Thursday, January 31, 2008
So for the last 36-48 hours the Internet here in Dubai has been running at a snail's pace. Word on the street was that some underwater cables were severed and that caused the slowdown, but that sounded like a load of hogwash to cynical old me.

Turns out, once I finally got the New York Times up and running today, that some cables in the Mediterranean Sea were cut and it's screwed with phone and internet service in the Middle East and all over the world.

Huh.
 
posted by Josh at 4:30 PM | 0 comments
Nakheel LogoWe've talked about the Palm Islands and The World Islands they're building off the coast of Dubai a few different times recently (see Trump in Dubai and The World). The Palm Jumeirah is open now, and the World is ready to begin building construction. The Palm Jebel Ali is still under construction, and I haven't heard much about the Palm Deira lately.

Well last week developer Nakheel announced a new set of islands in the Gulf - would you believe The Universe?

No, I'm not making this up. These new islands will "draw inspiration from the wonders of the solar system, with islands in the shape of the sun, the moon and the planets".

Not sure of the timeframe on these badboys, but I have heard 15 to 20 years from now.

Personally, I think they're kind of ugly, but probably I won't be looking at them much from this angle, anyway ...

Nakheel's the Universe Islands
 
posted by Josh at 4:19 PM | 2 comments
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
20070925_lost150.pngSorry, know I haven't been writing much here lately. If it's any consolation I've been rather busy over at Not Newlywed in Dubai (Dead Link) ... check it out sometime.

Today I had a good thought about TV's Lost and the CNN / Los Angeles Times / POLITICO Democratic Presidential Debate ...
 
posted by Josh at 5:01 PM | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
So apparently Blogger has an Arabic site now, because instead of seeing the English title page I'm seeing things like

ما هي المدونة (بلوج)؟

and

القيام بجولة سريعة

Huh.

I assume that it says the same things the American English site says, "Sign up now" "Take the tour" "What's a Blog?" and "Don't Say Anything Negative Against the Government or You'll be Thrown in the Hoosegow."

But no, I've only been in Dubai for 17 months, I really haven't gotten the hang of Arabic yet.

In fact, the only Arabic I know is:

توفر وجبات ماكدونالدز الـ "هابي ميل" للأطفال عناصر غذائية هامة حيث تعتبر هذه الوجبات مصدراً كاملاً وموثوقاً لتسعة عناصر غذائية.

Which says, "McDonald’s is leader in promoting healthy lifestyles for children, and its Happy Meals are enjoyed by children and adults alike."

Hahaha, I really don't know how to say that, I just stole it from the McDonald's Arabia website.
 
posted by Josh at 6:48 AM | 0 comments
Friday, January 25, 2008
Last night my buddy Nate left, and to thank us for letting him stay with us he took Liz and I out to a nice restaurant - "Nina" at the One and Only Royal Mirage Hotel. Nina is a 'new-wave Indo-European' restaurant, which sounds a little wacky but it's really quite tasty.

After dinner we went upstairs to the Rooftop Terrace bar, which I talked about about a year ago (see View of the Palm). From there you get a great view of the Palm Jumeirah, which even though it's open is still highly under construction.

The Palm Trump International Hotel and TowerOne of the buildings supposedly under construction is by Donald Trump (of hair and The Apprentice fame). I thought I had mentioned it here before but I guess not, it's called the The Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower.

I say "supposedly under construction" because each time I see an artist's rendering of the project, it looks way different, and to me that doesn't bode well for the project. I'm getting shades of Hydropolis (see DuBiotech and the Hydropolis Equation).

At first it looked like a ... well, to say 'tulip' or 'flower' would be generous. A 'golden blob' is more like it.

The Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower


Then it got all spikey.

The Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower


The newest one I've seen is spikey and hollow.

The Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower


I like it.

But maybe that's because the monorails look like Disney's.

(And I'm a sucker for Disney's monorails.)

Either way, though, as of last night there's nothing there yet.
 
posted by Josh at 11:42 AM | 1 comments
So remember how in November our local paper back in the States did a story on us (see Portland Press Herald)?

Well I hadn't seen the actual, physical paper that our story ran in until we went home. My buddy Ryan said he saw it on the front cover - but I didn't know he meant that we were actually on the front cover!

Here's a photo of the paper that my brother saved for us. We're actually above Tom Brady and next to Britney Spears. How about that?!?

Portland Press Herald
 
posted by Josh at 10:48 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Hey, that movie Mongol received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film!

You might recall that we saw that during the Dubai International Film Festival (see Mongol is going to be the best movie of 2008).

Congrats! I hope it wins. And you all should remember it when it's released in the States this summer!
 
posted by Josh at 10:13 AM | 0 comments
Today we've got some pretty pictures!

Here's another crazy waterfront development in Dubai. The other week developer Nakheel announced Dubai Promenade, a new waterfront community anchored by a five-star wheel-shaped hotel.

Yes, a wheel-shaped hotel.

This is going to be right around the corner from us at the Dubai Marina. The new peninsula will feature a selection of commercial and residential towers, cafés, restaurants and retail offerings will span the length of the entire waterfront. Kind of like the Marina Walk that's already open and about one hundred yards away, but from a different development company.

Of course, the land doesn't exist for this property, so they're going to have a few months of good old "land reclamation". 750,000 tons of rock and 650,000 cubed meters of sand worth of reclamation. That's pretty environmentally sound of them. Why screw up old land when you can just make new land?

The complex will house 10,000 residents, have 270,000 square feet of retail space, 182,990 square feet of office space, and probably about 8 parking spots (if it's anything like its neighbor the Marina Walk).

Oh and did I mention a five-star wheel-shaped hotel?

Insane.

Dubai Promenade artwork
Dubai Promenade artwork
Dubai Promenade artwork
Dubai Promenade artwork
 
posted by Josh at 6:40 AM | 2 comments
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The World logoSo hey, know that artificial cluster of islands called The World that they're building out in the Gulf?

Well the other week they laid the final stone on the breakwater.

The sixteen and a half miles of breakwater took five years and 34 million tons of rock to construct. The breakwater protects the 300 islands, all in the shape of the different continents and countries of the world.

Now that the breakwater is completed, people who own the islands can start construction.

The World
 
posted by Josh at 6:37 AM | 0 comments
the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & MarinaAt the end of our street is a hotel that's under construction, the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina.

All along they've been saying it would open in January 2008.

And as we were leaving for home, it looked nowhere near done.

Now they've officially announced it'll be ready for guests as of June 1, 2008.

Huh.

Anyway it's a five-star resort with 294 rooms next to the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina. Here is some art of what it's supposed to look like when finished ...

Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
 
posted by Josh at 6:34 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This is a goofy little blurb I saw today and had to mention. Later this month Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will invite bids for the supply of 1,616 buses in what is being called "the largest single purchase of public buses".

That's pretty hilarious.

They love breaking records here in Dubai ...
 
posted by Josh at 4:48 PM | 0 comments
More filler today!

We're continuing to catch up on all of the Dubai news we missed over the winter break.

Rumors abound that Dubai-based airline Emirates is considering new routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Dang, that'd be a long time to be on a plane for. Dubai to New York non-stop is just over fourteen hours, while the return trip is closer to twelve and a half. But Emirates is a great airline with really fantastic, frequent food and tons of entertainment on demand. If I had to make an LA to Dubai non-stop, I'd only take Emirates.

Nothing snarky to say, sorry.

Last month Emirates expanded into North America quite a bit, they started a flying to Houston three times a week (see Emirates to Houston) as well as flying to Toronto three times a week.

In other news, Dubai is starting another mega-construction project. It must be ... a Tuesday.

The Arabian Canal will be "the largest, most complex civil engineering project ever undertaken in the Middle East" as the developers say. Linking Jebel Ali with the Dubai Marina, the 47 mile long creek will cost $11 billion in total. When completed in three years it will be 495 feet wide and 20 feet deep - large enough to fit 130 foot boats.

By the way, the Arabian Canal is on the map of Dubai we found back in October of 2006, the one with all of the stuff that still isn't built yet (see Map of Dubai).

Next in line is a cute little story that reminds me of Las Vegas. Actually, all of Dubai reminds me of Las Vegas - well, without the drinking, gambling and sleeze.

Dubai Courts has announced a new E-Marriage system that allows one to get married in 20 minutes.

Boy, this place is getting more Americanized by the day!!

In fact, the website, called eZawaj in Arabic, also allows for online alimony payments.

Awesome.

Thankfully the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research doesn't have an 'E-Equivalency of Degree' system. You still have to do that crap the hard way (see A wasted month and The UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research).

And yes, even though my certificate is done I'm still holding a grudge. Until the day I die, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, until the day I die.

This next story is interesting ... Dubai has sold a building in New York City. So far they have been doing lots of buying (Essex House, Mandarin Oriental, W Union Square Hotel, the Knickerbocker Hotel and 450 Lexington) but in late December Dubai World sold 230 Park Avenue, known as the Helmsley Building, for $1.15 billion.

Guess they're going to reinvest the money in the Asian market.

Also over the break The US government finally cleared a deal that will give Borse Dubai, Dubai's state-owned stock exchange, a minority stake in Nasdaq.

Apparently we won't let 'them' own our ports but will let 'them' own our stock exchanges. Has anyone told Mike Huckabee about this yet? I bet he and his right-wing wingnuts will be all up in arms about this. Although if he didn't know where Pakistan was, how will he ever know where Dubai is?

Maybe the next presidential debate shouldn't be a debate at all but a surprise geography bee. Pop quiz! Think about how embarrassing that would be for those knuckleheads ...
 
posted by Josh at 6:58 AM | 0 comments
Monday, January 21, 2008
Go Patriots!

Sadly, I didn't stay up to watch the game (kickoff was 12:30 am). What's even worse is that my buddy Nate who's visiting is a Chargers fan, having grown up in San Diego. But instead I played the responsible adult who knew he had to be up at 6 am the next day.

Plus I knew the Patriots would win, anyway.

So with my buddy in town and classes starting I've got kind of a filler piece today. Oh, don't worry, it's still interesting, we're going to try and catch up with all of the Dubai news that we missed over our two week snow-filled adventure home.

The first story is just outright bizarre.

This doesn't fall into "The World's Biggest ____" category, but more "The World's Weirdest". Dubai is now straight-up copying already established cities. Like, street-by-street recreations.

Yep, Lyon-Dubai City will be a clone of Lyon, France built right here in Dubai. It plans to open in 2012.

Hmmm, to the best of my knowledge something like this has never been done before - which sounds right up Dubai's alley - but somehow I kind of wonder if this will really happen. I think this falls under the phenomenon I like to call the Hydropolis Equation.

But who knows, maybe they'll prove me wrong.

Second we have another "first" - the world's first fashion island.

No, I'm not kidding. I couldn't make this up.

On January 8th Dubai Infinity Holdings announced Isla Moda, the world’s first dedicated fashion island. I assume somewhere in the world, perhaps in the Mediterranean, there's an island that's primarily about fashion, but not dedicated to fashion.

But don't worry, this one is fully dedicated to only fashion.

As you can assume, Isla Moda will be part of the artificial islands out in the Gulf known as The World.

Isla Moda will combine a fashion resort, themed residential villas, haute couture boutiques and luxury hospitality facilities in a drive to establish Dubai as a global fashion hub.

How about that?

Next we find out that Dubai is launching DubaiSat-1, its first civilian observation satellite, later this year.

Oooh, welcome to the 1950s, Dubai!

The article has lots of great jingoistic quotes from the Emiratis in charge that I'll spare you. Boy, they have some national pride, let me tell you. I will, however, point out that Satrec Initiative is building the satellite, which is being launched by International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras and controlled at a ground station erected by ViaSat.

Interestingly enough Satrec Initiative is a South Korean firm, ISC Kosmotras a Russian firm and ViaSat from the States.

Good for them.

Next we focus on shopping - more Dubai's speed.

the 2008 Dubai Shopping Festival will run from January 24 to February 24. Forty malls and 4000 shops will participate in the sales and discounts.

More than 100 different and exciting events (none named) will take place during the 32 days.

Lastly, it's almost time for Tiger!

Yes, the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament starts soon - January 28 - and runs until February 3rd. And since Mr. Woods is contractually obligated to show up three times out of four (see Tiger Tiger Woods, Y'all) I bet we'll see a Tiger Woods around town soon.
 
posted by Josh at 6:55 AM | 0 comments
Sunday, January 20, 2008
dreamworks animationQuick news story today from reader B in Emeryville, CA about the world largest (yet still completely unconstructed) theme park, Dubailand (see Dubailand).

Apparently Dubailand is getting a DreamWorks Animation SKG theme park.

Whoo, lucky them.

The venture will bring to life the much-loved characters from DreamWorks Animation films such as "Shrek" and ... um, "Shrek 2" and ... "Shrek 3".

No, I think DreamWorks has other movies, too. But something tells me that they won't rush out to build a Prince of Egypt Land ...

    Press Release
    Tatweer and DreamWorks Animation Strike Strategic Alliance to Create World’s First DreamWorks Animation Theme Park in Dubai
    January 19, 2008

    Tatweer, a member of Dubai Holding, today announced it has formed a strategic alliance with US-based DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. to develop a diverse portfolio of tourism and leisure projects in Dubailand, the world’s most ambitious tourism, leisure and entertainment destination.

    A highlight of the alliance will be the creation of the world’s first DreamWorks Animation branded theme park in Dubai. The outlay at the 5 million sq feet theme park project is a multi-billion AED investment.

    The venture will bring to life the much-loved characters from DreamWorks Animation films, including Shrek, the upcoming Kung Fu Panda and several others, to create adventures and attractions in a first of its kind development for the studio.

    Tatweer and DreamWorks Animation will also work together to develop new concepts, including Dreamworks Animation themed restaurants, hotels and retail outlets in the region, providing unique experiences through the use of innovative media and creative storytelling.

    Saeed Al Muntafiq, Executive Chairman of Tatweer, said: "We are extremely proud of our alliance with DreamWorks Animation. The partnership demonstrates our dedication to deliver on the tourism objectives of Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

    “As the owner and developer of the three-billion sq ft Dubailand, which hosts some of the world’s most enchanting entertainment concepts, Tatweer has become a leader in bringing landmark projects to Dubai, including Bawadi, Tiger Woods Dubai and the world’s best theme parks. DreamWorks Animation’s global reputation in character creation and its strong character portfolio will add further value to our offering, providing an enhanced experience to visitors and tourists.”

    Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, said: “We are thrilled to bring the first DreamWorks Animation dedicated theme park to Dubai through our alliance with Tatweer for Dubailand. This relationship will allow us to create an exciting destination where families and tourists will enjoy the unique opportunity to interact with DreamWorks branded content within Dubailand.”

    Roger Enrico, Chairman of DreamWorks Animation, adds: “We are excited over the opportunity to align DreamWorks Animation with a company like Tatweer, which has a proven reputation as a leader in the growing tourism, leisure and entertainment industry throughout this region. The complementary strengths of both organizations will further contribute to Dubai’s emergence as a premier global tourist destination.”

    Tatweer’s strategic partnerships for unique entertainment concepts with world leading entertainment brands such as Dreamworks Animation will help Dubai meet its tourism objectives of attracting an average of 15 million tourists annually to Dubai.

    Dubailand spreads on an area of 3 billion sq ft, and includes Universal Studios Dubailand, Dubai Sports City, Motor City, Falcon City, Dubai Heritage Vision, and Al Barari are projects that are under advanced stages of development in Dubailand. The Polo and Equestrian Club and City of Arabia are currently in the initial stages of infrastructure work.
 
posted by Josh at 7:03 AM | 0 comments
Friday, January 18, 2008
So my buddy Nate from Los Angeles is coming to visit for a week. He was supposed be to arrive this morning, but yesterday's British Airways crash at London's Heathrow Airport has delayed all sorts of air traffic in and out of the airport - and that's where he was flying through.

Luckily this is the 21st century, so he emailed me from the airport last night and again this morning. I guess now he's in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, and will be to Dubai by 11:40 pm tonight.

It actually might be a blessing that he's late, though, for I forgot today is the Dubai Marathon. Oops, sorry, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. Anyway, I guess a bunch of roads are closed this morning until noon. Not that even any of those roads are in the path from the airport to here, but as we learned this week with the rains and George W. Bush, any road closures in Dubai equals mass chaos.

In happier news, it's sunny and 60 degrees right now. Quite pleasant.

As long as you don't have to drive anywhere ...
 
posted by Josh at 11:01 AM | 0 comments
sega logoThis is cool - yesterday Japanese video game maker Sega announced it will parter with Emaar Malls and build the world's largest arcade at Dubai Mall. 75,350 square feet of video games and nerds. Can't beat that.

When it opens later this year Dubai Mall will be the world's largest mall. It's located at the base of the Burj Dubai - which is the world's tallest free-standing structure on land.

Not to be outdone, Sega is the publisher of Crazy Taxi, which is the world's best video game ever created ever.
 
posted by Josh at 10:52 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, January 17, 2008
radiation logoApparently mid-January is time of year when world leaders make the rounds in the Gulf countries. After George W. visited the UAE and Saudi this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stopped in.

But luckily they didn't have to close down anything for him. Although maybe they would have if he had brought along his lady-friend, former Italian supermodel Carla Bruni.

Anyway, during his visit Sarkozy announced that France is building a naval base in Abu Dhabi in exchange for sharing civilian nuclear technology with the UAE.

Yes, the UAE is getting two EPR nuclear reactors.

Huh.

After this deal Sarkozy went on to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and offered to share civilian nuclear technology with them, too. And they seemed pretty psyched.

Anyone else think that it's a little scary that some of the most oil-rich nations are getting really, really interested in nuclear power?

I mean, Saudi alone is the world's leading exporter of crude oil. They sit on 264.2 billion barrels of proved reserves. The UAE has 97.8 billion barrels and Iraq has 112.5 billion. (Glad it's not the other way around, or I'd be in an occupied territory right now!)

Oddly enough the country with the second largest proven oil reserves in the world is actually in the Western Hemisphere. Their population is only one-tenth of the United States', and their military is pretty weak, too. In fact, the United States has already stolen most of their actors and singers and hockey teams, why not steal all of their heavy oil?

Yes, that's right, I think it's time for the United States to invade Alberta, Canada.

Canada has 178.8 billion barrels in oil rich sand, that, until oil prices skyrocketed in the last few years, weren't really cost-effective. But now that oil's in the ballpark of $100 a barrel, getting one barrel from two tons of sand suddenly doesn't seem so stupid ...

And hey, maybe once they stripmine Fort McMurray, Alberta they can turn it a nuclear waste dump for all of the new Gulf nuclear reactors. Then everyone wins.
 
posted by Josh at 7:20 AM | 0 comments
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Lest you worry, I'm back from Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Got there safely and got my certificate with no problems. The only hangup on the trip was my stop for lunch at Ibn Battuta Mall once I was back in Dubai. The roads in and out are all flooded - it took me close to an hour to get out of the parking lot and back home, a trip that on a non-flooded day would take all of ten minutes.

Oh well. At least my certificate is done. PHEW!
 
posted by Josh at 5:15 PM | 0 comments
Due to all of the rain in Dubai ... well, scratch that - due to the fact that none of the roads in Dubai have any drainage and it's rained a few inches in the last week - I have a "rain day" from school today.

Sweet!

So, against my better judgement today I am going to drive to Abu Dhabi to get my completed 'equivalency of degree' certificate at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. If you haven't been following that story, well, it's a corker (see A wasted month and The UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research).

Wish me luck!
 
posted by Josh at 9:25 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
So Bush has finally left Dubai and the UAE, but everyone is still twittering about his visit. Mostly people are aghast that the city had to shut down so completely for one man (see George W Bush Public Holiday). I'm aghast, as well, but I'd also like to point out that the fact that this city is so poorly planned also played a large role in the need to completely shut down for security's sake.

Still it's a little odd to have non-American expats, who are generally so civil, say things today like, "well, he's YOUR president ..." in a pinched tone. Wait, you really think that this was my fault?

Cripes.

And I haven't even heard from my business-people friends yet, but the newspapers are all aflutter that the shutdown yesterday could have cost Dubai businesses in the ballpark of $120 million.

And this was his idea of a goodwill tour?

Anyway, here are some fun photos that are circulating on the web. Sadly I'm not sure of their authorship, so I can't credit them all.

I must say that I had the same idea to take photos from the overpass near our apartment, but by the time I got my duff out there Sheikh Zayed Road was already open again. Bummer.

20080115_bush.jpg
Bush with Sheikh Mo and friends


20080115_SZR_01.jpg

20080115_SZR_02.jpg

20080115_SZR_03.jpg

20080115_SZR_04.jpg

20080115_SZR_05.jpg
 
posted by Josh at 2:44 PM | 1 comments
Monday, January 14, 2008
George Bush is a doofusWe have no school today! Since it's been cloudy and raining for the last few days it totally feels like a snow day. But it's not. It's a "Bush in Dubai" Day!

Yes, after 2,550 days in office US President George W. Bush has finally done something to help me out.

You might have heard how Bush is visiting the UAE right now. Well, today he's traveling from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. And that means chaos in Dubai.

As I've mentioned earlier, the infrastructure in Dubai is ... somewhat limited. We really only have two highways, Sheikh Zayed Road and Emirates Road. And to cross the Dubai Creek there are only a few bridges and one tunnel.

So with Bush coming to visit the town is planning on shutting down a few roads. Dubai without Sheikh Zayed Road is a paralyzed beast.

Dubai without Sheikh Zayed Road, Sheikh Rashid Road, Sheikh Khalifa Road, Al Khail Road, Al Wasl Road, Beach Road, Al Garhoud Bridge, Al Maktoum Bridge and Al Shindagha Tunnel ... that'd be complete chaos.

Thus we have a public holiday.

The thing is, are people really going to stay home? I just got looking around (yes, I've been up since 3 am again today) and I thought, "I have some things to do around the house, I should go over to Ace Hardware."

But to get there I'd have to take SZR, or at least Beach Road and Al Wasl.

And those are closed.

So instead I guess I'll hang out in the apartment and read and pretend it's a snow day.

Dare I say it?

"Thank you Mr. President."

(shudder)
 
posted by Josh at 8:44 AM | 5 comments
Sunday, January 13, 2008
So for the last two night's I've woken up at 3 am after only a few hours of sleep. Jet-lag is a scary beast.

The odd part is that 3 am in Dubai is 6 pm in Maine - so it doesn't appear that I'm on that schedule, either. I'm a man without a timezone.

Oh well. At least the Patriots are on in a few hours ...

So before that starts let me tell you about our surprise trip to Maine, something that we like to call Mission: Christmas.
Mission Christmas

See, we told our families (and you) that we were going to Cairo for Christmas. And that was the plan ... for a few weeks. But sometime around Thanksgiving we decided that we should go home instead. But the thing is, we never told our family that the plans had changed.

We're sneaky, aren't we?

So we left our apartment at midnight on Sunday for the airport. Our flight out of Dubai was at 3 am on Christmas Eve. We arrived in London at 7 am their time. After a relatively quick three hour layover in London we got on a plane to Boston. Here we were quite lucky, if we had left only 24 hours earlier we would have been fogged-in in London. In fact, people who were supposed to leave on flights before us were stuck at Heathrow while we took off.

Gotta love air travel.

We landed in Boston and had all of our bags (a Christmas miracle!) and were through security at 2:30 pm their time. The plan was to take an express bus from Boston Logan Airport up to Maine and get in around 5 pm, then pick up a rental car in Maine. Honestly this was only the plan because I forgot to rent a car from Boston until the last minute, and apparently lots of people are traveling on December 24 and getting a rental car was, well, impossible.

Or so we thought.

We just barely missed the express bus to Maine, which meant the next bus was the non-express, stop-at-every-town-village and-hamlet-between-Boston-and-Portland, four hour long extravaganza.

That's not going to work for us. We've been up for too long, traveled too far for that.

So we took a chance and called a few car rental places at the airport. And somehow even though they told the internet that they had rented all of their cars, well, they hadn't.

Granted, the car we got was a bit insane.

How about a lemon yellow Pontiac Firebird ...

rental car


... with New York license plates?

New York license plates


I think my exact words were, "Great, I'm sure this won't attract any attention driving up the Maine Turnpike on Christmas Eve."

I ended up driving 64 miles per hour the whole way. I wasn't getting a ticket, not after coming this far!

However our little race car did have leather seats, XM satellite radio and a sunroof. Odd. Every other "economy" rental car I've ever been in has been a little less stocked. Also, aren't they generally some tiny car like a Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio or Chevrolet Aveo?

I think Santa was helping us out a little. Well, not with the color. Or the license plate.

Anyway, for geographic reasons we showed up at Liz's parents' house first. What a surprise! Liz's mom watched us walk in the door and was totally shocked for about fifteen seconds. Then the screaming started. Liz's father and brother were excited too, in their own way.

We got cleaned up, chatted for a bit, then it was on to surprise my folks. They were at my cousin's house in Casco, Maine. Every year for about a decade now she's had us and some family over for Christmas Eve.

Luckily the party has grown to friends as well, or our bright yellow sports car pulling into the driveway might have been more conspicuous.

As we were walking in my little cousins (technically my cousin's children - so is that my second cousin or something?) were walking out. We surprised them and their mom (my real cousin) before going into the house to get everyone else.

Now, the only drawback with the party being composed with a majority of people I'm not related to, about three dozen people I'm not related to to be exact, is that when the hostess starts screaming and nobody recognizes us, well, that can kind of frighten the party-goers. At the very least it confuses them. Luckily my folks started hugging and kissing the both of us, so the party-goers could figure out through basic context clues that we weren't their to rob the place or steal their children.

You know, kind of how that Dateline guy generally doesn't hug and kiss the bad guys on To Catch a Predator.

I felt bad, though, because my brother was a little upset that we didn't tell him the real plan. I tried to tell him that we needed him to help to convince my folks that we really were going to Egypt. If they got sad and he knew the truth, well, he would have had to tell them. Still, he felt a little slighted, which was a bummer.

Still, it was great to see them all.

The rest of the vacation was a blur. I think Liz and I each have a list of a dozen or more people that we wanted to catch up with but didn't.

We also wanted to go skiing, and we didn't.

Heck, I wanted to eat at Taco Bell, and we didn't.

We did, however, get to see our grandparents, which was important to us. We also saw about a ton and a half of snow fall. Seriously, I can see why they've ditched the whole "global warming" name for the new "climate change". Ain't nothin' warming about the month of December in Maine.

Here are a few photos of the day after a storm that dropped a foot 30 centimeters of snow in one day.

Maine Snow

Maine Snow


Yes, it's dawn in these photos, too. In the last few weeks I've seen more sunrises than any other one month period ever in my life.

Heck, we still have a few hours before the next one.

Maybe I should make some nachos before the football game. There's nothing like nachos for breakfast ...
 
posted by Josh at 4:09 AM | 0 comments
Friday, January 11, 2008
Well we're safe and sound back in Dubai. We got in late last night - well, technically this morning I guess. By the time we were through Passport Control it was about 12:05 am on Friday. The crazy part? We left Boston at 7:15 pm on Wednesday.

I think somewhere in there we lost a day.

Actually for us Thursday was only fifteen hours long, and for six of them we were sleeping at London's Heathrow Airport. The rest we spent sleeping on planes.

So by the time it was midnight on Friday we weren't really tired.

Uh-oh.

We did finally got to sleep at 3 am, but my night was cut short by a happy little cat who, at 7:30 am, wanted to play.

I know that's only four-and-a-half hours of sleep, but don't feel bad for me - I just finished a mid-afternoon nap that was almost that long again. I blame Dubai's weird clouds right now. It feels like sleeping outside, so why not take a four hour nap inside?

Anyway now it's five in the afternoon and I don't know if I'm awake or tired. I don't know up from down. Am I hungry? When was the last time I ate?

All I do know that is I'm jet-lagged like you wouldn't believe.

I'll come back later and tell the story of our vacation. Heck, I'll probably be up in the middle of the night and bored soon enough ...
 
posted by Josh at 5:01 PM | 0 comments
Ooooh, not long now little Smurfs!

Apple iTunes
 
posted by Josh at 4:57 PM | 0 comments