Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson

The moment I heard the king of pop died will be memorable. I was at the market on Portobello Road when a wizened old man brought a newspaper to a merchant. The Chinese booth holder asked "You bring me good news?" With an African lilt the newspaper salesman replied "No-- bad news, Michael Jackson died." The three of us gathered around the headlines and photos, sharing reactions and speculating. Each of us in our own way said "poor guy". Three of us from different worlds, a special travel moment.

His death is a huge deal in London where he was about to appear. I wondered as we headed to South Africa what the coverage would be. Front page news is that he had a special relationship with South Africa, and was planning to retire here.

Johannesburg South Africa

It is winter her in Jo'Burg. It is very convincing, the trees are bare, the grass is brown and it is very cold early and later in the day. (38 degrees F). This outing to the modest, edge of the city Lion Park was the capper on one of the all time great travelling transitions. We started the day yesterday at Stratford on Avon, had a nice train ride to London, hopped on the Heathrow Express train and flew overnight on South Africa Air. I have never changed seasons in a day before. And they are saying it is 29 and humid in London, so we will know it when we change back later this week. But today, it is winter. And the winter light is beautiful here.

We are staying the the Melrose Arch Hotel which is part of the African Pride chain. The decor is is hip and quirky.

In Stratford on Saturday we visited Shakespeare sites which got us into the mood for "As You Like It" which was a thrill. The Royal Shakespeare actors overcome the language and historical context for the jokes barriers and make it clear what is going on and what is funny. They have amazing stamina.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Exploring Dubai

The elevator at our hotel ascends 6 floors per second. There are lots of biggest, longest, fastest things here. I made it over to the beach area and realized that all the talk about building isn't the 15 skyscapers under construction I can see out my window here in the business district. Its the 30 five star hotels being built at the first of three sucessivley bigger "Palm" islands being constructed in the Arabian Gulf. My guidebook says "ecologists are concerned" - oh my.
At the Wafi Gourmet I tasted some of the fantastic things that are done with dates.
At the Jumeirah Mosque I heard a talk from a volunteer for the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Understanding explain Islam thinking and traditions in a warm and welcoming way.

Traveling around Dubai on my own is easy and fun. It is like nowhere else I have been, with eighty-five per cent of the population from elsewhere. I am not noticeable , and people are helpful when asked. I love the scent (of ood?), the signs in Arabic, the women in abaya who smile and nod.

In honor of EE Kim, who so enthusiastcially posts food photos, I am going to post photos of my Iranian lunch at the Mall of the Emirates (the one with the real ski slope) and my delicious Arabic breakfast this morning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Arriving Dubai

It is so amazing to get on a plane and sleep and listen to my ipod, hang at the Munich airport and have thai chicken soup, and sleep and read and land in Dubai.

The five a.m. arrival gave us a full day here, Sheree headed to the office, where she had a great day. And I headed out for a latte. Starbucks is right here in the hotel complex, and it all felt very normal getting my latte, except the menu was in Arabic and the handsome young business men I was lined up with were in mufti. I wanted to take a picture but it seemed just too ridiculous.

I hopped a cab to catch the big bus, a double decker, hop on and off ,with unintelligible gibberish over the headphones just like in London. Fellow tourists were from India, Poland, Italy and England. The Dubai Museum was a great answear to "how did all this get here?". Struggled a bit to find the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House on the next stop. June is off season and things are very quiet.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I think this trip will not be as relaxing as this moment in Lanikai
Dateline: Thursday June 17, 2009 - lunchtime

Just finished my salad and am taking a plunge into blogger to see if I can find my voice while travelling the next two weeks so I can better engage with cyberpeers. I want to get better at engaging by commenting on philanthropy and nonprofit blogs.