Thursday, December 20, 2007

American Oddity

Imagine you are sitting in Washington Square, or any mall in America, and these guys walked by:

You would most likely do a double take or at least give them a curious glance. Now flip the situation around, where everyone is dressed like that, and insert this guy:

(I may have over exaggerated my shirt a little) Most people on the street give me a second look or stare like I'm the first white boy they've ever seen. It's not a negative thing, they're not glaring, they are usually looking at me as if I might be lost or something. Like, imagine if Bill Gates and 2-Pac were walking through Harlem together, don't you think Bill would stand out just a little bit more?

A frequent thing that I am getting used to is people coming up and asking to take pictures with me. No, I'm actually not making this up! There must be some local celebrity that looks like me?? After the first few 2 times I started to make them take a picture with my camera too.

These two guys were from Bangladesh

He's from Syria (not good for my Department of Homeland Security record)

The following video is entirely real. I was not in "cahoots" (is that how you spell it?) with this man at all. While on the plane from Doha to Abu Dhabi, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the guy next to me was staring at my book since take off. Not just a glance, but completely focused on what I was reading. So I pulled out my camera and video taped him...

I kept it short, but that video could have lasted well over an hour...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Abu Dhabi Intro

The Emirates Palace at sunset

Green Minarets are 'in' this year
The rest of the pictures are here:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Enough with the apples!!

I almost forgot to share this random story from Kuala Lumpur.

I can tell you first hand that Malaysians go the extra mile to make sure you get what you want. The introduction to this little story begins in the mall below the Petronas Towers (can you tell I’m slightly obsessed with that place). There is a huge selection of restaurants with everything you can possibly think of on the menu. It is a great place to try different foods from all parts of the world.

I was eating at one of the restaurant (Ok, it was a Pizza Hut - big whoop, leave me alone. I wanted Pizza, alright!), and I ordered some garlic bread as an appetizer. Within a few minutes, one of the 10+ waiters they had on staff brought me my bread. I start eating and before I finished the first piece I look up and there is another waiter at my table with a plate of garlic bread.

“Thank you, but I already got it” I told him. I continue eating, and about one minute later there is yet another waiter at my table with a plate of garlic bread.

“Already got it,” I tell him too. As he is leaving I noticed another waiter in the back of the restaurant with a plate of garlic bread in his hands. I kept my eye on him, because I knew exactly where he was going. Sure enough, he walked right past the waiter I just sent off and came straight for my table.

I gave up at that point and just took the damn bread. I wanted to ask him what took so long.

That story was a prerequisite for this story. Actually, this whole thing is just an excuse for me to photoshop a picture.

The second day in the hotel I came back to my room and had a plate of apples waiting in my room. I thought it was nice, but wasn’t hungry so I just left them there.

On the following day I came to the room to find not only the same plate I left from the previous day but another plate as well. This is when I started to wonder what the hell is going on in these peoples heads -- if I didn’t want the first 3 apples, why would I want these?

It is now the fourth day when I return to my room to find this:

I wasn’t even surprised anymore. But come on, people!!

This is what I can only assume happens when you stay in Malaysia for 2 weeks.


One more thing from Malaysia. Directions can be misleading and confusing.

For example:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Abu Dhabi - Finally!

Yes Mom, I'm still alive!
The Cornishe, Abu Dhabi
(click for bigger picture)

I am now in Abu Dhabi and been working roughly 10 hours a day every day since I got here, so I haven't had any time to write anything. But I will be able to put up videos and pictures this weekend.

The Last of Malaysia

Click below for photo album:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers at night

I've noticed a few things so far in Kuala Lumpur that caught my attention.

But first, I'd like to respond to some of the comments I received:

1. I was not worried about going to the home of these strangers because they were old and frail and completely nonthreatening. If anything, they should have been scared of me. As a matter of fact, I should have robbed them before I left. Damn!

2. I did ask how old the daughter was! When she mentioned meeting her daughter, I was envisioning some 40 year old! She was 25. Their son was no older than 30. Maybe they got married late, I don't know...

The first thing I wanted to share were some of the sounds of Kuala Lumpur. This first video is kind of hard to hear because it was windy and the mosque was far away. But I was in the park when the mid day call to prayer started. It was very cool to hear in that setting: (You have to turn the volume up to hear it over the wind)

Now you understand the setting: I'm standing in the middle of this beautiful park with skyscrapers all around me, while just 50 meters away prayer is starting. I was feeling a spiritual vibe...

And then I walked toward the Petronas towers, only a few hundred meters away (Gotta start getting used to the metric system), and I heard this:

I know... I was surprised too! Apparently the man in charge of music isn't aware that Mr. Ice is like 2 decades old.

Spiritual vibe: Gone.

One more interesting thing:

KFC owns a building!! I stared at this thing for a long time before it registered that I was actually looking at the colonels face on the side of a building!

That is all for now...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sweet Uncle Edo... That Bastard

Sunday, 11 AM: I’m in Kuala Lumpur at the base of the Petronas Towers.
I’m doing my tourist thing (taking hundreds of pictures of everything in sight), when I noticed this old lady dropped her camera. I picked it up and ran over to her. She and her husband were extremely grateful to get their camera back. We started talking and the woman tells me I’m a very handsome boy (“aww shucks”, I replied) and that she would like to introduce me to her daughter and feed me lunch.

-- Let me pause for a moment... I am on the first day of my trip to Abu Dhabi and I’m full of that “Carpe Diem” spirit. I want to meet everyone and learn as much as I possibly can. Plus, when someone offers you their daughter, you should at least check her out… Am I right men???? :)

So in order to fully Carpe Diem, I accepted their offer and we were off to their home to eat lunch. When we arrived, their son was home sitting on the couch smoking a cigarette. No daughter though, but they assured me she was on her way home. They were great hosts; she made shrimp, chicken, and rice and prepared tea and coffee. After eating, her husband (who asked me to call him Uncle Edo) asked me if I would like to play cards. I accepted and he led me through the kitchen to another room.

The room we were in was furnished with nothing but a table, 4 chairs, a deck of cards, and some poker chips. It was also the only room with air conditioning. A little odd, I thought to myself... He taught me a strange form of blackjack where the dealer is separate from the house. And not only did Uncle Edo teach me the rules, he showed me the system of how he and his son cheat. Uncle Edo is the dealer, their victim is the house, and his son sits across the table as the player. To summarize really quickly, Edo uses subtle hand signals to tell his son what the other player has and what the next card in the deck is. His son then hits or stands accordingly.

I thought it was a pretty clever system, but didn’t understand why they would bother perfecting it for a harmless game of blackjack -- Until there was a knock at the door. As he got up to answer it, Uncle Edo casually remarked to me “Whatever I say, just go along with it.”
A man in a nice suit came in and sat down in the "house" seat. Sweet Uncle Edo told him the sad “news” that I had lost $5,000 earlier playing blackjack with him and was done playing for the day... But my driver (Edo’s son) was going to play the last of my money for me. Holy Shit!!! The man nodded his head in acceptance, pulled the equivalent of US$2,000 out of his pocket and joined the game. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there quietly trying to figure out what the f*ck just happened!!!

After a few hands, “my driver” suggested that I play the next hand…

Pause again: I had just learned at the airport that Malaysia is a country where drug trafficking is a capital punishment. So I knew the punishment for gambling and fraud was surely nothing pretty.

At this point I started to think this whole thing was a set-up, that they were trying to catch me on camera playing just one hand and then blackmail me. I politely told them “f*ck no”, and then repeatedly told “my driver” that I was late and that we needed to go - he shrugged me off while they continued to play. After he ignored me too many times, I finally just got up and started to leave, upon which Edo’s son had to either come with me or blow their cover – where was I going to go without my driver?

After we both walked out the front door I apologized to Edo’s son because they were down $200 when I left, and surely really mad about it. He tried to bullshit me about how he needed me to pay him the money I lost them and how his poor cousin was in the hospital getting a C-section. I felt the urge to punch him in the face, but I just apologized again and kept walking. He gave up asking and just let me go.

And I never met the daughter. :(

I’m not sure whether the moral of this story is “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, or just to not trust anyone – even the elderly! But the latter moral sucks; the next time an old man asks me for a favor am I supposed to tell him to go to hell?? Hopefully the lesson is just “don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time”, because there’s no way to avoid that!

I hope Day 2 is less eventful.

CLICK CLICK - Welcome to Singapore!

Day one of my little adventure starts in the Singapore airport. It is midnight when we touch down and the connecting flight leaves in 7 hours. The ticket counters don't open until 5 AM, so I decided to follow what everyone else was doing and take a little nap. (On a side note, I thought I was extremely clever by putting the straps of my bags around my legs so if anyone tried to run off with them, I’d be dragged with them. Thats right, always thinking... :)

But I apparently aroused some suspicion. Maybe by sleeping where I was - I don't know. But if you know me, you know that airport security and I don't get along... I was awoken by a light kick on my foot. When I opened my eyes, came out of the daze and figured out where the hell I was, I noticed that not 2 feet from my face was one hell of an assault rifle. It wasn’t pointed at me, but its presence certainly wakes you the f*ck up in a hurry. The security guards left hand held the muzzle, and his right pointer finger was massaging the side of the trigger as if he was trying to say “I’m extremely bored… Please give me a reason to use this thing!” Well, I didn’t. I just did what they said and showed them what they wanted and they walked off, probably to go harass someone else who was tired and confused.

Sorry this story doesn’t have a more exciting ending! If you were there, this story is WAY more exciting than it needs to be.

2 hours in Tokyo

I like being in Japan. It’s nice to be in a place where you are a giant. I feel bigger and therefore tough in Japan - until I remembered about Samurais, and the fact that the Japanese are bad-asses: They didn’t surrender in WWII until after *2* Atom Bombs were dropped on their country!! Not gunna lie, I would have waved the white flag before the Enola Gay even got within 100 miles of my coastline.

But anyway, I like how things are smaller and more efficient in Japan. There are 4 times as many recycling bins as there are trash cans. Plus, you don’t feel like a fatty when you eat a box of candy:

Want to eat a whole box of Japanese M&M’s – All 8 of them?

But I could never live in Japan. Even with all the food there is, I would still starve to death.

That is all, next stop: Singapore