Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Copenhagen Vacation Highlight: Copenhagen and Clarity

I fell in love with Copenhagen, and though I did nothing cultural (aside from drinking the local beers), I couldn't have enjoyed a city more.

So very walkable, and easy going, the city was beautiful. See?!

View from the 21st floor. Thanks new phone!

I was lucky enough to find an affordable hotel in central Copenhagen, so nothing was more than a 20-minute walk from me. The air was so fresh and I'll even admit that I missed the rain. The weather was so Vancouver, it was comforting. And though the city was expensive, there were ways to enjoy it without spending a ton of money.
Me and just one of the canals.

And canals! They make everything so pretty.

As I roamed the city streets, I had yet another a-ha moment: This is why I moved. A weekend in Copenhagen would have been unimaginable back in Vancouver, not to mention unaffordable.

The thing I love about travelling solo is it gives you a ton of thinking time. Time that isn't filled with the obligations of daily life. Time that is yours and yours alone. In those thoughts, I realized how lucky I am. How special these moments are, exploring new cities, experiencing new things, seeing everything and nothing. Copenhagen helped remind me that I really like my life, that the choices I've made thus far, though some questionable, have led me to this moment and this place.

Easily one of the best weekends of my life. Easily one of the most memorable trips I've ever taken. Easily of the best cities I've ever visited.

So yeah, to say Copenhagen has moved up my list of cities to move to would be an understatement. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Copenhagen Vacation Highlight: The National

After arriving in Dubai I realized something: very little good music comes to the sandpit. Missing regular concerts, I decided early on that I would base my travel destinations on interesting music / events in places I've never been to before.

The National playing in Copenhagen was the impetus of my trip. They were my excuse for visiting the city, they were my excuse to run away from Dubai for the weekend.

And they didn't disappoint.

The sold out show was in a relatively small venue, but full of very tall Danish people - my calves got quite the workout from being on my tippy-toes the entire time.

So there you have it, only my second show of 2013, but I'm happy to say it was a memorable one.


I Should Live in Salt
Don't Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Sea of Love
Afraid of Everyone
Conversation 16
Squalor Victoria
I Need My Girl
This Is the Last Time
Apartment Story
Slow Show
Pink Rabbits
About Today
Fake Empire

Mr. November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

Friday, November 08, 2013

Copenhagen Vacation Highlight: OkCupid Does it Again

I've made a habit of using online dating sites to secure cute tour guides in various cities. In Berlin and Amsterdam, my trick worked quite well. Copenhagen put those experiences to shame.

When I met my tour guide for dinner, we began the obligatory first date conversation, 'what do you do?' 'how do you spend your free time?' you know, the usual. I explained to my date how I have a podcast. He asked the name and I explained the name and its origin - given that English wasn't his first language, I wanted to ensure the pun got across.

He proceeded to bring out his phone and show me our page.

Great, at least he can use Google effectively.

A few minutes later I was taking a photo of the beer I was drinking and I told him about how Corey and I drink beer each week and I was capturing the moment in part, for the podcast.

"Iris, I know you drink beer each week. You and Corey talk about it."


"Iris, I've listened to your podcast. That's why it is on my phone."


Apparently I was on a date in a foreign land with someone who had listened to our podcast.

When I've told people this story, they've immediately said "Stalker". But it's simply not possible. This guy didn't know my first name when we met at the restaurant, my profile says that I have a podcast but when you search 'podcast', we are not anywhere near the first thing that comes up. There is simply no way this person could have known that I was a co-host of this particular podcast.


So there I sat, enjoying sushi with one of our listeners. In Copenhagen.

What the what?

Needless to say, this blew my mind. The whole experience blew my freaking mind. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Copenhagen Vacation Highlight: Beer!

I love beer. I won't, no I can't, deny it. When I made my plans for Copenhagen, I knew beer would play very heavily into my adventure, and boy did it.
Beer at Sticks n Sushi

You see, the trouble with Dubai is the beer variety is generally limited. Heineken, Guinness, Fosters, the usual suspects. No interesting craft beers or even seasonal varieties. I was about to get quite the treat from Copenhagen, and I didn't even know it.

The first night I was there, a friend and I went for sushi, where I enjoyed the restaurant's house brew.

After sushi, we headed to a small pub for more Danish beer. A few more stops that evening and several more local beers later, the night came to an end.

The next day, I was on my own to wander. A beer in a park, was followed by a trek to a local brewery. Mikkeller was my first stop. Their peach brew and sour beer were delicious. I love me a good fruity beer, my Portland trip turned me on to sour beers. Who knew sour beers could be so good!?

I finished the fancy craft beers and went off to brewery number three, Apollo Brewery.

Christmas brew & marinated herring at BrewPub
When I sat down, I asked the waiter, "What's your beer of the month?" He looked at me like I was stupid and said, "Of course, it is our Christmas beer."

YES! (I would find out the next day that November 1 is J-Dag, or the first day of the Christmas beer season. Honestly, could Copenhagen be any more awesome!?)

The next day saw another brewery, and many more Christmas brews. BrewPub's Ellington variety was my favorite of all the beers I sampled this holiday.

Beer in a park?
Have I mentioned how much I love Europe?
The rest of my trip was spent with Tubourg's Julebryg, and many of them. Sometimes they were enjoyed in parks, sometimes they were enjoyed in pubs, but they were all enjoyed.

So thanks Copenhagen for being such a lovely destination for a neglected beer fan.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Ah-Ha Moment

Today, my department participated in a co-branded digital conference with Google. Neat, right?
Google swag!

As I was listening to the first presentation, I looked around at the room, at the branding of the event, at the content we'd be covering and it hit me: I could never have done this in Vancouver.

I mean, I'm sure similar stuff happens in Vancouver, but here I sat, a part of one of the world's best airlines, listening to a president from one of the world's largest companies.

It's this kind of exposure that I gave up Vancouver for. It's this kind of experience that made me leave behind a life I was in love with. It's this kind of thing that makes all the emotional ups and downs worthwhile.

So while my life today looks nothing like my life a year ago, life is ok.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vacation Highlight: Running Away

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not having the fallback options. You know, those things you do when you've got nothing else to do.

During the long weekend in August I had nothing to do. My friends were all out of town, and I was stuck in a city without any plans. Thankfully I work for an airline and was able to hop a flight to a random destination. Random destination in question: Tunis, Tunisia.

I wasn't expecting much of this trip. I was only hoping to escape the Dubai heat and put my feet on a new continent. Tunis, however, pleasantly surprised me.

Essentially right across the Mediterranean from Italy, the city is heavily influenced by it neighbors. And although it's an Muslim country, it's much less strict that Dubai.

The food was fantastic, the beer was cheap and the city was beautiful. Picture Roman ruins overlooking crystal blue water. Amazing.

See, ruins and water. 
This was the perfect short break from Dubai. The weeks since returning from Vancouver were difficult, with me questioning every life choice I've made to this point. But this weekend excursion was exactly what I needed to refresh and remind myself that though my choices have cost me a lot, they have given me many opportunities, including visiting a country I had never considered.

While I likely won't be going back any time soon, it's nice to know that Tunis is there, should I need another short break to a beautiful city.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

First Trip Home ... Two-Month Hindsight

Two months ago I went home for a visit. To say my trip home was an intense one would be an understatement.

The visit was only ten days. With an 11-hour time difference and a 20-hour travel day, ten days is not enough. It took me most of the trip to get over the jet lag, and then BAM I was on my way back to Dubai, facing another 20 hour travel day. Blerg.

Also, ten days does not leave you enough time to see everyone or do everything you wanted to do. There are many people I just didn't have the time to see, and that sucks.

The trip also drove home exactly what I left--one of the most beautiful cities in the world, where the colours are bright, the air is fresh, and walking is the norm. Vancouver went out of its way to make me want it, with no rain, the Celebration of Lights Fireworks and some of the best people I know.

Do you see how pretty it is!?
The view from a bench in Stanley Park
Beyond the residents, I got quite the treat because Jarod and Steve flew from Edmonton just to visit little ol' me! I know, I'm spoiled, but I love that they love me enough to do something like that.

It was also intense for some very personal reasons. I won't go into the details here, but my trip home proved that long distance relationships are the hardest to make work. And in the end, mine did not.

The last point is the hardest to swallow and the one which makes me question my life choices on a regular basis. I had been waiting years to meet a man I could be with and who wanted to be with me. But my dream came before my relationship and the relationship suffered. I knew this move would come with consequences, but I regret every day that my relationship with this wonderful man was one of them.

Above all else, this trip proved that Vancouver is my home. Edmonton is my hometown, but Vancouver, thanks to the people I have been lucky enough to meet there, is my home.

When I returned to Dubai, my first instinct was to give my notice and run back. I haven't, and I'm not likely to revisit that idea until I've done a full year here. I made this move to explore--this region, the industry I now work in, the cities we fly to, and the experiences from all of the above.

With everything this move has cost me, I'd be a fool not to stick it out to at least try and see some returns on this investment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Singapore Vacation Highlight: Food

I landed in Singapore with no idea of what to do or sights to see – this was the least prepared I had been for a vacation in a very long time. 

To be honest, I’d never thought about Singapore as a place I needed to visit. The impetus for this trip was the fact that my friend is moving to Dubai at the end of the month, and well, a free place to stay in an expensive city like Singapore is always welcome.

Since I didn’t do any research, I was at the mercy of my friends for recommendations.

This little piggy went
in my belly
It just turns out that most of their recommendations were for restaurants. 

Did you know that Singapore is a foodie haven? I didn't. I thought I'd definitely get some good Asian food, but I had no idea how good this food was going to be. 

My first day I met a former co-worker, Amy, for dim sum. YUM! So far I haven't found the affordable, authentic dim sum in Dubai. Well, Singapore had it!

That night we went for some lovely European cuisine, where I of course ordered pork, because the kitchen wasn't Halal. 

For a midnight (well, 4am) snack we stopped at an all-night street food place and had some damn fine Indonesian food. (I fell in love with Indonesian food in Amsterdam, and there's one good place in Dubai, but it's hella far for me)

For lunch the next day we enjoyed a Singaporean specialty: chili crab

When my parents visited Dubai one of the hotels had a chili crab festival and it was so good, but the real deal was even better. 

Peking duck? A million times yes. 
After chili crab was suckling pig and Peking duck. Good god. The skin on both was so crisp and delicious. I'm a grown woman, not afraid to admit that I totally got the meat sweats after this dinner. 

I regret nothing. 

The last day was less intense - mussels and then some burgers - but all of it was top notch. 

I didn't see the zoo. I missed Sentosa. Museums? meh. 

I went to Singapore and I ate. And ate. And ate. 

And when I go back, which I will, I'll do the same. Happily. 
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Singapore Vacation Highlight: Flying

I’m not going to lie, the past few months in Dubai have been hard. The job isn’t all I had hoped, the city is fine, but not amazing, and I’ve missed my friends and family a ridiculous amount. When I landed in Dubai, I knew the first six months would be the hardest—no flight benefits and no vacation time to use.

But thanks to a lieu day and a long weekend, I was able to utilize my flight discount on a firm ticket and dart off to Singapore!
Above the clouds ...

I hadn’t been on a plane since landing in January, and while that isn’t a long time, when you spend every day looking at the airport terminal and hearing planes land and take-off, it makes you want to fly away. I, along with millions of others, will never stop being amazed at our ability to fly. To be able to spend hours above the clouds, while firmly based in science, is all kinds of amazing.
Little old me in Business Class
So I booked myself in Business Class for the outbound trip. It has been years since I have flown Business Class and let me tell you, it won’t be years until I do it again. The screen was so big! When I stretched out my legs my feet didn’t touch the seat in front of me—if you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I have fairly long legs and this (not touching the seat in front of me, not the long legs) is quite the accomplishment, and quite rare. 
Also, champagne when you get on board and a really nice wine selection made the extra cost for Business Class totally worth it.
So with a quick nine-hour flight, including a short layover in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I was in the city-state of Singapore.
YAY air travel!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Dubai First: Emirati Food

Exterior of Al Fanar (courtesy of Al Fanar Restaurant)
When I moved to Dubai, I thought shwarma was local food. I love shwarma and wanted it to be true.

Apparently it is not.

Maryam, my Emirati co-worker and first Dubai friend took me to Dubai's only - yes, ONLY - Emirati restaurant, Al Fanar and it was yummy!

Since she knows the drill, I let Maryam do the ordering.

We enjoyed hobool (fish roe), jesheed (shark), machboos samak (chicken and rice), and finally leqaimat (Arabic donutholes).

The meal was delicious. And the company was fantastic.

Look at me, learning stuff about the local culture.
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Calling All Networks

It seems that my depressing post from a few weeks ago did what it was intended to do: help me let go of the feelings of loneliness and pick up my boots.

The problem is, where does a 30-something find new friends?

After chatting with a co-worker of mine, Internations was suggested as a good forum. Despite my incredible awkwardness and hatred of networking events, I thought, 'what the heck' and signed up.

First, about Internations. Simply, it's a networking group for expats. And since 80% of the population of Dubai are expats, this makes for a pretty deep pool of networkers.

They held an event last week at a tapas bar, and though I needed several glasses of wine to a) get over my exhaustion and b) pump up the liquid courage, the event went surprisingly well. I met some people I've been chatting with since the event, and have made my first non-work, non-Canadian female acquaintance.


And said acquaintance informed me that there's a Meetup group for wine lovers - pretty sure I fit that bill!

I know there's going to be great days, ok days and downright shit days, and last week was fine, but it was definitely more social and that's something. So lesson learned, I'll start networking and see if that helps build my ... well, network.

That's why they call it that!

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dubai First: Brunch!

Since moving to Dubai I'd heard from many people about the legendary brunches. One of my guide books talks about the debauchery brunch can induce.

The entire time I thought, 'I've been to Vegas brunches before, there's no way a Dubai brunch could be better.'

I was wrong.

Yesterday, my friend invited me to join her and her friends to brunch at Al Qasr.

First, I was late because I got dropped off at the wrong part of the resort. So to get to the actual brunch, I got to jump on a boat! An Abra to be precise.

What a lovely way to arrive at brunch!

Now this brunch is so big it has it own map. (Seriously, check out the map, it's ridic.) This is the biggest brunch experience I've ever been to. The drinks didn't stop flowing - from champagne and wine to mojitos and whiskey - talk about opulent. Post brunch we went and enjoyed some drinks at the hotel's rooftop lounge with a great view of the Burj Al Arab.

Me after six hours of brunching. 
I'm thankful that I didn't eat before brunch and that I had the sense to wear a skirt with an elastic waistband.

A sample of what I enjoyed:
Foie gras three different ways
Prime rib
Yorkshire pudding (my weakness)
Beef Wellington
Veal schnitzel
Cheese spatzel
A variety of Spanish tapas
A variety of cheeses
Cured meats
Variety of fruits

The drinks were tasty, and my favourite was the sake with coconut water - who knew that would be such a tasty combo!?

I won't be eating like that again for many moons and will be getting my workout on to ensure the elastic waistband doesn't become a necessity.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Unless You've Done It

PREFACE: This is not a complaint post. It is nothing more than the truth. Deal with it. 

Sad puppy (via Easily Distracted)
This is the third time in my life that I've moved to a city I didn't really know anyone. (The fourth if you count when I moved to Florida, because though I had my extended family there, I didn't have a social network.)

This is the third time I've tried to make it in a city on my own. 

This is the third time I've been genuinely lonely. 

I go to work. I come home. I've taken to working out (I know, who am I!?) and thankfully there's a couple of people I know in the city who have been kind enough to invite me out. My co-workers have turned out to be really nice people, and fairly social, so that's a win, but most days, when I get home, I don't say another word to another human being. 

I know this is temporary, it always is, but it doesn't make the loneliness any easier. 

My mind wanders and I get homesick like nobody's business. And then I get updates from friends and family about what they're doing and how much fun they're having, and though I'm happy their lives are going well, I can't help but feel a tad jealous, and sorry for myself. 

A friend of mine recently commented on how it's like I'm dead, but I can see how everyone moves on afterwards. 

It's morbid, but almost exactly like that. (I assume)

You see whatever space you filled in people's lives become almost immediately occupied after you leave. Of course it is. I wouldn't want it any other way, but it doesn't make you feel any less ... insignificant. 

And if you've never moved, if you've never been away from everything and everyone you love, if you've never been alone you don't know what it's like. 

This too shall pass, and I know that. Soon enough I'll carve out a little life for myself and I will start making Dubai home, but for the next day or so, I'm sad and missing my old home. 

Like I said, this isn't a complaint post, it just is what it is. (It's also a slightly pathetic post)

Friday, March 08, 2013

What to Write?

I've started about 40 different blog posts since landing in Dubai, and none of them have hit the right note for me. Some have been about my daily experiences, others have been about how this move has affected me on an emotional level, but not one has really worked.

So maybe I'll just hit publish on this one and see what happens.

Dubai is interesting. The city itself is perfectly adequate. Not a ringing endorsement, by any means, but it's the truth. I've said several times how shocked I am at the lack of culture shock I've experienced. (Though I don't exactly know what culture shock feels like, so maybe it has yet to set it. Who knows?)

It's definitely a different world, though. There is a class structure unlike anything I've seen or experienced and this is honestly the biggest challenge I face. I grew up in a world where things like where you were born didn't really matter, but here, it matters.

I am asked every day by one person or another where I am from. When I say 'Canada' in my non-Indian accent, they are often taken aback. Indian expats make up more than half the population of Dubai, so my skin colour puts me in a very large category.

Exactly four weeks after landing in Dubai, the boy came for a visit. It was both amazing and gut-wrenching at the same time - just as I was accepting the loneliness that comes with a new move, he showed up and made me forget about how much I missed everyone and everything and then poof, he was gone again. I'm glad he came but  I'll be happier when he's here full-time.

While he was here we did some touring about - it was great to have someone here to do all the touristy crap with. We toured the city, found some good happy hours, went on a desert safari and discovered my new favorite thing: dune bashing! Seriously, riding around in the desert in a 4x4 was more fun than I've ever had in a vehicle.

Work is pretty great. It's amazing to that the work I'm doing is based in so many different countries - managing time zones and organizing things on different continents is a new challenge for me. It's also been an interesting change going from a small company to one with more than 55,000 employees.

So there you have it. Only my second blog post since relocating. It's weird to think of myself as an expat and that there's a whole community of people in the exact same boat. I feel like I'm starting to settle and hopefully that will give me more things to write about.

Four months til my probation is over and my travels can begin. WEE!

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Lack of Posts

Here I thought when I moved to Dubai I'd have a ton of things to write about and share. Turns out I've had very little I've wanted to share.

The biggest reason is I'm too busy to really explore. Between the job and the apartment hunt, my life isn't spent going out and seeing the sites, it's spent being productive and grown up.

Plus it doesn't help that I am currently staying in a hotel out by the airport - where there is nothing of interest close by.

Anyways. I had a lovely weekend, actually. I went out each day this weekend - Thursday with a friend I know from Slave Lake, Friday was our office party which was the fanciest party I may have ever been to, and Saturday I went to a high school friend's house for brunch.

AND I saw my first camel. Neat!

After a really nice weekend, I should have known that Sunday would kick my ass. (Have I mentioned how Sundays are Monday here? It totally throws me off my game.)

Well, kick my ass it did. From FedEx woes, to apartment hunting blues, to just dealing with the bureaucratic bullshit that one has to deal with when they move across the world - today was hard.

I miss everything. My apartment, my furniture, the ease of Canada, my friends, my family and (not surprisingly) most of all Eric.

To counteract the rest of the day, I skipped dinner, ate chips and drank two glasses of wine.

Today Dubai won, but at least I'm woman enough to admit it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First post from middle earth

I'm in Dubai.

For many months it felt like I wouldn't get here, so it all still feels very surreal. And thanks to jet lag and a nasty cold, I haven't actually explored the city at all. All I've seen is the airport, my hotel room and my office.

I blame last week for the cold - sleep was out of my reach, and I was making every attempt humanly possible to split my time between packing, spending time with my family, seeing my friends, and making sure my memory was full of images of my guy.

And then there was the party.

My friends went out of their way to make me feel special, and for that I am eternally grateful. I left Vancouver feeling so much love, it's silly. I don't know what I did to deserve such amazing people in my life, but thank goodness I've got them.

To say my departure on Sunday morning was emotional would be an understatement. Much of the 20+ hour trip was spent wiping tears and sniffling. Thank god I didn't know anyone on the flights.

I arrived in Dubai safe and sound, just tired and sick. I'm disappointed my birthday will be spent researching and sleeping - there's a few things I'd rather be doing - but what can you do?

You might notice this lil' blog got a new name - big ups to Jarod and / or Steve for thinking of the punny name.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Representing Reputations

When I came to Vancouver five years ago, I had no social life. I had no life in general. Work was my life, and because I liked my work so much, it was a-ok with me.

You see, Reputations was the only outlet I had for normalcy. When I left the office, I either went home to a boyfriend who didn't really like me that much, or to an empty apartment. Seeing my co-workers was the highlight of my day, as sad as that sounds.

But the thing is, my work was pretty freaking cool. We worked on the coolest projects - how many people have worked with a top Olympic partner? Or organized a press conference in North America's first supervised injection site? Or worked for the world's largest retailer? Or helped Discovery Channel film segments for Daily Planet? Or had cocktail hour every Friday?

I did. BAM!

The off-beat nature of the company helped fuel my creativity and my connection with my bosses and co-workers gave me the 'family' I needed to not run away from Vancouver.

I can honestly say that Reputations gave me the most unique employee-boss relationships in the history of jobs. And because of Reputations I have been lucky enough to find mentors, friends, and a circle that kept me from feeling too alone.

To my bosses, I am forever grateful for the chance you took on me, and the faith you had in me. And though I didn't love all of my co-workers, I am grateful for most of them and for everything they taught me about public relations and Vancouver.

I'm sad to leave the best PR team in Vancouver (and I'm pretty sure the country), but I know that my new job wouldn't have been possible without Reputations.

Five days and counting.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Clean your closet, clean your soul

And episode of hoarders.
An episode of hoarders. (Photo credit: BuzzFarmers)
Yesterday I went through all of my (many) pairs of shoes to figure out which ones were coming with me to Dubai.

After an hour or so, I decided to sell or give away 41 pairs of shoes.


Despite me being totally disgusted by myself, it felt great to get rid of so much stuff. It is interesting to know by the time I leave Vancouver, my life will be a leaner, trimmer version of the one I had here.

Today I'm going through my coats and clothes.

Having never shared a closet, I've never really had to cull my collection. I've allowed my wardrobe to grow and grow, with little thought of how big it has actually grown.

It's become apparent that I should have been on Hoarders a while ago. And I think my friends were irresponsible for not suggesting that a while ago.

11 days and counting.

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