Jul 31, 2006

Three days

Woke up around 5 this morning with jet lag. Finished reading Allende's Zorro, which was a fun swashbuckling read for the plane ride back to the states. Today I drove to Tempe and first picked up the mail, stopped for a bagel at Einsteins to sort through it and junk most of it, went to DMV and got a new drivers licence- finally I have a licence which looks real. Ran by the bank and deposited my last paycheck from DWL. Yesterday I went by the storage unit, got a "new" wallet and the inflatable matress for Sally for her relatives when they visit.

Man, hitting the wall right now. 9:30. Trying to stay up for awhile longer, although BA time is 2 hours forwards anyway. The laptop is still flakey, and I think I'm going to have to live with it for now. I took it in to Best Buy and they told me they'd have to ship it out and charge me a base of $250 for a diagnostic on it. I dont have time for all this shipping around nonsense. I'll take it down to Buenos Aires and hope the ship holds togather. Got an email from my prof down in BA. He said it was freezing down there the other day. Time to lose the tee shirts and shorts.

Jul 30, 2006

mostly here

Great flight from Dubai to New York. I got a middle seat, but it was fine because I got the first row of coach by the bulkhead, which meant I had about 3 feet of legroom. I used the magazine rack on the bulkhead as a footrest, put my seat back, and actually got about six-seven hours of sleep on the flight, which was great. Sat next to a young woman who had been taking Arabic in Beiruit as part of a foreign language program, which was discontinued when the Israelis attacked the airport. She had family in the middle east, so she decided to take a scenic route evacuating- the first refugee tourist I've met.

Good food as usual, I watched V for Vendetta and the Pink Panther on the way back. Pink Panther was pretty dumb but there were a few absolutely hysterical scenes. We waited on the ground for about half an hour in New York, which did not do good things for my timetable. When I deplaned, I had less than 90 minutes before my flight to Phoenix left. They called my name on the plane overhead and had a Emirates rep escort me to the front of the immigration line, then he waited as I got my luggage and took it through customs. Finally he took my bags and put them back on the conveyer belt for me, although it would have saved me some hassle later to have hauled them to the other terminal myself.

I made it to the ticket counter for AmericaWest which was severely understaffed. Maybe its just New York, but when one of the other passengers on that Dubai flight going to Phoenix tried to explain that the plane had been late coming in and more people were coming, the agent's response had been "well, they need to be here", totally unsympathetic and uncaring. Luckly security line was short. I walked to my gate and they had already begun boarding, so as mom predicted, I had just enough time to make my connection.

Emirates Airlines has ruined me for domestic air travel. Looking at the patchwork of smaller plane company logos detailed on my USAirways (but an AmWest flight) I began to wonder if the plane was a patchwork too. My seat was way in the back against the window, and had much less legroom. While the plane staff were much more colloquial and informal than the Emirates, I still passed on thier $5 sandwich cart. The movie on the flight was something I didnt want to see, played on a cieling mounted screen smaller than my seatback screen on Emirates, and they charged $5 for headphones. So I read my book instead. Even though it was only a 5 hour flight, it still felt longer than the transatlantic flight.

Landed in Phoenix a little earlier than expected. My luggage didn't. I waited at the carosel until all the bags were out then went to the baggage office and filed the report with those guys. I knew exactly how this dance worked, having watched Dad do it many times before.

Sally, Jonathan, and the whole family met me at the airport and took me back to their place where they are putting me up for the few days I'm back here. Jet lag not too bad. I did pass out around three or four oclock for a few hours, but that may have been just operational fatigue. Stayed up till about 10 last night and woke up at a reasonable time. Strange dreams involving travel. Today its time to get started. Long list of things to take care of. I just called the luggage people, and they've found my bag. They said to call back in a few hours to get the rest of the info on it.

The weather down here is unsually nice. Only 90 degrees for a high yesterday, with relatively low humidity and lots of cloud cover. It's a welcome respite from the misery of Abu Dhabi.

Jul 28, 2006

Strangeness

My computer wouldn't wake up in New York when I first landed there two weeks ago. It stubbornly refused to even turn on despite all my attempts and actions over my time here. Tonight, giving up all hope, I even called it in on the insurance to claim it. Then, at my gate, going through the final security, the security guy told me to turn it on. I began to explain that it was broken, pushing the on button as I did so, and it turned on. He waved me by, and I staggered to a seat, unbelieving. It was as Christ had commanded the lame man to walk. There is free wifi here, so I'm checking email and cruising along. I still can't believe this thing is working. Its just too wierd.

Said goodbye to mom and dad tonight, I hope they made it home to Abu Dhabi safely. It's a long drive and they dropped me at 11 PM. It's about 1 AM here. I have a long long day of travel ahead of me. I just want to go to bed. Great great great about my laptop. I just have to hope she survives the trip home. What phenomenal good luck. At the check in, I got a middle seat, but one at the first row- so huge legroom, plus, they tagged it so it can go straight on to Phoenix, just for me to place it on a conveyer right after customs, which will save me some time and energy.

Jul 27, 2006

Tea at the Burj Al-Arab Dubai

It's been really busy around here.
The other day I went on a desert safari in the "Empty Quarter Desert" which is a sand dune covered wasteland extending up into Saudi Arabia. Tay came with me. We were picked up in a SUV with two other couples and driven an hour into the desert, where we did four wheeling up, down, and sideways across the massive dunes. Some of these dunes were bigger than A mountain in Tempe. That was pretty fun, better than the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Then there was the obligitory camel photo-op, the camel ride around in the little circle, etc. They served us dinner in this tiny encampment. Taylor said the last time there were 30 tourists in the group. There were 6 of us total this time, so it was definately a more intimate engament. Drinks, then dinner of chicken and beef kabobs. Someone must have tipped them off about american children (us) being on the trip because they also served spagetti and chicken fingers, which nobody touched. After dinner, we sat around smoking shesha, which was a new experiance for me.

The next day, we got up and had a late morning before driving into Dubai. We hit the Ibn something mall first, named after the Arab explorer. Scottsdale may think it has malls, but the malls in Dubai make scottsdale malls look like convienance stores. This was a themed mall, with several different sections made to look like reigions where Islam spread with this explorer including India, China, Spain, Egypt, and Persia. This would have been really cheezy, except for the fact that it was done on a monumental scale. The domes really did soar over our heads, and the spaces between the "halls" were made out a bit like the Ceaser's Palace market in vegas, with cobblestones and a fake sky. Tons of luxury boutiques. We found a sale at Pierre Cardin and got Tay a great suit for $60, dad a bunch of linen shirts and and a suit, and also a white linen blazer. It was fun watching everyone try on clothes. After trekking through the mall for a few hours, it was time for tea at the Burj. This is the iconic tower on its own island, the tallest hotel in the world, and the only 7 star hotel. To get in, we had to stop before the gate, and give them our name on a list. This tea was set up several weeks in advance. They let us pass and we dropped the land cruiser at the vallet.

The exterior of the tower is really cool, and the architecture is really cool, fully deserving of it's iconic status. The interior design looked like a cheap vegas hotel or a sleazy cruise ship interior. Brushed gold everywhere. Fountains everywhere, tons of gaudy glitz and ornamentaiton. It was retched. Sequins and feathers so to speak. Really a dissapointment, and it clashed especailly hard with the phenomenal, cool, fluid, and restrained architecture. The tea itself was also a dissapointment. Monstorously expensive, with poor service, and crappy food. When mom paid the money for the tea service, they didnt even include the tea. However, we got our money's worth wandering around the hotel, up to the really cool cantilevered sky bar for a view of the hazy sunset. They used to charge $100 just to come in and look around. They dont even offer that anymore. You have to deal with thier crappy expensive tea. I wouldn't trade it for anything though, because I had a great two hours chatting with my family in a world famous icon of architecture. Anyway, after tea, we decided we hadn't had our fill of malls yet so we decided to go on to the Mall of the Emirates. This is another amazing, huge luxury mall only a few miles from the other one. This mall had a Denhams, a Carrefour, and an indoor ski moutain with actual snow and a chairlift. The upper floor also had a section devoted to traditional Arab goods, carpets, silks, fabrics, perfumes, robes, and clothes. We wandered around here until 9, when it was still packed. Wednesday is the friday night here, as thursday and friday are the Islamic weekend days.

The UAE is such a strange and interesting place- everyone is here. Brits, Aussies, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, Russians, Europeans, and Philippinos, all wearing the usual day to day styles of thier own country, mixed in with the white and black robes of the UAE nationals.

Today I took it easier. Went with Tay to a beach/fitness club at one of the major hotels. Normally this costs $25 per person, per day, but we got a free week membership. The beach was a mudslide into water from the gulf which was body temperature. The pool was cooler and more refreshing so we ung out there for a bit before laying out for a tan. Taxi ride back home. Taxis here cost about $1.50 to get anywhere in the city. It's great. The only problem is the fact that theres no street adresses. After I got home, I went out again with mom souvenier hunting. Found a few places that were cool, very inexpensive, lots of interesting stuff.

I fly home tomorrow night, or rather, very early in the morning the day after tomorrow. 2 am flight out of Dubai, not looking forward to it.

Jul 25, 2006

Sharks in Paradise

I'm back in Abu Dhabi in the middle of my parents settling into the apartment. I'm actually posting this from an internet cafe across the street from the apartment. The Maldives resort was amazing. Gorgeous location, the small island totally owned by the resort. The service I thought was superb, although Taylor, the jaded world traveler, was not as impressed as I was. This is the kind of service I had: I decide to sit out on the wooden deck / bar area overlooking the lagoon. As soon as I walked out, a staff person came out and wiped some rain off my chair and brought out a cushion. Then he took my drink order, a soda with lime. They brought out a tray with a glass with fresh lime juice and a small bottle of soda water. The bottle of water had been opened, but just enough to save me the trouble of breaking the seal on it. The glass was adorned with a small lime. Payment is great- just give them your room number.

The last full day we were there was pretty busy. Taylor took wakeboarding lessons, and I rode in the boat and watched him while catching some rays. We're both really tan now. In the afternoon, we chartered a speedboat out to one of the other islands and snorkled out along the reef drop off. They must have set Finding Nemo out in this part of the world oceans becuase I kept seeing the fish they used in the movie. Clownfish in Anemonies, those blue fish, starfish, and mostly fish I've no idea what they're called. Tons of fish and coral. I'm swimming next to Tay along the reef drop off and taylor suddenly makes a "mmmm!" (danger danger!) noise into his mouthpeice. I look up and see a 9' shark swimming in the opposite direction parallel to us over the drop off, maybe 15-20 feet away.

Its very strange, I was totally calm about the whole thing, but just very cautious. Not a trace of panic at all. I swam slowly over to dad, and pantomimed to him I - see - shark using the steve martin one handed shark symbol. Dad makes a size with his hands about 2 feet apart. I shake my head and throw my arms wide open. Dad's eyes pop. He goes off to get mom's attention and we all swim a little closer in to the reef and the shore away from the drop off. Off the reef, we see a group of stingrays glide through the water and up the side of the reef. A 4' shark swims with them. Dad said he saw another 6 foot shark swimming parallel to him there too. So we headed in and ended our snorkling a little early. Speedboated back to the island. I did some more snorkling with dad in our little lagoon and a little beyond the waterbreak. Our island was surprisingly diverse too, with a stingray of our own, zebrafish, coral, and tiny fish which clean the others and hide in the coral. We swam a little farther out to the drop out and dad saw another shark, even bigger than the one we saw at the other island, so we hugged the waterbreak and then I went in and puttered around the lagoon for awhile. Our last dinner on the island was the seafood grill out on the beach.

All in all, it was a really relaxing place. The last few days I pretty much wore my bathing suit everywhere and went barefoot. Drank my weight in lime sodas.

Now I'm back in Abu Dhabi and going on the desert safari with Tay tonight. Dubai tomorrow. More later.

Jul 22, 2006

Jul 21, 2006

whoa

I saw a manta ray today diving, it glided within 1o feet of me. These things are huge and totally alien. What an experiance.

Maldives

I'm sitting on the front porch of my parent's casita, not 20' away from the white sand beach. We arrived here yesterday on a 3 AM flight out of Dubai, and then took a speedboat out to the private island owned by the resort. It's a pretty big resort, called Kurumba, and we got upgraded rooms. Each room is a separate building, and the bathroom is partially outside, so you can shower like you're in your own private garden. The water is clear and warm, but the wave action sucks, due to the rock wave breakers encircling the island close to shore. Exotic thai-inspired modern architecture. Today we went scuba diving for the first time. What an experiance! I'm marginally bathophobic, so I was a little concerned, but I really enjoyed it. It was just a discovery trip, so it was all very carefully controlled and very short dive, only about 30' deep. Still, theres nothign like looking up and seeing the surface of the water 30' above your head. A totally new experiance for me. Anyway, time for a light lunch, and then on to another deeper water dive.

Jul 17, 2006

Abu Dhabi

I left Phoenix, Arizona at 9 PM Saturday night, and I arrived in Dubai at 8 AM Monday morning. I've actually spent about 26 hours of travel. Flight direct to New York on AmericaWest, redeye, got a little sleep on that. Got into New York at 5:30 AM for a 11:30 AM flight. Picked up my bags at baggage claim, and then went over the other terminal to wait. Sat outside enjoying the cool morning and admiring Saarinen's TWA terminal while I tried to figure out why my computer wouldn't start. At 7:45, the Emirates Air ticketing counter opened and I rechecked my bags. Then I wandered downstairs, ate a slice of pizza for breakfast, and read, waiting for my flight. Really impressed with Emirates Air. The plane was smaller than a 747, an Airbus 340, but really designed for long haul travel in mind. Best in flight entertainment sysyem. About 50 movies, newer and older, and playable at any time or pausing. They also had cameras in the front and bottom of the plane, so can get a really cool view from when the plane lands. Mom and Dad met me at the airport. The heat and humidity hit me like a wave, reminded me of Singapore. Welcome to the middle east. We actually flew over Iran. I tried to look out the window when we flew over Isfahan, but it was too dusty to see clearly. Dubai is a city under construction. New towers going up everywhere, entire city sections under development. It's amazing to see. Now I'm in Abu Dhabi, and completely wiped out.

Abu Dhabi

I left Phoenix, Arizona at 9 PM

Jul 14, 2006

The Heat is On

It's baking in our apartment. The air conditioner is broken, so its 80 degrees although we have it set at 50. It's no longer funny, and just annoying when my weather bar beeps at me indicating severe heat advisories for Phoenix. Today's high is supposed to be 115.

Let's see. Wednesday I drove back from Tucson and straight to the self-storage. Got my storage unit set up and went home to start packing. All day Wednesday did that. Yesterday was a crazy day too. In the morning, I did a really stupid thing. I thought that to legally sell it, I had to be the owner of the car. So I signed my name to the back of the title above mom's notarized signature. This opened up a whole new world of problems for me. At the DMV when I applied for a duplicate title to write the new owner's name in, they told me that 1) I needed an original lein release and 2) I had to pay $90 in liscencing and registration fees.

I left very annoyed and concerned because the orignal lein release is somewhere in storage in some place. So, called parents up, and they gave me some advice, so I called up the Deer Valley Credit Union, where they had lien originally. They were actually a really big help. The woman I talked to still had the lein release on file, and printed out a new copy for me, and also notarized it. So all that was was having to drive up to north Phoenix to pick it up. Once I got it, I took it back to the DMV and then another person I dealt with said that since I was selling it, all it was $4 since I didnt need to register it. She also notarized the back, and I signed, so it was ready to be picked up and signed for as soon as my buyers came. She also asked me how much I wanted for it. When I told her, she was really shocked that it was so cheap. I told her that it needed a lot of work.

They came around 3 and signed everything, and handed over the money. I got my CD's out of the car, and they drove off to the DMV. Havn't heard from them so I guess everything's fine. I stilll need to indiciate in writing that I want to transfer the warrenty. Just more to add to the list. I went for a swim. The water was lukewarm. Sally and Jonathan and Sarah and Gabriel came a little while afterwards and they dropped off the Subaru, so I did a few more loads that evening before Aldo and I went out for a Pizza at Papa Johns. I really love pizza. Especailly thiers, covered with that garlic butter sauce. We ate an entire large pizza. It was great. Afterwards, dropped some more stuff off with Nickee, went home, and crashed on my inflatable matress.

She came over again this morning to help me pack up, and she did most of the kitchen. We went to IHOP for breakfast. Right now I'm 95% packed up and stealing bandwidth from the guy upstairs because I've canceled our cable and internet. Still working my list. It's so hot. Time for grocery store and bank.

Jul 12, 2006

So Much for a Visa

When we first convened before school was out, we were given an absurd list of paperwork requirements to fill out, notarize, translate, and re-notarized. Later that summer, people made phone calls and it was established that that list of requirements was for a full year, and as we would be there for only six months, we had a much more reasonable list of things to fill out and give to the consulate. BUT there is a catch- to be able to apply for this thing, the schools had to send some paperwork directly to the consulates. Last week was the first time I got confirmation from the trip coordinator that they'd sent our names to our respective consulates. So I figure, you know, i've got all the docs, we can do this thurs-friday. But we have no idea how long the turn around time is. Do we come back in ten days? Do they give it to us on the spot? No clue. The consulate only answers thier phone between 2-4 PM, and not on mondays. I tried them three times yesterday with no luck. Aldo managed to get through. They only had one person from ASU on thier list. Aldo speaks spanish too so I dont think it was a communication error either. The visa woman told him it would be a waste of time to drive down as they dont have anyone else on that list. I know that at least five or six other people should be going to the LA consulate for their visas.

So. No trip to LA for us, who are leaving Saturday. It's so completely frustrating. I really hate consulates. It's almost as though their only purpose is to keep people out.

Yesterday was my last day of work. One of my bosses called me over to his desk the day before, and said that he'd been very pleased with the work I was doing, and offered me the option of coming back to work during the school year to pick up a few hours each week. The other guy I work with is also an ASU architecture guy who comes in just on fridays during the semester. He also said that most people who accept the offer and continue to keep student hours are usually rolled right over and offered a position in the company. My plan right now is to finish a semester in Argentina and another at ASU, work for them for a year, and then go on to grad school.

Moving out status report: the woman agreed to the terms and accepted my price for the van. I need to let her know how the process of selling works officially. I also need to call her today and let her know I need to keep the van until thursday morning at least because I still need to move my big items out. Sally and Jonathan have been saints, offering me the use of thier Subaru after I sell the van, and putting me up after I leave the apartment. I think I'm going to need a bigger unit than a 5x10, what with the minifridge I forgot i had, my ikea desk, my dining table and chairs, the two chinese bookshelves, and all the boxes of stuff. Yeeesh time is roaring by.

Jul 9, 2006

Four families, one family




Last night, over dinner at Red Lobster, I realized that I was eating with three other Perkins's, one from each of the sons of Grandpa, and his wife. Yesterday we got up late, had a hot breakfast at the hotel, and then went to Scottsdale Fashion Square. I picked up a few shirts, and then we had lunch at Kona Grill. Afterwards, we drove up to the Cine Capri and picked up advance tickets for Pirates of the Caribbean 2. We got there around 1:30, and they only had seats for the 9:50 PM showing. So we got those and then went back to the hotel to relax and watch TV. Jordan, Josh, and I shared a room. Jordan got a fold out couch and Josh and I each got a queen. Jordan is huge, about as tall as I am and still growing at 14 years old. Seems very mature for his age, although Josh and I kept weirding him out. Josh is doing well too, still active in the national guard and showing me some great pictures of him in full combat attire and camo with guns. His unit may be called up soon for duty. The movie was good, but not as much fun as the first one, and we saw it on the really big screen. They actually had people from the theater / disney? dress up as principal characters and mingle with the huge crowd. Never seen such a big line at the theaters. Anyway, Friday night, Josh brought in what I thought was just a little toy guitar with a few bright buttons. It's actually a plug in thing for the PS2, for a game called Guitar Hero, where you hold one or more of 5 buttons on the fret and stum when the screen shows you when to hit the note. Think of Dance Dance Revolution with Hendrix and a guitar instead of a dance floor. Its actually pretty fun and addicting. Josh is really good at it. They left this morning for the grand canyon. I'd have gone with them but I have to be at work tomorrow morning, and I still have many things to get done today. The world cup final is also playing right now, great game so far.

Jul 8, 2006

Scottsdale Vacation

Yesterday Jordan, Josh, and Grandma Perkins drove to pick me up at my apartment and I drove them up to scottsdale. More later. Time for dinner and a movie with them.

Jul 6, 2006

Jul 4, 2006

4th of July Videocast

I dreamt of an angel riding a elephant riding through a field of grass towards me. I leaned out of the car and shouted out "Gabriel!" It too bad I already packed my dream dictionary. Anyway, enjoy the video.

Jul 2, 2006

Literature Bender

It's been a busy weekend of packing and moving things. I sold the couch and dad's old low bookcase to Nickee, and helped her move everything over there. She'll be holding onto my bigscreen TV while I'm gone. The apartment looks bigger, and more airy with the main room unbroken by the couch. It's kind of peaceful. I still have to pack up the kitchen, which will be a ton of boxes in and of themselves. Most of my stuff is ready to go into storage, although I am still debating whether i can find a friend who can store my printers and electronics or if I'll need to find a storage place which is air-conditioned.

I was dissapointed I wasn't able to get a flight that went through london. Chase will be there for his internship, as well will be two of my friends from Beijing. The price difference would have been $500, and it would have meant that I would have to cut more time off from my family.

It's hotter here than it feels. I think my internal temp is just higher than normal. It's 75 in the apartment and I'm just wearing shorts and still sweating. I've donated half of all my books to the VNSA booksale, but I'm still left with a full bookcase worth I can't part with. Lately I've been reading short fiction by William Gibson. The stories he writes are hardcare cyberpunk. It's like a drug- one starts with softer fiction, maybe a little Jules Verne, move on to Ender's Game, get a little more intense, until the need has been instilled, your brain actually rewired with all that fiction to catch the full impact of the story, every description absorbed and expanded into the complete picture. When I get into a book, I stop seeing words and sentances. I see what's actually happening. It's beyond a translation of a picture, because each word can be variously interpreted and constructed and construed based on all varying levels of context. Reading is like a experiancing someone else's dream.

I'm a pretty old addict too, so my speed is pretty high. If I find a book I can really sink my teeth into, and if its addictive enough, I can read the whole thing straight through in a single sitting in literary benders. I read The Alchemist in five hours. All the Harry Potter books I finished in under a day apeice. Gibson's stories are better to read more slowly. The language is so dense and so rich I have to slow down to savor it. Same for Bourges.

Which has more words, English or Spanish?

Jul 1, 2006

ScottsdAliens

It's very surreal, spending four years in Scottsdale in high school, coming down to Tempe, for a few years, and going back up to Scottsdale again. It really gives me a chance to see Scottsdale from an outsider's eye. It's not exactly attractive. Last night while Aldo was out on a date, Ivonik and I went up to Scottsdale Fashion Square for a clearance sale at Express Men. I picked up a few shirts. Everyone at the mall was tanned, all the girls wore very short skirts and shorts, and everyone was slurping down frappuchinos. That is Scottsdale to me. We hit Kona Grill for sushi- decent, but not the best I've ever had. Then we came back to Tempe for Four Peak's happy hour and had a drink over there.

Today I listed the van at cars.com and registered for an email at alecperk@gmail.com for when I'm traveling abroad. Today I also need to drop some stuff at Goodwill, talk with the storage people and begin packing my stuff.

I can't compete with mom in Abu Dhabi, but even when its over a hundred here, it doesn't feel any better.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...