Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I was on my way to work this morning, listening to the radio as usual, and as I was parking in front of my office, a song came on.
I leave work almost 10 hours later, and as soon as I step into my car, the same song is playing on the radio.
That made me think: what happened in between? Nothing. Nothing important. Sure there was work, meetings, phone calls, e-mails, laughter, stress, boredom... but what does this all mean? Will any of this matter a year from now? Or even a month from now? Probably not.
Hearing that same song twice made me realise that life is all about routine. We wake up every morning, go to work, come back home, work out, watch TV, have dinner, sleep, and start all over again the next day. It made me realise that if we want things to happen in our lives, then it's up to us to make them happen by breaking that routine. It's up to us to find a way to make our lives more meaningful, to go beyond the daily grind, to seek new experiences...it's up to us to (without sounding too cliche) stop and smell the roses, to not get absorbed by our work, to shift our focus to the things that really matter the most at the end of the day.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Last Wednesday, I get a call from a bank employee telling me the passport and driver's license copies I faxed them are not clear, and asked to come to my office to pick up clearer copies. He shows up, I give him the papers, he makes me fill out the application form again because there was a small scribble on the old one. He tries to sell me a special edition World Cup credit card, I say no thank you. End of story.
Or so I thought.
The next day, I get another call from the same guy asking me for my mother's maiden name (you try to spell that name on the phone, talking to a guy that can't construct a proper sentence in English). Then he asks me what my permanent address is in Canada. I tell him I live in Dubai now. He then insists I give him an address in Canada because my passport is Canadian. I say, but I don't have a permanent address there, I live here now. He simply would not understand and was only satisfied when I gave him the name of the Canadian city I lived in. End of story.
Or so I thought again...
Today, I get a call from another person at the bank: "Hello does T.H. work there", I say yes, I am T.H. "Oh..no can I speak to someone from HR?" (It seems they do this to check the validity of the information you have given them). So I try to transfer the call to someone from HR. I ask the woman to hold the line. Try to call one person in HR, no answer. Fumble with the phone while I try to contact another person in HR. Finally manage to dial that person's extension. Phone rings a few times before HR picks up. As soon as HR picks up.....the bank person hangs up!!!!! And doesn't call back!!!!!!!!!!! Arrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhh.
And so the saga continues...
In other news, I read this morning that a container carrying chewing gum overturned in Dubai yesterday, and fell straight on top of a cab killing its driver and passenger. The stupid truck driver was apparently speeding and had to break suddenly. Also, it seems the containers were not properly fixed on the trucks. I don't know why but I was so upset about this! Because of some stupid idiot's bad driving skills and lack of conscientiousness, 2 innocent souls have lost their lives! How can 2 people die just like that, because of a freak accident? You can check out the pics of the horrific accident on Gulf News and Emirates Today.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Of course I did not feel any of it. The one time something interesting happens in Dubai, and I do not even experience it! I was in the Mall of the Emirates at the time it happened, and did not feel any shaking. But I got back to work and saw that a bunch of colleagues were standing outside the building. It seems the building was evacuated following the tremor, for safety reasons.
I ask a guy on my way in why they are all waiting outside, he says "Earthquake"...I replied: "Yeah right". I did not believe him. Until I got inside the office and saw that everyone was talking about this.
All the major towers in Dubai were evacuated as well, and no one was allowed back to the offices for the rest of the day.
It makes you think about what would happen if a major earthquake hit here, God forbid. All those super towers that are being built...Did no one think of the possibility of something like this happening? Is there a plan? Granted, we are not really in an earthquake-prone zone, but what if the earthquake that hit Iran was stronger? What if the aftershocks we felt here were stronger? Then what?
Saturday, November 26, 2005
But one of the things that upsets me the most about driving in the UAE is when I see young children, toddlers even, jumping around in cars, unrestrained. I am not sure if there is a regulation here about children being strapped in special seats until a specific age, but if there is, then it is definitely not being enforced.
Last time I was driving home behind a car where the back window was open. A 2-3 year old child who was sitting unrestrained by any seatbelt or chair was practically hanging out the window, about to fall out!
Sure, we can blame the police for not being more strict about this issue, but really, the ones to blame here are the stupid, ignorant parents who allow this to happen. Don't they understand that this is a danger for both the child and the driver? Drivers can get distracted, children can get hurt, and in the case of an accident, having the child jumping around in a car like that can prove fatal.
Friday, November 25, 2005
December 2nd is the UAE's national day. This year, it falls on a Friday. Friday is a weekend here. In other countries, if a national holiday falls on a weekend, you get an extra day off on the weekday to compensate...so for example, in Canada, if Canada day falls on a Sunday, you get Monday off....But this is not the case here. Not for the private sector at least. It was announced last week that the private sector will not getting any days off to mark National Day. But, the public sector is getting not one, not two, but three days off!
So here are 2 questions I'd like to have answered:
1) Why the discrepancy in holidays between the private and public sectors? Do employees in the public sector work more than the ones in the private sector (therefore deserve more of a break?). How does the UAE government expect to have more locals working for the private sector when there is such a difference in the number of days off we get (and this is not just the case for National day. It's the case for every single holiday we get in the UAE).
2) Why does anyone need 3 whole days to celebrate National Day? One day is more than enough.
Unless of course the government decides to match the private sector holidays with the ones for the public sector. Then 3 days off to celebrate National Day sounds just perfect :)
Today's Word of the Day:
black friday: The day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. It's traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year (and sometimes considered to be the beginning of the Christmas season). A.K.A.: Green Friday
In the Emirates, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving...Therefore we do not have Black Friday.
(corrected after my wiser sister pointed the mistake out)
Today's Word of the Day:
Turkey drop: This happens when a dating couple try the long-distance relationship thing when they go off to university or college in September. Typically, when Thanksgiving rolls around and everyone goes home for the holiday, someone gets dumped. Hence the turkey drop.
He didn't know what hit him... Laura and him never made it past the turkey drop.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
One of the problems we hear about very often here is the one of unpaid wages. And the individuals that are most affected by this problem are the ones that can least afford it.
It's the people who come here, dirt poor, hoping to be able to provide the families they left back home with a better future.
It's the people who live in groups of 10 or 15 in a one-bedroom apartment.
It's the people who work in the blazing sun 10 hours a day.
It's the people who earn an average of $500 a month, and send more than half their salaries back home.
It's the people who have no choice but to keep working for the company that does not pay them, because they cannot go anywhere else.
To all the people managing companies who are guilty of not paying wages to their workers: you should be taken to court, and your sentence should be to live the life of one of your labourers, work as hard as them, live in cramped apartments, save every penny....Then, maybe, just maybe, you'll understand that you are committing a crime.
My sister told me that one day at work, she overheard a conversation between a labourer and a fellow reporter. The worker was crying (yes, a grown man, crying) because his company had not paid him for several months.
Luckily the Dubai government has finally decided to do something about this, by setting up a hotline workers can call to be able to fastrack any grievances...I really hope that this will actually make a difference. I really hope it's not too little too late.
Today's Word of the Day:
Cold turkey: A way to quit smoking. Just by simply not smoking and not using any products to help you with the process. Usually is extremely painful and freaking annoying as hell.
I doubt it will be hard for me to go cold turkey on posting Word of the Day.
(not sure if this is correct, but who cares!)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I watched Flightplan yesterday, featuring Jodie Foster. We got some free tickets from the client and decided to check it out. Without revealing too much of the plot, Jodie's character has just lost her husband and decides to take his body to the States to burry him (she lives in Germany). On the flight, she loses her 6-year old daughter, goes nuts, and drives everyone else on the plane nuts, in order to try to find her.
It was not the best of movies (and I am being kind by saying that), the plot was weak, the acting was so-so, and the ending was just too much. How does one lose an entire human being on a plane? Well, that was the only cool thing about the whole movie: the plane, which was a double-decker type huge plane, with a really nice lounge/bar inside, and many other cool features. Other than that, nothing really to rave about....OK to rent on a night when you reaaaaally have nothing better to do, but don't pay the price of a movie ticket to watch this one.
Today's Word of the Day:
bio break : n. Neo-geek terminology for visiting the bathroom, especially when interrupting a meeting/gathering/workflow.v. performing bodily functions
Today's meeting was so boring, I had to pretend to go on bio break just to keep myself awake!
Monday, November 21, 2005
Today's Word of the Day:
subterfuge \SUB-tur-fyooj\, noun: A deceptive device or stratagem.
He was so adept at subterfuge...he made her believe she was eating chicken, when really, the meat on her plate was rabbit!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I am hoping that perseverance will be the key to the success of this endeavour... (see what Word of the day can do to you? It can make you write phrases like that!)
Today's Word of the Day:
ingenue \AN-zhuh-noo\, noun:
1. A naive girl or young woman.
2. An actress playing such a person; also: the stage role of an ingenue
T. was an ingenue: she thought that customer service in Dubai is as efficient was in Montreal.
Here's today's experience: I get home (late of course), turn on the TV, and all I get is a white screen. I turn the receiver on and off, and on and off again...Nothing.
This is not the first time this has happened. It seems the last time this happened, it was a generalized problem because my colleague who lives in the same area had the same issue. Fine.
Today, I want to find out if this is a problem with my receiver, or a generalized problem yet again, so I decide to call DIC (Dubai Internet City, who are the service providers). I go to their website, click on the "Contact us" tab, and get their phone number. I dial the number, and what do I get? A message saying "This service is not compatible with this call", repeated over and over again....Huh? What is this supposed to mean?
This is Dubai Internet City for God's sake! This is their Website! And they can't even update it with the correct phone number?
For all I know, this blank TV screen staring at me could be due to the fact that I have not paid my TV bill in 6 months. Why? Because I haven't gotten a single bill in 6 months either! I did ask DIC about this a couple of months ago, and the only answer I got was "don't worry, it will come".
Worry? I ain't worryin'!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Here's how it works: every day, I publish a new word and its meaning. I'll attempt to use it in a phrase. And I invite each and every one who reads this blog to write a quick comment...Just one phrase...Using the Word of the Day of course! I'll test it for a week, to see what kind of response this gets...So come on! Start writing! Do it!
Today's Word of the Day:
anodyne \AN-uh-dyn\, adjective:
1. Serving to relieve pain; soothing.
2. Not likely to offend; bland; innocuous.
1. A medicine that relieves pain.
2. Anything that calms, comforts, or soothes disturbed feelings.
Nothing is more anodyne than spending a day on the beach.
There you go! Simple, no? Now your turn...
Featuring Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Spanish actress Paz Vega (who looks a lot like Penelope Cruz by the way!). A sweet story that deals with cross-cultural relations. It's nice to see Adam Sandler acting in something other than the stupid comedies he usually acts in. Paz Vega is quite simply charming in her role as a Mexican immigrant who works for an American family to give her daughter a better life. Tea Leoni over-acts a bit, but it's 13 year-old Shelbie Bruce (who plays Paz's daughter Cristina), who steals the show. A good rental movie.
Featuring former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, this is another movie that deals with cross-cultural relations, this time between India and the US/UK. Very cheesy at times (especially the Bollywood-inspired song and dance numbers), it's an OK movie. Miss Rai is not the best of actresses, but this movie really made me want to visit India badly! The scenery is so beautiful and colorful! One of the scenes takes place in Goa, which looks simply stunning! Visiting India is definitely going on my "must do before I die" list.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, and Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn (Cate does an amazing job in this role!). A good movie, a good story, Leo is also impressive in this role. I admire the way he always picks challenging and interesting roles...He could have gone the Ben Affleck-road and chosen all-American big-budget blockbusters after the success of Titanic, but he didn't. Good for him!
This is my first birthday celebration in Dubai, and although I had a good time, it still doesn't feel right. I am not with my real friends. It's not the same when you don't have your loved ones around you, the ones you care about the most...the ones who matter the most. But I am thankful...knowing that my friends will be thinking about me on my birthday...knowing that no matter what the distance that separates us, it'll always be the same between us...knowing that even after not speaking for months, we can pick up right where we left off...knowing how lucky I am to have friends like that in my life.
Friday, November 18, 2005
What's artificial rain? It has something to do with hydrogen bombs, spraying "special substances" in the cloud, and using a small plane to do this. But the whole procedure is eco-friendly apparently. Yeah right!
Anything that is artifical cannot be eco-friendly. I don't understand why people mess with things like the weather. The UAE is a desert. And it will always be a desert, no matter what you plant in it. Why do we need to change the way a desert functions? The whole things sounds a bit too sci-fi to me...
Thursday, November 17, 2005
1) The weather...it's especially easy to appreciate the weather around this time of year. Montreal has had its first snowfall already, while it is finally starting to feel nice and breezy in the evenings here.
2) The beach. Such a blessing! Just like my father, I truly believe there's something therapeutic about the beach. Nothing compares to the way you feel after a long day of swimming and tanning. And the absolute best time to be on the beach is around sunset...it's simply incredible.
3) An easier life. Despite my long work hours, I find living here less stressful in some ways. How? By getting people to do things for you. Like honking outside the bakala (depanneur) and asking the guy to bring whatever you want to your car! (I don't do this by the way...I am not that lazy!). Or by calling the bakala 5 times a day and have the guy deliver things to your house.
4) Driving my car. I just love driving, and blasting good music. And the roads here are so well maintained...nothing like Montreal's potholes!
5) Good Arabic food.
6) Being closer to my family and seeing them (almost) every week.
You'll notice that my "What I like about the Emirates" list is shorter than my "What I miss about Montreal"...
Maybe this will change eventually. But I just spent 20 minutes trying to think of more things to write, and I couldn't.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Well....I kinda saw him.
He was in Dubai to promote the opening of the new Virgin Megastore in the Mall of the Emirates. He was supposed to appear at 1:30 PM, but in fact only showed up about 40 minutes later. In true Branson style, he showed up in a red Ferrari, preceded by a couple of guys on motorcycles. Inside the mall! He then went into the store, at which point we were also allowed to go in. A couple of people asked him questions (not sure if they were journalists or just members of the public). All I remember was one guy asking "What does Virgin mean to you", and Sir Richard answered "Well, it was a long time ago". He said a couple more words, then just almost ran out of the store, a bit like he was upset at something...not sure if he was though.
He eventually showed back up to sign his book. But I wasn't interested anymore. We were famished by now (I was with 2 colleagues) and all we could think of was the large buffet of sandwiches, seafood, salads and desserts that was set up in the store.
I also finally saw part of the newly built ski dome in the mall. It's quite impressive, it looks like a winter wonderland in there. I could not make out how big it is though, I'll have to go back and check it out. Such a funny concept! People will actually have to wear gloves and ski jackets and hats when they're skiing! Then they go back outside and it's 30-45 degrees celcius, depending on the season!
Going back to the celebrity topic, Jacko's in town again. He seems to have taken a liking to visiting this part of the world, and has even bought a house in Bahrain apparently! The first sighting of Jacko (on his most recent trip...because this is not the first time the Gloved One has blessed us with his presence) happened in the ladies' bathroom at Ibn Battuta mall. Yes, you read right, the ladies' bathroom! Such a bizarre incident! Such a weirdo! Why is he even here?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Although the regulation on rent increases in Dubai is commendable, I do not understand why "Dubai residents go ecstatic over rent cap" (Gulf News, November 12). A 15 per cent increase is nothing to be ecstatic about! In Canada, rent increases are limited to about 2 per cent every year and can go up to about 4 per cent if (and only if) the landlord carries out some renovation that adds value to the building.
In my case, a 15 per cent increase translates to Dh10,000, which is ridiculous. The rent allowance allocated by many employers will not increase proportionally to the rent increase. From A Reader Dubai Name withheld by request
Of course it was slightly edited...I am especially upset that they did not print the last phrase of my original letter:
Does the government think we are idiots by making it seem like a GOOD THING to have a 15% rent cap? Come on!
After discussing with some colleagues at work, they told me that in previous years, rents would increase by 20, 25, sometimes even 30% from year to year...Can you imagine! So now I understand why residents are "ecstatic"...But I still think 15% is a ridiculous amount. We'll see what happens when I have to renew my lease 6 months from now.
1) Walking...I didn't have a car there, so I mostly walked everywhere (I also miss public transportation believe it or not....the metro is a blessing!)
2) Not having to be stuck in traffic every day (goes with point number 1)
3) Easy banking (refer to previous post)
4) Decent rents
5) My morning cappucino from Second Cup, on my way to work
6) Being able to buy booze directly from the SAQ...no need for an alcohol license....or no need to call a shady guy we only know as "Booze Guy"
7) McGill College street lights around Christmas time
8) The sound of fresh snow under my boots
9) Chapters and Indigo....I could spend hours in those places browsing through all the books
10) Working shorter hours
11) Watching ER on Thursday nights (they only play older episodes here)
12) My yoga classes at the YMCA
13) Our cat Shrimpie (he now goes by the name of Cat, or Catkout)
14) The Jazz Festival/Comedy Festival/Fireworks competition/Francofolies
15) Our apartment on De La Montagne street
16) Toasted bagels with cream cheese
17) Old architecture
18) Cool hangout places like Gogo Lounge and Whisky Cafe (not that I was a party animal, but I love the atmosphere in those places)
19) The Quebecois accent (it grows on you...eventually)
20) All the friends I left behind
Monday, November 14, 2005
I have been trying to open up a payroll account at my bank for the past two months literally, and I think I have finally succeeded...I made the mistake of opening up a savings account when I first opened up my bank account. I then discovered that with a payroll account, I can get free cheques and a free credit card for life...hence my decision to switch accounts. But of course, I needed to fill out an application form, get a letter from my employer, submit the application form manually, only to find out the letter from my employer was not in the right format, so then I had to wait another couple of weeks until the new letter was ready in order to re-submit my application. OK...at least my application went through! I am finally getting somewhere with this banking thing!
So today I go to the bank to pick up my credit card and cheque book (because of course, they do not mail those, you have to go pick them up yourself....and I did try to call the bank around 10 times this morning to make sure these were ready, but the line was always busy. I guess they've never heard of an automated answering system), only to find out that I did not in fact get a credit card, and that I had to fill out another application to get it!
So here I am, 2 months later, with a payroll account, a cheque book, but still no credit card! I was told it should be ready in 10 days, at which point I will have to go pick it up from the branch, of course. And to think that in Montreal, all it took was an online application, or a quick phone call, to get all my banking needs fulfilled!
Speaking of banking needs, I still cannot pay my phone bill online! The phone company is still not equipped to accept online payments from its customers, so every time I have to pay a bill, I have to physically go to the phone company and pay in person!
The only other option they give me to pay my bills is by credit card....
But it's still too hot and humid to be able to enjoy an evening out. The month of November is very moody that way. One day it's really nice and breezy, and the other it's hot and stuffy. But I keep reminding myself that I could be in good ol' Monty adding one layer of clothing on top of the other. So I am not complaining...Although I do go through the odd moment of nostalgia, where I wish that it were cold outside, while I am indoors all nice and warm, wearing a nice thick sweater, looking out the window. That feeling of coziness is unique. It goes back to my high school days in Abu Dhabi when it used to rain, and we'd turn the lights on in class. I just loved it! Maybe because it was so rare, but it really made me happy.
I cannot end this post without talking about another irritating factor about Dubai: I cannot STAND the way the roads keep changing every day! This morning I was going to my client's offices and they had closed the exit I usually take...so I had to take an extra long detour and take the exit a few kilometers away, setting me back 15 minutes (I was already late to begin with so this did not help). And this is not the first time this has happened to me...The area I live/work in is a complete construction site, so this happens quite frequently. Will Dubai every be a city free of the construction madness?
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Today's front pages of the newspapers all mention Sheikh Mohammed's decision to put a 15% cap on rent increases until the end of 2006. Ha! 15%!!! And us tenants are supposed to be happy about that? I guess the government want us to feel happy and thankful that there is finally some sort of regulation about rent increases (which is an important step I must admit), but 15% is just a ridiculous amount! Because, of course, landlords will not increase rent by 5%...or 10%....or even 14%...No! They will use this decree as an excuse to increase rent by the maximum amount.
I don't know if you realise, but a 15% rent increase equals a Dhs 10,000 increase per year for my tiny 1-bedroom apartment in the Greens (that's more than $2,700 US per year for all you North Americans who may be reading this). Speaking of my 1-bedroom apartment (I ain't complaining...it's really nice and I have a beautiful pool and gym and I am only 10 minutes away from work by car, when there is no traffic....the traffic in Dubai requires a separate post alltogether, I am sure I'll be mentioning it a nauseating amount of times in the coming posts), I am paying the same rent for a 1-bedroom apartment here as we were paying for our enormous 2-bedroom apartment in Montreal, located in the heart of the city. Now that's what I call a ripoff! It's not like we're in New York, or London! Why isn't there some sort of regulatory body (like the Regie des Logements) that controls these things?
Why is it that some people who rented the same exact aparment as mine a few months before me pay less than me...and why is it that some people who rented the same exact apartment as mine exactly 3 months later pay almost Dhs 10,000 more a year than I do? How can that be right? Something needs to be done about this.
The whole point of me living in Dubai was to be able to finally save a bit of money (and be closer to my family)...but at this rate, I'll be borrowing money instead of saving it!
1) Find interesting things to write about
2) Push myself to do more interesting things in my life...so I can write about them on my blog!
The world of blogging is new to me. So why am I doing it you may ask? Well, I find the concept of blogging to be an interesting one to say the least...especially in this part of the world. More and more newspapers are publishing posts from various blogs, about how people feel about living in Dubai and the Emirates. And it's not all flowers and candy for a change! The media here is finally realising that there are so many things that are wrong with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the other Emirates...and they seem to have at long last broken with the tradition of sugar coating all the news and have started writing about how residents really feel!
But this is not the only reason I have finally joined the world of blogging. I must give credit where credit is due, and the credit goes to none other than my sister...She started her own blog not so long ago, and by doing so, has given me the courage to start doing it as well! Her blog is Abu Dhabi Sunshine, which is why I decided to call mine Dubai Sunshine. Her blog name comes from a song we used to listen to on the radio when we were kids (does anyone know who sings that song?) and I decided to call my blog Dubai Sunshine, to create some sort of sisterly relationship between our blogs. Oh but I must say this: my brother, who is the first blogger of the family, named his blog "Abu Dhabi Sunshine and Boredom", so really, all the credit goes to him! (He has not blogged in a while so hopefully this will act as an incentive to bring him back to the world of blogging).
That being said, I look forward to receiving many comments/reactions to anything I post here...This is a open forum for anyone from anywhere to write about anything! So, welcome to my blog!