Monday, May 19, 2008

the final word from dubai ...

As I arrived at my pal's apartment in Dubai I discovered this rather interesting leaflet sticking out of his door (just click on the picture if you can't read the text).

Not only did the use of English rival some of the very best Chinglish we experienced during our visit to China last year - but the offer of a male "house boy" maid sounded suspiciously ambiguous at best.

Closer inspection revealed Line 8, and confirmed my suspicions, "By experience and skilled maid. Male and Female." Not or, and. Male and Female. Now I was just left with one question. Why the hell was this organisation targeting Chris?

I've only been away for a year, but some things have definitely changed.

Dubai is all about construction, yet despite it's reputation nothing really prepares you for the scale of the building projects. It's absolutely everywhere. Every road is lined with cones, layouts change on a daily basis to provide access to building sites and even after 15 years of focused development the number of skyscrapers under current construction far outweigh what's already there.

I was joking about visiting airconditioned greenhouses in my last post - I certainly wasn't expecting this.

The airconditioned bus stop.

It sounds pretty extravagant, but with the temperature already pushing 40 degrees in late spring they might not be very environmentally friendly, but one would be welcome all the same if I found myself waiting for a bus. It's the economics of energy in the Middle East that make this kind of thing possible, in fact there's only one statistic I need to share with UK consumers to make the point - £8 for a tank of petrol. I just paid £63 for my last fill up.

The highlight of the trip was taking a self-drive dune buggy safari into the desert. After two hours bouncing up and down near vertical dunes in the scorching heat we were covered in sweat and even more sand, but grinning from ear to ear. It was fantastic fun, of a type that would surely only have been improved without the hangovers.

On the way back to the airport I did notice an exciting feature on Chris' car which instantly transported me back to our time in New Zealand last year.

SC Mode? Surely it was too good to be true, a BMW Z4 that turns into a vintage Toyota Liteace Super Casual?

I know which we'd rather have.

Thanks for reading - I hope you've enjoyed reading about our adventures half as much as we've appreciated all your comments and emails along the way.

At the outset a year sounds like such a long time - it isn't. There are so many interesting places out there, even a lifetime of travelling wouldn't do more than scratch the surface of everything our planet has to offer. If we've learnt anything during our time away it's that life is short - planning for the future is one thing, but not at the expense of today.

It's back to work tomorrow - which could rate as an even bigger culture shock than our first night camping with the nomadic herdsmen of Mongolia.

Yes, that's right, I'm going to work in London.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

london calling ...

Checking into our hotel felt oddly like returning home - I guess that's what happens when you've been on the road for so long.

We'd only been home for a few days, but it was a relief to leave the chaos of unpacking our belongings behind and head down to the capital for a few days. The main reason for the trip was to kick off the job hunting in earnest, but it also gave us the chance to catch up with a few friends and we even managed to squeeze in a cultural attraction.

The Tate Modern is well worth a visit - not only is it cunningly housed in the shell of an old power station on the banks of the Thames, but the art is pretty good too - or at least most of it is. Wandering around a room with paintings by Rothko and Pollock I spotted a sign for a multimedia installation and decided to check it out.

Inside the white room films were being projected onto all four walls. The main one was of a guy stumbling around in a bathtub wearing nothing - and I do mean nothing - except for a boxing helmet and gloves. The action alternated between him punching himself repeatedly in his well-padded head, and smearing the contents of a bottle of ketchup over his loins. 

It's put me right off tomato sauce I can tell you ...

The job hunting went better than expected. Mel is about to embark on a round of second interviews this coming week - and I've got a new job working at EMAP in London from the beginning of June. It's been a really busy couple of weeks - I guess we're lucky that we haven't had a chance to sit around and mope about the end of our trip. 

Before real life resumes there's just enough time to pack my bag for one more trip - this time checking out some air-conditioned greenhouses in the desert. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

the finish post ...

They say all good things must come to an end.

I just wish they didn't have to.

The excesses of Vegas and L.A. had left us in desperate need of sleep as we arrived at JFK late at night we made our way to our lodgings at the Pod Hotel - only in New York can they turn lack of space into a selling point.

We resurfaced late the following morning to the realisation we had just 24 hours before our flight back to the UK. We needed to prioritise.

Sushi, shopping and cerveza.

And here it is - entry 150 in the league - a pint of Brooklyn Lager. Travelling around the world is hardly carbon friendly, but at least I can take pleasure in my unique brand of offsetting; consuming as much locally produced beer as possible.

The coming home experience started at JFK's British Airways terminal where all the announcements are delivered in the finest home counties accent. For some reason we found this incredibly amusing after a whole year out of the country - I rather suspect BA's staff are encouraged to "ham up" the Englishness for American tourists.

Getting home is very strange - everything costs more than anywhere else we've been in the past 12 months - Leeds more expensive than Tokyo? You'd better beleive it. I think it's going to take a while to get used to the UK way of doing things in shops and call centres - I've begun to think of it as service with a grunt. OK, so it's not true of everyone, but in my recent experience BT are doing enough bad work to make up for all the good examples out there - still no home phone or broadband after first contacting them in mid-March.

Of course there are some great things too - curry, fish & chips and of course going to see Leeds win at home - next stop the play offs. I've already got my ticket.

It's been great to start catching up with friends over the last few days - and we're really looking forward to seeing the rest of you over the coming weeks. I'll be keeping the blog running for the next few weeks as I visit a few more interesting destinations.

After all, it's not as though you can phone me ...