Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just have to share

So I'm coming out of seclusion to share this bit of pricelessness;

My department at work is going to Chili's for a department "end of the year lunch" kind of thing, so the lady organizing it brings take out menus to work for us to choose what we want, she can send the order in early save time, etc.

I walk by the front desk and there's a group of my three most Indian of Indian colleagues, all crowded around a single menu and scruffling their eyebrows to and fro as if trying to decipher heiroglyphics.

"Vat is thees?" One says.
"Sal-Mon?" The other sounds out.
"Google it!" The third suggests.

They proceed like this all afternoon, poring over the mysterious items listed on the Chili's menu, finally deciding on cajun chicken sandwiches (for the hot peppers) and virgin margharitas. :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going into seclusion for awhile.

Lack of motivation.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Food Food Food Pause Recovery Food

In what has turned out to be a somewhat surprising holiday, I have been doing nothing but eating and drinking and nursing early-morning headaches for three days straight. Also enjoying lots of good company and meeting new people.

Went to a Canadian couple's home for Christmas dinner and had a bona-fide de-licious home made turkey and gravy. Mmmm.... went to another friend's house for Christmas lunch and we had Indian food and watched some super tear-jerker 3-hour Hindi movie featuring hunka hunka Aamir Khan. It was a really good movie, but I still can't get into all the singing and dancing in Hindi movies. It's just so weird how they randomly break into large-cast musical ensembles in the middle of like a dialogue.

Went for Christmas-leftovers dinner last night where a whole new leg of lamb was roasted so I'm not sure how THAT was supposed to work.

Have two more social engagements this week (NYE is one) and then I'm starting arabic class twice a week in the evenings. Just finished enrolling... I'm pleased to have discovered on their placement test that I've self-studied my way to the 5th level of study (although I think there are about 10 levels above that.) Work is paying for most of it through professional development fund so that's also a huge perk. But now I'm going to have homework and stuff... eek...

Monday, December 21, 2009

A little cheer

There's sure nothing in the world more cheerful than making people smile. :) My mom & best friend decided to open their Christmas presents early and turned out to be quite pleased. Victory!

It's getting a little bit chilly in Dubai but not bad. Went shopping and tried on lots of dresses that are waaaaay above my budget, in anticipation of this wedding in January. Of course, they all looked fantastic. I was hoping they'd look frumpy and then I wouldn't want them anymore.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas in Dubai, Take 2

Second Christmas in Dubai is shaping up to be fairly uneventful. Christmas Eve I have been invited to dinner at my best friend's house (best Dubai friend that is; to my best friend in Portland; don't worry, you're still #1 on my speed dial...) ... so that should be fun. However, her new boyfriend has monopolized her Christmas day, insisting that they go to Christmas lunch together.... **alone** ooh la la. Not that I can blame him, I'd surely want to do the same thing.

So my Christmas Day so far involves sleeping as long as humanly possible and then making myself a bowl of spaghetti-O's. If it seems like I'm reveling in loneliness and depression, it could be because I'm taking a page out of Charlie Brown:

"This is my depressed stance. When you're depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you'll start to feel better. If you're going to get any joy out of being depressed, you've got to stand like this. "

On the bright side, I've been invited to a wedding in January, so I can at least have a good excuse to buy myself a new dress. Because nothing cures the blues like shopping...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Salazmeyer flies solo awhile

Many of you know by now that half of us are in Nepal in pursuit of greater knowledge of the Universe.

The other half of us are in Dubai for the holidays, fairly broke, and more recently, sick like the dickens. It ain't pretty. This year, my good friends are either madly in love with someone new (ie; preoccupied), or are away, or are going to very expensive brunches for xmas. So I will probably spend Christmas just calling home and cleaning house. I volunteered to work xmas weekend to let the other people go spend time with their loved ones.

This past weekend it rained heavily - for like 12 hours straight - and caused a lot of crazy flooding and traffic nightmares. People were stuck for 4-5 hours on the freeways around town. Some nice pics here.

I am now on a mission of self-improvement; read more, study arabic more, exercise more, eat better, spend more time with my friends, call home more often. It is a mere 6 months until summer break again.

Thailand cont'd

Thailand was entirely awesome. In the interest of time, I won't go into excessive detail. My two excellent travelling companions and I did manage to fly to the island of Ko Tao (pictured above) after a bit of a hairy spot: one of us (I shant specify who) forgot to bring along the credit card used to purchase the plane tickets to the island in the midst of all that late-to-catch-a-plane rush, meaning we nearly couldn't board the plane. It being my birthday though, a little birthday luck must have kicked in, because our counter lady for Bangkok Air let us make a printout of the credit card statement and use that to check in instead. So we made it. I spent my birthday laying on a beach from paradise and drinking mai tais.

The next day we decided to venture to the other more remote side of the island, and after negotiating some pretty steep hills in a hired truck, made it to a picturesque private cove with a small beach and an awesome garden/bar/restaraunt. I went snorkelling for the first time ever and saw a reef shark.

After 2 days there, we went to Ko Phangan island by ferry, early in the day, to pick up some neon paint and fluorescent bead necklaces for the Dec 2, 2009 full moon party on Hat Rin beach. This, folks, is an event. An all-night crazy dance party on the beach stretching probably a kilometer and a half up and down the sand, absolutely chock full of spoled suburban co-eds delighting in the wild expenditure of their parents' money. There were also a few cool people.

Basically though, my partners in crime and I wandered up and down the beach all night drinking out of buckets (bucket vendors spring up in massive rows along the beach and throughout the town for this event, all the bucket vendors have named their business something vulgar and profane, and they all mix a bottle of alcohol with 2 mixers into a plastic bucket with ice which is distributed with several straws to carry around and share amongst friends.)

We danced, we tired at 3:00am, wandered back, got a cheeseburger on the way and called it a night. The next morning I got up at 8:00am to go open up my safety deposit box and could still hear the party going down on the beach.

All in all an excellent trip. I love Thailand - everything was so clean, and all the people were so friendly. Except for one tuk tuk driver, who Stanley got into a fairly fierce debate with over his knowledge of the location of the real Samboon Seafood.

Stanley: "You know where it is!!! You know!! You know!!!"
Driver: "I no know! I no know!"
Stanley: "You do!! You are a liar!! You know where it is!! You take us to the wrong place because you get commission!! I saw you, you know that man!!!"
Driver: "I see you later! I see you later! I no know that man! You crazy!"
Stanley: "WHATEVER"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Welcome to Thailand

We are currently in Bangkok, Thailand. The story of getting here requires a brief mention of Thanksgiving.

Had a stellar Thanksgiving in Dubai - went to Palm Grill at the Radisson for real bona-fide turkey dinner which was definitely a step up from hot turkey plate at Harry's Bar last year (although Harry's definitely did us right for 65 dirhams.) Our dinner Thursday was a cut above for sure, although we were fairly lonely in there; I don't think there's a huge population of Americans in Dubai eating out for Thanksgiving.

Anyway, after staying up late and drinking a lot of fantastic grenache at the palm grill, we went to bed quite late under the assumption that our flight to Bangkok the next morning was leaving at 8:30. Turns out, that was an incorrect assumption. Long story short, alarm goes off at five, we take our sweet time getting up since we're a bit winded from the previous evening. We still have to pack our bags, and as I'm sleepily throwing things in my bag, I decide at 5:35 to check the exact time of our flight (was it 8:25? 8:35?) and notice that the flight actually departs at 6:55. 6:55? Hmm ok do the math.... that's 80 minutes from now. Shite.

So, we throw as much stuff into the bag as we can in the 90 seconds it takes to call a cab and get the taxi there, and manage to forget: a) a camera b) all of Dan's toiletries c) shampoo d) the credit card required to check in to our Sunday flight to Ko Tao.

We got to the airport as checkin was closing and managed to at least check in to our flight, only to be swiftly corralled into a long slow line for passport control. After waiting but a moment, a nice Emirati man came over and asked if I was Alicia and would I please follow him? He led us to the front of the line and directed me to a particular passport control officer who turned out to be none other than: ding ding ding, a student of mine. She apparently spotted me in the crowd and decided to spontaneously grant me a little favorable treatment, which I was more than happy to accept at that point. I am now an important person; I have wasta; I know someone in passport control.

After arriving in Bangkok though, we got it all sorted. I learned a long time back that you don't actually need luggage to travel and the airline helped us with a workaround so we will indeed be travelling to Ko Tao tomorrow. All is well. More later.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's New in Lishaland?

My mother draws my attention to the fact that nothing's been posted since halloween. I'd like to say that this is because I'm leading a fast-paced, action-packed life, and that I have no time to do such things as update blogs, but this would just be false and misleading.

The truth is, I've been up to not much. The main news is about work: I managed to secure a large grant for a work project, which is going to keep me very busy but also keep me on a good professional career path for the time being.

Cousin Michael also came to visit, which was a lot of fun - the boys went for a spin at Aquaventure while I was at work:

We also decided to celebrate my birthday early, since this year it falls during Eid al-Adha and National Day (a week or more of national holidays which will send everybody skittering off out of town), so went out on the 5th to Chi at the Lodge, where we sat in VIP and drank a lot and danced our tooshies off until 3am. It's interesting in this town, that at 3am, they actually turn the music off and turn the lights on, even though the whole floor is still packed with people who seem like they could easily go until 6. I think in the States they usually just stop serving drinks at closing time, and let people dance themselves into a more coherent state for a little while. Am I wrong?

Lastly but not leastly, we are planning a little week-long getaway to Thailand for the above mentioned holidays, which fall from Nov 27-Dec 4. Not sure of all the details yet, but I'm sure it will be fun! More to come.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Dubai

...an interesting experience. We went to a halloween party at someone's house in Arabian Ranches, which is like a suburb/development full of nice villas in a planned cul-de-sac style community.

Dan dressed up as zombie Michael Jackson, and he did a really good job with it. I was MJ's "spiritual advisor".
All in all, it was a good story, with a beginning, middle and an end.

Beginning: Candy, drinks, and some dancing. Alicia doesn't drink, as she is driving.
Middle: Everyone jumps in the swimming pool
End: Alicia barely manages to drag Dan back into the flat conscious, after explaining her life story to the police in the parking lot outside.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beirut et cetera

So I went to Beirut for the weekend and had a great time. Took very few pictures. Was busy. Found the place a strange mix of new & old; found myself standing in front of the shelled Holiday Inn in the middle of downtown and trying to understand why, some time ago, people were firing rockets at this building, but now they are not, and I am standing quite safely on the corner viewing the evidence. What makes the difference between then and now?

Things you must do in every country: visit the casino, and visit the McDonald's. I shall report:

A) McDonald's. Menu the same as in UAE - McArabia burger menu speciality. Nice view of corniche/sea. Mmmm.

B) Casino. Large, busy - gambling occurs in Lebanese Pounds, and the exchange rate allows me to sit down with my 100,000 worth of chips and casually toss out 10, 20, or 30,000 on a bet. Sheeet, I'll even double-down and make it 60,000. Let's live dangerously! (Total USD hanging in the balance: $66.)

Unfortunately fell a bit ill before coming home, spent two days feeling under the weather. But didn't catch the swines, so that's good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Headed to Beirut This Weekend

After living in Dubai for a year and a half, it started to bother me that I haven't seen any other cities/countries in the region. So after receiving a random e-mail promoting a super discount airfare to Beirut, I decided to go ahead and book myself a weekend.

I'm leaving Thursday afternoon from work - all by myself! - and am looking forward to checking out the city and doing some reading/relaxing/shopping/et cetera.

I also went ahead and signed up for salsa lessons, in an effort to get myself out of the house more often. I'm curious how it will go. :) There is a Cuban guy here in Dubai who gives lessons out of the Community Center.

Other than that, life is normal - except that everybody at work seems to be coming down with swine flu, which an extraordinary pain in the rear. I do not want to get sick!! I do not want to get sick!! I do not!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eid in Fujairah

Last year we didn't do anything for our Eid holidays, and wanted to avoid doing the same thing this year over a mere lack of planning. So, we mapped it out, drove 2.5 hours east, and spent the Eid weekend here, at the Meridien, in Fujairah, lounging by the pool and celebrating the end of ramadan with plenty of good food and drinks. We somehow managed to get a screaming deal on our room overlooking the Indian Ocean, and we brought our own liquor, so it wasn't even that expensive all in all.

Good service at this place as well. Shortly after we arrived and checked in, Stanley realized he had left the iPod in the car, which had been valeted, so he called down to guest service to see if they could retrieve it. Why yes, of course sir. We'll bring it right up sir. And, apon delivery of the iPod; we're very sorry you forgot your iPod in the car, sir. It won't happen again, sir.

We played a little squash, had a great meal in a Thai restaurant, spent waaaaay too much time lounging around drinking, and came back feeling nice and relaxed. Any of y'all who visit us in Dubai will probably spend at least a night or two here.... I'm already looking for excuses to go back. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back to School

I've been talking for awhile now about taking some classes offered by my esteemed employer. In theory it always seems like a good idea, not unlike Communism, but in practice when I actually have to do something, it seemed a little daunting. With my contract, my employer allows me to take one class per semester for free, with the ugly little caveat that if I leave the company less than 2 years after I finish the last class I took, then I have to pay them back. Plus I was probably going to have to do homework, and write essays, and who needs that hassle? And so I hesitated.

I finally pulled the trigger about a week before the semester started. I sent a request to HR to approve me for the employee scholarship. The required signatories were on leave. Then they got back and they were busy. Two days into the semester, 6 days after the MBA program stopped accepting applicants I got the signature. But the admissions people know me and wanted to help so the next day I submitted my application, complete with my hastily completed "statement of career goals" and "letters of recommendation" from my bosses. All that was left was the approval of the dean for the School of Business, but on that very day it was announced that he had been fired/resigned/moved on to other opportunities, so we had to submit to a notoriously unsympathetic individual for review. We waited 3 more days. He said no.

But it wasn't over. My boss, in her wonderfulness, was incredulous when I told her this. She sent him an email requesting that he reconsider. We waited another day. He replied, "Two weeks into the semester it would be inappropriate." Another wonderful person from admissions took him the schedule...

"See? He'd only be missing one class! The second class is today!"

He approved. I registered. I'm a student again. It's weird. It's exciting. I'm not sure if I'll be here long enough to finish or if I'll like it. But I'm currently studying for my MBA. And doesn't it sound kind of cool to say that?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Eid al-Fitr

It turns out I've got a week's holiday coming up for Eid al Fitr (Sept 18-26) so I'm trying to determine what I'm going to do with myself.

I've been sick, work has been busy. I've been distracted. This weekend I accidentally blew off a friend's holiday dinner and I feel terrible about it. I'm trying to figure out how to make it up to her, but this sort of this is very unusual for me. I'm not quite sure what to do.

We went to see "The Hangover" Thurs night, which was hi-larious. I haven't laughed out loud at a movie in a long time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coming home at 2 every day for Ramadan sure makes blogging easier

... I feel like I should take up a new hobby, except that in a couple of weeks Ramadan will be over and I won't have time for said hobby anymore.

Completion of the Dubai Metro has been delayed. Sigh. I'll have to wait a little longer to be able to take the train.

It's excessively humid. All cool surfaces are coated in water immediately upon stepping outside. But it's not that hot out, which is nice. Now wait - now that I've said it's not that hot, I'm going to go check the temperature.


100.4 fahrenheit! Really, not bad. Balmy, even.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I feel like I'm living in hotel salazmeyer

3 times a week I come home and all the dishes have been washed and put away, the laundry ironed and hung in the closet, the garbages emptied, the bed made. Mysteriously, nothing ever gets dirty. No dust settles, no crumbs accumulate on the floor, the bathroom and kitchen fixtures remain shiny and reflective. I keep reminding myself that life isn't going to be like this forever. When I'm missing my family and friends though, it sure makes things easier.

In addition to the cleaning service, we've keep adding to the robustness of our "room service". We tried ordering delivery from a new place yesterday, "The Sham Rose". We got some shawarma sandwiches that Dan thought were fantastic (I'm not a huge fan of shawarma sandwiches) and the best delivery tabbouleh I've had. So, I think we'll definitely do that again.

Last night went out for the first time to Habtoor Grand Hotel for our friend's birthday party and found a sweet, reasonably priced pub. The main problem with all of this is that going out to this pub to drink costs an 80-dirham ( $22 ) taxi ride each way. Kind of pricey. This is why we need to move closer to "town".

The search for an apartment in a better neighborhood is on....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ramadan Kareem Pt 2

We're in full swing of Ramadan now and the students are back in school and everything is pretty much peachy. This Friday we're going to a friend's house to celebrate Onam with the 2nd annual totally awesome Kerala-banana leaf feast, and tomorrow night going out to Habtoor Grand for a birthday party with some other friends. It's all just so.... *normal*. What can I say that's even interesting?

Since our car exploded, we've rented a new one, tentatively dubbed "The Purple Turtle," as it is a deep plum colored Daihatsu in the shape of a turtle with all sorts of nifty college-kid style gadgets inside, like an auxiliary jack for an mp3 player. I'm sure it's eco-friendly, as well. After our outrageous summer and a fairly expensive celebratory return-to-Dubai, we're kinda broke, so I'm not sure if we'll be buying another car right away or renting for another month. Turns out, if you want a cheap used car ($2-5k), you can't really get a loan, so you have to save up. Which I guess is harder if you're renting at the same time. C'est la vie.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Out and about Dubai

On the eve of Ramadan, we went down to the neighborhood around Burj Dubai (the really tall
tower) to hang out and have a few drinks and enjoy the weather (ha.)

Below you can see the bottom third of the burj, along with the world's largest dancing fountains, and Dan looking cute on the patio outside the Address hotel. We had some calamari at this place Calabar, and I have to say, it was some of the most perfectly prepared calamari I've ever had.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Things are Movin' and Shakin'

Our washing machine broke, so Dan called someone to fix it at about 7pm. Unbelievably, the man from the wash-fixing company arrived at 8:30 to pick up our washing machine and drive it away and fix it. Less than 24 hours later, he is delivering it back and hooking it up, this evening. That's faster than it takes to send my laundry across the street to wash. It's bizarre.

Our air conditioning in the car also broke, so Dan took it to the dealership for an estimate. Strangely, an estimate alone costs $100, which I think is pretty much a stupid robbery. Then, the cost to fix it is like, significantly more than the car cost. My theory is that the whole thing can be fixed with 20 dirhams worth of a/c refresher at the gas station. If not, we'll get a new car. :)

Also, we have a new maid coming today, who I must train. This whole thing is very strange. But I'll do my best. She will come over three times a week and do our laundry and ironing and clean our house. We asked her what she wanted for a salary. Name your salary, and we will negotiate on hours from there, I was thinking. Seems she wants $122 a month.... I had to stop myself from telling her that's ridiculous and that she should be asking for more. This kind of thing is dangerous... you could REALLY get used to never doing your own laundry again.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ramadan Kareem

It's almost Ramadan, which I'll get into in a minute. First of all, let me say, that while in Peru, we went to Macchu Picchu, which is similar to the Taj Mahal, in that, pictures don't do it justice. It's really a wild place, and big. I recommend it. You'll really get your exercise hiking all over Incan ruins in Peru, though - we visited a few smaller sites in the days leading up to Macchu Picchu, and by the time we arrived at MP, my calves felt like cement blocks, and every step was like a hammer smashing the cement block into cracked pulverized cement powder. Dan-man gave me the following advice:

1) Stretch thoroughly 2) Keep moving

Bingo. After 20-30 minutes of hiking up and down terraces, the pain had faded...until the next morning.

Back here in the UAE, we are gearing up for Ramadan. "Gearing up" means doing things to prepare for the closures and changes in timings associated with the holy month. For example, taking time to go clean out the liquor store before they close for a month. We drove out on Saturday and procured enough to definitely last us through Ramadan, and maybe through the end of the 2012 Olympics if we're careful. Our most interesting purchase was a 4.5 liter glass bottle of Dewar's white label scotch, which was a screaming deal, since after Dan is finished drinking the scotch, we can re-purpose the bottle as a camping shelter.

I also now have the new espresso machine, which will keep me in lattes while the coffee shop at work is closed. In fact, I'm at home drinking a latte right now, out of a black "Yes We Can" mug with Obama's skyward gaze emblazoned on the side. I like associating Barack Obama with Morning Coffee. It's pleasant. Invigorating. Inspirational. As the caffeine takes effect, the mug is communicating to me subliminally, making me think: maybe today I'll go out and make something of myself, like becoming president of the USA. I'm imbued with get-up-and-go spunk before I'm even out of my pajamas.

I might also be preparing myself some kind of plan for food during the day at work, except that I think I've decided to fast along with a lot of my colleagues and students. I figure, muslims don't have a total monopoly on spiritual renewal. Why not take the opportunity to spend daylight hours focusing on restraint, charity, rejuvenation? Practice asceticism for 15 hours a day, then go home and really enjoy dinner. I can't do a total fast though, I'll have to do a water fast. I can't go all day without drinking water in the middle of summer. I'll dry up into a crunchy pile of sand and blow away.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2 kilos of apples

I'm going to make apple crisp today, because Dan accidentally got 2 kilos of apples delivered to the house. 'Nuff said.

It's my first day back in Dubai, and I dropped the man off at work so that I could make use of the car, which I did, to drive around to several different stores looking for the ingredients for turkey soup and seared tuna. Unfortunately, turkey and tuna are not available in this town, which I determined only after buying everything else. I'm going to try the soup with chicken, and I may yet venture further afield in search of the tuna over the weekend.

I actually did find one whole turkey carcass at the third grocery store I visited - but it was expensive, and it was way too much turkey. I don't need a -whole- turkey, just a half pound or so.

I am delighted, however, to be the proud new owner of both an espresso machine and a big shiny toaster oven. Embarking on year 2 here, I decided to start furnishing my kitchen like someone who lives here instead of someone who's just visiting. Out with the $6 toaster that burns everything, in with the Black & Decker convection oven/toaster/broiler. Cha-ching! The first thing I'm going to do when I get it out of the box is make some cheese toast.

All this wild adventure makes my trip back here seem like a distant memory, despite it being only yesterday. I know I'm back in Dubai when...

...between disembarking the plane and passport control, where there are absolutely no options to turn, but there are several escalators and moving walkways, some group of travelers in front of me decides to pull up nice and cozy at the entrance to the escalator with all their luggage and stop for a chat. Typical.

...it takes me 30 seconds to breeze through passport control. This is ALWAYS the case. In every other country in the world, it takes 15, 30, 60, 90 minutes. Here in Dubai? 30 seconds. Thank you again.

...McDonald's is only serving Halal meats.

I can take a deep breath of dusty, humid air, and smile - I'm back in familiar surrounds.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back In The Emirates

And I'm back. DXB to PDX. PDX to LIM. LIM to PDX. PDX to DXB. A fantastic vacation that I wish wholeheartedly was still in full swing. The reunions with friends and family were painfully insufficient to tide me over for what may be a long abscence in some cases. The travel was tantilizing spectacular, making me wonder how much more fun it would have been with a month or two more to explore. But tragically, I'm back at work. Life goes on and I haven't yet figured out a way to live that untethered life that I seriously try to map out every time my alarm goes off in the morning. The life that only that guy someone once met in passing knows how to live where you just keep traveling and getting into adventures, but nothing tragic or terrible ever happens. That guy is the coolest.

But it ain't all bad. I've been using the unfortunate condition of Alicia's absense to catch up on my gin drinking, my bar visiting, and my dance-club going. And while work is a chore, it's been good to catch up with some Dubai friends who seem to have been going stir crazy in the Summer doldrums waiting for people to return from vacations. Dubai isn't particularly pleasant weather-wise this time of year and the streets are inordinately quiet, as are the halls of my employer. Hence, a few people were happy to see me. Funny how that makes it feel a little more like home.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Shaman

The picture below, which I randomly found on the internet, approximates my main hallucination while under the influence of ayahuasca and the guidance of the jungle shaman:

This, after imbibing a medicine-y brew of green icky stuff and listening to the chanting and spanish-language catholic-influenced prayers of the shaman for a couple of hours, was perhaps one of the most coherent of my many visions.

It all started on a dark and blustery evening in the Amazon, when the shaman came and told us what to expect. "Bring a blanket," he said. "Bring water. Bring a pillow." Check and check. "When the medicine takes effect, you can expect that maybe the jungle will be talking to you. Or it could be in the form of a small virgin. Whatever it is, don't be scared. I am in control, nothing bad will happen." Okey dokey, shaman. My mind is in your hands.

My two partners in mindbending and I meandered back behind the lodge, into the jungle, over a bridge and up a path of stones lit by torch to an octagonal, screened ceremonial hut, where we took our places on some cushions and settled in for.... well, something.

It started like this: picture several lava lamps and a trippy "seeing eye" poster melting together and spinning rapidly around the room. Then imagine some 60s hippie kids in an electric kool-aid acid test van dumping brightly-colored crazy paint all over the freeway. Then imagine that a swamp/jungle starts growing in the midst of all this. There's some swampy water, and some frogs and toads croaking in the background, and a bunch of vines growing all over everything. It's all happening at very high speed. The whole time, you're looking for your spirit guide so you can ask him/her/it some questions, like how you can be healthy, do better at work, finish your projects, learn arabic more effectively and achieve lasting happiness. But your spirit guide isn't showing up. HELLO! You yell through the crazy paint. ARE YOU MY SPIRIT GUIDE? No answer. You begin to grow increasingly frustrated. You are no longer amused by the colorful geometric patterns whizzing by your head. You keep forgetting you have a body, and when you remember, it annoys you. You are about to ask for your money back due to your spirit guide not showing up, when suddenly it dawns on you: You Are The Spirit Guide. Suddenly you view the earth from space, and it is bursting with light. I Am The Universe. I Am the Light. All Matter and Energy is Together and It Is all God and I Have All the Answers, I Must Simply Think Them. Shortly thereafter, you fall into utter, complete bliss, peace, and happiness, lay down in a field of daisies, and decide that nothing matters except your love for humanity, which nothing can ever destroy or eliminate. You are at complete peace with all things and all people. You are care free. You are a beautiful and unique snowflake. Everything is extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful.

This, in a nutshell, was basically my experience on ayahuasca.

The entire next day, Iwandered around, starstruck at the beauty of the world, the love I felt for my fellow man, and the total weightlessness of having no worries at all.

36 hours later, in the airport, behind some horrid rude woman and her obese, miscreant children, I thought to myself: humanity is a disgusting pile of rotten waste and I hate all of you.

Then I concentrated on my memory of peace, and came to some internal compromise, leading me to conclude that this experience was definitely worth something.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Adios, America!

In the last month of not posting, we've been extraordinarily busy. In a few days, it will be adios, America, and I have to say, I'm looking forward to getting back "home" to Dubai, despite the fact that it is 115 degrees over there. I'll start relaying some of the more interesting anecdotes from my July adventures in dribs and drabs here and there, but lets start by examining the main reasons I'm looking forward to getting home.

#1 - I miss my man, pictured below.

...he had to go back early to work. He did get that monkey off his back.

#2 - I want to be able to go to the doctor and not have to pay. I have health insurance EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD except the USA and Canada. Naturally, I'm sick.

#3 - I miss ordering gyros delivery and vegging out on the couch and watching football.

#4 - I haven't studied a lick of Arabic since leaving the UAE, except for while sitting in a jungle lodge in Peru playing with Micah's iPod touch, which has some kind of language quick-reference thingy installed on it. If you're lost in a seedy souq somewhere in the backstreets of Marrakech at night, you can whip out your trusty iPod touch and flip to the arabic pronunciation for "don't come near me, I have leprosy and a pocket full of poisonous spiders," and just put it on repeat, then wander around all night looking for your hotel without fear.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More fun all the time

Yesterday we went wine-tasting with my bud from India who hasn't ever really consumed alcohol of any kind. Winding through Oregon wine country, she exhibited a natural preference for dessert wines.

Last night we took her out to Yur's, a favorite haunt now going on many years. They didn't have silver strike bowling any more, but they did have "Buck Hunter", so we got my friend to fire a video gun, drink a lemon drop, play video poker, and listen to some American rock music for awhile. We did not convince her to try the mini corn-dogs, deliciously golden deep fried, due to the pork content. All was photographed for evidence later on.

On the way home we listened to "Loveline" for awhile, introducing her to the kind of sex education that 12-14 year olds get in this country.

Today it was shop shop for the ingredients for our Indian feast tomorrow - it's definitely gonna be good. I ventured off on my own this evening and took my mom out to Park Kitchen for her birthday - I had some fantastic duck and some funky chocolates for dessert. One was like a blue cheese chocolate, which was awesome even though it sounded super-weird. I've never been to this place before though, and I loved it. They had some open-air seating in the front and it was a perfect day to take in the breeze. Food was great, waiter was cute; all the necessary components for an excellent meal out.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A week into P-Town

I've been in Portland, Oregon for a week, and all the greenery and fresh air is really making me euphoric. I've read two books this week: The Glass Castle (in Spanish), and Eat, Pray, Love; both of which are kind of Oprah's-Book-Club type books for middle-age lady divorcees, but both of which I managed to just sink my teeth into and enjoy despite my initial misgivings.

I also took a personality test and found out I'm an ENTJ, which doesn't really tell me anything I didn't already know about myself, but reminded me that it takes all kinds.

I also have spent hours and hours with old friends enjoying the pleasures of chatting about random dillydalliances like no time has passed at all over food and wine of varying types;doing crossword puzzles on the fuel of a hot cup of milk with espresso in the chilly mornings; and sometimes waking up to the beautiful, beautiful, achingly beautiful sonority of an acoustic guitar, resonating through the wooden floor, originated by the touch of a human hand, belonging to Dan's father, one floor above my cozy little basement enclave. I think heaven is a rich acoustic guitar, playing all the time, in a small room with carpets.

I also ate a gigantic ahi tuna steak smothered in cream and fresh mushrooms.

My old library is moving on, to enormous and fantastic new heights, without me. I lament not being a part of it. I'll be back sometime, though. If I'd had two lives, I would have spent one of them with you these years. But I only have one life. (Thanks for lending a sentiment, Jonathan Safran Foer.)

I went to Fred Meyer with my mother, and picked out the things I wanted to buy. I bought gummy dinosaur candy, and new sets of trivial pursuit cards. I bought gray eyeshadow, and a refill of all-purpose cotton balls. I remembered a time when we would have been walking through Fred Meyer together, and I would have had to ask her to buy such things for me, and sometimes she would say no. In fact, she mostly said no. Almost always. I would have been a tiny child, and I never would have imagined this future.

When we went through checkout, the guy offered me paper or plastic, and I chose plastic, and immediately felt like a pariah. For all I know, in the last year and a half, selecting plastic could have become an unspoken social crime; a faux paux of the largest magnitude, particularly within a mile of Alberta street. I had forgotten that we're in the land of people who bring cloth bags to the grocery store and compost everything they can see with the naked eye. More importantly, I had forgotten that plastic really is bad for the environment. I also forgot, initially, that one can drink tap water here, quite safely and enjoyably. It's been awhile.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A romantic night out

Today we decided to go exploring around the Dubai Mall, and caught ourselves an 8:20 pm performance of the world's largest dancing fountain to Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye" - very inspiring (ha ha). It was awesome!

I was at the giant bookstore doing a little book shopping this afternoon and Dan-O decided to join me there after he got off work so we could grab some Taco Bell for the first time in over a year. We snagged some Chalupas and sat outside on the food court patio in some wrought iron & glass chairs & tables astride a massive moving water feature. I've never eaten Taco Bell in such luxurious surrounds.

Afterward we decided to take a walk over to The Address hotel to check out their 63rd-floor bar/lounge, Neos.

The Burj Dubai is in the background, on the 63rd floor of this building looking out the window we weren't even anywhere near the top. That is a tall, tall building, my friends. Anyway it was a pretty cool little bar, which served up the best marini Dan has had yet anywhere in Dubai. I had an alcohol-free "Ipanema" in order to remain designated for driving, which was also fairly delicious. The view at night was incredible.
After that we took a nice long stroll in the hot night around the lake and through the souq and past the fountains. There's an island there called "old town" which is all arabian-style with a bunch of restaurants and shops and things. We saw some apartments there and decided it would be a nice place to live - next mission, find out exactly how unaffordable it is. :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I played a mean hand of poker and won this:

Otherwise known as a steak to remember. Dan-O's best steak to date. Thanks babes!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have never once, in all the time I've been in Dubai, seen a live rat. Yesterday while I was walking out of work at night in the dark, I noticed a little movement out of the corner of one eye on one side of the lawn. A closer look confirmed: a rat!! A BIG rat. The first thing I thought of was our little cats that run around the area and meow for food at lunchtime, and I thought, there is no way those cats could take out this rat. This rat would probably fight back and win.

THEN - another movement to the other side. Another rat! And then... another! As my eyes adjusted to the dark and I started looking at the lawn and the foliage instead of the sidewalk in front of me, I saw probably 7 or 8 different rats scurrying away into the underbrush. Icky icky ick ick ick!!!

Is this something new? Have they always been here? Have I been walking out to the parking lot alone at night in the dark all year long without noticing the vermin at my feet? Ick ick ick!! I told myself this must be a new phenomenon, and I must stick to the dead center of the path and move quickly so that they don't decide to run out and eat my toes for dinner. Iiiiiiiiiick!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Quiz night!

Last night was quiz night at Aussie Legends so we ponied on down with 6 or 7 of our closest buddies for some ultimate trivia mayhem. We started out strong but sucked it up on Sports and Geography and came in 11th team overall, which didn't help us out with the bartab.

After quiz-time Dan-o got in on some "killer pool" (whatever that means) and I kicked some a$$ on my second-ever game of foozball. 

1.5 weeks until summer break! Yee-haw!