giovedì 19 dicembre 2013

At last...today

I closed all my open work assignments 
Shopped for Christmas 
Wrapped my gifts 
Packed my suitcases 
Changed my bed sheets
Hoovered the floors 
And am now on my way to the airport wearing every possible item I own that resembles a jumper or rain coat...

Goodbye Abu Dhabi and see you in 2014. It has been a challenging yet rewarding 8 months and I will come back for more. 

One thing I will miss for sure over the Christmas break is the lovely weather of the past weeks. Having said this, am actually looking forward to see and smell the rain. 

Europe, here I come. 

mercoledì 18 dicembre 2013

And there she was ...

...across the bar. Among many new faces. One familiar smile gazes back at me. We smile.

K:"Ma che ci fai qui?" [What are you doing here?]
G: "Ma che ci fai TU qui?" [What are YOU doing here?]

The last time Giulia and I met was around 2004 (so she recalls) when we where both at LSE. Our roads kind of crossed, as we were both in Brussels at some point in time. But never contemporaneously. Sometimes, we exchanged emails. She gave me some EU-jobs tips. But then our roads parted again. I knew she was somewhere far and exotic. But could not keep track (these EU people). This was true until yesterday. There she was, with her usual hyped up spirit (don't know how can such as small person have so much energy). Man, it has been almost 10 years. But she looks the same.

I get to meet her husband (who is British with Indian heritage and invited ME to taste his "pesto"- no comment, Giulia frowned), see pictures of their little Anita, hear all about her 'Kenya- Abu Dabi commute', the former where she lives with her baby, the latter where her husband lives. I am ecstatic! Such a pleasant and unexpected surprise. This alumni meeting isn't that bad after all. In no time we get introduced to another Italian, Simona. Then, one, two and many more nice ex-LSE students.

I am not getting over excited, as Abu Dhabi has rather disappointed me on the 'people front'. But this time I have a good feeling... stay tuned.

lunedì 16 dicembre 2013

LSE get together

My old beloved university is organising a get together for Abu Dhabi Alumni*. Exciting!!! I am looking forward to meeting them tomorrow. I wonder whether Essex University has a similar group!

*As an Italian it always amused me how some latin words are pronounced in English, for example (my own transliterations... ehm):

Alumni: EN- alamnai, IT: Aloomne
Quasi: EN - Qooasai, IT: Qooase
Ceteris paribus: EN- Seteris Paribas, IT: Tsceteris Pariboos


When teaching at LSE I always pronounced them the right way. The Italian way.

#RescueKamilahCampaign - Abu Dhabi 2013 (Part 5)

Sara, was the last dedicated supporter to the #RescueKamilahCampaign 2013. It was so great to finally have the chance to sit together without rushing our catch ups during my brief Genoa stays. It was finally Sara and me, no time constraints, no boyfriends around, no mad driving up and down across town for a brief coffee or aperitivo.

Thankfully she is a very independent traveller, who spared me two trips to Dubai, but not a fourth visit to the mosque and a second safari ;)

It was a relaxed quality time with a precious friend... long overdue. To lure her into Abu Dhabi, I advertised the country as a hot sunny place. Who would have predicted that she would arrive in the middle of a storm that paralysed the entire Emirate for a couple of days.... Che culo!


#RescueKamilahCampaign - Abu Dhabi 2013 (Part 4)

Then it was the Super Dupers Time! my super dupers are busy bees, so they could not all come together due to busy work schedules. On Wednesday I pick up Merge from the airport. I simply could not believe it. I had a grin all day long, on my way to the airport, at the welcoming gate. I was the happiest bunny in Abu Dhabi. We had not seen each other since April. Thanks to my flexi work I could leave work pretty early on Thursday and spend most of the time catching up on the pool side or sipping cold drinks on my balcony.
Friday, it is time for another super duper delivery, but this time the pick up is in the city centre where Merge and I pick up Rasoul!! Rasoul is one of those best friends for life. He is also an ex-Matrix as he moved back (for a while) back home to mystical Tehran. Yes, Tehran. Thinking that my friend came from Tehran just for my birthday and to reunite with his ex colleagues makes me grin and giggle....
 


We spent the next day doing more catching up, eating, drinking and getting some vitamin D on the pool side.  On Saturday night it was time for yet another ride to the airport to pick 3 gorgeous super dupers. I was very moved, happy, excited, emotional, thrilled. I was having 5 best friends all for me for more than a week. They were ALL here! in Abu Dhabs!! And all for me!
 
 
Again, thanks to flexi time I only had to spend half a day at work before rushing to get supplies for the coming days. The time we spent together can be described using few words: laughter, happiness, sun, beach, sand, music and ladies nights. Sleep was not a regular on the menu, but who needed sleep when you had so little time to spend with people you consider your family.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words. Here are a few:

I think this was one of the happiest birthdays I ever had simply because I was finally serene, happy and in very good company.

The departure was inevitable. But thankfully it happened in stages: Rasouls, then Mirja, then Meena and Emily then Louise.... They were very tactful and loving in doing so!

Super Dupers, you are the best! I love you all very much!

domenica 1 dicembre 2013

#RescueKamilahCampaign - Abu Dhabi 2013 (Part 3)

After one week spent recharging her batteries in the sun, it was time again to say good bye to Oriana and get ready for the event of the month with the Di Bella: The Etihad Formula 1 Race. What an event!!!

I bought three tickets back in April, soon after I arrived, as I thought my little cousin would join her parents. So when she decided not come I reluctantly decided to join the family, after all I had a day off, the weather was good....so why not. Furthermore, even if I had no interest in the races there were some good concerts lined up: Muse and Depeche Mode.*






The F1 was a wonderful and amazing experience, which I am 'definitely' repeating next year no doubt. The event was superbly organised, with different activities scattered around the F1 village. 

There was music, food, F1 related stands with driving simulations, free henna tattoos, free manicure to pamper the ladies, Abu Dhabi cultural stands... Etihad F1 planes air show...you name it. Not a chance to be bored.






Our tickets gave us access to the Hill, which was in my opinion the best place to be. You could walk around, sleep on the grass, watch the sunset, the air show and...






... make new friends! In fact I met Chris (from London) and Kevin (a bit like me, all over the place, an American previously living London and  Abu Dhabi but now in Indonesia). They are two friends who regularly meet at the Abu Dhabi F1 event. I saw them the first day of the race and but we clicked the second day.



On the last day, our crews joined forces and we made our ways to the Depeche Mode concert. What a beautiful ending for  this long Abu Dhabi week end!


*Note for Emily: I was tempted to write "the" Muse and "the" Depeche Mode :)

#RescueKamilahCampaign - Abu Dhabi 2013 (Part 2)

Two days after saying goodbye to mamma and sis, it was time to pick up one of my "donne", Oriana.
Oriana needed a well deserved break from Brussels' weather and soak up in the Abu Dhabi sun. 

To my surprise (or maybe not) the 30 something degrees were not enough for this Sicilian. I challenged her to come back in July to get a taste of heat ...  Lemon and mint mocktails, were a a must during Oriana's stay, which we sipped on a regular basis after long days on the pool side (tough life indeed!)

After 4 days of "us-time" catching up on the pool side, or indulging in mouthwatering food and drinks, it was time for another trip to the airport to pick the Di Bella Family: my uncle Sergio and his wife Juana. Sergio and Ju are my loyal visitors, who punctually came to visit my new homes whether in Brussels or London and Abu Dhabi was no exception. They are independent travellers who did their homework before arriving. They were far more knowledgeable about what was going on in Abu Dhabi and Dubai than I was (easy task though). So the Italian caravan with the Di Bella's and Oriana took off and we dived into what the UAE had to offer: A desert Safari .... infused with sun, sand, camels, Henna, and local food...



... and a wonderful one day trip to Dubai with its colourful spices, scents and gold souks.






One of the funny memories of this trip is the number of oils and scents that we smelled. It was like Oriana and Ju were possessed and were making a pit stop (for my uncle's delight) at every shop and stall selling oils, incense and Oud (also known as Agarwood where 1 kg can cost up to 6000 Euro(!)). I think the ladies managed to go home with a stack that can last them for a full year if not more!

#RescueKamilahCampaign - Abu Dhabi 2013 (Part 1)

In the last two months I did not have one dull day. Since early October I was a regular at Abu Dhabi airport, picking up or saying goodbye (I prefer the former) to family and friends.

During each visit I did many activities for the first time! I am slowly starting to get my head around this city and I can see that the #RescueKamilahCampaign will soon have to turn into #BringKamilahBackCampaign...but we will see about that!

My tourism season started with the arrival of my mother and sister. Some unplanned circumstances changed our plans from spending a week in Zanzibar to staying in Abu Dhabi. It was not that bad after all. It was a long due reunion of the "Trio". I had not seen my sister in almost a year.




















With my family I visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque for the first time. Few words can describe the magnificence of this building, which looks like it was taken from a Disney cartoon!





It was nice, to have a slow couple of weeks with  my two favourite ladies. Exactly what I needed to get ready for the coming weeks of hosting!



sabato 2 novembre 2013

Formula 1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Today my mother reminded me that I have been to Wimbledon, the London Olympics and now to the Formula 1 race Grand Prix (today) in Abu Dhabi. 
Am a really a lucky bunny...

Will update you soon about this latest amazing experience.

Abu Dhabi is buzzing. There is sport, and music in the air. With my tickets I get to see the Muse and Depeche Mode. 

Updates and pictures soon!



giovedì 3 ottobre 2013

Acquaintances

So, how many potential friends have I made so far in Abu Dhabi over the past 6 months:. Let's play the list game (in no particular order):
_ Karen: Scottish
_Sabrina: Irish (old one, she does not count as new one)
_Ina: German
_Hosam: Palestinian/Lebanese
_Laura: Italian
_Steve: English
_Firas: Palestinian/Jordanian
_Fabio: Italian
_Naser: Palestinian/Lebanese
_Suha and Rami: Palestinian
_Rania: Egyptian
 _Ana: Russian
_Gianluca:Italian
_Atef: Jordanian/Swedish
_Aisha: Emirati

It was reassuring to come back from my latest holiday and find messages from many of the above, asking: "Where are you"???


domenica 22 settembre 2013

There is always a first time

I have two really good friends in Abu Dhabi, Sabrina and Mohammed. They have been my rock for the first few months in the country. We have known each other for years now and their three little monkeys: Lauren (9), Khaled (4) and Malek (2) call me "amto kamilah". In Arabic this is what you call a paternal aunt. We are close.

On more than one occasion, I have told Bina and Moh to leave the kids with me so they could enjoy an evening together. They always thanked me but said that we need to do this gradually, as the little one in particular needs to get to know me better. So perhaps once I'd take them to the shop, another time for a longer trip and so forth until they won't mind being with me without their parents. 
This was about 5 months ago. Nothing of the above ever happened. The kids see me a lot as I am at their house regularly, including many sleep overs, but I never took them anywhere on my own. Not even to the pool downstairs. 

Today, Bina texts me asking if I could mind the kids for a little while before Moh comes back from work because she would like to watch Cork playing an important Gaelic football match. I agree to get there by 4, go jog in her gym then mind the kids for one or two hours max. 

So, at 5.30 I knock at her door looking forward to my after-run shower before I could set the table for the dinner she prepared, and watch some tv not too long before Mohammed comes. Easy no?

Instead this is how it went:
Bina shoves me into the shower saying I need to drive Lauren to her violin class by 6. I have, of course, to take the two boys with me too. I alert that I have no child seat for any of them. She grins (thinking I am so going to the match!) and says:"just put the belt on".
Hold on! Malek is a tiny thing. He is TWO! plus I have no buggies. There are two of them; little monkeys. What do I do once I drop Lauren? How do I keep them both safe and alive for 30 minutes without securing them to a buggy? Bina grins again and says:"you will be just fine". In the meantime Moh comes in, with an equally marked grin. He looks at me and says: "kami, am thinking of going with Bina to the match". Conspiracy!! I mean what happened to: "you need to gradually let them get used to you?" What if I wanted to gradually get used to them?! Hu?

Anyways, we jump in the car (I will spare you the silly talk and voices I had to make to convince the two year old to come with me and leave his mum) and secured the massive seat belts around their tiny tiny wastes and drove 1 block. 
I drop Lauren in front of her class and what do I glimpse? The solution to my problems. An ice cream shop. I decide to buy them the biggest ice creams ever to keep them busy 30 minutes. Long enough for Lauren to finish her class (no comments allowed). Thirty minutes and several scoops all over them later Lauren is back and we can go home (not before we burst into the shop to buy yoghurt and this was an adventure in itself-as I lost Khaled for 5 minutes and I almost died... Another story). 
So, now I have to find the right plates,  cutlery, cups, right sizes AND in matching colours. Sorted! Then I fill them with the delicious food prepared by Bina. I watch them eat, play, and make a mess. I tolerate it all. Except when they cry. 
I could not believe it. It is almost 7:30. Bina was strict:"They have to go to bed. The boys will cry but ignore them". I was ready!
I pick Khaled change him, tuck him into bed. Easy peasy! He reminds me he needs a cup of milk. Done, sorted. "Wait, don't turn off the lights completely." Of course. Night night. No crying..phew

I turn my attention to the  smallest monkey. I am ready to put his PJ on, prepare the milk bottle, endure some crying and then bed. 
But a strong smell emanating from the little creature gave me a wake up call. Hold your horses Kamilah. Not so fast, not so fast. 
For one second I thought: NO WAY I will change his nappy. No way, I have managed to avoid this for 32 years. I won't start now. You know me: am not a child/toddler friendly woman. I mean, I love these kids (and my many other nephews and nieces) but am the kind of aunt who does not try to step into the parents shoes in any way. Am an aunt. I do aunty things. There is a strict line. 

I feel guilty, the tiny thing is obviously uncomfortable in his current situation. Who would not be. I have no other choice but to face reality and do it. Man, they owe me BIG time. I put panic and disgust aside and think: I can do this. Of course! I have done multinomial logistic regressions, I have done harder things than this (sigh).

I need help. Khaled and Lauren come to my rescue, they show me all the suppiles I need for this surgical operation. I find clean nappies, wet wipes, clean clothes. I don't find gloves (sadly). 

I put Malek in the shower so I can be assisted by water and soap. I remove the toxic thing from the tiny creature. A sigh of relief. His. I take a wipe, and take a big breath. How come there is still so much shit (literally) on his bum when the nappy was so damn full already? I reach the shower, check the temperature, he starts crying, I turn the shower off, turn the tap on, give him the soap and beg him to wash. The boy is TWO! he does not get it. He keeps washing his hands. So, we go back to the shower thingie and I aim a water jet on his bum. He laughs. Good. There is hope. 

I grab the nappy. I have no freaking idea which is the front and which is the back. It looks perfectly symmetrical to me. I stand Malek on his feet and try to fit the nappy. I watched nappies ads. Babies are horizontal on beds usually. But how hard can it be to just stick it on while he stands? Hard. Very hard. So, I "gently" lay him in bed and in a respectable 3 minutes the thing is on. Loose, but on. I did it!!

When I put him in bed with his bottle, am ready to endure his crying and begging to stay up. Bina had warned me. To my surprise, he drinks his bottle, says "kiss", I reach down and obey, he waves goodbye and closes his eyes. 
We are both exhausted ...

mercoledì 11 settembre 2013

Living off my suitcase

Many things change in life, some do not. One that always stays the same is my nomadic life and living off a trolley or a suitcase. After London, Genoa, London, Skiathos I am now all packed again ready to fly to Germany. I am off to attend and celebrate the wedding of my dearest friend Bille. I am super excited to see her get married to her wonderful and lovely husband-to-be, Carsten.

Who would have ever known that from a study visit to Trinity College Dublin back in 2006 I would have met this woman who became one of my partners in crime. A sister.

We laughed, suffered (PhD)... grew together.  We visited each other in Dublin, Genoa, Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, London, Frankfurt, and Wuppertal. We listened to each other's love stories and were there for each other to pick up the pieces when it was over. I even convinced her to become blonde for a while (below the proof back in 2007, during our own PhD camp in Genova, with lots of sun and little research).


I saw Bille as a student, as Doctor in Philosophy, I witnessed her first days as Assistant Professor, until she became (yes!) a full Professor. I was there. I saw her turning into the beautiful woman, mother to be, that she is today.

I am truly blessed to be there on a day so special for her. To help her wear a beautiful dress which cannot hide the little treasure she is growing in her tummy. Thank you Sibylle for being one of those reasons which make living off a suitcase so pleasant and so worth it! 

In less than 3 weeks I will be packing again to another destination. To another wedding. Another reunion. Another reason to unpack, pack, sleep little, laugh (and cry) a lot and celebrate life.

lunedì 9 settembre 2013

Perle di saggezza di una mamma (italiana adottata dagli arabi)

" ...e sono felice con te ...vedrai piano piano la vita li' anche se non diventerà dolce come l'assal* ...sara' un po meno mor**"

*Assal (عسل): miele
**Mor (مر): amaro

giovedì 22 agosto 2013

To do or not to do

Every year when I go on holiday I have this dilemma: should I pack my running gear or not?
It is like when I was at uni and spent loads of money on extra weight for the papers and books I was planning to read over the holiday. I never, ever, studied on holiday but it felt good bringing them. Just in case.

Lately I became a run/swim-aholic ,7 days a week. I did not miss it when in London, because I had no time, but Greece might be different.... who knows...

mercoledì 21 agosto 2013

Help me find a name for my little car

As many of  you know, I have often given names to inanimate objects. Since I was a little girl, I gave names to toys (my old time favourite was a dinosaur), later to mobiles, laptops and the like (I also had a hamster as a child- actually more than one- it was called Furia. So were all the ones that came after it: Furia I, II, III...). I think the desire to name things stems from this feeling of gratitude to the object that is serving the  purpose it was intended for so well that is worthy of a name.

Scarlett, was the name of my old beloved motorbike. It was the first 'big' thing I buy as a grown up. The 30th birthday gift I gave to myself when I was living in London back in 2010. For her, I used most of my savings at the time (not very wise I know). But she was worth every penny (or cent). Scarlett made one of my childhood's dreams come true: to become a biker. Even if locking and unlocking her took longer than actually walking to work (!), riding Scarlett gave me a priceless sense of freedom. And even if my good friend Roberto would beg to differ, she was an amazing motorbike. "She" was obviously female, powerful yet graceful and red. Hence the name. She was not just a motorbike I used to move from point A to B, she was my "cool thing". As a friend once put it when I complemented her gorgeous red shoes which would make men's head turn, she said: "you HAVE your own pair of red shoes. You have Scarlett".

Now that I have bought a new car (arriving in 1 week time) I am looking for a name. My new car is not and will be nothing like Scarlett, merely because I bought her out of need rather than out of desire (unless you plan on taking cabs every day, public transport is not an option in Abu Dhabi). All that I factored in my decision to buy this particular car was the quality (reliability) to price ratio and safety; ignoring trends, designs, size, engine power, accessories... and all those frivolous things that seem to matter to Abu Dhabi residents. My only request was the colour. Red.
So, out of tradition I need a name.

Some info: the car is German, and she is red (as well as beautiful and graceful). I have a few names but I welcome your suggestions. My ideas include:

Ruby: but this reminds me of the whole Berlusconi saga.
Ali: which is short for Alizarin, a red dye.
Vale: short of Valentino(a) because of the famous Rosso Valentino
Mira: is a red giant star.
Fiamma: flame in Italian. This is my favourite name at the moment.



Down the memory lane, riding cabs in London - Summer 2013 (Part 2/3)

Next morning, after spending a lovely evening catching up with Claire Mu and Dimitris Mu, I hop on a cab heading to Covent Garden to meet Emma. We have some wedding planning to do for September.

Covent Garden, as always is a magical place, with magical creatures. No kidding!
After coffee, I hop on another cab and head to Exmouth Market area, to The Easton for Sunday Roast. There I meet Louise, Meena, Tom Tom, Emily and we are later joined by Claire, Dimitris, Will, GA (also known as Gian Andrea) and Rasoul (who came even though he was fasting- what a star that boy is). This was an excellent day. The sun was shining, we were a group of friends having a laugh, eating good food,












drinking nice wine (Prosecco for the record and 11 bottles too many, but we were a large group...).







As always, when  my gals and I are together, we are trouble. This is especially true if Claire is involved.

So, I always brag about speaking many languages. What I fail to mention is that I know some of them just enough to get in trouble but not enough to get out of trouble. This was an excellent example:
The waiter at the Easton (who I disliked as soon as he felt the need to drop in his conversation that he had a girlfriend- not sure why he the urge to lay it out there, as if any of us was making a move on him) looked familiar, or more precisely he looked like someone I knew. He brings us the bill and - in perfect London style - we all paid by cards. At least six. So, when he comes over with his little machine, I turn to Claire and in French (just to be discreet of course and because British boys only speak English) I tell her: "Not bad looking, hu? Don't you think he looks like "Big Jim?" (BJ is a jaw dropping and friend of Claire whom I had dated for a while. The most handsome man I have ever been out with and most probably the most handsome I will ever date).

By saying that I did not realise I had just opened a can of worms. In fact, to this she replies (naturally in French, because she is also discreet and British boys only speak English), noticing that to be funny the waiter was trying to put all the cards in the cash device at once: "oh, yes indeed, and just like BJ he is trying to push it all in at once!). Of course I burst into laughter and so did she. No one else did because no one at the table spoke French or because they were not paying attention. Actually, one was. The waiter! Whom, with an impeccable almost flawless French talks back to us and says: "Am so glad I amuse you. Who is BJ?"
Even though no one spoke French, everyone's head turned, because:
it was no secret we were talking about him (we are discreet remember?) ;
it was no secret we were saying something naughty;
it was unexpected  to get a French reply from a British boy!! Oh man, what an embarrassment...Why did we find one of the rare British waiters in London who lived 7 years in Paris?

Thankfully, Claire did a good job minimising the whole situation and telling the waiter to be flattered that he was compared to BJ.

That evening ended in another pub in the area after sampling more bottles of Prosecco, wine and the like. What a beautiful day. We ate, drank, talked, laughed, walked down the memory lane, and then we said goodbye for the day. By the time we all went home, the sun had disappeared and it started raining. A lot. And again, Louise and I hop on a cab and head home... (to be continued).


domenica 11 agosto 2013

Ithaka - by Constantine P. Cavafy.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


Thank you D. Love, Kamilah

Down the memory lane, riding cabs in London - Summer 2013 (Part 1/3)

Kings Cross St Pancras Underground Station, July 26th 8.30 am: "Passengers are advised to carry a bottle of water at all times due to high temperatures. Current temperature outside is 19 degrees". Coming from Abu Dhabi, where temperatures hit the 55 in mid July (!) I could not but giggle and think "it is good to be home".

My week in London was an amazing adventure, I saw many great friends, ate some delicious food, drank a glass too much, laughed and more.

The first day was charged with emotions.  I take a cab from King Cross to North London, where Louise and Shell welcomed me at their home. If you jump to point 15 here, you can imagine how it went. After spending some time shopping and strolling in central London (did I mention sipping wine in the one of those beautiful London alleys) we went home (managing to take a cab from 7 sisters station because someone- me- needed badly the loo), and got ready for the big night out. This night entailed friends, food and "Animals". Yes, my favourite place, to celebrate Emily's first 30th anniversary. Before that, a quick stop to say hello to my old colleagues at Matrix before we head off in a cab to Zoo Lates.

I think I have not seen a single animal (except maybe for a couple of birds) because I was too busy enjoying, or looking forward to, being in London and catching up with so many friends (and one in particular on that day).


As the zoo closed rather early for Londoners on a Friday night, we decided to head to a nearby pub, to continue our London ritual: drink, laugh and laugh and laugh again. That night the topic of my creativity (just because I have the - quote- "dirty" habit of sometimes making  gifts-for some special people- with my own hands) became the subject of the night and I was banned by the girls to ever again do any crafty gift without their approval and run any idea by them first. And preferably also seek counsel.

Of course, insatiable as we are, we paid  another pub a visit before going home. There, in addition to two more  gin and tonics- I had a brief but pleasant and interesting encounter with one of Louise's friends who guessed I was a scorpio sign after 5 minutes talking to me (am I that obvious?!). After an intense night - especially for me- we all went home around 2- 3 am. I was so lucky to have plenty of choices where to sleep, because London is actually home... and we hop on a cab again.

Next morning felt "eeek". Previous day was too full of excitement, emotions, booz and  little sleep. Nothing, however, that a good old English breakfast could not cure.


This time I take the tube (yep) to Stoke Newington where I meet Louise, Meena and Rory. The latter a lovely addition to our lot. We are so lucky to have him. Although I am not sure he feels as lucky to be surrounded by women who feel no shame about talking details about their private life and treat him just like another "girlfriend". Oh well.... I guess we are like the sisters he never had.

The brunch was the perfect post-night out activity: greasy food (again I know), water (for Louise and Meena)...
and gin and tonic for Rory and I. The weather was amazing.  London in the summer when the sun is shining is like heaven. But anything above 30 is dangerous for my British friends so we stayed indoor. At least for a little while (thanks to sun screen fifty).
My day was not over. It only began. Took the tube to  Liverpool street for a meeting I was waiting for so long. Meeting my beloved wife Claire. Dimitris, my sister, arrived a few minutes before and then there she was. In all her glory! We briefly said good bye to a friend she brought along and we walked, our favourite past time, around the area. We reached a lovely bar in Brick Lane.


Claire introduced me to Shoreditch Blonde!


Then we talked, laughed and laughed again before Dimitris went home to prepare us dinner which featured the delicious fava. By the time we are ready to go home it started raining. It would not be London if we did not have more than one season in the same day. So, there, we hop on a cab and off we go home for more food, drinks and a long due catch up....

End of Part 1. More to come, including Sunday roasts, endless gaffes, and unforgettable BBQ. Stay tuned!

lunedì 15 luglio 2013

venerdì 12 luglio 2013

Ramadan in Abu Dhabi (Part I)

Today is the second day of Ramadan, which, as many of you will know, is the holy month of fasting for Muslims. I had not been in a Muslim country during Ramadan for a long long time, let alone as an adult working woman.

Everyone in my office has been waiting for this month. While for me it was merely a month where I am not allowed to eat, drink and smoke in public during the day (the latter being the most difficult one for me), there is so much more to it than "fasting". It is a month of prayer, family gatherings, good deeds, and festivities.

The first sign of Ramadan came to me when we received a circular from HR decreasing working hours from 8 to 6. You read correctly. The second sign, was a beautiful box of heavenly Bateel dates coated with chocolate or filled with nuts distributed by our employer to each member member of staff.  I was never a big fan of dates, but now I am hooked.

The third sign was the long list of Iftar invitations that I received. Iftar is when Muslims break their fast. Every Iftar is a sumptuous banquet of home made dished that are to die for.

However, the most striking manifestation of Ramadan here is what the people and the rulers of this country do. They feed thousands and thousands of people every day. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque alone feeds 20,000 people every day (20,000!) Any one can go. And if you think that the quality of food will be mediocre, think again. The food is provided by the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi which is one of the most prestigious clubs in the Capital.

Abu Dhabi generosity does not stop here. Food is distributed to thousands of workers daily, and to drivers on their way home (boxes are provided at Gas stations to feed those who would speed to reach home on time). Families, both locals and expats, take food daily to mosques before the call for prayers.

I hold the passport of another Arab (predominantly Muslim) country, and I never witnessed anything like this. My friends who have worked and lived in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim country by definition, tell me that the most  people can hope for (and there are many poor workers there) is some bread, water and a handful of dates. Saudi Arabia, for the record, is the destination of Muslim pilgrims, and  not that far behind in terms of wealth.

It is very easy for outsiders to delve in the negative aspects of other societies. To criticise what is unfamiliar to them. What they disagree with. But for once, let's focus on the amazing generosity that we witness in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan. These people are feeding thousands and thousands of hungry workers, who are not a threat to the stability of this country. In other words, they could simply not do it. They have no obligation, but one dictated by their spiritual and moral values that I would like to celebrate.


venerdì 28 giugno 2013

Honesty

This isn't what I want, but I'll take the high road.

Maybe it's because I look at everything as a lesson, or I don't want to walk around angry.

Or maybe it's because I finally understand.

There are things we don't want to happen, but have to accept; things we don't want to know, but have to learn, and people we can't live without, but have to let go.

giovedì 13 giugno 2013

Two months and six days...

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...since I landed in Abu Dhabi. And what 2 months and 6 days!

My life has changed in many ways. I now live in a new country, surrounded by new people, cultures, landscapes, smells, sounds... I have started a new job, and I finally moved into my house. I have not managed to turn it into a home, yet, but it is work in progress.

I have not met as many people as one would expect but it is mainly my fault. I have not had enough time to go out and mingle, but Abu Dhabi has a lot to offer on the social side. When Emsy, my friend from London visited, we went out every night and we discovered this super cool concept called "Ladies Night". In other words, women drink for free, most likely to lure men into the bar or club. Silly enough, you have to pay for your water and diet coke (Seriously!!), which is, surprisingly all am drinking, as I am driving my little car everywhere.

I spent the first few weeks battling against the bureaucratic machine to get my paper work sorted, including health insurance, work permit, residency visa, Emirates ID, driving license, water and electricity contracts... it was endless. But now it is all over, no need to do that again. I also started my German course, which was slow to begin with but quickly picked up pace.

I visited Ikea, several times, to buy the bare minimum to make my house liveable (is it even a word?). I have so many funny adventures to tell, and I need to get better at blogging, especially that I am not on facebook. Here facebook is a must. Everything happens through it. Events, sale of furniture, trips...Having said that, I am still holding on to my non-facebook stand. At least for the moment.

My probation ends in 2 weeks, after that, should I decide to stay, I have trips every month until December, to keep my self busy. Cannot wait to see my ladies in London, Brussels, and Switzerland, who have kept me company in these hard weeks. I love you all so much, you are amazing. These are some of what my friends wrote to me. You are all so far and yet so close. You are the best:

·       You know that you are free, very free in fact. Give it a couple of months, see it as an adventure. 
·       Sit back, relax and (try to) enjoy your flight! It's not decision time yet. 
·       All other things in your head: STAY BUSY and POSITIVE! You have an opportunity of a lifetime, make the most of it and make sure this down period is a trampoline into a successful and comfortable future. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 
·       More than anyone I know you have the strongest survival skills – honestly. I have always admired how you can get yourself through any situation and make the best of it.
·       You have an amazing capability to become friends with anyone from any background so use it! Seriously, you need to give yourself some credit look at all the different people you have in your life and their common denominator is you...that’s because you have the ability to fit in anywhere. I truly believe that. 
·       I think you should try the same...you know you are always welcome back here there is a standing invitation...if you really are not enjoying it in a few months time then come back! But give yourself the space to see what it can be before making that call.  I don’t think the money and houses are worth the feeling of indefinite isolation – but I also think you’re feeling lonely now is a combination of things all at once that would make the strongest fall.  So give it more time...
·       Don’t “throw the towel” now. If you really want, you know you can always come back to Matrix, Steve said that, Jacque still says it. So with that in mind, maybe you can be a bit more relaxed and try out this new opportunity. 
·       Give it time, know we aren't that far away (just an email) and that things will start to get better. Also time goes quickly and soon enough we will be in Greece or UAE or London (we are so darn international!!!! ) 
·       pls pls pls know that I'm always here for you as you can even imagine how much I value and admire you! You are my inspiration for strength and incredibleness!
·       Abu Dhabi is not the reason, but just the excuse...
·       Tu sei camaleontica, sono certa che ti adatterai presto!
·       Ti voglio un mondo di bene e ti penso fortissimamente nel tentativo di accompagnarti in questa nuova avventura!

martedì 30 aprile 2013

Filetto vs fettine

Those of you who know me well, are familiar with the idea that I am a serious meat eater. I could have a steak every day. Preferably medium rare and juicy. I just cannot get enough.

Believe it or not, I have not had a steak since I got to Abu Dhabi. Partly because I am not very hungry (my stomach is pretty much on the lock up) and partly because I am living a nomadic life. Residing in a hotel (a 5* but a mere hotel nonetheless) I have a pool and a gym but no cooker.

So today I craved meat and I decided to pay a visit to Porto Bello restaurant (an Italian restaurant inside my hotel). I have heard so many good things about it and my friend Mohammed also recommended it. So I check the meat menu and after spotting "Filet" I decide to stay.

The waiter arrives (he was a sort of senior waiter) wearing a different uniform than his colleagues. With a big smile on my face, as am already anticipating the juicy flavours in my mouth, I say: the filetto please! That is how it read on the menu. So he replies: the veal filet? My face says daaaa and my mouth says yes.

20 minutes later, my plate arrives. To my surprise I find a number of meat slices (I mean SLICES!!). What we call in Italian fettine. I was soooo, soooo disappointed. Tasty slices ok. But I wanted a proper piece of mouth watering meat....

So, quite unlike me, I wave to a waiter I heard speaking in Italian and asked whether in Abu Dhabi steaks are different. Before I could finish talking, the "Senior" waiter jumps to the table demanding to know what is going on. To which I say that I got slices instead of steak only to hear him aggressively defending himself and blaming me for the choice. What insolence!
Anyways, I told him off with a smile (always useful) and kept chatting with the Italian guy who had also arrived not so long ago. Very pleasurable, a breeze from back home.

Might go back. We will see.

My overall score to Portobello is 6/10. My palate is demanding and while I am a salt addict, food was too salty for my taste and that says it all...

Bill: Veal slices with steam vegetables and no drinks 179 AUD.

lunedì 29 aprile 2013

I have keys!

Indeed! I got my keys. All 20 of them!  (Don't ask...)

Now the fun starts: Electricity, Water and internet contracts. Plus of course, furniture! I have already armed myself with an IKEA catalogue. But, I will take it easy. Priorities are a bed for me and one for the guests who are coming really soon! The rest will come later.

A sweet surprise: the pool/gym were supposed to be operational in September but today I was told they will be done in two weeks. Yeah! This means no interruption in my running schedule.

Pictures to come soon

Kamilah
p.s You are all invited for a house-warming party!

mercoledì 24 aprile 2013

A good day in Abu Dhabi

Indeed. Lots of good things happened today:

  • First and foremost, my friend Emily booked her ticket to come and visit. Wohoooo! exciting!
  • I got my residence, at last!
  • My boss was pleased with me and told our Director that I learned in 3 weeks what he learned in 3 months! Yay!
  • I swam 50 lanes.
Not too bad, not too bad.

This week end I will pay a visit to IKEA to make sure both Emily and I have a bed to sleep in for when I move into the new flat, hopefully next week.

Night people.
x

domenica 21 aprile 2013

First run, in God knows how long....

Finally! It was about time. I put my runners, my  gears and hit the gym.
It has been ages, maybe 1 year? Maybe more. I started slow, but hopefully soon I will go back to my pace.


lunedì 15 aprile 2013

The meaning of my name

Kamilah in Arabic, means perfect and complete. I have been hearing my name too often these days here in Abu Dhabi but with the word "mish" in front of it. Which means "not.

The ID card application: mish Kamilah
The residency permit application: mish Kamilah
The Bank Account application: mish Kamilah
The internet connection: mish Kamilah
The data update for our mega server: mish Kamilah


Man!  This is the land of incompletion. Yes I know. Patience. And I will be.

One good news, is that I have been deemed FIT for work. The health check in the UAE is a pretty serious business (especially for me that I work in the agency). They run blood tests (for HIV and STDs) and X-Rays (for TBC). I am cleared, so now all the incomplete applications above can get completed (as nothing happens if you are not fit. They actually put you on a plane and send you back!).


At least one thing out of the way....

x

venerdì 12 aprile 2013

Detto del giorno

"Non ho le spalle larghe solo perché ho giocato a pallavolo!"*

Grazie Elli. xx



*In Italian, "avere le spalle larghe" literally means "to have broad shoulders". However, it is also figurative,  meaning " hardy" or "capable of enduring difficult conditions". So the sentence  literally says: "I do not have broad shoulders, only thanks to practicing volleyball!" and it actually means: "Am hardy, not only thanks to volleyball!"

venerdì 5 aprile 2013

Greetings from Abu Dhabi



Hello all!!

this is my first blog entry in English in three years! So, my dear friends (you know who you are!) no more reasons to push me to open a facebook account! As I am writing I can see (and hear!) George Galloway on Al Jazeera, he is everywhere!!

So, it has been a very intense day. I landed on time at Abu Dhabi airport, amid a sand storm. Yes, I know. I need to get used to it. It was about 32 degrees, but very pleasant. A driver from work picked me up. He will become my best friend for the next few months taking me from and to work every day. Not bad, as driving seems a dangerous endeavor in this city.

He took me to my apartment, a cozy one bedroom flat in the middle of Abu Dhabi. The area is not great, it is behind a main road. But the flat is in a hotel so I have all the services I need and it seems not too far from work. I discovered later tonight that the area is not as bad as it initially seemed. I have plenty of supermarkets, coffee shops, and restaurants nearby. Anyways, I don't think I will be staying here too long. While I can enjoy this place for an entire month, I have already viewed some flats. It was quick I know. But this afternoon I met with an old friend of mine, Mohammed,  who works in real estates and he has the keys for so many places! So, I had the luxury of viewing the flats in the evening.

First, Mohammed took me to Nation Towers. An amazing building. It was impressive. The rooms were impressive. The view was impressive. However, it lacked something. It was very luxurious, with an excellent location, closed to the Corniche (the sea side). While it had the "wow" factor, it lacked the "home feeling".

Mohammed, knows my taste. So, later he takes me to Al Bateen, and viewed Al Marasy development. A dream-like place. Most amenities (restaurants, cafe's...etc) will be ready in September, but this means that the flat is brand new and what I need is there. You can get a taste from the pic below. Once I visit the place in day light I will take some real pictures!


The location is slightly less central and less fancy than the first (which was next to a super duper 5 stars hotel) but in Abu Dhabi but it had everything else. An amazing balcony looking on the sea, spacious rooms (with windows which actually open unlike the first place), an open plan kitchen... I love it! Plus, there are several hotels near by, which means clubs and nice restaurants (BTW! Ladies, remind me to tell you about ladies nigt here in Abu Dhabi. You will like it) I will definitely see a few more flats before making a decision, but now I understand what Moh meant when he said I need 2 days to find a place. I am lucky that I have him. Knowing locals and above all in the right places, makes it a lot easier.

Today I also met with his beautiful wife Sabrina and their lovely three kids. Her parents were visiting and it is always a pleasure to meet them. Some fresh Irish breeze in this hot country!

Am exhausted. I had an intense day: new colours,  smells,  landscapes, temperatures, culture.... Indeed, am exhausted and tomorrow I might go to Dubai. I will go to bed.

A presto!
xx






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