Tuesday, September 23, 2008

hong to the kong

i love not working. i love my friends. i love hong kong. these three things put together can not be described in words. my 9 day trip to my favorite city on the planet was a non-stop party and an all-around great time. if anything, it reaffirmed my love for the city, the people, the transit, the geography, the lifestyle and the energy. the trip was great because, even though it was my second time there, a new slew of people made it from all over the globe.

james from taipei; vlad, govind, alex from toronto; rory, ayham and i from the uae; and epa and tai from hong kong. not to mention girlfriends, friends, sisters and randoms came along for the ride too. i would especially like to thank epa and dorcas for showing us a good time. wakeboarding and partying and boating and restaurants and all that. you guys are great hosts.

there are plenty of pics so here are some select ones.

so where next?

oh canada

i had a great trip back home. it was short, 2 weeks, but was jam-packed with fun times, relaxation and a reacquaintance with my homeland. i don't really get homesick but that doesn't mean that i can't reminisce and haunt my old stomping grounds. after being in dubai for a year, i've come to realize that toronto is an amazing city. dubai's alright but it just doesn't have the electric feel.

i came with rory, who worked the etihad flight from abu dhabi. it was great because we had a weekend together in toronto and i got to show her around a bit. she met my parents who had come to meet me as well as a brief introduction to my cousins sean and sarah. there was a lot of walking involved and a lot of great eating. after the weekend, rory flew back and my parents and i went to sudbury. i got to see my grammi and my auntie colleen and auntie chrissy and unkle jim. i stayed at my mom's new place and spent a few days just visiting. it was nice to catch up with everyone, even though i didn't get to hang with my cousins as usual.

i spent the last week back in toronto just spending the days wandering around the city and catching up with friends. i saw my friend renu's new baby and most of my toronto friends. i regret that both my brother and sister were in BC and i couldn't see them. i also wish i could have made it to ottawa to see my friends there. i just didn't want to spend all my time travelling as i only had two weeks.

it was great seeing all of you and i appologize to those i couldn't catch up with. i also know i left in a bit of a hurry. don't worry, i'll be back and y'all can come visit us here in the desert anytime.

i flew back and arrived home just in time for a large house party at my place. such is the dubai life i guess. pics can be found here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

new blog

Hi, i was recently in toronto and now am going to hong kong. i will blog about it when i get back but i just wanted to let you know that i have started another blog wherer i will be posting some of my creative writings. i am hoping that having a blog will force me to start writing again. in the meantime, i will add older works. if you're interested, you can find them at http://putthekidstosleep.blogspot.com/.

see you soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

ciao italia

just because the euro looks like monopoly money doesn't mean you don't have to mortgage your stake in the electric company to buy bottled water in milan. that is the first lesson learned in the great country of the mario bros. the second is that dipping your sweaty, stinky, aching feet in a cold fountain is like viagara for the soul.

so another whirlwind tour of great cities had rory and i hoofing it around the diagonal streets of the cosmopolitan italian city of milan and then again in venice. we took trains, boats, planes and subways but covered most ground by foot. it was great to walk again like i used to in toronto. italy was nice and romantic and we had a great time but there is nothing really amazing to report. it was kinda how we expected.

venice was very romantic if not touristy. even when we had to commission a boat to speed us down the canal so that we could make the last train, we were gazing into each others' eyes like dorky teenagers.

anyway, the trip reinforced my idea of europe as a travel destination for when i am older. not too much excitement, safe, expensive...the kinda place you can take your kids. it was great to get away though and it was nice having such beautiful company.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

gettin jiggy

i think this video is wonderful for a few reasons:

1) it has a heart-warming message that no matter where you are we all love to dance

2) it makes me want to travel again

3) it is an amazing example of how companies (in this case cadbury's Stride gum), when they have enough balls, can connect with their market (people like me) using public relations tactics in a new medium while being completely authentic and without being completely self-serving

4) he dances funny

Thursday, June 26, 2008

things i want to do when i go home

a recent facebook wall post i made had me thinking of the random things that i really miss about home. being in a desert metropolis with its utopian facade and ingnorance or indifference towards things like: environment, equality, good shopping, live music, underground culture, any culture for that matter, things that are old and reliable, fast internet, true multiculturalism, public transit, etc. I felt like making a list of all the stuff i took for granted back home. now that i am going back for a couple weeks, i invite anyone who wants to join me in my quest for the little things that make life in canada great.

so far the list includes:

  • go to a good live indie rock show
  • watch squirrels and seagulls in the beaches
  • eat dirty chinese food, probably at kum jug
  • hang out in kensington market
  • drink soju at a good karaoke bang
  • throw a frisbee
  • buy clothes from thrift stores and stores that don't belong to giant retail or luxury chains
  • eat some street meat,
  • go to a house party
  • spend some time with mary jane
  • go to the islands and bike around
  • climb a tree
  • swim in fresh water
  • ride on public transit
  • drink rain
  • spend a good portion of time going between the sun and the shade to feel the temperature difference
  • go on a roadtrip to some random small town (preferrably getting lost along the way)
  • go to a cottage, wake up at dawn and walk through the trees, the morning call of woodland pheasants leading me as the dewy forest floor soaks my shoes
  • eat pork
  • go blueberry picking in sudbury, ontario
  • give lots and lots of hugs and kisses to my grammi

feel free to offer suggestions of other things. this list has gotten me really excited.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Shaikh Nasser dies in helicopter crash

Shaikh Nasser, the brother of UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, died last night in a helicopter crash over the Gulf.

According to WAM:

The Ministry of Presidential Affairs has announced the death of Shaikh Nasser Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who died last night when the helicopter plane carrying him and his colleagues crashed over Gulf Waters.

In a statement, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced a three-day mourning during which ministries and government departments will remain closed. Funeral prayers for Shaikh Nasser and his colleagues will be performed at the Shaikh Sultan Bin Zayed Mosque in Al Bateen. President Shaikh Khalifa will receive condolences today at Al Mushrif Palace after the funeral service.

The official website of Saikh Nasser was down this morning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

the good old days (when i was a nerd)

something strange happened to me today. i worked 15 hours at a frantic pace, stress levels brimming, yet still managed to make it to the grocery store before it closed. i needed water, you see. that's not what's strange.

the strange thing is i sort of spaced out for 20 minutes in the dairy section while looking for cream cheese. my mind went all fuzzy like the scrambled porn movies from a thousand confused boyhood nights. i just started thinking about bmx bikes, ball hockey and the D&D monster manual. basically i went back in time to my geeky childhood. it was great. i'm sure the people watching me stare blankly at grated mozzarella in a suit and tie thought i was on drugs but donnie darko would have been proud.

anyway, after coming out of it and resuming my shopping i passed by the magazine rack and saw a comic book sitting on a shelf. it was a newfangled x-men reprint of an old story i remember, rewritten in today's teen dialog of yos and wassups. again i was thrown back in time to the days i would push open the heavy door to my local comic shop, bell jingling, 10 bucks allowance gripped tight in my hand. i still have thousands of dollars worth of comics at my dad's place. maybe they are all water damaged now or disintegrated but i thought about how great it would be to just spend a day reading them all again, my trusty wizard guide always at the ready. so i went to the back of the magazine section and grabbed some comics thinking that maybe i would buy a couple to keep myself in this headspace a little longer. she-hulk, batman, x-men, new avengers and even a spider man were all screaming at me to buy them. and i was going to but for one small thing. i noticed that some stock boy had put a price sticker willy-nilly on the cover of all the comics. maybe i'm overeacting but where i come from, this is like letting a kid colour in a man ray photograph with crayons. i wasn't thinking of buying them as an investment like i did as a kid. but something inside me told me it was wrong. i couldn't do it and so i left with my cream cheese sans comics.

maybe it's great that in the middle east, kids never felt pressured to buy every first issue on the shelf. maybe they weren't worried about creasing pages whereas i would turn each one holding a tissue as not to put a finger print on them. but c'mon, you can't put a sticker on the cover, it's just against the universal comic book laws and everyone should know it. i'm kinda bummed out now because i was really looking forward to the new avengers.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kuala Lampur

rory and i went to Kuala Lampur in Malaysia for a weekend getaway. she was flying there for work so i got a cheap flight and a free hotel. :) that city is pretty cool. modern but somehow it felt old. the buildings and monorail, along with other infrastructure seemed water damaged or aged in a way that reminded me of star wars movies and how the spaceships, though futuristic, were dirtied by the (space) elements. anyway, i thought it looked neat.

so we got there and had a nice two hour spa massage. i've never had a proper spa massage, only the cheap china town ones and it was very relaxing. we had a nap and then went out to see the town. the twin petronas towers, like silver darts that shone like heavenly beacons drew us to them and the mall beside. we had some malaysian food at a restaurant in the mall and decided to walk back to the hotel.

on the way back we came across a busy street that was lined with colourful bars. we ducked into a few and had some drinks. the last one we came across, however, was overpopulated with asian girls dressed to impress and old white businessmen. the girls were looking for husbands and/or cash and the guys, well, they were pretty disgusting. we had a good time watching the interactions going on and danced a little before the music stopped and someone grabbed the mic. "this is a police raid, would all foreigners please go to the left of the room and all locals to the right." my first thoughts were 'cool'. but then i quickly realized that rory, being asian, might be perceived differently. they started collecting everyone's passports and we had left ours in the hotel. a few people tried to grab rory but we managed to sneak out of the bar after being locked in for two hours (the bar was still serving though).

outside, the girls were all sitting on the pavement, maybe 150 of them, and as we got out of the bar, two big police trucks came. the girls, all crying and yelling for people to help them were loaded onto the trucks. i grabbed the camera and took the below video. i was nervous to leave rory though for fear she might be grabbed and thrown in also.

we went back to the hotel and the next morning, instead of going shopping, rory was violently ill. we had to catch a flight at 5 pm to go home. i managed to get her out of bed and we went shopping a bit but she wanted to go back. i ended up having to leave her in the hotel because she wasn't fit to fly and because my ticket was bought at a discount, couldn't be changed. she was diagnosed with food poisoning and came home the next day.

despite all the craziness, it was a fun short trip and i want to go back to KL for longer next time.

Here are some pics

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

'where i'm at now'

so for the second time in two weeks a global ceo of my hybrid employer (TBWA and Ketchum) came for a visit to our wayward region. it's really good to see that global communications companies, particularly the ones i work for, are taking notice of the middle east and the work we are already doing here.

last week Jon Higgins, the EMEA CEO of Ketchum was here to assess our agency and to see if we're up to snuff. i had the opportunity to have dinner with him and our senior management and after a brief explanation of the virtues of twitter, him and my company's managing director were thumbing their up-to-the-minute status from their blackberries.

today i met Tom Carroll, the new global CEO of TBWA. he's a well-spoken, head-in-the-clouds, feet-on-the-ground kinda guy, much like Jon. over the past two weeks our office has been buzzing with preparations and i couldn't understand it really. to me he is just a guy in a good position. sure he is a visionary and he has a great long track record but i've never been one to swoon over celebrity so i just thought he was a guy. and that's how he presented himself to us.

what drives me nuts is that both Jon and Tom were both such good, regular guys. they didn't have egos or wear million dollar suits or spit acid or cast shadows longer than skyscrapers. they just talked at eye level and listened as though they were interested. so then why all the fuss? i doubt they were fooled by our 'great' questions considering half of them were litteraly read off the sheets of paper that we were told to memorize by heart. the fanfare, the clean office space, the cooking books we brought in to make the shelves look full.... if this is what they get whenever they travel around to far away offices, they must hate it.

personally, if and when i am a global CEO of a great communications network with offices around the world, i will personally see to it that no one makes a big deal about my visits. how can i know i am doing a good job as a leader if the questions posed to me are planted and if people feel nervous to approach me? i, like jon and tom will be accessible and open and honest with everyone at every level of the organization and i won't put up with the facades. Sure, they are communications gods, deities of an industry that creates and destroys icons everyday. but they are humble and real and i bet a little bit annoyed that they are seen any differently.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

royal videotyping

forget stereotyping, queen rania of jordan has broken onto the youtube stage with a call to action to the rest of the world in a bid to break down the misconceptions about arabs.

"In a world where it is so easy to connect with one another, we still remain disconnected," she states. as a westerner (even a very open minded one) living in the middle east, i still have found that many of my preconceptions have been wrong. i think this is a positive step in the right direction.

Even though her video is highly edited and set in a studio, she comes off as sincere and puts the onus on the young arab generation to teach the world of their strong values. It made me think of the sterotypes that i have held... and new ones i've acquired.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Explosion in Dubai

there was a fire this morning at around 7 am. i could see the huge fountain of black smoke ascending over the industrial area of dubai on my way to a conference. i knew something had happened so i tuned into a local radio station and the guy on the radio was kinda freaking out. he was explaining that the authorities were closing sections of the major highway and that they recommended people don't go outside. this could only mean that the smoke was toxic. after my conference, i came home and saw that the smoke persisted. it was 11 hours later. i went to my rooftop and took these pics and video. rumours say that it was a fireworks factory or something that exploded. i can only imagine how many low-waged south-asian workers died. we will probably never know and just be told that no one was seriously injured. such is the daily news in 'paradise'. This video is way cool.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

it's been a long long long long time

It's been forever!
i apologize to everyone who cares. anyway, things in general are good. i miss home now and again but am generally pretty busy and i don't see things calming anytime soon. here is my update, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. it will also be good to know who still reads this. :)
My house - I live in a very large house with marble flooring, huge rooms, 2 balconies, a giant kitchen in a complex with a shared pool (really big), a gym and in a quiet neighbourhood with many expat and local families. Technically we are not supposed to be living there because the government has this law that bachelors can't live in villas in this part of town. not sure why... anyway, if we get in any trouble we will be kicked out. lots of people do it though so we'll see.

My roommates - I was introduced to a Princeton Alumni from Vancouver through a mutual friend and we originally went looking together for a villa after realizing you can get so much more space for the same amount of money. along the way we met a French guy who also knew a Tunisian guy from his work. We have since also started renting to a Palestinian guy from my work. Everyone else is in some sort of banking/investment job and makes probably double what i make, which is good because they put up all the money up front (which is what you have to do here) and so basically they are my landlords and i pay monthly. we bought a lot of stuff for the house together; a 42 inch LCD TV, leather couches, dining room table and chairs, carpets, curtains and all the crap for the kitchen. it cost a lot and somehow the house still feels empty. i've been spending my time trying to get my room set up and just purchased a king size bed and new computer, a guitar and futon. it's a big investment but i figure i'll be here for a while and i could always ship stuff back if need be. basically we don't see each other that much as we all work different schedules and the others seem to do a lot of business travel.

My fun - I don't seem to go out as much as when I first moved here. I think the novelty is wearing off and because I have a girlfriend I don't feel the need to go to clubs or these huge parties. I'm finding some interesting things to do and will probably try to do some road trips now that i have a car. Oman is nearby and there are lots of cool spots along the coast. Tai just came to visit on his way to HK. it was great seeing him. we went out, ayham, diab, tai and i just like we used to. it's great because every year, no matter where we are, the bunch of us always manage to get together somewhere. last year was vancouver, the year before was hk, this year dubai... I've now played basketball with Tai in like 3 continents. i was writing some music when i first arrived here but have since stopped because i got a new computer and haven't had time to move all my programs and everything. i bought a guitar though and look forward to getting into it.

My work - Right now i am busy wrapping up a diabetes campaign i was doing for Eli Lilly in Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE. it was really successful and i am going to do a case study and submit it to our ketchum global network. For the diabetes campaign, i made friends with a local band that is really doing well in the Middle East to be celebrity spokespeople. I did a big feature on them and their support of the campaign. i should be working right now actually but i can't concentrate today. i am researching for a pitch to a major major potential client and have to prepare for media training i am doing tomorrow with another client. this week is going to be busy.

Everything Else - I don't know what else to say really. Today I sat by the pool and smoked sheesha, potted some plants, went grocery shopping and made some dinner. fun times. anyway, to my family and friends, i want to say that i miss you and love you dearly. kaitlyn, happy birthday by the way. to everyone else who stumbles upon this, hi, hope you enjoyed my life update. stick around, hopefully there will be progress again soon.