Ho Ho Ho

Happy holidays and stuff.

(No snow in Estonia)

Burj Al Arab

Some countries have signature places to visit. When you go to France, you have to go to Eiffel Tower and Louvre. When in India, you should visit Taj Mahal. For Dubai this place is Burj Al Arab.

Burj Al Arab, one of the symbols of Dubai, has (very) successfully create a mystique around it. It claims to be acknowledged as the best hotel in the world. It is a symbol of luxury, reachable only for the selected few. Not everybody can go there - just to look around costs 75$. Even most of the residents in Dubai have never been there. One night in the hotel starts from around 1300$ with the sky being the limit for the royal rooms.

The hotel as 8 restaurants and bars, I had dinner in one of them. For extra cost (about 110$) you can have a white Rolls Royce pick you up from your home to take you there. Restaurants are not cheap at all, but the food and service very of the highest quality. The dinner I had (buffet) was for 100$ per person (excluding drinks, even water) and it was easily one of the best dinners I have ever had. The buffet contained food that is quite often not included in the buffet menus like lobsters, oysters, sushi.

When we entered the restaurant I received a nice surprise - a table close to us was full of Estonians. There aren't so many of us and what are the chances of meeting some in Burj? One of the persons at the table was the rally ace Markko Märtin.

The hotel had a very nice ambiance, live classical music being played in the lobby (and they played very well). The hotel area size is not very large, but it's high and hollow inside. It was luxurious and nice, only the couches in the lobby looked rather cheap to me. In the entrance there was a cool fountain (see right). Escalators were next to aquariums with corals.

Dubai has a huge amount of 5 star hotels (total 54 by the end of this year), when you live here you happen to go to those places often (for drinks, dinner, appointments). This means you get somewhat desensitized to luxury and thats why Burj Al Arab didn't seem like that super special. But it was cool and different for sure, we had a lot of fun .

Books of the year

Every time when a year comes to an end all sorts of top lists are made. Best of song of the year, best footballer of the year and best book of the year. This post is about books in the non-fiction category.

You can find editors' list from Amazon for the best business books of 2006 here. Their no.1 book was The Long Tail which I have also written about in my blog. 800 CEO Read chose these books in their 2006 select.

I am going highlight my top 3 for the year. I chose these books based on the impact they had on me. I considered how they changed my paradigm, how they have been useful (e.g. contained information that I have used constantly successfully for my benefit over period of time) or how they expanded my horizons in a notable way.

1. Now Discover Your Strengths (M. Buckingham, D. Clifton)

This has been by far the most influential book for me. It has increased my self-awareness in so many ways and my understanding of other people. It will help you to understand what are you naturally good at, it will help you to explain why people are the way they are and why they excel at some jobs while not in others. Most certainly I will comprise my future teams based on the talents as it just make so much sense. I have personally experienced in so many ways how the talent concept introduced in the book really works. It is a must read book. I blogged about this book some months ago too.

2. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (R. Fisher, W. Ury)

This is a book about negotiations. We negotiate almost every day, whether its about the idea you came up with at work, which movie to see in the cinema or convincing somebody to do something. For those who want deeper insights into the art of principal based negotiations, this is a gem. I have used the knowledge I gained consciously so many times. I often in the middle of negotiations find myself thinking of the principals I learned, and have used them very successfully. There is no need to waste time on positional bargaining, there is a better way.

3. Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership (J. Jaworski)

Synchronicity is meaningful coincidences that cannot be explained by cause and effect. This is a very inspiring book. You should read it before embarking on a journey to achieve your dream. It is about importance of finding your true self, listening to your gut and seizing opportunities. It is not one of those teacher meets pupils kind of books where the guru tells you how to live, it is much more than that. The author tells his life story and wonders about life on the way. If you read "Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho where he wrote "if you really want something, all the universe will conspire with you", now you will understand what it means.

What are your best reads of the year?

A Compliment

A few days ago I received this e-mail:

"Hey Peep

Referring to your visit to our stall at CityScape, we were very much pleased with your approach. Should you be looking for any job in our concern, please call us at any time."

During the Cityscape real estate exhibition I was doing B2B selling and approaching many property companies, they were one of them. I take it as a compliment.

Corruption, reputation and wasta

Quite often in my business meetings I am asked "Who is the owner of the company?", sometimes also "How old is this company?" or "Where is your office?"

These questions are about reputation. It matters a lot who is the owner, if it's a local guy and if so, from which family? Or if its international, is it a part of a major corporation that has been around for like 100 years? It matters in which part of the town (or on which street) your office is. Quite shallow and ridiculous, I think. Where I am from, this kind of questions are almost never asked. It matters who you are and what you do, but here this is not enough.

I think this is characteristic to Middle East (and perhaps other parts of the world as well) and its roots come from Wasta. Wasta is who do you know, what is your background (family), how connected you are. It can be considered as a specific type of corruption (translation: a mean, mechanism, medium). Wasta is about having someone in a power position do something (legal or illegal) for you (a favor) that couldn’t be done without a wasta. What is different from other kind of corruption is that people don’t usually hide their acts when they use Wasta, they even brag about it, and offer providing the same wasta to people around us to help them out (to get a better social standing). With enough wasta, anything can be done: any lawful punishment can be escaped, any employment can be attained, any problem can be brushed aside.

People use wasta for business. Hence the question - who is the owner of the company. If you have big enough wasta, you can get your startup business launched in no time. Doors will open if the right names are involved.

From my personal experience I know people who have been teaching here for years in government schools. They told me that wasta is even used in the local schools (for emiratis). For example a student is in the school on a scholarship, but is lazy as hell and doesn't study, fails all exams and doesn't even show up sometimes. Teachers tell the administration to stop the scholarship, but get the answer "He is a nice kid, comes from a good family". Wasta.

I haven't personally had much contact with Wasta. It is much more common among the locals, which are the minority in the country (and 95% of them work in the public sector).

Fortunately the business sector (at least to my knowledge) is not very corrupt, although I have heard of bribery cases.

Dubai real estate developments

Last week there was a real estate exhibition in Dubai called Cityscape - claiming to be the largest in the world. To get a glimpse of the scale of the real estate developments here, see these pictures. Real estate is booming here like nothing else and the number of remarkable developments is huge. This is just a selection of new developments, not nearly everything.

This building is an exact copy of an.. iPod! Most technologically advanced building in the world. Everything is voice programmed. If the phone rings, your whole apartments is blinking. You can choose the colour of the walls depending on your mood. You can have have pre-programmed romance theme in your bedroom if you want.

How to Succeed in 2007

CNN Money just published something cool: How to succeed in 2007. It comprises of short pieces of advice given by some of the world's most successful people (impressive list).

Some of the advice is about build the next Google, some tell you how to stay ahead, how to be a great leader, or - how to do well by doing good - my personal favorite.

Worth checking out: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/howtosucceed/index.html

Being a Samurai warrior

Large part of what I do for living is helping my Clients to get more clients. So I am meeting a lot of people to figure out together whether they could benefit from what I do.

I am sure most people can recognize an intelligent and smart person when they talk to one. There is one thing that especially strikes out in my line of work. Some people listen with the intent to understand and think along with you, they participate in the conversation. It doesn't necessarily mean they will do business with me. That's the smart kind of people.

Some listen with the intent to respond and jump to conclusions in the first second. They judge you from the moment you open your mouth and don't even try to understand. Some say "yes, lets do it" without even understand how it work or what it means to them. Some come up with weird counter arguments that have no significance to the issue discussed. They don't make an effort to understand. That's the stupid kind.

I believe this behavior reflects their overall personality. They don't listen and jump to conclusions in internal meetings, at home, in casual conversations. I personally try to avoid that kind of people whenever I can. It is likely they have missed some really good opportunities because they didn't make an effort to understand.

I think that as we cruise through life we have to be like Samurai warriors. Always on the look for that little piece of opportunity that comes our way, ready to seize it. Next time somebody tells you of an idea, make sure you listen. Have the attitude that this could be one the brightest things you'll ever hear.

Penis extensions

There are some men in the world who are deeply disturbed. They have inferiority complex, or they are impotents or have other kind of problems that seriously affect their self-esteem. As a result they go out of their way to seem bigger, better and more important. They rely on external things when it comes to their self-worth. These things are called penis extensions.

Some have to drive a big ass car, some have to yell at their wife, children and employees to make themselves feel better and get ego satisfaction. Two examples that happened to me in the last weeks in my business meetings:

Case A.
I go meet this manager of some company. Secretary leads me to his room and I find it to be a quite a large room. In the middle there is a huge rectangular table. The manager sits in one end of the table, I am being seated in the other end. The distance between us is perhaps 5 meters. He smokes while talking to me.

Case B.
Another company, another manager. He sits on a throne (its golden and any emperor would feel proud sitting there). He starts telling me about himself. How many degrees from which US universities (3 undergraduate, 2 masters, 1 PhD), where he has worked for how many years and how successful he has been. He tells me whom he knows and what connections he has. He talks about his relations with local royal families (he is not a local himself) and shows me an invitation sent by one of the sheikhs. His rant lasts easily over 5 minutes.

Seriously, get a life. Figure yourself out. Penis extensions don't work. They make you look insecure and pathetic. I fear for people who have to work under a person with a need to compensate something. Strive for inner confidence and internal self-worth instead.

Anyone can slay a dragon, she told me

I read quite a few blogs on regular basis. Sometimes I click the "Next Blog" link in the upper bar in Blogspot blogs with the hope to discover something cool.

One day that just happened to me. This blog belongs to a girl named Lindsay whom I've never met, but find very interesting. She is the most poetic person I know (even though I don't know her), her writings just keep on amazing me. I especially love the way she titles her blog posts.

Check it out. Its worth reading several entries, then you will see what I mean. The address is this: http://someeloquentgraffiti.blogspot.com/


Go see "An Inconvenient Truth". It is very, very important.

Getting cold

Its the end of November, winter is approaching. Right now its 27 C outside. In the morning and evening its a bit lower and - and I can't believe it - I actually feel a bit cold then. Dubai weather has spoiled me (even though I hate the summers here).

I'm going home for Christmas and New Year. I bought the ticket today, so its official. Between 19.12 and 06.01 Estonians have a fantastic opportunity to meet up with me. I keep wondering whether the weather will kill me. Haven't seen snow or experienced sub-zero degrees for 1.5 years.

Social capitalism

"Companies are beginning to realize that these questions of 'How can I accomplish more good in the world?' and 'Where is the market opportunity?' are essentially the same question," says Jeff Hamaoui, founder of Origo Inc., a consulting firm that helps both nonprofits and for-profits navigate this blended arena of social enterprise. "Simply put, good business design maximizes opportunity and resources, now and for the future."

43 Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing The World

This just came in. There are a lot of organizations out there who are doing their bit in making the world a better place. Fast Company analyzed some of them, the ones who are using disciplines of the corporate world to change the world for better. Outcome is the list of 43 organizations who are the best at it.

Go here: http://www.fastcompany.com/social/ and see the list for 2007. We should applaud all of them and go work for them. Devoting your skills, passion and time for a cause worth fighting for is a life well lived.

The way things are supposed to be

I saw this movie recently in the cinema - "Accepted". It's this typical college-life simple fun movie that is easy to watch. Plot outline: when a high school burnout discovers he's been rejected from every college he's applied to, he creates a fake university in order to fool his overzealous parents.

Now in the university they create the students are the teachers and every student chooses what they want to learn. In the end of the movie they try to get the college accredited and the lead character gives an inspiring speech how the purpose of education is to develop the creativity of young minds and they don't have to be like any other university.

And that is quite an amazing point.

People are used to the way things usually are. They expect certain types of organizations to act a certain way or to have a certain way of operating.

It's expected that universities provide you with a specific curriculum and they have a faculty of professors. It's not expected that you give classes while being a student and choose every single subject you want not following a specific discipline.

It's expected that the waitress serves the tables in a coffee shop. It's not expected that a coffee shop serves as your temporary home where you can host your friends.

It's expected that the company's main goal is to maximize the profit. It's not expected that you are driven solely by a mission to make the world a better place.

It's expected that every person in the company has a specific job role and there's a hierarchy. It's not expected that the staff divides the necessary tasks among themselves every week and there is no boss at all.

It's expected that a conference takes place in a fancy location with high-tech facilities and they serve good food. It's not expected that a big conference takes place outdoors or in an warehouse and people have to cook themselves food over a bonfire.

What if you'd change the way people are used to see things? Sure, it will create some resistance to the idea, but more likely the innovation will make you remarkable. It will help you to stand out from the competition and create something cool. It's a great competitive advantage. It will make people talk about you. It will make people want to work for you or buy your products.

Challenge the way thing usually are and you can drive innovation.

The Long Tail

Anyone interested in e-commerce and how endless choice is going to change the marketplace, should definitely read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. Its a very insightful book.

Seth Godin, the marketing guru, said "The ideas in this book are going to be talked about for the next ten years. Might as well get a copy now."

The main idea is that the times when the world was driven by hits (best-selling products) is about to be over. What is going on (already!) is that if you give the consumer endless choice, then the products that even sell once per quarter combined sell as much as hits or even outsell them. In the virtual room you don't have to worry about shelf space, you can list as many products as you like (millions!).

Its more and more a niche world, people's taste is more and more specialized. Our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.

When I finished the book, I instantly got ideas how to use the Long Tail theory to my advantage in business. Now its just a matter of time when Google buys my websites.

Not my country

Traffic is a serious problem in Dubai and the local Roads and Transportation Authority tries to figure out how tackle it. Now they've come up with a solution - introducing road tax. That means that you have to pay some money (4 dirhams, a bit over 1$) when you use certain roads at a certain time.

I was listening to a radio show the other day where people could call in and voice their opinions. You could see the remarkable difference between the locals (UAE nationals) and expatriates. The latter were mostly saying it is not right for various reasons (like no alternative routes or means of transportation) and the locals were saying 'What a good idea! I am happy to give money for my country'.

That captures it. Most of the population (~80%) are expatriates, have no emotional ties with the country and don't consider it as their own. Now UAE is starting to introduce different kinds of taxes slowly and expats don't like it one single bit. Of course they don't have any rights as well, no say in how things are being run in the country, emirates or city.

UAE nationals feel invaded. They have been taken over. And when they heard on the radio that expats don't want to pay any taxes what so ever to their motherland, its is understandable they get pissed. Quite many of them said "if you don't like it, leave!".

You can hear/read everywhere that a large group of the expat population (especially westerners) considers leaving UAE when they introduce taxes as this was one of the reasons to move here in the first place (tax-free country). The cost of living is very high as it is.

Since UAE is an expat country by nature (built by them, can't function without them), it should consider how to create more dialogue with the expats, giving them some form of participation.

This would mean of course first steps towards democracy and involve a bigger shake-up in the current way of running things.

Customer service excellence

As our company uses Google AdWords service, I have had to deal with Google's customer support people. For some reason their system rejected our credit card (now the problem has been fixed). Although the communication was via e-mail, it has been impressive. They have been trained to address client's frustrations and make them feel better. When a customer complains, then most of all he/she wants to be understood first. Here are some examples of how their e-mails begin:

"Thank you for your email. I understand your credit card was recently declined and you would like us to investigate this matter."

"Thank you for your reply.
I understand that you have re-tried your credit card and it is still not being accepted by our system."

"Hi Peep,
I understand that you are concerned about the current issue relating to your credit card and you wish to know if I have received any updates from our technical team."

...and so on. Although I understand that they follow their protocol and training, it still works! I feel like I'm being understood! And as a result I am happy and have positive feelings towards them.

What else can a customer support unit wish for!

Of Books and Men

I like to read, a lot. I mostly read non-fiction because I feel it helps me to learn and expand my world. I feel I get more out of a book that broadens my horizons, that gives me tools I can use in my life. I probably read more than your average reader does, about 4 books a month - I guess I can thank my Input and Learner talents (more about talents in upcoming posts).

Quite often after I've finished a book, I find myself thinking that what was said could have been said using less pages. It's like the authors feel (0r the publishers demand?) that the book has to have a minimum number of pages. It seems to me that this minimum is around 200 pages. Even though the whole point with explanations and examples and what not could be presented on about 100 pages or a bit more. Almost every book has these parts/chapters/blocks that are not necessary. Its like out of a 250 page book 120 give 90% of the value. The rest are not necessary.

Why is that? Is is because thicker books sell better? That the buyer feels the money was invested better if the book has more pages? Maybe then there should be a "price per page" indicator next to every book in the bookshop so customers could see the value? If anyone truly thinks this way, it is ridiculous. Or is it that if the book has less pages it might seem that the author doesn't have much to say? Some books are based on an extensive research and if I would like to know all the hard data I might as well go after the thousands of research documents. But I don't, I want to know the outcomes and conclusions of the research. And in most of the cases what truly matters can be said using less pages.

We live in a fast paced world and cutting down on pages might attract more people to read, cause then they don't have to feel 'Oh my good when am I going to find all this time to read this book!?'. Publishers might even start making more money because people will have more time on their hands to read more books.

(You can follow the books I'm reading at any point of time on the right. Feel free to ask for recommendations)

Numbers from the book industry

Ever considered making money by writing books? Here are some "encouraging" numbers for you to consider.

In 2004, 950,000 books out of 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen BookScan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1200 books sold more than 50,000 copies. True, 10 books sold over a million copies (17 million in total).

The average book in America sells about 500 copies. Whats the number is other parts of the world I don't know, but probably the difference with Europe is not huge (even if it would be 3x more, its still a pathetic number).

This means that 98% of the books are noncommercial, whether they were intented that way or not.

// Source: The Long Tail, Chris Anderson

Every problem is a business opportunity

As I mentioned in the last post, people are spending a lot of money on diet programs and stuff because they want to lose weight. They have a problem. If you look around you, every problem is a business opportunity.

In Dubai traffic is a serious problem. Before there used to be 2 rush hours, in the morning and when people leave work. Now its traffic jam almost all day long. People spend a lot of time in the car. So what is happening? Spending on outdoor advertising and radio advertising is increasing a lot. People have nothing else to do in the car but listen to different messages. Come up with a creative idea to make them see/listen to you and its a sellable asset.

I am very sure not all problems have been turned into a business yet. What are the problems you and your friends have faced during the last week? Is there a way to solve the problem in a way that people would pay for it?

The sad thing is that people are paying money on both occasions, when they create the problem and when they solve it. They pay to create the problems (buy junk food) and then they pay to get their health back. If you wouldn't pay the first half, you wouldn't have to pay the second half as well. This doesn't apply to all the cases of course, but still something to think about.

Being fat is bad for business

We all know that being overweight is not good for your health. Obese people are far more at risk to all kinds of heart and what not diseases. Being overweight is comparable to having diabetes or having high blood pressure

Now what you maybe didn't think about is that for companies that provide medical insurance having overweight employees is costing money because the insurance is more expensive. Companies all over the (developed.. or should I say fat?) world are starting to address this problem. Not for the sake of having fitter, happier and more productive employees, but because its costing them money.

According to workplace surveys in the US, the vast majority of organizations with 200 or more employees say they offer programs designed to help improve the health of employees, while about a third of smaller companies offer programs as well. All because obesity and overweight conditions contribute as much as $93 billion to the nation's yearly medical bill.

Why what I am saying concerns mostly US, is clear: among developed countries, the United States has the most obese and overweight people. Other countries are catching up fast - so maybe its time companies and governments (ministries of health) all over the world should start taking steps to avoid dealing with this issue on a much grander scale.

Then again for some being fat can be good for business. For instance Americans spend over 4o$ million annually on books, products and programs to help them lose weight.

Hong Kong of Eastern Europe..

..is Estonia, according to an article in today's 7Days, a local newspaper. In today's real estate section you can find an article about Estonia and its property market.

Among other things it mentions that the real estate prices are low over there. During the last year I've been hearing my friends telling me how expensive it has become and how the market is booming. Well, I guess its what you compare it to.

Direct link: http://www.7days.ae/2006/10/31/the-est-is-the-best.html

Developments in the property market

Prices in the propety market of Dubai never stop rising, being more than 30% a year. Almost every day you can read in the papers new forecasts, summaries of pasts quarters and so on telling the same story - property prices soar.

It is not unusual to read how government is demolishing older building and how its current inhabitants have nowhere to go as they can't afford anything in the market. People live on rooftops, abandoned buildings and where not. Even if they have a job!

For property owners Dubai is a great business. More money pouring in than ever before. Even though the law prohibits to raise the rent prices more than 15% a year, landlords just evict the current tenants for whatever reason ("I wanna lived there myself" etc) and then raise the rent however much they want. Since the market has far more demand than supply, they can do that.

A couple of days ago there was an article saying how landlords have new tricks - they are offering cheap rooms in return for sexual favours. Different websites that have adverts for flat shares - including several for one bedroom and studio apartments - are attempting to lure young, single European women with the promise of discount rents in exchange for sex.

I'm not sure whether they really do get "lucky" as Europeans are (usually) in quite well-paid positions and can afford housing. If the same offer would be made to girls with Asian origin who don't get paid much at all, some desparate women might even consider this. But I hope not. Its like become a sex slave on your free will. And your home security will be forever in the hands (or some other body part) of your landlord. Quite sick huh?

CV wisdom

I am currently hiring a new salesperson. We advertised in 2 different places and I got literally hundreds of CVs. Going through each of them and paying attention to each of them is a tough job. You get tired. You feel tempted to pay attention only to some of the most important criteria. I understood why some companies don't reply to received applications (I did, to each one of them) - there's just so many of them and it could seem to be a hassle. I also understood what "your CV has to stand out" really means. They all look the same, they have more or less the same structure, the same business jargon sentences. There was 1 CV that did stand out and I really stopped to read it through in detail. It was different in appearance. The content was the same as in any other CV, but it made me curious, made me pay more attention. I think anyone would have more chance of being invited for a job interview when they could make their CV stand out more.

Now there's some advice I want to give. Often there is a question: whether to put the picture on the CV or not? Several standards recommend "yes", its more personal etc. Here's what I think: when it comes to a job where you have to interact with (potential) clients, looks are important. People do business with people they like. Every time I saw a photo I was thinking what kind of an impression might this person leave to our potential clients? What kind of prejudices might they invoke in others? Can it lessen the chances of business deals?

I am sure there are so many (recruitment) people out there who make their first impression of you based on your picture. My advice is this: if you are after a sales job (or any other client focused job) then add the picture to your CV only if you have above average looks. Be self-critical. Yes, you might have a charming personality and charisma, but you won't get to show it if people are put off by your looks. It takes 3 seconds to form first impression. If you don't look that good, don't add the picture - just hope you'll get invited for an interview and then use your charm, wit and other nice qualities that you have to convince them you're the one. If you are a data analyst, biologist or server maintainance guy, looks are not important. But in some jobs it matters.

Aah, one more thing. Most of the CVs I got had a picture. A large number of the pictures were horrible. Just horrible. Even if some of you look good otherwise, make sure the photo is of high quality.

Government PR

One thing about this country is that the media is not free. How much is censored and controlled, I don't exactly know. I have heard different rumours. From time to time you can see quite brave stories, but you can't write anything against the government policies usually.

The funny thing is the government PR. Some (very) highly paid people who have to show that they are doing something. And government is building its image as caring, loving and always there for the citizens. Like good 'ole Soviet times.

So more often than not (almost every day) you will find pictures of the leaders of the country on the *front* page of main newspapers and some important headline. "Khalifa receives Islamic scholars", "Mohammed meets journalists", "Mohammed meets the citizens", "Sheikh meets more citizens". Very, very important news that everyone should know.

Yesterday there was a big article titled "Government employees will receive salary tomorrow". Who cares! Maybe internal memo could have been enough?

Sometimes I wonder whether anyone truly follows this and feels it is all so important? I personally mostly just chuckle to myself.

We're just a couple animals

A song I've been listening to a lot recently - "Animals" by Nickelback. Very energetic and catchy. And the lyrics make me smile every time.

Smells like dead pigeon

No I'm not trying to paraphrase Nirvana. I really have a dead pigeon smelling somewhere in my house. For months I heard pigeons making sounds in the ventilation shaft, so I knew I have birds as my neighbours. Now one of them decided to die and smell really bad.

The only positive thing is that the smell is localized in my bathroom. So if I'll close the door I can pretend everything is fine.

But don't use bathroom at my place unless you really have to.

Yunus wins Nobel Peace Prize

Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their work. A person who truely deserves it.

Being the father of microcredit (very small loans for poor people), his work has contributed to lifting millions out of poverty. Through Yunus's efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy livestock, chickens, tools or other equipment they desperately needed to get ahead. They are able to break free from the poverty trap, educate their children and provide additional value to the community they live in.

I'm not gonna go into what is microcredit and so on, internet is full of information.

I was appalled to read comments on one portal regarding Yunus getting the award. Some said it was a "politically correct decision", some thought "overpopulation must be stopped instead of poverty". I am sad that there is so much ignorance. Somebody said "the last thing that the poor need is a loan!" whereas it might be the first thing they need.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Nobel Committee said. "Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights."

How right they are.

Overpopulation, infant mortality, health, life expectancy, education, terrorism are largely derived from poverty. In many cases top-down approach has failed and Yunus has demonstrated how microcredit can work. Since Yunus gave out his first loans in 1974, microcredit schemes have spread throughout the developing world and are now considered a key to alleviating poverty and spurring development.

Yunus is an outstanding social entrepreneur who has my utmost respect.


It's Ramadan, my second one.

My previous one was a cultural experience. I was eager to learn the ways of the muslim people and trying to understand the greater meaning of it. You can read what I wrote about it last year here (in estonian).

This year things have changed. Dubai has corrupted me. I am not so culturally sensitive anymore. At times I can be a careless westerner complaining about the fact that I can't eat and drink in public before sunset. But hey - Ramadan is a holy season for muslims and they should be fasting because of the meaning they believe in and seeing other people eat and drink should not disturb them. If the faith is strong enough. A week ago there was an article on the front page of a newspaper, criticizing women who wear skirts and show shoulders during Ramadan. The next day you could read letters from the readers (muslims) where some said that if you are a true muslim, your faith is strong and you will look away, that Ramadan is about you, not other people. I couldn't agree more.

Dubai has sold out too. Last year the cinemas were closed and there was no music in bars. This year there is no difference between Ramadan and other months. Only food outlets are closed in most of the places (but not all, if you paid enough, you could get a special license allowing you to keep the restaurant open). Home delivery still works everywhere which is how our staff has lunch. I overheard one of my egyptian friends saying how in Dubai its hard to notice that it is Ramadan compared to Egypt.

The fast is an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Another meaning is compassion for the poor people - you feel the hardship of the poor who don't have anything to eat.

This last thing is a bit funny for me. Sure, during Ramadan people don't eat when the sun is up, but when its eating time they mean business. Eating almost never stops and they eat HUGE quantities. Most of you probably know that you feel like could eat an elephant when you haven't eaten for a long time. So usually people dig in as much as they can. And feel bloated afterwards. I've done the same - yes, it can be great to eat that much. I also tried to fast one day, but I have to be honest - it was damn difficult. I cheated and had 3 cups of tea during the day. So definitely it is a test of willpower and requires inner strength to accomplish it. The thing that makes me scratch my head is that poor people can't start feasting after the sunset. So this part seems a bit hypocrite to me.

When asked if I like Ramadan, then I have to be honest. Since there is no spiritual meaning for me personally, I only endure the hardship of being restricted from doing certain things I would like to do. So I have to say "no", I would prefer that it wouldn't be Ramadan. The main good thing for me is that we have Ramadan working hours and I can leave at 3pm. And there is less traffic.

This weekend I will have the chance to have iftar (breaking the fast) with 2 local (emirati) families, which I am looking forward to. This kind of chances to get to see the local culture are hard to come by. More about that later.

Friedman on Islam and Pope

I came upon this article in Surya's blog by Thomas Friedman about islam and the pope and related. I find it brilliant. I thought it will be worth "re-printing" it here too.

"We need to stop insulting Islam. It's enough already.

No, that doesn't mean the pope should apologize. The pope was actually treating Islam with dignity. He was treating the faith and its community as adults who could be challenged and engaged. That is a sign of respect.

What is insulting is the politically correct, kid-gloves view of how to deal with Muslims that is taking root in the West today. It goes like this: ''Hushhh! Don't say anything about Islam! Don't you understand? If you say anything critical or questioning about Muslims, they'll burn down your house. Hushhh! Just let them be. Don't rile them. They are not capable of a civil, rational dialogue about problems in their faith community.''

Now that is insulting. It's an attitude full of contempt and self-censorship, but that is the attitude of Western elites today, and it's helping to foster the slow-motion clash of civilizations that Sam Huntington predicted. Because Western masses don't buy it. They see violence exploding from Muslim communities and they find it frightening, and they don't think their leaders are talking honestly about it. So many now just want to build a wall against Islam. It will be terrible if Turkey is blocked from entering the European Union, but that's where we're heading, and the only thing that will halt it is honest dialogue.

But it is not the dialogue the pope mentioned -- one between Islam and Christianity. That's necessary, but it's not sufficient. What is needed first is an honest dialogue between Muslims and Muslims.

As someone who has lived in the Muslim world, enjoyed the friendship of many Muslims there and seen the compassionate side of Islam in action, I have to admit I am confused as to what Islam stands for today.

Why? On the first day of Ramadan last year a Sunni Muslim suicide bomber blew up a Shiite mosque in Hilla, Iraq, in the middle of a memorial service, killing 25 worshipers. This year on the first day of Ramadan, a Sunni suicide bomber in Baghdad killed 35 people who were lining up in a Shiite neighborhood to buy fuel. The same day, the severed heads of nine murdered Iraqi police officers and soldiers were found north of Baghdad.

I don't get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year -- in mosques! -- and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march? Yet Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims -- in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan -- produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

Muslims might say: ''Well, what about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo or Palestine? Let's talk about all your violent behavior.'' To which I would say: ''Let's talk about it! But you'll have to get in line behind us, because we're constantly talking about where we've gone wrong.'' We can't have a meaningful dialogue if we, too, are not self-critical, but neither can Muslims.

Part of the problem in getting answers is that Islam has no hierarchy. There is no Muslim pope defining the faith. There are centers of Muslim learning, in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but their credibility with the masses is uneven because they're often seen as tools of regimes. So those Muslim preachers with authenticity tend to be the street preachers -- firebrands, who gain legitimacy by spewing hatred at both their own regimes and the Western powers that support them.

As a result, there is a huge body of disenfranchised Sunni Muslims, who are neither violent fundamentalists nor wannabe secularists. They are people who'd like to see a marriage between Islam and modernity. But right now there is little free space in the Sunni Muslim world -- between the firebrand preachers and the ''official'' ones -- for that synthesis to be discussed and defined.

I had hoped Iraq would be that space. Whenever people asked me how I'd know if we'd won in Iraq, I said: when Salman Rushdie could give a lecture in Baghdad. I'm all for a respectful dialogue between Islam and the West, but first there needs to be a respectful, free dialogue between Muslims and Muslims. What matters is not what Muslims tell us they stand for. What matters is what they tell themselves, in their own languages, and how they treat their own.

Without a real war of ideas within Islam to sort that out -- a war that progressives win -- I fear we are drifting at best toward a wall between civilizations and at worst toward a real clash."

Existing in the desert

I live in the desert. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Yesterday I went to see this movie, "The New World". It moved me deeply. It was like viewing a piece of continuous art that goes on and on.

I was mesmerized by the beauty of life. Of nature. I live in a place where there is nothing. Smelly flowers and trees watered by recycled water. Its not a tree you want to hug or sit by. Yes, its never cold. So what? For most of the year the combination of temperature and humidity makes it quite unbearable to enjoy being outdoors. Even if you can do that, what do you do? Where do you go? Sure, you can spend time with arid mountains in Hatta or Fujeirah. But thats not even close to what I'm missing. I can't feel life.

And this place is a desert in many other ways too. In the ways of lifestyle, connections, relations, values.

I feel I have to move on. I'm standing still. It took me about 6 months to get to know this place, then the learning stopped. After living and travelling in this region for more than a year, I know quite well what its about.

When new experiences and excitement is not pouring in, I don't feel that alive. Its more like existing rather than living. Once your life is inside certain frames - you do the same stuff most of the time and you know most of the stuff around you - you have to go further. I think you need to expand your life constantly. I feel I need to. Otherwise whats the point?

I think when you reach the point when it seems you are standing still, you need to find people who will expand your universe, have to go places that will make your life larger.

Sometimes it might be hard to notice that you are standing still, because people are too busy being busy. They don't take a look around them to notice that although they think they are running, the surroundings are the same.

I'm gonna go on a new adventure pretty soon.

Be grateful that you live in Dubai

I attended a real estate seminar yesterday. It was a typical seminar with food, fancy hotel and nothing-to-say conversations ("How are you? Good! How's business? Great!" etc). Seminar had a panel of hotshots and the topic was "Opportunities and Challenges in the Property Market".

What struck me was a comment made by a lady in the panel. She was asked about different problems people are facing with their newly bought properties (shortage of running water, leaking roofs etc) and her reply was just amazing. She said we shouldn't talk about problems, we should be grateful that we get to live in such an amazing city. No other city in the world has seen such growth in the last 4 years and its a miracle. So just be thankful that you get to be here.

I'm speechless. My roof is leaking, but thats all right 'cause I get to live in Dubai. The rent is sky high, but its okay because I am grateful. There is racism everywhere, but we shouldn't talk about it since the city is just so great.

What the lady said reflects the point of view of many people in Dubai. Just in today's 7Days (local newspaper) I read a letter from a reader which states that high rents is a good way of keeping out riff raff. "Dubai is for the classy people".

Let's all be grateful now.

UAE vs Jordan 0:0

Last week I had the chance to experience local football culture. UAE was playing Jordan in the Asian Cup. The game itself was a bore draw. Only player worth looking at was the star striker of Jordan - Sa'ed. Too bad he was lazy.

We sat next to the Jordainans fans - although they were a minority in the stadium, the were the loudest ones and had some real football spirit. Enjoyable drum rhytms.

Most of the UAE fans were rather passive. The cool thing about them was that they were wearing colorful vests on top of their white kandooras and so they formed the UAE flag. What was really annoying was an anonymous cheerleader (some local dude), who throughout the game yelled and sang and this horrible sound came from all the speakers. It seemed that the fans themselves don't have what it takes to support their team. We prayed for it to stop, but alas to no avail.

Me and my colleague Eero were pretty much the only white people in the game besides Bruno Metsu, the coach of the UAE national team.

Live Closer To The Things That Matter Most

This is the slogan used in newspaper advertising by a local real estate developer. Next to this slogan are pictures of golf courses, swimming pools, expensive villas and other high-end real estate development projects.

Boy I'm glad I found this out. Now I know what really matters in life.


What is expected?

The world we live in today has expectations on everybody and everything. And by world I mean society as the collective being. People as the members of this society carry these expectations. Expectations set what is "normal". If you act accordingly to these expectations, you are a good members of the society. If you dare to rebel, you are perceived as weird, someone who doesn't belong to the group or doesn't understand how things work, or even stupid.

These expectations are ingrained in us. We have been receiving messages about how to behave and what is the right thing to do since we were born. At home, from friends and relatives, at school and other institutions where there are people. During growing up we've received thousands and thousands of this kind of messages, that we perceive this as truth. We often don't question it. We know that sky is blue, we can see it. We also know how you're supposed to dress when going to the wedding or work. We know that you should study hard and get a safe job. We know you have to strive towards a great career and a fancy title. We know we should aim to live a comfortable life by financial terms; it might even be the goal. Its what is expected from us.

Very often the value system we carry and expectations we follow were not chosen by us. Most likely it was determined already before you were born. It was decided before my birth that I will not be a muslim. It was decided that the first language Im gonna speak is estonian.
When we grow up, we accept the information and value system that is being communicated to us by the society (family, friends, school, tv and other forms of mass media etc). The acceptance to this information becomes so strong, we don't even question it. We might not even be aware that we follow a certain code of expectations.

People live their lives according to these expectations benchmark with each other. Be it the amount of money you're making, the size of your house, clothes you wear, your position in your company and so on. How well are you measuring up to the expectations the society sets upon you? If you are doing poorly, people can regards you as lazy, not smart enough, weird. You get punished. If you measure up well, you get rewarded. People like to get rewarded and don't like to be punished.

I'm not saying that everybody in the society follows the same expectations. Not at all. Society has different sub-gruops. Yes, there is the money-oriented subgroup that measures you by how much wealth you have - I think that is the most common, the biggest sub-group.

There is also the green sub-group, which sets different kind of expectations. Do you eat organic food? How many times a week? Are your curtains hand-woven in some non-sweatshop and made out of organic materials? How often do you do yoga or open up your chakras?

The number of possible small sub-groups is endless. Gang of thugs have another set of expectations. Members of very religious groups compete with each other who is more pious and a better christian (or whatever).

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. Its just the way things are and following some particular set can be noble and good.

If you don't belong to any sub-group, don't match with any of the expectations, you are a rebel and don't belong to the group. On the other hand if the number of rebels with similar value system and behaviour grows big enough, a new sub-group is formed and expectations follow its members.

I think it is important to understand which expectations do you follow. If you go after the rewards by blindly following a set of expectations, it might not be very healthy. Is it really that important to live according to these expectations? Does it matter in the end?

I know people that want to be like everybody else. I also know people who want to be different, rebels. Both kind of people can be very nice. I think what matters the most is that you are at peace with the decision you made.

You might wanna evaluate the set of expectations you follow - perhaps you want to make some changes. We don't want to feel empty and discover on the way that we have wasted a part of our life pursuing something that is not worth much.

The race is long and in the end its only with yourself, as somebody once said.

TED Talks

There's a conference that takes place every year - TED (Technology Entertainment Design) - which brings supposedly together bunch of brilliant people to share the most powerful thing people can share - their ideas. It's an invitation-only event, so what has been shared there has never before reached a wider audience. Until now.

Now you can have the presentations in audio and video, to download or watch online. Just go here:

There's one in particular I'd like to recommend to everybody. It's about creativity (by Sir Ken Robinson). It's full of great ideas and the presentation is going to make you laugh so many times. Great stuff.

You can download that video here: http://ted.streamguys.net/ted_robinson_k_2006.zip

If anyone..

...knows organizations that facilitate volunteering/take volunteers in Latin America that give accomodation/food in exchange for work, please drop me an e-mail or write it in the comments.

Hop Fest 2006

This was the name of the beer festival. It was a great party! Live music, beer everywhere, lots and lots of people. Felt like Europe.

Thats the festival t-shirt. That way you indicate how many beers have you drunk. Guys identified girls who had had 6 beers or more as easy prey.

Aah, Skype is working again! The voice of the people got heard I guess, democracy (http://www.petitiononline.com/uaevoip/) can win even in the Middle East. Although most likely it was a business decision as Dubai is keen to maintain its image as a safe and great place for business and investments. Blocking Skype and other VoiP thingies was a way more unpopular move than the government expected.

Local telecom monopoly Etisalat is being laughed at. Check out Etisalat logos which represent how people feel about it: http://s96.photobucket.com/albums/l162/etisalad/

Sick and stuff

I've been sick for almost a week now. Some people have reacted like "how can you get sick there, its like 45 degrees!?" Well, viruses are incredible creatures (?), they live (well) in every damn climate I guess. Anyways, I'm almost recovered now. Although people catch cold here too and quite often even. Its because the AC is set to +18 usually and it blows constantly.

Talking about ACs - my AC at home broke down. So I had to sleep (only one night) in a room where the temperature was above 40. Luckily I had at the fan which was working. Next day I called my landlord and told him to do something. He sent an "electrician" over to check the situation. He asked a couple of questions and looked out the window where the compressor part of the AC is. Suddenly he took off his shoe, slammed it on top of the compressor and a huge puff of dust came out. "It should work now". And it did. That dude was an expert. There are plenty of that other kind of experts here also. I had problems with plumbing is my house - called my landlord, he sent an expert. That expert had never seen water pipes in his life and didn't know the word "plumbing". The problem is still there.

Many people who don't know anything about Dubai ask me "so it's a dry country, right?". Well, no. In fact, today after work I'm going to a beer festival. Titled as the best party of the year.

Skype blocked

And so they killed our Ferdinand. Skype is now blocked in the UAE. Before you couldn't transfer money to your SkypeOut account, but now you can't even connect to the software. Both in and out of the freezones. Bastards. Local telecom Monopoly Etisalat fears VoiP (voice over internet protocol). Calling through MSN is also not possible. So calling home now becomes expensive. Bastards.

This is summer

This summer is better than the previous one. Why? Mainly because of the weather. Its not so hot! Last year it was close to and more than 50 all the time. Humidity was in soaring heights, every day more than 90%. This year the temperature is still 40-45 on the average, but humidity is much lower, around 50..70%. This year I've been also smarter and have stayed indoors more. Good move.

If you live in a (new) place for a year, you get so used to it. It is easy to discover yourself living in a routine. Home, work, reading books, shisha, bbq, everyday small things. Haven't been writing to the blog too much recently. I feel I have to change that. Its like one of those things that keep me focused and make me be a better person in a weird way. Its kinda like one of those small things that helps me to climb my mount everest. More about that later.

I've been reading a damn interesting, compelling, educational and thought-provoking book. Anyone who wants to understand the black continent, its politics, history, why is it in the state its in right now and more, should read "The State of Africa : A History of Fifty Years of Independence" by Martin Meredith. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed, hey - you won't be even able to put it down once you start reading it.

Aah, I was on the radio this morning. In a local radio station (Dubai Eye) in the Business Breakfast show - talking about our portal. It was alright.

The invitation

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn't interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after a night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied. I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Maybe its a myth..

..that there are only ~1 million estonians on this planeet. You get to meet them in Dubai all the time! Every now and then there is an e-mail in my inbox saying "Hi, I'm an estonian in Dubai, I would like to meet other estonians".

I've met 2 new people in the last 2-3 weeks. Yesterday again somebody wrote me. Sure, I don't mind at all. Usually when you meet a fellow estonian in a faraway place its like meeting a friend, since there's so few of us. When I was in Bahrain staying with that estonian family (hey how are you doing?), one of the family members told that meeting an estonian in the Middle East is like meeting a relative.

Hey - I seeked estonians as well when I first came here. Found one too. And then they started to find me. Piece of advice: if you want to find estonians in the country you live in (where there are not so many of them), start to blog.

Happiness is not a destination. Or is it?

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is the happiest place on earth, according to a new "happy planet index".

Renowned psychologist Haim Ginott once said: "Happiness is not a destination." Well, it is now, so get down the travel agents and book a one-way ticket to Vanuatu.

An englishman residing in Vanuatu one day came across a young local man who had just returned to the island after studying at Nottingham University.

"I asked him what he was going to do with his life now and he just pointed at his fishing rod and said 'this'. He could have been one of the top earners in Vanuatu if he wanted, but he was contented with his simple life and didn't want anything else."

"It was a real eye-opener for me and made me look at what life is really all about. It just sums up what the place is about."

Who says that we have to live fast-paced, stressful life in order to earn more money to buy more things? Maybe we should all go live in Vanuatu and fish.

Source article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5172254.stm

Dubai traffic

I have mentioned before as well that traffic in Dubai is pretty awful. Ultrafast speed, arrogant and incompetent drivers are the norm here. There's a highway inside the city where the distance between the cars is the same as in everywhere in the world in cities (meaning one after another), but instead of 50-60km/h they drive 120-150km/h.

Sometimes people try to cross these roads and they have to run through the cars as there are no other means of crossing often. This results in death almost daily.

The last seven days saw an average of 2683 speeding offences a day which makes 111 speedings per hour and 1.8 per minute. Caught drivers will have to pay over 3 million dirhams in fines.

The per capita statistics show that the UAE has one of the highest number of road fatalities in the world. In 2004 it was 17 per months, 2005 it increased t0 20 per month. This year it seems that every day somebody dies in the traffic.

Welcome to Dubai.


After being away from home for a year, I got to visit Estonia again. The whole trip was just wonderful, beautiful and emotional.

It is very hard to sum up everything that happened. Some highlights (not in any particular order):

  • Nature. On our way we (me and Sarah) had a stopover in Amsterdam and saw rabbits running around on the grass next to the airport. Thats when we fully realized we're not in Dubai anymore. After one year in the Middle East you really start to miss all aspects of nature - (real) trees, grass, flowers that smell nice, wild animals and forest mushrooms.

    Estonia is mostly covered with forest and all the cities are green also. I couldn't stop admiring the beauty of the nature. We spent 3 days in my family summer home in the forest and just listened to the wind in the treeleaves, bird sing and .. silence. We swam in cold river (pure spring water), picked wild strawberries, talked to the trees and stared at the sky that is never so blue in Dubai.

    I didn't get nearly enough.

  • Freedom. Another nice aspect of being away from Dubai was that we didn't have to worry about showing affection in public. We could hold hands, hug and kiss whenever we felt like it. At all times I felt I could do whatever I want (within reason) and shouldn't be worried about judging looks or police.

  • Cheap and good beer. This is a combination that is impossible to find in the Middle East. Enjoying a pint of beer in an outdoor cafe (yes, its wonderful to sit outside) can be a (very) rewarding experience.

  • Family and friends.
    It was so so nice to see again people dear to me. The time was not enough to have quality meetings with everybody, but it was touching anyway. At one point one of my friends told me "it feels like you've never been away". True - when we were having fun with my friends it was like the "good old times" again.

    Its interesting since I feel that I have grown a lot, experienced a lot and my world has changed in many ways, but I guess these are the things that will mostly remain in me and won't be directly visible to the others. It will mostly be that part of my personal iceberg that is under water.

  • Nice weather. We had beautiful weather every day, 25..29 degrees C. You can enjoy walking around (without sweating) and truly take the most out of being outdoors. No humidity. Summer in Estonia is just wonderful.

  • Women wear what they want. Estonia is full of beautiful women and short skirts. Refreshing. Girls don't have to worry about which clothes to wear and wether all men will stare at them and think they're prostitutes.

  • Estonian food. Pork, sour cabbage, baked potatoes, black rye bread, sprouts, herring, kohupiim to name a few... I must certainly have gained a couple of kilos. Its just so good!!

  • Old buildings. In Dubai something that is older than 20 years is almost prehistorical. Walking in a city full of medieval buildings and atmosphere is just something else. You can feel the soul of the city.
There would be much more to point out, but I don't wanna make this blog post too long. Some people asked me "so what has changed in Estonia?". Not that much had changed in 1 year in apperance, but my persperctive on some things did. Estonia seems even smaller than before. Tartu streets seemed so small, empty... it actually didn't look like a city. Although I did enjoy that it was so calm, peaceful and quiet. It was a very nice change to Dubai. Same thing applied to Tallinn - it seemed small. In Dubai I sometimes have to drive more than 50 km to reach a client or just go to some club. It can take much more than an hour inside the city to get from point A to point B.

One thing that was quite shocking was the level of customer service. In quite many times we encountered cold and even aggressive treatment (with few very positive exceptions). Having been away from home for a year I had another perspective to customer service compared to fellow countrymen who live inside this all the time and might even be used to it. I'm planning to write about it in some estonian newspapers.

Now back in Dubai. In my thoughts still at home.