Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Wetlands of Wadi Hanifa

Since it's the haj holidays, The Pink Tarha is giving expats in Riyadh/Saudi Arabia a place to go to... come and visit the wetlands of Riyadh!

What wet?! Riyadh is? How?!

Normally, I wouldn't associate Riyadh with "wet" as the overall atmosphere and climate in this city is, what else? Dry. But it's true, there is a wetland in Riyadh. Imagine a valley with a river cruising through... that's something out of the Philippine tropics but sometimes, it is possible for Riyadh to become one through Wadi Hanifa. Wadi- er, what?!

Along the way.
Bridge above the riverbed (it's dry now).

By the river.

Say it with me: WAH-DEE-HA-NEE-FAH. I had fun saying this name over and over ever since I persuaded my father to take us to Dirriyah. Huh? I know, you got lost in there. Where did I really go? You see, the initial plan was to go to the old Dirriyah and visit the original "Riyadh" with its mud houses and ruins but the father took us to nearby Wadi Hanifah instead because he's more familiar with the place. We even packed a picnic cooler for the roadtrip. So, we passed through Dirriyah but the only mud houses we saw were laden with graffittis. I doubt it if that was the place. So we just went to Wadi Hanifah, which is a totally unexpected detour.

Valley of the Hanifu Tribe

Wadi translates to "valley" and the name Hanifa comes from the ancient tribe of Banu Hanifa. Combined, "Wadi Hanifa" is a 120km valley that cuts through Riyadh passing through the towns and villages of Uyaynah, Jubaila, Irga, Dirriyah, and Ha'ir. A river in the middle of the desert... phenomenal!

Date palms.

Rain fell heavily on this part of the region during the pre-historic times (that's hard to imagine looking at it now). Global climate changes had severely affected rainfall on this side of the earth. This wadi has long dried up but a large sewage facility was constructed in 1982 to bring forth treated water to cultivate date palms, to run oil refineries, and to irrigate public gardens and parks. Plans of preserving Wadi Hanifa are taking place. For now, this valley is a picnic place for all. Pwede ring dito n'yo gawin ang mga emo moments n'yo. O kaya naman, mag-roleplay ala Simba and Kufu sa Lion King!

Palms lining the park street.

Picnic area.

Photo op area.

I was all amazed with the Al-Elb dam. May water dam sa Riyadh?! Seryoso?! Yup, seriously. The thing is, wala namang tubig. Lol. I'm not sure how it works because there was no one around to be interviewed.

Al-Elb Dam.

The Ar-Riyadh Development Authority is leading efforts to rehabilitate and preserve the Wadi Hanifa wetlands. I'll consider myself lucky when I get to see the Wadi Hanifa with water running across lush vegetation of date palms and verdant plants in this lifetime. Let's go green!

Envision this...

Sustainable water management system.

Wow, these images can bring a lot of optimism to this country. Who would've thought that Riyadh can boast of something like this?

Go and visit the Wadi Hanifa wetlands this haj holidays especially when you're sawa na with the Red Sands and don't have plans to go out of the capital city.

§undrenched

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Eid!

Here's our gift to all our readers:

May everyone make the most of the Eid Al-Adha celebrations!


The Pink Tarha

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can We Expect Any Justice?

There are no words fit to depict the anger, disbelief and outrage that the Filipino community feels towards the gruel and un-Godly acts of violence in Maguindanao. The Pink Tarha Team joins everyone in prayer for the victims of this massacre. After all, with the looks of the so-called "judicial process" in our country, PRAYER seems to be the only refuge we can all reliably resort to.

Tomorrow, 26 November 2009 has been declared as a National Day of Mourning for the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre. We encourage everyone to wear a black ribbon in commemoration of this event.

How HAJJ is Performed

It is a very special and holy time in the Kingdom right now as Muslims from all over the world are beginning to flock Makkah (Mecca) in honor of one of their sacred duties: the Hajj pilgrimage.


We've covered some of the basics about Ramadan and the Eid Al-Fitr holidays and now, to tell our readers about what Hajj is, The Pink Tarha thought it best to take a cue from someone who has actually performed this rite. And luckily, E's best friend, AJ has experienced Hajj first-hand and was more than happy to do a short interview:

PT: Hi AJ, Thanks for taking the time to do this.

AJ: Not a problem. :)

PT: Okay, let's get the ball rolling. We both know that Hajj is right around the corner. If you were to explain what Hajj is to someone who's never heard of it before, how would you briefly describe it?

AJ: It's one of the five obligations of all Muslims. They should perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime, if they have the means. This is a chance for Muslims to wash away all their sins.

PT: You've experienced going to Hajj, correct? Tell us how your first experience was like.

AJ:
I can't remember much nung first Hajj ko. I was a little kid pa lang at madalas nakasakay ako sa shoulders ng papa ko or my other uncles na kasama kasi maiipit ako kung hindi nila ako itaas. I probably didn't do the Hajj correctly that time kasi I wore briefs, which is bawal :P How it made me feel? Excited and very tired lagi pag dating ng gabi, every day ng Hajj is an adventure. Paiba-iba kayo ng place and may time doon na we slept outdoors without any tents man lang. We always buy our food doon na cooked na since wala kami dalang lutuan. I remember almost every time na kakain kami may nagsh-share ng food nila, lalapit sayo and they'll offer you some of their food or "siwak", yung kahoy na toothbrush ng Arabs.


Photo credit to The Bridgeman Art Library


PT: What are the highlights of performing Hajj?

AJ: From what I remember, you first go to Mina to pray for one day, then the next day at sunrise you go to Mount Arafat, may mosque doon and you will pray there until sunset. Then may pupuntahan ulit na isang place (I can't remember the name) and you will pray there as well. The next day, at sunrise, you go back to Mina and collect pebbles to throw at the Stone Towers. After which, you go back to the Holy Mosque and perform "Tawaf"-- yung pagiikot sa Ka'aba, pray, drink water sa Zamzam Well, then circle between the two hills of Safa and Marwa. Once you're done with that, you could cut your hair na or shave it.

After all that, you have to go back sa Mina to throw pebbles at the Stone Towers again and pray there. This last part is similar to the retreat of Christians when they go to one place to pray, meditate, etc.

I might have missed some parts, but basically, those are the major rituals na ginagawa.

PT: What does one learn (or gain) from performing Hajj?

AJ: You'll learn a lot aside from the obvious spiritual gain. If you're performing Hajj, its like you're in a different world with a different set of rules. Mas valuable doon yung mga ginagawa mong mabuti kaysa how you look, etc.


An Islamic trinket portraying a picture of Makkah during Hajj.


PT: Should a fellow Muslim not go to Makkah during Hajj, is there any alternative he/she should do to coincide with the occasion?

AJ: You could fast, parang Ramadan rin yung time na to eh, where when you do good deeds, its reward is multiplied.

PT: Why do pilgrims wear white "towels" and some even have their heads and beards shaven? What is its significance?

AJ: The towel is a way to show the equality between Muslims. Shave their hair? It's not really compulsary,. You could just have it cut while some other people say na kahit plucking three strands of your hair will do pero I have mine cut na lang to be sure. The significance here is that you show that your submission to God is more important than how you look to other people.

PT: Are women segregated in the activities? Do the women also go around the Ka'aba?

AJ: I haven't heard of a woman going to Hajj alone, normally may kasama siyang family or isang group sila na puro babae. If may family, then they can be with their family while doing some of the Hajj activities but not all. Kasi, meron ibang activities na hiwalay talaga yung babae at lalake like praying. Then you can just meet up ulit afterwards. Yes, naglilibot rin yung babae sa Ka'aba. They can do this with their families by their side.

Muslim women gathered in prayer.


PT: You've been really helpful. Thank you for taking the time AJ. May you have a blessed Hajj.

AJ: You are most welcome.

Hajj also provides a 5-7 day holiday for most of the public and private sectors, which means most of us are on vacation around this time. The celebration after the Hajj period is called the Eid Al-Adha. More on that on our later entries. Meanwhile, as expats, let us enjoy the non-working holidays ahead and may it be a fruitful one!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Photo A Day 4

While at a local bazaar, we chanced upon this unlikely item and found it interesting. It's certainly a sword-like object, but definitely not large and long enough to kill an enemy (unless your enemy is a bug of some sort). It is made of pure silver, more or less 3 inches long and makes a good souvenir. Can somebody tell us what this is called in Arabic?


No, it's not a manicurist's tool. :P

Like we've mentioned before, we'll be keeping tabs on who answers regularly (and correctly) on our A Photo A Day series and we'll send a pack of goodies (surprise!) on your way at the start of 2010.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Ordinary People, Extraordinary Impact"

--That was the tag line of CNN when their search for nominees for the CNN Hero of the Year 2009 began. Clearly however, their eventual Top 10 nominees were not "ordinary" at all. Those ten people were extraordinary people to begin with, and as logic would find it, they were meant to accomplish extraordinary things.

The Pink Tarha Ladies proudly salutes Efren Penaflorida's win as the CNN Hero of the Year 2009. We voted relentlessly online and we truly believe in the cause that he and his volunteers have 'pushcarted' all the way to the best that it could be. It is rejuvenating to hear that a Filipino has been recognized for his service. A service that was not for fortune nor fame. But a service for the sake of service itself; a sincere and significantly life-changing one.




We also congratulate the rest of the Heroes: Brad Blauser, Roy Foster, Doc Hendley, Andrea Ivory, Betty Makoni, Jorge Munoz, Budi Soehardi, Derrick Tabb and Jordan Thomas. Each and every single story of these nine people are remarkable. God bless them all.


Again, Efren, THANK YOU.

MABUHAY KA!


To know more about Efren's cause and how you can help, visit their website:
http://dynamicteencompany.org/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Exposing "Haraj"

Are you a bargain hunter? Don't mind the hand-me-downs? Or are you just plain thrifty when it comes to purchasing furniture, appliances and/or clothes? There is a worldwide recession so you should at least consider answering a 'maybe' to one of those questions. Either way, the Pink Tarha Ladies are going to show you where you can get a cheap yet good (and sometimes even great) finds.

Say hello to "HARAJ". It's Riyadh's best-kept, open-secret for all things used and unused for a knockout price. It is the Ukay-Ukay Headquarters of Saudi Arabia. The mecca of Garage Sale aficionados. The melting pot of anything and everything you want thrown out and sold again. (Okay, I am running out of idioms). But you get the picture. Not yet? Well, S and I went on a mission to save you the fantasy trip of what this place we talk of looks like by going there ourselves and stealthily* taking photos just for you to 'get-the-picture'.

Here's some primary views of Haraj (click on the image to enlarge):

Ok, at first glance, it looks like a dump. BUT this place is like SM. They've got it all for you!

Streets are lined up with stalls filled with junkyard goodies. Don't be misled because in this place, you have to keep in mind that one man's trash, is another man's treasure. And if you are patient enough (with a strong immune system), seeing beyond it's apparent appearance may just bring you some good finds at an extremely affordable price.


A parking lot turned garage sale.

As you can see, most of the rummaging happens under the clear blue sky. It is often advised though, to visit Haraj on the early hours of the morning because when the sun hits high, you're gonna sweat it out big time. It is also encouraged to visit during the pre-winter to winter seasons since it's more convenient in terms of the weather and usually, it's around the same time as the Eid holidays so a lot of "new" items arrive (because most Saudis get rid of their old stuff prior to Eid to have something new).

CLOTHES

Check out those racks!

There is a particular area in Haraj where all the used clothes' stalls are stationed. When you get there, you will find almost any kind of clothing you could imagine. From baby's clothes to old granny panties (Believe me, I've seen them hung out on hangers outside the stalls). Usually they're segregated by kind: Children's Apparel, Ladies and Men's Clothing, Jackets/Coats, Shoes, Sleepwear and Underwear (sometimes!).Back in the day you can get clothing items for 1SR to 2SR each. When the sellers realized how much of a hit it was to the Filipinos, they started hiking up. Nowadays, it's either a 3 items for 10SR or 3SR-5SR per item.

GOWNS

Who's gonna know these came from a second-hand shop?

One profitable form of business that has spurted out from Haraj is the gown-rental business. A lot of Filipinos come to Haraj to scavenge for beautiful and/or presentable-enough gowns which they later on have dry cleaned and sent to the Philippines to be rented by paying customers (usually those who joins beauty pageants). As you can see from those above, you'd have to admit it's an ingenious idea! I'm not part of such a business endeavor, I just like cheap finds. Gowns are priced between 10SR-50SR, depending on kind and style. See the first on the left? It's a Zara, off-shoulder goddess-drape dress just for 10SR! It's now hanging clean and fresh inside my closet. ;)

ACCESSORIES

Fancy jewelries and even a tiara!

You can glam up those gowns if you purchase these sets of fancy jewelry. And if you are going to use those gowns for entering a beauty pageant, then there's also a studded-tiara for sale! FTW!

BAGS

Piles and piles of bags!

Everything may look a bit disconcerting, but like I mentioned, given that you are patient and with a strong immune system, you might as well find a barely used designer bag in there. I''ve had friends discover some chic bags at Haraj. Just look at what S picked up (last one on the right). Not too shabby, imho. Bag prices range from 3SR-10SR. Make sure to get a good bargain!

HOME NEEDS

Sofa Land.

This strip stretches out towards the whole block, filled with different kinds of sofas: from the retro style to the victorian touch. They got couches, loveseats, sofa-beds and even dining tables with chairs. One cool feature of this section in Haraj is that should you be interested in purchasing any set that you'd like to have in your house, the owners of the store can arrange for pick-up trucks for rent that can deliver the items to your home. Some Filipinos go as far as sending one whole set via cargo shipping to the Philippines. (So I heard).


Plug me in and I'm yours.

You will also find rows of appliances available in Haraj. Most of them are not even used, just liquidated items from factories. And they still work. Here you see a family of vacuum cleaners and a line-up of washing machines. They also have oven stoves, refrigerators, toasters, microwaves and other electronic gadgets. With a good haggle, you could get yourself a decent deal!


PHEW! What you saw is probably just a third of the whole Haraj area. There are still a lot to see in there. We were just too tired already from the 3-hour hustle and bustle amidst the madding crowd. Just remember these few tips should you decide to visit:

1. Mind your health. When in Haraj, keep in mind that you will be going through a lot of used and stocked items as well as rubbing shoulders with a whole lot of people (especially during peak seasons). It will be dusty, dirty and a melting pot for you to catch some form of virus. If necessary, bring latex gloves and a face mask (some people really do this) since you're going to be rummaging through items that have come from who knows where. Bring your own water too; it's good for dehydration and washing your hands.

2. Keep your valuables safe. Unfortunately, Riyadh is not safe from petty thieves and with an overcrowded area, you can expect that a lil' devil is lurking somewhere, scouting for an unguarded purse or mobile phone. They are usually referred to as "Ali Baba". Also, beware of perverts. They are also lurking around for weak targets. So be street-smart and better yet, have a male relative to accompany you.

3. Bring an extra BIG bag. If you're hitting Haraj on a mission to get a whole lotta' stuff, I suggest you bring one big mommy bag, or a giant paper bag to put all your purchases in. A bayong of-sorts, if you may. Vendors just give out their items in little plastic bags and if you plan to buy lots, it can be a hassle for you carrying several little plastic bags. With an extra big bag, you can just throw in your purchases in them and carry on with your 'second-hand' shopping spree. ;)

I hope you learned a thing or two from our "expedition" to Haraj. We will feature our purchases one of these days, we just have to arrange a photoshoot for that. Meanwhile, if any of of you have experienced going through this junkyard-jungle, let us know about your cheap yet great finds. It's not everyday that someone finds treasure from another one's 'trash'. ;)

Happy weekend everyone!

Cheers!
-ec-

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Photo A Day 3

As I was on my way to work this morning, I was welcomed by a beautiful painting up in the sky. Our Photo A Day 3 needs no guessing. I just thought of sharing what I saw with all of you out there.

A beautiful Wednesday morning sky in Riyadh, KSA

Looking at this made me feel as if God was saying a warm hello on a cold, winter morning. And that no matter how many cloudy days may loom ahead, the Light will always find a way to brightly shine through. :) Happy Wednesday everyone!

Cheers to Salary Day too!
-ec-

Answer on A Photo A Day 2 is... Saudi Airlines! It's also known as 'Saudia.' The Ahlan Wasahlan magazine features lots of places that will entice you to pack and have a much-needed vacation. The magazine is divided into two parts: an Arabic version and an English version... all in one issue! As we have said, we'll be keeping tabs on who answers correctly and frequently on our A Photo A Day series. Winner will receive a very very special package, LOL! ;)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pacquiao's Diamond Belt

(Magsitayo po tayo para sa Pambasansang Awit ng Pilipinas)


It's the BIGGEST news for Pinoys worldwide today:
MANNY PACQUIAO TKOs MIGUEL COTTO.
Dumadagundong ang pride sa dibdib ko.


Whenever Manny wins, I get the grandest feeling pumping inside of me, making me want to strut the hallways, hold my head up high and hope that no foreigner messes with a Filipino today, because I'm helluva sure that we're gonna kick your butt. Nothing can bring us down today. Not now. Not ever.

Speaking of strutting, I am completely glazed over the idea of that Diamond Belt the WBC had specifically created for the Pacquaio-Cotto fight. I would looovvee to have that belt on a power-catwalk! this special, Elite Champions-only belt is made of 8-karat gold plates, 861 diamonds, six rubies, 221 emeralds and 180 Swarovski crystals all mounted on an Italian Ferrari leather and displays the pictures of both Pacquiao and Cotto as well as the Puerto Rican Philippine flags. According to FightFan.com:

The WBC Diamond belt, will fill that important emptiness, to grant a special distinction to the elite winner, like it is obtaining with his triumph the very prestigious WBC green and gold belt, now with diamonds, just to be won by very few. For it will only be delivered when two of the greatest professional boxers of the moment fight each other.



This is the belt that Manny won. Apart from the WBO Welterweight Belt of Miguel Cotto. The Diamond Belt cost around $50,ooo to make. Talk about fancy bling blings now, why don't you? Manny seen here swimming in his winning belts:



Well, Manny sure earned every single diamond on that thing. And even though the rest of us are not as fashionably-jewelled as he (and Jinkee) is right now, no gold nor diamond could make us feel like a million bucks compared to the love, unity and pride that Manny Pacquiao brings to our hearts as Filipinos.

MABUHAY KA MANNY!!!

Cheers!
-ec-

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Photo A Day 2

Ahlan Wasahlan is a term used to welcome a guest. Thus, it is the most apt title to a magazine which you've probably read in one of your journeys to the Middle East. Guess which airlines carries Ahlan Wasahlan as its in-flight magazine featuring scenic spots all over the world that will make any vacation worthwhile.

It's a pretty easy question (no using Google! :P) so no prize on this one. Hehe. But okay, we'll send you our copy if you want one.

Answer on A Photo A Day 1 is the Triple Avocado from Tutti Mango. This concoction has all the fruits and nuts available on the counter swimming in avocado juice. A treat for everyone, especially the health-conscious! :) If you plan to drop by a Tutti Mango branch, get their avocado or strawberry juice in jugs. Yum!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Picturesque Jeddah

The Pink Tarha Ladies would like to welcome our very first "guest blogger" for this particular entry. Her name is Nikoll Long and she's a professional photographer. She's a big fan of our blog and when we saw pictures of her recently concluded Jeddah trip on Facebook, we just couldn't resist and asked her if she can share her experience with us and the rest of our readers. Pink Tarha ladies E and R have both been to Jeddah and have featured their trips here and here. Nikoll, however, has a unique story to tell about Jeddah. Just let the pictures speak for themselves!


I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Jeddah, one of the Kingdom’s “hot spots” for tourism. Although I’ve been in the Kingdom for three and a half years, I had yet to visit this diving paradise until a couple of weeks ago.

Located on the Red Sea, Jeddah is known for it’s relaxed atmosphere, beautiful corniche and world class diving. I have to say, however, I didn’t really know what to expect. Are the people really that different? Is the culture more open? Is there anything fun to do there? The answer is yes!

Jeddah is about 2,500 years old and was a fishing village that the tribes of Quda’a first settled in. For many years it was the official port into Saudi Arabia for pilgrims arriving to perform Hajj and Omra in Mecca.

Welcome to Jeddah!

We arrived on a Wednesday evening and transferred to our hotel, Al Bilad.We could feel the difference in the humidity before we got off the plane. A shuttle for the hotel greeted us, which was great! No taxi fare! This service is included in the room charge at Al Bilad.

We ate dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. I have to recommend eating somewhere a bit more local than this American chain that had slow service (despite our group of 12 being almost the only ones there!) and the food wasn’t anything special. One of our taxi drivers recommended a place called Al Wadaa for dinner, which is along the north end of the corniche. Apparently it has plenty of seafood and other fresh favorites and patrons can sit out on a patio that overlooks the sea. I think I’ll check it out next time I go!

Thursday morning my mom and I hired a taxi recommended by the hotel to take us around town. We drove along the corniche stopping every so often to shoot photos and appreciate the endless sculptures and works of art throughout the city.

One of my favourite pieces of art in the city is a row of giant lanterns that light up in the evening. They’re absolutely gorgeous!

Another interesting attraction is the floating mosque, which is located on the corniche and is on stilts in the water.

A brilliant section of downtown is Al Balad, which is the old city area of Jeddah. It’s full of old mud houses that in some cases are several stories high. The buildings have been around for more than 200 years, and although some of them show their age, they’re doing quite well for having been made of wooden beams and blocks constructed of sand from the sea.

We stopped briefly at the antique souk, but found that many of the wares are from other parts of the Middle East, such as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. There weren’t many items that were native to Jeddah, or even Saudi Arabia for that matter. Although we didn’t explore any of the other souks, supposedly the carpet and handicraft souks are excellent and have some of the best shopping (souk-wise) in the Kingdom.

The people in Jeddah are very different from those in Riyadh. They don’t stare or gawk at tourists. No one told us not to take photos and everyone behaved quite openly and civilly to us. The general atmosphere is very relaxed and people seem to take the time to enjoy life in Jeddah. The traffic (although still terrible) is definitely a few steps above Riyadh and you’re surprised to find drivers actually give way some of the time! It’s as though you’re not in Saudi Arabia anymore!

After our morning of touring the city we decided it was time to hit the beach. Al Bilad Hotel (like many hotels in Jeddah) has its own private beach to which they provide a free shuttle several times per day.

We hopped on and in 20 minutes we were standing on a private beach full of people all dressed in swimming attire. Saudis and expats alike hung up their abayas and thobes to enjoy the sun, sand and water.

I had never really been snorkeling before, so having my first experience be in the Red Sea was a treat to say the least. As soon as I put my face in the water an entirely new and breathtaking world appeared before me.

Fish swam right up to my face as I explored the beautiful multi-coloured coral and sea life.

I was hooked! The next day we took the early bus after breakfast and spent the entire day snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. With food and drinks on the beach and plenty of sun there’s no need to leave, unless you’re catching a flight that night back to Riyadh!

A weekend away in Jeddah makes one appreciate some of the amazing things we can find in the Kingdom. We as expats are very lucky to experience treasures such as the un-touched parts of the Red Sea, where tourists outside of the Kingdom will never get the opportunity.

So, for all you Riyadh dwellers that are looking for a peaceful, relaxing and truly refreshing weekend away within the Kingdom check out Jeddah.

PS. I hear the malls are amazing! I thought fans of this blog would be especially interested in that fact! I think I’ll make the effort to include retail therapy in my next trip there!


-Nikoll Long aka BB (Blonde Bombshell)


You can view more of Nikoll's beautiful photograph portfolio at her website:

Nikoll Long Photography
Website:
www.nikolllong.com
Email: contact@nikolllong.com

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Photo A Day 1

Welcome to our first A Photo A Day entry!

To fill in lull moments in our blog (aka The Pink Tarha gone lazy), we'll be taking random photos on certain days and we'll be posting them here if we find it interesting. Hope you'll find 'em interesting too. It'll be quite interactive! We'll make you guess what it is, where it was shot, or any random question about it so here goes the first APAD:


This yummy fruity concoction (salad+juice) is probably more familiar with Riyadh people. Guess what it is and where we got it and we'll treat you to one! :P

Guess on the comment box! Answer on the next A Photo A Day!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How To Keep In Touch

Are you ready to throw the remote control on your tv screens because political ads are suddenly hogging too much air time? Or freaking out because a certain ex-president suddenly decides to run for the same office which threw him (more of isinuka) out a couple of years ago? Or bombarded with presidentiables whose names escape you the moment you step out of the door? Gah, election fever is definitely in the air. It'll be worse than the coming winter season in this hemisphere, we tell you. So anyway, let's not waste precious cyber ink on this people. Not yet for now. Instead, read our entry, which doesn't tackle Philippine politics because we'd hate to give you migraine and high blood. After all, it's our vow to keep everything "light and fresh" (parang salad lang, hehe).

This how-to is for the children of OFWs left in the Philippines, because we were once these kids so we cannot just relate, we actually lived that life before. Thinking of it, we're still living this life. However, we incorporated some tips for OFWs in Saudi Arabia too.

It's not the distance that breaks an OFW. It's the homesickness that does it. To help your OFW parents/loved ones keep their high spirits, please keep in touch. There's nothing like precious minutes listening to your voices or reading your letters. For your parents, that already bridges the gap their being abroad has created. We're living in such a high-tech world. Keeping in touch is such a breeze! It's as easy as maintaining a Facebook account, or easier.

1. Use your phones.
Aminin, your cellphone is one of the first katas ng Saudi (or insert the country where your OFW parents work) in your family so put it to good use by texting or calling your loved ones abroad. Imagine if we're still using those aged telephone booths. We didn't even have those in the province circa 90s! All we had was a suking tindahan which offered long distance calls at exorbitant prices but we had no choice but to use their phone because it was the only one in the entire barangay! For this generation, cellphones are now a part of life. You can shorten your messages by using abbreviations but please... no Wer na u? Ditoh na me. Muztah pow? :P

The way we keep in touch now.
Sundrenched's Nokia E75, Shoegarfreeruby's Nokia N96, and Eyecandy's Nokia E71. The three of us are SAWA users. Mary (who's still in the Philippines) uses a Sony Ericsson and Mobily.

For OFWs in Saudi Arabia, there are two major networks in the country. Check out http://www.stc.com.sa for Aljawal/SAWA or http://mobily.com.sa for uh, Mobily. There's the newest contender Zain if you want. 0.45 halalas (P5.00) for an international text on all networks. Watch out for promos like 50% off on international calls or additional load for every card purchase. For those who are looking for cellphones, go to Mursalat or Batha to get the best discounts. However, be careful of fake/second-hand units. Ask for a good suki from fellow Filipinos. Wait for the promos of Hyperpanda, Carrefour, or Geant. They also give huge discounts on cellphones.

2. Go online.
What will we do without emails? Just make sure your OFW parents/loved ones know how to use the Internet. There are some who don't so make sure they're tech-abled. You know naman how the oldies go... (We mean our fathers for instance, lol... lagot!) the IT boom did not happen in their generation so they rather call than email. And parents who usually work in the field (building/road engineers, construction workers, etc.) are too tired to face the computer once they settle in their villas/flats. Tinatamad silang mag-type (rason ng fathers namin). But for those parents who are email/messenger-savvy, then you children can breathe a sigh of relief. Just email them everyday and instant message them in schedules that you agree upon. You can also keep them updated through your social networks (which is weird btw pero baka gusto n'yo kasi silang maging ka-Facebook or ka-Twitthearts eh). Or, create a blog where they can easily read up on what's going on with your life in the Philippines (yun nga lang, buking kayo agad sa mga escapades n'yo!).

Here's some extra tip on tools/platforms you can use: For email, use Gmail. For instant messenger, use Yahoo messenger. For video chat/call, use Skype. For blogs, use Wordpress or Blogger. IOHO, they're the most dependable ones around.

For OFWs in Saudi Arabia, you might want to visit http://www.stc.com.sa for your internet needs. Call their 907 hotline for installation and grievances though the first complaint that you will probably lodge is their hotline itself. Lol. They take forever in answering. The lines are always busy (baka puro reklamo kasi, jk). And if they do take it, the operator will just direct you to check the answers to your question online. Kailangan ng kulit powers so they give you a line asap!

3. Go old school.
There's just something to cassette tapes and handwritten letters that still appeals to old souls. As we have shared with you, we were once those children whose voices you can hear in those tapes (kulang na lang album!). We talk a lot back then (kahit ngayon naman yata madaldal pa rin kami), even if whatever we were saying didn't make sense. We just like to share stories of what our day was like to our fathers who were somewhere far away. Side A and B are filled with lots of experiences and events we wished they could have experienced with us personally.

This genius invention during those times, accompanied by a handwritten letter, fills the distance. The effort that goes into recording and writing will surely make your OFW parents/relatives' eyes tear up. However, please avoid starting with "Kamusta ka na? May padala ka na ba?" or ending with "PS. Magpadala ka naman ng pera as soon as possible." Nakakasira ng moment eh... Also, gandahan n'yo naman ang handwriting ha.

For OFWs in Saudi Arabia, you will have to use the mail address of your company. Also, Saudi Arabia uses postal boxes instead of the typical house no., street, etc. type of address used in the Philippines. Chances are, you wouldn't even know what street your flat/villa is located. There's the Saudi Post located on the way to Batha but we haven't tried mailing a letter so we don't know the process, sorry.

4. Connect with the TV.
It'll be a great surprise when your OFW loved ones find their names on the television. We're not sure with GMA's pakulo but ABS-CBN has TFC Connect (Kapamilya ba ang Pink Tarha?! Hahaha...). Maybe you can have Bianca Gonzales greet your loved ones abroad for you or watch Wowowee in the studio and create posters greeting your parents or make an announcement in the Global Post, LOL. The most important thing is make sure they will be able to watch it. Baka naman sa Wowowee kayo nagpunta eh Eat Bulaga naman pala ang pinapanood nila! :P


For OFWs in Saudi Arabia, you know where to go when you want to subscribe to TFC and Pinoy TV, yes? We're sure you do. Ang pagpapakabit ng mga channels na yan yata ang unang-unang ginagawa pagdating dito sa Saudi noh. ;)

Did we skip some keeping in touch options? Please share with us how you communicate and keep that communication lines open with your loved ones. The only thing to remember now is that "There is no long distance in love, it always finds ways to bring hearts together no matter how many miles there are between them." And the ways, ladies and gentlemen, are above.

Have a happy week ahead, kabayans!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Freshly-Baked 'Bake Fresh'

Do not talk to the Pink Tarha ladies when we're high with the sweet stuff. The girls and I are so out of this world when nibbling desserts that you can only talk to us sensibly an hour after we devour the last morsel of chocolate we're addicted to. (Right now, we're currently addicted to 7 Days chocolate croissant.) While we're not eating anything sweet at this moment, indulge us by reading about our undying love for everything sweet.

We're always craving for desserts after a meal. Without one, it's like not having a happy ending to a fairly tale spun by the main course's glorious texture of meats and delectable flow of sauces. To cap our meal perfectly is an obsession that we put to heart every single time we eat. And we also snack on pastries. Don't even start talking about cakes, petit fours, croissants, cupcakes... wait, did someone say cupcakes?!

I, Sundrenched, am an advocate for cupcakes (if only they can run for the presidency). Yes, cupcakes. They're so overrated - simple looking small wonders that spell expensive in every bite - but for some reason, I like sinking my teeth into butter cream frosting and yellow cake. Must be the cuteness factor. I'm looking for the Cupcakes by Sonja variety but I could not find them in Riyadh. Only Munch Bakery in Jeddah seems to get close (but oh so far away from me that I haven't tried 'em though I'm a very willing taster). Too bad huh? The good thing is, The Pink Tarha ladies found somethingone better... a passionate home baker who turns butter, sugar, eggs, and flour into wonderful cupcakes and a whole lot more!

Nadia Tariq Baig is a Pakistani who arrived in this desert five years ago. She's a super woman who balances taking care of her husband and daughter, working on an online research job, and baking in her, must we say, very lovely IKEA-furnished home. She started baking as a hobby but it eventually became a passion that she put her heart into. The stuff she bakes awed us the first time we saw them on her Picasa and Flickr albums that we ordered immediately. Excited much! I am partial to the cupcakes of course.



A basket of flowers...

for The Pink Tarha Ladies!


Love the creativity.

It was so sweet of her to surprise us with this basket of flowers. We haven't seen this design in her online album and we were so envious of her creativity and artistry. (Why are we so deprived of such artistic hands?! Haha! Our photos did not do them justice!) With delicate petals made of pink and purple butter cream and letters of white and yellow fondant, please don't ask us how we even mustered the guts to ruin this beautiful creation by eating them. We're guilty! At first, we were seriously considering placing it at the center table and stare at it with admiring eyes for as long as we want but the freshly-baked aroma beckons like a SALE sign we couldn't resist. Lol.

The cupcakes are a sight to behold but what about the taste? So sorry folks that we had to ruin the flowers! A good thing to do or else we couldn't have tasted the soft dense cake beneath that icing. Nadia's cupcakes create a diversion of texture veering away from the usual moist baked confections. You may not want to gobble up all that icing in there, unless you're like Shoegarfreeruby who didn't hesitate to eat a rose even if it wasn't sugarfree! (She did it only once though, hehe.)

Cream cheese marble cake.

Chocolate and cheese in a swirl.

The marble cake is a subtle hymn to sugar. It has the right sweetness, enough for it to become indulgent. (Enough for my diabetic father to enjoy it and not feel guilty about the sugar overload.) It was moist enough to unify both flavors but crumbly enough to allow each flavor to shine. You get our drift? We all liked this best!


Fudge brownies.

Rest assured, anyone with a sweet tooth won't resist a brownie. Eyecandy ordered this bunch and found Nadia's brownies to be sweet and chocolate-y enough.The walnuts does wonders for her brownies. The key to a great brownie however, is to have the right balance of moist and chewy-ness. Eyecandy would prefer to rate this brownies a 7 out of 10.

Dinner rolls.

Nadia doesn't only bake sweet pastries. She also has this soft dinner rolls better served hot. They're the perfect partner to curries and sauces. A simple butter, like what I put, is also adequate enough to enjoy these irregularly-shaped rolls. With each breaking of the bread, a whiff of fresh from the oven aroma permeates around us. The glazed outside sprinkled tenderly with sesame seeds covers a soft, fragrant center.

We can only eat this much but if we can, we could've ordered more from her menu. The French macaron creation she recently blogged about looks mouthwatering. It looks professionally done even if it's the first time she baked macaroons. Amazing, yes? Her cinnamon rolls look seductive while her cakes are oh-so-pretty! She can decorate the cakes and cupcakes with designs you want - from roses to cartoon characters. Told you, she's artistic! And very accommodating too.

We are so enthralled to meet a home baker in Saudi Arabia,(and an expat of another nationality at that)! Now, we don't have to resort to commercial bakeshops alone for special occasions. And aside from eating all these delectable goodies, the best part about discovering Bake Fresh is knowing Ms. Nadia who's as sweet as her pastries. We encourage you to order from her. You will not only satisfy your sweet cravings, you'll gain a nice friend too.


Bake Fresh
Ms. Nadia Tariq Baig
Suleimania, Riyadh, KSA
nadia.tariqbaig@gmail.com
Order two days in advance

PS. We didn't even know other nationalities are reading our blog until we received her email saying she's been a fan of the Pink Tarha. To say that we're overwhelmed and thankful is not enough to show what we felt upon reading her email.
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