So, I was completely wrong. The apartment was actually really nice.. and with the price point as it was, I’m pretty sure I’m going to take it!

Actually, I’ve already committed. I’ve sent in an application and everything, and will be dropping off a check tomorrow morning. Now, basically, it’s up to the landlord to accept or reject me (which is a possibility because I have 0 credit history here).

Will update with details later, but I really need to get some work done ;)


I know I’ve been bad about updating this blog recently, but trust me when I say, things have been a bit hectic over here. I haven’t really been doing much recently aside from working. Come the end of the day, sitting at the computer and typing out a blog post is literally the last thing on my mind.

Apologies. I’ll try and do better.

I’ve been fighting the flu for three days now. I had to call in sick on Monday because I couldn’t really move but I’ve been doing a bit better since then. Advil Cold & Sinus is still the best pill ever invented*.

I got my checkbook yesterday, and I’ve now gone into hyper apartment-hunting mode. This is not fun when sick, but I don’t really have much of a choice. December is coming up fast, and the last two weeks will be impossible, as everyone will have gone off for the holidays. This gives me two weeks to find a place and finalize things. I’ve started looking a little further from the office than I’d originally liked, in a place called Brookline. I had a long conversation with a bartender on Sunday, and she described the place in pretty positive terms (she lives there). I passed the information along, and my temporary roommate has seen a couple of places there. Yesterday, he got back and announced that he’d found his new home. Note that this guy is as picky as I am. He’s seen a few places in the South End and turned them down flat out.

Good sign.

This gives me a chance to talk a little bit about some of the neighborhoods in this city.

Brookline is, like every little neighborhood in Boston, considered a separate town. It’s about a 30-40 minute train ride to the office, which is longer than I’d like, but it gives me a chance to finally catch up on my reading. The neighborhood is supposed to be very green, with a lot of ‘young professionals’, so I’d imagine the night-life and music scene should be pretty good.

I’ve already expressed interest to a few realtors, and am just waiting to hear back from them. In the meanwhile, I’m going to see a place (in about 10 minutes!) on Newbury street.

Newbury is in the Back Bay, a high-rise part of town (only about 10 minutes from where I am right now). The Back Bay is considered one of the higher-end parts of town, with several high-rise towers, and quite a few streets with nice family houses. Newbury street itself is one of the nightlife hotspots of Boston, catering  to the higher end of things. Tons of restaurants and bars, separated by small fashion boutiques, etc. Totally perfect ;)

On the pro side, the apartment I’m going to see is halfway between here and the office. It’s only about two blocks away from the Common, which makes it about a 15 minute walk (or 5 minute bike ride) to my office. I honestly don’t know if I’d ever use the trains if I moved there.

On the con side, I’m willing to bet that, at the rent it’s being offered at, this apartment is going to be either tiny, or rat-infested :D I’ll update you all once I get back.

Start the two week timer folks. I gotta have a place by the end of it!


*As an aside, does anyone else wonder why they make Advil so tasty? Why would you cover a pill in a sugar coating, and then say “take only two at a time”? If you want me to only take two at a time, then don’t make the pills delicious.

Nov 212011

Today, I finally got my iPhone. I ordered it online a week ago, and it showed up a couple of hours ago, which is nice, seeing as Apple said it would be coming on the 25th. Now, I just need to go down to AT&T and buy into a plan of some sort, and I can finally give back the crappy temporary phone I’ve been using.

This got me thinking about all these little things that we have to do. All these small steps we need to go through when moving to a new place, before we can reach a sense of normalcy. Opening a bank account, getting a phone set up, renting an apartment, etc.

Comparing between the US and the UAE, it’s interesting to see how the two places have their own ways of causing these little things to drag out as long as possible. In the UAE, we have to deal with the always-required residence visa before we can do anything. As this visa can take weeks to process (something which is supposed to be taken care of before you arrive in the UAE, mind you), that can mean weeks without the ability to rent a place, get a phone line, open a bank account, buy a car (and woe be to the man living in Dubai without a car!), etc. Once that’s done, you could still have trouble renting an apartment, say, as the landlords generally want as few checks as possible (sometimes even one check.. to cover the whole year), something which might be difficult for a young professional in their first job!

In the US, a lot of these little steps are tied to your social security number, as I’ve mentioned, at length. You can open a bank account before getting that number, but everything else has to sit on hold. No credit card, no apartment (this can be worked around), no phone line.

Same same, only different.


Continued from here.

I’d been home for about 10 minutes before my phone started ringing.

Now, I really should mention that the weather outside was really pleasant, especially considering we had a snowstorm a week earlier. This would be a good thing if I was dressed appropriately, but of course, I wasn’t. I was wearing a t-shirt and a pretty heavy fleece jacket. Due to the fact that I was carrying a ton of crap, I couldn’t really take the jacket off, so I was stuck with it until I got home. Add to that the fact that all the places I’d walked through (the Apple Store, the Prudential Center) were kept quite warm, I was basically drenched by the time I got home.

All this means that, when the phone started ringing, I hadn’t really started doing anything yet. I was just sitting in the living room trying to cool off a bit before starting to play with my laptop.

On the phone was Ha, of Team HaMa. They were planning on going out to the park and spending at least some of the day outside. As it really would have been a shame to waste the day, I agreed to meet them in about an hour.

And then I started playing with my laptop. Which of course meant I got distracted and lost track of time. Not a huge deal really, I was only about minutes late ;)

So we met up at the Boston Common. The Common is a really big park quite close to my office. There’s quite a bit of history there, from what I gather. Specifically, it’s the oldest city park in the United States. More relevant to us, it’s a beautiful place. Trees (which are in full Autumn mode right now, reds and oranges everywhere), lakes, ducks, squirrels. Oh god, the squirrels.

See, squirrels have a tendency to infest many towns around the world. Every time I’d ever seen them, the little bastards were scrawny, mean, and terrified of human beings. I’ve seen squirrels throw nuts at people from trees, I’ve heard stories of the damned things biting people and running away (which means the victim then has to spend a fun few weeks getting rabies shots), I’ve heard tales of them chewing holes through peoples houses, and so on.

These were not the same squirrels. These rodents are fat, playful and almost friendly. HaMa had brought a bag of peanuts (still in the shell), and we spent a while sitting on the grass and practically hand-feeding the bushy-tailed bastards.



From there, we went on the Public Gardens, sort of a smaller ‘part 2′ of the Common. Same deal, but with more trees, a bigger lake (with many ducks) and a series of sculptures based on a children’s story (Make Way for Ducklings, in case anyone has heard of it).

After the park, we decided to take a walk. We had a vague plan of going to see a stand-up comedy show, but that was as far as our idea of planning went. We left the park and started drifting towards the North End, as we were slowly starting to get hungry, and we’d heard that there was good food to be had up there.

The North End of Boston is the traditional Italian part of town. As you can imagine, that means the food is excellent. It was a bit of a walk though, so we started off.

At the border between the Financial District and the North End, we found a farmer’s market.

A little background.

Ha loves avocados, apparently. He’s been very upset to find out that avocados here cost roughly $1.50 each in the shops. I’m not sure if they’re out of season, or whatever, but that’s the way it is. As we walked by the market, I realized that I could really use some more apples, so we pulled in. Just as we started, Ha spotted some avocados that were something like 25 cents each (I forget the exact price because I don’t like avocados). As he was working out how many he could carry, I was looking at the other fruits and vegetables. I ended up buying a bunch of 8 bananas, a bag of 8 apples, and a large box of strawberries.. and I paid $3.50.

So now I know where to buy fruits and vegetables! Apparently, they have farmer’s markets all over Boston at different days of the week. And sure enough, there are websites that will tell you exactly where and when, so I’m all set.

Continuing on, we finally reached Hanover Street, which is the main thoroughfare in the North End. There was a comedy club right at the beginning, but all the tickets for that night were sold out, so instead we figured we’d have a bite to eat and then head back to HaMa’s place for a drink. Plan in hand, we started trying to find a restaurant.

And completely gave up after about an hour of walking. Every place on that street, the main dishes started at about $20. This isn’t too bad for high end places, but these weren’t all that inviting. I think they cost that much mainly because it’s a relatively touristic part of town. Ah well.

We decided to head back to HaMa’s place and order pizza.

They live all the way up in Cambridge, about a ten minute walk from Harvard Square. We walked back down to the Financial Center border, and caught the train. At Harvard Square, we stopped off at a liquor store run by a Lebanese dude (who jacks up his prices like crazy!) and bought a few six-packs of beer and headed off.

HaMa’s was fun. We drank a bunch and talked a bunch. Eventually, we put a stand-up comedy show (Louis C.K. The man is funny) on Netflix, so at least we got that fix.

Around midnight, I stumbled off back towards the bus stop that would take me directly home.

All in all, it was a really nice weekend day!

Nov 112011

As I mentioned yesterday, Last Saturday was an eventful day.

In the morning, I went out to see a couple of apartments, I’d scheduled viewings through a real estate agent. I met her (the agent) in front of the first apartment, saw it, then she drove us to the second one. The first apartment was quite nice, but the place I’m in is a lot nicer. A lot more room, a lot more closet space, and a much better kitchen. The owners were asking for about $200 less than my current landlord would want for her place, so it wouldn’t really make sense.

The second place was actually pretty shitty, but it did have a pretty big back yard. I would probably be able to fit 10 people out there, a big table/chairs AND still be able to have a garden. Unfortunately, the place was kind of cut off. The closest public transport was about a 15 minute walk away. Now, that’s not a big deal on a normal day.. but when there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground and it’s -20 degrees outside, I can imagine that walk being a complete nightmare.

So, and read to the end before you judge me, this is where my brain went into complete retarded mode. I started thinking that I should take the place that I’m currently staying in. Jen, the landlord, is asking for $2800 a month. A couple of people have already seen the place, and had already put in applications. Jen was aiming to rent the place out unfurnished, but we talked, and she said she’d be willing to leave the main bed (it’s a two bedroom) and the TV with its little cabinet. Now, in my stressed out brain, that sounded like a good deal. Did I mention that utilities weren’t included in this deal? In Boston, most landlords cover heat and hot water. Jen was willing to cover the hot water, but that was it. Considering that my original budget when coming here was $1500 – $2000, I go back to what I said; my brain had gone full retard.

Thankfully, after a day of thinking, I came to my senses. I don’t need a two bedroom place, and I’m sure to find much better deals in the Back Bay area (rather than the South End, which is where I am, which is a bit.. fancy). Also, the fact that I still don’t have a checkbook, and there isn’t enough money in my account to cover the first payments on an apartment (first mont – last month – security (a month’s rent) – agent fee (up to a month’s rent… this is the maximum, some people don’t ask for one or two of those), then there was really no point continuing the search. I’m delaying all this for a couple of weeks.

Anyways. After seeing the second place, the realtor offered to drive me back to my place, but I decided to walk (that’s how I go an idea of how far the second place was from anything). On the way back home, I decided to go around and get things done. I passed by Starbucks and picked up a bag of ground coffee for the machine at home. It turns out that their ‘free tall coffee with every bag’ offer works here as well, so with free coffee in hand, I wandered off towards the Prudential Center. This is a mall that is quite close to my house. I knew there was a video game shop in there (GameStop) and I wanted to pass by and pick up the new Batman game that I’d heard was pretty good. Hooray for old habits!

I got there, found game, bought game, and then, honest, I was about to walk home, when I remembered that the Apple Store is right outside the Prudential (on the other side from my house). Now, I’ve been trying to get a laptop from Apple for a while, but due to all sorts of reasons, I haven’t been able to (really Apple? My mailing address is here, in the US. Why won’t you let me buy one of your delicious products with my credit card just because it has a billing address outside the US? Assholes).

So I went to the Apple Store and spent the next hour or so agonizing over the laptops. Now, I’d fully intended to walk out of the store with a 15-inch Macbook Pro in hand. The 17? :Bah! Too big!” I’d scoff, my voice quivering in contempt, “you can’t even carry it around! It’s not portable at all!”

Guess what I ended up buying.

Meet my new toy :D

My new baby

My new baby

As I’d purchased a RAM upgrade, I had to kill an hour until the Geniuses at the Apple Store called me back. And no, I’m not being an asshole. That’s what they call themselves. Geniuses.

I went back tot he Prudential to get some lunch. I found the best thing ever.

So there’s a fast food place here called Cheese Boy. It’s a fast food place that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. I have no idea why I find this so funny, but I do. It’s brilliant. Take the easiest food in the world to make, and turn it into a franchise. Profit! I guess technically, Subway’s been doing that successfully for years. Good old capitalism. Always finds a way.

After lunch, I grabbed my laptop and headed home to play with it.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my eventful Saturday!

Nov 102011

I’m bored at work, so I’m tossing out a random rambling update.

I still have a post about last weekend that I’m working on, but as it was somewhat eventful, the post is long, and I’m not spending enough time at home to work on it.

Not too much happened this week. I got my paycheck yesterday, which was nice, at first.. but then I saw how much of it I was gifting to the US government, and then I was sad. Even though I knew how much I would be paying in taxes before I left Dubai, it was still a shock to see it printed out on an official form. The worst part of it is that they show it to you as a breakdown, starting with how much you actually earned, so you actually see how much you would have made, if it wasn’t for the taxes. Depressing.

Last night, I went out with J* and HaMa to a cool bar in Cambridge. We had a few drinks (I didn’t get carded, ha HA!) and good food (they have Rosemary Truffle Fries. I don’t know what the truffle part means, but it basically translates to delicious). J and I took the bus back to the apartment which was an interesting way to see Cambridge at night.

We have a long weekend this week (which I found out midway through the week!). Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, apparently, which is a day off in Boston**.

My friend Deez is coming up to visit me tomorrow, staying for the weekend, till he leaves early on Monday morning to go back to work. I expect a lot of heavy drinking to take place. Expect updates and hopefully pictures.


*Note: I’m adding a couple of new character to the cast:-

J is a coworker of mine who lives in New York, and comes to the Boston office for a week out of every month. He’s moving to Boston full-time in December and so is looking for an apartment, but until then, he’s staying in the same apartment as me whenever he’s down here.

Deez is an old American friend of mine from Dubai, who moved back to the US a few years ago, with his wife Shar.

**Funnily enough, I just found out an hour ago that as of next year, Veteran’s Day will no longer be  a day off. Instead, we’ll be taking Patriot’s Day off, as, according to a co-worker, that day is when the Boston Marathon is run, and that makes getting in to the city a nightmare. American’s sure do love their WeLoveAmerica holidays.

Nov 072011

My Social Security Number showed up today!

I shouldn’t be this excited over a piece of paper (yes, it’s not a plastic or laminated card, it’s just a piece of cardboard), but I am. I feel legal now!

Next stop, getting myself a real damned phone!

Note: My weekend was eventful. I’m writing up the posts as we speak. Will probably post them tonight.

Nov 032011

I’ve been on this rant before. You’ve all heard it.

When I was planning my trip to the US, I was looking into what bank to use when I was here. I really wanted to avoid the ‘big’ banks, due to all the horror stories I hear about hidden fees and so on. I was looking into Credit Unions, online-only banks, that sort of thing. I really wanted to avoid Bank of America (BofA), because I knew they were planning on implementing a debit card charge soon, and as I use my debit card more than anything else, that was an issue.

Once I arrived here, naturally, reality hit, and everything changed. Without a social security number, no credit union or online bank would accept my application. I really didn’t want to wait a month without a bank account, so I gave up. The final straw was when BofA gave in to the pressure and cancelled the debit card charge.

So off I went to the bank. There’s a BofA branch in the same building I work in, so that was the natural choice. I went right after lunch, figuring I’d be in there for an hour or so.

Twenty-five minutes later, I walked out of the bank, all done.

Here’s what I had with me:

  • A working temporary debit card. My permanent debit card will arrive in the mail within the next two weeks. The current one is valid for 30 days. My permanent card is WWF themed, which means that whenever I use it, the bank will give a small percentage of my transaction to the WWF as a donation. Doing a bit of good.
  • Fully functional online banking. Username, password, security key stuff, all ready and in my hand. It was activated while i was in the bank.
  • A receipt for 50 checks. These are free (future books cost $10) and are in the mail already. I should have them in a week.
  • A ‘new customer’ packet, which contains all sorts of information about my account, and includes all applicable fees, and a small booklet to keep track of my transactions, you know, for people who still do that sort of thing on paper.
  • $500 deposited into my new account. Because the deposit was more than $125, and a co-worker ‘referred’ me, we both get a check for $25. Both are also in the mail.
I’m not arguing that BofA is a good bank. I have no experience with them yet. In fact, all the stories I’ve heard imply that they’re a pretty bad bank. But that’s the point. This is a corporate -we don’t care about our customers- kind of bank, and yet, they managed to pull all that stuff in twenty five minutes.
In the UAE? I’d be lucky if I had a usable bank account at this point, let alone all of the above. And online banking? Forget about it.. It would take weeks to get it set up, with their insane security requirements (mailing the user ID and password separately, etc).
To add to the story, I did the exact same thing with a bank in Canada back in 1998. With the same exact results. Less than an hour, and I had everything ready, with cash available, online banking, etc.
That was 13 years ago.
Take note, banks of the UAE. You’re more than 13 years behind at this point.
Nov 022011

A few days ago, I went out for a walk, mainly to continue exploring my neighborhood. The way the South End is laid out, you have a lot of small parks hidden in the little streets between the main avenues.

So I ran across this gem.

Best park ever

It blew me away

*photo credit: user HarleyHandy on Panoramio

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 :)