Friday, May 31, 2013

Karachi Calling


IMG_3298
Colorful, Chaotic Karachi



I thought I had a language of my own. I thought I had lived long enough to acquire the necessary words to describe the world, to absorb it, to interpret it. I thought I had command of a language enough to know its meaning. 

Then I came to Pakistan and I realized that I lacked all ability to describe this place. 

I would need to spend a lifetime learning another language just to talk about the way wind combs through the pleats of a powder white burqa when it is worn by a woman on the back of a motorcycle. Watching those white folds dance around the speeding tires of the bike, I am unsure of how to put all these images together in one scene: the white burqa, the motorcycle, the sunlit streets of downtown Karachi, crowded and dirty. Like the past, present, and future lost their places in that linear space we created for them, and now they  encircle each together in one clashing scene.

Embellished minibuses skirt past us, like floating jewelry boxes. When our car nears them the kaleidoscope of color becomes clearer and the fine details of the painted buses emerge, each one more and more elaborate. One rickshaw stops near the car long enough for me to catch a  glimpse of the spray painted silhouette of a woman holding a machine gun.

A mule pulls a man on a wheel cart bearing fruits. Beside him the mini bus carries groups of men or women, but never a mixture of both. The owner of an impeccable Prius looks out at the city through tinted windows. In between the cars, men of every age fill in the empty spaces with tiny motorcycles. A family of six sits on folding chairs in the back of a truck like a mobile picnic. A white van with the word 'ambulance' hand painted on the side meanders through traffic, no faster than the rest of us. Another pick-up truck serves as a policy car. An officer stands upright in the back of the truck, leaning against the car, he holds a riffle with both hands, and points it to oncoming traffic.

 - Excerpt form my Travel Diary: March 25, 2013 4:00 pm, Karachi, Pakistan

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What to do I buy in Dubai?

Well, not much.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I exercised a bit of restraint on this trip. Dubai is really a tax-free shopping paradise. From the air-conditioned super malls like Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates, to the bazaars of Karama, there are  things to buy at all prices.
In my case, I was heading to Pakistan that next week, so in anticipation of that trip, I saved all my excess cash and stuck to a super tight budget.

My first purchase was a Starbucks UAE mug. My partner's sister is obsessed with collecting and trading Starbucks mugs, which got me onto the idea that I ought to start a small collection of mugs to represent the places I have been. Surprisingly, not many Starbucks actually sold these mugs. At the gorgeous Starbucks in Jumeirah, I found this mug from the Emirates, but it was impossible to find the Dubai mug. Impossible.

At the Dubai Airport in Terminal 1, they sell Sharjah and Abu Dhabi mugs, but I didn't even go to those Emirates, so I felt kind of silly coming home with those mugs.




One of my few and favorite purchases was a recommendation from my Dubai expat friend: scented oil. When she first moved to Dubai, she sat next to a woman on the train who smelled amazing, and the woman told her that she bought all her oil from this shop in the Diera City Center. 

So, in search of this practical souvenir, I made that little trip to Diera, and mixed my own special scent from their selection of oils. My original scent is actually a combination of two of the store's own  creations.  This oil is very potent, so I only use a few drops on my wrists and neck. This hugh bottle, of my own original scent, only costs about $40 USD. 
A deal! 







Lastly, I usually don't like to buy touristy items, but after visiting Pakistan and seeing tiny Burj Khalifas and Burj al Arabs in everyone's living room,  I decided that our bookshelf at home needed a miniature Burj, I picked up this figurine at the Airport just before boarding a plane home. 
Now the Burj Khalifa has a home on our "philosophy" book shelf in our living room in Portland. 



Thursday, May 23, 2013

What I ate in Dubai

More like, what didn't I eat in Dubai. 

I knew this city would have a bit of everything, being one of the most international places on earth. 


My list of food spots mostly consisted of Starbucks, McDonalds, and one afternoon tea experience, but here is the recap for my Dubai eats:


1. Food I wished I had, but didn't:  Champagne Brunch  

Brunches, as I learned, are one of the staples of Dubai. Many places offer the sumptuous   feasts that make the Las Vegas buffets look sparse. Dubai also has something I haven't seen in Vegas: alcohol buffets. Reminiscent of the nomihodai "all-you-can-drink" hours in Japan, these alcohol buffets keep the booze coming till you are passed out of the floor and then some. 

2. Food I had, but wished I didn't:  one too many milks from Al Sham's

Speaking of too much of a good thing, my first day in Dubai I took a walk across the sandy pavement to a little market know as Al Sham's, and in my excitement and jet-laggedness, I purchased no fewer than 12 bottles of various kinds of milk. Rose milk, cardamon milk, mango milk, strawberry milk, etc. 

While this was mostly cool, let me be the first to say, not every flavor tastes good as a milk, and certainly not after the 12th bottle. 



3. What should have been on the list: Brunch Buffet

While I was here, I had the privilege of eating at two brunches, which are really just buffets.  In Dubai, brunch is a bit later than in the states, lasting from noon to 4:00 or 5:00 in some places. But really, you can find buffets at any time of the day and night. My favorite memory involved my friend and I searching for a Thai buffet at 10:00 pm on a Thursday night. 
After three metro stops, scanning through one edition of TimeOut Dubai magazine, and running into a surprising cool Israeli DJ, we managed to find a Thai buffet in Wafi mall. 


It was amazing.



4. Biggest surprise: Iranian and Lebanese food

I have never been a huge fan of hummus and kebobs at restaurants. Maybe this is because as a Greek, I grew up eating these food every day at home, so going to a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean restaurant was akin to eating inferior versions of my dad's cooking. So, you might imagine my surprise when I went to Dubai, and had some of the most delicious kebobs and shawarma I have ever tasted.






5. Most delicious meal: Chicken kebobs on my first night in Dubai

When I arrived in Dubai at 7:00 pm, my friend and host graciously bought the Marhaba service for me, which whisked me through the airport and in 15 minutes from the time I stepped off the plane, I was in her car, sitting in Dubai traffic. By the time I got home and unpacked, it was around 9:00 pm. I was exhausted, and definitely not hungry, but my host suggested we order some food for delivery. 

In Dubai, you can have anything delivered to your home, no minimums, no restrictions, no delivery fees. You can call up Al Sham's and have one bottle of cardamom milk delivered to your door at 10:00 pm if you wish. Dry cleaning, toilet paper, if it can be bought and carried, it can be delivered to your door, free of charge. 

So on this night, my friend ordered some chicken kebobs, with mushrooms, pita, french fries, garlic sauce, hummus, and fresh vegetables. 

This simple meal was my best memory in Dubai, not only because the food was good, but because it was such a Dubai experience. 




Dubai is often characterized as an amalgamation of cultures. So there I was,  a Greek-American,  who had just gotten off a plane from Seattle, standing in the kitchen of my Brazilian-Nigerien-American friend, who just moved to Dubai and didn't have a dining room table or eating utensils. So we ate our Lebanese food from paper plates with plastic forks, while standing up in the kitchen. Two foreigners in a foreign land. 

And one of those mundane moments in life, suddenly became meaningful. 

Other foods I ate during my time in Dubai:

plate from Thai buffet

Italian food

traditional Arabian food 

English breakfast at the airport


Monday, May 20, 2013

Monochrome Magic

Found a blue car to match my blue outfit.
Thank god the club was dark...


So, I went to a queer dance party the other night. Ehem, in Portland, obviously, this would not have taken place in Dubai or Pakistan. 
However, I did take a little Pakistan with me to the gay bar in the form of a hair accessory....

The theme was monochrome, so we had to dress head-to-toe in one color. Unless you pick black, this is actually kind of challenging. 
Try finding matching blue clothing in your wardrobe.



Yep, that's my bra under a sheer shirt. Welcome (back) to the 90's. 
Close up of my paranda hair accessory


Paranda (the blue braid I'm wearing in my hair): from Pakistan

Sheer Blue top: American Apparel
Bag: Steve Madden
Skirt: Target
Stockings: American Apparel
Shies: Target




Saturday, May 18, 2013

So Cometh the Summer

Back in Portland, it's finally starting to warm up...





Lace Tank: Urban Outfitters
Dress: Reconstructed vintage shirt
Bag: Steve Madden
Shoes: Target Edda sandel 








Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dubai from 442 Meters

These photographs were taken from At.mosphere, which is located on the 122nd level of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

When I edited these photos, I juxtaposed ones in heightened color with ones in black and white.

The effect was startling.
Same city, two very different faces, neither real.

The colorful photographs seem reminiscent of old posters for amusements parks, a tiny model in a bright, ideal world.


The black and white pictures, on the other hand,  look more like the photographs from the industrial revolution: gritty, bleak, fearful.

Dubai changes with one's perception. Whether one chooses to see it as a fantasy theme park or a cosmopolitan wasteland, it is all a matter of perception. 
These images are meant to capture those perceptions.










Drains of Taipei

My last drains diary in Taiwan was back in 2012 , and I looked forward to updating it with a couple new finds: