Color Run Abu Dhabi: The Happiest 5k on Earth!

I had a blast at the Color Run in Abu Dhabi today, so I wanted to share the fun!

What is the Color Run about? It’s all about having fun with friends and family, while giving back to the community. There’s an entry fee ($38 for the one I went to) and $1 for every person entered is donated to a local charity. You get a race pack including a Color Run T-shirt, headband, and tattoo included with the price. The point of the Color Run is to have fun and get colorful. You don’t have to run if you don’t want to, which is great for me, because I HATE running.

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Before pictures! Look how clean and white our shirts are…

The Color Run in Abu Dhabi was held at the Yas Marina Circuit, also used for the F1. When it’s not being used for racing events, it’s also open to runners on Tuesdays.

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Loved her wig!

 

About 7000 people showed up for the color run, so we had to be let out in groups of 1000. Some people went all out and dressed up. I can’t tell you how many big hairy guys I saw in tutus…

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What’s cooler than a camera drone?!

Below is a progression of pictures as I get more and more colorful, thanks to the very helpful people at the various color stations we encountered every 15-20 minutes. People were going crazy, throwing fistful of the colorful (and harmless) powders at everyone around them. Bit of advice, if you’re going to do this run, ziploc your camera, or it’s gonna end up with colored powder in it.

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Had so much fun throwing powder at Tim’s face! It looked so cool that people actually stopped to tell him how much they liked his face. He did a pretty good job getting me too. I only wish I could look like that every day; would save so much time on makeup!

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Finish Festival!

The Finish Festival at the end was pretty cool too. We got free t-shirts (after we liked them on Facebook) and a souvenir picture to commemorate our colorfulness. An Emirati reporter wearing an obviously expensive and completely white dishdasha stopped by to interview some runners and it was hilarious watching his discomfort as he watched a crowd of super colorful people passed by. I’m sure everyone was thinking the same thing: let’s throw some at him!

Unfortunately we missed out on the color throwing part because we couldn’t find where to buy the color packets. Oh well…we can do that next time! I hear their next stop is Shanghai…

 

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Christmas in Paradise

 

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So I’m going to be spending Christmas in Phuket and New Year’s in Bali, which means another two weeks away from WordPress. On the plus side, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting anecdotes to tell and pictures to show when I get back (and I’ll get going on the China stuff too!). Merry Christmas everyone, and may the next year be your best!

Pigeon Slangin’ in China

Long time no see everyone! I’ve been out on business in China for the next month, and unfortunately, in the land of the Great Firewall, I was unable to access WordPress. Now I’m back and ready to update everyone on what I’ve been up to!

And what have I been up to? Selling pigeons that’s what.

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Breeding is very important in the pigeon world. The children or brothers and sisters of a champion can be worth 10-100 times more than one with a regular pedigree. These two are sibling to a National winner and worth over $1500 apiece!

And no, not the kind you eat. In many parts of Europe, Asia and North America, there’s a group of people called pigeon fanciers, who race and breed pigeons, either for profit or just as a hobby. It’s kind of like horse racing, where you select the good racers to breed with other good racers in hopes that they will have good racing children. Unlike horses though, they race by flying; I’m only clarifying because one of my coworkers thought they run on a racetrack…

There’s a lot of money in it too. While in Europe, winning a race is mostly a glory thing, in China, prize money can go up to as much as 1 million yuan ($160,000). And that’s small fry compared to the money in pigeon gambling (I’ve heard rumors that it can be as high as 100 million yuan, or $16 million!). A recent seizure by Chinese customs of a pigeon shipment, found a pigeon on board that had sold for 200,000 euros!

So what do I do? I work for a Belgian fancier who sells pigeons to China, interpreting for him and his Chinese customers at pigeon exhibitions around China. This is the third year I’ve been doing this, going with him to exhbitions in Langfang, Jinan, Beijing, and Chengdu. Belgian pigeons are considered to be higher in quality, as fanciers come from families who’ve been raising pigeons for generations. My client, for example, is the fourth generation of pigeon fanciers.

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Taken at the Langfang Pigeon Exhibition. Pigeons are nervous creatures. If they’re resting like this they’re feeling pretty calm.

When I first became involved with pigeons, I was like huh? People spend this much money on birds?! If you looked around a pigeon exhibition, there are vendors selling vitamins and “enhancers”,pigeon feed, loft builders, breeding nests, pigeon carriers, and oddly enough, remote control helicopters. Pigeons go from about 100 yuan ($16) to 100,000 yuan ($16,000) depending on if they have a racing record, breeding record, a good pedigree, or if they “feel” or “look” good.

What does a “good” pigeon look like?

A lot of fanciers will bring a magnifying glass made specifically for looking at pigeon eyes and a little flashlight. What are they looking for?

1. Color. Pigeons have two basic eye colors, yellow and white. Some say that it’s a good idea to pair pigeons with different eye colors because it signals genetic diversity. Yellow eyes are dominant and white eyes are recessive, meaning two pigeons with white eyes will never give a yellow-eyed child. Sometimes fanciers will look for children of champions with the same eye color as their champion parent; they believe that this means the child has inherited their winning parent’s traits. Does this have scientific merit? Not at all…

2. Irises. Pigeons with very reactive irises are seen as healthy, while those whose irises react sluggishly are considered unhealthy.

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A professional photograph of a pigeon, which includes a closeup of the eye. This is a white eye…I think

What does a good pigeon feel like?

This varies among fanciers and the regions that pigeons compete in. Some look for long tail feathers, some look for short. Some like their pigeons thicker, some like them light. Some like their breastbone to be further up, some further down. There isn’t really a universal standard for what a good pigeon feels like. Some are looking for birds that can fly long distances, and some are looking for pigeons who are good at speed races. Some think cocks fly better, some prefer hens. Some are superstitious that pigeons of a certain color are better fliers because they have a winner that was that color. There isn’t really a universal standard for what a good pigeon feels like.

And that’s how you pick a pigeon…

But wait. Once you buy these expensive pigeons, how do you know which one are yours?

If you look at the picture of Chaplin Jr. above, there’s a code BE08-6065416. That’s his band number, which is inscribed on the ring on his right leg since he was a chick. The band number is unique, and cannot be removed after he passes a certain age (unless you cut his leg off…). On his other leg is a chip, which is how they determine which pigeon wins the race. In Belgium, all band numbers are registered to their owners, which means that you can’t steal someone else’s pigeon and race with it.

How do they race?

When the pigeons are a few weeks old, they begin training. This consists of driving them 20-100km away from their lofts and releasing them. Some don’t have the instinct to return home, and are never seen again, but most do come back. For races, pigeons are driven to club lofts and released with pigeons from other fanciers. The first pigeons to “clock in” at home with the highest average speed wins.

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Opening ceremony at the Chengdu Pigeon Exhibition. Cue the Star Wars music (not kidding)!

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Watched a couple of interesting traditional Sichuan performances.

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The release of pigeons! I was terrified of being pooped on…

Even after doing so many exhibitions, I’ve never had the chance to hold a pigeon myself. After all, they’re at least $500 apiece, what if I accidentally let it go? Hopefully one day I’ll be able to go to Belgium and meet some of the pigeons whose offspring I’ve sold…

Stop Webcam Sex Tourism – Sign the Petition Now!

Just saw this video on Youtube, and it made my heart break for the thousands of children who are being abused. The group Terre des Hommes Nederland created a 10-year-old Philipino girl called “Sweetie”, and used her to identify over 1,000 pedophiles in just over 2 months.

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See video at : http://www.youtube.com/sweetie

Sweetie isn’t a real girl, but there are thousands of real children whose bodies are being sold. It’s sex tourism, whether it’s in person or not. Help stop more children from being exploited by signing this petition.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/wcst/?copy

Two Years of Traveling, Two Years of Happiness

I wasn’t a traveler before I met my boyfriend two years ago. Yes, I’d gone to China for work, but I was content to stay in one place. He’s the one who opened up my eyes to the rest of the world.

Today is our 2nd anniversary. We missed our last anniversary because we were doing long distance, literally flying across the world every few months just to see each other. This post is to commemorate all the great times we’ve had together. (If anyone else sees this and wants to gag, I understand.)

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Beijing, 2011. Where we first met.

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Dubai, 2012. You know I’m happy when my eyes start looking more Asian…

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Beijing/Shanghai, 2012. Can’t get enough of that Chinese food!

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Washington D.C, 2012/2013. We didn’t get to spend our anniversary together, but we did have Christmas and New Year’s!

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Turkey, 2013. Culture, food and nature. Yup, this place had everything!

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Vancouver, 2013. Enjoying the Vancouver food tour!

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Hawaii, 2013. Finally, someone else was there to take a picture of us…

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Prague 2013. The John Lennon Wall makes a great background!

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Prague 2013. Oh dear…

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Vienna 2103. On the old school Ferris Wheel, enjoying the view of the sun setting over thecity.

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Abu Dhabi 2012, Abu Dhabi 2013

I can’t wait until next year. I just know we’ll never stop having fun together! *mu~

Recovering from the horror that is air travel

Seen this yet?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/new-airline-seats_n_4101954.html

Yup, it’s official, airline seats ARE getting smaller and more seats are getting crammed in each row. Apparently it’s because we as consumers “demand” low airfare even though gas prices are rising.

I use to really enjoy flying. I remember just a few years back on a trip to Japan, where I had enough leg room to put my bag under and stretch my legs out completely (I’m not tall but I’m not short either). It was a 12-hour flight, but the time passed really quickly. I was able to sleep, and reclining a little didn’t affect the passenger behind me too much (I asked). If I needed to go to the bathroom, I was able to squeeze past the passenger with the aisle seat without him having to get up.

I don’t know if it’s Czech Airlines in particular, but the 6-hour flight to and from Prague was a nightmare. Usually, even after horrendously long flights (think 36 hours from Vancouver to Abu Dhabi), I recover fairly quickly. But this time, although the length of the flight was relatively short, I was completely drained.

My knees were bent the entire time, as there was no room to stretch them out, especially as I had a bag underneath. With all the new airline regulations limiting check-in bags, yet no limitations on duty-free shopping, the overhead bins are almost always overflowing. Airlines like United that charge for any check-in luggage on domestic flights usually have to allow people to check-in bags for free in the end, because there simply isn’t enough space on board. I was sitting next to a fairly large lady, who even though I was as careful as I could, kept glaring at me for bumping into her. When the passenger in front of me reclined, there was no room at all to move, especially come meal time (when did they stop announcing that passengers should put their seats up when food is being served?) My boyfriend and I both had to wait for the lady in the aisle seat to go to the bathroom before going ourselves; even if she was a skinny little waif, there was no way we’d be able to go the bathroom without her getting up and out of the way. Not that we had to go very often; water was only served three times on the flight and the food was so bad I didn’t touch it. 

Give me a day to recover and I’ll fill you in on Prague and Vienna! I’m also working on finishing up Istanbul and Pammukkale. See you soon!