Finding Happiness

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This December, I am officially in Dubai for a decade:). Yes a decade in Dubai. You think its long right? But when you hear people say they were in Dubai for the last three decades, you stop and asked yourself again, is 10 years really long enough?

I was sitting in a soft white couch in the lobby of DIFC patiently waiting for the free bus service to arrive. I am almost in the verge of hailing a taxi since it’s been like eternity to wait. The bus came though and pulled over in the parking, I stand and walk away from where I was seated and head out the door. As I help myself climb into the vehicle, the driver immediately offered me the news paper that was in the back seat. I wasn’t surprised by this because every time I am sitting in his van, I read the paper until I get to the intended drop off point. While I was busy flipping the pages, he ask me a question. “How old is your child?”

Sometimes when my husband is off from work, the kids would tag along with him to pick me up after work and they would wait in front of our building where others parked their car. He must have seen one of them. “I have two kids, a girl and a boy, which one of them you want to know?” I asked him. It’s the boy he wants so I told him he’s two and a half, almost three. Our conversation continued

Driver: He is so adorable!
Me: Thank you!
Driver: What is his name?
Me: Prince
Driver: You are Christian no?
Me: Yes we are, you?
Driver: I am also Christian. Malayalam mass in St. Mary’s church is at 2:00 pm. What time is the Tagalog mass?
Me: at 12:30pm
Driver: I once attended a Filipino mass and it feels so good to be there and see Filipinos, so many of them all are laughing during homily.
Me: Yes, Father Tom, he is using practical jokes in his sermon most of the time
Driver: It is very nice to see when people are happy.
Me: Sure is.
Driver: I have a grandson, his name is Joshua and it is mentioned many times in the bible.
Me: It is a nice name (me smiling)
Driver: My name is Josh Mathew and my wife is Sheryl so my daughter combined our names for her son.
Me: Is your daughter here?
Josh Mathew: No they are in Australia
Me: Where is your wife?

Josh Mathew: She is in India just came back from Australia. She came to visit my daughter and helped her for a few months with our grandchild. I have another daughter who’s in college that’s why she has to go back to India

Me: How old is your grandson? Why don’t you go to Australia with your daughter?
Josh Mathew: He is three months now. They are asking me to move there but I still have a year in my visa. After that I will see. In my holiday, I am able to see him, first grandchild. I have a computer at home, we are using Skype.

Me: That’s really nice, even they are far and you can still see and talk to them.

Josh Mathew: Yes, yes. My children are raised here; I used to work for Standard Chartered Bank before as a Driver Manager. I came here in 1979; maybe you are not born yet :)

Me: I was born in the 80’s only and I came to Dubai in 2002.

Josh Mathew: I have seen old Dubai. Sheikh Zayed Road is still Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway back then and there’s only the Trade Center and all you can see after that is the desert.

Me: Yes, I have seen photos like that. It is very interesting.

It must be boring to be an expat in Dubai at that time. It must be home after work and work after home, no play or fun at all but I did not brought that up to him.

Josh Mathew: But Dubai is so far from where it was before, it’s is beautiful now and it is rich, all this happened after the oil discovery. The only problem here for us is we are never going to get citizenship. It is alright if you have a job all the time because you have the visa otherwise there is no chance. I have spent thirty years of my life here already; it is very safe here not like in our countries. Also now everything is expensive, even there is no tax almost all income will go to basic necessities. Nothing is free.

Me: Yes, you’re right nothing is free. Oh wait there is one thing that’s free, this bus service is.

And we are both laughing. :)

I thank him for the ride but I wasn’t able to tell him how I enjoyed our short conversation and that I felt I was happy after that. It brings joy to my heart that people though you don’t know them willingly share their lives to you. His happiness radiates to me; his happiness of becoming grandpa he extended to me, to a nobody for him just a passenger, an acquaintance.

And I thank you for that and I thank God for bringing happiness to my life when I least expect it.
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How to renew your e-gate card in Dubai?

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Renewing the e-gate card is a pretty quick and easy procedure. All you have to do is bring with you the following:

the old e-gate card to be renewed
original passport with visa page - both must be valid
Fees of 200 AED plus 25 AED for other charges
1 passport size photo - just in case you would like to change the photo in the old card

Once you have all these documents ready with you, you may proceed to the nearest available e-gate office and present all your documents. You can also do it for someone else. The process will take ten to fifteen minutes then you will be handed with the new card with only the issue date without the expiry. Note that this card is valid for two years from the date of issue

You may come to the following e-gate offices

Dubai Airport - Departure
Dnata Office - SZR
DNRD offices (Main office in Jaflia/Jebel Ali Br. and Abu Hail)
Government Services Office-DIFC (if under DIFC)

Why it is good to have an e-gate card especially if you are a frequent traveller in and out Dubai?

This is because it will save you valuable time. No need to stand in line in the immigration and wait for your passport to be stamped. When you go to e-gate at the airport, just need to swipe the card and scan your finger and your done. When you register for e-gate they take all information from your travel document and your biometrics so you have to be present if first time applying for this card.
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Finding inspiration from music of the 90's

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Today when I was so uninspired to write, it was music where I found solace and inspiration to do so.

During my teen years, the 90s and the early 20s, I would save some of my school allowance in order to buy song books (song hits). In it you'll find top billboard chart songs with lyrics. I have many of them, I did not buy all of them though as some are my sisters and others, friends. I didn't have a Walkman or potable CD player back then, FM radio was my best bud and when the song plays on the radio, my song book are always handy for me to be able to sing it until I memorized it.

After a few house relocation, I lost almost all of it or somehow forget about them. During college, I have always kept a notebook wrapped in cute and funky wrapping paper where I write song lyrics and compile my favorite songs there. Back to music of the 90's and early 20's, here is a list of few songs I grew up with. Check the list and you'll might find one or two songs you also know. I was listening to some and it takes me back in the days of my youth.

1. Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way
2. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
3. Britney Spears - Baby One More Time
4. R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
5. Mariah Carey - Vision of Love
6. MC Hammer- You Can't Touch This
7. Hanson - MMMBop
8. Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On
9. House of Pain - Jump Around
10. Ricky Martin - Livin La Vida Loca
11. Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby
12. Radiohead - Creep
13. Spice Girls - Wannabe
14. Third Eye Blind - Semi Charmed Life
15. Christina Aguilera - Genie in a Bottle
16. Shania Twain - Your Still the One
17. Sugar Ray - Fly
18. Sheryl Crow - All I Wanna Do
19. Will Smith -Gettin Jiggy With It
20. Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart
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Kindergarten student struck by a car right outside the school gates

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I took this photo just this morning while waiting for my daughter’s school bus. I stared at her thinking how much she has grown. She's eight now and in grade four; she can take care of herself while in school and is even more cautious about her surroundings than before.

Behind that smile lies a disturbing thought in her mind. After I snap the camera, she told me and her dad that a KG 2 (FS2) student in her school was hit by a car the other day and sustained some injuries. I can sense sympathy for the fellow student and fear from her voice. I questioned her further about what happened but she can't tell no more. This is the first incident in her school but we have heard many cases like this in other schools in Dubai previously. It is dreadful news for the morning. As we kissed her goodbye, I reminded her as I always do to be very careful.

In the car, my husband and I have a theory of how the accident occurred. Either the kid clamber out of the car and suddenly cross the street to the school gates and then hit by the car or coming out from the school gates and then suddenly crossing the street and then hit by a car. I shook my head in disappointment to hear such news. I cringe at the thought of it. I couldn't bear to be in the shoes of the child’s parents, I am sure I'll pass out. We can only hope and pray that the injuries sustained by the child are just minors ones.

According to RTA in an article in the Gulf Today published last October 2012, there are no reported traffic accidents near schools in the last two years. This one's going to change that stat. RTA strongly urge parents to pay more attention to children while embarking or disembarking from the vehicle at all times
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Busy Bee

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After breaking a sweat at the gym, I went to the 11th floor where there is a place to breath fresh air and a place to sit to allow my body and my  heartbeat to return to a normal hum. Few minutes later, I'm on my way to the stairs back to the changing room and as I took my first step, I noticed some wild flowers growing with the already over grown grass in the plant box and I step back to look at it. Tiny yellow daisy like flowers in bloom swaying with the wind. I fished out my Blackberry from my jacket pocket to take some photos, as I point and shoot I notice two bees moving from one flower to another drinking nectar from each one.

Carefully leaning closer I took a shot of the busy bee making sure I would not disturb it. I look around, I wonder where could be its hive? Never mind, I stayed for a while to watch in awe how it's foraging from flower to another. I watched it to my hearts content.

I went back to the changing room with the picture of the bees in my head. Did you know that the busiest of bees in the colony are worker bees and that workers bees are all infertile female. While its young, it will do all sorts of job in the hive before it becomes a worker bee. It is said that workers bees are at the last stage of their lives and will keep on working and foraging for the hive until it dies. Only worker bees sting and only when threatened. Once it sting someone, it is the end of it because the stinger will get stuck into the skin of the one stinged and it will cause the bees abdomen to rupture thus killing it.

These worker bees are like the women in our society. In my home country, predominantly women are the ones who go working overseas. In an article I read in Manila, the absence of women in families especially the mother is a recipe for trouble - troubled children and troubled marriages thus killing the smallest unit of the society that is the family. There is a bigger underlying problem about our people going abroad. It is the poor economic conditions and unless the economy accelerates or the population decelarate, our women and her family will be just like the worker bee.
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Tasting Tradition

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I was with my family last Saturday in Global Village, it is among many of Dubai's tourists hot spots where as they say is a place the world comes together. It is a place where you can go around the world for 80 minutes for each country of the world has its own pavilion. They showcase handicrafts, woodwork, textiles, among other things. It is also a place where you can try some of the food each nation is famous for. Just a bit pricier though.

Having been in the UAE for a long time, I shall confess that there are still things-Emarati that my family and I haven't experienced yet. Food plays a big part in the UAE culture and with every chow down there are some sweet endings. Ours was called regag and luqaimat - both Emirati ttraditional desserts cooked in a traditional cooking corner by Emirati women.

To watch the ladies prepare them is a joy. I ask permission before taking this vid just to document how the traditional yummy sweets are made and prepared before serving.

This is regag (egg and cheese filling) and the later is loqaimat with date syrup

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Al Ain Engagement Session - Ronnel & Jeah

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Our good friend Ronnel and Jeah are tying the knot by end the year in Philippines. Allow me to share to you some of the photos of their official engagement session. Yours truly was given the honor to be their creative director and photographer. The camera used here is a 60D Canon with 18mm x 200mm lens.

Al Ain Paradise was the first location of the shoot and this place holds the Guinness World Record with the largest display of hanging flower baskets.

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