Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It's that time again, when Matt and I make our annual pilgrimage to the US to spend time with our friends and family and to take in lots of Christmas cheer. This year will be the first Christmas in two years that we won't be doing wedding 'stuff' the entire time - and we are loving it! Here's just a few of things we are getting into!

At the top of the Empire State building with Mom and Dad.

Strolling on 5th Ave before the snow came down, it was freezing!Everybody was in line to skate at Rockefeller Center even though it was 20 degrees!Taking in the Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall
This year we got a big treat when we were snowed in for the weekend in New York city!

The beautiful Radio City Music Hall.

This year we hosted my Mom's family for Christmas. My cousin Susan and I were required to wear the hats in order to distribute gifts. Great accessory! My brother Ryan brought his new puppy, Ali, home to play. He's a cutie pie.

The grand finale! We went to FAO Schwartz to see the big piano used in Big!

The Onion of the Middle East

Finally! A few clever guys over in Egypt (or hiding out somewhere in a no-extradition country) have launched a site that rivals the Onion, but with a distinctivly Middle Eastern spin. True, most of the articles are incredibly offensive, but isn't that the point?

Some favorites of taxi drivers polled in Dubai: "USA Tired of World Domination, Leaves Planet", "Egypt's Elite Declare Independence from Egypt", and "Ronaldo Adds New Trophy to Cabinet" (his Emmy for performances on the field).

Check it out:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dubai Launches a World's 1st: The Take-Home Leftovers Contract

Further cementing its role as a pioneer city in this crazy world, Dubai has brought us a new best practice: A legal waiver you have to sign before taking home leftover food from a restaurant. That's right - in case you were raised by wolves or camels, this particular restaurant wanted to make sure that you didn't sue them when you get food poisoning for leaving your guacamole in the hot desert sun for two weeks, then eating it. Hello, Dubai's Senior Legal Correspondent, Katie, was on hand to give us her expert legal impression of both the document and the offending leftovers:
There you have it, folks - a picture's worth a thousand words. However, just in case you can't see the pictures, we've posted the full text of the waiver below (my favorite is the part that says the contract is binding even if you refuse to sign it!):

Food and Beverage Disclaimer Form

Subject: Food and Beverages purchased within Loca Bar &. Restaurant (the Restaurant" ) and consumed outside the Hotel

The Restaurant discourages guests from taking away from its premises any unconsumed food and beverages that are purchased within the Restaurant. The Restaurant strictly ensures that the quality and standard of all its food and beverages are appropriately preserved . Food and beverages prepared in the Restaurant are stored at recommended temperatures in accordance with the relevant food and hygiene regulations. The lifespan of all food and beverages is strictly monitored and handled properly to avoid contamination . Any food and beverage item taken outside of the Restaurant will compromise the safety and quality of this food and beverage item, for which the Restaurant cannot accept any responsibility whatsoever.

Should guests still wish to take away unconsumed food and beverages purchased within the Restaurant, at their own risk, they are requested to complete and provide all necessary information in the Food and Beverage Disclaimer Form below.

This will serve as a written statement and acknowledgment from the guest which releases the Restaurant from any responsibility or liability for any damage, injury or loss of any kind, or any claims, actions, damages or liabilities of any nature whatsoever ( including negligence, breach of contract or breach of a statutory or other duty of care) that may arise out of, or in connection with, the guest taking and consuming food and/or beverages purchased within the Restaurant, outside the Restaurant premises.

In the event that unconsumed food and beverages, purchased with in the Restaurant are taken away from the Restaurants premises and the guest has read this disclaimer but has not signed this form, the guest accepts and agrees to be bound by the terms of this disclaimer If he/she continues with their actions in taking the unconsumed food and/or beverages outside of the Restaurant's premises.

This is to confirm that I have read and understood the above food and beverage disclaimer policy of Loca Bar & Restaurant.

I also understand and accept that Loca Bar & Restaurant has no responsibility or liability for any damage, injury or loss of any kind or any claims, actions, damages or liabilities of any nature whatsoever which may be a result of me taking unconsumed food and beverages purchased within the Restaurant, away from the Restaurant's premises.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Year, and We Still Don't Have Sewer System

It's been a year since the last rains, and that's just not enough time to prepare! Dubai isn't able to cope with as much as a sprinkle without flooding large sections of town. In our tiny car, you have to go at least 20 kph in the deep puddles - otherwise it starts to come in the doors. Take a look:
But this brings up a good point - Dubai is at the forefront of urban planning for global warming. The forward-thinking folks in Emaar Properties have created the perfect hedge against the coming floods - the tallest building in the world!

Caption Roundup: How Dubai Got Its Wallet Back

Oh, where to begin! As far as I can tell, there isn't a single Dilbert cartoon that doesn't apply to Dubai's financial predicament. However, here's a great one sent along from a company in a LOT of debt:
It's funny, because we all have friends in these companies - in many cases, very high up - and as I recall we've pretty much been saying this the whole time. What else would you expect from a Gulf country that sells a gallon of gas for $1.60, but actually subsidizes the gas prices at the pump (I'm not kidding!)

As a final note, I would like to leave you with this official reporting on the Dubai fundraising campaign status:
The latest news is that we're thinking of buying up the Salvation Army - every dirham counts (we're gonna need a lot of them!) But for now, Dubai has successfully righted the ship, and there are no financial meltdowns remaining for this entire decade!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dubai Film Festival: Part II

Just when I thought we were going to sail through the Dubai film festival with nothing but funny animated movies, we did something...thought provoking!We were delighted to be invited to a special screening and gala event for a new documentary film called Budrus. The film is named for a Palenstinan village in the West Bank just over the green line. In it, the filmmaker follows the plight of its people who are leading a non-violent protest against the fact that the Israeli defense forces are building a security fence on their side of the line. The construction of the fence will also cut Budrus and six other villages off from the rest of the territories in the West Bank. The story was balanced and fair, showing perspectives from both sides and did more than just scratch the surface of the feud. It was an incredibly powerful message about the power of non-violent protest and what the hearts and minds of people can achieve.

After the movie we were treated to a panel-dicussion which was kicked off by an impressive and eloquent speech by Queen Noor of Jordan. She was a formidable lady and was there to not only support the dialouge featured in the film but to speak on behalf of an NGO she is sponsoring, called Soliya (read more about that here). The panel members were the director of the film, a Hollywood executive producer, and an MIT neuroscientist. She made the best observation of the whole night: "If you put a bunch of chimpanzes who don't know each other on an airplane they would almost instantly kill each other. However, human beings on the other hand have an incredible tolerance for strangers and people they don't know. When it comes to tolerance we at least have something in our nature to build upon." Hmm, worth thinking about.
After the intense discussion we were treated to a fantastic gala event to celebrate the success of the film which included canapes and refeshments served tableside by cirque du soliel performers. Literally, they were 'in' the tables.As for the networking, I made one connection that is really going to pay off. I met the Consul General of Mexico and asked him where I can get the best guacamole in Dubai!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dubai International Film Festival: Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is in town and Matt and I didn’t waste any time attending a thought provoking, intellectual, and soul-searching new film. Ok, so it was animated, but it was fantastic!

Having just made Time magazine’s Top 10 movies of the year, we sought out the Dubai premiere of the Fantastic Mr. Fox. I’ve been a big Roald Dahl fan since I was a kid but I wasn’t familiar with this tale, so I was really looking forward to seeing it. I was out gunned by most of the eight and nine year old kiddies who ran into the theatre clutching their worn paperback books.

The movie was directed by Wes Andersen in a beautiful stop-motion animation, they’ve come a long way from Gumby! It was funny, witty, sweet, and packed with multi-generational humor. It didn’t hurt that the characters were voiced by the likes of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray.

Later this week we will be attending another movie premiere, which might carry a bit more adult cache – it’s the Princess and the Frog!

Check out the whole DIFF line up at

Walking the red carpet with the kiddies!

Oh, Tannenbaum!

It may be 85 degrees, the date palms may be swaying in the breeze, but it's Christmas time! The Christmas spirit has hit Dubai and it's not a minute too soon - there's only 13 more days to go! Matt and I can't wait to travel home for the holidays but until then we are trying to soak up as much of the Christmas atmosphere as we can. Planning for Christmas in Dubai really constitutes an adventure and the cocktail conversations have turned to Christmas decorating war stories. "Hey, can you believe I found the red and green holiday M&M's at Ace Hardware?" "We found a place that sells live trees!" "Where did you find ornaments?"

My sister Lisa succeed succeeded in buying a live tree that was cut and imported from the US! Let's just say it was a bit more expensive than what your local volunteer fire department is charging, but that's the price of authenticity. The hotel lobbies are the best place to soak it all in, the displays are gorgeous. Matt and I just came from Christmas caroling in the lobby of the Palace hotel and I'm glad we stayed to the end when the special guest arrived. Santa! The kids eyes were as big as saucers! Who am I kidding, so were mine, you're never too old for Santa!

This beauty is strait from the States, and I love the star.

This is our neighbor the Palace hotel. A more modern take, but I like it!

Leave it to the Aussie's to go big! Fiona's decorated her new apartment with a 10 footer!

The beautiful lobby of the Madinat Theatre. You've got to love the staircase garland.

My favorite lobby in all of Dubai, the Al Qasr hotel. This Victorian-style tree was done up in light blue, gold and siver.

Another view of the Al Qasr hotel, they deserve it, they have three trees front and center!

The man of the hour - Santa!

Mama Said Knock You Out

Thai boxing isn't a sport for slouches. While the 9, 10, and 11 year olds were really fun to watch, later in the evening came the Jean Claude look-alikes. Halfway through, we even got to see a match straight out of Mike Tyson. The tall, skinny guy was dancing all over the ring, while the shorter guy was just standing there smiling. A few big swings were met with nothing but air, but in round 4, BAM - right in the kisser.
The tall fighter stumbled, then hit the ground.
After a couple of tries to get up, the trainers were on him and brought him out in a stretcher. That put a damper on my plans to try my hands (and feet!) at Thai boxing for while!

(click to see the video)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"I'll Take Two of Those Weird Bottles, Bangkok Water Canoe Sales Lady"

Carrying on an unprecedented winning streak of 1,673 completely idiotic acts accomplished without dying, I recently purchased a weird "medicine" or "vitality drink" (we couldn't get a translation) from a nice little lady that was paddling down a waterway in Bangkok. It seemed safe enough - the writing was in Japanese, and nothing Japanese can be bad, right? So, for the bottom-dollar price of $.04 I wolfed it down. We didn't check, but it had to be either flourescent yellow or Hulk green - either way, it tasted funny. 50% Jolly Rancher, 50% weird Southeast Asian root.
In any case, it seems to have worked. Not only did I get another stupid death-defying act in (and learned that royal palace gaurds are NOT party animals), but I slept like a baby that night. And crazy canoe lady is off to make somebody else's day!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Terrific Thailand

I am so thankful of the opportunities that are afforded to us to travel to different parts of world, using Dubai as a jumping off point. A combination of proximity and government sanctioned holidays gives us some really great chances to see this part of the world. Last week we spent an extraordinary 5 days in Thailand thanks to the UAE National Day and the Eid Al Adha holidays.

We stayed in Bangkok and used it has a jumping off point to take in a few day trips as well. One of the best word to describe Bangkok is ‘alive’. From the moment you touch down you can feel the sense of energy and the hustle bustle that keeps the city going. The people are fantastic, for the most part they are happy and welcoming and willing to lend a hand.

We encountered our fair share of con artists but even they are more cunning than malicious and have a good sense of humor. As soon as they know they can’t put a fast one on you they smile and commend you on your smarts! The pace in the city is frantic and was shockingly not touristy. With the BKK airport take over last year and the downturn in the economy their tourism industry has been hit pretty hard.

In our four full days we took the time to see everything we could! Just a few of the things we did: the sights of the old city, lots of markets and yummy street food, traveled to the Khao Yai National Park, attended a Thai kick boxing match, and visit the floating markets.

The experience was fantastic! And we actually found a place that is hotter than Dubai this time of year which I thought was impossible!
These hats were awesome! They are fitted straw inside just like the old Chinese finger traps. They are comfortable and really good in the glaring Thai sun. The ox cart ride helps support local farmers.
The beautiful Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn, it sits right on the river and has a great view. The entire outside of the temple is decorated with broken pieces of Chinese porcelain. The Chinese ships used to use it as ballast and would dump at the port in Bangkok. The effect is stunning!The Wat Arun at night

The night market at Patpong, aka the red light district

Teak is plentiful in Thailand and the artisans are amazing. They have pieces that are commissioned from all over the world. This was was particularly stunning.
The champ! This guy was the winner of the main event (120lbs). I didn't plan for him to throw his arm around me...and my whole arm ended up covered in sweat and Vaseline...authentic! Matt wants to do a more detailed post on our 'fight night' so I'll save the details for him.

We took a night cruise on the river Chao Phraya it was a great way to see the city shimmering at night.

The Wat Po, or Temple of the Reclining Buddha, it was HUGE! This was our attempt to try to get a picture of the whole thing.

Working the quads at the Grand Palace.

The detail on the Wat Phra Kaew, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Standing in front of the floating markets, you'll never think of a traffic jam quite the same way.

Matt's in the driver's seat! One of the highlights of our trip with our friend Cherry. She was a beauty and was handsomely rewarded by Matt with 2 bushels of bananas that he bought. She ate about 20 of them in 2 bites.

These guys look pretty mad to be at the market

The fruit in Thailand is amazing! I got a little over indulgent in Chinatown by washing down my watermelon with fresh squeezed orange juice.

We hiked to a waterfall in the Khao Yai National Park. It was great to some scenery outside of Bangkok, it was so lush.

Having dinner on the 64th floor of The Dome building. The view was fantastic and of course it was packed to watch the sunset. It was pretty windy up there in case my hair do didn't tip you off.