A Travellerspoint blog

Overwhelmed and underwhelmed

sunny 80 °F

Wheels are touching down, am peeking out of the window, and I am grinning: Just landed in a new country. There is just some excitement about that - Never gets old! Being EU, it is not possible to collect stamps in one’s passport but I don’t really need stamps to be reminded of where I have been. Talking of where I have been - I stumbled upon my first pay check amongst a collection of old papers. The actual pay stub. And had a sentimental moment of thinking how grateful I am for how far I have traveled.

Barcelona. My first time in Spain. I think about some of my friends who traveled in their 20s, right out of college. I did not do that - for all sorts of reasons I did not get to do that. And now, I feel like I am making up for it with a vengeance. But then interestingly, I also stumbled upon this odd emotion that I am weary of traveling alone…it is much more meaningful and plain simple fun to do it with someone else. To have someone by your side complaining of the same things, enjoying a cold beer, and laughing at people in Immigration lines. Oh well.

So, back to Barcelona. Nuts. Crazy, Mr Gaudi is. Famous, dead architect surely left his stamp on the city. My eyes hurt from the crazy, and by the end of the day I was completely and definitely visually over stimulated.

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http://www.earthalacarte.com/
Link to photos of some of the buildings I saw...

On the flip side, there’s Geneva - decidedly boring. This is a long Easter weekend and instead of doing what I usually do, which is to hole up at home and read and laze around, I got myself out and took the train to Geneva. The best part of the trip was the train ride - not that isn’t saying very much for a city. Got on the train, settled in for the 3 hour ride: fiddled with a fancy camera (am trying out a new hobby), watched a TV show, did some needlework, had some tea. Got to Geneva and the famous fountain was not spouting while I was walking around.

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http://isqua.newsweaver.co.uk

My brother talks often of wanting to work for the UN, so took a short bus ride to check it out. Most definitely underwhelmed by it - The plaza of the Nations is a small plaza, with small buildings around it, no guards, no ostentatious super sized anything. I was expecting grandeur and what not, and all I got was the whatnot.

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Here are some blah photos of the UN...

Most people stop at Lausanne on the way back from Geneva to Zurich. By the end of the day, I really didn’t feel like it…because Geneva and its famous Lac Leman did nothing for me. And I think it is because it looks so much like Zurich. It was not anything different. My dad grew up in a small town, Mercara, in a small district of Southern India, and when I would take him places in the US, he would comment in the most disenchanted fashion that “It looks just like Mercara.” And I think there was also a hint of pride that nothing compares to his beloved Mercara!

Posted by Goofy9 11:29 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

No peeking under the veil

UAE, and Qatar

sunny 79 °F

This past month I spent a whirlwind week in 3 cities - Doha in Qatar, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Observations, facts and musings follow...

UAE Arab Immigration officers are superbly well put together - crisp white robes, elegant cuff links and precision groomed beards. Ridiculously expensive watches. Didn't get to interact with a single Emerati man or Qatari man outside of the immigration desk.

The hotel driver, an Indian Muslim, was happy to speak to me in Hindi, and we chatted a bit about his hometown, Hyderabad, where I too had lived for a couple of years. He proudly showed me pictures of his fiancé, his 16 year old fiancé, who he was going to allow to finish 10th Grade. He has a college degree so I asked him about letting her study further and he responded with "what will she do with a college degree." Thinking about it now, I too am not sure what she will "do" with a college degree because more than likely she will have 2 kids by 20, live with her in-laws, and might actually be quite happy with her lot in life. The argument that education makes for a more empowered next generation and all that just seems to fall flat in this context.

The cities seem to be run with imported labor. Sorta like Singapore. Brain labor provided by the white man, relationships with the ruling class by other Muslims like Jordanians and Egyptians, service from the Philipinos, physical labor by Bangladeshis and Indians. It's all purchasable labor, albeit at different prices. All just a commodity.

Dubai has the veneer of liberal - white women in tank tops playing volleyball on the beach, moneyed Indians sitting at coffee shops, that sort of thing. Yet, seeing a skimpily clad woman made me want to shake her and say "have you not read a single thing about not doing this. It technically is called 'asking for trouble'" - and yes, I know I sound old fashioned.

Qatar has no coins - or at least no one gave me any change! And the UAE Dhirams small change has numbers only in Arabic - so I don't quite know how much change I got back.

Doha is a city rising out of the desert, a purpose-built city for the Qatar 2022 Football World Cup. The streets are not busy although construction sites are buzzing. Saw a lonely Hop on Hop Off bus with not a single person on it.

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Met my one and only Qatari - and that too a woman! A veiled woman in a leadership position. I can count the number of Qatari women in leadership on one hand, actually I just need 3 fingers. There must be something exceptional about her for her to be "given" that position. Apparently Qatari citizens do not have to work, though they are recently being encouraged to. So as a Qatari if she has chosen to work, that itself is commendable. And then as a woman if she wants to work, that is remarkable! The kind of challenges she must face, I don't think I can even begin to fathom.

Lean In and other Womens Rights stuff takes on a whole another dimension- she ordered tea for us, and she drank hers by holding her teacup under her veil. And this woman is responsible for millions of dollars of investment and she has to drink her tea under her veil. In comparison, I am happy to simply cover my arms, and to live among friends and family who let me say what I want, and live life the way I wish to engineer it. Now that is free, and liberal.

Posted by Goofy9 12:37 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

Universe in a single atom

snow 21 °F

2014 is The Year. I have great expectations for the year: new country, new job, new possible futures, new hope. But all that ra-ra didnt really help in the month of January. Started with great "josh" (hindi word for "I can be a tiger")- 102 continuous assisted push-ups, 200 nonstop crunches, and a 100 squats. And then nothing. No exercise, no reading, no secret project. January was like swimming in molasses...slow, surreal, sticky and icky. Faked myself through February too. Read a couple of books, just to feel like I was doing something. Ate a lot of chocolate cake.

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Today - Dalai Lama's Universe in a Single Atom: some intelligent reading to kick me back in gear. The Dalai Lama talks about ethics in science, and should not science be guided with an ethical backbone. To use stem cell or not? To animal test or not? And I had this wave of nausea - thinking about how much time is wasted discussing if the word "Impact" has a negative connotation in Change Impact Assessments, and how much can you grandstand on "how hot we are going to make this powerpoint presentation!" All this when people around me are doing real work: building platforms in the North Sea, reading to the blind, writing cards to new parents.

So, this is my challenge to me for the next 30 days...a moral and ethical challenge of sorts:
- Pause, and question every task. Not necessarily loudly, but with deliberation.
- Stop the march if all it is are tasks to look busy. No more busy work. The size and color of an excel spreadsheet isn't really going to help Novartis find a cure for Duschenne's Muscular Dystrophy.
- Callout bullshit: politely but persistently. No more letting people grandstand and waste my time and others time. Have the moral courage to call a stop.
- Figure out what the heck does the word "value" mean. Sounds more and more like Consultant-speak! "Is this bringing value?", "Is this a value-add service?". Argh.

Post to follow in 30 days with challenge results.

Posted by Goofy9 17:03 Archived in Sweden Comments (4)

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