Media City

Hello Everyone!

Life is picking up speed these days.  We’ve been exploring on the weekends, and finally found our chairs!  I was holding out for replica’s of the famous Eames Chair, and finally found them at this ridiculous place called Dragon Mart.  Housed in International City, it used to be called China mart or something along those lines, and is basically a gigantic warehouse that stretches for a couple miles, and you walk amongst the shops in an almost souk-like fashion.  I don’t think I could find the store again if you asked me, but we got the chairs for 70 AED, which is 19 USD.  Excellent.  Now here’s to hoping they don’t fall apart, because as we all know “buy cheap, buy twice” haha.  Daryl and I went to the local farmer’s market on Friday, which was wonderful!  I got three huge bunches of kale for 10 AED (3USD), and we picked up some other veggies.  As most of the fruit and vegetables are imported, the quality and freshness of produce isn’t great, and I’ve found that it goes off quite quickly.  I’m hoping if we start to use more locally grown produce, that it will last longer, and taste better!  It was also a nice way to spend a Friday morning, walking around the markets.   I also successfully went on yet another visa run.  This one I booked with a company (best visa run) and a driver literally drives you across the border to Oman, and then back.  Total it takes around 4ish hours out through the sand.  I saw a lot of camels.  Daryl went on the drive but saved himself 80AED and didn’t cross the border with me.  It was a (nice) way to spend the morning.  I also have finally secured something to fill my days with!  I’ve started as an intern with RAPP, a global marketing agency here in the U.A.E.  Yes, yes, only an internship, but I feel this is the best way to make the transition into the workforce, as I’ve been out of touch for a while.  This will also allow me to get a feel for how things work here in the middle east.  I had my first day on ‘pizza Thursday’ and already love it.  There are a lot of changes happening in the next couple of weeks so I hope I can prove myself useful and help out around the office!

That’s mostly what’s been happening with me.  My days are going to start getting pretty busy now that I have a job to go to every day.  I am excited to see what working life is like here in Dubai!

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A month already!?

I can’t believe we’ve been in Dubai now for over a month!  Since my last update we have successfully moved into our new apartment!  (YAY)  and have simultaneously realized the joys (pains) of setting up a new house from scratch.   There is so much STUFF involved with setting up a new house!  When you think you’ve bought every type of furnishing that you may need, you realize you’ve only just scratched the surface of the things you need.  It’s slowly getting there, it is quite hard when you don’t have a car to transport the mass amount of things you’ve just bought from ikea back to your house, but we’ve managed somehow!  We will be getting a couch and a table delivered next week, so far we’ve been eating sitting on the floor, or standing up.  I really want to order my Arne Jacobsen chairs for the kitchen and have been searching high and low for them here in Dubai.  We might be standing for a bit longer.

Daryl and I went to Doha this past weekend.  I needed to do my first (and hopefully only) visa run.  In Dubai, the tourist visa you get on arrival is only good for 30 days, so you have to leave and come back to get another one.  Hopefully my visa will start getting processed soon, and I won’t have to complete another visa run.  My first impressions of Doha, Qatar was that I was FREEZING.  I guess I have climatized pretty fast because when the temperature drops below 18 or 19 C ( 64-66 F) I feel like I need to have on a winter coat.  I was actually shivering at one point, and I just laughed at myself.  Aside from the drop in temperature, Doha was pretty tame.  Much more laid back and quiet than the Dubai lifestyle.  I’ve heard that Doha is much more conservative than Dubai, however I didn’t notice much of that while I was there.  There was still the infamous Friday brunch, rooftop bars and nightclubs, and fancy dinners with even fancier wine (insert pinky out here).  One thing I did notice is that the Taxi drivers will rip you off.  They don’t run the meter, and though you are supposed to get your ride for free if that happens, somewhere deep inside you know that these people don’t make enough money to put food on the table, and that is why they are charging you an extra 10 or 20 Riyal (3-5 USD) per ride.  Fair enough.  We have to make it in this world somehow.  I liked Doha, but there wasn’t much to do.  We explored the Souks, went to the Villagio mall (which looked really cool) and toured the museum of Islamic Art (which I thoroughly enjoyed).  Apparently, that’s about all there is to do in Doha, and it was a good thing we only spent a weekend there.

As I am waiting to get internet set up in our new place, I am becoming best friends with the Baristas downstairs.  There is a Caribou Coffee literally located right outside our complex.  Which is great for me, bad for my wallet.  Good for the internet though.

Settling In

Vacation is over!  Daryl had his first day of work today, and I spent Sunday’s the way they should be… curled up with some re-runs of Gilmore Girls on the couch.  I was so excited for Daryl, I just couldn’t wait for him to finish work and come home to tell me all about his day.

We finally secured a place.  After some initial hassle with the first apartment that we fell in love with, we put an offer in for an apartment in the same complex on the 4th floor.   It doesn’t have a balcony (one less Pinterest page of possibilities) or an additional 1/2 bath, but it will suite our new Dubai lifestyle just fine.  We were very sold on the facilities of the building, and how close it was to Daryl’s work, so we feel very lucky to have this apartment.  I cannot wait to start decorating and making this house a home!  These days I really am going overboard on Pinterest, but there are just so many good ideas out there and I really want to utilize them in this new space.  It will be me and Daryl’s first place together, and we’re overflowing with ideas on how to style it!  Hopefully we will be able to start moving in next week, and that will give us enough time to clean and grab all the details in order to furnish the property.

We’ve pretty much seen all that we wanted to see of Dubai… we could have had a few more beach and Marina days but we enjoyed using some of our days for non touristy things, like shopping for furniture and dining at Ikea.  This means that we still have things to do on weekends… even though I’m pretty sure that if we had managed to check all the touristy items off our list we’d still have plenty of activities to fill our days.

I am going to start my own job hunt soon, even though I have been looking to see what is out there, I will start the process of actually putting pen to paper and writing those cover letters and applying for jobs later this week.  I haven’t quite shaken the holiday mindset just yet, and still look forward to lazy days spent tanning by the pool.  However I know myself and I can’t keep that lifestyle up for long, I will need something more to fill my days with soon enough, and am very excited about the job search!  There is already so much in this city I know I will find the perfect match for me.

 

Until tomorrow:)

Dubai Daze

Well, it’s been quite a ‘wonderful time of year’ for Daryl and I.  We are settling into our Dubai lifestyle quite easily, I can’t wait for Daryl to start work so we can get the visa process going.  We are here on tourist visas until he starts work, which is great because we’ve really had time to do just that… be tourists.  Christmas in Dubai has been a lot like Christmas in Australia.  Hot.  I haven’t ever celebrated Christmas on my own, as I usually travel back home, or celebrate with friends, so this is the first year that we haven’t really gotten into the Christmas spirit.  Which I guess, is fine, since Daryl and I aren’t religious we spent the holidays enjoying time with each other, and isn’t that what the holidays are for?… Spending time with loved ones?  Dubai has been our honeymoon of sorts, and we’ve been enjoying lazy days by the pool and exploring this architecturally drenched city.  We’ve travelled to the gold souks and tried our hand at bargaining some pieces down, but turns out we didn’t do much of the intimidating and instead were just intimidated.  The souks create there own sort of atmospheric noise like nothing else I’ve experienced, the hustle and bustle of patrons haggling, and the many men that creep out of the nowhere’s, that simultaneously whisper and beckon you down to their isolated stalls, deep within the maze of pathways in the souks.  It’s such a unique experience, but it’s definitely not for everyone.  We’ve been to the mall every day, as the mall also houses every activity you could possibly imagine [insert ice skating rink, ski slope, movie theatre, an indoor souk and restaurants galore].  But have enjoyed it.  Being the world’s largest shopping mall probably helps that fact a bit.  We’ve also found the perfect place to live, but as of writing this, have yet to sign the contract.  It’s a 1 bed, 1 & 1/2 bath 12th floor beauty right in downtown Dubai (next to the big mall that we’ve been going to everyday) and about 10 minutes from Daryl’s work.  Not only is the apartment situated in the perfect location, but it’s also walking distance to the lifestyle Daryl and I have been longing for.  Cafe’s and restaurants are right outside our new place, along with grocery stores, pharmacy’s… you name it.  The apartment complex even houses two of its pools for residents, a pretty decent gym, basketball and squash courts (which is racquetball for everyone in the states, a library, a huge patio area with BBQ grills and Burj views, which, ironically, is the apartment complexes name (the Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world, and quite an impressive building).  If you’ve just eaten, let your stomach settle a bit before clicking on this link.  You might lose your cookies like I almost did.  Don’t worry, Daryl and I have no plans to do this.  We like to keep our feet on the ground, and this won’t be a tourist activity on our list.  Fun fact, I think you can see where our new building is in the photo, although I could be wrong, since I still haven’t quite got my bearings figured yet.  Daryl and I haven’t been packing our days with tourist activities, but we have been going to the gym every day (yes for fitness).  We’ve taken in a couple of the sights and enjoyed walking around.  Next week we will go to the Dubai Museum for an intense history lesson (I realised I have little to no idea about the history of Dubai) and take a ride on an Abra, or traditional wooden boat across Dubai Creek.  We will also venture to the top of the Burj Khalifa for undoubtedly the best view of 2015, and finally check out Dubai’s Global Village, which is a theme park melting pot featuring sites & sounds from around the world.

All in all, we’ve been exploring life as newlyweds in our new stomping ground — Dubai!

Dubai Dubizzle

Hello from the Middle East!

Although it feels like I’m right smack dab in the middle of a big city in the U.S. somewhere.  In fact, Dubai is so familiar feeling it’s eerie.  Walking around the city and seeing “Applebee’s” to my right and a “Red Lobster” to my left, when I haven’t seen these restaurants in years, brings back an odd sense of being back at home in Virginia.  Maybe that’s why I feel so comfortable here.  It’s not foreign feeling at all.  Europe brought the history and historic buildings and a sense of 1444, but Dubai, being the modern, architecturally wonderful city that it is, makes me feel like I’m somewhere in the middle of 2050, and not in the Middle East.  (Although there is a lot of sand… in fact, there is sand everywhere, so I guess that’s kinda desert like)  Even in Australia they had their own Australian version of the typical fast food chains, but here… it’s all been Americanised.  I was very happy to find a “Caribou Coffee” (my favourite coffee chain before Starbucks), and happily sat there most of the morning playing on my phone, and catching up with friends via Facebook.
All of this being said, I think I’m going to really like Dubai.  Heck maybe the comforts of America will work in my favour and the whole not feeling so foreign thing will work to my advantage in helping me assimilate to the culture.

It’s only been a day, but I’ve had a smile on my face the entire time I’ve been here.  The people are wonderful, the atmosphere is lovely, and the weather (currently) is simply gorgeous!

A wedding and a funeral

Singapore was so much more than just an average holiday.  I experienced more culture than I ever thought could be crammed into one 9 day venture.  Let’s just take it day by day, shall we? We flew Scoot (a very budget airline) directly to Singapore, and I thought it would be a horrible flight however we were lucky enough to fly in a Dreamliner, which is (in my view) a much better experience.  My eyes don’t dry out and my hands and feet don’t swell as much.  I also don’t transform into a camel that suddenly cannot physically consume enough water.  I don’t know why flying is so dehydrating for me, but it is the most uncomfortable experience- and when flying budget, when you have to pay for everything you want, you really learn how to ration that one bottle of water you managed to get past security.  I’d fly with Scoot again, it wasn’t what I pictured a budget airline to be like.

Alright, Singapore! Daryl’s uncle lives out from the city, in a place called Yishin which is about 20-30 minutes our from the CBD, in what would be considered typical government housing.  His uncle’s house however, is so much more than typical, because its huge for Singaporean standards.  Now, in Singapore most people (i’d say about 80 percent or so) live in this government housing.  Because being homeless is illegal, they’ve provided everyone with a place to live.  If you can’t afford something, the government helps you out with that too (yay for governments that care).  Most of these government housing blocks are essentially little towns all equipped with markets, places to eat and shop and even schools.  Every morning we would go down to the local coffee shop (not what any western coffee shop would be like) but what contains heaps of tiny food stalls that everyone gets there morning fare from.  I only managed to take 2 not so great iphone photos of where we ate every morning, but you can kindof get the idea.  The food here is served in a very decent portion fast, its cheap, and man is it tasty.  When I say cheap, I mean max 2 or 3 SGD (1.50 -2.20 USD).  Now to get back on track.  We arrived on Friday afternoon, and went right to Daryl’s uncle house to drop our things off and freshen up.  After which, we needed to get food… after all I was told that was all we were going to do in Singapore was eat eat eat!  We went to a place called Clarke Quay, which is a historical part of Singapore, located next to a river.  Oddly enough, it is also where Daryl’s father grew up.  He showed us his old house, which hilariously has now been transformed into Hooters!  Dad shared stories with us from when he was growing up in what was very different Singapore for him, and we walked along the riverside.  We then went to a delicious vegetarian place for dinner, Zen Japanese which located in the Fortune Center- then after much feasting on delicious sushi type fare we returned home for sleep. Saturday After a cheap and filling breakfast at the coffee shop, Daryl his mom and I explored the local markets… wandering around the crowds of people all crowding around people selling all types of things.  And I mean everything!  My favourite find this trip was milk bubble tea- or basically just milk with tapioca pearls.  It was so cheap and easily found everywhere, and quite refreshing on those hot humid days.  I had to get a bubble tea whenever I saw one 🙂  We didn’t do much today, we spent the morning at the gym and the fun pool at the country club with the family, soaking up some sunshine and good times!

Sunday

After a morning workout at the Country Club close to Uncle’s house, we made our way to the city.  We checked into an AirBNB today, our first AirBNB experience!  We stayed with a lovely couple in the city center as we had a wedding to attend later this evening we wanted to be close to the city to explore during the day, and somewhere close to go home to at night.  We didn’t do much wandering however, as we got to our new home around 14:00 and then went and sat by the pool to relax and get some sunshine before the dinner.  We got ready and headed off to the Marriott around 6:00.  One of Daryl’s good friends from the army, Toh Zhi Hong and his soon to be wife, Michelle, were getting married tonight!  This couple was not religious, so they had a Solemnization ceremony before the big dinner.  This is where the couple signed the marriage certificate, and said “I Do” and exchanged rings.  The bride was beautiful and friends and family were in attendance. The ceremony only lasted about 20 minutes, and then if was off to the mingling before the dinner!  I had a chance to browse through the 3 photo books that the couple had displayed of their engagement photo’s, and how lovely they were!  They even went to Bali to have a wedding photo shoot!  They even had an photobooth, where all the photos taken that evening could be taken straight home by guests, so cute!  Dinner started at 7:30, and as we had saved room in our tummies for the meal that was about to take place, we happily headed inside to the feast.  We had a delicious 7 course vegetarian dinner (since we are vegetarians) and ate the evening away.  We made our way back to our airbnb house stuffed and full of good feelings.  What a way to spend a Sunday!

Monday

We slept in and made our way out to the kitchen for or lovely included breakfast with our AirBNB stay, it was only eggs, toast and a fresh juice, but it was the perfect way to start our day.  We then made our way into the city to walk around with mom dad and Derek.  On every corner there is a shopping mall, and every single one is full.  You’d think that one mall would be more popular than the other, and that some couldn’t possibly be as full as the last one you just walked through, but everything is packed!  Singapore is a city full of people, and they are everywhere, all the time.  We were at the mall around 11:00, and wanted to get a snack from the food court, and there was literally no where to sit down after we had placed our order!  I was shocked at the amount of people and walked around in a stunned state for most of the day, just overwhelmed from the masses. We just explored the city by walking today, and again- I was just overwhelmed at the amount of stores and shopping centers on every corner.  Daryl and I made our way back to our AirBNB around 4:30, to get ready for our evening at the Ballet!  We had the pleasure of seeing the St. Petersburg Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatre.  What a show it was!   It was a very long performance, about 3 hours but wow… what a show.  I don’t remember if I have ever actually been to the ballet, but it was spectacular.  I don’t know how people move like that but it was magical.  Daryl also enjoyed himself, which I didn’t think he would but we had a great time at the Ballet.  After the Ballet we went all the way up to the rooftop bar to catch an evening view of the city.  My ears popped on the way up to the top, but when we got there it was such an amazing view.

Tuesday

Today was spent mostly with family & friends at a funeral for a close family friend.  In Singapore, it is custom for people to be cremated, and that process is very interesting simply because everyone is able to go to the crematorium and essentially watch the body be taken away to be burned.  It is very different from what I am used to.  Everyone stands in a glass room and watches the coffin get taken down an aisle into the burner.  You don’t actually watch the coffin itself get burned, but the entire process up to it until the chamber doors close and all is set alight.  The funeral was also very different than the traditional western funeral.  It is believed that you can burn items that the person can take with them on their journey into the afterlife.  People purchase paper money, cars, electronics… anything really, and that is all burned with the person in belief that this will help them on their travels in what happens after this life.  What I found the most different was that everyone at the funeral walked with the hearse for a time.  This is to signifying walking with them on their last journey.  After all the prayers and such was said, the body was placed into the hearse, for transport onto the crematorium.  It was now that everyone slowly walked with the car down the road for about 10 minutes, as a song played.  It was a solemn day afternoon, we went to the gardens by the bay at night.  This is the ONE thing you have to do in Singapore I feel.  The gardens are massive, and some parts are open to the public, but we bought a ticket to allow us into the indoor gardens.  The gardens are separated by continents, and we enjoyed looking at the local and far away plant flora.  What I enjoyed the most were the vertical gardens that turned into a spectacular light show!  It was like a rave party in a forest.  I honestly don’t know how to describe it, It was like what I imagined the fairies from Fern Gully (the movie) lived in, from a child’s perspective.  I guess if the rainforest could have its own rave fest, that would be it.  Very visually entertaining, and a great end to the night.

Wednesday

Thursday

Today we went to Sentosa, where the theme parks and of course more shopping are located.  We didn’t go into any of these theme parks, but were able to walk around and enjoy the sights.  I managed to find a Starbucks reserve store (which, is very very nice) and ordered myself a delicious clover pressed columbian coffee.  I wish all Starbucks were reserve stores– the barista’s actually know what they are talking about, and the coffee is very much decent and not so stock standard.  You do pay a bit more, but it’s worth it!  On the island of Sentosa is a spectacular aquarium, which we spent most of the afternoon at.  I’ve been to quite a few aquariums, and this one was really something.  I usually move through these types of things really fast, I mean its just fish you’re looking at.  Somehow, however, this aquarium was different.  It was just visually so much more enthralling than other aquariums, and made it really worth it.  I always love the Dory and Nemo fish exhibits, even more now that I actually live in Australia where Dory and Marlin ventured to find Nemo.  It was a nice afternoon at the aquarium and we spent a total of 4 hours at the aquarium, and did SO much walking.  Later, I met the entire Teo family on Dad’s side.  It was so nice to meet all the aunties, uncles and cousins and of course, eat more food.  I also tried a Durian for the first time tonight.  I didn’t try a ‘good’ one, and honestly did not enjoy this fruit.  It SMELLED SO BAD (I can see why they outlaw it everywhere now) and was the strangest texture and taste… I can’t even explain what it is… which I understand now, everyone was telling me, “you just have to try it … and then you’ll understand”.  Well, I understand, but I don’t see what all the hype over this Durian is… apparently you can buy Durian that is worth hundreds of dollars and those actually taste decent… but who wants to spend hundreds on a piece of fruit…

2 years and more

Just the other day I hit the two year mark of my time spent here in Denmark.  It’s exciting to think that I have actually ‘made it’ and lived out my dream in this country for 2 years.  Its all so bittersweet.  As I prepare to finish my thesis in the coming weeks, and start preparing for my move across the world (again) I find myself both happy and sad to leave this place.
Denmark has changed me in so many ways, and I will always feel I have a home here, and hopefully, somehow, the world will lead me back here someday.  I really do feel a sense of belonging amongst the Danes here in Denmark, especially during Danish summer.  How can you not love life in this perfect weather that we have been granted up here in Scandinavia?!

Daryl was just here for a magical two weeks, and we got the chance to visit Dubrovnik, Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro. These are two beautiful cities and the farthest south in Europe I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  Just taking in the scenery in these places was enough to keep me occupied.  Denmark is flat, flat, flat. Croatia has mountains that shoot well up into the sky, touching the clouds at some points and disappearing amongst the atmosphere.  Compare that to the crystal clear blue water of the Adriatic sea and you’ve got a wicked picturesque scene with stunning contrasts.  I can see why the street artists here sell so many paintings, its almost surreal at times, the varying sights and scenes.  I loved Croatia.  True- it was high tourist season and they aren’t too keen on accommodating vegetarians, we managed to frolic amongst that tourist crowd, and even find a vegetarian restaurant (that was so delicious we ended up eating there every day).
Kotor was a nice contrast, as a city of only 25,000 people, there were practically no tourists and even less vegetarian food (we ate pizza, pasta and omelettes everyday). The entire town is a UNESCO heritage site, and wow is it a beauty.  We got the chance to take the trek up the side of a mountain (1500 stairs and 4 kilometers  up) for a spectacular view of the city.  It took us about 2 hours to complete the journey, and after 2 liters of water and a sweat soaked back we reached the top.  We caught our breath and stayed at the top for a while, before working out our quads on the way down.  I just kept thinking, how did the soldiers do this everyday to get to their posts?!  Ridiculous!
A fun moment on the walk was when we came across the church of Our Lady of Remedy, on the way up to St. Johns Mountain and dates back to 1518.  I remembered so vividly, when my Grandmother took me to Canada and make a pilgrimage to climb up the stairs of a Catholic Church on her knees, offering prayers up in a sort of sacrifice on her own pilgrimage.  Its a physical way to make a sacrifice for a prayer intention.  What struck me was when we got to this church and read the history, many of the towns residents would make a pilgrimage just like my grandmother did climbing up the stairs on the mountainside to offer prayers.  I thought, Grandma is on this trip with us.  The next morning when I walked outside there was a ship in the harbour, called the Queen Elizabeth… my Grandmother sure was there with me on the trip climbing up the mountains with us.

We had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Copenhagen catching up with old friends and cycling around the city.  Denmark really has a magical air to it this time of year.  Or maybe it was because I was all abuzz with romantic butterflies.  Still, we checked out the new street food market, had beers on the old queens bridge, rented a boat and took it around the canals, and had some delicious home cooked meals.

I have new roommates now, and yes I am completely over the Dorm Life Living.  In that sense I can’t get out of Denmark fast enough.  I’ve loved my roommates and the friendships they have brought me, but I am ready for a place of my own.  Its back to thesis work for me, until its completed on the 19th.  Then I will just be packing and headed off to Oz.

Till next time internet world…

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.