Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
16 days, 7 currencies, 3 languages other than English, 12 Economy Class flights around the whole world. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 2 weeks! Travelling for work isn’t easy and I missed my family ferociously this trip, so much so that I couldn’t bear to think about them because it made my throat constrict and eyes teary, however the quality of business hotels, friendliness of colleagues, strangers and service staff, and excellent meals that I have while travelling go some way towards alleviating the travel.
My trip started in Qatar and it was my first time in this country that is bustling with construction. I enjoyed practising my Arabic language skills and dutifully donned my abaya and hijab. It was pretty warm in my black outfit with temperatures of 44C. The corniche in Doha is beautiful and I was particularly interested to see the beginnings of construction on the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, this museum will be shaped like a desert rose (gypsum crystals).
I stayed a few nights in Bahrain and after work I enjoyed smoking sheesha, dining at Bushido Restaurant and relaxing at the roof-top bar of my hotel.
At the end of my first week I moved on to Dubai where I stayed at a luxury 5 star hotel which was ironically the cheapest night of my trip. I unwound from a busy week, taking off my abaya and hijab and swimming in the hotel pool. It was liberating but also felt strangely forbidden. I definitely enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine and had some excellent meals that week.
I spent a delightfully relaxing weekend in Rio de Janeiro (two posts here and here) before flying on to Bogota. It took me a little while to adjust in Bogota to Spanish after a week of Arabic then a weekend of Portuguese. I was surprised when the hotel manager remembered me at the hotel in Bogota where I stayed 6 months ago (posts here and here). When I mentioned that he must have met thousands of guests since then he said yes but I remembered you because you can speak in German. We had two nice long conversations this trip and enjoyed finding connections and speaking in English, German and Spanish.
I love Colombian food so I was very happy to be back in this welcoming city. In 2013 Colombia was rated the happiest country in the world and looking around me and chatting with Colombians during my trip I can believe it. These are mostly unflappable, affable and pleasant people who enjoy laughing and joking together. I enjoyed the 4 days in Colombia with my colleagues as we shared some great meals, many laughs and plenty of work. The best meal we had was at Andres Carne de Res Restaurant in Zona T. My colleagues told the staff it was my birthday (even though it wasn’t) and I was serenaded by a quartet while the restaurant watched on. I enjoyed wandering around Zona T which was bustling with cheerful people enjoying the three day weekend. I hope that I will have the opportunity to return to Colombia soon.
My final city on this trip was Buenos Aires. I was last here in 2003 as a backpacker and vegetarian. Since then I have started to eat small portions of ethically and locally grown and butchered meat. Many people have lamented that I didn’t eat meat on my 2 month stay in South America in 2003. This time I was treated to an excellent meal at Cabana Las Lilas in Puerto Madero of beef on the ribs. It was so delicious that I wished I could record the flavour and experience it again. Puerto Madero is very different to my last trip when it was quite run-down and inhospitable as we walked through it to get to the Ecological Reserve to do some excellent bird watching.
I didn’t have enough time in Buenos Aires to get a feel for it again but I enjoyed driving down Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest avenue in the world), admiring the beautiful French and Italian architecture, people watching , the warmth, friendliness and acceptance of the Argentine people (strangers greet me with a kiss and pastries are served in business meetings), the stunning La Plata River, and of course the pastries and submarine hot chocolates (welcome exceptions to my normally grain and sugar free diet).