My whole childhood I wanted to do this. Today, I would be going to the top of the world’s tallest building. I was filled with so much excitement. My palms were sweaty and my body kept shaking. Had to conquer a big fear today.
Went to the entrance of The Burj khalifa at the Dubai Mall. There’s been a lot hype about this building. All my friends back home told me that I had to see the view from the top. You get to see the sun set twice. Too bad I forgot, I was scared of heights.
On the elevator up, they give you a history about Dubai and the making of this mountainous building. My ears popped several time. Didn’t even want to think how high we were. Just kept thinking about my ears. The pressure was strong. Eventually, my ears drums stopped hurting. Now I was hoping, I don’t end up with a nosebleed.
We got out of the elevator and into a viewer deck. The whole time, my hands were numb and my gut kept giving me that butterfly feeling. Taking that selfie was like walking on hot coals. For some reason, my mind kept picturing me falling off the edge. Even with all this protective glass, that fear of falling consumed me.
Fighting through my fears, I went closer to the edge. I wanted take a photo for you all to see. It was gut-numbing work. My fear of heights was difficult to overcome. Defeating it made this moment that much memorable. This was my childhood dream. Funny how I found out that Dubai is in the middle of constructing an even taller building.
After my trip to the top was done, had to go back to the ground level. Exited out into the Dubai mall. Saw a pizza hut and decided to chow down on some pizza. My eyes couldn’t roll harder. There was waiters at this pizza hut. Im sure, there was probably a five star rating somewhere. Just felt weird to be eating at a fast food place that gave me the five star treatment. Tend to forget, American brands sometimes have more value outside of the United States. Either way, I enjoyed my day. Couldn’t wait what tomorrow had in store.
As summer comes to a close, sprinkles of fall hit us like strong pumpkin spices. Random days of a cool breeze mixed with days comparable to mid July. Had to face it, summer was almost gone. Back to wearing big coats and looking out for stepping on ice. Excited about Halloween and the pumpkin pies being just around the corner. I still couldn’t shake this feeling of not getting the most out of this summer.
Didn’t really to explore much this summer. In terms of going to Upstate New York. Did a lot of international flights these hot months, just didn’t explore my local surroundings. Truly love this state. From Manhattan to Cairo, New York, this state has something most states lack. Could never really put my finger on it.
Lived in California majority of my childhood. Also, lived in three different countries as a kid. However, none have my heart like this state. A place where you can have the tallest building in the country; yet, still be a few hours away from such a gorgeous place like this. Nature and city are actually my favorite places to be.
I know California and other states are beautiful. However, not many can compare to this. This scenery pulls my heartstrings. The blue sky’s reflection on the water made me feel the much needed sense of peace. The fact that it is summer and everything is so green.
The reason why I am up here was to escape from the city life. Sometimes you just need to relax and step back. No stress, no deadlines just me and the music that the planet earth makes. That’s when I can truly appreciate the creation of this small blue planet.
My time here was almost up. Just did a day trip to escape. Would have to leave tomorrow in the morning. So, I made it last. Sat down to enjoy everything. That moment where you are lost in your head but still enjoy what’s around you. It was truly priceless. When you visit New York City, make sure to stop by and check out Upstate New York. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
Thank you so much for reading! Decided to change things up a little this week. Will go back to learning about Afro-Caribbean culture next week. Much love and safe travels everyone.
My first full day in Dubai. Of course, you all should know I’m about to explore this metropolitan. It was early September here. However, it felt like mid July in New York. The humidity was no joke. I wasn’t going to let a little heat stop me. Also, when I say “little heat,” I mean steamy sauna hot!
Going around is not that difficult, just handling that sun is. The good thing about Dubai is that their metro system is very reliant. All buses and trains have air conditioning. The way downtown Dubai was created, you don’t really have to be outside in the sun too much. At most, you walk from the train station: to the mall, to your home or the building where you work at. Unless you are a tourist like me, you really don’t have much business being outside. Also, the taxi system here is just like the Usa and the European union. There’s a set fare based on the mileage that runs on a meter.
Walking around, you really get a sense that you are in the Arabian Peninsula. Tons of signs in Arabic and English. In case you don’t know, United Arab Emirates was once an English colony. Meaning, you won’t have any problems speaking English here. However, I heard the Emiratis would prefer, if you spoke Arabic to them. Funny thing about that, when you are here there are very few Emiratis. Most of Dubai’s population are recent immigrants.
Saw the Dubai frame, didn’t bothered going to the top. I would had to wait until one hour in the heat for it to open up. Went there before opening time. I’m not interested in going to the top. Unless, there was a swimming pool and a buffet of ice cream inside. I was only here to see the top of one building, the Burj khalifa . The Dubai frame is the biggest frame in the world. Once again you are reminded, the United Arab Emirates goes all the way. Everything they do has to be the best or the biggest. Which makes Dubai such an interesting City.
The skyline of dubai is interesting. Everything is big and in your face. It feels like you stepped into the future. The futuristic buildings can make you feel you are in that show called “The jettsons.” The only thing that is missing are the flying cars and people with hover backpacks. Still, I would not be surprised if some of the mega rich living here owns one.
As my time in the heat was becoming unbearable, I saw an interesting view. The Burj Khalifa can been seen all the way where I was at. It truly is a man-made mountain. The freedom tower in New York City is dwarfed compared to this massive skyscraper. Looking forward, my next stop would be to climb all the way to the very top. By climb, I mean take an elevator. Burj Khalifa, I will see you very soon.
Thank you so much for reading! Much love and safe travels everyone.
Been reading a lot of misconceptions on this topic. Would to like spread some light on this part of the Cuban culture. It is always good to know about cultures and religions around the world. First of all, I do not practice this culture rich religion nor am I promoting it. I’m just sharing what I know about santería being a Latino of African heritage. Can’t speak about everything in this post because that would take a few books. So bare with me to those who know a lot about this topic. I’m just summarizing it.
Santería in Latin America is actually very common. A lot of people who practice it now aren’t even hispanic nor of African heritage. This religion is a mixture of Roman Catholicism and Yoruban religions. It’s main language is Lucumí. Native to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto rico. This language is like Latin to the Catholics and Arabic to Muslims. Lucumí is a langague mixed with west African words and Spanish. It has too many words and grammatical differences to be called a Spanish Creole. It’s a completely different tongue.
While in Cuba, I did not want to get blessings from a Santero or santera nor wanted to film their ceremonies. I will explain my reasons later. Most people think Santería is about worshiping the devil. Which is one of the misconceptions. In santería, there’s actually no devil. It’s similar to Pre-Christian religions of the Vikings, Romans and Greeks. There are many gods, so it’s not monotheistic like Islam or Christianity.
The main figure of santería is Changó. Changó is the god of lightning, dance and manliness. The dances you see santeros practicing is to please and get blessings from this lighting god. That’s why the marital arts like capoeria and juego de maní focus mainly around dance. Since, Changó is of Yoruban origin. Which is now manly part of Nigeria. I will speak more about this in detail on another post. Since, I could write a whole book about this topic.
So, the history of Santería is very interesting. This religion was created by slaves in order to hide the preservation of thier African culture from the Spanish. They used saints from the Catholic church to trick the Spanish into thinking they were practicing Christianity. The mixture of African religions with Catholicism was very common in the Portuguese and Spanish colonies. In the Spanish colonies, Santería was born.
Being Hispanic of African heritage from the Caribbean, Santería and other African religions are commonly practiced. Some do it in hiding, others are very open about it. I don’t practice santería because I don’t want to bring spirits into my life. As you all can tell, my life is crazy already. Adding spirits will just complicate things. Also, be careful when going to santeros. You don’t always know their true intentions. They could be bringing negative spirits into your life.
Thank you so much for reading! Much love and safe travels everyone.
After getting situated at my accommodation, it was time for me to go back to the Dubai mall. Im not much of a shopping person. I prefer to not spend extra money on items that won’t increase in value over time. I was going to the mall for sightseeing.
Took the metro to the Dubai mall. It’s hard to miss because their is a stop on metro named after it. It was about three stops away from where I was staying. It’s funny, this city is almost built around this mall. I didn’t know that this mall is actually apart of the burj khalifa. It’s the base of the building. Makes sense, why it feels like this city is built around this mall.
Once at the mall, you are kind of overwhelmed at the size of it. It was about 4 floors of shopping. Walking around, you see almost every brand known to man. There’s even an aquarium in this mall! The emiratis are over the top. When they do something, they make sure it’s the best or the biggest.
I was told by my local friend to watch the water show by the fountain. Yes, it’s the world’s biggest fountain. About two times bigger than the one in Las Vegas. The water show starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm. There is a show every 30 minutes from starting to closing.
When I got there, it was between shows. Decided to eat at a Lebanese restaurant to make my grandma proud. All jokes aside, it was the closest restaurant with a view of the fountain. Couldn’t wait to see this show. This fountain was actually inspired by the Las Vegas fountain. The Emiratis made it a lot bigger, of course.
Once the water started, lights and the sounds of music were everywhere. It was definitely a sight to see. All this made me wonder about the situation in Yemen. There’s people dying because lack of water. Yet, here is UAE spending 100s gallons of water on entertainment. It kind of left a sour taste to my mouth.
Even with that distastefulness, I couldn’t wait to see what this city had more to offer. Can’t believe I was here. I needed to make the most out of my time while being here. My adventures in this Middle Eastern metropolitan were just starting.
Thank you so much for reading! Much love and safe travels everyone.
After that stressful encounter and 3 hours of seeing the Cuban country side, I was in Santiago. Cuba’s second largest City. It felt good to have finally made it to my destination. There were times, I thought I was going to sleep in a Cuban jail. It’s crazy to think that was just a few hours ago.
My first impression of the city was intetesting. It felt like any Latin American city for sure. However, there was a twist to it. The streets curved and zigzaged in a way that could make the most experienced traveler get lost. Also remember, wifi and internet connection here is limited. So google maps can’t help when you are confused in this maze of a city.
I got to my hostel, we were all tired. Our local friend was annoyed that the address on the website was off. So, we had to park on the side of the street to call the owner. Everybody was cranky due to the 3 hour long drive. During those three hours, we were all worried about the goverment police having random check points. Which is common in Cuba. However, I should be fine since I’m American. Sadly, my new local friends could be in big trouble.
I paid my local friend 15 dollars for helping me out. That extra pay could get him in trouble with the goverment. Someone who could be a police in normal clothing, could say that he ripped me off. Which Cuba punishes locals harshly. The guy saved me 120 dollars, giving him 15 dollars is the least I could do.
My local friend was giving me an inside view of Cuba. The not so friendly part. The part where it’s own people are valued less than the visiting tourists. Even with everything that has happened, I kept trying to keep positive.
Eventually, the owner picked up his phone. Told us the exact address. We drove to his hostel and said our thanks/goodbyes to the taxi driver. The owner told me the house rules and showed me to my room. While my local friend waited outside, I settled into my room and took a shower. I was getting ready to meet another friend before his performance. After cleaning up, I step outside of the hostel. I couldn’t wait to see what this beautiful and exotic city has to offer. It was time to explore Santiago de Cuba!
Since I was a kid, I wanted to see the world’s tallest building. So when the opportunity of going to Dubai came, I had to jump on it. There’s no way I could reject a chance to go here. Who knew, if I would ever get the chance again.
After a 12 hour flight, I went straight to the tallest building in the world. No time to waste. When seeing it in person, I was shocked as to how tall this man-made structure is. It’s like double the size of the freedom tower in NYC. This was an awesome moment for me. It’s hard to explain in words. Just imagine your childhood dream coming true. I was completely losted in the moment. Deep inside my mind, my inner child was happy.
Got to my air bnb, I was surprised to see how clean it was. This was the first time I used this service. I’m starting to prefer it over hotels. I had a whole apartment to myself. I can cook and know what’s going into my food.
It’s cheaper than a hotel per night and I don’t have to waste money on eating out. The apartment had a little balcony. Too bad I wouldn’t use it as much, the heat was unbearable. Opening up the door, felt like steam from a boiler being thrown into your face.
The Middle Eastern heat is no joke. It’s hard to believe it was the end of summer/the being of fall, when I was there. It was around early to mid September during my stay in this desert city. I was told in the months of July and June, sand storms are common. Even with this heat, I won’t let it stop me. Couldn’t wait to see what this city had to offer.
Thank you for reading! Much love and safe travels.
Yeah, almost got myself into a world of hurt. So this story is to tell you, what not to do when going to cuba. Trust me, this story will save you the headache. Especially, if you are American.
It all started when I bought my tickets to Cuba. They were for an aiport called Holguin. I would fly from NYC to Toronto and then Toronto to Holguin. Looking back, I should had double checked more information about the Airport first.
What makes this airport special is the fact that it’s in the province that Fidel Castro was born in. Being the Communist country that it is, Castro is almost viewed as a holy figure. So of course, this airport would have some national pride to it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my most memorable moment.
Got into the immigration and customs line without a problem. Eventually, it was my turn to speak with the officer. Showed him my passport and said everything wrong. At that time, if you were American, you could travel to Cuba for educational reasons. However, you don’t say that to the Cubans. You need tell them you are there for vacation. If you all know me by now, I told them I was there for educational purposes.
To the immigration officers, all the red flags were shown. I got sent into another room where three other officers started questioning me in Spanish. Luckily, I spoke Spanish. I can’t imagine what would happened if I didn’t. They spoke no English, apparently.
After about 20 mins of questioning and convincing, I was eventually let free. Met up with a local friend named Andy. By the way, those 20 minutes were rough. They asked me everything, even about my relatives. This was my first minutes in Cuba and they were already bad. However, I was not going to let this ruin my time.
Outside of the aiport was where the real issue occurred. Andy and I were looking for a taxi. Holguin is about a 2 hour drive from Santiago de Cuba. Which was the place I would be staying at. Unfortunately, the roads in Cuba are horrible. It would probably take up at least 3 hours.
All the taxi drivers in Holguin are run by the goverment. They were very aggressive. I would say no and they would circle around the aiport just to ask me again. I felt like a dying mouse and the taxi drivers were birds of prey. They all wanted about two hundred usa dollars worth for one way. It’s ridiculous because most of these drivers only get paid about 5 usa dollars a month! They have the nerve to try to rip off/scam tourists!
Andy and I started walking outside of the airport. He was a little nervous because of the situation. Andy knew that these people were apart of the government and they could tell any police officer false claims. We could end up in jail because of their lies. Ironically, I only had 300 usa dollars worth of currency. American cards do not work in Cuba because of international policies. So, what I had was what I had. We had to find out a way out of this mess. What made things worst, this airport is in the middle of nowhere. Country side for miles, you can not walk on the streets without being watched.
We were about to speak with another driver, when that same driver that has been circling us pulled up. We told him no for the fourth time. This time he was angry. The driver screamed at us claiming he would tell the police. The situation was getting intense.
By chance/luck, we found a driver that would take us for about 80 USA dollars worth. The driver was going to Santiago anyways. Andy’s showed off his strong negotiation skills. Sadly, the situation was still not over.
As we got into the car, we noticed the cameras were following us. I didn’t noticed them at first. They were moving everywhere we moved. This was proof the other driver made the government aware of us. Our good hearted taxi driver started to get nervous as he started the car. As what he was doing, was technically illegal. By helping us out with a cheaper fair, he was putting his safety at risk. The cameras were straight on us. We drove out of there as soon as possible. While the goverment’s cameras were following our every move.
After about 30 minutes of driving, we started to feel more comfortable. The tension in the car died down. We were out of the airport and out of that province. The music started and the laughter began. Even with everything dying down, you still felt that the goverment could stop us at any moment.
Thank you for reading! Much love and safe travels.