Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring Has Sprung!

Well, this weekend was surely nothing less than eventful--if there isn't a holiday to celebrate, we'll just create our own! Whereas last weekend consisted of national and international holidays, this weekend was several social events creating all sorts of opportunities to connect with coworkers, charities, neighbors, and friends.

Friday night was the BEC's Black & White Ball held as a benefit for Sukrupa, a school for street kids in India. Besides getting "dressed to impress" in stylish black & white, the night included dinner, dancing, and a silent auction consisting of paintings by the children, fun activities, and even dinner cooked by Barbara, BEC President and Hungarian cook extraordinaire. A group of us from Zen Gardens (or Expat Central, EPC, as we call it) went to the gala affair in our best black & white. Michael Hubbard (now known as "Curly Mike") and I ("Burly Mike") coordinated our black & white Indian kurtas so it gave us a great opportunity to shop for some new Indian formal wear, which is always a perk! Another one of our TTS team members from Minneapolis, Tim, also had a chance to attend the event in an Indian kurta, so that was great. It's always so nice when our HQ team members visit! Hope you had a great trip, Tim :o)

Saturday night brought the EPC Progressive Party--somewhat like a progressive dinner, but just simple drinks and snacks throughout the 8 different apartments we occupy at Zen Gardens, Building A. Every 30-minutes we would rotate to the next apartment, thus giving all the guests an opportunity to view the different apartment layouts, decor, and "warm" each apartment with their cheerful spirit. It was a fun night of conversation, music, laughter and stories, and a wide variety of drinks and snacks. Fun for everyone! I had a great time helping to organize the event and, of course, taking snaps of the entire night--I love being the Paparazzo.

Next weekend Michael, Paul, Will, and I are off to Sri Lanka to do some exploring, and then I'm preparing for a whirlwind tour of central Europe with Mom & Dad on Eurail--I love vacation time. Never a dull moment in the life of this expat :o)

Even though it's sunny at 90 degrees virtually every day in Bangalore, springtime still brings a freshness and feeling of renewal. The change of the season marks the entrance into summer--new flowers bloom, the winds change, and vacations are planned. May this spring renew and refresh you--get outside and soak up the natural beauty of this earth. What a gift!

Happy Spring to All :o)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brunch & Stuff

These last two weekends have been quite busy--St. Patrick's Day, Holi (an Indian holiday marking the start of spring), Good Friday, and, of course, Easter weekend. Never before do I remember St. Patrick's Day and Easter being so close in the calendar, but it's rather strange to think that it's spring anyway since in India it always feels like summer--reminds me of living in Hawaii all those years!

Between the holiday events and gatherings there were plenty of opportunities to connect with other expats and traveling visitors these past two weeks. Todd's parents were in town, we have Ron, Amy, and Tim from our International HR in town, and our newest expats, Will and Pam, have moved into Zen Gardens. A group of us took another Bangalore Walks tour this past weekend (thanks, Roopa!), the OWC (Overseas Women's Club) had a St. Patrick's Day dinner, BEC (Bangalore Expat Club) had its St. Patrick's Day party and weekly mixer, and Easter Brunch at the Taj West End was attended by a big group of us from Target.

Between the two weekends there's been lots of great conversations, stories, activities, and holiday cheer. Paul, Pam, and I colored easter eggs over the weekend--which I hadn't done in years! Paul had gotten some dye powder and I brought my magic markers, paints, and colored dyes from the Mysore market (remember those bowls of colored powder in my photos? They were used to dye eggs this weekend :o)

It was fun to celebrate the holidays with the other expats--not the same as being home with family, but like Christmas, another opportunity to connect with my extended family of friends here in Bangalore.

Happy Spring, St. Patrick's Day, St. Urho's Day (for the Finns :o), Holi, Spring Solstice, Easter, and everything good that springtime brings!

Monday, March 3, 2008

You Say Dubai, and I Say Hello!

I know, I know--the title is a cheap play on words (but can't you just hear our familiar Target "Hello, Goodbye" song singing through your mind? :o)

Any guess where I went this past weekend? That's right--the "City of the 22nd Century"--Dubai of the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates)--an amazing city on the grow. Not only is Dubai the fastest growing city in the world, but it is already home to the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai (which hasn't even been completed yet), and is already touted to be the future home of the world's largest mall, largest airport, tallest this, largest that, and most of everything in between. Seriously! There is so much construction going on in Dubai that over 50% of the world's cranes are currently in use throughout the city, and over 500,000 of the more than 1 million people living in Dubai are construction workers. It is the cleanest, newest, most modern, and most empty city of its size that I've ever experienced. It's absolutely awesome. Now the big question: if you build it, will they come?

Todd, a fellow expat teammate and our sr. marketing manager, joined me for the weekend to shop, swim, relax, and EAT (my favorite part). We flew from Bangalore, through Bahrain, and into Dubai by noon--about 6 hours total. Not bad! We stayed in the immaculate InterContinental Festival City Hotel, which is part of an enormous complex that includes several hotels, a gigantic mall, and many more attractions currently "opening soon" (that became a running joke all weekend...) In fact, the first day we were there we decided to venture out and check out the mall and as we entered the East entrance we looked up and what was one of the first stores we saw? A Caribou Coffee! Our faces were beaming wide with delight and we couldn't run fast enough up the escalator to get our first taste of U.S. coffee in months. Mmmmm! Felt just like home... well, not quite as cold outside, but you get the idea :o)

Throughout the weekend we did all sorts of things: eat yummy American food (hey--a McDonald's with real beef burgers! Not so in India...); took a chauffeured ride and a "construction check" through the different city centers of Dubai; visited Mall of the Emirates (with Ski Dubai--a fully indoor snow skiing hill complete with chairlift! See the slide show); stopped by the famous Burj al-Arab hotel --another amazing work of art; and then off visit the Palm Jumeriah, another stunning display of architecture and design. Our driver took us out to the first development so we could see how the communities are set-up. The building are much bigger than I thought they'd be, and this is only one of several Palm communities they are building in Dubai. It's funny--we were so intrigued by the idea of shaping your neighborhood on the waterfront--just think of the possibilities! (See the creatively revised photo :o)

There was so many things to see and do--we just decided to use the days for sightseeing and the nights for laying low and playing cards--always fun! We got in some R&R, good conversation, and lots of fun with the camera (over 675 snaps!) It was yet another fantastic weekend of meeting people, learning more about the world, and experiencing another country and culture. It's interesting--after you've been away from your "true home" for a few months you really start to appreciate the other different parts of the world... they suddenly don't seem so far away. I believe it's really important to experience the world in whatever way you can--even by just leaving for a weekend. It expands you--and this, in turn, helps you grow. I love it!