Monday, 30 November 2009

Tribute to Dubai, The Dreamer

My mother-in-law once said to me before I left my home country to work in Dubai. She said, "Hujan emas di negeri orang, tapi tak akan sama di negeri sendiri". I am not sure whether I quote her right but it sounds something like that. I was so pre-occupied with the prospect of leaving my home country for new opportunities, still, I understood her message. She tried to remind me of who I am and where I really belong. A wise and conservative woman, she is.

I am always uneasy with my father-in-law. That man is full of hot air and I have to limit my time around him so that I don't reach to the point that I get pissed off with his cowboy's mentality. In my numbered and very brief conversation that I had with him, I recalled him saying, "Di situ bumi dipijak, di situlah langit dijunjung". I did not really pay much attention of what he was babbling about back then. But I only realized months later when I was already working in Dubai that he was tipping me off something valueable about living abroad. It is about an expatriate's obligation to respect the host country, the people and their way of life.

It is so convenient to condemn and criticize the things one sees in Dubai which can be perceived as politically and ethically inappropriate compared to how things are in other places around the world. I have many expatriate friends who complained about this and that. Hearing too much of the complaining and bad-mouthing, it seems to me these people are so unhappy but I wonder why they are still here. I thought of what my father-in-law had said and decided that I should make the best of my stay here and channel my energy positively by being appreciative and focussing on opportunities so that I have limited time to complain.

At this writing, it is reported globally, that Dubai is crumbling down after it has sought for a standstill in paying the debts of its major players until May next year. There are people reacting in a clumsy way, pushing the unnecessary panic buttons. There are critical people criticizing the inappropriate and untimely manner of how the communication of such financial distress was done. Well, I say Dubai is no ordinary dreamer. Unlike its big brother, Abu Dhabi, which is richer and more conservative, Dubai has less natural resources but is very ambitious and adventurous. It has made big plans and pushed the limit to make them happen. For such a fast-pacer, trend-setter and risk taker, there is a price to pay. The fact that Dubai has stumbled and faced financial difficulty, does not mean that Dubai is sinking like the mythical Atlantis, though ironically, Dubai has built one at the tip of Palm Jumeira. These hardships are like any other life issues that one has to overcome. It is like hiccups that require some time to recover after gulping a glass of desalinated water. But to say that Dubai is collapsing or crumbling down is sensationally driven, pre-mature and unfair. I have lived almost 2 years here to tell that there are  many willful and extraordinary people in Dubai, who love and very much attached to this place, and who would do wonder to turn things around.

In the mean time, life is business as usual for many of us. We are having the double celebrations, the Eid al-Adha and 38th UAE National Day on the 2nd December. The cinemas are visited by the New Moon fanatics, the parks are packed with families, the beaches are littered with half-naked people and the mosques are patronized by believers.

Friday, 27 November 2009

November Rain

A few days back I was running in my neighbourhood. I looked up at the sky and saw patches of grey clouds. I told myself that the rain would come. True enough, it rained a few hours later. But the much anticipated rain turned out to be a short and stingy sprinkle. It drizzled not more than 15 minutes, just enough to leave messy dots of water mark on our cars. We talked about it at length, longer than the actual time of the rain. We were excited as it was our first winter rain in Dubai. Back home when it rains, it usually means natural car wash, free of charge. But here, the rain had made a busy day for the men who wash our cars at the parking lot. They had wiped clean all the dotty water marks, the evidence of our first November rain.

I called home. My wife was in Hong Kong for a week. My kids was counting days for their mother to return home. I asked why they were not counting days for me to return home. My son said 'susah, nanti salah kira', admitting that he would lose count and his numbering skill is still poor. They also complained that it rained everyday. The rain has made them deprived of their outdoor playtime in the evening at the playground nearby.

It was in the news today, the rain claimed 83 lives in Saudi Arabia, our giant and holy neighbour. It was an unusual heavy downpour. Jeddah was showered with 7cm of rain last Wednesday, which was more than it would normally get in an entire year. Rain or no rain, there is nothing going to stop the massive flow of those faithful pilgrims, determined to complete the fifth pillar of their faith.

As I watched AlJazeera Live to witness the sea of pilgrims climbing up the Mountain of Mercy at Arafat and praying for forgiveness, I couldn't help wondering, would I ever get the call to savour the spiritual high point of the pilgrimage before the rain or anything else claim the life of mine?

Eid Mubarak.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Siput And Serunding

I will have a long run tomorrow morning. I plan to have a 20km run around the neighbourhood and therefore I am really eating tonight to load the carb needed for the task. There was a plate of spaghetti and sardines on the kitchen counter, accompanied by special appearance from the far east, a bowl of siput and serunding.

This morning at 6AM, I met an old friend, my ex-course mate in our engineering school. She was in transit at  Terminal 3 Dubai Airport, and she had 10 hours to kill, before she got into her connecting flight to Dusseldorf. It was really a last minute arrangement. She dropped me an email a day earlier to check whether we would have a chance to meet after such a long time. It's Tuesday, a working day, a hump day in the Middle East, and I had a meeting scheduled at 9AM that I couldn't postpone or cancel. I did it last week, but not this time. Yet, I agreed to meet her early in the morning. She came with her boss and the boss's wife.

Years back in the campus, whenever I skipped or slept through the lecture, her notes had been a great help to fill in the blanks and holes in my head about enthropy, thermodynamics, the laws of kinetics and some other scary stuffs. I guess the blank and holes are still there but at least the notes had helped me  passed and graduated.  

I waited for her at the meeting point. We met. She has not changed much. Thankfully, her buddies are friendly. I drove them around Dubai. It was exciting to exchange  each other's story while I was driving Lucky, along the Emirates Road, crossing the Sheikh Zayed Road near the Malls of the Emirates, waving at the Burj Al Arab, showing off the Atlantis and the Palm Jumeira and finally, entering Jebel Ali Free Zone. Since I had to attend the meeting at 9AM, I had made an arrangement with our company driver to take my visitors to the Gold Souk and Burj Dubai until lunch time. I told her that I wished I could spend more time with them. She was flattered with the hospitality I was able to extend, given such a short notice. I told her that I was happy and honoured having her though it was just for less than 3 hours. I gave her pouches of chocolates to add the weight of her luggage. She was tactful enough to remove packs of the siput and serunding from her backpack and passed them to me, in return.

Back to my carbo loading session, I really can't stop crunching the siput and chewing it with the serunding. They are really good. Good enough to make me miss home, already.

Siput is technically made of dough mixed with some spices and flavourings, rolled, cut and shaped like the  shell of a snail and fried to perfection. It may contained trans fats but it is one hell of great tasting titbits.
Serunding is shredded piece of meat, fried with spices. It gets very dried after a long process of heating, I think.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The United Germany and My Mollies

Today is a special day. If I were to rule the world, I would declare today as the world's most celebrated public holiday. It is the day to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall that took place 2 decades ago. But I don't rule the world, not even a chocolate factory. Hence, it's business as usual.
When I woke up this morning, I was struck with the the wisdom that I have recently embraced. It sounds something like this, 'You may not change the world but you can change yourself, your own life and emotion'. So I lingered on the bed and then dialled a number in the office to cancel the arranged meeting that I was supposed to have. It was a day nicely spent at home.

I don't remember this united Germany night of glory back on the November 9th, 1989. I was probably sleeping in the dormitory of my boarding school. Back then, I couldn't be bothered, there was too much pressure at school and too many pimples to pop. I couldn't really open up my young mind. But today, it is on our face that the human race is splitting in many ways. People are fighting for too many reasons. So such rare and real case of unification of a great country and its people is a joy worth sharing. In the near future, it is unlikely that there will be another great historical event in the name of unification, but we can learn from this special one and hope for another.

To commemorate this special day, I have united a pair of mollies, one black and the other white, in square jar filled with an exotic plant that I bought last weekend. They are such a lovely couple. I feel love radiated from the jar each time I look at it.

Home Of The Mollies

Lovely Mollies

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The New Running Shoes and Style

It took a great courage to let go off my old pair of running shoes. They have been my great buddies for more than 2 years and they have had signs of wearing out. I have about 2.5 months before the next marathon. It is time to get a new pair so that the new shoes could develop and match the contour with my feet.

The pair of antiques

It took a greater courage to let go off my old way of running. I have been running and believing in 'Just do it, just run'. I have had my inspiring moments by just running, feeling free and connecting with my inner self in the old way of running. Now I have turned to the new nano way of running in order to get better results. In this new way of running, I have to program the run, stay focussed on maintaining the consistent pace, keep track of the distance and review the performance.

The new wonder

My new running shoes are the white Nike Lunarglide with Nike iPod sensor receiver. I had my first run with them last Saturday. It was a 13km run. I could feel a better foot grip. The new shoes felt heavier but I guess after a couple of runs I will get used to them. There is a pocket under the insole of the left shoe where I have placed a sensor before I started the run. The run started and ended with a click on the iPod which I carried along in the run. Throughout the run, I was constantly checking on my pace on the iPod screen. There are also options to set the running music and voice feedback which I have yet tried during the last run. The details about the run were uploaded to in which I have opened an account to track my running progress on-line. It was a fun running experience and I am really looking forward for the next run......

The running report

The satellite view of the running track around my neighbourhood, Discovery Gardens-Ibn Battuta-The Gardens