Oct 312011

There really isn’t much to update after Saturday’s shenanigans. I did a bunch of Internet searching on Sunday, trying to find out what events are happening around town, places to eat, and so on. I found a link to “healthy eating in Boston”, which pointed me to, get this, a fast food place called B. Good. According to the website, they focus on making organic and healthy fast food. And apparently there was one close to me, so, lunch was set.

At the same time, I was planning to get some groceries. I’d heard there was a Shaw’s near me, so I looked that up as well. Convenient route plotted, I went out.

B.Good : Veggie Burger with hand cut french fries : not the best I’d ever had, but pretty good. 3.5 stars, would go again. There’s one next to my office too, so that adds to my lunch options.

Shaw’s was also a success. Managed to get myself enough groceries that I don’t feel like I’m in an empty house anymore. Most of the stuff I got were ‘basics’ (rice, bread, oil, butter, etc), but I did get a few meals worth of stuff. Next time, it’s all recipe ingredients ;)

Aaaand that was basically it. Laundy, a bit of cooking, and then Playstation, TV, bed. Like I said, a quiet day.

So, to fluff up the word count, here’s a list of oddities, culture shocks, and so on that I’ve been running into.

  • I can’t throw out garbage any time I want. I can only take the trash out Thursday and Monday nights in my neighborhood. If I take it out any other time, I get a fine. The more you know.
  • The Shaw’s I went to is about a 15 minutes walk away. Carrying $100 worth of groceries over 15 minutes does wonderful things to your back and shoulders.
  • People will jog here, no matter what the weather is like. Icy weather post-snowstorm? No problem. Strap on those short shorts and work up a sweat.
  • There’s a dog park near my house. This is a park, for dogs. It’s a fenced in 10×10 (maybe) square, all concrete with, I love this, fake fire hydrants. People take their dogs there and just let them go nuts running around the ‘park’. So awesome.
More as I think of them :)





Oct 302011

Just a disclaimer.. I’m quite drunk while typing this.. so please forgive any ‘creative’ thoughts that pop up. Spelling/grammar mistakes, you can put down to the fact that it’s 2 in the morning.

So earlier today, I got a text from Gibs asking me if I’d like to go to concert tonight. Apparently, he had a ticket for me already, which was quite nice of him. The artist in question was Zucchero, who I’d never actually heard of. A few minutes on Google, and I had an idea who this guy was. You’ve all most likely heard at least one of his songs.. this one here . I always wondered why Paul Young was singing in a different language when I was younger..

Anyway.. my day was pretty boring actually. I spent 2 hours today trying to get my Playstation hooked up the TV in this apartment. The settings saved on it from Dubai weren’t compatible with the TV here, but eventually I managed to get it to work by plugging it into the TV in the bedroom (this apartment kicks ass on SO many levels) and changing the settings there, then moving it to the living room. So now I have a PS3 running on a 53″ plasma TV. I think I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow…

Around 7:40, I left to go meet Gibs, Dee, and HaMa at the Berklee Performance Hall where the concert was. It’s a 15 or so minute walk from my house. On the way, the Nor’easter* that we’d been warned about started. Snow was starting to fall, but it was competing with the rain, and up till that point, rain was winning.

The concert itself was actually pretty good. Not exactly my kind of music, but he’s a good performer, and I have to say, the acoustics in the Berklee hall are phenomenal.

From there, we decided to go and have a drink nearby. When we got outside, we were stunned by the weather. Sleet, rain, snow.. it was incredible. There were visible patches of slush already starting to form where the sidewalk slanted downwards. The forecast called for snow all the way till 10am tomorrow morning. 12 more hours of this?!

We got to the bar and then, as happens on Saturday nights, we overdid it a bit. Here’s a pic of me taking a shot of a “buttery nipple”. That was awkward to order.

Buttery Nipple!

Around 1am, we parted. Gibs and Dee had already gone home, so it was just me and HaMa. They decided to take a taxi, as the walk home would be ridiculous given the weather. I, being the brave little trooper I am, opted for the walk.

Oh my.

At this point, the walk took about 25 minutes. The temperature in Boston is around 2 degrees right now. And it’s snowing like crazy.

When I eventually got home (do remember that I’m quite drunk), I decided that the best course of action would be to grab my camera and go out again and take a bunch of pictures of the snow.

At the very least, this should go some way towards making up for the fact that I haven’t been taking pictures so far. My frostbitten hands plead for mercy.

I present to you the first snowfall of the year. Welcome to New England!

Snowed in Mini

Right outside my apartment


A planter right next to my apartment



More Snow!

Even More Snow!

Winter Wonderland

The park a few meters from my apartment

It's fucking October!

More of the park

Bush ala snow

Yet more park


I can't wait to see what this looks like in the morning


Not that I'll be awake in the morning...

Columbus Street

Columbus St. near my house. Deserted and frosty.

Frozen car

Artsy car shot on Columbus St.

Giant Lego!

A shop nearby on Columbus St.

I can’t wait to see what my neighborhood is going to look like in the morning. Hopefully I’ll be awake before the snow melts and will be able to get some pictures. Not that it matters, seeing as I’m in New England, and I can expect several months of this, come January.

*I know most of you won’t click the link, so here’s a quick update for you. Basically, we had a massive storm forecast for this evening. We’re expecting between 1 and 5 inches of snow here in Boston. Some areas are getting up to 18 inches. It isn’t even Halloween yet for fuck’s sake.

Oct 292011

Just a little aside with an interesting moral at the end. And by ‘little’, I mean’lomg and rambling’. Anyone who’s sat through my Etisalat rant of Summer ’10 knows what they’re in for. You’ve been warned ;)

So I arrived at the apartment last Thursday. One of the things I’d made sure of before leaving Dubai was that the apartment had Internet access. I had a weekend coming up very soon after I arrived, and I wanted to make sure that I could stay in touch with people, use google maps to find my way around, etc.

Of could, when I arrive, there was no Internet. The wireless worked just fine.. I could get my laptop and iPad on network, but couldn’t reach the web.

I called Rocky. It was his girlfriend’s place, and I figured there might be some trick to it, and I didn’t want to sta messing with their routers and so on. It didn’t help that there had what looked like three separate routers and modems sitting underthe TV!

He was as surprised as I was. A far as he knew, Internet should have been working. He offered to pass by later and take a look.

He came by around 9:30 and started fiddling. Cables were disconnected and reconnected. Routers were power cycled. Modems were cursed at. Eventually, it was decided that we had to all Comcast, our provider.

On Friday, while we are at work, Rocky called Comcast for the first time. After about 10 minutes of going through phone menus, they managed to speak to a human being who told them to try everything we’d already tried. They wouldn’t go any further until we’d tried that, so it had to wait till I got back home. Chances of having access before the weekend were dwindling fast.

As soon as I got home, I tried everything again, to no avail. Called Rocky, he called Comcast.

Comcast tried to avoid sending someone till Monday, but once they found out that we had a phone on the same line (also dead) they realized that, by law, they actually had to send someone within 24 hours. Rocky gave them my number, and told me they would be there between 9 and 12 on Saturday.

I was unreal early on Saturday, so I figured I would hang out at home and wait.

Around 9:30 I heard a loud screeching buzzer that I took to some sort of alarm. In case it was the doorbell, I looked out th window, and saw a van belonging to a company called Xfinity. So, not Comcast. Just in case, I looked downstairs, and I saw a neighbor talking to the guys from the van. So, nothing to do with me. Soon after, they left. I continued my vigil.

Around noon, Rocky called me to see if Comcast had shown up. I said no, so he called them again. They said that someone had shown up at 9:30 but no one was home. I told him about the Xfinity event, and he informed me that they’re the same company. He yelled at them for not trying either my number or his, and they didn’t have much to say about that. They said they would call me to arrange a new time.

At this point, I had arranged to meet people for a weekend outing, so out I went, expecting a call from Comcast.

I didn’t get any calls that afternoon, so the next day, I called Rocky again. He sounded completely shocked. Apparently, they were supposed to call me right after he talked to them… Not ‘some point in the future’. In fact, when he called them, now in a rage, they told him that someone had been down there a couple of hours after noon and, again, no one was home.


Rocky and Jen were planning to come to the apartment to pick something up. In the meanwhile, I went out to grab a couple of things from the store. On the way, I get a call from Comcast that went straight to my voicemail. A lady with an impossible to decipher accent (US but no idea where from) saying that my modem was back online and that could I check so she can cancel the technicians.

I basically turned around and went home, checked, and sure enough, Internet! I figured I shouldn’t touch anything.

An hour later, the Comcast tech show up (I had no idea they were coming on Sunday!). He took a look for a while, and told me that basically, the lines going into the apartment were all fucked up and needed changing. They were split between too many units, and had rusted, and so on. In the meanwhile, he could get it that internet stayed up, but I’d lose TV and phone. Then, he would come back n Tuesday morning to change all the cables. This was done.

The rest of it went as promised. They showed up on Tuesday and changed the cables from th outside, then came inside and helped set up the wifi and everything, which was out of their scope, so good on them. So finally, I have working Internet, phone and cable tv in the house.

In fact, the technicians were, in general excellent. Friendly, hard working, and they went above and beyond (except when they didn’t call when they would show up). It was the geniuses at phone support! The amount of time we spent on the phone with them in a period of three days was completely ridiculous.

So, the moral of the story I promised? It really doesn’t matter whe the fuck you are. Telecos are telecos. They all suck, and that’s just the way it is.

Oct 282011

As this post is going to fill you guys in past my first weekend, it’ll probably going to be my last ‘big’ update. From this point on, I imagine my posts will be smaller, with specific events and so on.


So, jet lagged as I was, I was up really early on Saturday.  The day before, I’d found out that this weekend was the Head of the Charles, a big annual boat race that happens on the Charles River. As often happens with North American events, it ends up being a giant excuse to set up drinking tents and have a wild weekend.

Naturally, I wanted to be there. So I made plans to meet up with my boss*, head down to Cambridge for lunch, then head down to the festivities.

Around 11 o’clock, we got in touch, and decided I would take the #1 bus across the river to Harvard Square, and meet up with Gibs, Dee and HaMa for lunch.

The bus ride was pretty cool, just due to the fact that it went over a river, and then drive right past MIT. On the way, Gibs texted me to let me know that Noam Chomsky was going to be speaking that night, so my day got full real fast.

I ended up having to wait about half an hour at Harvard Square, as Gibs and Dee were running a bit late, but I found a place to sit down, and I had my Kindle with me, so all was well. When they finally showed up, we walked up closer to the actual Square, and stood in line for about an hour at a pizza place.

Another explanatory note here. I don’t know if this is a common thing all over the world, but it’s a bit strange to me in Dubai. I’ve been noticing that places that get popular here get really popular. Generally, the lines are outside the door, people are happy to wait for up to an hour, and so on. I’ve already seen this at a couple of bars, an ice cream place, and the aforementioned pizza place.

They actually ended up giving us free pizza because they screwed up our first order. It should be said that the pizza was amazing. Unfortunately I don’t have the name of the place. I’m sure I’ll find it again.

Once we got our pies (HaMa had shown up at this point), we went into Harvard and sat down at some tables in the Yard to eat. That, right there, made my day.

From there, Dee and Ma wanted coffee and dessert, so off we went. Of course, this was a bit tricky, as it was 3pm already, and most restaurants in the area stop serving anything between 3 and 5.

We eventually found a pseudo Arabic place and after struggling to find a place to sit, we got our caffeine/sugar hit.

At this point, we realized it was too late to make it to the Charles event, so we separated and HaMa and I headed towards the Noam Chomsky thing. It turned out that he was speaking at the Occupy Boston protest.

The tent city that the protesters had set up was seriously something to behold. A huge public park was set aside and turned into a mini-city.. complete with food tents, first aid tents, etc. Different groups of protesters were handing out leaflets, others were playing with hula hoops.. it was pretty incredible. We couldn’t actually hear Chomsky speaking, due to a lack of microphones, but he was up there, and the speech ended up online. I haven’t actually seen the speech yet, but you can find it here.

After about an hour, the General Assembly was starting to gather, and I heard people saying something about a march, so I suggested we get out of there ASAP. Being on a work visa, I’d rather not get involved in any sort of movement that could get me arrested :)

From there, we drifted up to Newbury Street.. a pretty good spot to get some food and see the nightlife. We ended up at a fancy restaurant that was very generous with their scotch, and had a pretty good salad for dinner. From there, it was off to bed.

Sunday was a lot more quiet. The Comcast Saga (future post, honest) continued, then I had lunch with Rocky and Jen, and broached the subject of actually renting her apartment once the lease with the company is done (1st Jan). I doubt I’ll be able to afford it, but we’ll see when she gets a realtor in to value the place.

In the evening, I met up with Gibs at the Apple Store (biggest in North America!) and wept silent tears at all the shiny that I can’t afford.

Soon. Soon.

*So I should clear up the characters in my life at the moment. I’d rather not identify anyone by name, so I’ll have to end up giving them nicknames (thank you, N).

So far, the cast includes (with the most boring nicknames ever, forgive me, it’s early):

Gibs :- The guy I often refer to as ‘my boss’. He’s actually my boss’s boss. He’s the guy I flew in with.

Dee :- Gibs’ wife

Ha :- A friend of mine who also works at my company

Ma :- Ha’s wife

- I’ll often refer to the two above as HaMa

Rocky :- My direct boss

Jen :- Rocky’s girlfriend, and the owner of the apartment I’m in at the moment





Up at 6:30 (hurray for jetlag!), I made myself an omelette (the guys who own the apartment left me a dozen eggs) and realized there was no coffee in the apartment. After getting the panic attack under control, I got myself ready for work.

The office is about 20 minutes away from here on the T (that’s what they call their public transportation system in Boston). I have to walk exactly 5 minutes to the station, then a 10-15 minute ride, then another 5 minute walk to the office. The walk itself is really pleasant from my apartment, as there’s a small park I have to walk through.

I spent the day pretty much getting to know everyone at the office. On Fridays, we apparently try to do an office lunch in the conference room, so I went out with a guy I work with and grabbed a sandwich for that.

Ok, so that sandwich. We went to a place that is only open for lunch (it’s a very ‘business’ district, so there are a few places like that) and does sandwiches, pizza, pasta, etc. Trying to avoid getting super fat here, I was looking for the healthiest looking option on the menu. I found a Greek Wrap.. basically a greek salad sandwich. Perfect. So you know how wraps are usually done with a small tortilla bread? Yeah, no. The bread they used was pretty damned big. The sandwich was the size of an American football. It was pretty tasty, but it did nothing to help my inflation phobia.

After lunch, I went on the 15 minute walk to the Social Security office to try and apply for my SSN. Without that number, I can’t do anything here. Including get paid! After entering the federal building (everything out of pockets. Jacket off. Belt off. Wow. The airport had far less security), I took a number and sat and waited. And waited. And waited.

After about an hour, my number was called, and I went up to the lady at the counter. She took my application and passport, and spent some time tapping away at her keyboard. Then she handed me a piece of paper that said that it would take up to 4 weeks to get my SSN and wished me a nice day.


To put this in perspective.. here’s what I can do without a social security number:

  • - open a bank account
  • - get a driver’s license
  • - rent an apartment – this one is a maybe, as some landlords will insist on a credit check.

Here’s what I can’t do:

  • - anything requiring a contract. This includes:
  • - getting a phone
  • - getting internet
  • - getting a credit card
  • - GETTING PAID (you can’t get paid without an SSN, as they need that for tax reasons)
  • - health insurance (!!!)
  • - apply for any sort of credit. As an example, I want to get a computer. I would like to buy this computer on financing, because that will help boost my credit history. Can’t do that till I have an SSN.
  • - The list goes on! I’m still finding things that I can’t do because of this stupid number.

So yeah. Until I have that number, I’m pretty well shackled.

At the end of the work day, a delivery guy showed up at the office with my missing suitcase! Thank you Delta! I made plans to meet a friend for dinner/drinks in Cambridge, and then took the T home with suitcase in tow.

After settling it in, I pretty much turned around and went back to the station again to get to Cambridge.. home of Harvard and MIT. After a long walk from the T station, I met up with my friend and his wife and we tried to go to a place that they liked. Of course, it was super full, so we ended up walking down to Harvard Square until we found a place that looked ok. The place was Uno.. same as the one in Dubai I guess, but the food was a lot better. I had a portobello and shiitake mushroom pizza with cheddar cheese. It was nice and small, and very tasty. Had some local beer as well (Harpoon) but I didn’t like that too much.

And then, to home and collapse.

Note that the first week  all end the same way. Jetlag is fun.

Oct 282011

There isn’t much to write about the flight itself. It was the first time I’d properly flown Business Class, so that was pretty great. The seats were a lot more comfortable than what I’m used to, obviously, and the food was pretty fancy. The flight staff was really friendly, which was a nice bonus. Most of the flight was spent in a sort of low-level business meeting with my boss, interrupted by bouts of sleeping and eating. This happened a lot, as KLM and Delta both seem to strongly believe in the idea that a well-stuffed passenger is a happy one.

The one significant bit is that our flight out of Dubai was delayed by about 30 minutes. This left us with an hour or so to transfer in Amsterdam. As you can imagine, this can lead to bad things with baggage transfer. More on this later.

After about 18 hours of traveling, we arrived in Boston. To be completely honest, I had been dreading this part of the trip. I’ve heard so many horror stories of people going through US immigration, and I don’t exactly have the best passport in the world, so I spent the entire trip bracing myself for the worst.

I was through in about 10 minutes.

So, mind thoroughly blown, I went to the baggage carousels to wait for my bags. And of course, one of them doesn’t show up (I had three). See above note re: short transfers and baggage chaos.

After filing a baggage claim with Delta (this after walking through customs without having a single bag opened!), my boss and I grabbed a taxi and headed towards the apartment that my company had ready for me*.

Some folks at the office had come over to the apartment earlier to make sure things were ready for me. They left me the company cell phone, the badge that would get me into the office, a public transport (T) card with $15 on it, and, how great is this, two bottles of water and a bowl of apples and tangerines. It was quite touching.

The next few hours, I spent in a sort of daze. I had to stay awake as long as possible (it was 6pm), so I had to find a way to entertain myself for a while. Internet wasn’t working (this leads to the Comcast Saga part of my trip), so I couldn’t write any emails or whatever. I called the guy whose girlfriend owns the apartment to ask if there was any place nearby I could get a toothbrush, as mine was in the missing bag, and then went out to get that.

Around 9pm, I gave in, had an apple for dinner, and passed out.

*A note on the apartment for those not in the know. Long story short, my company has a few people who travel in and out of Boston, so it made sense for them to have a place to house them, rather than put them up in a short-stay place (~$100 a day) or a hotel (~$150 a day). So as a temporary solution, they rented this place. This worked out really well for me, as they have the place until the 1st of January, which gives me plenty of time to find my own place.


So I’ve finally gotten settled in enough to start this blog. My plan is to have this be an easy way for me to keep in touch with everyone and let you all know what’s going on with me.

The first few posts will be more of catch-up. What’s happened so far and so on.

As a quick disclaimer, I’ve been pretty bad about taking pictures so far. Between the jet lag, the travel, and the stress of moving, lugging around a camera and snapping pictures hasn’t really been on my mind. I’ll try and do better soon ;)