Abu Dhabi Revisited

Visiting a place that you have lived for long time with the identity of a tourist is quite a strange thing, let alone your homeland.  This time it wasn’t my homeland but another place where I lived for long enough  in order to feel somehow at ‘home’.  So when I revisited Abu Dhabi some time ago,  it was a nice break and  triggered some  strong emotions and nostalgia. I realised how much missed the place, how much missed the heat, the shy smiles  of the local women under their scarfs, the softness  and simultaneously the sense of careless in the expression of the local men.  I missed my friends, whom I didn’t manage to see all of them due to my short stay, but had the opportunity to take a taste of the latest changes in the city.

Abu Dhabi is one of those ‘oily’ cities that are changing in unprecedented way, fast and impressive.  Arriving at the airport, the first novelty was the black huge 6 seats taxi waiting for us. Abu Dhabi defines itself with a steady pace as a luxurious holiday resort. Despite all the Cassandras’s predictions ” it’s a bubble, soon or later it will collapse  bla,bla…” Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure has taken  a quantum leap. New buildings, malls, palaces, hotels are coming up in a fast way and  creating  an impressive skyline. I stayed in my old neighbourhood for the obvious reasons, familiarity with the place. Of course, I don’t know how much familiar could be, since in this area, the Corniche, there are some new constructions, a huge mall  with very interesting shops and brands and a nice new beach club- a boat design- opposite to it.

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The Corniche area.

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The new mall in the Corniche.

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Nice shops with nice decoration on the walls. The new mall looks very promising!

 

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The new beach club in the Corniche. The boat design is its signature.

 

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My favourite buildings, Etihad towers, with a new copper tower next to them! I’m not sure about the latter but the lego approach is a common practice out there!
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At the rear of the Emirates Palace.
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The new palaces will be 6 in total in order to accommodate all the Seikhs from the rest 6 Emirates (7 in total: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain).

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I visited once more  the restaurant BBQ Al Qasr at the beach of the Emirates Palace, which for me is the best restaurant in Abu Dhabi in terms of service firstly and food secondly. Service in the developing countries is a sensitive term,  since it doesn’t have the same meaning as in the western world!

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The beach of the Emirates Palace is really magnificent.

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But again, this is my favourite place in Abu Dhabi, Monte-Carlo Beach Club. Especially this small pavillion at the beach for coffee and drinks and if you are lucky you can spot  sea turtles in the surrounding area with the bushes.! How exciting is this! It reminds me so much the Hamptons and I think this was exactly its purpose!

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One of its restaurants, the Deck , good for brunch. The food is feast in the eyes, different kind of charcuterie, sea food, desserts…
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But the most glamorous bit is ‘a la piscine’,
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and afterwards resting in the gorgeous spa, reading magazines, watching tv, having some massage.

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going to Turkish bath after the sauna,P1090443or  going to Jaccuzi for fun.

 

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Bye bye Abu Dhabi, see you soon! I will be always ready to be impressed by you and actually, this is what you really want!

Stay angry, don’t fall asleep and try to change the world

“Stay angry, don’t fall asleep and try to change the world” Matthieu Pigasse, the enfant terrible of French finance(CEO of Lazard).

I found his words so refreshing and somehow motivated me again to have a second look at the aftermath of the financial crisis mainly in Greece and consequently in Europe.

This Sunday, the Greeks are voting for local mayors and  representatives in the European Parliament. The leaders of the two major parties have excelled in rhetorics. Tsipras  (Syriza) says that he will end the burden of the bailout programme….(the most appealing lullaby) and Samaras bullies the voters by using the two magic words “last chance” to carry on with the programme… 

There are some other parties/movements more towards the political centre with no real leaders, the  Communist Party KKE,  which plays the Wendi’s (Peter Pan) role in the people’s conscience  and the  nazi party Golden Dawn, which is rising dangerously and unsurprisingly.  It is  quite common in the countries of high corruption, the people lose all their belief in politics and political persons (see rise of Islamism) and start behaving badly in an extreme way.

But again, the solution of minimising the above danger is in the hands of the more well off people, the elite. They will be able with their vote and their influence  to enforce the uttermost and desperate need of Greece, at the moment, which is even more important than the financial upheaval, the establishment of strong Institute of laws. This will stop the series of puppetry behaviour of the government concerning the announcement now and then of various  taxes and changing property laws. This will be the only way to protect themselves from the angriness of the more vulnerable, uneducated milieu with instincts of that of wild animal as well as enforce the repatriation of the lost Democracy.

Therefore, today all of those of you who are in the opposite side of the extreme parties, stay angry, don’t fall asleep and go to vote whatever party suits you best, but don’t forget the real target is to force your parties to establish the indisputable Institute of laws in Greece. This is the first step towards repatriating the country’s respect in the whole world.

Happy Sunday!

 

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Greeks in Astana: Old wine in new bottles

When I started writing this post my first thought was to give some facts  and consequently numbers before entering the sphere of more subjective issues.  Counting the number of Greeks in Astana, I came up with the number 12.  Twelve is a significant number, thought, taking into consideration the 12 Olympians Gods, the 12 Heracle’s labours, the 12 Apostles, the  Ocean ‘s 12  and so forth. So probably, we are on a good path for the time being. Don’t forget the old wine sells better in new bottles!

I (information specialist)and Vasileios(robotics) were the first Greeks working at Nazarbayev University in Astana-a multibillion project of Kazakhstani government with the help of the World Bank to introduce the western education in the developing countries in central Asia. Few months later, another Greek joined us,  Vasilis (chemical engineering) followed by Grigoris (chemical engineering), Themistocles (education), Katerina(physics) and George(chemical engineering). Most of them came from Greece but their qualifications (PhD) are either from USA or Britain. The rest of the Greeks are, the Ambassador, three employees of the Greek embassy  and a Greek girl who works in a multinational company.

The NU is a good place to work in Astana and there are  plausible reasons for that: Firstly, it’s an English speaking environment, something quite rare in Astana since the official language is Russian and very soon will be Kazakh. The Kazakhstani government has intensified the effort to introduce the kazakh language as the main language in the schools and generally as the country’s official language. Nevertheless, so far all the well educated Kazakhs speak Russian and few of them English. Secondly, something that adds value to NU potentials are its partners, first class Western universities such as  Cambridge, UCL, Madison-Wisconsin, Duke University … and  thirdly, the students are the smartest in the country. They are being selected by tough  entrance examination with rate of acceptance 1/8.

 

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The University campus is this interior atrium in the picture left. The reason of course is the low temperatures during winter which can drop to -40 C.

 

P1090215The Library is equipped with the latest technology and is being developed with rapid pace by adding thousands of items (print and e-resources) per month.

 

All the expats have free accommodation, well equipped hi-tech(Japanese/Korean) style apartments in the city centre and close to the University campus. Interestingly enough, despite the below zero temperatures the apartments are quite warm. I suppose, the main reason other than the nonstop heating system, is the good insulation (pictures below).

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Tenge is the Kazakh currency and 1000 T  are around 4 Euro at the moment. There was a devaluation some months ago and somehow the expats started feeling unsafe but they made the appropriate adjustments in the salaries to keep the expats happy and in place.  Astana is not different from the rest capital cities of the western world in terms of cost, the prices are quite high for certain commodities, since almost everything is imported, such as clothes and other luxury goods.  It’s quite expensive place and  without offering the buzz of a well established  city. It is designated to be the  government’s place.The latter has already shaped its future and someone can visualise what it will be next : A place where people come mostly to work in the government offices or oil companies. This fact has some advantages in terms  of safety. My only concern, coming here in the first place, was safety for my family. I had heard a lot of stories by word  of mouth such as : It’s  dangerous place, there is a lot of corruption… Two years now living and working  in this city, I didn’t feel a bit of threat and I can say that there is an absurd confidence among the inhabitants.  Everyone can get a ride to home or  wherever is his destination by making a  hand signal to the cars(not official taxis) on the road by paying a minimal fee. Small children can get on the bus without being accompanied by their parents,  the ticket controller will look after them. I found so sweet this attitude and their sense of camaraderie.

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Every few months  new restaurants are opening in the city, but again the good ones with the expected western service are few and very expensive, possibly at the same price as those of central London. There are malls with western high chain stores such as Zara,Gap… with the aforementioned prices. There is no Starbucks but there is Gloria Jean’s for the coffee lovers. Someone can find a reasonable range of food products in the super markets, there is Metro and a Turkish super market  chain which reminds me a bit the Greek super markets, especially the bakery.  The local vegetable and food markets, outside from Astana, during Spring and Summer are a feast in the eyes and nose.The vegetables and fruits are so “real” that somebody can recognise easily  by the fragrance without seeing them, if you understand what I mean! Fish is quite rare product, since Astana is far away from the sea or lakes,but they have horse meat for the meat lovers: A traditional dish except shashlik(souvlaki) is horse meat with hilopites(pastry).

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Astana is not a place for a tourist yet. In order someone to visit the country and specifically Astana-the city has border control in its exit/entry –  needs working visa or invitation and there is a big bureaucratic process to gain one of the above. Somehow, this is a way to keep out people  that they don’t need at this particular moment, where they are building up the infrastructure of the country/city.  The rest of the expats are working in oil/gas companies- serious business in Kazakhstan- or construction companies- a big construction of the Abu Dhabi Mall is on the way.

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At the moment,  there is a lot of preparation for the forthcoming ASTANA EXPO 2017. It is expected to create new jobs opportunities.   Those who are interested in and they are quite brave and adventurous in heart, keep an eye on the announcements.

P1070270Kazakhs care about culture and entertainment. There is a Concert Hall and a new Opera House with regular performances of various orchestras and classical ballet. Most of tickets are sold out quite quickly. The Russian and Soviet Union’s influence is quite obvious at this point.

At the moment, I would say with confidence that summer is here, in Astana and life is getting easier and more pleasant comparing it with the wintertime. We can go outside and have big walks along the big river Ishim. The good thing is that there are seasons, some are shorter(spring and autumn) than the others(winter, summer) but there is this seasonal change that makes you feel optimistic and ready to make new starts every  now and then. During summer, the sun can be much more brighter than someone would prefer but nothing can be perfect in this life.
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Plane spotter

Some years ago, if somebody was referring to the plane spotters I was laughing at them. Even I remembered very well, the case of the British plane spotters in Greece and their ordeal in the courtroom. At that time, I didn’t feel any sympathy at all, just left all the work  on Stelios Hajioannou who explained in a very wise manner  that he was the only Greek person who knows about this hobby and no matter how autistic orientated it seems to be, it is a real hobby.

Those days have gone without return, the circumstances are changing and I have learnt my lesson : Never say Never!

After uncountable  hours spending in the airports halls, having  long flight delays and waiting to be transferred from one to another airplane, instead of spending money and effort to buy all these duty (Un)free goods-somehow in the airports someone feels no man’s land and consequently the credit card has no bank registration. Everything is on the air and so the credit card.- I decided to take up a hobby as plane spotter since I found quite fascinating all the business with the aircrafts. I’m not sure if I will write down the plane numbers but still feel excited seeing the logos of the different airlines.

 

 

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South Africa Airlines & Thai Airlines

 

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Manchester football club private jet

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Lufthansa

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Ancf : Asian Nature Conservation Foundation

 

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British Airways

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Aegean Airlines

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Virgin Atlantic :double decker!

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Norwegian Air Shuttle

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China Airlines. Cute!

 

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P.S. :I’ll be back with some more in the near future. Who would have thought this! I think, I will add my method to this link : http://www.wikihow.com/Be-an-Aircraft-Spotter.

Covent Garden’s best kept secret

It is a common knowledge that Covent Garden is one of the busiest place in the heart of London and the place of the Royal Opera House, but very few know that on the rooftop of the Opera  there is a cafe with the best view. So if you feel overwhelmed with the crowd  and noise of the market square, pop in the corner entrance of the Opera and have a relaxing time with a cup of tea and a panoramic view of central London.

 

 

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There is live music as you going up and down the escalators and has nothing to do with the ‘dentist/elevator  music’.

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Opera House restaurant

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P.S. Happy Easter to everyone  ! Καλό Πάσχα στα Ελληνάκια!

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A mission to the planet of writers

This is my  speech and presentation  for the WomenLead Association to the students  of Nazarbayev University.

What is the foremost dream of each librarian?To become an author.

What is the second dream? To become a published author.

photo 3After writing and  publishing two books  you probably think now that I have fulfilled all my dreams. If Only!When they asked Paul MacCartney, how he feels about his achievement, he answered “not good enough, there is always someone else better than you’’. I’m afraid to say, this is the truth about the human nature. Both my books look at the intercultural relationships The idea to write the first book didn’t come all of a sudden. It was hovering on my head for long time. There were unsolved issues In my inner world. As the connoisseurs say, you can write about anything you like but there must be a connection between you and your material. It is true that I had spent almost all my life in a semi situation. Born in Athens, Greece and educated and worked in Anglo-Saxon environment for long time,I felt that I was standing in two boats at the same time. And because of that, I thought that I knew very well the species of Anglosaxons. When I moved to England for good with my British spouse, I was quite confident about my familiarity with this lot. What a chimaera! Very photo 2soon, I worked out that the foreigners when they come to your country they try to adapt and mimic you somehow. You don’t know really what is happening about until you enter their own house. Not too long, I was quite sure that I had just entered into a new brave world called England. I don’t want to describe it as a shock into my system, but let’s say this experience made me to sit down and start writing the book that I had inside me. The well known quote “everyone has a book in himself/herself”. This book I had inside me took me two days to write it!
The whole endeavor was 2,000 words. Not near to 60,000 words that a famous author and friend of mine had mentioned to me about writing and publishing novel. 60,000 words novel can be achieved only by copying and pasting my first 2,000 words by 30 times. This was my fist desperate thought. Easy peasy things. Slowly, I started to expand those 2,000 words. I created characters with flesh and bones and I started adding more details into this story. Soon, I realized that I have helper in this endeavor. My subconscious was doing the whole job most of the time. Another great helper was a notebook next to my bed. All the ideas were coming before going to bed and I had to write them down at that moment, because they were disappearing like a magic from the hardware of my brain. After one year of discipline writing around 1000 words per day everyday and uncountable editing, I decided to put a full stop and say : I had finished my story. The book was ready. I had managed to write 60,000 words, to create real characters interacting with each other and the most important the whole story had a flow, a rhythm. Still, I was half away through the whole endeavor. I needed an accreditation. I needed my work to be accepted by the others. I needed to publish it. At that point I was opening a new chapter of the project. Publishing needs a whole different skills from that of writing. Be able to promote and market the product. You need to change your character from being introverted to extroverted. First thing first, I created a blog about the book and start attracting audienphoto 1 (1)ce. The same time I found a literary agent. I had quite a few rejections as it always happens in life, you need one acceptance, and then the door opens for you. I found a publisher and soon my books was on the shelves of the bookstores. Not too long, approximately after 4 months, the book was on the top 10 best seller list in Greece And 6 years now it appears on the top ten during Christmas and summer. The second book of the series “Penelope Online”  had bee published and I’m on the third at the moment. Writing slowly funny stories about Middle East. I don’t know what is the recipe for a best seller and nobody really knows, but what I know  in my situation, was that I felt every word that I had written. I think the secret of how I succeeded starting and carrying on with the whole project of writing and publishing is laying on Steve Jobs advice to the students at the commencement at Stanford University 2005.

diaprofieB “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important,have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

My Prezi presentation: ” A mission to the planet of Writers” http://prezi.com/ol31g4fvggbu/a-mission-to-the-planet-of-writers/ Writing Tips : http://prezi.com/bitfd2ieuzcj/writing-tips/

Strolling around Plaka, Athens

“We are what we repeatedly do” Aristotle.One sunny day of February, I was back in Athens and I was strolling around Plaka, Athens. Years and years the same pilgrimage, back to my home town and strolling around the same places again and again. Never tired doing so! And every time, I’m discovering something new.
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Old houses have been renovated smartly and with care, taking into consideration the environment!

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In every step around this area ,the visitor will come across of different archaeological monuments :The Tower of Winds.

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Another house nicely renovated. I’m sure the group of Atenistas who painted the stairs in Kolonaki had never noticed what colours have been used so far in renovating old places in Athens, or they were newly arrived immigrants from Brazil bringing with them tones of paint.

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The museum of Greek folk music instruments.

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Lysicrates Monument
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It is supposed to be the most expensive address in Athens -Dionysou Areopagitou st.- with a view of 3000 years of history & glory-Parthenon.
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Whatever is going on, there  is always a table in the sun and a friend to talk to by drinking your coffee. This is Greece for you!

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Lycabettus hill :  View from the upper floor of the Acropolis Museum
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At the entrance of the Acropolis Museum the excavations are still on.Nothing stops the archaeologists.The treasures to be found are still innumerable.

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At the Acropolis museum restaurant with the most beautiful view and the simplest food which is equally gorgeous.

Still, I remember the taste the cheese pie in the picture below! The whole secret was hidden in the making of the philo.

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P1080996The museum has beautiful and exclusive presents!

The nice necklace is made of silk and in various combination of colours.

And a nice tote bag(pic. below) with the picture of Athena in order to make a difference -a cultural one  ;)
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