It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that time of the year again … Ramadan. So, to all my brothers and sisters out there in virtual reality – Ramadan Kareem. May this most holy and blessed of months bring you closer to Allah, and may Allah shower all of you with his choicest of blessings.

Please take time to reflect on the countless blessings each one of us possesses. Make sure to pray for those less fortunate than us, as well as our continued well being and the well being of our fragile Ummah, especially through these trying times.

Take time to appreciate the small things in your life that make life worth living, and pray for the strength and courage to stay on the right path always.

Again, Ramadan Kareem to all! May Allah bless us all, always and forever. Ameen.

Payback is a … what do they say, Omar?

A short tale about sweet revenge – yeap, I loove it!

A few days ago, Omar and I went out for dinner at the local subway close to Omar’s house. Well, I should actually say I went for dinner, and Omar just sat and ate all my cookies. He actually thought I bought them for him, but they were really for me :o ( (He was nice enough to buy me another one though, so no harm ;o)

Anyways, we go in and I ordered my usual: 6″ tuna salad on honey-oats bread with no cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, olives, honey mustard, and s&p. Mmmmmm … you’re getting a rumbly in your tumbly aren’t ya?! For my drink, I went with the usual: a glass of water. The attendant handed me a large cup and pointed me to the fountain area.

So, I looked for the little white thingy sticking out and pushed on it and went to the seat. Enjoyed my sandwich, talking with Omar about this, that or the other and I finally took a sip from the glass. MAJOR EEEEK FACTOR!

I shrugged it off thinking that maybe this some high-end French oriented Subway that serves Perrier in the fountains, instead of regular tap water. Drank a few more sips and really didn’t like it so I left it.

I guess we were in a hurry and left as soon as I had eaten and Omar had bought me my cookie, and himself a juice. Back in the car, I just happened to mention that man, that water really sucked back in there. So Omar just randomly asked me if I took the contents of the small white button, and I said yeah, what else would I take – that’s water! The look that followed was priceless – it was a mixture of mirth, unsuppressed incredulity and a bit of pity jumbled together.

When he was able to speak again (a second later, really) … I think the following was uttered: uh, you know what that liquid was right? And I’m like of course, it’s water. Uh, no it’s not … it’s soda water, they have that to make your soda feel more soda-ey when it fizzes out. Whatever, you’re on crack, that was water. I cannot believe you don’t know this, you American. OH NO YOU DIDN’T … that’s like a double whammy insult, lol.

All you US folks, am I insane? Have I always been consuming soda water from the restaurants? I swear we have a water button to get water from at ALL soda fountains in ALL restaurants. Please tell me I haven’t lost my mind – these Arabs need a reality check for real!

So of course, Omar is having way too much fun with this and proceeds to talk up a storm likening my totally unfortunate situation with a story of some folks he met who had come from the rural outskirts in Riyadh somewhere and him and his cousins had taken them to MickeyDs. There, the kids and the parents were all awestruck by the technology and the ordering system, and how everyone was getting a kick out of the po’ folks’ situation. Psssh … how rude!

I’m driving listening to this guy who I thought was my friend … the things you realize sometimes :o D

We get back to Omar’s place and I had to fax a proof of my wedding card to the printers and since Omar had been taking care of this for me, all the stuff was in his place already. I called up Mr. Moin and told him to please confirm that the fax was received successfully. I signed the proof and Omar very casually, like an expert, faxed the document over.

2 seconds later Mr Moin calls up and says Sir, we only received a blank sheet of paper. Omar and I just exchanged a look and it was one those “you-had-to-be-there” kinda situation, but it was absolutely hilarious.

The best part was I didn’t have to say a word to rub it in … here he is, Mr. OAS … the IT guru, with his big bad fax machine-printer-scanner-moon rover combo machine … *aaah* too good!

This ones for ya smartass!

Work: Always a ball

This past Wednesday was the last day of one of the earliest SAIC employees in the RSNF program, Calipha Abdur Rahman. He was in-charge of the A/V department, and virtually the Admiral’s right hand man.

Along with Abdullah Brooks, who also winded down his career a week earlier, these two had been part of the program for over 45yrs between the two. It definitely was the close of a chapter within the RSNF-SAIC saga. Only a few remnants remain of the initial contract, and even they’ve stated their intentions of leaving.

One of the aforementioned, Baseer, decided to make Calipha’s last day truly memorable, something where Calipha wouldn’t have a choice but to say he had a ball at work. Between Arnie and Baseer, the two of them decided to try something new, VERY new.

The grocery stores here sell all sorts of meats … rabbits, ostriches, camel, deer, the list goes on. Of course, they also sell many of the various body parts of every animal, and in partcular sheep testicles (nuts, balls, whatever you will) were spotted by our two daring heroes.

Baseer is a fairly good cook (of course, no comparison to yours truly, but I mean, is there any competition from anyone?!?) and he prepared this “delicacy” Sliced and diced em babies, doused them in lemon juice and various other spices and sauteed them with a healthy portion of tomatoes and onions.

Wednesday, it was the talk of the workplace. Grown men were giggling hearing what they were being urged to try. Baseer was swearing on his reputation, and insisting that it tasted like chicken liver

[On a sidenote, I feel really bad for the chicken. I mean, think about it ... if a chicken heard us talking when we try other meats, and all it hears is "tastes just like chicken" ... it must think ... well, why the hell are you killing me then?!? Everything else tastes like me, leave me the hell alone!!!"]

The older guys were the quickest try, of course they have to set the example for the youngins as the daring, macho image of a male. It was proclaimed edible by all, and Baseer’s interpretation of the preparation was lauded over and over again. Enthused by such positive enforcement, Baseer took it upon himself to make sure that everyone had some balls in their mouth … walking around the SSC with his offering.

I was under the weather so he spared me, but it was gnawing at me that am I not man enough to try this? I mean … everyone around me is eating it, and nobody has dropped yet … so what you waiting for?

I did the curious calf number … walked around the plate a few times, knelt in, smelled the contents, smiled and walked off. Doesn’t smell too bad, but come on … it’s freakin BALLS!

Curiosity is a very bad thing in many situations … making you do things you know you don’t want to do, but at the same time, you must. When no one was looking, I took a small piece of bread, took a piece and shoved it down. Now the initial reaction when you try something innately offensive is the urge to throwup, or the gag reflex. Both kicked in, and I could feel my stomach churn.

Fortunately, just then I actually tasted the “meat” (?!?) and honestly, I was pleasantly surprised … it was actually damn good. Kinda spongy, kinda chewy, and overall tasty!

So yes … now I can add another exotic delicacy to my growing list of wierd things consumed: desert lizard, zebra, ostrich, goat eyeball, so on and so forth.

And now I’m sitting here thinking how the hell did I write so much about this?!?

The next entry will be great … I promise!

Home, Sweet Home

There are certain places which always feel like home, no matter how long you’ve been away for, or how much the place has changed. For me, that place, I think, will always be Kuwait. On my way back from Athens, I stopped over in Kuwait for a short jaunt, and it was very, very relaxing.

Kuwait is much changed from when I used to live there over 15 years ago, and all of it for the better. Although, I hear the local population could do better, if you know what I mean. But fortunately, all my experiences on this trip were of the good variety … no rudeness … oh wait … there was this stupid bitch at the checkin counter this morning.

Alright … before going back, let me spit this story out … so I had an early morning flight out and showed up a little before 7. I realize it’s early and everyone is a little groggy, but I mean … there are some limits to everything. The lady at the counter looks at me with the most disdainful look ever and goes “yes?” with attitude so thick, I could slice it with a knife. I’m like I need to check-in, and she was like can I see your ticket? I tell her that it’s an eTicket and she can look me up through the passport. [I give her my passport] The bitch refuses to even take it, she’s like you don’t have a passport? what are you doing at the airport? I’m like it’s an online ticket, I bought it on the Internet … she’s like we don’t do that here.

Now my patience is wearing thin, and I tell her yes, ur absolutely right, you can’t do that at the airport, but I can do it at home, so please enter my name and take a look. “I cannot lookup using a name. Come back with your ticket.” Finally after going back and forth a few times, she takes the passport, VERY reluctantly, and proceeds to search by first name … altho I had mentioned maybe 10 times that my last name is Burney! She slams the passport on the counter “I told you this was not possible”

So I asked the other lady to come over and within 15 seconds, my bag was checked-in, I had a boarding pass, and cheerful “Have a nice flight sir!” Was it that hard?!

Ok ok ok … reeeeeewind! Ah yes … this looks familiar … Athens … last day!

The day was awesome mostly because I got some amazing pictures of some kids in front of the Syntagma building. I hope they’re as cool as they appeared … psssh, who am I kidding … of course they’ll be great … I took them!

I mostly roamed around the ruins of the Temple of Zeus for awhile, and then headed over to the Monastiraki and Plaka districts for some last minute shopping. Actually, I had seen the Hard Rock Cafe the night before and just wanted to grab a few things from there. Simple enough … but it took a good while for me to find the place :) Anyways … got my stuff, had some lunch at a streetside taverna and took in the scenes for one last time.

Took a little to long to take in what I wanted to take and I had to rush my taxi driver to get me to the airport on time … which he did :)

I had a boring stopover in Dubai and got into my motherland at 1PM on Thursday … man, Kuwait has changed! And as I was saying, totally for the better.

The next 2 days were almost blurs of activity … going out to meet old family friends, meeting up with my to-be in-laws, and of course the highlight … going shopping for clothes in the Long Market of Kuwait City. This place is huge … a large collection of shops selling only but fabrics. I had some shopping to do for the wedding hoopla, but I didn’t mind … I love shopping for this stuff.

I had another long layover in Dubai, so I went to the Mall of the Emirates to check out what all the hoopla is about, and I must say … I must be extremely stupid, or maybe I’m not tall enough, but all the hype just went straight over my head.

It’s a mall. It’s big. Hmm … let’s see … am I missing anything? Nope, doesn’t look like it. I tried to get excited … tried walking faster thinking that maybe if the store boards started spinning around real fast, it would create some excitement, but nope … I just ended up getting dizzy.

Sullenly, I walked over to the cinemas and ended up catching a screening of “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” It was a nice, light-hearted comedy/romance flick, with the ever pretty Uma Thurman (wth was Ethan Hawke thinking?!?)

*PHEW* yeap … all that and now I’m sitting in the Dubai Airport. Oh yeah, I got me a nice silver bracelet at the mall too.

Well, this trip certainly closes a chapter on my life, staring straight down to Chapter 3: Momo grows up (or at least we hope he will). Has a nice ring to it I suppose.

The last 20 months have been absolutely amazing, and easily the most enjoyable of my life upto this point. I think I have grown as a person, learned about myself, gotten more confident being in my own skin, and have seen so much of everything life has to offer. From the incessant travelling, to getting acclimated to a new environment, from being away from family, to discovering a new hidden one … it has been wonderful.

I really want to thank all those who have made these times memorable for me (you all know who u are, right?)

For those who gave me so much pleasure, to those who pushed me into the pits … thank you one and all! Every experience shapes me as a person and I’m sure will help me as I start life fresh in the coming months!
Arrivederci!

It’s a wrap Greece!

All good things must come to an end, and in Greeces case, it came a little too early. It really is a most wonderous place and the people are so extremely nice. The culture steeped in history, and the sites standing resolute serving as a testament to that culture.

The Greeks are a very proud race, and for good reason – they are the cradle of the Western civilization, and have helped shape so many of our current perceptions, laws, social norms, and so much more.

My last 3 days in Athens were absolutely amazing, just like the 2 days in the relaxing Santorini. Athens is such a mish-mash of old and new, east and west, it really blows your mind. At the center of the city, you have the towering Acropolis standing watch over Athens, much like it did thousands of years ago. Around it has sprawled the nice chic areas of Plaka, Monastiraki, Syntagma and many, many more.

The shops in Plaka have a very laid back atmosphere … individuals strolling around, casually taking in the sights and sounds, and whiffing on the wonderful smells emanating from the tavernas which seem to be at every corner, every junction. Tables jut out deep into the narrow cobblestone streets, with musicians strolling around, letting the air carry their sounds over the nearby blocks.

The shops sell everything from Versace jeans to handmade ceramic trinkets, from Prada bags to cheap $1 t-shirts. Plaka and Monastiraki … truly the most enjoyable part of Athens.

I took an evening trip to the south most point of the Attica peninsula, Cape Sounio. I think it’s getting old having me say this place was amazing, that place was amazing. But it really does fit the description here. Atop the hill overlooking the Aegean sea sits the gorgeous ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, the sea god. The starkness and the beauty of the place catch you at the same time, and the feeling of the scene is breathtaking.

We were there for the sunset and it was magical!

I didn’t think anything could top that, but I was totally wrong. The next day, I took a day trip out to the small town of Delphi in the northwest, bordering between the Attican and Corinthan peninsulas. I’ve always wanted to see Delphi, and thought that maybe since I have wanted to see it for so long, I would be in for a letdown.

Totally rocked it! The place again is wonderful. The Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Athena, the stadiums, the arenas … I can keep going on and on, but let me cut it short and suffice it to say that Delphi has to be seen to be believed.

After getting back, I spent the next 5 hours shopping like a madman in Plaka … had gifts to buy, souvenirs to collect … too much work! I ambled into my room around midnight, and of course the doors were locked!

I’m standing there pounding on the doors and finally the groggy watchman opens the door, and for all means and purposes it felt like he was about to club me to the ground! :(

Today has been much the same as yesterday .. running around seeing the last few sights I hadn’t seen yet, and finishing up shopping.

Greece – most definitely the Spirit of the World … true to the tagline of the numerous souvenirs!

On to Athens…

So I’m back for another installment. I find that if I try and make the effort, this blogging thing really isn’t all that hard. Altho, right now … not too good. The room is hot as anything, and has this kinda wet, musty smell. But whatever … the Internet is pretty fast, so I can just do my thang and be on my way.

The sunsets in Santorini are everything people say they are, and then some. On my last day in Santorini, I woke up at like 7AM, and roamed the streets till after dark. Since it was Sunday, the streets were empty, and I felt like I was in an old ghost town, replete with sounds of creaky signposts blowing in the wind. Every so often, I would be greeted by the melodious sounds of the millions of churches in the town of Oia. It was a great time to get some pictures, and I hope the results are worth the time I put into them.

Of course, it wasn’t all so calm and easy … how can it be? So I’m walking along the streets, all by myself, with a cookie in one hand and the camera in the other. A few dogs see the cookie in my hand and decide that it is time they had breakfast. Being absent minded as I am, I’m walking along, oblivious to the building growls behind me. I turn back to frame a shot and 5 dogs are staring me straight down. I’m trying to keep myself from running, because they say that dogs can sense fear. I start walking a little faster than usual and one dog apparently took offense to that and decides to charge, and before I know it, I feel a wet tongue on my left hand. Of course, the cookie is smothered … but the damn dog thinks I’m fooling it and have something better stored elsewhere … so he comes in front of me and starts sniffing at my pockets … the other 4 have slowly crept up behind me and are growling their approval for the pack leader.

Now … imagine this scene … stranded street, quiet wind, me standing in my shorts, toting a camera in one and waving the other arm around in panic (I’m not sure who I am expecting to see it, but it’s psychologically soothing), and 5 dogs intent on having breakfast at any cost … at the present time: mine! Finally after an eternity, this groggy old man looks out the window and calls for someone … his dog, it turns out. One of the 4 behind me decides he’ll have better luck with his master and decides to go for it. Eventually the others got the same idea and took off.

The whole episode must have lasted only like 15 minutes, but I swear I felt like I had been standing there since yesterday!

So, after all this, and after walking all over the town, I decided to head down the mountain to the Bay of Armeni for my volcano ferry. Ok, I’ll admit that I’m not in the BEST of shape, but I’m fairly decent and can walk with the best of em … but boy was I winded when I got down … they say there are over 500+ steps, each about 6ft wide … winding down along the mountain.

I say this in every blog about every country … I swear the people in the olden days knew we would turn out to be fat slobs, and that’s why they made all their monuments up in the sky. It still surprises me how things were done back then, especially at the scale that they’ve been done in.

I met some really nice folks on the ferry ride, and that made the trip a lot more enjoyable. The entire island of Santorini has a fascinating story, but I won’t bore everyone with it … google it :) After having a nice lunch on the island of Thissira, we got back and were looking at the steps back up with sheer contempt … but couldn’t be helped, so all of us started the trek upwards.

The trip down was rough, but there aren’t words for my final state when I got up finally. Jane was cracking up at me (she took the easy way, and rode a donkey up) … I looked like I had just stepped out of the shower, but the showerhead was still following me around. I could feel myself stinking :D

Had a coool honey walnet ice cream, and after extended goodbyes with Rena, and many promises to return, she dropped me off at the taxi station, and off it was for the ferry.

The sunset on the port was beautiful, and of course I ended up taking a gazillion shots. You decide how they turned out :)

The ferry ride was calm and steady this time around, but the passengers next to me weren’t. Man, they were making out like freakin monkeys and kept bumping into me followed by a very insincere “sorry”, giggles, and carry on. It was actually kinda amusing, but still … I was trying to sleep!

We got back into Athens around 1 and then it was onto Mission: Find Hotel. For some wierd ass reason, there were no young taxi drivers around, and the old 18th century ones didn’t speak English. So I’m pointing in my guide book, repeating the names of areas over and over again and finally after 45 mins the guy gets me to a cheap hotel right close to downtown, no harm no foul.

But hold on … wait a minute … the AC in the room didn’t work. It was HOT and humid and I’m like aww hell naw … It’s 2 AM! Couldn’t do anything, so I opened the windows, got down to my birthday suit and went off to see Old Mr. Chou.

Much to my embarrassment, the next morning I found out that my window opens up about 15 feet from another balcony in the hotel next door, and a couple were sitting there enjoying their coffee, well … enjoying as much as they could after what they probably saw!

I’m running off into the next day, so until next time … efharisto!

Oia, Santorini

Right now, I’m sitting in the quaintest of Internet cafes, on the tip of the village of Oia (pronounced ee-a) in Santorini. The walls are painted in various shades of aqua blue, and the cool breeze blowing from the ocean below is calming and invigorating all at the same time.

To say that Santorini is an amazingly beautiful place would be an insult to the island. It’s so much more beyond just being breathtaking. Every where your eye wanders, you’re amazed by the sheer abundance of natural beauty, as well as the creativity and innovation of mankind.

The entire island seems to be carved along the mountains. Houses are almost cave like, burrowing through the sides of vast mountains, high above the Mediterranean sea. I decided to stay in the picturesque village of Oia only because of it’s famed sunsets, overlooking the caldera.

The trip from Dubai to Athens was absolutely delightful. Emirates unveiled a new plane, and this was its maiden flight. Everything was brand spankin new, and the plane smelled new. It was great. Finally it seems as if Emirates listened to its passengers and have now introduced comfortable seating. Finally!

As usual, I had my windows seat and a very nice lady was my companion next to me. She reminded me of my high school English teacher, Mrs. Dee Snyder, and sure enough, she herself turned out to be an English teacher. We talked about a range of topics, and she told me a lot about what I would be seeing in Greece, the history and the myths surrounding many of the areas I mentioned I wanted to see. The 4hr trip didn’t seem that long and before we knew it, we had landed in Athens.

Athens resembles more an Asian capital than a European capital. From the dirty streets, to the unruly traffic, to the ungodly numbers of billboards shoved into each street corner. The customs and immigration was a snap and before long, I was on the bus on my way to the port of Piraeus to catch the ferry to Santorini. The lady was a sweetheart and within 10 minutes, tickets in hand, I was off to Gate E9 to wait about 2hrs for the ferry.

6:30 rolled around and we all poured into the ferry and thus began the journey from hell. The waters were very rough last night, and the strong winds weren’t helping any. The entire ferry was shaking like a leaf on a tree, and that can only mean one thing: extreme nausea. I put on my headphones, closed my eyes, went into the fetal position and tried to sleep. It worked! Only until I started hearing a lot of commotion. I woke up and I swear it felt like the ship was about to keel over. WOW … not a good feeling. We could see the waves hitting the windows a good 15 feet from the bottom and the entire boat was just rocking away.

I tried to sleep again, but that was not happening. My heart was pounding and everyone on the ship had this ashen look on their faces. Frightening. Then came the inevitable announcement: Ladies and Gentleman, the weather near Andros is very bad. We regret to inform you that we cannot stop at Andros tonight. We will TRY to steer the ship towards Santorini. WHOOOA!! TRY?!? Maafi quwais!

Finally, around 12:15AM the ship docked on the shores of Fira port and everyone was making the cross signs on their chest. I was tempted to scream AllahuAkbar in relief, but I thought that might cause more chaos on the boat, so I intoned it to myself.

From there, I went off looking for a taxi, but none were in sight and before long the entire crowd from the ferry dispersed leaving me and 2 other passengers alone. I started talking to the guy, who turned out to be a cop in Athens, originally from Crete, and his girlfriend, Thula, originally from Rhodes. Both wonderful people who just happened to be looking for a taxi to Oia as well.

Around 12:30 a taxi rolled around and we were finally on our way. Another heart pumping journey. As I was saying earlier, the ENTIRE island has been carved out of mountains, so of course the roads aren’t an exception, and they’re at extremely sharp angle, on VERY narrow layouts. The taxi driver, as is the case with taxi drivers the world over, was whizzing by like he was driving in the middle of the desert somewhere. I’m clutching the car seat and the door handle with dear life hanging in the balance. Everytime he turned the corner my foot would go on my imaginary brake and after each curve that we didn’t die, I would sigh in relief and offer a prayer to the Lord Almighty.

After what seemed like an eternity (it was only 20 minutes), the dude parked in front of Delfini Pension and I was finally home. The pension owner, Rena, was there to welcome me with a beaming smile, even though it was nearly 1AM! She gave me a quick overview of the area and then took me to the studio I had reserved.

OH MY GAAAWD!!!! The location of this place is spectacular to say the very least. It is RIGHT ON THE DAMN CLIFF!! The stairs are barely 5″ wide and walking them is harder than walking a tight rope in a circus.

Once I got to the room, and relaxed … I decided to go out and take some pictures of the city in the dead of night. I cannot begin to explain the beauty, the warmth, and the ambience of the night in this remote place. What an amazing feeling. The sky was filled with stars from one end to the other. I think there was more sparkle in the sky than the dark blue that we’re commonly used to.

The cool breeze, and the occasional sound of a dog howling kept me company for awhile and before long I had dozed off in my balcony. It was only the sense of chill that prodded me to my bed around 2.

Woke up early in the morning because of the beautiful sunshine screaming through the various nooks in the walls. I took a nice warm bath and went off to begin my days journey, taking us back to the top.

It is only 1:30 in the afternoon, and my picture count is so far upto 200+. The sunset is right around the corner … God have mercy :)

Signing over …

Another quarterly update cycle…

Boo! I’m back for the quarterly update. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s only because I’m on my way out of Riyadh.

I don’t know why this happens – my daily life in Riyadh is pretty exciting, with late nights, funky stuff at work, quirky times with friends, and so much more. But probably because of all that, I don’t get time to actually sit down and write anything.

This is officially my last trip as a solo traveller. And this comes with a mixed bag of emotions. Sure, it’ll be nice to have someone to share the experience with, watch the sun set over the vast oceans, but at the same time, the solitude and “privacy” that I enjoy will also be compromised. I am talking like I really have some choice in this matter, and I really don’t. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m bitter about the whole marriage, I’m not … and am looking forward to it in many aspects, but the thought is still pretty damn daunting.

Anyhoo … I’m sitting in the lounge at Dubai Airport right now, waiting for my flight to board. I am so tired, it’s not even funny. I say this in every travel blog entry, but it bears repetition … the business class lounges are a blessing from God to the weary traveller. Decent food, all the drinks you want, decent computers with chairs that dont flatten ur ass, and very comfy leather recliners to boot. On a layover that has extended well over 8hrs now, it’s great!

Airports are amazing places. They provide a snapshot of the breadth of humanity in it’s finest form. You’ll see people from all walks of life … from the old father and mother from a remote village in India visiting their son in Umreeka, to the big tribal African Shaka Zulu going God knows where.

These are the people I want to talk about in this entry – they get on my friggin nerves! I mean, sooo incredibly loud, and soooo obnoxiously pushy. I’m a pretty healthy (read: fat) guy and even I am no match for a 5’2″ woman barrelling thru looking like someone unleashed a bowling ball with fury. She’ll have her football team of kids in tow, an ungodly number of suitcases loaded on a poor, pathetic card just wheeling around. Why do I say this with such anguish and hate right now? Yeap, one such lady rammed it into my ankle and it hurts like a bitch!

Then I get to the lounge hoping to get some shuteye time, but nope, the lounge is full of em too! Talking in their loud, intruding languages. Ok, I’m no racist or anything … Gina will tell you that … but *AAAAH* I find me a quiet spot in the corner and just as I am about to fall asleep, this couple comes and sits right next to me and proceeds to laugh up a storm, and not dainty, sexy laugh … the kind that would scare ghosts … this raspy, throaty variety!

And to top it all off … I went to the bathroom to wash my face and these 2 guys on either side of me were “brushing” their teeth, and I damn near puked looking at them. This one guy was classic … I think he took cleanliness to a whole new level … the brush was far down his throat, I could barely see his knuckles. Of course, this was causing him to choke and he’s standing there coughing up a storm, and spitting all the stuff out all over the sink. Just the thought of it is giving me goosebumps. YUCK! Let’s not even get started on the other guy.

Maybe some petite French dame would think the same of me when I try and brush my teeth :) But anyways, airports are always fun places to chill and see all sorts of people make their way through!

As I did with the Japan trip, I’m going to try and be regular on this trip as well. So the 2 of you that are actually reading it … keep glued!

Adios!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Instead of doing another writeup of the days events, etc, I have decided to do a final wrap-up of Japan. In case you didn’t notice – I leave for home today, inshallah.

Before I forget, I came up with this gem on the way from Nara last night. I know, Forrest Gump says ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get.’ Well, he was retarded, what does he know.

Here is the realness: Life is like a train. People get on, and people get off, but some stay on for the whole journey. I know, profound! It’s ok, just sit back, take a deep breath and keep going.

What I’ll do is a list of the good, the bad and the ugly from Japan, a Top 10 list, if you will.

In between the heavy rains in Tokyo, the manic fever in Kyoto, I would still have to give this trip a solid 7-8/10. The people are wonderful, the sites even more so. The food left me a little weak, but hey, to each their own, right?

So, without further ado … here’s the list:

The Good:

  • The freakin cool toilets. Press a button and you get a nice water splash (pressure controlled), press another button and a nice breeze of air will dry you right up! Insanely cool!
  • The traffic light crossing sounds. I mentioned this one before, the lil chirping sound when it’s ok for you to cross.
  • At the entrance to all the stores, there this lil stand with long plastic sheaths, and you stick your umbrellas in it so the water doesn’t drip all over the place.
  • Some stores also have umbrella lockers. You stick ur umbrella in a cage type thingy, and there’s a small tiny lock to lock the handle in. Real cute.
  • The plastic food models. So you never have to wonder what your meal will look like before you get it. Walk along ANY street in Japan, and you’ll see showcase after showcase of plastic foods with the name and price. If you have a hard time with Japanese, just drag the maitre d’ outside and point at what you want! It’s a snap!
  • The fashion sense of the women. Again, I mentioned this earlier: everyone is dressed like they’re on their way to the runways. Hair done, great clothes, and amazing shoes to boot!
  • The freakin Internet Cafes. I mean, there aren’t words to describe how HAAWWT these places are. Free drinks, free snacks, PS2, TV, fast ass computers, showers, clean toilets … the works! The cost: $9 per 3hours!
  • The subways have this reaaaaaaaaally nifty lil line map. Let’s say you’re on the purple line, it’ll have the entire lines network shown over the doors, and like a lil light will blink to show which station you’re at. Maybe other places have this too, but saved my ass on multiple occasions!
  • The courtesy and politeness you’re shown as a customer in any store. They bow down when you walk in, and there is this lil tray where you give your money, you never hand the money with your hands. And your change is given cupped in both hands, and head bowed. Very refreshing – esp coming from Riyadh! I still gots love for ya, Riyadh!!

The bad:

  • There are no trash cans. You can walk 10 city blocks and not encounter one. It’s very frustrating! Their reasoning: after 9/11, it’s a security threat. I mean, I thought these guys were smart, but they always throw a wrench in there somewhere.
  • The train stations are humongerous! To get from the Side A on Level 1 to Side B on Level 1, you’ll have to take no less than 31341034 elevators up, then another 13412351 elevators down, and voila! You’re on the other side of the tracks! I mean, gimme a break people!
  • The Japanese from the past had this uncanny affinity for high places. These mountain shrines/temples get reallllly old, reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally fast. Again, gimme a freakin break! May God bless the souls of the poor laborers who worked on these fine structures. Must have been one hell of a contracting job!

The Ugly:

  • THE FREAKIN PEACE SIGN PICTURE POSE. I swear, seeing that makes my blood pressure rise to no end. And it’s not just cute school girls doing this, it’s the entire freakin Orient! You’ll see a 90yr old grandpa line up for a pose and BAM! the peace sign is right in yo face! I want to walk right upto him and just tell him off. We get it … you LOVE peace!
  • Maafi English. This one is ugly, only because it boggles my mind. One of the most, if not the most, technologically advanced societies in the world, but yet sooo isolated still, and they’re oblivious to it. The worst of it is, I can say anything to some people, and they’ll just start nodding their heads, and I’m getting real excited here … OMG! THIS PERSON MIGHT ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING, and then it’s over just like that … the person smiles and starts saying ‘Hai!’ incessantly!

I’m sure there are more things that can go in each category, but that’s for another trip. Thanks for reading and taking part in this trip along with me. I appreciate it.

Anchors away!!!

It All Goes Down from Here!

So after a great trip to Hiroshima, I got into bed, and promptly around 3 started getting feverish chills and I kept thinking, please, don’t let me come down with a fever. It’s the last thing I need right now!

I was sleeping in my birthday suit, so I thought, ok … I’ll put on something, maybe it’s just cold in the room (no real chance of that happening, the lady keeps a tight grip on AC usage in her lil place! No less than 26C, and the AC is only from 10PM-7AM!) Anyways, did all the tricks I could think of, bundled up in the 2in rag she refers to as the “Japanese quilt” and went to sleep.

Woke up the next morning, burning. It was so bad, the freakin bedsheet had burn marks on it! I was soo exhausted, just rolling over felt more onerous than playing against Brazil. Although, now that I think about it, playing against Brazil would be pretty easy: just step aside and let them do what they want. You know you’re not going to stop them :o )

I was (man, my vocab is really failing me right now!) determined not to let a little fever schmever get in the way of my grand Kyoto plans. So, being the soldier that I am, I trudged outta bed, headed to the shower, and was outta the house within the hour.

I took the bus straight to the Golden Shrine. Build by some Shogun back in whatever year. The trip was hella long, and I ended up being on the bus for a good hour! From there tho, the shrine was only a hop away, and ticket in hand, I went in.

WOW!

This place is seriously stunning. Build on a small island surrounded by a beautiful lake, with smaller rock formations within the lake. The shrine is all gold and the reflection in the water creates a serene, calm feeling.

Again, the Japanese gardens on the premises are top notch and it was a blast walking thru them, taking pictures, the usual. I spent a good 2hours, and then got on the bus again to head to another shrine. Somewhere along the way, my stomach started saying it needed some feed, so I detoured to a McDonalds.

The sandwich was ok … kinda bland … but whatever, it was much needed fuel. I chilled in the small eating restaurant upstairs for a bit, and could definitely feel my fever rising. Popped some Motrins and decided to relax for a bit.

About 30 mins later, I was on the go again and this time, I was back at Kiyomizu Dera temple. Last time, I wasn’t able to reach the top before closing time, so I had to make a return trip. Very glad I did. The view from the top, and the structure holding up the building is marvelous. I’ll say it again … to think these people did all this over 300-400 years ago just dazzle your sensibilities.

It was almost sunset by the time I got done walking around the massive temple and feeling slightly light-headed and squeamish, I headed back to the hotel, calling it an early night … or so I thought.

I just had the worst night imaginable. I sweating like I was sitting in the middle of the sun. I could feel my temperature go through the roof, so I decided to head to the doctor. He was floored – temperature was at 104.6 (40.3) and the doctor was like WTH are you doing walking the streets?!?!? I tried to explain to him in my calm tone, kinda pissed off for some reason, but he was like ok, ok … dont freak out on me … take these medicines and spend an hour here so I can see that the temperature is going down.

Sure, as you wish! Plus, the hospital was nice and cool :D So within like 45 minutes, it had gone down in the 102s, and he said ok, it should continue to go down blah blah blah. So I came back home around 3AM, tried to sleep again, and I think finally around 4-5, I must have dozed off.

Next morning, I woke up pretty fresh, but still lightheaded, but less feverish. Decided to chill for most of the day. Came to the Internet cafe, and then went shopping at the Kyoto Handicraft Center.

This place is massive. About 7 floors of all the goods that Japan has to offer: katanas, kimonos, dolls, silk scarves, lacquer wood goods … just everything! I spent shitloads of money and then with both hands overflowing, got back to the hotel.

I finally came across an Indian restaurant, and had my first real meal in Japan. What a relief. And the food was excellent to boot! I just licked all the plates, and then the crumbs on the table as well … just about, but not quite! :o )

Finally had a great nights rest on a full stomach! Alhamdulillah!

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