Dec 25, 2007

Parking

Well, its my last day in the Emirates, apart from the three hours I'll be at the Dubai airport. UAE really has an air of un-reality to it, a modern day Casablanca. Who really understands it? Most Americans fear it, when I tell people I'm flying to Abu Dhabi, the first question is: where is it? and the second: oh, isn't that dangerous? It helps to explain why there are so many British here compared to Americans, apart from the colonization aspect. 

There's a lot of problems here to be sure: the urban planning situation in regard to cars is verging on catastrophic. In Abu Dhabi, there is a critical shortage of parking spaces, so people line their cars up and park them single file in the middle of the road, creating two narrow one way streets on either side. Many double-park. One of the sources of this problem was the requirement that only buildings above 20 floors had to have a parking garage. There doesn't seem to be ANY minimum parking requirements. So, investors and developers only built  buildings right to 20 floors to skimp out on the expense of a parking garage. It's a huge problem, that I've seen get noticably worse since I was here a year ago. It's only going to get worse as well, with the population still exploding, and more people buying cars. The only real solution is to either demolish some of the old buildings to build huge parking garages, or to limit street access to zones like in Singapore. 

Dec 22, 2007

How not to travel

Thursday, I woke up at 5 AM and took Saori to the airport at 6 AM. I drove back, finished preparing everything for the time I'd be gone, scooped suki's litter box, and finished packing. I left the apartment around 9, and walked to central avenue. I enjoy the slow buildup of a trip. The voyage of a few thousand miles starting with a block and a half of steps. On central, I caught a city bus and rode straight to the airport for a buck twenty-five.

I breezed through ticketing since US Airways had a special counter just for international flights. They checked my bags to my surprise and pleasure straight through to Dubai. Or so it would have seemed. Anyway, I had a lot of time to kill since my flight was still several hours away, and I'd budgeted a 200% safety factor around the valley metro bus service. So I wandered around inside the terminal, drank starbucks, perused the stores (every airport now is so retail driven it really is a shopping mall that happens to have a plane terminal). 

In the mini-borders, I picked up a copy of Pullman's book, The Golden Compass, which apparently is a very controversial book, and a more controversial movie. Typically, this means that the outraged parties have not read  or seen either one of them. It was the same case with Harry Potter. Bill Pullman's series, from what I have heard in the media, is supposed to be an atheism-championing condemnation of Catholicism and any kind of dogmatized religion. I finished the book before I left england, and I had no phenomenal revelations concerning the nature of the cosmos. What does it say about the faith of a person, or a shared faith, if all the members of the faith are scared of the contents of a novel clearly marked "FIC: YOUNG ADULT FANTASY." Anyway, as a novel the plot was pretty slow, and I am really getting tired of the stories about the child who doesn't think they are important but then later realizes that the entire world depends on his or her actions. 

Anyway, after I read the book, I cleared security and walked around the concourse connector bridges looking at structure and details before I settled down at my gate to wait. The flight to Philidelphia was oversold. The gate ticket agents were going crazy, and the plane crew were going crazy. The flight was late leaving, but we touched down in Philidelphia on time, about five hours later. I immediately disliked the Phillidelphia airport, although I couldn't explain why. Maybe east coast shock. Arizona is such a white and hispanic city, it was startling to see so many black people. I got text from Saori that she'd missed the flight to Tokyo, so that worried me some, but we were immediately boarding for Mancheter, so I bought a muffin and a liter of water and hurried to join the queue of brits. 

The flight to Manchester was six or seven hours long. I got a few hours of sleep on the flight. Sat next to a young woman from Manchester who was not at all happy to be on the plane. The in flight movie was "Nancy Drew", a film that looked so predictable and tame that I would have preferred static. I declined to pay US airways for the use of their $5 headsets to enjoy the soundtrack. 

Coming into Manchester, we were passing over fields of fluffy white clouds. It wasn't until I saw a radio tower rising above them I realized it was a layer of fog on the ground. I liked Manchester more than Heathrow as an airport. It was smaller for one thing, maybe the size of sky harbor in Phoenix, except not so spread out. I went ahead and cleared immigration as a person in transit, since I had four hours to kill. I stomped around outside in the freezing air and frost covered parking lot, enjoying the fresh freezing air on my airplane skin. Finally, I wandered back inside and bought a croissant and a latte at an airport cafe. I always forget how good Europeans are with pastries. This butter croissant was the best bread I'd had since Buenos Aires. Passing through security, they had no less than TEN baggers per xray machine-table, standing side by side, and jostling each other. Not sure why they needed ten, maybe they thought more eyes wouldn't so easily miss something.

The flight to Abu Dhabi was supposed to board at 12:40 and depart at 1:30. 1:30 was changed to 1:40, and then after we all boarded at 1:30 they told us we had to wait for another 30 passengers who hadn't showed up. An hour later they told us they were still waiting for the last three. Then there was paperwork. So we left Manchester about 90 minutes of sitting on the plane. I hate waiting. I suspect that it was a group of people who think they deserve preferiential treatment and think they own the world. My convictions were strengthened by the sign they displayed when the plane landed stating that the Airlines would not wait for people. Excluding Them, of course.

The flight itself was about seven hours long. I was lucky to have an empty middle seat beside me. Hot damp towels when we boarded, salmon and lamb for dinner, about 300 channels of movies and tv and music, I have a hard time coming up with a better airline for flying experience. And no, they didn't try to make you pay for headsets, or force you to watch some inane family film. I watched 1408, and then Muppet Treasure Island. Got some sleep in there. Not much, maybe an hour or so total. 

Landed in Dubai two hours late. Flying in was really cool since Dubai at night is lit like something out of Blade Runner. Most unbelievalbe of course was the Burj Dubai, lit with blue white light on all its floors, reaching up far beyond the towers which surrounded it, like some kind of alien rocket, gracefully vertically landed on earth.

The airport in Dubai was packed. Night is a bad time to come in since that's when all the European flights arrive. It was also bad since all the pilgrims from the Hajj were returning as well. The arrival hall for immigration was full. This room was approximately the size of a football field, and it was standing room only. I'm talking an occupancy of about 2 square feet per person. Sandwiched between a group of British and French, and a Chinese woman behind me, the warm, humid air of worried humanity, conversation in a hundred languages, and general exhaustion gave me an impression of what Ellis Island must have been like during the early part of the 2oth century. It took me an hour and a half to cross this floor. Dad finally got through to me, so at least I was able to let him know the situation. He'd been waiting since around midnight. 

Immigration was no problem. Check my passport. Where was I staying? Just visiting? Ok, thank you. Shokram.

Baggage was another ordeal I had braced myself for. Even though the bagged was supposed to be checked all the way to Dubai, with three city changes and two carriers, I had had mentally prepared myself for the possibility that one or both of my bags wouldn't make it. 

My duffle was waiting for me patiently. My big roller bag was nowhere to be found. If you, by chance, have taken it by mistake, please let me know. If you have deliberately stolen it, please let me know too. I searched the entire floor and all the belts. My flight had landed about two hours before, so I figured its safe to say that the plane had probably finished unloading. Mom called a few times to check up on me since I was MIA at 4 hours after my plane was supposed to have landed. I went to baggage services and waited for my turn with an agent. A giant muslim African sat down heavily in the seat beside me. I took in his white robes, white hat, 6'-6" build, and dark skin, and realized that everything else aside, our pasts, our futures, and our cultures, we were still linked: we had both had our bags lost by the airlines. It made us connected. Me, him, the old British tourist with his head dropped in his hands in hopeless frustration, the two upbeat Indians, we were all as one. 

Keep in mind that at that point, I'd been traveling for about 34 hours straight on about 3 hours of sleep. Anyway, the bag woman took my information, promised to start a search for it, and gave me some paperwork and told me to call back in a day to see if they'd found it. I left them dad's mobile number and hefted by duffle past customs, out the door, in the cool humidity of Dubai and into the arms of dad, who was still waiting outside. It was 4:30 AM. 

We drove back to Abu Dhabi, and I got to the apartment around six AM. I grabbed a warm shower and passed out in bed. 


Dec 18, 2007

What's on your tree?

Saori and I shared a little Christmas ahead of schedule tonight, since we'd be scrambling around like crazy tomorrow since we're both leaving Thursday.

I love my Christmas tree. Among the small colored glass balls and candy canes, we have some personal and unusual ornaments adorning our tiny charlie brown tree.

  • A Pinocchio Pencil from Italy
  • A tiny scale model silver Toyota Prius, identical to mine
  • Woven finger puppets of an Inca and a goat, which sits on top of the tree
  • Tiny Japanese ceramic boar charm
  • A titanium spork
  • Carved camel from Abu Dhabi
  • Gold cloisonné ornament from China
  • plastic cockroach
  • DMHS wolves keychain
  • handmade stained glass christmas tree
  • Russian doll trimmed with mink
  • Winnie the Pooh from a Japanese claw machine
  • Plastic bell from my dad's family's christmas tree
  • New Orleans Harlequin
It's definately not a decorative tree.

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...