Stephanie in Dubai

September 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Check out Steph’s fascinating post on Dubai!  Oh how I wish I was there! From

Saturated is the way of this city, dripping heavily with perspiration in the hot humid air, painted an opulent color of glistening gold and silver, sagging under the weight of money made from thick, dark oil.

However, Dubai’s majestic alien towers house nothing but air-conditioned, fake circulating air. It is an empty, affluent city redefining superficiality and westernization.

So, calling all Dubaians— where are all of your people? This city feels lonely and cold, echoing hollow without laughter or noise, just unvoiced silence and stares. I am fairly certain that all of this modern infrastructure takes a ton of money and time, but dear me, in my opinion you chose the wrong place to do so! The desert is a flushing hot and humid experience, and I am happy that when we head back there on our next layover, we’re not headed back outside away from 12degC AC.

Fascinating facts I’ve learned from our tour guide (we got a night tour of the city, glowing and futuristic under hazy fog, 93 degrees at midnight, damn.):

1) Petrol is cheaper than water. It’s about 35 cents a litre for gas, and 80 cents a litre for water.

2) Locals get free education and health insurance, to name a few benefits. Foreigners pay much, much more.

3) However, foreigners make up about 80% of the population (working or living), the other 20% are local people.

4) Foreign women can easily obtain citizenship, as local men can marry foreign women; however, local women are forbidden by law to marry foreign men. Thus, it’s also very difficult for foreign men to obtain citizenship.

5) Our tour guide lived in the Dubai Desert— in a labor camp (literally. We looked it up on the bus map today). He gets paid about $500/month for working 6 days a week for 12 hours a day.

6) He explained that there is no crime in the city because the city is so expensive, you must work hours upon hours a day. There is no time to go home and formulate criminal plans after work.

7) Houses here go for an average of about $8 million (we drove past many, and also the Shiekh’s palaces!), and apartments are about $40K for a 99-year lease (in the Palms). In addition, only locals are allowed to buy certain property, such as the apartments on the Palm’s fronds or houses on Jumeirah Road.

8) Of the seven United Arab Emirates, Dubai is the very commercial and rich city, which then allows more lenient laws on alcohol, religion and clothing. I’m trying to understand all the dichotomies between different religions and customs, but still was surprised at the sheer number of women dressed/veiled modestly. My long dress and cardigan didn’t even compare.

While briefing us about Dubai, the driver took us around to see many distinctive points of interests. I’ll post pictures soon! Settling into my hotel in Nairobi (which is an awful adventure in itself, will describe more later!) Good night, world.


Bamboo Lota is Really Going to Malawi

September 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Bamboo Lota team is finally going to Malawi!

For the past nine months, following the culmination of the MTV/Euronext social entrepreneurship competition,  we have been conducting further research for implementation as well as cultivating stronger relationships with our various contacts and organizations in Malawi.  Initially we had planned to use the prize money to travel to Malawi all together but life and smarter business decision-making forced us to conclude that only the members with a significant amount of time (more than one month) should go.  Hence, here I am in my apartment writing this blog post while Stephanie and Kyson are on their way to Dubai (transfer point to Malawi).

The journey here was most definitely filled with bumps in the road but this past week takes the cake in terms of emotion.  They have run the gamut from pure joy and excitement to frustration and despair.  Let’s just put it this way.  A movie made from scenes of the last week would have been a million times more exciting than a movie made from scenes from the last six months.  But as apprehensive as we were/are in our own abilities, the desire to do good trumps all other distracting factors.

Stephanie and Kyson boarded their plane from SFO today and I can only hope that they can accomplish all that we set out to accomplish with this one trip.  Before leaving we set tangible goals with clear metrics on what constitutes success.  We also set up and planned meetings with focus groups, assisted by the ever-helpful Helen from Emmanuel International.  Last but not least, we planned meetings with government officials to discuss policies and initiatives for cleaner technology in Malawi.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this project from its inception as well as those who may have been more skeptical.    We have learned so much from everyone who has given us feedback, good and bad.  Stephanie, Kyson, and I will all be blogging regarding the progression of the venture on our blog ( so please feel free to drop in anytime or follow Stephanie’s tumbler at
Wish us luck!

The Smartphone Era

September 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

I just got a smartphone for the first time and I have to say…I am loving it. It was hard for me to justify the cost at first (both for the phone and the service) but now that I’ve had it for a few days I am glad that I switched over. Currently I am updating my blog using the WordPress application for Android. I am also employing the new Swype technology which allows me to type words without lifting my finger from the screen. Needless to say, it saves a lot of time while typing on a phone.

My only complaint about the Samsung Vibrant is regarding the well documented GPS bug. Apparently Samsung is coming out with a fix soon but it still really puts a damper on my enthusiasm for the phone.

Secondly….there are a lot of really horrible applications on the Android marketplace. Does anyone know how to program mobile phone apps? I want to try my hand at programming a simple but well designed application for flashcards and eventually, learning things. Supposedly programming a mobile app is the same as programming anything else but I feel like there is still a good amount of difference.

I’m still on the hunt for interesting apps to download so let me know if you have any suggestions. Maybe now that I have wordpress on my phone I will update more often! I did want to update about something but it is late so I will wait until next time. Goodnight!

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