Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bonjour Bruxelles!

So here we are in Brussels, where Gypsy Boy is attending a short course for work and I am taking full advantage of the benefits!

...Heading in the wrong direction!...

Yesterday afternoon, I set out looking for the famous Grand Place which is just a stone's throw away from our hotel, but I missed the turning and got a little lost. I gave up using my little map and decided to practise my French by asking for directions. A kind man in a suit offered to show me the way as he was headed for similar direction. Like when we were in France, I am trying my best to only speak French [apart from when talking with Gypsy Boy of course!]. I learnt that the gentleman is actually a Parisian but works as a diplomat here in Brussels!

...On the right track - passing a beautifully decorated shop in an arcade...

Alas, I found my way down a winding alley filled with restaurants and cafes boasting traditional Belgian fare, many displaying fresh seafood on ice on the terrace. A restaurant called Chez Leon caught my eye and I decided to stop for a spot of lunch. Evidently as popular as rumoured in travel guides, it was one of the only places that was busy. I was seated at a table adjoining one with an older Belgian couple on the terrace. The couple, like the gentleman I'd met earlier, were curious to learn where I come from having heard me order in French! Of course, once I say Dubai and New Zealand, they are all the more curious! Hee hee.

...Looking for lunch...

After I finish my seemingly huge but delicious pot of Belgian mussels and frites, our conversation [en Fran├žais!] continues and we chat for the next hour or so before I finally make my way over to Grand Place. Leading away from the square, I wandered down the lanes full of quaint Belgian chocolatiers, lace and embroidery shops, and workmen busy putting up Christmas decorations.

...Grand Place...

One of my favourite things to do when in a foreign city, is to visit the supermarket. Yesterday afternoon I came across 3! I just love browsing the aisles to see all the different products and discovering the local fruit, veg and food the locals buy. I ended up buying 3 different boxes of Belgian chocolate and found my favourite pastry in the patisserie section - pain au chocolat!

...another gorgeous shop!... the window of a chocolatier...
...Hot wine? I must try some!...

I wondered further away from Grand Place and came across a street housing the usual brands of apparel shops such as Benetton, Bershka, MNG etc. I browsed in a couple of local malls then decided it was time to find my way back to the hotel before it got dark!


This morning, we rose early and enjoyed a beautiful buffet breakfast where I got to meet with some of Gypsy Boy's international colleagues. I have to say that the breakfast at the hotel is pretty darn good, with a huge range of pastries, cereals, yoghurts, cheeses, cold meats [including smoked salmon!], eggs cooked to order, sausages, potatoes, baked beans etc. Phew! It was a great way to start the day.

...La Musee du chocolat...

As Gypsy Boy headed off to start his course, I headed out for day 2 in the city of Brussels! I set out this time to find Place de Sablon, an area filled with shops selling antiques, books and art before paying a visit to the Chocolate Museum where I saw a demonstration on how to make Belgian chocolates!

I browsed in some of the lace shops and bought two little lavender filled scent cushions for my Mum and Gypsy Boy's Mum, both with their initials embroidered on. I also went into a beer shop and bought 2 bottles of fruit flavoured Belgian beers for Gypsy Boy to try as I know he's been dying to taste them since we got here! Then I headed back for the hotel to meet Gypsy Boy for lunch.

There was a lunch put on again for his course attendees however I suspect he was a little envious of my delicious traditional Belgian feast yesterday and so decided to skip the free sandwiches today. So off we went to Chez Leon where he ordered what I had yesterday and I ordered a poached fillet of Pangas with potatoes. Yum!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Flying Turkish.

We have arrived in Brussels, after what seemed like a very long 8 hour trip via Istanbul early this morning with Turkish Airways.

The fares were very well priced at 2340AED per person, including all taxes and a stopover in Istanbul on our way home. This being our very first flight with Turkish Airways, we did not fail to notice that the clientele is very different from Emirates', the check-in queues were crowded and a little unruly and due to inefficient staffing and management wait times were out of control! Similarly, the flight was delayed by approximately 20 minutes and the boarding process was also ineffectively managed.

I have to say there is considerably more leg room in Economy class compared to Emirates, however you do have to contend with not only uncomfortable but garish turquoise-coloured vinyl seats! Also, the service and delivery process of meals onboard had to be the slowest and most inefficient I've ever encountered!

Having said all this, I found the Turkish people [just from my limited experience from onboard and at Ataturk airport] warm and friendly. The language is what puzzled me the most as I have to admit I haven't really heard much Turkish being spoken before today. I am not sure why, but I expected it to sound a bit more like Arabic, and to me it sounds more like an Eastern European language such as Hungarian or Cesky?! I'm not an expert, but this has spurred me on to find out more when I get home about this sing-song language and its roots and influences. Yep, being the language geek that I am.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh no!

Gypsy Boy has just had a car accident. I don't have all the details as yet, but it is one of my worst fears here in Dubai. All I can say is thank God, it's not serious. As far as I know, Gypsy Boy said he was at fault and hit another car in front of him.

Where many nationalities and driving styles come together, coupled with high speeds, Dubai is home to the most dangerous roads in the world. There is an extremely high accident rate and death toll, and it's not unusual to feel like you are in a bumper car when on the roads. Of course, the objective is not to 'bump'. However with speed limits of up to 120kph and cars zooming at 160kph at times, often not bothering to indicate or even look before changing 5 lanes in one swoop, minor and horrific accidents are not uncommon.

In the case of an accident, no matter how minor, one has to always call the police. If it's minor you can move your car to the side of the road out of traffic's way, however you should not leave the scene of the accident before the cops arrive to assess the situation. We've been told that the cops will then decide who is at fault and hand out a red card and green card with a report that you take to your respective insurers and panelbeaters.

I guess I will find out more from Gypsy Boy himself later today. Sigh.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The last 10 days.

I've been a bit slack with posting lately partly due to laziness, lack of motivation to post, and I guess it's been a little busier than normal.

The most exciting thing I guess was throwing a surprise party for Gypsy Boy's Birthday over the weekend, and getting my first piece of work completed.

Gypsy Boy's little party was fun, thanks to all our friends who came over to celebrate, and special thanks to Joy who helped so much with shopping, preparation and organising all the balloons! For some reason, I didn't take any photos which is a real shame so I'll have to post some when I get the photos from Joy that she took with her camera.

I also got delivered my first piece of work last week, and as it was urgent, I found myself working hard to get it finished by the deadline. I was pleased to find that it's not far from the sort of work I had to do as part of my previous role in NZ, and I really enjoyed it as well as being able to work from the comforts of home!

Today, I'm digging up some of our old winter clothes and starting to pack for our trip to Brussels and Istanbul. I can't believe we leave tomorrow already!

Oh, and as I type it's raining outside! I thought I could smell the rain, so I ran out to the balcony with Gypsy Dog at my heels to find grey skies and a light but constant drizzle. I haven't seen the rain in Dubai since January!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A new job!

Over the last year, I've been 'unemployed' at worst, and a 'housewife' at best. This has been the longest I've ever been without a job in my working life. In fact, it's the only time I've ever been unemployed in my working life but it was a choice I made when we moved to Dubai to take a much needed break.

As of tomorrow I will start work proofreading for a well-known local publishing company. It may not seem like a very glamourous job, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited!

It's all happened so quickly and has to be record time that I've ever gone for a job, got it and start working. 3 days ago, I was just beginning to think seriously about looking for a job. 2 days ago, I came across the ad online and replied to it an hour after it was posted. Yesterday, I completed an aptitude test and today, I got the congratulatory email!

In the last few hours, I've spoken with the editor of the publishing company and the lead editor for the project that I'll start working on tomorrow! I'm basically able to work from home and the paperwork gets delivered to me and gets picked up when I'm done! There are of course deadlines to work with, so looks like I'm going to have a busy working weekend ahead. Can't wait to start the new job!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Nice pics.

I kinda got sidetracked from posting about the rest of our recent trip to Europe. Anyway, I guess I will do it slowly over time.

For now, here are some of my favourite shots from the short time we had in Nice, the South of France.

I'm an ESTJ.

Gypsy Boy kindly forwarded me this link to a version of the Myers Briggs Personality test this morning, which looks like it's making its rounds through the office.

The full description that followed on what makes an ESTJ tick showed no surprises. After a year of life altering changes in lifestyle, job and environment, I'm still the same old me!

A short description of the ESTJ personality type:
ESTJs direct their energy towards the outside world of actions and spoken words. They introduce a logical organisation and structure into the way things are done. They prefer dealing with facts and the present, and are likely to implement tried and trusted solutions to practical problems in a businesslike and professional manner.

Find out your personality type here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Roti Man!

As a little girl living in Malaysia, my brother and I used to wait for the 'Roti Man' to come around on his motorbike every evening.

He'd simply drive around the streets of the neighbourhood and beep his horn calling out 'Roti!, Roti!' meaning 'bread' in Malay. Mounted on the back of his bike was a box full of bread, and hanging on the outside of the box were bags full of delicious chips, sweet bread and other types of goodies. It was a junk foodies dream!

As soon as we heard his cries, we'd run to find our mother and ask her if we need any bread before pestering her for 10 or 20 sen for our favourite junk food purchases!

It's interesting to see the humble and familiar Roti Man has made it onto a TV ad for Malaysian Idol!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where's home?

It's coming up to a year that we've left New Zealand and made Dubai our home. After a year of being away from work, family and friends, I have to say that a little homesickness is kicking in...

Spring in NZ is one of my favourite times of the year. The weather starts to warm up, Christmas is around the corner, and nature is at its best. I have a soft spot for tree lined avenues and there aren't too many of these here in Dubai. I miss the green of Victoria Park, I can just see the new leaves forming on the winter-bare branches of trees around Wellesley Street, and I especially miss the drives down my favourite tree lined avenue - Franklin Road.

It's also coming up to 18 years that my family left Malaysia to make New Zealand home. While I was quite young and spent most of my life and formative years in Auckland NZ, I do miss the familiarity of family that are still in Malaysia, the shopping, and of course the food!

We had a friend over for dinner a couple of nights ago, who'd grown up in Pakistan, studied in the US and spent almost half his life there before recently moving to Dubai. When I asked him where home is, he couldn't say for sure. He suggested that perhaps home is where ones mother is.

If that is the case, then home for me is Melbourne, Australia. Now, that doesn't really work because whilst I've been there dozens of times to visit, I've never lived in the home my immediate family are currently residing in nor have I spent enough time in Melbourne to say I've lived in this city.

If home is really where the heart is, where's home if your roots are deep and widespread?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Full class

Our art class has been steadily growing. Even though we are half way through the term, we still have new students joining the course. We started with 5 students and as of next week there will be 8!

...A little street in Nice, by Gypsy Boy...

Gypsy Boy is still working on his piece, but there are continuing discussions between him and our art teacher Kamen on whether the work is complete. Gypsy Boy can't wait to start on a new painting, while Kamen feels the painting needs a bit more work.

...Geisha, by Gypsy Girl...

For the last couple of weeks, there has been similar differences in opinion between other students and teacher. After working on the same painting for a few weeks, it is natural to get bored. While art is subjective, I think students should try to be receptive to suggestions and recommendations of the tutor while under their instruction. Of course, students are always free to just leave the painting in question at home and bring in a fresh new canvas to start on at the next class!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Everyone shops at Carrefour...

Even royalty apparently!

Gypsy Boy and I were at Carrefour in the Mall of the Emirates this evening to pick up a few groceries for the week when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum walked right past us. He was heading towards the fish section and was flanked by two other men also dressed in white dishdashas.

As he walked through the hypermarket, shoppers stopped in their tracks and others turned around to look as they recognised him. I can say that he definitely had a presence, not to mention extremely good posture!

Friday, November 03, 2006

In the paper!

A reporter from the Emirates Today publication visited the DIAC (Dubai International Art Centre) last week and if you got the paper on 31 October, you would have seen that the feature picture for this article is one of our art class!

Gypsy Boy and I are in this photo and our art teacher Kamen was interviewed for the article. You can read the full article online, however the photo of our class is only in the paper publication. Hee!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Baby party.

Today, I accompanied my gorgeous Greek friend M. to a Mum's coffee morning. Don't get excited, I haven't been hiding anything and I can assure you there are no Baby G's in the Gypsy household yet!

I wasn't sure how to feel at first about going to this coffee morning for Mums sans baby, and once we got there I felt a little out of place when I saw a group of women gathered in the corner of Starbucks with all their baby paraphernalia. For starters, each had a wee one on her lap, at her feet or in her belly! Toys were strewn on mats and about 10 prams were lined up against the wall!

Maybe I should've dressed Gypsy Dog up in a bonnet and hid him in a pram. Of course I hadn't. Instead, I clutched my Kenneth Cole handbag closer to me and dragged a chair over to join this circle of mothers who were probably wondering [as much as I was] what I was doing there.

By the end of the morning however, I'd got to meet and speak with some lovely women and to see the cutest little babies! Yes, I was the odd one out but it was not so bad. Everyone was friendly and I had fun.

In Dubai, there is a long list of support and social groups, especially for new mothers. It's encouraging to know that with such a large expatriate community with little or no family nearby, there are always others in the same situation willing to share and support one another.