Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Going Back Again to My Hometown

I am on my way to the Philippines on a much needed vacation.  I am taking off from Abu Dhabi on Thursday morning, 28 Oct.  I will be back on 8 Nov.  I will meet up with four siblings who are visiting from Seattle, and another who has moved back and now lives in the Philippines.  Most importantly, I am visiting my father.  Although I saw him earlier this year in Seattle, it is always nice to see him again.

So, on to the town of Cuyapo and its barangay of Tagtagumbao, in the province of Nueva Ecija, where I was born and a place that holds countless special memories from my childhood.  The area has experienced heavy rain and typhoon-type weather recently.  I am hoping it has eased a bit.  I don't mind the rain so much after 7+ months of heat here in Abu Dhabi.

I will keep you guys updated with blog post and photos after I get back.  I am not bringing my laptop.  I probably will not have that much chance to update while I am over there anyway.  Happy Birthday wishes to the many family members celebrating birthdays in Oct and Nov.  Best of birthday wishes to the two youngest in the family:  Siena who turned two last weekend, and Jayan who turns two this upcoming weekend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stuck in Sewage Muck

When I worked in Iraq we went outside the base (the military called it "outside the wire") to check out the progress of projects once or twice a week.  The US Army provided security and took us out usually in a convoy of 4 to 5 humvees.  These trips usually went fairly smoothly.  One of the few times we had problems was when a humvee got stuck in a muddy sewage muck.  One humvee towed or pulled the other stuck in the muck, while the rest of the humvees took defensive positions to secure and protect the area until the stuck humvee was safely pulled out.

Believe it or not, on the picture below, I was seated just behind the driver.  We could not go out of the vehicle for security reasons.  I did not get any of the sewage on me, but I definitely smelled it while waiting to get towed out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dubai Visit, 22 Oct 2010

I hosted a visit from a construction manager, from our home office in Winchester, VA, to show him all our projects in Abu Dhabi.  On Friday, 22 Oct, we drove to Dubai to show him around.  I took him to Dubai Mall and had planned to go up Burj Al Arab, but all the spots to go up the observation tower were all booked until later that evening.  We then proceeded to Palm Jumeirah to show him the palm shaped development on reclaimed land off the Persian Gulf.  The next stop is the Mall of the Emirates with the indoor ski facilities.  We drove around the old and historical area of Bur Dubai and Bastikiya.  The last stop was Souk Madinat Jumeirah before heading back to Abu Dhabi.

At the Souk Madinat Jumeirah with the iconic sailboat shaped Burj Al Arab hotel in the background.

Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest structure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bamberg Beer Walking Tour

Bamberg, Germany is a small city in the Bavaria region.  There are American military facilities in the area.  And because of this, I have been there several times for project related visits.  I had been there also on personal visits.  On the way back from Munich's Oktoberfest to Wiesbaden, we had stopped there for lunch.   One other personal visit was back in April 2008.  A friend and I spent the weekend to sample the variety of beers brewed in Bamberg.

We left Wiesbaden early in the morning.  We arrived before lunch.  We found a parking spot in front of our hotel, checked in, and shortly started our walking beer tour of the city.  The Bamberg tourist office offers a deal for about 20 Euro, you get a small backpack, a city map, coasters from the city's breweries, a souvenir ceramic beer mug, and coupons for free samples of beer from the breweries around the city.  If I remember correctly, we managed to do 8 out of the 9.  The one we did not hit was further away and you had to take the bus to reach it.

Below are a few pictures from that walking tour which started around noon and did not end until late in the evening.  In between, we had lunch at one of the bar/brewery location and dinner at another location.

Looks like I have had one too many on the photo below.

My friend, the beer connoisseur, who planned the visit and provided the ride to Bamberg by driving his wide-assed Toyota Tacoma truck.

But it was not all about the beer.  Since we were doing a walking tour, in between going from one brewery bar/restaurant to another we were able to see the sights of the city.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing in the Rain

As a young boy in the Philippines, one of the things that my friends and I did for fun was run around outside during a heavy downpour.  The splash of temperate rain water on your body was always exhilarating.  We would find the house with the heaviest concentration of rain pouring down from a roof overhang and stand under it for an extended period of time.  Occasional lightning would flash, and loud, rumbling thunder would roll every so often.  We would run around the whole neighborhood in the rain until we got tired.

The fun ended when we got the scolding from our parents, worried about us getting sick or getting struck by lightning.  The water and mud we tracked inside the house were also reasons we were yelled at.  It was well worth all the scolding we got from our parents.  We avoided playing this game during the typhoons, heavy rain accompanied by strong winds, for fear of getting hit by flying debris such as corrugated roof material, and falling trees and structures.

These boyhood memories came back often to me this past summer as I walked around the sites for the construction I am overseeing, in the midst of 120+ degree F heat under the searing sun and drenched in sweat.  Instead, I was longing to be drenched in the refreshing tropical downpour.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Local Business Signs

I spent the entire day today in Dubai.  I left Abu Dhabi at 9AM and did not get back until 8PM.  This is the first time I have ventured out of Abu Dhabi since mid August.  I went to the Dubai Outlet Mall looking for clothes and shoes.  I did not find anything I liked.  I proceeded to Bur Dubai, the historic area of Dubai.  I got lucky and found a parking spot.  This place is usually crowded.  I usually avoid parking garages here because the spots and access ways are tight.  The paid parking spots outside are usually all filled up on Fridays because parking is free on that day.  I went on a sightseeing spree and I walked around the Dubai Creek area, then to the old souk, and Al Bastikiya, the historic district.  Before I headed back to Abu Dhabi, I drove to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah to have coffee and a snack.  It turned out to be a nice day weather-wise -- clear skies and cool breeze.  I took a lot of nice photos.  I will post these on this blog and/or my flickr account on a later date.

On my way back to my car after walking around Bastikiya, two business signs caught my attention:  Shadi and Honest.

I would hesitate to do business with this shop for fear of "shady" dealings.

Four doors away is this other business.  I think I would be more comfortable dealing with "Honest" or "Honest Ban Joo."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Major Project Out of the Way

Well, I got one big project out of the way.  Although I have had several smaller projects completed during my first seven months in UAE, this is the first big MILCON (military construction).  The project is a 2.5 mile aboveground pipeline that will allow aircraft fuel to be delivered, safely and efficiently, from outside the base with tanker trucks, to the US side of the base.  This project is one reason why I have not been able to take time off, miss my planned European backpacking trip, and miss out on my fourth straight attendance to Munich's Oktoberfest.

From this past Saturday until yesterday, we had been conducting testing and commissioning of the new pipeline.  It passed all the testing, including hydrostatic pressure.  The last batch of test was to test the quality of fuel being received at one end to ensure that the pipeline is clean, free of debris, weld slags, and other particulates.  After running fuel into the line for most of the day yesterday, the third sample of fuel tested late in the afternoon met the AF quality requirements for aircraft fuel -- less than 1 gram of particulates per liter of fuel.

There are a few minor items left to be done, but they are unrelated to the operations of the pipeline.  I will turn over the new pipeline to the AF by this Saturday.  It should take about two weeks to completely finish the project and for the contractor to demobilize from the base.  What does this all mean to me?  Vacation time.  I just purchased my airplane ticket to visit the Philippines from 28 Oct to 8 Nov.  I plan to visit a friend in Germany and check out Berlin, and Krakow and Warsaw in Poland during late Nov to early Dec.  I should be in Seattle between Christmas and New Year.  There is a 4 or 5 day UAE holiday in the middle of Nov.  I may even venture out to Cairo or another Middle East location during that time.

Fun times ahead.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Al Ain

Al Ain is located in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, about 75 miles south of the city of Abu Dhabi.  It is adjacent to the border with Oman.  Al Ain is also known as the Garden City because of all the greenery right smack in the middle of the desert.  Al Ain has seven oases.  They are known for the underground irrigation system which brings water from boreholes to the palm trees.  The photos above and the next two photos are from the Al Ain oasis, the largest of the seven oases in the city.

One of the entrances to the Al Ain oasis.

Al Ain Palace Museum.  My visits to Al Ain have been on Fridays.  The museum does not open until late in the afternoon of Fridays.  So, I've not had a chance to visit the inside of the museum.

City park near Al Jahili Fort.

Al Ain Mall.

And lastly, the road sign as you leave Al Ain.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Cameron is a great-niece, daughter of Sonya (my niece) and Steve.  They are my neighbor in Seattle's Beacon Hill area.  Since a sister, who is Cameron's grandma, is staying at my place, I get to see her quite a bit during my visits back to Seattle.  Cameron is a social butterfly, very talkative and inquisitive, unlike either of her parents.  She will definitely butt in anytime I am talking to Payton or Gavin.

I will never forget her birth date because she was born a day before I was given a surprise 40th birthday party in 2004.  Cameron reminds me so much of her mom who was just a baby on our arrival to the US many moons ago.

Picture below is Cameron with Salia and Ina at Grace and Jason's wedding in September 2009.

Picture below is from a family (mostly distant Antonio relatives) reunion in Yakima in July 2005.

Picture below is on my front deck in Seattle when I spent the entire day with her, her brother Payton, and her cousins Gavin and Jeremiah in June 2008.

Picture of Cameron cheering is from the 2008 family camping in Nehalem Bay, Oregon.