Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Jamaica 2015: Week 1

I came to Jamaica in July 2014 to visit my brother (S) and his family. I was in Kingston for most of the time, and also went on a yoga retreat near Ocho Rios for one week.

This year, I decided I’d stay a bit longer. I got in on a Tuesday afternoon (16th June) and was so impressed with the new automated immigration system! I placed my passport face down on the scanner (open to the page with my photo and details) and my details popped up on the screen in front of me. I had to confirm they were correct and then type in the address of where I’d be staying. The machine took a photo of me (not pretty after a 9-hour flight) and then printed off a slip of paper with my details on it. I took it to the immigration man who tore off his part of the slip and gave the other part back to me. I then went to the carousel to wait for my luggage. It was hot. And it was crowded. And the carousel hadn’t even started yet. What I noticed last year (and again this year) is that everyone waits as close as possible to the wall where the luggage comes out instead of spreading themselves around the carousel. I waited on the opposite side and had a bit of room to breathe for a while! My bags eventually showed up and I wheeled the trolley towards the ‘Nothing to declare’ area. Unfortunately the customs officer thought I did have something to declare and asked me to put my bags through the X-ray machine. And then they opened my trolley bag – for what, I have no idea. I was finally allowed to go and wheeled the trolley towards the exit. As I got there I was approached by a porter who said he’d help me. ‘No, thank you,’ I insisted – I’d managed this far on my own and I could see S waiting outside. Just as I got to the door, I was stopped by another man who pointed to a sign that said ‘NO TROLLEYS BEYOND THIS POINT’. How was I going to manage two suitcases, a trolley bag and my handbag without a trolley? The same porter was still hanging around, so he ended up helping me after all!

We got home at around 5pm and my nephew (Baby A) was about to have his dinner. I hadn’t seen him in a year and he’s toddling around now – and he’s such a doll! Of course he whined when I picked him up – it would take some time to get used to me and I’d brought lots of little toys and books to buy his affection with over the next few weeks.

We had an earlyish dinner and S went off to play poker while I unpacked and settled in.

I pottered around the house on Wednesday morning. I had some tea and breakfast and watched Baby A playing with his toys. S came to pick me up for lunch – we stopped at the pharmacy first (I’d fallen when I was in London and grazed my knee quite badly) and then went to Roe, a Japanese place at Sovereign North. We both had the sushi bento box which was really tasty and then he dropped me back home.

My sister-in-law (T) arrived that evening – she’d been to London and Venice for her cousin’s wedding (we’d also met the week before in London). She was exhausted (and so was I) so we all had an early dinner and called it a night.

On Thursday I decided to go to the office with S. I had a lot of work to catch up on and my plan was to go to the office a couple of days a week to get it all done and relax the rest of the time. Also, the office is air-conditioned whereas the living/dining rooms in the house are not – and even in the bedrooms, the fans are on in the day and air-conditioning at night. Even though the temperature in Kingston is about 32/33C it feels hotter than Dubai as it’s so humid (I sometimes feel like I’m even sweating in the shower) and we really take air-conditioning for granted living in Dubai… So, I went to the office and managed to get a bit done. We ordered chicken shawarmas for lunch – yummy! We left the office early as we were going to PriceSmart (the equivalent of Costco in the UK) to pick up food for our weekend in Port Antonio. On the way home, I spotted this house and found it amusing:

Welcome 'Om'

Welcome ‘Om’

We went home, picked up my T and Baby A, and off we went. We picked up all kinds of things – wine, fruit, vegetables, bacon, salmon and some stuff for the house too. Fitting it all in the car was quite a challenge!

Once again, we had an early night as we had a long day the following day. We were all up early on Friday and eventually left the house after an early lunch. We got to Port Antonio at around 4pm and most of the drive was beautiful. I do get freaked out by the bends in the mountain roads and at how close the other cars drive! My uncle and aunt have a house (Nautilus Villa) in Port Antonio, near the Blue Lagoon (where the movie was filmed), so we stayed there for the weekend. It is gorgeous – the deck looks out on to the ocean and is built above the water so when you get in using the ladder you’re already in water that’s 10 feet deep (and so clear).

The Blue Lagoon is behind those rocks surrounded by trees

The Blue Lagoon is behind those rocks surrounded by trees

The entrance, dining room, one bedroom, kitchen and deck are all on the ground floor. On the first floor are two more bedrooms and a living room.

The upstairs living room

The upstairs living room

The beds must all be Super King size because at least four people could have slept comfortably in mine!

We unpacked and then had a drink on the deck. The sun was already starting to set and none of us felt like swimming right then – even though it was still hot. We’d asked for dinner to be served at 8pm, and just before I went up to my room to wash my hands. I realised I should have gone up earlier and closed the windows so that there wouldn’t be any mosquitoes (and who knows what else) buzzing around. As I opened my door, I was greeted with a blast of cold air. God bless the housekeeper – she’d already closed the windows and turned on the air-conditioning! I was so happy!

S, T and I had dinner on the deck. The cook had made salmon in an orange/mustard sauce with a mixed salad and sweet potato fries. Baby A and his nanny were already asleep. By 9pm I was tucked up in bed with my book.

On Saturday morning I was up so early. I was on the deck before the staff arrived at 8am and I think the butler was quite surprised to see me there! I had a cup of tea, enjoying the ocean breeze and my book.

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We had breakfast at 9am – eggs Benedict, bacon and jerk sausage. We soaked up the sun a bit more and then when it was too hot to bear it any more, we got into the water.

S, T and Baby A

S, T and Baby A

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We had some lunch at around 1pm (grilled lamb sliders and chicken wings) and then it was back into the water. It was so hot. At around 5pm, some of S’s friends stopped by with their families – there were six kids running around (not including Baby A – who was quite overwhelmed)! They only stayed an hour or so but it felt like it was much longer! After they left, we all showered and got ready for dinner (roast chicken and asparagus). We sat up on the balcony for a while and, once again, I was in bed soon after 9pm. I’d finished the book I was reading and started another one that night.

I love my life.

To read more about Jamaica, click here.

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Dubai 2013: Week 34

After my session with Randy on Sunday morning, my parents suggested that I sort out my PIO card. I’d been putting this off for one reason or another but my parents were insistent that I sort it out. Ugh.

Mum and I went to a typing centre at Al Khaleej Centre. I don’t know why we went all the way there because I’m sure there must be places closer to us that offer the same service (or I could have done it at home). They basically filled in the application form for me – I took my passport, my parents’ PIO cards, their passports and they did the rest – and gave me a printed copy. All I had to do was take the form and submit it with all the relevant documents.

That afternoon I went to The Dubai Mall to meet a friend who was in town for the day on his way back to Lagos. I thought we’d go for coffee but he wanted to have a milkshake. I vaguely remembered seeing a milkshake place near The Cheesecake Factory so we went looking for it. We stumbled upon a calligraphy sculpture exhibition called ‘Moon Reflections’ in The Souk section:

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I thought it was pretty cool… I decided I’d take my DSLR camera to the mall later in the week and take some better photos.

We eventually found the milkshake place – it was called Millions of Milkshakes. My friend ordered an Oreo milkshake with cookie dough and I just couldn’t decide what to have. He tried to convince me to have the Galaxy milkshake but I knew it would be too sweet and I’d get sick of it. I opted for a mixed berry milkshake instead – and I’d have it again if I went back there. We caught up over our milkshakes and walked around the mall for a while and then headed home. He had a work event to go to and I had some work to do.

On Monday afternoon I went to see my GP about my knees. I wondered whether I should wait until my knees were sore again before going to see her but I didn’t want to start running, have to stop because of the pain and then start again. She asked me what kind of pain it was and how bad it could get – she was surprised when I told her that when it’s really bad it wakes me up in the night. She checked the range of motion of both my knees (all fine, no pain) and told me to start taking glucosamine and recommended SynoShield Forte (glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM with type II collagen biocomplex) twice a day for 2 months. She also suggested I have an X-ray of my left knee (instead of doing both knees, she thought it would be best to do the one which usually ached more). The radiology clinic wasn’t far from the GP so I went straight there after my appointment. They told me their X-ray machine was out of order and I would have to go to their other branch in Umm Suqeim. I decided to go home for lunch first and then went for my X-ray.

I didn’t have to make an appointment, I could just walk in and would be seen as soon as they were free. It was empty when I got there and I was taken straight in after filling in a registration form. I lay on the table and the X-ray technician positioned my knee so that my leg was straight for the first X-ray and then she covered me with a lead blanket from my thighs upwards. For the second X-ray I had to bend my knee and lay it flat on the table, turning a little on to my left side. I was done in 5 minutes. The results would be sent to my GP and she would let me know if anything suspicious showed up. (I got the all-clear on Wednesday morning.)

On Tuesday morning, my mum and I left home before 10am to sort out my PIO card at the Indian Consulate. I decided I’d do all the photocopying I needed when I got there:

  • Two application forms? Check
  • Two copies of applicant’s passport and valid UAE visa? Check
  • Two copies of parent’s passport? Check
  • Six passport photos? Check

I was sorted. There was no queue and we saw the lady immediately. She went through my forms: ‘Yes… Yes… Good… Sign here… Yes…’ And then: ‘No birth certificate?’ F***. It wasn’t even on the list of required documents. F***, f***, f***ety f***. And where is my birth certificate? In my safety deposit box. And where is my safety deposit box? In London. F***. It will have to wait until November.

On Wednesday evening I met up with a new friend for drinks. I met him at a friend’s dinner party in July and we eventually met this week. We went to La Serre at the new Vida Hotel downtown. It was quite empty when we got there – we met at 6.30 – but by the time we left (10pm – four glasses of wine and one vodka later) it was pretty crowded. It was a fun evening – and nice to talk to someone new…

On Thursday evening a friend invited me and a couple of friends to her brother’s flat in the Burj Khalifa (her brother was out of town). Trying to get into the Burj Khalifa is like getting into Fort Knox. Actually I’d imagine getting into Fort Knox is easier! The first security check is in the driveway – you stop, tell the security guy what flat you’re going to, they call the flat, the flat confirms whether or not you’re telling the truth. Then they let you through (or not). Once you’re in the building you have to check in with the receptionist – they ask what flat you’re going to and your name. Residents have to let security know in advance if they’re having people over. The receptionist then escorted us to the lift and we went up to the 23rd floor. The view was spectacular.

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We had some cheese and wine – it was a really nice evening. At about 11pm we decided to go to McGettigan’s for a drink. On the way out of the building I noticed the entrance to the Burj Khalifa Residence (I saw it on the way in obviously but didn’t really look at it as I was so flustered with the whole security process). There are cymbals on long poles that go all the way up to the ceiling – they’re different sizes and are placed at different heights. Water drips from the ceiling on to the cymbals and creates melodies! Isn’t that just genius?

We went to McGettigan’s for a drink and then headed home by 12.30. It was a nice evening – not too crazy!

On Friday, me and three girlfriends went to Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road. We’d bought a Cobone deal a couple of months before and decided we’d make a day of it. The voucher cost AED275 – it included use of the pool, steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and a 75-minute massage. Considering their 60-minute massage is AED400 and you have to pay extra to use the pool, it was a bloody good deal.

The pool at the Radisson Royal

The pool at the Radisson Royal

We got there at noon, swam, sunbathed, read, had lunch, had massages, went back to the pool to watch the sunset.

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I came home a few shades darker!

I was home all day on Saturday – I went to the gym, I swam, I read my book by the pool, I caught up on some work. A lovely day!

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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Dubai 2013: Week 33

Mum and I had an early lunch at Automatic in Jumeirah Beach Centre on Sunday. We ordered hummus, kibbeh, fatoush, shish taouk, and Mum had a lamb shawarma sandwich. There was some fatoush, kibbeh and shish taouk left over so I took it home for dinner.

That afternoon I went to the Emirates Grand Spa for a waxing appointment as my regular lady is away. I decided to go there because there was a half-price voucher in the Entertainer Body book! On my way in, it wasn’t as crowded as it was the week before but still looked shabby. I was taken to a dimly-lit room which also had no air conditioning. Not impressed at all. Luckily I was done in an hour and was out of there. Leaving the Spa was something else – I waited 10 minutes for the lift to come up to the 45th floor. It stopped about six times on the way down and by the time we got to the lobby there was no space to move and I had three kids stepping all over my feet. I’d have been really cross if I’d just had a pedicure! I could not wait to get out of there. I had second thoughts about going for a massage later in the week.

On Tuesday morning, the Emirates Grand Spa called to confirm my appointment for that afternoon. I had a voucher for a body scrub and full body massage. Both treatments together should have taken 90 minutes. What happened was this:

  • I got there 5 minutes before my appointment (which should have been at 4.30pm)
  • I waited in the waiting area for 20 minutes (during which time a receptionist asked me whether I’d enjoyed my treatment)
  • I had my lavender body scrub – it lasted about 10 minutes – and then while I showered the therapist disappeared for about 15 minutes
  • I had my massage – which finished at 5.45pm

There was no way that was a 90-minute treatment or even a 1-hour massage, unless they count the 20 minutes in the waiting area as part of the treatment. I didn’t complain because there would have been no point. While the masseuse is great, I’ve decided I won’t be going back there. The rest of the experience is a real let-down – everything from the elevator system to the crowded lobby to the annoying receptionists. I’d rather go back to the Radisson Royal which is a bit more civilised!

That night Mum and I went out for an early dinner. We went to Puranmal on Jumeirah Beach Road – an Indian vegetarian restaurant. Apart from one other table, the place was empty. I had a beetroot, carrot and ginger juice. Then I had one idli, half a dosa, and some paneer tikka. I ate far too much!

After my session with Randy, I spent all of Wednesday at home, working.

On Thursday I met up with a friend and some of her girlfriends for dinner at the Jazz Pizza Express at the Movenpick Hotel in JLT. It was the first time I’d been to JLT. Pizza Express was pretty standard as far as Pizza Expresses go – I had an American Hot leggera pizza (the thin crust with salad in the middle). I hadn’t had a good pizza in ages. We also had some rose wine – it was a fun dinner, and good to meet some new people.

After dinner my friend and I got a cab to the Murooj Rotana – it was the opening of The White Room, a Beirut club/lounge. I’d called ahead on Tuesday to find out how we could get on the guest list – the guy I spoke to said there was no guest list, and we could just show up at 11pm and we’d have no trouble getting in. I should have known better – I should have called back on Thursday and double-checked. We got there shortly after 11, and it was heaving at the door. We were told guest list entrance was on one side and tables on the other. But then 5 minutes later, everyone was told the opposite. I spoke to the woman at the door – I told her it was just the two of us and that the guy I’d spoken to said we wouldn’t have any problems. She said it was guest list and tables only that night. WTF. Standing outside The White Room for half an hour reminded me of standing outside Cafe de Paris in Leicester Square in the 90s – but instead of freezing your ass off the February cold, we were sweltering in the August heat. People were pushing and shoving – even people with tables were having trouble getting in. At about 11.45 I told my friend that I was too old for this shit and that I would rather go somewhere where they’d be happy for me to spend my money.

We headed to my favourite Dubai bar – Zuma. We got there and their main lift was out of order. We had to walk through the hot car park to another lift which opens next to Gaucho, just across from Zuma. We both looked like we’d been in a Bikram yoga class (or at least half of one) and were in dire need of a drink. We found some space at the bar and ordered a couple of passion fruit and chilli martinis. Fantastic. We ended up chatting to a Lebanese lawyer who said he was supposed to meet some friends at The White Room and asked if we wanted to join him – my friend and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. We told him what we’d been through and he decided he’d rather stay at Zuma – funnily enough a couple of his friends who had been to White Room (and had actually gotten in) came to Zuma because ‘it was shit’ (their words). We had a few more drinks and a couple of shots – I think we managed to salvage the night!

I got home shortly after 2am. Dad had arrived that night from Jamaica so I sat with my parents for a little while before they went to bed. I was up until about 5am though – watching ‘Homeland’ (stupid, I know).

I had lunch with my cousin, her parents and her kids on Friday. They’d all been away over the summer so it was nice to catch up with them. We went to Sumo Sushi at Town Centre – I quite like that place. Their avocado maguro is yummy (and fairly healthy, I’d imagine) and we had a selection of sushi too.

I didn’t do much the rest of the weekend – did some work, went to the gym, sat by the pool on Saturday. It was lovely.

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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Dubai 2013: Week 32

Aside from work and sessions with Randy it was a busy week.

I had a massage at the Emirates Grand Spa on Sunday evening. I’d bought an online deal a few months before and wanted to use it before it expired. The last time I’d been there was in September last year – and it was probably the best massage I’d had in Dubai. I asked for the same therapist – I remembered her name was Preeya.

I got to the hotel a few minutes before my appointment – it was like a train station! There were people everywhere – the lobby was packed and the lifts were crammed. There are no buttons in the lifts – there’s a number pad outside each lift and you have to press the floor you want to go to and it tells you which lift to get into.

I hate it when they write 'Saloon'!

I hate it when they write ‘Saloon’!

The hotel and spa seemed a lot shabbier than they did last year, which is a shame. My massage was still excellent though. However, getting up to the 45th floor and back down again was just irritating. In spite of being told what lift to get into, the lifts still stopped on too many floors in both directions. Surely this system is supposed to make travelling from floor to floor faster?

On Monday we went to China Times for lunch. We had hot and sour soup, spring rolls, some dim sum and some noodles. That night after dinner my sister and I took my nephew to Coldstone Creamery for ice cream. We walked there and back – and I spotted this sign:

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Sometimes I just want to walk around Dubai with a big red pen!

Anyway, I had a scoop of the cheesecake flavour – it’s fantastic!

On Tuesday we decided to have a pool day at the Shangri-La next door. My sister, nephew and I went shortly after 12 and went for a swim. We sent my nephew back home about an hour later and spent the rest of the afternoon there. We ordered a pizza to share for lunch – but the pizza was soggy and the service was terrible. We weren’t given any napkins or cutlery, and trying to get the waiter’s attention was almost impossible.

On Wednesday afternoon, my sister and I went to the Dermalogica store at the Dubai Mall. I’d booked us in for facials (hurrah for Entertainer vouchers!) and had been looking forward to it. My facial was excellent. I almost dozed off when I had the face mask on and my skin felt 10 years younger once I was finished.

By this time, my mum had bought my nephew to the mall so we met up with them and went down to PF Chang for an early dinner. We had all the usual food: soup, dynamite shrimp, spring rolls, Mongolian lamb.

Dynamite shrimp

Dynamite shrimp

After dinner we took my nephew to Coldstone. I ordered a scoop of the cheesecake flavour but I couldn’t finish it.

On Thursday my sister and I decided we’d go back to the pool at the Shangri-La. We took my nephew for a little while but then sent him home while we stayed on for the rest of the afternoon. The service was much better – probably because the manager is back from her holiday!

On Thursday night I met up with the people from my Arabic class for dinner. Ten of us went to Loca – we shared guacamole, and for my main course I had the barbecued lamb burrito, and a few of us had some frozen Margaritas too. The plan was to go dancing at Malecon afterwards but not many people were up for it so we decided to walk to Haagen Dazs at Palm Strip Mall for dessert instead. It wasn’t a late or a heavy night – I was home by midnight.

On Friday my mum and I dropped my sister and nephew off at the airport – they were heading back to Lagos. The three week just flew by!

I worked for most of the afternoon. That night I met up with some friends at McGettigan’s – we ended up being quite a large group and bumped into some more people that we knew (some guys I’d met at that party a couple of weeks ago). It was a really heavy night. I drank too much wine and don’t remember getting home. However, I did manage to take off my eye make-up and get into my pajamas.

I felt like crap on Saturday. I slept until 2pm and didn’t get out of my pajamas all day.

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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