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.

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 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.