday, March 19, 2012

I have arrived!!!

I recently joined Expat Arrival's roster of Abu Dhabi Blogs and did an email interview with former editor Stephanie Katz about life in Abu Dhabi.

Here is the transcipt:

Expat interviews – tell us about your expat experience…
Your answers will help inform and guide new and prospective expats in your city and your responses will be published on Expat Arrivals and linked to a personal profile where you can mention promote your company or blog if you wish.
You only need to answer the questions which are relevant!

About you
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Manila, Philippines
Q: Where are you living now (city + suburb)?
A:  I am currently living in the Tourist Club area of Abu Dhabi, UAE
Q: How long you have you lived here?
A: this coming August would be my seventh year living in Abu Dhabi
Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A:  I am single :)
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A:  I decided to find a job overseas because back then I felt that my life had become one boring routine. I needed a change of environment and thought that if I get a job abroad not only will I get a considerable increase in salary, I would also have the opportunity to travel, meet new people, experience new things and live independently.

I am currently working as a bank customer service associate.

About your city
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A:  what I like about living in Abu Dhabi is that there are a lot of things to do whether you have a lot of cash to spend or not.

-          There are various mall and hotels that offer a lot of options for dining, shopping and recreation. There are no shortages too of licensed hotel bars that offer alcoholic beverages.

-          Beaches and Parks that are easily accessible and are open to the public with minimal or no cost at all.

-          There are various social and civic organizations of different interest one can join. 

-          There are also a lot of places of interest (touristy spots if you will) to visit like the Grand mosque, Heritage village, Ferrari World and Emirates palace

-          There is a variety of recreational and fitness classes being offered

-          Abu Dhabi is also host to various concerts and sporting events

I used to think that this is a boring place, that ‘having a life’ out of work can be expensive, but I found out that you just have to be resourceful, there a lot of free magazines and websites that lists upcoming events you can choose from. From my point of view and experience life can be/is good in Abu Dhabi

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A:  the only negative thing is, that being Filipino, people tend to discriminate and stereotype us. I have always thought that the biggest challenge for a Filipino expat is to rise above and change the people’s negative perception about us.
Family is what I miss most about home

Q: Is the city safe?
A:  it is generally safe, I have never experienced or heard first hand from anybody I know about any incidents of violence

About living here
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A:  There are several of options to choose from. For a single expat I think it is better to live on island at the city center because:

-          everything is accessible – malls, parks, banks, groceries, restaurants, offices, parks and beaches can be within walking distance or a few minutes bus or taxi ride. You can easily go places even if you don’t have a car

-          there is a choice of accommodations available. Depending on your budget and lifestyle. You can rent a flat or villa, sometimes even share a partitioned room though you have to be cautious with this arrangement because it is considered illegal.

For families there is an option to live off island where rent is much cheaper

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A:   the standard of accommodation is generally satisfactory but of course comfort largely depends on budget.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A:  compared back home the cost of living in Abu Dhabi can be cheap depending on one’s lifestyle. If you know how to handle your finances wisely you can even occasionally splurge on dining out, luxury items and travelling.  Rent will take the biggest chunk out of an expat’s salary – almost half at times. Local food items are affordable and transportation can be cheap if you have the patience to take the bus (for a 1 aed fare) as taxis can be a bit costly for daily commutes. Electronics are generally cheaper here than back home but books are more expensive.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A:  most of the locals are friendly and I am quite happy that they acknowledge Filipino employees to be loyal and hardworking. I interact mostly with fellow Filipino expats but also have a circle of friends of various nationalities
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A:  it was easy for me to meet new people and make friends because of work thru trainings and seminars. Outside of work I met new people by joining clubs and participating in social and civic events.

About working here
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A:  Unlike a number of people who take a chance of finding a job here with a tourist visa I was lucky to get a job offer via an agency in the Philippines so I didn’t have any problems getting the work permit.   

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: with the current economic situation there are some companies that are laying off people or doing without hiring new staff. While there are available jobs I would not say there are plenty.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A:  I would have to say that the work culture here is not as stern as back home – here we could call our bosses by their first name and assert our opinion (sometimes even aggressively) without them taking it as an insult or it being disrespectful and at the end of the day share a smile and be back to a cheerful atmosphere.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A:  we did all the arrangements of relocation ourselves though to ease the transition our company provided us with 15 days hotel accommodation upon arriving in the UAE. In the following years, whenever we moved apartments we would just hire moving vans and do the packing ourselves

And finally…
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A:  aside from making sure that they are not being shortchanged in terms of their total compensation package, I would advise them to just enjoy all what your host country can offer, explore it and get to know it - make living abroad an adventure!

Friday, March 16, 2012

chillin' out birthday

its been a few months since I had last dined at Chili's - I always thought that their steaks are on the dry side even though I prefer mine medium rare that is why I stick to fajitas and the seafood choices.

Today, in celebration of my friends' birthday we had lunch at Chili's and we all agreed that there definitely are improvements on the menu and food preparation. It may have been the end result to it being shutdown by the Food Authority a few months back, at least now we know they are keeping up to par.

The salmon and shrimp combo I ordered was cooked perfectly - the salmon had a crisp golden exterior but still is juicy inside as are the plump shrimps. The sides of veggies and mashed potato are better than I remembered them -the mashed potatoes are creamy, topped with shredded cheddar cheese and bits of bacon and I swear I detected a bit of mozzarella.The (well done) steaks that was ordered around was cooked just right - though I still prefer mine medium rare.

But of course the star of the day were the desserts - presented with a birthday song for the birthday boy. The Molten Lava cake is a good as ever - no wonder its their best seller. As for me though I discovered I loved the Chocolate Chip Paradise even more - served in a tiny hot pan this chewy version of a blondie brownie with walnuts, coconut and chocolate chips topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge and caramel is scrumptious! Chocolate Chip Paradise indeed!

It was really a very happy birthday lunch! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

singing the blues away

Am feeling kinda down lately and though a lot of good things has happened I can't seem to shake the negative vibes. Living away from your family you sometimes yearn for that familial bond and though the internet helps quell your homesickness with video chatting there is nothing like feeling the warmth of your family's tight hug.

I have a lot to think about it seems - apprehension with regards to my work, a certain gossip that may or may not affect me largely in the future, and a feeling of resentment towards someone that I truly wish to overcome. I pray and promise myself everyday to look at the brighter side of things but I have that habit of dwelling on things until I have analyzed every detail after which I would move on. I know I should not dwell on these things that make my outlook bleak - I know I have a lot- a lot to be thankful for and appreciate so I decided to chase away the negative vibes my making a happy music playlist - listening to it I can't help but sing along and dance. It feels good to forget things for a while and just let loose!

Here's the top song on my list:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

come ride with me

Living in the Abu Dhabi, I didn’t feel the need to take driving lessons, apply for a license and get a car. Sure there are times when I feel it more convenient and cheap to have a car instead of taking the bus or taxi but a one day, once every two or three months trip to Dubai or any other emirates just doesn’t seem to justify the need.

It is easy to get a taxi here for one and while the fare has increased considerably in the last couple of years with the introduction of the new fleet of silver taxis, if you live at the city center like me, (secondly) you could always walk the distance to the grocery store, mall, restaurant and work and goodness knows we need the extra exercise!

With the 1AED fare public buses (2 or 3 AED for long distances am told) getting around is much more cheaper. The fare can be paid in cash by dropping the coins in the fare box near the driver upon boarding or one can purchase the OJRA card which is valid for 30 days of unlimited bus rides. The bus service runs for 24 hours and as per schedule (should) comes at fifteen or twenty minute intervals but with the unpredictable traffic and heavy passenger number during peak hours the schedule isn’t always on the dot so you have to get at the bus stop quite early, if you are running late I suggest against using the bus as travel can also be on the slow side since bus stops are numerous and only a few meters apart.

Abu Dhabi buses currently service the following routes:

05 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Hamdan Street] Tourist Club
06 - Al Ras Al Akhdar/Beach - [via Al Falah Street] Mina Zayed/Indian Social Center
07 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Electra Road] Tourist Club Area
08 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Hamdan Street] Tourist Club Area
09 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Al Falah Street] Tourist Club Area
11 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Al Falah Street] Mina Zayed/Fish Market
32 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Airport Road] Bain Al Jisreen [near Umm Al Naar]
34 - Marina Mall/Breakwater - [via Electra Road, Muroor Road] Abu Dhabi Courts/Zayed Sports City
44 - Tourist Club Area - [via Electra Street, Karama Street] Officers Club
52 - Tourist Club Area - [via Airport Road] Abu Dhabi Courts/Zayed Sports City
54 - Tourist Club Area - [via Hamdan Street, Muroor Road] Umm Al Naar
56 - Tourist Club Area - [via Electra Road, Muroor Road] Khalifa Park

There have been new routes added which runs from central Abu Dhabi to the suburbs or regions like Shahama, Mussafah, and Khalifa City. 

I personally take the bus running errands during my days off from work when I don’t have to run against time and can enjoy the leisurely ride.

Monday, March 12, 2012

am a featured photographer!!!

I sent in a picture on food photography last January to Tempo magazine and guess what! I got featured! yay!!! thanks to the Tempo magazine team!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

the corner shop bakery - video

If you remember I wrote something about the Corner shop bakery months ago, and now browsing thru GulfNews I found  a video on how the bread is made along with an insight about the people who make them.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

snap happy - beach mushrooms

who knew that tiny tiny mushroom can grow on the grassy picnic area of the Abu Dhabi corniche beach? not me for sure but it was a pleasant surprise and a photography opportunity so here:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

a-track-tive beach front!

I have always been a fan of time lapse and stop motion videos - I dream of making one myself that is if I get off my lazy butt and actually make an effort to learn how... anyway here's one cool video of Jumeira Beach being transformed into an extreme motocross track back in 2011.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

cigarette blossom

a different kind of flower

given by a chain smoking neighbor

made from a lone cigarrette stick

it's small, nice and kinda unique


Saturday, March 3, 2012

my recipe featured!

I love Tempo magazine! my recipe for cake balls is featured in their dishes for dummies section! awesome!

I am thinking of starting a mini business and sell these babies - anyone wants to order??!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

up in smoke

Shisha Cafe's in Arab countries it's as ubiquitous as McDonald and Starbucks is to the US. It is a popular place for social gatherings where people can sit and watch sporting events, talk, have coffee and shisha.

Before it had seemed odd to me how people flock to cafes and sit for hours smoking shisha (sometimes more that eating or having a drink) but eventually I learned that is is more that just a habit (as with cigarette smoking) but a way of life because though the concept of shisha or waterpipe is thought to have originated in India, it is has been integrated in the Arab culture and tradition and is almost always served during gatherings be it small and simple or big and grand.

While browsing the net this evening, something caught my attention.
According to Yahoo Maktoob news:

The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) has revealed it is working alongside the Municipality to ban to sale of shisha in cafes in residential areas.

Cafes will be forced to stop offering the service, or close. The DED wants to ensure no shisha will be served in residential areas or near schools and mosques.

“The new rules will be issued next month before they are enforced in the following months…we are taking these measures after we received many complaints from people in residential areas,” said Mohammed Al Saadi, director of the trade registration section at DED.

He added: “We have conducted a study showing the harmful effects of shisha cafes on residents…it showed there is a need to restructure licences for those cafes in residential areas and near mosques and schools…we will of course take into consideration the interests of investors and owners of those cafes but they have to abide by new rules relating to the environment and public health."

Cafes intending to serve shisha will then need to seek a licence from the DED and the Municipality.

Having known a few people who love their shisha, I wonder how people would react to this bit of news...