Back in the real world

Yesterday I arrived back to Estonia. Dubai is history now. Many people asked whether I felt sad to leave - the truth is no. I was eager to leave. It was a very good experience, but I was happy to go. I made some good friends there, but I don't need Dubai to have those friends. I'm sure none of them will stay in Dubai for too long anyway.

When I was trying to think what will I miss about Dubai, I could only come up with 1 thing - Al Reef Lebanese Bakery where you get the best manakish in the world (a food item with lots of meat and cheese). The rest - maybe I will miss something else too, but I don't know what yet. I am probably gonna feel nostalgic about Arabic music, yelling old man and shisha places (shisha outside of the Middle East is not the same, I'm sure).

Before my last day 24h in Dubai I spent 10 days in Serbia. From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt good and happy. It was just so good to be back in Europe, to see people walking on the streets, life on the streets, real world. I realized how much I have missed the unexplainable life that is missing in Dubai. I felt like I left the artificial world and entered the real one.

Serbia had nice people, nice food (meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and nice landscapes (gorgeous mountains!). What I was surprised about was that Serbia was much poorer than I had expected. Yugoslavia was the pearl of the former soviet block. I guess the war has had its effect, combined with authoritarian regimes and policies. It was like going back in time 10 years or more (when compared to Estonia). All the city, even the center, was full of ugly, not renovated communist style buildings. I also figured out where all the old crappy cars (Fiat 127s, Datsun Cherrys, Ladas and Moskvich's etc), had disappeared from Estonia (and probably other better-off Eastern European countries). Serbia's streets were full of junk on wheels. But thats okay - most certainly all of this will change as the country develops.

When I arrived to Estonia and got to my home, no one was there as it was 3pm and people were at work. So I just stayed outside and waited. Observed. I was most definitely back in the real world. It's spring time. You can see the grass getting greener, listen to the birds singing, bugs buzzing, feel the light breeze and breathe the fresh air. None of this is and ever will be available in the make-believe Dubai world.

Before going off to sleep I had a nice long and free chat on Skype with my love. Thats right - on Skype. Damn it feels good to be back in the free world.

EuroXpro 2007

I'm right now in Serbia - chairing an international (40 countries) AIESEC conference, EuroXpro 2007. It is quite amazing and I'm having so much fun. In January when I chaired the AIESEC in Estonia Annual Conference I thought that one will be my last and many people told me it was not. They were right. I can't imagine a better way to leave AIESEC (although I've been out for over a year now) than chairing a big, kick-ass conference.

I was invited to be the chair totally unexpectedly - and accepting the offer also meant I had to quit my job sooner than initially planned. I had to choose between an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and staying 2 last weeks in the office - it wasn't a difficult choice.

Now after the conference I will go back to Dubai for just 1 day, pack my stuff, have last shisha with my friends and leave the Middle East behind.

Best blog in the Middle East... Secret Dubai that got the Bloggies award as the best blog for this region. That is good news! Secret Dubai is a blog that follows Dubai's everyday life and points out all the hypocrisy, double standards and moronic things happening here. It's wonderful. The ray of light in this censored country.

Today is my last day at work. End of an era and a new beginning. Yay for me!

Simple joys of life

Today when leaving work I was waiting for an elevator with my colleagues. Suddenly we got this brilliant idea to ring the doorbell of 2 neighbors doors. We waited for the perfect moment until the elevator was on our floor, we rang the bells and ran straight into the elevator.

It still felt as exciting as 20 years ago.

PS My days in Dubai got suddenly much shorter. I'm leaving already on the 16th for 10 days, returning then for 1 day and leaving Dubai for good on the 28th.

More reasons to leave

As I mentioned in one of my posts, the Gulf is clashing with my values which is one of the key reasons why I want to leave. There are disgusting things happening which the rest of the world has probably no idea about.

Your housemaids are pretty much your property and they have no rights. I'm sure torturing cases like this are not rare, most don't have a way to escape or are too afraid to come public. People get punished for being in the same car just because you are not married. What if I have to drop a friend or a colleague somewhere? How fucking ridiculous and stupid!? What is this, stone age?

Slavery is still legal here and nobody does anything. Countries involved in slavery had to pay huge fines and apologize until this day, but when it is happening right now, today, no one does anything - for money and political reasons. Just today there was an article how workers who wanted a raise in the salary and voiced against slavery will be deported from the country. Minister of Labour said what they did was illegal. Imagine that - it is illegal to want a better life, to stand up against slavery. The salary they earn is 550 dirhams - this is very close to extreme poverty. You cannot live a decent life with 5000 dirhams, you struggle. 550 is unthinkable in this country where everything is so very expensive.

I could go on and on. This country is just a nice facade and utterly rotten inside. I can't wait to leave.

Tales Of Mere Existance

This guy is the next big thing, I can feel it.

Find more here:

The good, the bad, the ugly

My last post about leaving Dubai seemed to communicate that I hate Dubai. No, I don't hate it, otherwise I would have left long time ago. As with every place in the world, there are the good and bad sides. Negative sides always get more attention as it's much more fun to bitch about something than to praise it. We tend to take the good things for granted often.

Sure, there are a lot of things that I don't like about Dubai and I could go and on about it. I will be better off somewhere else for sure.

So what do I find good about Dubai?

1. It's sunny. Yes, it can be freaking hot, but sunlight gives so much energy and makes the day brighter. It beats the Nordic darkness.

2. It's safe. During my 20 months here nothing has ever happened to me, I haven't encountered any criminal activity. I only know of 1 case during this time when a friend of mine run into some trouble, but that's it. It is a safe place.

3. Level of service in restaurants, bars, hotels etc is very good most of the time. Way better than in Estonia. Excellence in customer service is unfortunately limited to business mentioned above, if you go to a travel agencies or any other service place, they are mostly useless there.

4. Life is easy and career comes fast. If you are educated and proactive, you can get a good job and advance quite fast. Many people come to Dubai to enhance their career. Life is easy here most of the time, white collar people don't struggle. It's quite a laid back and stress-free environment.

5. It's diverse, multicultural. Sure, it's dominated by South Asians and Arabs, but still you meet here people from all the nationalities. It's colorful and I'm big on color. I like that I can eat in authentic Indian restaurants, go party at African bars or smoke shisha in places with Arabian touch.

6. This is not exactly about Dubai, but I like its proximity to a range of interesting places. Traveling from Dubai is quite cheap to so many cool countries.

These were the main things that came to me right now.

Dubai lacks so many things that are important to me and it has a lot that clash with my personal values, so we're not a good match. I'm eager to start my new adventure.

Goodbye Dubai

In less than 30 days I will leave Dubai for good. I came for a life-changing experience and I got one. I'm very grateful for that. The experience turned out to be very different from what I expected, but that's a good thing. Living and working abroad experience has had a huge impact on me. Sometimes it's hard to tell how much of the development is because of this experience and how much is a "natural" development that would have occurred in other circumstances as well.

I met people that I want to be friends with for a long, long time. I have started to see a much bigger picture of the world, I think it's impossible to have a global world view without the living abroad experience. I am more confident than ever. I understand different cultures way better. I now know the true meaning of cultural differences. I am keen on diversity.

It is impossible to sum the meaning, the significance of this experience in just a few lines. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, having a living and working abroad experience would be it.

I feel that it's ironic that in a place like the Middle East - where love is repressed (and even more than that) - I found love.

While this experience has been awesome and I wouldn't change it for anything, there are quite a few things I will not miss. At all.

1. The weather and humidity in summer. I have experienced hell. Twice.

2. Dubai traffic jams. Although this is an increasing problem everywhere in the world, so I might not be able to escape that.

3. Censorship. Internet, movies (cinema), magazines, newspapers - it's all censored. I will celebrate the freedom again. I can't tolerate a paranoid government making decisions for me. And yay for Skype! (which is blocked here).

4. The sponsorship system. Here people are the property of the companies you work for. They own you. They decide whether you can apply for a visa to go traveling, or whether you can get internet access at home or get a PO Box number so people can send you mail. I hope I will never have to hear the phrase "no objection letter" again.

The sponsorship system in business is another monster that I wish never to meet again. The law states that any foreigner wishing to do business in Dubai (or anywhere in the Gulf States, with the exception of couple of free zones) must go into partnership with a local citizen and pay him a percentage (usually around 5%, some ask for up to 20%) or all revenues collected. In return, if you are lucky, he will assist you in registering your business, obtaining licenses, visas, etc. Most of these "local partners" are useless lazy bastard that don't want to do much at all but collecting the cash. And boast they are "businessmen".

5. Alcohol restrictions. By all means I do not support alcoholism, but I do want to be able to buy wine or beer when I want to.

6. Ramadan. If anyone wants to pick a fight with me that I disrespect Islam by saying this, then you are utterly stupid and just want to pick a fight. Ramadan is a pain in the ass for people that don't follow Islam. You can get arrested for drinking water or eating in public. How ridiculous is that? And by the way, its 50 degrees outside.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the authorities there that non-Muslims should not be forced into following Islamic rituals which are detrimental to their health. During the Ramadan you see poor Indians working outside in the heat of the day without drinking water thanks to the religious beliefs. Everyone - whether Muslims or not - should be expected by law to follow its doctrines.

If you want to fast, congratulations, but why force the whole population follow this rule.

7. Standing ovations of skyscrapers and other show-off stuff. I am sick of the Dubai show off culture. I literally get nauseous when I hear someone complementing yet another ridiculous real estate development. Artificial islands, luxury hotels, world’s tallest tower. There is no real substance to this place so they have to come up with some fakeass stuff. Dubai is a soulless city. I will most certainly not miss it.

8. No real nature. Nothing grows here without water pumping on the plants 24/7. Flowers and all other plants for that matter are watered with recycled water (which is a good idea) and that make them smell like shit. Literally. When walking on the street and you smell something disgusting, beware - some flowers might be nearby! Those 10 days that I spent last summer in Estonia remembered me how wonderful nature is and how important it is to me.

9. Racism. It's everywhere you go. It affects everybody. You hear "Stupid Indians!" almost as often as "How are you?". Mistreatment of manual labor: awful beyond words. Slavery is legal in the Middle East and it is illegal to complain about it.

10. Expressing love is illegal. I almost got arrested for giving a goodnight kiss to my beloved. A Russian couple got sentenced to jail for 3 months for kissing (acquitted later). If you walk on the street and hold hands, you have to constantly make sure there is no police around. How fu..ed up is this? Makes me so pissed.

I guess I could go on and on, but I will stop here. Goodbye Dubai. You will not be missed. I might come back in 10 years or so to check what's become of this place.