Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Bid You Godspeed, James

My nephew James is about to undertake a one year endeavor serving as a Jesuit volunteer. He has accepted a social work position with a non-profit agency in Nashville. As a Jesuit volunteer, he signed a covenant binding him to four core values: social justice, community, simple living, and spirituality. He will be receiving a monthly stipend of $80/month, and living with a group of other Jesuit volunteers. It is an admirable path that he has chosen.

The materialistic side of me would deem this as intolerable -- at least the monthly allowance of $80.  But James is a such a person to be able to make this sacrifice and consider this experience for the betterment of his inner being, as well as a service to community, society, and humanity.

James has always been driven. He moved cross country from Seattle to Boston area on a full scholarship ride to Holy Cross College to pursue his undergraduate studies. His determined and individualistic spirit to go cross country for college far away from family and friends, I believe, helped him grow and mature  quickly.  He is planning to continue his studies further towards graduate school after this endeavor.

Further, on his determination and drive, he beat me, Michael, and Mia on a weight loss contest a couple years back.  He won the contest by a run-away, embarrassing all three of us.

This is all from a person that as a young kid was the most restless I have ever seen. He could run around most of the day, and he would not tire. The person babysitting him would tire quickly just keeping watch. He was also inquisitive. The times I visited Seattle when I lived in Southern California, the young kid James would ask me questions about where I lived, why I was not living in Seattle with the rest of the family, and many other subjects about me. He would look at me directly with his curiosity filled eyes. During his early school years, once he found out that my last name was Antonio, he exclaimed in astonishment and wonder "hey, you have the same last name as me, you must be my cousin." At that time, he was attending school with many cousins with the same last name as his.

He joined me and Michael on a three-week backpacking trip during the summer of 2004.  He visited me in Wiesbaden during the Thanksgiving weekend of 2007.  We explored Heidelberg, Prague, and Nuremburg.  I wish him all the best. I am sure that James will take this experience head on and use it to his advantage.

I had intended to post this blog prior to his departure from Seattle to Nashville in early August.  I have since received a note and pictures from him via mail.  He has indicated that he is doing well in his job and his living situation with his housemates.

In front of the National Museum, as seen from Wenceslas Square, in Prague.

Walking around the Old Castle area of Prague.

Michael and James playing cards during a train ride with the French countryside in the background.

In the dungeon of Heidelberg Castle.

Inside the Louvre Museum.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Yesterday, 27 Sep 2010, was the day that my friends in Germany were enjoying the merriment of Oktoberfest in Munich. I had planned to join them. Up until two weeks ago, I had every intention of going. The plan hit a snag. My work customer, the US Air Force, did not receive funding in time for the projects they wanted awarded prior to fiscal year end (30 Sep). I had these projects already negotiated and ready for award in early September. Alas, the funding is not yet there and the possibility is there between now and 30 September that the USAF can scrounge up the funding to be able to award the projects. I have to be there if and when that happens.

So no Oktoberfest for me this year, breaking my three consecutive years of attendance. To my friends in Germany, I apologize for not making it this year. To be there in spirit with them, I went down to the hotel bar where I live and had a big, fat juicy chesseburger with two bottles of Hofbräu.  No, it is note quite the multiple maß of beer consumed while inside one of the tent nor the atmosphere of being inside one. But for being in Abu Dhabi, it will have to do.

I will miss singing (or more aptly, butchering) "Ein Prosit" with the whole crowd every 10 minutes (and the countless other songs played throughout); the bevy of Bavarian beauties dressed in revealing dirndls; the sights, sounds, and taste of the carnival in Theresienwiese; stealthily attempting to stash a collection of maß steins (1L beer mugs) as souvenirs; the camaraderie among a group of friends; and leading the group back to the train station and onward to a hotel outside Munich.

Sadly, the place to beer this Oktoberfest for me is Cooper's Bar, eight floor below where I live in Abu Dhabi.

Inside the Hofbräu fest tent during the 2007 Oktoberfest.

Inside the Hippodrom fest tent in 2007.

Inside the Hofbräu tent in 2008.

The carnival rides.

Inside the Hippodrom fest tent in 2009.

A handful of beer.

Inside the Hofbräu tent in 2009.

After a full day, we head back to the hotel.

Yay!!! Flickr Is Now Accessible in the UAE

I found out early this morning that flickr is now accessible in the UAE.  I promptly renewed my expired pro account with flickr.  Now I can continue to upload my pictures.  flickr has been a great site to share my photos; it has also been a good site to see other people's photos.

Check out my flickr site:  Continue to check for updates.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Edward & Grace with Inna

I received the picture below from Ron, via e-mail, a couple of years back.  It was during the time that Ron had spare time to scan old family photos.  I would like to start scanning old photos to have a bit more permanent record of them as they start to degrade in quality.  Maybe I will start bringing photos back with me after my Seattle visits, at least to start scanning old photos.

Anyway, the picture is of Edward, Grace, and Inna all dressed in their sleepwear.  I like this picture because of the expression of delight on Edward's face.  I am not sure if it is just the excitement of getting his picture taken.  His two fists are both in a closed position, one clutching goodies in a ziploc bag, almost like something exciting is about to happen.  Inna and Edward are in on something.  Grace, meanwhile, looks casual and indifferent.  The picture is taken in the kitchen of the old, family house.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Yas Marina Hotel

Yas Island is located right outside Abu Dhabi.  It started to host a Formula One Grand Prix event.  Most of the island is still being developed with many ongoing construction.  Several theme parks are planned.  It will soon open Ferrari World, a Ferrari-themed park.  Many hotels and malls are also under construction.  There are already a few hotels opened.  One of them is Yas Marinal Hotel.

The Yas Marina Hotel is located within the F1 race circuit.  The main feature of the facility is the myriad of curvilinear glass and steel grids covering most of the outer shell of the building.  This grid system creates a wonderful light display at night.

The pictures shown are obviously taken during the daytime, a very hot and humid day at that.  I did not stay for long because of the unbearable conditions.  I vowed to return during night time to take pictures of the magnificent light display.  I went 3 weeks ago.  The hotel is easily visible from the highway.  But the drive to the island is circuitous.  And as I stated earlier, most the island is still under construction.  I drove around for almost half hour before I saw the hotel, but it was still quite a distance away.  I went around and around some more until I finally gave up.

I will give it another go one of these days to show you how the building looks at night.

Inside the main floor, just past the lobby.

 Inside one of the hotel elevators.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I have featured Siena's photo above, on a blogpost about the amount of crying during Grace & Jason's wedding. Siena is the daughter of Alvie and Jay. Jay is my nephew. That makes Siena my great-niece. She is the sister of Jeremiah, who I wished for a happy birthday on the previous post.

Last time I saw Siena in late May, she had gotten used to not being clingy to her parents, especially her mom. In the past, if you take her away from her mom or if she loses sight of her mom she starts crying.

Here she is as a baby. I had her in my arms not too long because she started to cry as soon as I carried her.

Siena has many facial features that reminds me of my sister Evelyn, who is her paternal grandmother.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ferry Boat Ride -- Bainbridge Island - Seattle Route

The day we arrived in the United States back in Sep 1974 (36 years ago to the day), we rode a ferry boat similar to the one in the attached photos from Seattle to Bainbridge Island to my sister's home in Bainbridge Island. I still remember that day because my sister bought me a Hershey chocolate bar from one of the vending machines in the ferry boat. To a wide-eyed boy who barely knew what chocolates tasted like, but was sure it was good, and who was suddenly given what seemed like a giant-sized chocolate bar, this day would be memorable. The boy was fascinated by the fact that not only can vehicle enter the boat but also a great number of them can.

I lived in Bainbridge Island at my sister's house during my first two years in the US, before moving to Seattle. Even after moving to Seattle, I spent many trips back to the island during weekends as well as extended stays during summer time. So, I have taken this ferry boat trip hundreds and hundreds of time. Each boat ride was always different. During the weekday early mornings and late afternoons, it was crammed full of regular commuter Islanders going to and from work in Seattle. On the summer weekends, it was full of travellers and day trippers crossing Puget Sound braving the long wait when travelling by car. On a hot summer day, it was obligatory to go up the top sundeck and enjoy the wind and the sun, or go at the front of the boat to face the blustery breeze head on. You made sure that the return trip from a Fourth of July spent on the island coincided with the start of Seattle's fireworks show to enjoy the display of lights from the Seattle waterfront. On the weekends of cold wintertime, it was ghostly empty of passengers; memories of waiting to disembark from the boat while the marine wind whipped past your face still make me shudder and give me chills.

I played my share of video games in these boats from the earliest arcade video game such as Pong to PacMan to Galaga. I studied the giant relief map of Western Washington, located in the middle of the boat, which depicts the mountain ranges highlighted by a snow-capped Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound dotted with countless islands. I have anxiously waited for the baritone horn warning passengers to go back to their car, lest I miss hearing it and possibly hold up traffic of exiting cars below.

No matter if it was the orange hued seats of the older MV Spokane and Walla Walla or the more modern interior of the newer MV Tacoma and Wenatchee, the trip between Seattle and Bainbridge Island was always an experience. During the 30 minute ride, it was always a treat to get a bowl of white clam chowder topped with crushed crackers and an order of thin and long strips of french fries, lightly salted and smothered in ketchup from the push top dispensers.

The pictures are from the last time I rode the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry boat last June 2009 coming back from a visit of my brother's place in Poulsbo and the yearly Bainbridge Island Rotary Auction.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mr. Elvin, You No Smile Like Before

Contractors and sub-contractors that I deal with regularly on my construction projects in the UAE call me Mr. Elvin. One has noticed and commented recently to me "Mr. Elvin, you no smile like before." I was ready to snap back with an angry reply, but thought better and held back. I was ready to tell him that because the project they are working on has been delayed so much, I am not able to take vacation as planned. I had to cancel a planned late summer Europe backpacking trip with three nieces.

In addition, I thought I was immune to the fiscal year end madness that I had experienced the past three years because I was no longer in a PM position but in a construction office. Because we are a small office in Abu Dhabi and our customer, the USAF, has requirements to commit expiring funds, I am doing almost the same thing I was doing the past three years -- not as many projects to award, but enough to require me to be at the office for the past 35 straight days, and for the next 10 days. I was looking forward to taking a 5 -day break to Germany this coming weekend, -- first to Hamburg, then to Munich for the Octoberfest. It was to be my fourth consecutive Octoberfest attendance. It is not looking too good. Our project customers are scrambling for additional funding to get some, if not most, of the new projects they have given to us to manage. It may happen before fiscal year end, it may not. Either way, I have to be around to be ready to react if they find the funds.

Yes, Mr. Elvin is not smiling like before. The vacation and the smile will have to wait until mid-October. That is when the big project I am managing is scheduled to be completed. I plan to take 10 days off to visit the Philippines and another 1 1/2 to 2 weeks somewhere else, in the US or Europe.

View From My Balcony

I haven't really ventured outside of Abu Dhabi for the last month. I have been showing up at work on Fridays to work on awarding new projects for fiscal year end. I offer you the views that I get from my eighth floor apartment balcony.

The picture above is a traffic circle in front of the apartment. The two pictures below are of the courtyard and the pool surrounded by buildings that make up the hotel/apartment/condo complex.

During a sandstorm.

If you look close enough, right in the center of the photo is the faint outline of the "leaning tower" of Abu Dhabi.

During a very humid night. It takes time for the camera to clear the fog from the lens, as shown on the first picture.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Salia, Paige, and Taia

I always get a great warm hug and a big kiss on my cheek from each of the three, every time I see them. All three are always affable with me. Salia, Paige, and Taia are the daughters of Glen and Rena. Glen is my nephew. Salia is the oldest, Paige is next, and Taia is the youngest.