Monthly Archives: July 2013

you say dubai, and i say hello

i thought i would try to play catch up with 2013 on this blog. not only because, well, it’s a travel blog and i haven’t been doing a good job updating my travels, but because i want to look back and remember things- the places i go, the people i meet, and the adventures i had. it’s fun to look at the photos, but there’s something cathartic about writing it all down.

so first up in 2013 was going to dubai. i went to dubai for work, for a sales and marketing meeting dubbed “Journey to the Vision.” my company’s vision is “to touch half of the people of the world every day with our products and services.” we are about half way to our goal, and we fully expect to get to the goal by 2017. so every four years from 2009 on we have had this meeting to build morale, to be encouraging… to get to go to cool places like paris and dubai.

and really, the place was super cool. we stayed at the world’s tallest hotel only hotel in the world. it’s called the jw marriott marquis, if anyone wants to check it out. it had tons of different restaurants and entertainment. oh, AND it had a bar called “the vault” on the top floor, which had bank vault type doors as the entrance. there was also a cigar lounge, so you could also smoke up there. not that i did or anything. 😉

smoking

i had to travel to dubai early to help set up for this 3 day meeting. normally i would have loved this opportunity, but for some terrible reason i was sick beyond belief at this point in the year. that, piled on top of a 14 hour plane ride, made for a pretty grouchy amanda. but i got there, we hammered out some last minute details, worked with the musical (yeah… we brought actors out to put on a musical), did run-through’s for lighting and sound, and i loaded up on cold medication. basically anything that would help me swallow, breathe, or sleep.

after a few days, other people started arriving to dubai and heading to registration. despite feeling so miserable, i was pretty excited to see people. besides the presidents of the different business units and the few of us on the plenary teams, we really hadn’t had much time to converse or even leave the hotel. so when the taxis started to pull up and a few of my favorite co-workers were spotted, my mood was lifted dramatically. it lifted even more so when most of the the corporate marketing group (aka: my team) went up for a drink in the vault. i got a grapefruit infused vodka for 40 dirham, which is a little under $11 US dollar. alcohol = expensive in dubai.

vault

vodka

marketing in the vault

the next few days were honestly a bit of a whirlwind. i had been in charge of producing the opening “skit” (it was a WWF parody), which went off smoothly. the opening reception was in full swing. when the reception was done, everyone meandered up to our private (poolside) bar and continued what we do best. drinking. networking. (ha, see what i did there? see?)

i won’t bore you with the details of the whole meeting, but i will say that the last night was something extremely special to experience. our closing ceremony was in the middle of the desert in a man-made stadium area. there were different stations for food, drinks, and there were people there to make it a more “authentic” dubai experience. i was able to hold a falcon, ride a camel, and get a henna tattoo. there were also arabic hand writing stations, palm readers, and a nice showing of fireworks. i thought six hours in the desert was going to be a ridiculously long time (again, had to go early to help set up). but the time flew by and i still hadn’t gotten to all the stations by the time the night was over.

camel

falcon

fireworks

unfortunately, all the energy put into the meeting made me feel even worse once it was all over. after the meeting, there was a tour for the people who had helped and didn’t get to go do any activities. it was fun, don’t get me wrong. we got to go shopping in the spices and textile souks, do a bit of sight seeing, a little bargaining… but by the end of the day i was napping in the van while the rest of the group was continuing. the souks were beautiful, though. so many rich textures and colors and even smells. i walked away with four different pashmina scarves and a few other knick knacks.

spice souks

the next day a smaller group of us went sandboarding and dune-bashing– the dune-bashing was enough to test even the strongest of heads and stomachs– and went inside the Burj Kahlifa, the tallest building in the world. i also got to see my friend tim kucera who is spending the year in afghanistan. he just happened to be in dubai at the same time getting his visa renewed, which was a great twist of fate as he got to join us for a few activities.

boarding

goofy feet

burj

the worst part of the trip, however, was that i had even scheduled to stay a few extra days with my friend rohit, who lives in dubai. i obviously stayed, but i was so sick at this point that i was unable to attend a VIP party at atlantis (underwater club in a fancy hotel) with a group of his friends and instead went to bed about 9pm and woke up at around noon the next day. but rohit really saved the day by getting me some more medicine (mine had ran out), and my co-worker brad and i still got to see some cool additional sights. i bought a really unique soapstone chess set in “Africa” in Dubailand, a theme-park looking area that has markets with food and merchandise from all different areas of the world. it was like a magnified and less cheesy version of disney world’s “it’s a small world” ride.

rohit and friends

dubailand

all in all, it was a great time and adventure, though! i don’t know if i will ever make my way back to dubai, so i can honestly say it was a once in a lifetime experience.

here are some odds and ends or highlights of dubai or my time there:

  • because it is a muslim country, alcohol is super expensive. it is so expensive, in fact, that we had to have drink tickets at this event to prevent people from going over our allotted budget.
  • if you want to get any of this said alcohol, you must be in a hotel or a restaurant located inside a hotel. brad and i ate at applebees *cough shut up don’t judge us we were in a bad mood cough* and almost ordered some tasty adult beverages before we realized they weren’t very adult at all.
  • tina is an awards master. we had an award’s ceremony on monday night of the meeting, and she won first place for every entry she submitted. as i do most of her graphics work, i felt a nice sense of pride for my teammate. T&A (Tina and Amanda, you perverts) Harmonious Way.
    TA
  • dubai is a strange culture of the very rich and the poor. when the recession hit, it hit dubai hard. rich business men dropped their cars off at the airport and just left, never to return because they knew they had gone broke. you will see extravagant and beautiful buildings next to worn down, half-built structures with construction tape wrapped around it.
  • bring sunglasses. there are dust storms.
  • be conscious of the culture- in muslim countries it isn’t appropriate for women to be scantily clad. they aren’t making you wear a burka- but they don’t want you wearing short skirts and strapless tops either (although we did see our fair share of those).
  • 14-15 hour plane rides suck. i did a non-stop in order to get there faster, but maybe would suggest taking flights in segments if you get the chance. your body might thank you.
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“Birth.”

as some of you may know, i am moving to belgium next year for work. for those of you that don’t know, don’t feel bad. i mean, how could you have know? i haven’t updated this thing for nearly a year. but yes! it’s happening. living and loving abroad for at least two years starting january 2014.

the move is a little bittersweet for me. don’t get me wrong, i’m beyond excited for a new adventure. and as far as countries go, you really don’t get much better than belgium. for instance, most of the belgians i know can understand and flip sarcasm just as well as an american. and they do it in a secondary language (i’m sure they can do it in dutch too, but i wouldn’t understand). but that’s a huge thing. they speak english. they are known for chocolates, waffles, beers, bicycles… you know. the finer things in life.

and i’m attempting to learn dutch. i already drink a(n un)healthy amount of beer. i’m not too terribly worried about making friends. having said that and expressed my excitement, i must admit there is a bit of sadness as well.

you see, there is a part of me that will always love and have a loyalty to iowa. sure, our four seasons are brutal. we get mocked for having so much corn growing across this fine and flat state. outsiders don’t know the difference between iowa or idaho or ohio… but the people in iowa are wonderful. we have that “midwestern work ethic” which means we don’t stop until we get the job done and we get it done right. but we not only WORK hard, we play hard too. we are loyal. we’re nice. we’re a little backwards, not on the peak of fashion or the finest, but we are good people. and i will miss that.

so to bring a little bit of home with me overseas, i’m commissioning art off of some of the greatest artists/designers/inspirations i know… my friends. that way i have a constant reminder of people back home and i also get to display some damn good art while i’m at it.

the first piece of art i collected is a piece by my good friend Jon- the title of the piece is called ‘birth.’

i absolutely love it. i originally requested a painting from him about two years ago and jon gladly accepted the challenge. i told him i didn’t care what he painted, i just wanted something unique. i also told him there was no hurry or deadline on the piece, which i think he took to heart. the painting traveled with him for 2 years between three different apartments, and a multitude of people had the opportunity to see it in its different phases. it started out much like a skeleton head, then slowly turned into outlines of fish. then we watched in amazement as the fish became more detailed, and beautifully so. also, the piece is huge, like 27×39″, so i plan to have it be the center piece of my “iowa-inspired” wall in belgium.

birth by jon pearson

birth by jon pearson

fishy fishy2

i’ve known jon for about as long as i have been in des moines. one of my favorite things about this silly guy is that he just does not understand sarcasm. with me being one of the most sarcastic and flippant people i know, i’m not sure how our friendship budded the way it did, but i am so glad for it. he’s one of the most genuine people i know- he is always thinking, questioning, and pushing himself to be better. and throughout the years i think his art has really reflected this.

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if you want to check out any of Jon’s other work, you can go to any of the following. he also does commission work (although if it’s anything like mine, it may take awhile). 😉

thanks again, jon! it will be the highlight of my des moines wall.

i’m not going to apologize

okay, i will apologize. i’m sorry i haven’t written in this for about a year. i am getting back into it, i promise. the problem is the year just got incredibly busy. and there was so much i wanted to write about, but then more stuff happened… and then it got overwhelming.

but enough excuses. i’m back and ready to attack.