Thursday, May 31, 2012

you can't light that!

HURRAY for non smokers! Cheers to health! today is World No Tobacco Day!

Created in 1987 by the member states of the World Health Organization and celebrated around the world every 31st of May, it is meant to encourange a 24 hour abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption.

I wonder how smokers would feel in knowing that today - being World No Tobacco Day - Dubai has banned the sales of tobacco for 24 hours.

"The move is aimed at spreading awareness about the dangers of cigarette smoking and to make people think about the dangers of tobacco consumption, as it kills millions of people and affects public health," the UAE daily Gulf News quoted Redha Salaman, Director of Public Health and Safety Department at Dubai Municipality as saying. 

A colleague of mine smokes I guess every fifteen minutes and admittedly said that he can go a whole day without eating but not without smoking - I wonder what he would do if he ran out of cigarrette sticks, I imagine worst withdrawal symptoms like sweating while feeling the chills!

ash trays with fresh flowers are th common symbol for World No Tobacco Day

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

photography road trip

After last friday's road trip I can finally tick off Ras Al Khaimah from the list of the United Arab's seven Emirates that I have yet to visit. The photography club that I have joined organized an out of town photo shoot and field trips of sorts for fun, camaraderie and skill practice.

Our destination was the so called 'ghost town' in Ras Al Khaimah. Admittedly a scaredy cat - I had apprehensions when I heard the term 'ghost town', I had that crazy notion that I might see 'things' in the pictures and so I prayed not to see or experience anything weird because I might just get a heart attack!

When we got to the place I saw a board that says "Jazirat Al Hamra Archeological Site" well it certainly sounds more interesting that the term 'ghost town' so I relaxed a little bit, historical and archeological places I like.

Here are some of my outputs:

I was drawn to taking snaps of doorways, doors and windows, I didn't have time to be creeped out by the abandoned buildings, coming in and taking pictures was a respite from the sweltering heat outside

It is amazing to see places like Jazirat Al Hamra showing the old architectural designs of the earlier decades when the surrounding area boasts of modern buildings and even a water fun park.

upon closer inspection you can see that the 'bricks' used to build this structures are actually corrals which reminded me of a line from the book 'The Alchemist' that says the dessert must have once been the sea.... yeah must have...

our poor model friend had to endure the midday heat

here is one of the indoor shots

group picture before lunch and packing up!!

That's six of the seven emirates I have been to: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujeira and Ras Al Khaimah - last one is Umm Al Quain!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

look ma my grape is a kiwi!!!

This is something new - I have heard of hybrid flowers yes but hybrid fruits??! not (really) until today...

Gulf News reports that two new exotic fruits are on sale now in Dubai stores - wonder when they will reach Abu Dhabi??!!!

Albino Strawberries that taste like pineapples and grapes that is a mini version of a kiwi - imagine how many more fruit combinations there can be???

Friday, May 18, 2012

life in a day

Ideally I should be getting two days off in a week but because of staff shortage am reduced to getting just fridays off until such time that we get the priviledge of an extra staff and so I try to do all my chores and what nots on thursday evenings so I have the whole of friday for rest and relaxation and the occassional mall, movie or party.

Because that extra day can be considered a special treat, I hate wasting it by spending the whole day sleeping - I get enough sleep at night anyway so why spend the whole day in lala land too? besides I get a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when I complete and finish a lot of things in one day.

So here is a peek on what a free day for me is like:

The night before a free day, I do a load of laundry, I try to think of a special menu, do the marketing and the pre-preparation. A free day means I get to spend as much time in the kitchen as I want and because I am usually the only one home I have domain of the kitchen. So this is when I experiment on baking and elaborate meals like stuffed chicken or oven roasted spare ribs.

The morning of my free day - I still wake up early, I try my best to sleep in but doing so just gives me a headache so instead get an early start and try to finish all my kitchen duties my 10 AM. Before Breakfast I try to squeeze in time for my yoga exercises.

If my baking experiments are a success I usually go and visit my friends at their offices and deliver some home made goodies. By noon I am back home for a bit of house cleaning and lunch. After lunch If I am feeling a bit 'creative' I go do some 'photography' and or update my blogs and browse the net.

I 'work' until the 'creative juices' quit flowing after which I clean up, put on snuggly pajamas, fluff my pillows, turn the AC up and settle with a good movie or two.

By early evening its time for snacks, more internet surfing and finishing up the small chores like folding laundry and some ironing. At times I go window shopping or to a cafe with friends for some catching up.

After all these I get to squeeze in a little bit more time internet surfing - would could resist checking in on Facebook everyone and then anyway? - before bedtime.

Its seems like I try to squeeze in too much (well, I do) into my free day, but it makes me happy knowing my day was a productive one - contrary to being tired after all those work, it refreshes me as I get to do all my hobbies which really are my stress relievers!

Until the next free day! - I look forward to it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

cover up please!

A few years ago, unless you are at a bar or night club you would not see any woman walking around Abu Dhabi in short dresses and skirts, you would not see anyone wearing thin spaghetti strapped tank tops without a light cardigan or denim jacket as a cover up. I guess with the influx of expats from more liberal cultures and parts of the world  more and more people (expats) are taking the liberty of wearing what they want and forgetting the social norms of this conservative country.

I may be deemed old fashioned but I sometimes feel embarassed on seeing scantily clad women around Abu Dhabi, like I have mentioned before here as expats we need to be reminded that we represent our country - even the tiniest act of misconduct can put us in a bad light thus the negative stereotyping of our nationality and although this is a open and very 'accomodating' country we must keep in mind to be respectful of the culture.

It is with this concern that an online campaign was initiated by two Emirati Women as reported in Gulf News

Saturday, May 12, 2012

click for a cause

I count my self one of those lucky expats who landed a good job at a reputable company. I am thankful too that in my six years here in the UAE I have been blessed with a comfortable, simple but happy expat life.

Sadly though it's not the same for every expat. I have heard numerous heart wrenching stories of people who come from all over the world armed with nothing but their dreams of a better life only to find themselves in a bind in some foreign country with no work after they have been scammed by illegal recruiters. Others are driven to suicide by sheer sadness at being away from loved ones. Still others are left by the very people who promised to love, support and protect them for the rest of their lives.

It is the case of the latter that the photography group that I have joined organized a shoot-for-a-cause event inviting all budding photographers and enthusiasts. For a small donation, participants are given the chance to work with models and practice their skills and built up their portfolios.

It was a perfectly sunny day with a cool breeze as we worked at organizing the models, facilitators and photographers. All proceeds went to help a pregnant Filipina who was abandoned by her husband. It was nice being able to be part of something that is geared to help fellow expats in need.

the club president giving a short introduction about the event

the make-up artist Laila who is the beneficiary of the event

 model and photographers at work

working it

 shooting from different angles

cameras at the ready

one of my best shots

it was a successful group effort

Monday, May 7, 2012

to a T

I might have been British in a past life because though I love the smell of coffee I absolutely prefer tea over it. I love it specially with daintly sweet baked goodies.

I remember when I was a kid I open a bottle of coffee, inhaled its rich aroma and put a spoonful of it in my mouth, you can imagine me screwing my face at the very bitter taste, it must have been then that I developed a negative liking for it. Tea on the other hand is subtle in taste and aroma but has a soothing and calming effect on me - when you can't imagine those ladies in all their lacy and daintly afternoon tea party dresses going hyper with the caffeinated coffee now could you?

I like trying on tea varieties and my favorite would have to be green tea and camomile. I have yet to try this one type of tea where you put the 'flower' in a cup of hot water and it 'blooms' - I saw that on a travel show before.

And so one afternoon we decided to try out T House in Souk Central Market. I have passed by this small cafe quite a few time before and was intrigued my the many tea varieties that are on display at one side of the cafe's entrance but it was not until recently that we tried.

They have an extensive choice of hot and cold tea, a few savory dishes and some pastries. I decided on the rich chocolate cake and the gourmet variety Rose with French Vanilla tea - I do love the tea and cake combination.

We were served with a tea 'contraption', a mug and a timer. Depending on what type of tea you ordered you are to time how long the tea is supposed to sit before you pour and enjoy it. I quite enjoyed this  novelty - unlike other coffee shops where they just bring you your tea in a cup.

The tea was good - I can definetely smell and taste the vanilla and the sublte hint of rose. A delightful afternoon of tea with cake, all am mising is the frilly dress and hat.

 my perfect combiantion

Friday, May 4, 2012

there's something new over at

When I started applying for a job in the UAE, I have very little idea about what life is like here. I had a friend who was living in Dubai but I could not bombard her with endless questions as I knew she was busy and wasn't always online and while the intenet sure has a plethora of information there really wasn't any site that can give you information in the form of an expat's first hand experiences.

So I continued my application thinking 'If my friend is OK there, then I can handle it and I'd be OK too'.

As luck would have it I did good on the interview and was given a job offer. I still didn't know much about the place I was headed to and just hang on to my father's prayer saying that 'may I pass the interview and be accepted ONLY if I'd be fine and safe going to this new and unfamiliar country'.

When we came here in Abu Dhabi I was biletted at a top hotel sponsored by the company I'd be working for. We were given a 15 day hotel accomodation after which we'd have to find our own place. After those luxurious hotel living days, the following days of accomodation hunting brought us back to reality hard - all those place we visited were either too expensive for our budget or too depressing to live in. It was hard to rely on just classified ads and have to make all those calls, meet-ups and flat visits - it was a tiring and frustrating experience.

Fast forward to the present - with the advent of blogging sites it is now easier for people planning to take the leap and work abroad to get those crucial first had information about the lifestyle in a certain country. When I started this blog - I aim only to try and keep on writing as something to keep my so called skills active (I am a frustrated writer you see) but now I see it as something that can give people a glimpse of what life is like for a middle class expat living in Abu Dhabi. I have joined groups of Abu Dhabi expat bloggers and one of them is

Launched in 2005 by expatriates, for expatriates. Its ambition is to help people living or willing to live abroad, wherever they are from or would like to go.

A platform of expression and exchange and information source about expatriation the wesite offers various tools to help expats and potential expatriates via
-          discussion forums
-          expatriate blogs directory
-          guides
-          photo albums
-          business directory
-          classifieds.

And now to meet the demands of expatriates and soon-to-be expatriates in the United Arab emirates, Expat blog has launched two new dedicated spaces: a jobs section and a housing section. They are aimed at helping people in their job and accommodation search, two essential steps when expatriating.

The Jobs Section lists jobs by categories, contract type and destination. It is also a platform for anyone to create their CV and contact potential employers.
The Housing Section gives Abu Dhabi expats a platform wherein they can look for or offer an accommodation.

With sites like these it is now easier for people wishing to start a new life abroad to get information from real life experiences of expatriates.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

these sweet treats make me want to skippity skip and hoppity hop!

thank goodness for specialty stores in Abu Dhabi!!!

As someone who likes to cook and experiment in the kitchen there are certain ingredients that are readily available in the Philippines but would be considered 'exotic' here in the Emirates. Salted eggs, Shrimp Paste, Pandan leaves or extract and Kasubha - the Phils version of the coveted saffron are some of the items that I have difficulty finding in regular groceries. If I want these items I have to go to specialty stores that might carry these items or sometimes just settle with substitutes or revise my menu.

rows and baskets of sauces, picked food and noodles

Its a good thing really that there are these small  Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Thai specialty stores, which is a great help when you want to cook something that 'tastes like home'. In one of my not so frequent trip to buy some Tofu and sauce mixes. I was quite happy to discover that my favorite Chinese grocery store now offers assorted candy that can be bought by weight, what made me even happier was coming across a huge basket of White Rabbit Creamy Candy.

candy and snack food isle

When we were kids White Rabbit candies are  novelty even more so than imported chocolates. Groceries usually only carry them in limited quantities and even though they are quite pricey they almost always run out of stock. I think the novelty of these creamy confection lies it is edible inner paper wrapper - I think no other candy have this kind of feature. I remember back then we were so amazed by 'eating paper'  that we would watch ourselves in the mirror with out tongues sticking out just so we would see how the paper dissolves. I remember even carefully removing the edible paper from the sticky candy and watching it melt on my tongue wondering how this paper could be edible while others are not - I have since discovered that it is made from sticky rice and not from wood or grass pulp.

the White Rabbit Candy of my childhood

So when I came across these I promptly bough a few hadfulls and walked home while eating a few,  I felt like a kid again walking home from an errand my mother sent me to. I almost skipped and hopped all the way home.