Nasir, my cabbie

I usually ride with a friend to work every morning, but whenever he has to work earlier than usual, I call Nasir to take me. He’s from Pakistan, of the same age as I am and is a good man. He can barely speak English – he knows maybe less than ten phrases – but we magically manage to engage in conversation all throughout the 30-minute rides to work.

You see, all Nasir needs are “prompts”. I’ll blurt out a topic and he’ll spend the next ten minutes elaborating on it. Never mind that I don’t understand anything he says.

Some prompts given during this morning’s pleasant drive:
“It’s almost National Day”
“The cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka”
“It’s getting colder and colder every day”

On Wednesday Nasir seemed like he was down with a case of the flu – there were lots of coughing and clearing of throats during that not-so-pleasant drive.

Before I got off the cab, I handed him a pack of lozenges that I found in my bag.

Nasir declined my token. “Very sweet!” he argued. “Very bad for—-” I guess he
didn’t know how to say the word “throat” so he just pointed to his.

I tried to explain to him what lozenges are for, that they actually help aid sore throats.

Nasir eventually gave in and accepted them, but I suspect he just wanted me to get the hell out of his cab so he could move on with his day.

That night I bumped into Nasir in our apartment block, waiting in the designated cab queue for passengers.

“Very sweet!” he said, showing me the pack of lozenges, “but very good!”

He pointed to his throat. “Okay, okay!” he said.

Reworking the work week

Here in Abu Dhabi—and in the whole of the UAE, actually—the work week is, for some reason, Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the weekend.

But since I work for a broadsheet section that comes out during the work week—that is, again, Sunday to Thursday—my own work week is different. We work on an issue two working days before its publishing day—Sunday for Tuesday, Monday for Wednesday, Tuesday for Thursday…

So, my work week here is from Saturday to Wednesday. Which makes my weekend Thursday and Friday.

Today, a Wednesday, we worked on Sunday’s issue. Confused? I am, too, and think it will take time before I find myself getting used to this arrangement.

Anyway, the important thing. My first work week is done dinero! I feel nothing but privileged that I can immerse myself in a world I and the people I work with (from Saturday to Wednesday) care deeply about.

My seat at the Grand Prix

My seat at the Grand Prix

Random highlights, two days in:

-       The first thing I accomplished? Going straight to Ikea to … shop for Christmas decors. That’s right. Know your priorities.

-       Tonight, I was finally back at my lovely Muay Thai class where I conveniently got killed. It’s been almost three months since the last time I attended, and three months since my body felt this … violated. I cannot wait to feel the severity of the pain when I wake up tomorrow morning.

-       F1! Formula One’s happening this weekend and I somehow managed to score tickets to my absolute favorite sporting event in the world. Of course I make it sound like I just miraculously scored tickets thanks to some cosmic force or some charm I exude—the truth is Ive had this all arranged since six months ago.

-       Today the F1 Village—just five minutes away from where I live—opened at 2:00 P.M. and I just HAD to be there at 1:55, of course. (There were, unsurprisingly, about a hundred eager others ahead of me in the line.) Less than ten minutes upon arrival, I was  lured by the mega colorful merchandise booths (there was nothing else to do or to be lured with, really) and impulsively bought a Sebastian Vettel t-shirt—a very expensive one. Spent the day debating with myself: Should I wear it tomorrow? On Saturday? On Sunday’s big race? Ugh, life.

-       Realized I’m working on Sunday and I cannot go to the actual race. Fingers crossed one of the newsroom’s TV screens will be facing my desk.

-       There is, thankfully, a Paul McCartney concert on Sunday, scheduled to begin after my working hours, so I will not miss it. Like the Incubus concert on Saturday. Taste.

-       The weather outside is … cold. I’m in the desert! Who would have thought? Just three months ago it was unbearable and now…

-       Said weather allowed us to dine al fresco at Noodle House, a mid-range Asian restaurant in Shangri-La that gets it right. Considering we’re in the Middle East. 

Welcome to the sandpit

I arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday. I’m not just here for a brief desert sojourn—I’m actually moving here for good. A year, or two, or three…


I’ve taken a job at an English-language newspaper that launched in 2008.


A newspaper, started from scratch, in the 21st century.

That actually happened.


It’s most likely the last big newspaper launch our world will ever see. For that alone I’m thrilled to somehow be part of it.


(The New York Times put out a story on the paper here:


So. How in the world did I end up here—in the Middle East—for a job inside a newsroom?


In December of last year, I packed my bags and flew to New York. Spent the next six months back in school, studying what I really wanted to study back in university. I had a great time. I was seriously considering maybe staying there for good.


My stay was cut short in mid-May when I found out a relative was diagnosed with an advanced form of disease. She happens to be based here in Abu Dhabi.


I decided to move here to accompany her, until my tourist visavalid for 90 daysexpired.


Mid-way through my stay here, we found out her recovery will take at least a year more. I thought of my options and decided the best thing to do is to find a job; an employment visa will allow me to stay here with her for as long as needed.


I told a friend back in New York about the job hunt I was about to undertake. He said that he’s heard about Abu Dhabi’s promising daily, and maybe I could work there? I’d actually read issues of The National—mostly in hotel lobbies and airports—and was impressed with its quality and design. So, yeah, of course, that makes sense. I write and edit back home—maybe I could do that here? The only problem is: would they even want me? More importantly, do they even have an opening?


Turns out they did. The Arts&Life section was looking for someone, for some sort of an editing job. I fired off an e-mail, sent my CV, some work samples, all sorts of requirements.


Four or five days later, I received a reply from the editor asking if I could come in for an interview.


Did the interview—in a suit!—and when that turned out fine, they made me take a couple of copyediting exams.


On the day I was about to leave Abu Dhabi and head back to Manila, I received the good news.


As soon as I got home, I started working on all the necessary requirements to make the big move to the other side of the world. It took all of ten weeks. I’m told it took a friend’s co-worker six months to fix hers—I read in an expat blog about some guys waiting longer to be granted the UAE employment visa.


The last ten weeks have been majorly testing—I’ll write about those not-so-minor-ly grueling experiences here, if I miraculously find the will to do so—but I’m here and that’s what matters.


Throughout this entire time, the people I work with back in Manila—at the magazine, the newspaper, the mall—had been nothing but supportive. I cannot thank them enough. I feel fortunate to call them friends.


On Sunday, I start work. 




New batch of works in progress



Sunny day finally

Sunny day finally

Playing around with electrical tubes and paper

Sometimes when I see an interesting face on TV and the angle is perfect, I pause the frame and sketch him or her. Technology. This was this morning. Don’t even know who he is. 

Sometimes when I see an interesting face on TV and the angle is perfect, I pause the frame and sketch him or her. Technology. This was this morning. Don’t even know who he is. 

"I see Earth! It is so beautiful!"

-Yuri Gagarin, 12 April 1961

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