Dubai – Part 2

•October 8, 2009 • 17 Comments

Hi!

So the biggest difference for me since the last blog has got to be moving into the hotel. Which might not sound like such a big deal, seeing as we were right across the road, but it’s made life so much easier with the convenience factor. Everything is now an elevator away and you save time on fiddly travelling and security checks, etc. The room I’m in is one of the bodyguard rooms and it’s pretty cool. Just like a regular hotel room. It’s tucked out of the way. It’s definitely better than the room I was in. Bigger, nicer and we get all the hotel freeby things that the normal guests get. After 30 seconds in that room I’d eaten all the biscuits and was jumping up and down on the bed, wearing the shower cap screaming, ‘what can I do no! What can I do now!’ … Not really, that was just some Dylan Moran for you folks playing at home. Here are some pictures of the room before I moved my stuff in and it looks pretty much the same now:

I’d answer some questions, mostly from my family. Make no mistake, this is a holiday. I’m treating it as such. Just a cushy (coushy? cooshy?), cruisy, well-paid holiday.

There are some whack man-made islands here. The Burj Al Arab is on one of them. There is also a series of islands in the shape of a world map, plus a couple of ‘Palm’ island:

The ‘A’ is the Burj Al Arab. You can see the world islands. You can’t really go there. It’s exclusive or something and the islands are private. The palms are just full of hotels mostly. There’s a nice one, Atlantis Hotel I think, on the Jumeira Palm. It has a huge aquarium there with a whale shark knocking about. I’ll probably check that out sometime.

Some people have asked questions about food. I mentioned the stuff I usually eat here which is fairly standard, Western stuff. Dates (the food) are supposed to be a big deal here. The dates they have are especially imported from Morocco and they are GOOD dates. Apparently, in times gone by, the Arabs survived for generations in the desert on dates and camel’s milk. That’s why they’re a big deal. Camels are respected or something. Camel’s milk is supposed to be good for you but it tastes a bit sour. Basically all the food is imported. At this hotel it’s usually from somewhere special, grown and imported exclusively for Burj Al Arab.

Originally I thought the coffee here was good. But either they’re getting sloppy or I’m getting fussier (probably both). Granted, I mostly drink it in the place I get to eat it. At Sahn Eddar (the place I play at) I get it sometimes and it’s good there. I think it’s just the black coffee they’ve been struggling with. It’s getting weaker. At Sahn Eddar there is an Arab man knocking about offering people traditional Turkish coffee and/or dates. You’re supposed to have it with sugar because it’s supposed to be strong. It’s not. It tasted like regular. But yeah it is all nice still but the strength is a factor. And I’m not trying to be all tough and like, ‘this is piss-weak!’. Some people have made me coffees back home that I’ve considered to be strong-to-quite-strong, namely Tom Duck. I’m going to leave the coffee rant there.

Most people speak English here, to some extent. Arabic is the national language though, interestingly only declared to be the official language earlier this year. All the signs, etc. are in Arabic and English.

I’d mentioned a couple of other nearby hotels in the last blog and here are pictures of them.

This is Jumeirah Beach Hotel:

This is Madinat:

Both these photos were taken from the long driveway bit that leads to the Burj Al Arab.

Madinat is awesome. I like it more than the Burj. There’s just more people knocking about which just gives the place a better vibe. I like the way the place is designed in old Arabian fashion but mixed in with modern stuff too. There are a couple of cool bars inside that actually have people in them, normal people too. Not like in the Burj where everywhere just has a few rich people. When I started here the place was supposed to have been booked out, that’s why I was living outside for the first couple of weeks. Even then, there was hardly anyone around. They don’t have a high capacity, only few guests so they can give them more attention or something. Whatever.

Anyway the other good thing about these bars is they have good bands in them. There is one South African band that play in one place and another keys/vocal duo in another one. Both bands are really good, they play stuff that has some energy.

In our hotel there are two venues that have music. Sahn Eddar is the cafe-type place in the lobby area. There’s also the skyview bar at the top. At Sahn Eddar there are some Arabian musicians in the morning, some Russian classical musicians in the afternoon and then us in the evening. At the skyview bar there is a classical pianist in the afternoon and another piano/vocal duo in the evening. All the other musicians are pretty good, in this hotel and the other ones and they’re all nice people too. The Russians are a bit… Russian, but they can’t help that. I thought I was wrong about them when the piano player turned out to be OK, but then it turned out he was really from Ukraine.  Either way, I’ve got my eye on those sneaky Russians, not to mention the thieving Gypsies!

OK.

I’m waiting for a clear day to take some photos from the top of the skyview bar. There was a clear day when I first arrived and I didn’t realise it would be such a rarity. I think it’s the sand. Anyway, I took a photo from the driveway part of Burj Al Arab looking across to the central part of Dubai where the Burj Dubai is. You can kinda see it towering over the world. It was easier to see because the sunset was reflecting off it, that’s why I took the photo. The Beach is the one outside Jumeirah Beach Hotel. To answer Robin’s question, or rather, demand: I do plan to go to the Burj Dubai soon. It’s not actually open till next year but apparently the fountains are awesome (Burj Al Arab has some pretty wicked fountains of its own). Fountains don’t really do it for me anyway, but I do plan to head there and just stare in awe from it’s base.

Speaking of staring in awe, there are a lot of stairs here if you decide to take them. I’m on the 22nd floor, but each floor is kinda like two storied, but then you have to climb four flights of stairs to get to the next level or something. So it works out to be a lot of stairs. Anyway, I like to stare down between them into the infinite abyss. It was hard to take a photo of it but here’s a couple to show you what I mean:

I really can’t be bother putting too much effort into these blogs so apologies for using the same adjectives and any other grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, etc. This is kind-of a blanket disclaimer for every blog and anything I’ll ever do ever.

Dubai – Part 1

•September 30, 2009 • 8 Comments

OK, as I’ve said to some people, in some ways I have a lot to talk about because I’m in a new country and all that, but in others I feel like I don’t have much to say because I haven’t done a whole lot.

This is going to be a bit of a shambles and out-of-order but I’ll try to give y’all the gist. Basically what I’m doing is a 6 week contract playing every night in one of the restaurants inside the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai. I’m playing with a singer called Galina who I know from WAAPA. We get provided with accommodation, food, access to hotel facilities as well as getting good pay for the actual gig, so it’s a pretty sweet deal.

So I flew Singapore Airlines to Singapore (5 hours), had a couple of hours stopover then flew to Dubai (7 hours). The first stint to Singapore I watched a couple of movies (Fast and Furious 4 and X Men Origins: Wolverine). They were both good. Jumanji was also on offer, but no Twister. The second leg to Dubai I just dozed. When I got into Dubai I managed to sync up with the time OK, there’s only six hours difference though.

At the moment I’m not actually staying in the hotel, I’m staying in a compound just outside it, across the street. It’s a bit like an up-market ECU Student Village, without the riff-raff, crossed with Tatooine (although the photo I took of it happens to have the only bit of greenery in sight, although you can see the Burj Al Arab in the background). I don’t mind it though, it’s slightly inconvenient having to ‘travel’ to the hotel to eat and play but it’s only about 600m. The compound is full of other musicians that play in the same hotel as me or other hotels. There’s also a bunch of students because there is a hospitality training thing here where the students work in the hotels. We’re going to be moving into the hotel in a few days though, but into one of the areas that are reserved for bodyguards or assistants. Not a suite, because they’re reserved for the people who fork out at least $3000 or something a night 😮

There are three hotels near here. The Madinat, which is really a complex with as two hotels in it as well as a whole bunch of other shops. It’s supposed to be in the style of some old Arabian palace kind of thing. The Burj Al Arab, where I am working. One more: Jumeirah Beach Hotel. They’re all really close by and all part of the Jumeirah group of hotels in the Jumeirah suburb of Dubai.

The Burj Al Arab:


I have photos of the other two, but that’ll have to wait until the next blog due  to technology.

OK, now that that’s out of the road I’ll tell you a bit about the Burj Al Arab. It’s supposed to be ‘most luxurious hotel in the world’ and ‘the world’s only 7 star hotel’. It is fairly decadent, but really it’s about the same as any 5 star hotel. It gets the extra bit because most of the things there are either brand name things or specially imported exclusive for the hotel. The sheets are Versace, the coffee is specially imported from Italy exclusively for Burj Al Arab, etc. There are also not many guests, capacity-wise, and a lot of staff so you get looked after properly as well as having privacy. Whatever.

It’s a bit weird though with it being empty. There are more trainers in the gym than people using it and they’re bored out of their minds. Quite often I’m the only person there, the most there has ever been has been four. I don’t mind though because it means I get one-on-one personal training whenever the hell I want. Been to the swimming pool a few times. No-one else around. Whatever.

The first weekend when I got in we went to Galina’s house in Al Ain which is about an hour and a half from Dubai. I watched the Geelong vs Collingwood game with Galina’s husband, Drew, who is also a mad cats fan. Also watched the granny there the following week. Cat Attack. Their house is supposed to be just a standard middle-class house but we would consider it a mansion. Everything’s big. Big bedrooms, monster living rooms, big kitchen, etc. But I suppose they need to make space for a typical Arab’s husband and his three wives and brood. Whatever.

The cars here are crazy. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, you name it. As well as luxury Rolls Royces worth about 700k each. Last night some Sheikh turned up in some obscure Dutch-made futuristic sports car with a million. Nutters.

This is proper desert. Like Disney’s Aladdin’s desert. Sand dunes. There are seven different types of sand in the UAE that make up the seven Emirates of the UAE. The sand around Dubai is fairly light yellow. Normal sand. The sand around Al Ain is very red. There’s a boring fact for you all.

I’ll leave you with a few shots of the hotel and the place where Galina and I perform. As I said earlier, I’m not really sure what to say so if you have any questions or requests for photos go ahead and I’ll bung ’em into the next blog.

The photos of the restaurant is the restaurant I get to eat at. It’s supposed to be like the ‘casual pool-side cafe’. It’s just your typical hotel buffet kind of thing. Good stuff though. I also put up a couple of photos of amusing signs I found in front of a couple of houses.

Funny story

•August 25, 2009 • 10 Comments

Well it’s not really even funny, certainly wasn’t at the time, but in retrospect I find it amusing.

Yesterday (Monday) I was quite ill. Sunday I had a bit of a stomachache but nothing to write home about. I woke up in the middle of the night with a monstrous headache and although I forced some drugs down it was stll lurking in the morning. So the combination of stomach/head lead me to feel a bit unwell. I thought it’d get better though so I still went to teaching. I got through the first few students no worries but during my last student of the morning I was ready to bail, so I did. I went home and had a little sleepy. The only thing was I had to accompany someone at an Eisteddford. We’d been practicing this piece for weeks, etc. so I couldn’t really bail on it. I woke up and drove there, feeling pretty sorry for myself. Went in, etc. etc. Was up on stage tuning up and thought, ‘I don’t think I can get through this piece without throwing up all over the keys.’ So I quickly ran outside, just made it out the door and vomited in the bushes. Came back in and they were like, ‘do you want to do it a bit later in the program?’ But you know how you feel good after a munt? That’s how I was feeling! So I was like, ‘let’s do it! Yeah!’ So we did. Then I went home and back to bed. Funny, eh? Hmm…..

Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, I moved house recently. Well, it’s more like moving bedroom, not really the whole house. But the point of my story is I hired a moving van to aid me in shifting my stuff. I usually just hire a trailer and do it like that but my new car doesn’t have a towbar.

I think I’ll rewind a bit. So as I mentioned in my previous post, I killed Rita. Here is me and her on our last day together:

Here is my new car. It doesn’t have a towbar, because it’s just a small little fun-size violet crumble:

Incidentally, would someone be able to show this picture of my new car to Matt Kenneally and ask him what colour it is? Thanks.

So I decided to hire a moving van from Thrifty which didn’t cost that much and was supposed to make life a lot easier and it DID… So that was good.

As I was driving to pick up the van it was ‘peak-hour traffic’. Whenever I say ‘peak-hour’ or ‘traffic’ in relation to Perth it’s always in inverted commas. These fools don’t know how good they have it. But the point is there was a few more cars than usual on the road. So I was getting cut off and bullied a bit. I got to the depot. The maximum size vehicle you can drive on a normal license is three tonne. The truck I hired was three tonne. This is said truck:

(click pic for link to larger version)

Definitely big enough to get the job done and boy did I feel like a king on the road on the way back. Get outta my way you yuppy Mum in your 4 wheel drive or I’ll squash you and all your kids! Mu ha ha ha ha! Nah it wasn’t evil. I was just whooping with joy.

Talk to yous all later, eh?

Far out…

•August 23, 2009 • 2 Comments

It has been awhile since I did a blog. I was gonna let it die (sound familiar?). Some of you may have even considered it dead already and fair enough I say. I thought about doing a new blog, but then I thought, ‘what’s the point?’

I was bored though and hadn’t even checked the other blogs in awhile. So I just did (hence the influx of steaming-fresh comments). Then I thought I’d give mine a bit of a facelift. There’s an hour.

But as some of you may know, I’m bailing on Australia in a month or so for awhile so there’ll be plenty to blog about there. I promise… I do.

Just flicking over the last few blogs I did though. As for my car Rita, she died. I killed her. Smashed her. Dead. I have a new one now which, quite frankly, I hate a little more each day. But it was a good deal and it goes.

I moved into a different place. It’s pretty good…

So my plan thus fur is to make some cash doing these lucrative contract(s) I’m about to embark on. See how long I can keep it up and retain some portion of soul. Then move to the country somewhere (WA, Vic, whatever) and restore old furniture and play piano by myself, for myself. Life will be sweet!

Bye.

The Peace of Wild Things

•April 18, 2009 • 12 Comments

I came across this poem recently which I quite like and identified with, so I thought I’d share it with y’all.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry