Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby :)

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder

But every waking moment I wonder and I ponder

My thoughts echo the feelings of my heart

The wretched bitterness from us being apart

On the same day last year, a promise was made

That this time, surely I’ll be around to celebrate

To be together to cherish this special day of yours

Instead of sending flowers from an online store

But alas, here I am missing another opportunity

I hope to make it up from now till eternity

Although beside you I cannot be today

My affections and love ... you can feel I pray

To the very love of my life

Happy Birthday my darling wife

Everytime I listen to this song, it reminds me of you ...
Everytime I think of you ... my day gets a little less blue ...

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Memoir ... Life in the U.A.E. so far

Cliche' as this may sound but truly, I remembered it as if it was yesterday ... my boss called me into his room. He sat me down and gave it straight to me without beating around the bush. The company wanted to send me to the U.A.E. ... its capital, Abu Dhabi to be exact ... to construct a district cooling plant. He said the project duration is planned at 20 months but he was pretty certain that we could easily finish at 16. 20 months on paper was just playing it safe he said. I asked him if this was a request or an instruction. He just smiled. I told him I needed to consult my surgeon to check if I was physically fit to work under such environment. Four months prior, I had undergone two surgeries on my brain and spine. I was still recovering. Truth to be told, I didn't know if I wanted to go or not. Hence, I decided to let my surgeon help me decide. When I met the doc, Prof. Vicky, he asked me how I felt bout myself. I shrugged. 'Ok I guess'. But I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't anticipate for the unknown. Before I left, the doc said that in the worst case scenario, I can always hop on the next flight and come home. I couldn't argue with that.

The other fact was at that time, I just got involved with someone. For some time I pursued her but my labour wasn't fruitful. Only when I told her about my surgery that she realised what her heart had wanted all along ... and that was to be with me. She visited me almost everyday while I was warded in the hospital. Since the damaged nerve on my arm was causing me pain, she often massaged it till she doze off. I reckon that earned her major brownie points in my parents' eyes. :) During my recovery period, we got closer than ever. Life was blissful indeed. I told her about me being asked to work in Abu Dhabi. We talked about it and she felt she have no right to stop me. Logically speaking, it was a good oppurtunity for me career wise. I figured that it would give me a head start on life. A couple of weeks before I was due to depart, we planned for a getaway on a little island. As the waves lapped the shore and the sun bidding the day goodbye, I popped the question and asked her to be mine. She said yes.

On the 28th of July 2008, I boarded the plane with a heavy heart. Seven hours later, I touched down and hailed a cab to the hotel. The humidity was atrocious and for the first time in my life, my feet were literally sweating. I hated the place already. The next morning, I was greeted by one of my colleague who brought me to an Indian restaurant opposite the hotel for breakfast. The place was small and reeked of sweat and customers were packed in it like sardines. For the following 10 days, my colleague and I had all our meals there for convenience sake. Eventually, I got used to the flies hovering over my food and flicking away the roaches that were occupying my seat.

The other thing that needed getting used to was the sweltering heat. The rays were most unforgiving and blazed every inch of the city. I tried to stay indoors as much as possible but there were times where I had no choice. Once, our freelance driver left me by the highway because he needed to rush off to pick up another customer. I had to make a mad dash across the highway and hope I wouldn't end up as roadkill. Good to note that we never engaged his service after that.

There was also the time where our office was raided by Immigration officers. Our visas and work permits were in the hands of our Public Relations Officer (PRO) then, so we were hauled up to the Immigration Department and since their detention area was undergoing renovation works, we were remained in their transport vehicle ... a caged van. Funny enough, two of my female colleagues were not 'detained' despite not being able to produce the required documents. Anyway, our PRO rushed to us and helped sorted out the issue. Looking back now, it was quite an experience.

Work was slow, there was an issue with a water pipe belonging to the government which cut acrossed our construction site that prevented us to start work. It took eons for them to relocate that bloody pipe before we could do anything. When work eventually kicked off, we had to deal with unscrupulous subcontractors ... all trying to make mince meat of us given the lack of experience we have working in this region. Being the only sheep surrounded by a pack of wolves isn't a pleasant feeling. Malaysian contractors were labelled as being too soft, too trusting, too obliging and I guess we lived up to that billing initially. We learned many things the hard way over here ... but through blood, tears and sweat (literally), we're finally sprinting towards the finishing line (I hope).

Weather in the city was more forgiving than in the desert. Here, the sun scorched everything. I found it to be unbearable initially. A visit to the stuffy loo was excruciating. It's like being in a natural sauna except that the thermostat was cranked to maximum temperature all the time. Spend 5 minutes in there and we'll be drenched in our own sweat from head to toe. If you want to lose water retention, I bet there isn't a better way :p

Our clients and supervising consultants, after dealing day in and day out with them, I can confidently conclude that they are either lazy or stupid. Most of the time, they fullfill both criteria. They talk well and they present well. But shake em' up a fair bit and the phrase 'an empty tin can makes the most noise' comes to mind. Nevertheless, their incompetence isn't entirely a bad thing. There are times where it works to our advantage. We get things done easier since they know jack shit bout the actual work. I've acquired the skill to butter up people's ego real nice throughout my duration here. *Yay*

There really isn't much to do for leisure in this part of the region. Ok, so maybe there are but the option is not made available to me. I don't possess my own car here. So getting around is a real drag. Imagine walking to the bus stand under the desert sun ... NOT FUN! In addition, cost of living here is pretty high. Most of us are here to save up the money we earn. So the limited spending power also tightens the leash on our wallet. With that being said, all is not lost. Certain things are cheaper than it is back home. Vehicles here are being sold tax free ... no import duties, no road tax etc. So I see Porches here as often as I see Protons back home. I come across Bentleys on a daily basis ... you get the picture. The money I paid for my Honday City back home ... I can afford an Accord here with change to spare. I've also re-discovered my affection for Gap. Yeap, the American casual clothing retailer. The trick is to buy when its on sale. So what if it's last season's line ... a Gap T-shirt for AED29 (bout RM24) is a good bargain in my books. In M'sia, the Gap sales are a rare occurence and even then, it's crappy. Just yesterday, I was scouting around at for an Ipod docking station and was told that it's cheaper by about 30-35% compairing to prices back home ... depending on the brand and model of course *woot*

Now let's get on to my diet. Since being here two and a half years ago, I've taken more curries than I did in my entire life. The same goes for McDonalds, instant noodles, briyani and 'yong sum so' (some chinese herbal roots supposedly works well to cool the body). Overall, my food intake is appalingly unhealthy but it really isn't much of a choice. When there's only one kitchen shared by almost 16 others ... we can't afford to be fussy. The company used to hire a 'chef' to prepare our daily meals. This chef was previously working at a mamak restaurant in KL, so to him, chicken curry and mutton curry is an entirely different. To me ... curry is curry. And curry we had almost everyday. When management decided to let the chef go to cut the company's expenses, we relied a lot on instant noodles. they say beggars can't be choosers, so who am I to argue with that. Besides that, with only a part time cleaner who comes in to clean the place once a week, we share the kitchen with thousands of roaches. Nasty buggers who won the battle against every insecticide available on the market. Our request for management to hire a pest exterminator is still pending. Sighhh ...

Appliances in the villa is constantly breaking down ... especially the air-conditioners. Being in the Middle East, not having AC is akin to not having air to breathe. When the owner of the villa signed the rental agreement with us, he insisted that maintenance of the place should be borned by us. I guess we were conned again then. Funnily enough, almost each time we got a repairman to service a broken AC, another unit will give problems shortly after. I'm beginning to suspect something foul is going on but without proof, it's my word against theirs. Mind you, these repair charges comes from our own pocket and not the company's.

My colleague's and I are housed in a three storey villa. Inside, there are a few rooms on each floor. Some of us have to share rooms while others are fortunate to have their own. I had my own space until someone of higher position was hired and I had to relinquish my room cause no one wanted to share with him. Ok, so none of us could stand him cause he's no more than an bungling wanker. When his service was terminated, we said good riddance to old rubbish and I gladly moved back into my old room. I get along generally well with most of my colleagues but then again ... to see the same faces almost 24/7 was more than I could bear. Imagine seeing them the moment you wake up, during meals, during working hours, after working hours etc. ... not exactly my cup of tea. Also, to have so many people of different characters living under one roof, conflicts and difference of opinion are bound to occur. In addition, having an inconsiderate superior who thinks he's king of the world despite being out of office doesn't help. How would you like for your boss to come over to your house after working hours and still boss you around? Mostly on Fridays which is my day off, I will head to a nearby mall for a movie and then hole myself in a quaint cosy cafe for a cuppa. With soft music and high speed internet, this is the luxury escapade I permit myself to indulge in. It helps keep things in balance or I swear I will start going on a killing rampage. Haha. There's only one TV in the villa and the boss ... yea, that inconsiderate one will be occupying it most of the time. So to pass the time, I read for leisure. Soon the bookshelf at home wouldn't have enough space to accomodate my collection of books :p

What about the people here you ask? Well, we have all sorts to make this world go round. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. The local Emiratis make up the minority while expats and labourers from all over the globe poured in with the promise of a better life and a fatter pay cheque. I'm pretty certain you heard stories of how selfish and unreasonable some Emiratis can be ... especially the rich ones ... well, it's true most of em' are ridiculously wealthy. Either through inheritance or support from the government / royal family, some of these people have taken their priviledge for granted and have gone to the extend of abusing it. Take for instance, I've witnessed a local lady parking her car outside a grocery store. She honked repeatedly for the shopkeeper to come out to attend to her. After about 5 minutes of no response, she called the police who came and arrested every worker in the shop. These poor buggers were released later in the day. On another occasion, I was part of a massive queue at the local telco provider's office. We each had our number and was waiting for our turn. Two local men just waltzed in and demanded to be served immediately and their request was met. On a plane, a little boy refused to be buckled up as the plane was about to take off. His mother sitting beside him said she could do nothing as it isn't within her right to tell the little brat what to do. Only his dad (who wasn't on that flight) can do so. Beggars belief huh. I'm not saying all locals are rotten ... I'm simply implying that some of them are and it's these maggots that are tarnishing the overall reputation of their nation.

Before my surgery, I used to hit the gym almost everyday. I enjoyed working out and teaching classes in the gym's studio on a part time basis. Not only did it enabled me to avoid paying for gym membership fees, the gym pays me in return. The additional income made it possible to spend on luxuries I wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford. The experience from teaching transformed me from being an introvert into an extrovert. I enjoyed making new friends and meeting new people. I socialised and was enjoying it. Over here, gym memberships cost a bomb. Hence, I resolved to running. So everyday, I would run around my villa area to maintain in shape. Not easy to keep this up since it's getting really really reallyyy mundane. I've also missed out on many outings with my friends and had to skip weddings and birthday parties. Thank God for Facebook ... at least through it, I'm not entirely cut out from everyone I know back home :p

Now on to better things. Let's face it, the main reason most of us are willing to work here is because we're lured by the moolah. To be honest, it's not as good as some might think, but it's definitely better than what we could earn back home. It afforded me a proper wedding and a wonderful honeymoon. Not only that, I'm now the proud owner of a humble abode ... a little place for Wifey and me to call home.

So all in all, being here for the past 28 months have blessed me with some and at the same time taken some away from me. To look at it from a positive angle ... with the bad, I learned to appreciate the good. If given the choice to do it all over again ... I guess I wouldn't change a thing. I say this now since I'm almost done with this place. If all goes well, I shall bid it goodbye by year end and the thought of heading home for good ... into the arms of my wife and being in the presence of family and friends ... now that's something I've been looking forward to for a long time now. Wish me luck! :)