Ramadan 2017

We’re four days into Ramadan and already there are a myriad of initiatives that you can take part in to give back to the community this year. I’ve compiled a short list below and will keep updating it with new and exciting findings.

Ramadan Kareem! May Allah accept our fasts, our prayers, our duaas, and the sincerity of our actions.

  • Eid Kits

    Open Arms UAE has issued a call to start collecting Eid Kits for the less privileged. You can either donate so they can purchase the required items on your behalf, or if you have some time you can buy the items yourself and drop them off at the designated drop-off locations.

  • Donate Blood

    Abu Dhabi Blood Bank has launched an appeal this Ramadan for donors to come forth and donate blood amid a drop this month. During Ramadan, the blood bank is open from 7am-3pm and 8pm-2am on weekdays and 8pm to 2am on Saturday.

  • Change for Good

    Coins left over from your last trip around the world? Money exchanges unwilling to accept them? No worries… now you can donate your leftover coins through the Currency Charity Bank! In collaboration with Dubai Municipality, The Emirates Airline Foundation will pick up the coins and will then use the money in their charity projects around the world. Also, if you’re just a visitor to the UAE, you can donate any spare change to the Currency Charity Bank and all the money will go to the UAE Food Bank. :)

 

  • OMO’s Touch of Love

    OMO is back this year with their Touch of Love Campaign in collaboration with Uber, making it even easier to donate clothes. If you’t arrange a drop-off, simply use the “UberOMO” option in the Uber app to arrange a free pick up between 5-10pm up till the 22nd of June! In addition, donation boxes will be set up in malls across the UAE such as Mirdif City Centre, Deira City Centre and Mall of the Emirates.

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  • Etihad Miles for Meals

    This year Etihad has partnered with Emirates Red Crescent to provide 20,000 meals to families in need in Somalia. How can you contribute? It’s as easy as donating miles. Every 750 Guest Miles will provide one meal.

  • Serve the Heroes

    Serve the Heroes is looking for 40 school/college going volunteers to serve iftar to Bee’ah workers at the Abdulla Labour Camp in Sharjah.

    Register here!

  • Wanna Read?

    Wanna Read are holding two events this Ramadan from the 1st to the 24th of June and are looking for volunteers in Abu Dhabi! Skill required – enthusiasm and a willingness to put a smile on a child’s face :)

    Dear Volunteers,

    Ramadan Mubarak!

    Please kindly be informed that Wanna Read? are holding two events during the holy…

    Posted by Compassionate UAE on Tuesday, 30 May 2017

  • Medicine Drop Box

    In collaboration with Al Ihsan Charity, Etisalat has set up Medicine Drop Boxes across 12 of its offices, where you can go to drop off unused medication to help the needy.

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  • Salma Aid – Humanitarian Food Relief

    This Ramadan, Salma Aid is looking for us to step up and contribute to their cause – to expand their network and provide food relief across the globe whenever disaster strikes.

    Donate by credit card. Just go to our website at www.salmaaid.com and click the “DONATE” button. For other donation options check out their Facebook Page.

  • Al Noor Ramadan Campaign

    For companies looking to do some CSR, this is the perfect opportunity. This Ramadan, donate a portion of your sales/service to Al Noor Training Centre for children with special needs.

    Get in touch here!

  • Al Maryah Island Toys and Clothes Drive

    The Galleria’s Great Room is the place to be on Al Maryah Island. This Ramadan, they’re collecting brand new toys and clothes for children 12 and under for distribution to charities around the country.

  • Ramadan Fridges

    A runaway success from 2016, Ramadan Fridges are back this year and the initiative is bigger than ever. Unlike last year, this year the initiative is operating under the Red Crescent umbrella (yayy!) and while any kind of food donation is appreciated (water, juices, fruits, vegetables, dates, etc.), the only major thing to keep in mind is that NO cooked food is allowed to be stocked in the fridges which is understandable. If you’re looking for some way to give back to the community this year, this is probably one of the best ways you can take part. Wondering where the fridges are located? Look no further!

    There are also apps available to track the fridge locations:
    Click here to download the app on Android
    Click here to download the app for iPhone

  • Dubai Cares ‘Back To School’ Initiative

    While it’s notoriously difficult to secure a place for a volunteer activity with Dubai Cares due to the vast number of applicants (always a wonderful problem to have ^^), this year there are 2800 spots available to take part in their ‘Back To School Initiative’! The initiative involves getting ready 50,000 schoolbags and pencil cases for distribution to Syrian refugees.

    Sign up here

  • Emirates Foundation

    There are lots and lots of opportunities available with the Emirates Foundation (Takatof) this Ramadan, and the best part is there are volunteer opportunities available in almost every Emirate! From distributing iftar packages to helping people with special needs get to the mosques for prayers, there are a number of ways in which you can help. You’ll need to register which won’t take too long and then you’re all set to go!

    Search for opportunities here

  • Iftar Meals for Distribution

    Want to distribute iftar at local mosques but don’t know where to source the meals from? There are a number of restaurants that offer high quality food especially during Ramadan for distribution in large volumes. Get in touch with you local mosque, see how you can help and then get in touch with some of these restaurants to source the food!

    – Saffron
    Karachi Darbar
    – Delhi Nihari
    Najmat Lahore

    Alternatively you can buy the meals through Groupon for Emirates Red Crescent who will also arrange the distribution.

    Emirates Red Crescent

  • Pakistan Association Dubai

    Pakistan Association Dubai is looking for volunteers at their mosque in Oud Metha where they will be serving iftar every day. Get in touch with PAD and see how you can help out :)

  • du

    This year du is looking for volunteers to help pack and distribute iftar meals around the UAE from the 20th of May to the 17th of June. Hurry up and register!

    Register here

  • Majid Al Futtaim

    Every year donation boxes go up in City Centres across the UAE collecting toys, books and clothes. This year is no different! Next time you head out to any City Centre don’t forget to drop off your bag of goodies.

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  • Filling the Blues

    Moti Roti is partnering with other local restaurants to provide food at construction sites every day, except Fridays.Whether you’re a restaurant or just someone who’d like to volunteer, check out the schedule on their website and get in touch.

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Volunteering with Dubai Cares

If you’ve never volunteered with Dubai Cares before, it’s time to give it some serious thought. I never had an opportunity to take part in any of their events before, mainly due to the fact that there are more volunteers than slots available, which is probably the nicest problem to have, but managed to get a slot in the 3rd edition of Volunteer Emirates at Al Rashidiya Private School this year.

The charity school, with over 700 students, was in need of helping hands for a nice makeover. From arranging the library, painting murals, assembling shelving and setting up the theatre and even landscaping, people were ready to help with it all.

We started at around 8am, got assigned to our groups and I was in with the mural painting team. I’ll be frank, I’m not much of a painter, but there is something amazing about seeing the walls transform from a boring cream, to a rainbow of colours and images that would bring out the inner painter in us all.

While the other teams headed off to do the heavy lifting with the shelves and landscaping, we headed off to collect our paint, plastic rolls, brushes, thinner, gloves and all our energy so we could finish up before lunch. As we were working, I was reminded yet again of how volunteering brings out the best in people- everyone doing their best, working together and helping each other out whether that meant lending each other brushes and paints to avoid the long walk to the paint station, or giving their artistic opinion on whether the sand looked real enough or if we needed to figure out a new paint mixing formula instead.

Also, the team that had gathered was a true testament to the diversity in the UAE- so many different nationalities with their own unique backgrounds and experiences, brought together by a common cause, sharing and learning through great conversations over a palette and a fatayer. Many of us came in as strangers and left as friends with phone numbers exchanged and promises to meet again soon.

Even as we wrapped up, there was still lots of work being done to ready the school for the first day after the weekend. What a surprise it will be for the kids- to walk in on Sunday morning and see their school transformed… like magic… :)

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Tadaa… done, with moments to spare

I think we could all do with bringing some magic into other people’s lives <3

Ani:ME Abu Dhabi

Now this is what I call a weekend well-spent. We headed off to Ani:ME which was the biggest Anime and Japanese festival being held in UAE this year and we weren’t disappointed.  We bought our tickets online so we could get a nice discount and so we wouldn’t have to wait in line at the event and set off for Yas Island bright and early. If you haven’t been to Yas Island before, the signage to the du Forum might be a bit difficult to follow but there was no shortage of taxis who were willing to help point us in the right direction.

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Entrance through the torii

We entered, of course, through the torii, past Japanese eateries just opening up and straight into the tent, where we were met by a giant Robo Grendizer.

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It’s Robo Grendizer!

There were loads of places to be and tons of things to do, so we started by getting some of our favourite manga from Kinokuniya, drooling over a million and one gundam kits on sale and trying very very hard to exercise self-control… which, let me tell you, was not easy. Especially when you see the entire perfect edition of the Monster manga on sale…. and Noragami right below it.

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Prints from artists

Apart from getting your hands on mangas at events like these, it’s also a perfect opportunity to buy prints from your favourite animes from local artists. There were lots and lots of artists with ready prints for sale, while others were sketching on the spot. Is it too much to ask to find someone who loves Allelujah Haptism from Gundam 00 as much as me so I can plaster my wall with his photos? :P

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Autograph Time!

I resisted the tempatation to buy any FMA prints and we headed towards the area where all the signing events would be taking place. It turned out that Todd Haberkorn, who was the voice actor for Raki in Claymore and Ling Yao in FMA: Brotherhood, was going to be there so my brother lined up patiently for a photo, an autograph and a chance to talk about some of our favourite animes.

Yashuri Nightow was also there – the guy behind Gungrave

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Calligraphy by Ryujin Kobayashi

Apart from the anime and manga madness which included a screening of Naruto and cosplay competitions with a chance to compete in the World Cosplay Summit, there were also lots of cultural activities taking place, from calligraphy from the famous Ryujin Kobayashi, mochi pounding and kimono dressing.

My favourite, and I would definitely classify this as being a “cultural” activity, was taking pictures at the photo booth. We didn’t get a chance to go wild and do this in Akihabara so we decided not to miss the opportunity here. The photobooth was set up by Puripix and we ended up going… not once, but twice! The photos were printed at the booth in the form of stickers and you could choose to have 2 photos sent for free to your phone through the app, but we were hoping that all photos could be digitized because we had so much fun taking the photos and decorating them. When we downloaded the app, it turned out they were all digitized! We had to pay to get the other pics but it was well worth it- the picture quality was amazing, in fact I think the photobooth produced better quality pictures than a photo studio these days and for a much much better price!

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Time for some Japanese yummies

We finally headed out for lunch, deciding to skip the long lines for Soba and went to Yas Mall instead but not before saying bye to the bunny! There was a whole line-up of events for the evening, concerts and Gundam building contests. We weren’t able to stay longer, but there’s always next time :)

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Bye Bunny!

Giving Back – Ramadan 2016

This Ramadan, I have decided to compile a list of initiatives and causes to which you can contribute. Whether it’s volunteering your time, or donating your money, there’s always something you can do to put a smile on someone’s face. :)

If you know of any other great initiatives let me know so we can spread the goodness!

Iftar Meals for Distribution

This Ramadan, Najmat Lahore has specially prepared Iftar packs  for distribution to those in need.

Iftar Charity Box Donation

Mezbaan Hyderabad Restaurant is delivering iftar boxes straight to labour camps and construction sites. Meals can be bought on Cobone at the click of a button!

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A Kilo of Kindness

Movenpick hotels have launched the Kilo of Kindness campaign which is looking to collect donations of tinned and dry foods. Drop off locations are in the lobbies of the participating hotels, as listed on their website.

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Pay It Forward with Virgin Megastore

Virgin Megastore has teamed up with Fetchr to help people give back to Dubai Foundation for Women and Children. It’s as simple as buying an item, having it delivered through Fetchr and then filling up your box with goodies like women and children’s clothes and toys as well as electronics and then contacting Fetchr for a free pick up!

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Ramadan Donation Box

Nakheel and Dar Al Ber have teamed up with Ibn Battuta Mall to set up donation boxes across the mall, accepting donations of clothes, shoes, books and money.

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Volunteers in Deen Iftar Distribution

Volunteers in Deen is looking for help distributing iftar among labour camps in Sajaa Industrial Area, Sharjah. If you’re interested, check out their page and get in touch!

Sunglasses for Labourers

Emirates NBD has set up collecting booths across the UAE where you can donate your old sunglasses which will be repaired, sanitised and distributed to labour this Ramadan.

Ramadan Fridges

Join the group and set up a fridge outside your home or help to stock fridges around the UAE with your yummy goodies to help out people in need.

Reading Nation

Launched this Ramadan, the initiative aims to distribute 5 million books to refugees and schools and libraries around the world.Donations can be made via bank transfer, online via the Dubai Cares website, in person at leading malls or via SMS through du and Etisalat.

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UNRWA

UNRWA is looking for support to help feed around a million refugees in Gaza and a further 430000 refugees in Syria this Ramadan. For less than USD 200 you can feed a family for an entire month.

Futoor Alatool with Sheraa

Help in distributing iftar to a thousand people this Ramadan. To volunteer, get in touch with them at info@sheraa.ae or contact them via Twitter

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Pending Meal

Lahori Gate Restaurant and Kilby Cafe in Dubai are giving away meals to the less fortunate. Get in touch with them to pay for someone’s meal this Ramadan.

 

Share a Part of You

Like every year, City Centres all over the UAE are ready to take your donations of books, toys, clothes and electronic items.

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Dubai Blood Donation Centre

You can always take time out to donate blood at the Dubai Blood Donation Centre this Ramadan. The centre is open after iftar but make sure you check the procedures and requirements before you go.

Filling the Blues

Moti Roti is partnering with other local restaurants to provide food at construction sites every day, except Fridays.Whether you’re a restaurant or just someone who’d like to volunteer, make sure to fill out the form on their site.

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Shoebox Love 2016

It’s time to fill out those shoeboxes with all the little essentials to help out all the labour who help us out everyday. Baembu is looking for male volunteers for distribution at the labour camps but everyone else is welcome to pick up a box for donation.download

Ramadan Aman with Takatof

Lots of volunteers are required for lots of events being held across the emirates, from iftar distribution to heping out in the Quran recitation awards. To volunteer, register with Takatof and go through their available opportunities.

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Donate and Change Lives

Thumbay hospitals in Dubai, Ajman and Fujairah have launched a campaign to collect books and toys o don’t forget to take along your goodies to your next doctor’s appointment!

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A Touch of Love

Omo has launched their campaign to collect clothes for donation around the UAE. Check out their twitter page for more information about bin locations and how to arrange pickups via Careem.

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Pieces of My Life

I don’t know what inspired me to come up with this blog title… in fact when I wrote it down, it seemed terribly cliche, uninspiring, yet at the same time an accurate representation of my fractured state of mind. I suppose when you’ve got a blog title that matches an Elvis Presley song, things can only go one of two ways… way uphill or a spiraling overdose of downhill… that goes for all things in life though. So this is what I hear when I listen to Elvis’ song… In a few years I hope I’ll be able to look back, wonder what all this was about, take pen to paper and rewrite the pieces of my life…

Pieces of My Life… (not Elvis’)

A faded book full of dreams
And friends that I never knew too well
Lord, the things I’ve been through
Most of which make a sad story to tell

I don’t know how it started
But that’s what makes me me, I guess
Now I’m holding on to some things
Trying to forget the rest

I’m looking back on my life
To see if I can find the pieces
I know that some were stolen
And some just blew away
Well, I found the bad parts
Found all the sad parts
But I guess I threw the best part away

Lord, the pieces of my life,
They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere
And the one I think I miss most of all
Is you and you know what

Dubai 2030

5am. I’m awake and drawing the curtains ready to welcome in the light. The indicator on the solar film stretched across the panes of glass tells me it’s ready to start the day too. It’s too early to head out to work, like I used to when I was younger, hitting the roads before rush hour. Instead, I take a 5 minute walk down to the community exercise park where I’m supposed to meet some of my not-so-distant neighbours to catch up. Walking to the park, I browse through the community volunteer schedule on my phone. Looks like my neighbor is finally holding that furniture re-purposing class later this week. I love the community skill exchange so I’m trying to think of what I can offer in exchange. I’m offering cooking classes at the community kitchen next week and it looks like I already have a few people lined up. Better start brushing up!

Before heading home I make my way up to the rooftop garden to pick up some seasonal vegetables for breakfast- a far cry from the coffee-on-the-go and breakfast-when-I-can-find-time routine. By 8am, I’m all set to get to work. It’s going to be a scorching 50°C summer so I decide to put the sun to work and head to the closest solar metro depot. The metro stations were, when launched, above ground but to cut cooling costs, new stations were developed underground with only tracks overhead. It’s been over 15 years since the metro launch and apart from the solar upgrade, not only was a much needed network expansion carried out, heavily integrating bus and taxi services, but a rapid metro was also implemented for long distance and inter-city commuters. Luckily for me, I’m no longer a long distance commuter. The factory management has finally opted for shared office space in the city where face to face client interactions and internal meetings can be carried out and there’s always the option of working from home, video conferencing with the factory team. What was once a 2 hour ordeal of a commute is now a relaxing ride to the office where I can finally focus on work and not worry about when I need to leave to beat the evening rush. At one point we thought the city would invest completely in transport electrification, but with breakthroughs in ethanol powered cars using artificial photosynthesis which allowed for retrofitting of existing cars in the market, traditional petrol stations have been all but replaced by joint EV charging and ethanol stations. New roadways and pavements being developed to meet the growth of the city are now porous roads allowing for ground water replenishment when the rains come in winter.

By the time I get home for dinner, the house is cool despite the heat thanks to modern architecture designed with natural ventilation. Recycling post-dinner has become something of my second nature now, thanks to dedicated automated recycling chutes which make waste disposal so convenient. Gone are the days of the one large black garbage bag. The best part about the new chutes is that all food waste is collected and sent directly to organic farms. 15 years ago, organic farms were struggling because they simply did not have enough material for natural compost which had caused prices to skyrocket.

15 years ago…seems like another world.  I suppose the biggest evidence of all the changes is in the noticeable lack of smog which once clouded Burj Khalifa in the skyline. A simple tower sparkling in the sunlight tells me now we’ve come a long way.

Written for Masdar’s 2015 Engage Blogging Contest

To learn more visit Masdar

Uprooted

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Uprooted

 I came home yesterday only to find the trees on my beautiful tree lined street uprooted. There was nothing left except bare concrete, bricks, tangled roots and vacant upturned lots where the trees once stood.
There was nothing but stark sunshine left to remind me of the shade we had just lost.

The Move – Of Toilets and IBS Quirks

When we went to Sri Lanka earlier this year, I told my mum, towards the end of the trip, that I had ranked each hotel’s bathroom according to comfort and convenience. Don’t think me weird, but as someone with IBS who has spent most of her time in the bathroom, these thoughts just occur naturally. When we moved house, one of my most random worries was if the bathrooms in the new house would be IBS friendly. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable when you’re already uncomfortable (they are comfortable, though a bit dangerous because they’re small).

I miss the toilet at home, well only one to be honest. The other toilet was really just a waste of space… in fact I wonder if we shouldn’t have turned it into a storeroom. It was pretty useless by toilet standards, cramped and never flushed properly which made it a constant source of arguments at home. It also eternally smelled of the neighbour’s cooking. The neighbour, unfortunately, seemed rather attached to cabbage which made us rather detached from the prospect of having to use that toilet.  It was, I will admit, a handy backup – a “just-in-case” toilet which only my dad frequented. There was another thing that was strange about this toilet. The top most tile on the wall behind the door, if you looked carefully enough, resembled a rather dignified and thin old man with a monocle. This man-in-a-tile, I fondly called Alfred because he rather looked like Alfred from the Batman cartoons, except he was wearing a monocle. I miss Alfred. If I had any artistic skill, I would have sketched him out just so I don’t forget.

The toilet I do miss, the bathroom in fact, was pretty big all things considered which is good because it never felt stuffy, but bad considering the distance to the door in the event of an IBS attack. I don’t miss people being locked in when the lock didn’t work. I don’t miss the childhood water outages, when we’d try to fill up buckets with water. I do miss the random and rare post-it notes on the mirror asking for a wake up call. I miss the pinkish-beige bathtub with its seashell shaped non-slip treads, where my brother and I would play. It’s the same bathtub mum would bathe me in to the sounds of me crying thanks to the shampoo which would never fail to burn my eyes. I miss the laundry basket in the bathroom, eventually relegated to the smaller toilet, which was always blessed with an abundance of dirty clothes. I miss the water heater which, like the kitchen light, was hardly ever turned off, to make sure there was nice warm water on cold winter mornings and warm water for summer baths. I don’t miss the arguments with my brother on why all the warm water was used up after a bath, though. Here’s hoping those arguments don’t follow us here, though I have a sneaking suspicion they will… there’s no such thing as too much hot water even in a desert like the UAE. This bathroom has also seen some of the most painful moments of life. It was the place of refuge, where tears of heartbreak were shed by 11 year old me, during the miserable performance that was the 1999 World Cup Final. Could there have been a worse moment than that… well there was, but that’s a story for another time.

The Move- Of Light and Darkness

23 years later, I realize I miss the lights at home.

I remember the power outages of our childhood, burnt power stations and stifling summer heat. I miss the candles, the struggle to locate a working lighter and the temporary white light of a rechargeable light which was never kept recharged. I miss the dancing shadows on the wall and the silence in the darkness.

I miss the old shades on the ceiling that were so high up and heavy that you needed a ladder and 2 people to change a light bulb. I don’t miss the time when the ceiling plate came loose and the shade nearly fell on mum and her student. I don’t miss the phase where we removed all the shades at home, leaving naked ceiling plates because we couldn’t do the ladder and 2 person routine any more. Of course that didn’t mean we didn’t have to change light bulbs anymore. I definitely do not miss having to steady my brother on a chair on top of another chair trying to change the lights in his room. Distinctively dangerous routine, that. I remember the phone calls to the grocery store for screw type bulbs, only to be delivered pin type bulbs instead.  I miss how we phased out all our bulbs to energy savers, one grocery trip at a time. I don’t miss why. I remember the mismatched light of our house in the interim period, warm yellows and daylights splashed haphazardly across the walls. I remember shopping for new shades at Ikea.

Strangely enough, I miss the light switches at home. There’s a good reason for that, though. The light in the kitchen was never switched off (and changed only 2-3 times in the last 23 years), but I could never remember which switch was for the exhaust and I’d just switch on whatever wasn’t already on. Of course if they were both on, then you had me. The most confusing switches were for the living and dining area. The left switch turned on the right light and vice versa. My mind couldn’t cope with this obvious stupidity and so I always switched on the wrong light for the wrong area. Years later, someone came to replace the light switches, and decided that they would reverse the connections as well. Just when I thought I had it down, I was back to switching on the wrong lights. There was a set of 3 switches in the gallery for the toilet light, exhaust and gallery light. Again, at some point the connections were reversed and I could never tell which was the exhaust and which was the gallery light. The lights in my parents’ room and my brother’s aquarium are not so memorable, or perhaps they are because of the distinct lack of contradiction that plagued the rest of the house. My room, of course, was another story. Another set of 3 switches which switched on only 2 things – my room light, the light in my balcony and… who knows, we may have overlooked another secret room in the house. In hindsight, though, I wonder if the third switch wasn’t to turn on the light in my parents’ balcony. Hmmm… We never used the balcony lights after the first time they burnt out. Who in their right mind would climb up a ladder in a balcony on the third floor to change a light bulb? Only someone with a death wish, I’m sure. And so the lights were never changed until one day, the one in my balcony was. Who performed this daredevil stunt, I’l never know.

I miss lying in bed, curtain opened slightly, just enough to trace the lights and shadows of passing cars on the ceiling. I miss the familiar darkness – walking blindly without my glasses in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and jumping back into bed, no banged knees. I don’t miss waking up in the darkness to IBS tummy trouble and nose bleeds from dental antibiotics, wondering how to wake my mum up without giving her a heart attack. I do miss the nights of my childhood curled up in the darkness in the lower bunk ready to sleep, yelling out to mum to give us a goodnight kiss. I even miss the childhood nightmares and the comfort of the darkness lying next to mum – all the protection you would ever need from nightmares.

The Move- Of Doors

Our first move in 23 years. Almost one month on and I’m starting to think about the home we left, which I can still see across the street from my living window. I’m not big on change. I never have been. I like the reassuring familiarity of routine. So while moving across the street would not really constitute a big move in other people’s books, it has been, for me, a giant leap of faith into the unknown. I’ve left a home and moved into a house in the hopes of making another home as loved as my  last.

23 years. That’s almost my whole life. It is in fact, all the life I can remember. 23 years in a 2 bedroom flat on the third floor. A room with a balcony from which I saw the world change. If walls had ears, then that home has heard the story of my life.

I miss my home  -the sounds of doors closing furtively to catch a movie on a school night, loudly to the shouts of arguments that needed to be shut out. I miss the door to my room which was never thick enough to keep the loud music from escaping, but enough to keep the world out. I miss the kitchen door which was never shut, and more the object of a shoving contest when trying to keep my brother out of the kitchen. I miss the toilet door, even the one that held us captive when the key wouldn’t turn in its lock. I don’t know if I miss the main door to the house, though… Not thick enough to keep out the voices of rowdy neighbours’ children yelling on a summer afternoon but thin enough to let out the wafting smells of mum’s amazing cooking, not thick enough to muffle the pounding but thin enough to hear the sound of the elevator landing and the jingle of house keys. It never opened fast enough when we were hot and tired and hungry and it didn’t close fast enough when we needed it to the most. That door was not the fortress wall I had thought it was. I miss the tinted glass door to my brother’s open air aquarium of a bedroom the most. It was a silent door that opened up to an image I don’t soon want to forget. It opened up to a friend, gaming with my brother, the requisite jellybeans and Snickers bars on the table between them. It opened up to a lot of laughter when my home felt like a tomb. It opened up to lots of lame jokes, Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies turned into comedies, “Dude, sweet!”s , pizzas and birthday surprises. I miss opening that door.

Holiday Handovers

Friday at last… This week has been busier than usual, the signs clearly visible in my swollen eye-lids… or not so clearly visible. Let’s just say, swollen lids with blood shot eyes do not a pretty picture make… in fact it’s downright creepy. Here’s hoping next week isn’t as hectic so I can give my eyes and myself some much needed shut-eye. That’s not likely to happen though since it’s been a bit of a struggle to get back into the regular work routine post Ramadan working hours, the extra two hours seem like an eternity at the end of the day. The additional workload also doesn’t help, and while next week one set of people are back from vacation, another set are already on their way. I think I need a break from everyone else’s breaks. While I do have stash of pending vacations, I don’t have any viable time to take them. If I can make it to October, I’m thinking I’ll just club them with the next Eid. To do that of course means spending a good whole month convincing people to cover for me and then trying to cover weeks’ worth of handover in a few hours after they’re forced to accept the unpleasant reality that I too might need a vacation. I’m the rare breed of employee that shudders at the thought of taking my work home with me and would rather ditch my mobile than have the office install the work email client on it…which makes me wonder… are there any organizations with a holiday handover process that doesn’t involve taking your work with you?

What I would like my handover to look like (if the hand over-ee would have the patience to sit still and listen) would be a one-on-one session in which I’d be able to handover a complete plan of what needs to be done in my absence. So what would said plan look like? Well, it would be an action plan of sorts with a list of tasks to be done, contact details of potential customers, clients, suppliers etc, deadlines for completion along with any documentation they’d need and of course…never forget… the consequences if the tasks were not delivered as per schedule. Let’s face it, not everything that needs to be done is mission critical, so it’s key in any handover to prioritize your list because the person you’re handing over to has additional responsibilities and doesn’t have time to figure out which ball they can drop without creating too many ripples. Then comes the prerequisite out of office message. I say prerequisite, but I’ve come across far too many generic out of office messages (some with dates of the holiday last year) to realize that not all people attach the same level importance to an out of office message as I do. It’s important to be specific. Nobody cares where you’ve gone, they just need to know who they need to get in touch with so that work will continue as usual in your absence. A personal email to your most important clients would be even better. A little effort before your holiday goes a long way to ensure that once you’re back you’re not swamped with emails and complaints from clients (hopefully not your manager) that nothing has progressed as it should have. Ultimately, what you’re aiming is to give your colleagues the kind of handover you’d like to get yourselves (unless of course one of those people who pray they never have to cover for anyone).

Holiday handovers are just the tip of the ice-berg, to be honest. More critical handovers are ones that need to take place (and often don’t) when employees leave the business. Most companies fail to recognize that without an efficient handover process, losing an employee means losing the information in their head. A robust documentation procedure helps to minimize the disruption when employees leave, but documentation can only do so much and isn’t a replacement for experience. I’ve seen this happen twice myself and it makes me think that a company without a sound handover process can’t have much of succession planning process in place either. The long-term success of a company depends on its ability to ensure that no employee is indispensable, which can only be done through good succession planning and well-organized handovers.

Of friends and feather pens…

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I think I love shopping for stationery as much as I love writing letters… which is why this is the perfect birthday gift from my awesome friends.

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Feather Pen, Ink and Wax Seal Stamp

I’ve always been a bit curious as to how exactly feather pens and their cousin wooden dip pens work. I remember spending an entire vacation dipping my granddad’s wooden pens into ink bottles and scribbling nonsense just because it was so fascinating not to have an ink cartridge.  So how do fountain pens (quills, dip pens and all included) work? Quite simply… capillary action. Now that’s something they should mention in school when teaching you that boring concept. If you, like me, are interested in how a fountain pen works (and you should be, because a lot of thought went into making pens that we take for granted!)  then you can find out on Explain That StuffMeanwhile, I am going to test out my new acquisition so I can send out my next batch of letters in green ink! :)

Lego Mindstorms EV3

So this is probably the best birthday gift ever… like ever ever…ever……ever. Anyone who knows me even a little will tell you that I love to build things, whether that means doing origami in a highly boring meeting, assembling Metal Earth models with what suddenly seem to be absurdly huge fingers, taking over the dining table to make colossal jigsaw puzzles, or putting together Cubic Fun 3D puzzles (MC series only if you please) while making a mental inventory of everything I own so I’ll know what to throw away just to make some more table room.

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Origami Butterfly (Design: Michael La Fosse)

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Dragonfly

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Curiosity Rover

 

 

So you can imagine how super excited I was when my family got me… wait for it… (it’s already in the title… so much for the surprise) a Lego Mindstorms EV3 Kit.

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Lego Mindstorms EV3 – TRACK3R

What does this mean exactly? Well, it means I can now upgrade from my static paper and metal models to my very own programmable bundle of joy. Yayyyyy! :) I’ve so far managed to download the software, build the Tracker and get the build instructions for the some more models. But the more pressing need right now is to get time to start programming the brick.  The weekend never comes fast enough…does it?

Ramadan Resolutions

So tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan InshaAllah with the first Suhoor in around 5 hours. For me, Ramadan is always an opportunity to fix some bad habits and this time is no different. I’ve managed to be reasonably good but there are two things that keep eluding me so this time, I’ll be working on fixing both…again. It’s not that I haven’t been able to stay away from them, but more like I’ve not been able to sustain the momentum. It’s been a stop start stop start journey all year long and to be honest, it gets more than a little frustrating. It’s kind of like smoking (no, that’s not one of my bad habits). You’ll find countless smokers who have at some point of their life or another tried to give up smoking only to fall back into the habit again. And each time you fall back in, it’s a kind of personal failure..at least for me it is. Every failure is an opportunity to learn something new though, so I’ve managed successfully so weed out some of the things that lead me to both of my bad habits. But it’s not enough. Along with all the psychoanalysis of why I do what I do, and how not to do it, I need the willpower to tell myself, “Never again.” So here goes… my short list of Ramadan Resolutions:

1. Fix at least one BOTH of my bad habits (It’s Ramadan… one should aim to achieve more)

2. Finish the Quran with translation

3. Learn something new. I’m thinking Quranic Gems 2014 is the perfect way to do this.

4. Drink more water and eat the same Suhoor and Iftar every day (one must appease the IBS tummy in Ramadan)

The list is pretty much the same as last year (I’m nothing if not consistent) but I really hope next year I’ll have none (or at least 2 less serious) bad habits to fix. Ameen. :)