Monday, April 30, 2007

Hong Kong, T minus 40 minutes

Had an 11-hour flight from London, six hours of which I was asleep-- a record for me. Despite being stuck in the plane for two hours in LHR (they had technical difficulties with the refuelling process) it was a good flight.

Got to watch four episodes of the American version of The Office. [Spoiler alert: Jim leaves the Scranton branch over his frustrations with Pam. Pam's marriage does not push through. Oscar is gay. Dwight has an affair with Angela.]

I'm almost home.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

London, T minus 90 minutes

(Exchange rate: US$ 1 = UK£ 0.463; UK£ 1 = PHP 103.67)

Had a good two hours in London. Took the Tube from LHR to Piccadilly Circus (a day pass costs a bit more than six quid). Had a quick lunch with my old chap Paeng at Aberdeen Steak House also in Piccadilly-- I got the Fish and Chips for 12 quid. Afterwards I took a stroll then headed back to LHR to maximise my lounge relaxation time. The CX lounge is the best-- good Asian food, private and spacious shower rooms, and free internet.

I was actually planning to stay one night in London on my way back from Central Asia but decided against it as I'm very very keen on going home. I guess this means I'll have to cancel dinner at the Palace tonight.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Baku, T minus 60 minutes

After problems in checking in (somehow they can't handle e-tickets) and a very long line in passport control (only one officer for our half of the terminal), I'm in the lounge waiting for departure.

It was a long trip. Exhausting becasue of the tonnes of work but also fulfiling because of new friends and experiences. Almost every traveller's nightmare happened to me during my trip, from an immigration officer fishing for a bribe to being surrounded by presidential bodyguards. But a lot of exciting things also happened, from a tour of historic Hisor near Dushanbe to attending a sunnat in Baku. [A sunnat is basically a debut for an 11-year-old boy, his official entry into manhood. On sunnat he parties; the next day he is circumcised.]

It was a long and memorable trip, but I've never been so raring to come home. I'm finally coming home.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Baku, Day 5

[It's actually my 7th day in Baku today, so this is a delayed post.]

Spent most of the day billeted in my hotel room. Usually I take a cab to my colleague’s office across town (AZN 5), but today he said he was still busy cleaning the data so I just did my work in the hotel.

For lunch I had a sandwich of sliced beef, cucumbers, onions, and fries in Azeri bread (yes, the fries were inside the bread). It’s basically a shawarma, but much better than the ones we have at home—nothing like eating food in the region where it was born. I also bought 1.5 litres of water. All in all, lunch cost me AZN 1.40—not a bad deal at all. Btw, in Azerbaijan 100 kapik = 1 manat. Note the similarity of kapik to kopeck (in Russia, 100 kopecks = 1 rouble) and manat to monat (монат is Russian for “money”).

Still on money, Azerbaijan replaced the old manats (currency code of AZM) with the new manat (AZN) in January 2005. After years of hyperinflation the AZM finally stabilised in the early 2000’s; however, by this time the exchange rate was around USD 1 = AZM 5,000 and local prices were followed by numerous zeros (not good for business perception). To reflect the manat’s stability, the government replaced AZM with AZN and set USD 1 = AZN 1, or AZN 1 = AZM 5,000. Why am I telling you this? Because some people in Baku still quote prices in AZM rather than AZN. So when you’re asked for 4,000 manats for a piece of bread, don’t be shocked and clarify what currency they’re using.

Took a brief stroll outside my hotel. Not exactly the right weather for a walk-- there were gale-force winds and a temperature around 6C to 10C. The pine trees were bending like they had duckpins for Christmas balls. It was actually hard for me to walk and I had to hold on to my cap lest it gets blown away. All in all, not a bad stroll.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Congratulations, Dear!

It was just yesterday when I met you during UP Fair and you were anxious about your application to law school. It was just yesterday when I saw you in Malcolm Hall as you were about to take the dreaded LAE interview. It was just yesterday when you were being shell-shocked by reams of readings and terror profs.

Now you're about to walk onto the stage, shake the dean's hand, and officially graduate from law school. After tonnes of paper, barrels of ink, and gallons of coffee, you can now say you survived law school.

Congratualtions on your graduation, Dear. It is such an achievement. I am proud of you.

[Picture taken somewhere in the Azerbaijani countryside, around 30 mins from Baku.]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Baku, Days 1 to 3

(Exchange Rate: US$ 1 = 0.864 Azeri new manats; AZN 1 = PHP 55.55)

Day 1

After two weeks in (relatively) sweltering Bishkek and Dushanbe, I was greeted by a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius in the middle of the afternoon. Good thing I brought my winter-in-SFO clothes.

There are two things that immediately struck me in Baku-- it's dusty/muddy and there are a lot of newly constructed buildings (and even more that are being constructed). The latter can be attributed to Azerbaijan's new oil wealth-- they found large deposits of natural gas in the late 1990's. Main roads in Baku are wide and smooth, but side streets are terrible. Unlike Bishkek and Dushanbe which retain their Soviet ambience, Baku feels more like Istanbul.

Almost everyone in Azerbaijan speaks Russian and English usage is starting to grow because of an influx of foreign investors. The main language, of course, is Azeri-- a Turkish dialect which has its own alphabet based on the Latin alphabet (lots of tails, umlauts, and an inverted "e", though). So far I know two Azeri words: salam (hello) and saol (thank you, good bye, and can be used as a toast).

Day 2

My colleague invited me to lunch at his home. His wife prepared a superb meal of fried mutton, grilled tomatoes and eggplants, and salad. This was washed down with home-made red mulberry juice. Of course there was the omnipresent bread. Those who know me probably expected this, but the highlight of the meal was the eggplant-- grilled with olive oil and thinly sliced garlic.

After a tour of the Azeri countryside, we had dinner at his home. Again, the meal was superb-- eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers stuffed with mutton, garlic, and spices. We also had fresh herbs (basil, parsley, spring onions) from their garden.

I saw family life in Dushanbe and Baku and I can sum it up in one word-- patriarchal. In Dushanbe, my hosts (husband and wife, both professors, and their son) ate with me as a family but only the wife prepared the meal and cleaned up. I tried to help, but I was stopped by both of them. In Baku, I had two meals at my colleague's home, but I didn't really share the meals with his family. It was just the two of us sharing the meal and his family (wife, daughter, and son) were serving us. I only got to meet his wife shortly before I left their home. Fathers here are really treated as kings and the family revolves around them.

Day 3

From my arrival in Baku until now I stayed at the Park Inn hotel (AZN 150/night). It was a very posh place with a great view of the Caspian Sea outside my window. But, alas, it was too expensive for me. My per diem can accommodate it, but it would mean I'll have no savings and I'll have to scrimp on food. So I gave up my hi-tech room with a great view for a sparse, viewless room (the view is a construction crane) at Hotel Empire. The good news: it also has free internet, is just two buildings away from ADB, and it's only USD 100/night (or AZN 86/night)-- almost half the price of Park Inn.

For dinner my colleague brought me to a restaurant with a nice pastoral view of a lake in the suburbs of Baku. Along with fresh vegetables, various shashlik (beef, mutton, and sturgeon), and olives, we had a dish called sacici (pronounced sa-ji-chi)-- a stew of chicken, potatoes, peppers, oranges, and tomatoes cooked in a base of butter. It tastes very much like the Filipino afritada sans the tomato sauce (a perfect meal if only we had rice). The dish is actually named after the dish it's cooked in-- the sac (pronounced saj). It's a cast-iron pan shaped like a shallow Spanish paelleri and any food cooked in it is called a sacici, literally "in the sac".

Tomorrow, Monday, the hard work starts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dushanbe, Days 1 to 4

Since I haven’t posted for a while, this will be a long post covering four days.
(exchange rate: US$ 1 = 3.43 Tajik somonis; TJS 1 = PHP 14)

Day 1

Arrived in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, last Saturday. My initial impression of Dushanbe was not good. The international airport was, how do I put this, decrepit. The provincial airport in General Santos City is much better than the Dushanbe international airport. After going through consular affairs and passport control, my airport pickup was a Zhiguly, an old Soviet car infamous for being the sourest of lemons. They tried to sell it in Finland under the name Lada—apparently Zhiguly has a bad connotation in Finnish—but it didn’t sell too well despite the name makeover.

While people in Bishkek look either Mongol or Russian, people in Dushanbe look more like Turkish or Persian. You find a few Russians, Kyrgyz, and Koreans in the fray (Koreans were forcibly relocated to Central Asia during Stalin’s time), but most of the people are of Turkic origin. You’ll also see many women walking around in their national dress, which looks like the ubiquitous duster in Manila (floral or plain print) but with material ranging from luxurious silk and velvet to the truly duster-like cotton.

My hotel in Dushanbe is called Hotel Sino. To help you picture it, it’s not exactly what I would call a gostinitsa (building/hotel); rather, it’s closer to an inn. It’s clean and fairly secure, but the staff doesn’t speak English and it doesn’t provide the usual amenities you’ll find in a hotel (they have excellent satellite TV, although only few channels in English). As for the name, given the lacquered furniture, oriental bed sheets, and the made-in-China shampoos and combs, I think Hotel Sino is their idea of a typical Chinese hotel room.

After a few hours of rest, I was picked up by my colleague in Dushanbe driving a Volga—another one of those infamous Soviet cars. The ride to their office was very short, passing by wide tree-lined boulevards. In Dushanbe, everything important from the Presidential Palace and Parliament to TV stations and markazi savdo (stores) is around one major road called Rudaki Street (formerly Lenin Street). Like Bishkek, buildings in Dushanbe are mostly Soviet-era apartments and government buildings. But unlike Bishkek, there are more new buildings in Dushanbe and the old apartments seem to be better maintained (or at least nicely painted). Dushanbe is also less congested, giving it a more laid-back feel. However, like Bishkek, roads are terrible in Dushanbe even by Manila standards.

Despite the initial car ride, everything in Dushanbe is within walking distance; i.e., within a 30-minute walk. Dushanbe is a walker-friendly city with wide tree-lined sidewalks. It seems that walking is the main form of transportation in this city, although there are also public buses, minibuses and cabs. If you’re staying in a hotel in the city centre (which I am), almost everything you’ll want to visit in the city is within walking distance. My hosts also tell me that it’s safe to walk around Dushanbe even at night; the biggest threat is actually the militsia (police) who can stop you and ask for a bribe.

My colleague strongly advised me not to drink tap water. Actually it was stronger than that—under no circumstance should I put tap water in my mouth lest I risk contracting typhus. I can bathe with the water and I can use it to wash my clothes, but I should not ingest it in any way. I should only use bottled water, even for brushing my teeth. I immediately bought seven 1.5 litres of bottled mineral water, costing a total of 10.5 somonis (or 1 somoni per litre—not a bad deal). I also bought some Russian-made chocolate bar (brandy and hazelnut flavour) for 5 somonis.

My first real meal in Dushanbe was at Choyhonnai Rokhat, literally meaning “place of rokhat”, the house specialty. Rokhat is basically an oval-shaped meatball made of beef and herbs, steamed (I think), then fried with lots of onions. I also had a soup of rice, beef, potatoes, and herbs, and a salad of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and radish. Of course, there’s the omnipresent bread, non in Tajik. [I thought that non is from the Indian naan bread, but I was corrected by my hosts. Indian naan is actually from the Farsi non. Persians and Central Asians conquered India during the Mughal Empire (of Shah Jahan and Taj Mahal fame) and introduced naan bread to India.] Dinner at Choyhonnai Rokhat for the three of us cost 36 somoni, tip included, and it is considered one of the pricier places in the city. By the way, restaurants in Bishkek and Dushanbe already include tip in the bill, so no need to leave a tip.

Day 2

This day, Sunday, my hosts took me to the outskirts of Dushanbe, particularly the historic region of Hisor. Hisor was one of the important centres of the old Tajik Bukhara Empire, which spanned present-day Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan before it was overrun by the Russians. I saw the ruins of an old castle and a madrassa, which now serves as a museum of Tajik history. It’s good that my hosts are an historian and an anthropologist—they really make an effort to show me the culture and history of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan literally means “land of Tajiks”; “Tajik”, in turn, means “people who wear a crown”, thus the crown (taj) seen in their flag. King Somoni (yes, like the currency) is credited as being the father of the Tajik people, and has a monument in the centre of Dushanbe.

For dinner, my hosts served me manty (meat dumplings common in Central Asia), spiced yoghurt, salad, and the omnipresent non. Tajiks, I see, are very generous and hospitable. My colleague, the anthropologist, says that it’s because the Tajiks are a mountain-dwelling nation, so visitors are treated like kings because they are few and far between.

Day 3

Met two US Embassy employees in my hotel today. Although I’m not exactly a fan of US foreign policy (and those who carry them out), it was nice to talk with people who spoke fluent English.

Had dinner at the famous Sirius Restaurant, which serves mostly Russian cuisine in an Egyptian-themed ambience. I had winter salad, Kiev cutlets, and rice. Salad in Russia and Central Asia, mind you, is serious business and can occupy up to half the menu (none of that flavourless chef’s salad crap we get in Manila). Kiev cutlets are like the chicken ala Kiev we get in Chocolate Kiss in UP, but much bigger and better. I spent a total of 18 somonis for my dinner—not bad considering this is the “in” resto for fashionistas and expats in Dushanbe. I then spent 2 somonis on apricot-flavoured ice cream sundae which I bought from a street hawker (like the Magnolia/Selecta carts in Manila).

Day 4

This day started off interestingly. I often walk to my colleague’s office, so I expected the day to be like any other day. It just so happened that today Pres. Imomali Rakhmon (formerly Rakhmonov) was speaking at the Tajikistan Technical University which was along my route, so I committed the crime of walking past an area where he was. Presidential security, thinking I was a threat, stopped me and sternly asked for my dokumenti. Much to my chagrin, my passport and Tajik visa were with ADB; fortunately, I had a photocopy of those documents which I presented them. They yelled something in Russian or Tajik (couldn’t tell which language), to which I answered, “Ya nye panemayu Russkiy yazik (I don’t understand Russian),” and, “Rabotayu Aziatskiy Banke Razvitsiya (I work in ADB).” I think it was enough to convince the president’s bodyguards that I wasn’t a terrorist or assassin and they let me go, telling me in Russian or Tajik to get lost. I followed their instruction and indeed got lost, somehow finding myself in front of the Kazakhstan Embassy in Dushanbe. There I called my colleague and he fetched me. Bolshoi spasiba (many thanks) to Kazakh Embassy security for letting me loiter in front of their gates.

Back in the office, we had lunch of non, salad, and plov, a rice dish common in Central Asia but Tajik plov is famed for being very good—a fact I learned from my Kyrgyz colleagues. The plov I had here was basically like paella but cooked with beef, carrots, chickpeas, and spices (including carroway seeds). It’s served with a side dish of julienned radish and cucumber. It’s very good, I should say, even for a rice eater like me. [From plov we get the common rice pilaf dish in the West, which I say is a lame version of the original.] Meals in Tajikistan are often washed down with green tea and some sour milk drink (think of liquid cottage cheese) which I don’t really like.

This afternoon, my hosts brought me to the National Museum and gave me an excellent tour—imagine an historian and an anthropologist being your tour guides. The museum exhibits Tajikistan’s long and proud history from the paleolithic period and Buddhist kings to Alexander the Great and the Bukhara Empire. The museum also boasts of a very large statue of a reclining Buddha—a legacy of its pre-Islamic history. Afghanistan and Tajikistan share these treasures of gigantic Buddhas carved from stone; however, the Taliban destroyed their statues in Afghanistan so now only Tajikistan maintains this legacy.

My hosts again prepared dinner for me, this time consisting of meat fritters, bulgur wheat, fussili pasta, salad, and non. They also served me copious amounts of Tajik vodka—much smoother than Absolut and tastes more like sweet water, attributed to the crystal-clean water from Tajikistan’s mountains.
Sorry, cyberlaundry, still no pics. Btw, my hotel is a three-minute walk from the Komitet Gossudartsvennoi Bezopastnosti office in Dushanbe. It still serves its original purpose and carries the same name to this day (albeit working for Tajikistan rather than the Soviet Union).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bishkek, T minus 10 hours

Leaving Bishkek tomorrow morning for Dushanbe. Another day, another city.
Had dinner a while ago at Pit Bull Cafe-- a Western-themed restaurant which serves what seem to be Russian dishes. I had a dish of something like a cross between an omelette and beef cordon bleu. It was good, actually. I ate it with rice, although rice here is considered a side dish and is usually "stewed"; i.e., cooked in both water and oil. In case you're interested, the staple in this part of the world is bread, or khleb.

Taking a cab back to the hotel, we (the driver and I) were stopped by the police who stopped us by waving one of those lighted sticks usually used in airports. I don't know what the offence was (if any), but the driver was free after paying a bribe of 30 soms. After his transaction with the cop, the driver started to be chatty. In broken English, he asked me where I was from. In broken Russian, I answered, "Ya Filipinyets." He followed by asking how I liked Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan. Being the polite visitor, I said it was "very nice (ochin harasho)". Visibly still irked by his encounter with the militsia, he asked me, "What's so nice about Bishkek?"

"Bishkek and Manila are very similar," I answered. At the time it was a dismissive answer mainly said to duck a potentially difficult discussion, but the more I think about it the more it rings true. Like Manila, Bishkek has its share of bad roads, kotong cops, and even People Power. Like Manila, you see lots of small stores and micro-businesses in Bishkek-- a proliferation of mom-and-pop enterprises typical of developing economies. Like Manila, people in Bishkek seem to be so tired of politics and the economy, but not of life and family. It is interesting how two cities so distant in geography, culture, and history could still have so much in common.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bishkek, Day 3: A-Typical Day

(Exchange rate: US$ 1 = 37 Kyrgyz soms; KGS 1 = PHP 1.30)

After breakfast in the hotel, my day usually begins with a cab ride to either the ADB office or my colleague’s office. A cab ride to any point in Bishkek costs 75 to 80 soms, but the hotel taxi (nicer car) costs 100 soms. Traffic in Bishkek is light and orderly, and drivers and pedestrians mostly follow traffic signs; however, roads are terrible even by Manila standards.

After a short meeting in the office, my colleagues brought me to one of the largest stores in Bishkek called Zum (Цум), taking a ride in a German surplus minibus (the name of the original owner still on the side) with a fare of 5 soms. Like Virramall or St. Francis Square, Zum is made up of many small stalls offering almost anything under the sun. There are no Manila-type malls in Bishkek and no Western fast-food chains—glad to know McDonaldsisation and Starbucksisation haven’t reached this part of the world.

After having my fill of Kyrgyz souvenirs, we had lunch at a café in the basement of Zum called Labyrinth (in Bishkek, all restaurants are called café, or кафе). Labyrinth serves Russian and Kyrgyz dishes as well as alcoholic drinks and cigarettes, which are on the menu. I ordered a Kyrgyz dish called besh barmak (беш бapMaк) which is a bland noodle dish with chopped beef and a small amount of broth (75 soms). My Kyrgyz colleagues say “besh barmak” literally means “five fingers” because it was traditionally eaten by hand. Also, besh barmak is traditionally a midnight snack of sorts—nomads must need their energy. For dessert, I had an ice cream sundae with apples, pineapple jam, walnuts, and cognac (!), costing 80 soms. [I observe that Central Asians call all distilled grape-based spirits as “cognac” even if they are not from Cognac, France. And although the quality is good, the “cognac” is better compared with brandy rather than the real cognac.] After two days of being dined out, I treated my colleagues to lunch—the bill for the three of us was 550 soms, a fairly expensive lunch by Bishkek standards.

After going back to the hotel at 4 pm, I saw that I had at least 4 more hours of daylight so I decided to take a walking tour alone, covering a radius of around 1 km around the hotel. The temperature today was fairly cool by Manila standards, probably in the low 20’s (centigrade), but hot by Bishkek standards.

Bishkek is a walk-friendly city with wide sidewalks and fairly clean air, although there is the occasional smoke belcher. Buildings are mostly old Soviet-era apartments that are structurally stable but poorly maintained; new buildings really stand out. There are also a lot of grand government buildings and monuments in the particularly dynamic Soviet style. You will find a few cigarette and candy vendors along sidewalks, though never to the point of being an obstruction. You will also find magazine kiosks on almost every corner, none of them selling English periodicals. Salespeople are generally friendly and accommodating, but expect a “nyet” whenever you ask them, “Gavaritye pa anggliskiy?” Few people in Bishkek speak English, but I find that a few basic Russian phrases can get you by. If you’re lucky, an English-speaking customer will hear you and lend assistance, as what happened to me yesterday when I bought edinits (единиц, or credits) for my pre-paid mobile.

During my walk, I passed by a stall that sells rotisserie chicken (called grill, or гриль). One roast chicken, which is a jumbo chicken in Manila, costs 210 soms, while half a chicken costs 105 soms. I say it’s a deal given the size of the bird—I bought half a chicken for dinner. I also bought a 1.5 litre bottle of mineral water for 16 soms and some traditional round Kyrgyz bread called khleb (хлеб) for 7 soms—yes, food in Bishkek is cheaper than in Manila.
Back in my hotel room, I tuned in as usual to BBC News and Star World—the only two English-language channels on the telly. To my chagrin, only official state TV and a few Russian entertainment channels were accessible. The hotel operator says it’s due to some technical difficulties, but I think it’s related to the political rallies for tomorrow. Oh well.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bishkek, Day 3

This'll be short as I'm rushing to go to a meeting. Hopefully I'll get to post again later.

Anyway, tomorrow's the big day. For the latest news from Bishkek, visit It's in English, and it's updated fairly quickly.

Bishkek, Day 2

I was informed today that there will be mass actions on Wednesday, 11 April. Like us Filipinos, the Kyrgyz seem to have a penchant for holding People Power whenever they want change in government. They've had two previous People Powers-- in March 2005 and in November 2006. I won't go into the political issues, but here's what happened:

March 2005-- There were some riots in the street and looting of stores, though not widespread. Kyrgyzstan's land borders were closed and all flights were cancelled. Communication with the outside world was severly limited. Then Pres. Akaev eventually stepped down from office and was replaced by the current president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. This episode in Kyrgyz history is called the Tulip Revolution.

November 2006-- There were no riots and no looting, and the rallies remained peaceful. Land borders with Kazakhstan and Tajikistan were closed, but Manas International Airport (FRU) remained open. Communication via the internet was difficult. Pres. Bakiyev, who was nearly booted out of office, eventually agreed to implement the constitutional changes demanded by the opposition.

Hopefully, the mass actions on Wednesday will not turn out like March 2005. My flight out of Bishkek to Dushanbe is on Saturday-- pray that flights aren't cancelled. At worst, I might have to go with the ADB and UN evacuation plane going to Kazakhstan. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Addendum: Had an interesting sight a while ago: saw Russian NTS News crews setting up base at the hotel where I'm staying. Apparently, they're expecting Wednesday to be a big news day. Good thing my hotel is far from the city centre where the White House (yup, that's what they call the Presidential Palace in Kyrgyzstan) is located, so any disturbance there shouldn't reach us.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bishkek, Day 1

Arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, early this morning. Everything went smoothly, although the wait at the consular department in Manas International Airport took more than hour. After almost 24 hours in transit, my ears were "treated" to Kyrgyz pop music much like the soundtrack to Borat (yes, they use synthesisers in that style) during the 30 minutes from the airport to the hotel.

Had breakfast buffet a while ago. The food is actually not bad-- had some stewed meat and vegetables, eggs, rice, cold cuts, fish fingers, and some fruit, all washed down with green tea. FYI, Bishkek is two hours behind Manila (should be three, but there's DST), and the currency is the Kyrgyz Som (USD 1 = KGS 37).

Bishkek was known as Frunze (thus the airport code of FRU) during Soviet times after Mikhail Frunze, a member of Lenin's Bolshevik Party who was a native of Bishkek. Buildings here are mostly old with Soviet-era architecture. There are no posh places like Rockwell or Greenbelt, but no slum areas either. Makes you think which city (Manila or Bishkek) has it better off.

That's all for now. Will post again (hopefully with pics) soon.

Istanbul, T minus 90 minutes

Had a good three hours in Istanbul today. Most notable places visited were (from top) the spice/artifacts souk (called "sok" here), the Blue Mosque, and, of course, the Hagia Sophia. Have a lot more pictures, but can't post them all right now. Sorry for the blurred pics, seems I moved my camera too quickly.

This picture is for you, Dear. It was taken at the gardens of the Hagia Sophia.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Dubai, T minus 40 minutes

Apparently, my SIN-IST flight has a one-hour stop in Dubai. No changing planes, just disembarking passengers and taking in a few. (Funny how "embarking" is applied to planes when it literally means "into a boat".) Anyway, will just have enough time to buy a souvenir magnet then wil re-board the plane.

Singapore, T minus 40 minutes

At Singapore's Changi Airport now, less than an hour til my flight to IST and the plane is already boarding. Had a quick (50 mins) chat with my friend dr. sbdink-- good thing Singapore's immigration is very efficient. Good to see you're doing well, dude.

I had a total of 53 mins as a visitor in S'pore City. Hopefully my next visit will be a bit longer.


Got your text, Dear. Yes, I was still on the plane when you texted. Missing you already.

Manila, T minus 55 minutes

Just around an hour til my MNL-SIN flight. The lines at NAIA were surprisingly (at least for me) LONG! Even longer than the lines during Christmas time. It seems there are a lot of OFW's leaving today, suggested by the long lines at the Cathay Pacific and Emirates booths. I know many of them are OFW's because of the long lines at the OFW counters. Protracting my queuing experience is a family (three minors) whose papers seemed to be out of order, so they took something like 20 mins to go through. This while I and everyone on my line were drooling at the speed of the next line. They should have a special line for passengers with minors given the piles of paperwork needed for processing.


Now I'm feeling that my trip is a long trip. Will really miss you, Dear. I miss you already. I'll call you right after I publish this post.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Manila, T minus 15 hours

It's 15 hours til departure time for the MNL-SIN leg of my trip. I only have two hours in SIN, so hopefully I'll have time to meet up with my friend dr. sbdink at Changi Terminal 2.

This trip will be the longest time I'll be alone and away from home. I've been abroad for three weeks many times before, but they're for Christmas with my folks in the US so it's practically home. This time I'll be away on business in places I've never been to (ok, I've been to FRU once) and where English is not widely spoken. I'll have to say a lot of, "Pazhalsta, ya nye panemayu," and "Gavaritye pa anggliskiy?" during my trip. Also, the food will be alien to me-- even a foodie like me will eventually look for familiar comfort food. But in any case, it'll be an adventure; I just hope work and its attendant stress don't get too much in the way.


I'll miss you so much, Dear. Text me always. Take care.