Friday, June 21, 2013

Zumba in Dubai

It's taken me a while to jump on the Zumba train but today I participated in The Great Calorie Drive event hosted by My Dance Box at the World Trade Center and had a great time. Me and another rhythmically challenged friend shimmied to the back of the very large group of Zumba'ers and just grooved to our own routine; Although I wanted to shake it like I meant it, I was a little afraid that the laws of kinetic motion might start some jiggling that couldn't be stopped and I would end up in the emergency room.

But with a little practice, I think I can give those 20-something's, who obviously knew all of the right moves, a run for their money or maybe I'll just make friends with the lady who we saw grooving to the beat at the back with us while eating a cup of ice cream (no lie!). 
Do they serve wine at these events????
All snarkiness aside, the Great Calorie Drive is a super way to get your backside moving for a great cause. Through the end of the month, Zumba has partnered with two food programs who are working diligently to end hunger. A monumental task but events like these both raise awareness to the need around the world as well as make it fun to get your own health house in order. I definitely need to "move-it, move-it" and the instructors that took part in this event were varied, appealing to every level of fitness and taste in music. If you haven't tried Zumba yet, then get up and shake your tail feather baby! 
It's fun AND it's exercise! 
I NEVER thought those two ingredients would ever mix.



Psst - Zumba has an App available that will help you locate a class near you!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

There are many timelapse video's of Dubai and I never get tired of watching them. 
This city overwhelms the senses and often, for me, I have to selectively see, hear, smell, taste, and touch because it feels like if I open up and take it all in at once, I might just collapse into a gooey mess. 
These time-lapse videos help me see the wonder of this city whilst giving me repose of having to see the dirty details of how the wonder came to be or wonder how it can all be maintained.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hats off to Animal Kingdom!

I have been woefully neglectful of my personal blog, so today I thought I would get back into the swing of things by sharing pictures of the outrageous hats seen at the Dubai World Cup Horse Races this past weekend. I wasn't there unfortunately and I would love to give credit to the photographers who took these snaps but they weren't listed in the original Time Out gallery, so feel free to comment if these were your pictures and may I please attend with you next year to get some pics of my own???

The race itself is noteworthy because of the $10M duty-free purse and this year it was handed to the owners of Animal Kingdom, but enough about the real reason for the event, how 'bout them hats?

Top 10

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hotter Than Hades

It's 7:00am and my weather app says it's currently 30ºC/86ºF with a side order of relative humidity at 64% making it feel like 39ºC/102ºF!  
At 7:00am it already feels hotter than midday in the middle of a freshly laid asphalt parking lot in Houston?

Yes, and I'm chastised as a heat weenie because I think that this is uncomfortable and   apparently, this is nothing compared to the weather I missed during Ramadan.

You see, when I realized that Ramadan, the 9th month on the Islamic Lunar Calendar, fell mid July through mid August, I decided that there were "pressing issues" that needed my attention in the cooler climates of, well - anywhere! 
During the month long observance of Ramadan there is no smoking, no eating and no drinking (even water) during daylight hours for the followers of Islam; In the summertime, the sun rises at 5:30am and sets at 7:30pm.  
Fourteen hours of pure fasting everyday for 30 days. 
Understandably, it is considered bad form for non-Muslims to eat or drink in public during this time so cafes typically close for the month and restaurants only open for the evening Iftar banquets after sundown. 
Some might judge me and cluck about how terrible I am to make tracks and leave my husband to fend for himself. Others, might see the wisdom of the decision. And my husband has informed me that he will be following my lead next year. So there.

But now I'm back and every so often, I get brave and pack up my camera and wander off exploring. And in my wanderings, I have yet to see one slushy-like machine. 
Why not? 
Is this pot-o-gold-opportunity only obvious to me? 
Surely not. 
There are Baskin Robbin shops every 15 yards but who wants that heavy stuff when your insides feel like molten lava? I guess frappachino's and iced latte-da's are the much more grown up way of beating the heat but it seems like a mint limeade slushy machine might just make me a millionaire.

But what do I know, apparently the demand is for furs and not slushies in Dubai.....

Friday, March 23, 2012

Odds & Grins

Moving to a new country is filled with expected challenges and "WhatTheFork" moments. It's just part of the deal and to get through it with sanity in tact, you must muster a smile and brave the gauntlet of bureaucratic brouhaha.

Art Print by David Schwen (click to order)

It's really just "Odds & Grins".  Some things are "ha-ha" funny if you have even the slightest inclination toward a twisted sense of humor:
For example - I have to get my husbands permission to work here.

Other things are just plain "funny" - like weird, head cocked to one side, what-the-fork?
For example - the process to attest our marriage certificate (which is required to get a residents permit) took 8 weeks and cost about as much as a one-way ticket home.
Wouldn't it have been "ha-ha" funny to find out we weren't actually married for the last 9 years?
But now, I have a document signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton testifying that I'm married - do you?
I thought not.

After receiving Hillary's stamp of approval on my marriage, my meander through the Residents Visa Obstacle Course could now commence:

1. Medical Exam: Long line. Lots of forms. Handover cash and proceed to the typewriter.
Yes, typewriter.
Give a vial of blood. Take off bra. Pose for a chest Xray with shirt on and no bra and the horrifying thought that this might somehow end up on Facebook. Then try and put bra on again whilst protecting modesty because lady in the dressing room is taking AGES to remove her bra (doesn't she know the Flashdance pull-it-out-through-the-sleeve trick?) - oh screw it - off with the T-shirt.
"Come back and pick up your paperwork and passport in 5 hours please, then wait for your SMS with further instructions." Sigh.

2. Two weeks later - after they have determined that I don't pose a health hazard to the community I've just spent two weeks in - I get an SMS indicating that in 3 weeks I must go to a designated location far, far away to get fingerprinted and palm-printed for my Resident ID card - which will allow me to have a bank account, get a drivers license, and...ahem, get a job....(snicker).
Taxi gets lost. Pulls over another taxi and they agree that they also went there many years ago but can't seem to remember if the building is behind the Halal supermarket or the mosque.  I'm doomed and won't make my appointment time for sure; I have visions of "airport security line chaos" waiting for me and prepare myself for a day of waiting and shuffling cues.
But, I open the door and no one is there except a roomful of government workers and me. It's like they opened for the day just for me. Maybe this was a secret taping of The Amazing Race and one of them is going to hand me a big yellow envelope!
Boom - mug shot. Boom - left had on high-tech computer thingy that takes such a clear image of my palm that I wonder if they might give me a photocopy so I can send it to this excellent palm reader I met in Miami....yeah, probably shouldn't ask that.
I'm processed, paid, and out the door in less than five minutes feeling a little breathless and excited at my efficient, uncomplicated and completely smooth bureaucratic experience.
Five minutes of ecstasy in eight weeks time. You should be so lucky.

My next SMS will be in one month which will tell me that my ID card has arrived and I can go and pick it up at my PO Box.....
oh, hadn't I mentioned that we have to go and get our mail at the post office here?
A few days of searching our building for the tenant mailboxes lead me to the discovery that very few buildings in Dubai have mail must wait for an SMS that basically states "You've Got Mail" and then proceed to the postoffice.
I've ordered the above print and have a special place above my desk already reserved.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

GPP2012 - Inspiration Soup

©Christine Becksted - all rights reserved

Gulf Photo Plus brought together 13 mega talented photographers for a week of workshops and "aha" moments in the desert for GPP2012. The week provided exceptional opportunities to gain perspective from the likes of photojournalist David Burnett, who shared the story behind "that Ayatollah shot" and other monumental moments he has witnessed as a photographer. And for those of us who signed up for the ride, the absolute madness of Flashbus provided a forum to interact with and listen to two masters of flash, David Hobby and Joe McNally, who enlightened the audience with conflicting philosophies about flash photography. The week was pure Inspiration Soup and left me with the desire to really do more with the tools and skills I already have. So, I woke up this morning with a little dash of courage -
I think I can....I think I can... I think I can....

Two workshops in particular really gave me an opportunity for nearly one-to-one training with photographers David Nightingale and David Tejeda. Both workshop groups were small and both photographers had the patience of a saint.

The week closed with the famous GPP shootout. Three of the 13 photographers were challenged with what seemed to me, an impossible task: One at a time each had to compose, shoot and edit a shot in 20 minutes. They were able to use anything and anyone in the auditorium, but they weren't told the subject of the shoot until just before the timer started. When up, they were tethered to the big screen so we were able to see everything that they were doing with their camera.

This year the subject caused all three of the participants to die a little bit inside - this year they had to do a self-portait.

It was absolutely brilliant to watch David Hobby, Martin Prihoda, and Greg Heisler work under pressure and deliver tremendous results. David Hobby has an excellent blog post about the evening so I won't reconstruct the event here - he also has the resulting photos. Heisler spanked the group but I honestly really love all three results. What an experience.

The week wasn't cheap but it was an investment in something I love and worth every penny. I'll be back next year for sure - especially if Prihoda gives a light painting workshop (HINT HINT HINT).

©Christine Becksted Images - All Rights Reserved

©Christine Becksted Images - All Rights Reserved
©Christine Becksted Images - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shut the Front Door! Bling & Blackwater

My jaw hits the floor alot these days. And two little gobsmacking tidbits got my attention yesterday? Two very different types of water.

Bling, a term used to describe flashy accessories, also happens to be the lable of outrageously priced bottled water.  Their $50 bottle, already over-the-top and sold at places like Dean & Deluca, has now been one-upped by the macdaddy of all flash: a 750ml bottle of water, covered in Swarovski crystals that retails for $2600. Of course, this water is part of their "Dubai Collection".

Shut the front door.
It's water?
Not champagne or vodka or crude oil?

The company is the creation of a Hollywood film writer turned entrepreneur. Maybe he was a good film writer and possibly a famous one, but now he might actually make money in Hollywood.

Anyway, as my brain bounced around the multiple levels of irony in a $2600 bottle of water being sold in the desert, I came across the rather dated news that Dubai has a problem with Blackwater.

Blackwater is not just the name of the infamous private military company now quietly calling itself "Xe Services", ironically it is also a term for sewage.

In an astonishing reveal on NPR last November, an ugly little factoid surfaced about flushing toilets in the magnificent Burj Khalifa: The tallest building in the world has a poo problem.
When residents of the famous Burj "drop the kids off at the pool", the blackwater is hauled away by trucks to the treatment plant which then can que in lines for up to 24 hours before.....well, you know the punchline.
It is unbelievable but this pesky poo issue is actually a common one here. Many of the city's skyscrapers are not hooked into the municipal waste management system.
Why not?
Is waste planning just not as glamorous so it's treated as an afterthought? Surely there must be building regulations addressing waste management in new construction? Right?
Or will connecting all of these new buildings to a municipal system actually cause more stress on current water resources as water is needed to facilitate the movement of blackwater through the system?
But why couldn't you use sea-water?
Do they just need to build a bigger plant?
Who is in charge of poo here?

Obviously, I won't solve this issue on just one pot of coffee and I don't fancy spending the rest of the day contemplating Dubai's doodie drama. But, it is rather perplexing non?

I'll be sure to keep you posted on new developments.