Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years!

Estelle, Jonah and Liam

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Here are some more snaps from Dubai.

^ The Starbucks brand and the Arab Emirates brand have been compared to each other - by me. The next day I found it especially funny that they were selling mugs that made the point for me.

^ One of the more famous parts of Dubai are the Palms they are building, as well as the World. These are man-made real estate ventures that have a unique shape that resembles a palm tree. One is done, there are two more under construction. When we went onto the Palm Jumeira, you can see the Atlantis resort they have built, just like the one in the Bahamas. There is also a picture of a typical home on the Palm. The homes are located on the fronds of the Palm structure.

^ Outside the Spice Souk. Souk is like a market or a bazaar.

^ Tara, Jonah and Liam in the Souk.

^ A port where boats are located that come from Oman, Saudi, Yemen, etc. A bit of an authentic feel in an otherwise staged place. I liked these boats.

^ The Burj Dubai is the world's tallest tower. Incredible. Babelesque....

^ An angry Arab newspaper, the headline relates to the Israeli attack on Gaza.

^ In the Mall of the Emirates, we saw a great deal of excess. Check this out - a restaurant outside of the ski slope. For real, there is a relatively large indoor ski slope in the mall, real snow. Never seen anything like it. Skiing on the Arabian Peninsula.

^ Barbie in a burkha. Actually, her name is Fulla. When she is sold wearing modest clothing, she is described as having "Indoor Fashion", as per the box. She came with a boyfriend doll named Matawain Mike, without whom she cannot walk in public areas.

^ As the trip finished, we sat in the airport and asked "How long does it take before a culture changes you?" I think the answer is that after a year, you have changed in some fundamental ways. Look at the boys doing meditative yoga poses.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wouldn't you know it....

...back in India and the internet is down. It's like a warm welcome to us that shouts, "Welcome back to the Land of Sucky Infrastructure!"

We had really good snaps of our second day in Dubai, thanks in large part to a six hour extension we had because I made us miss our flight (more on that later). I'll upload from the office soon.

In the final summary, Dubai was interesting - and a little bit of a downer. It was materialism in the most obscene manifestation we have ever seen. I mean we like nice things, too.... but that place was excessive. Mildly revolting, really.

In the words of Tom Holtmann in a recent Face Book entry "I hope Dubai is not the future."

Sunday, December 28, 2008


One impression of Dubai that continues to ring through my mind.....

It seems like a place that runs entirely on the Starbucks business model.

Meaning, it is on the high end of things and pretty expensive - even "really nice", but without a great deal of real substance underneath it. That is not a negative statement, more of a reflection of what we have seen thus far.

And there are many Starbucks here.

There are various faux boulders along the side of the roads here, I have decided to call them "fauxlders". They are used to support small waterfalls (in the middle of this desert we are in) and there is an inordinate use of marigolds around the base of these same fauxlders. I believe that I have expressed that I don't have a great affection for this flower. It seems to dominate the landscaping that is done here.

Also, there are various neighborhoods built right up to the edge of the highways. That is not nice for either the homeowners or the drivers, yet I have not found that to be enough to prohibit that kind of development here in Dubai.

Admittedly, we have seen very little of Dubai, as we spent the day at Wild Wadi, a sprawling water park that we enjoyed very much. We then had dinner out at a sidewalk cafe that was a nice environment with excellent food. Could not have dreamed up a better meal.

Singapore is described as a place you can get your big toe wet with Asia without really diving in. I think Dubai must be like that with the Arabian Peninsula. We like to think of ourselves as a "dive in" family, but the Arabian Peninsula these days for Americans is probably not a very good "dive in" zone, so this is ok for us right now. This is especially true as the headlines in all of the UAE newspapers and local news is showing Israel decimating Gaza, with reports of the US almost applauding Israeli's attack..... so, if anyone asks, we are from Toronto today.

I write to you from a hooka bar in the basement of our hotel, everyone else is wisely getting sleep. I'll join them as soon as I enjoy this mint tobacco. There are guys playing poker at a table next to me that yell "Allahu Akbar" (god is great) when they get a good hand. So, that is grounds for some theological ponderings, but I am too tired.

^ The day started with a two hour wait for our room. Liam says it all - we were spent and unsure of what day it was.

^ Dubai has some of the least inspiring currency I have ever seen. As I have spent my life passing George Washington, Abe Lincoln or Mohandas Gandhi, it's a bit of a let down to have to peddle these things. Look at this bill. It shows a building with an empty road and a few street lights. It cries out - "We're not done yet and proud of it!"

^ 7Up in Arabic.

You know, I think we are a bit out of the norm as Americans, but I can say that we have a typically American exposure to the Arabic world - meaning, very little. I am frankly not sure I have heard much Arabic language in my life. Sure, I have heard it before, but not very much. It's been hitting the ear in interesting ways all day here in Dubai. It's a bit of a harsh language with strong stops in the middle of words. It seems that "Allah" figures into every other sentence. The script is beautiful. You read it from the right to the left, like Hebrew. I think they might speak from right to left, as well. ;-)

^ Dinner rocked. It's a great diet in this neck of the woods. You can see that they brought a big plate of plain lettuce, whole tomatoes, and fresh herbs along with the food. It was a nice bland addition to the heady and garlic-laden treats we enjoyed. Perfect.

^ Jonah in front of a waterfall at the water park. I had gone down on one knee when his back was turned, and he could not see me even though I was in front of him. Great picture.

^ The old and the new intersect here, with a common denominator of affluence.

^ Wild Wadi. If my reading throughout my life has taught me any Arabic, I think a wadi is a well. Thank you, James Mitchener.

^ A really high slide that we went down today. Great fun.


Of interest is that we met three Hyderabadis at different points during today, as I sought to engage various Indians in conversational Hindi. Small world. And my Hindi is getting pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (it's all about reclaiming my dignity after the "child-like" comment in The Hindu).

Also - I have empirically validated that Urdu is essentially the same as Hindi. Two taxi drivers today were Pakinstanis and we had great conversation with virtually no gaps. One of them imparted that the attack on Mumbai was not a Pakistan thing, but rather "politics". That perspective continue to drive me bonkers.

Next stop - Hyderabad and back to work.

Over and out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


...spent at 30,000 feet. Countries whose airspace we flew over....

Greenland (does Iceland "administer" Greenland? I think it does.)
Iran (yeoww!)
United Arab Emirates - Dubai is part of the UAE.

I can say without hesitation that Emirates is the best airline we have ever been on.... Movies and music galore, excellent meals, great service. And when the night hits the plane, the ceiling of the airplane lights up with fiber optics that simulate the stars of a clear night sky. Who thought of that??? Excellent idea.

One measure of how well the West, and America in particular, will perform in contrast to the emerging countries of the world will be measured by how its airplane industry competes. And I must say.... we are woefully inadequate in comparison to Lufthansa and Emirates and their ilk. One of many things we've learned on this adventure.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More pictures from a chilly New England Christmas

Here are a few more pictures from Christmas day.

Since this blog is about Hyderabad and our life there, I decided to see what I got when I Googled "Hyderabad Christmas" in the images section. This is a visually impaired boy in Hyderabad during a preparation for a Christmas pageant in one of the churches. Touching.... we're excited to go back.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in America

We continue to enjoy the festivities in America, although there is something to be said for staying one place for a bit, which we really have not been able to do.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Best wishes to friends near and far for a Merry Christmas!

Krismas ki subhkamna

क्रिसमस की बधाइयाँ!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Most of the family bailed out on New York, but Tara and I still went in as did Dick and his family. Here are some pictures of the event.

^ Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

^ My brother and his family outside Saint Patrick's.

^ Here I am being shamelessly touristy with some guy who makes his living doing this. It was part charity, part fun.

^ The ceiling of Grand Central Station has, during most of my life, been so dark with grime that you could not see what was underneath. But, in recent years the ceiling was cleaned, which reveals the original design - star constellations are depicted on the ceiling. Really nice.

^ Grand Central Station is an impressive, and very American, structure.

^ Tara at Rockefeller Center.

^ A glimpse of a frigid Central Park.

^ On an unrelated note, I learned what a neti pot is..... something that cleanses your sinus cavity through some drip that goes in one nostril and out the other. Pretty gross. But it felt good.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Day

^ Aidan, sledding.

^ The old man giving it a try.

^ Liam and Aidan colliding.

^ Jonah was loving it.

^ Liam, looking like a lunatic.

^ The cousins having dinner.