The Value of Values

When you see a glass, do you see it half empty or half full?

Do you live for today or dwell on the past?

Do you thrive on positive contact or wallow about what people may have meant?

Whether you are predisposed to your personality traits by birth, or you believe that you are who you are by virtue of nurture and how you interacted with those around you as you grew up, there are indeed other factors that determine your outlook on life.

One of the main factors that determine your attitude towards others is in fact your country of birth, or to put it in more specific terms, your culture. A country that is a prime example of this is Japan.

Japan is a country known for many things – sushi, sumo, anime and technology – but running through the core of the country is an admirable balance of respect and regime, with the structure of these coming together to make a country who is revered for its values. So imagine a society that puts elders first, instils in children a sense that if you behave correctly towards others, this will be repaid in reciprocal respect kindness – sound idyllic?

Whilst there is no suggestion that living in Japan adds up to a perfect existence, or that people from other countries and cultures are distinctly lacking in similar moral values, the overall ‘vibe’ of the country does ooze an enviable feeling of satisfaction. Indeed, the rate of serious crimes such as murder is statistically one of the lowest in the world, suggesting that respecting your fellow humans runs deep into the Japanese psyche.

One of the reasons for this may be that there are subtle reminders about how to behave towards each other wherever you go. Public parking areas not only make allowances for the disabled and parents with young children, but also the elderly and pregnant ladies.  The tradition of taking your shoes off as you enter a home is not just an age-old tradition, but a way of life that signifies how you should treat the belongings of another. And one that is hard to get used to, is that in Japan there is no tipping – a job should be done correctly without any added incentive and a clear price makes financial exchanges seamlessly cordial.

This all adds up to a place where if you put down your phone and walk away from it in error, return and it is likely to still be there, or put your bag on a chair that’s meant for sitting on, and it is likely to be frowned upon.

In other words, Japan is a country that values values.

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Saito, one of the most beautiful souls we met. | Osaka, Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spartan Race – Dubai 2016

The Spartan Race – Sprint (5k) – Our Style!

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I heard of the Spartan Race last year and it’s not for everybody! The worldwide event, the Spartan Race – Sprint (5k) is a known gut wrenching obstacle race that was recently (2015) launched in Dubai.

The Spartan Race is an increasingly popular, invigorating and challenging obstacle course that is designed with everyone in mind. Plus they have some daring courses that are tailored made to help you build inner and physical strength.

You have a choice of a Spartan Sprint (5 kilometers / 20+ obstacle), Spartan Super (13 kilometers / 25+ obstacles), Junior Spartan (800M to 1.5km for 4 to 15 years old) and Special Spartans (for racers with disabilities). It’s been stuck in my brain since the moment I laid eyes on the ads. I loved the idea! I searched the website, spartanarabia.com and immediately registered my husband, my sister and I.

Who Will Join Us?

All along, I’ve been telling our friends about the Spartan Race and ask them to join our team ‘The Narts.’ Some of our friends called us nuts and some just completely ignored the message. Participating were my husband, my sister, her fiance and me.

Workout Tours

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A few weeks after registration, it was the beginning of the Workout Tours. These are weekly workout sessions that are free of charge. The company and its national sponsors do this to encourage people to workout. Preparation for the race is crucial and they give you that opportunity when you register.

I was so excited that I created a WhatsApp group. I titled it, counting down to the day of the race. The app reminded each of us of our workout tour times and I sent inspirational pictures.

My sister and I went to these tours. Oh gosh… our legs were throbbing with pain afterward. It was like the intensity of the Insanity work-out with Shaun T. The routine was mad crazy and I didn’t do much of it. Nonetheless, the workout tour ended up leaving us with a beautiful feeling! We trained well today. I am very proud of myself and my sister.

Go Big or Go Burpee

We are getting closer to the race date. So we went to the workout tour where it’s usually held – Skydive Dubai. The training event called for rope climbing. They had a specific area where the ropes hung from the ceiling for us to use. I have never shimmied up a rope before and thought it would be terrific if I could.

Not quite a surprise, my sister and I couldn’t do it! It is much harder than it looks. We just laughed and said ‘Oh well, we’ll just do burpees!’ If you fail to complete an obstacle, you must do at least 10 burpees as a penalty.

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A burpee is a full body count exercise that has four steps to it involving squats and a push-ups. What was also not so surprising was that Yazan, my sister’s fiance who’s a slim, flexible young man, was able to do it. We were relieved and happy!

Yazan reached the top and touched the end of the rope. We were so thrilled that we were still clapping as he slid down the rope. After showing us his hands full of deep scratches, we ran to the car and headed to Marina Mall.

We found the nearest pharmacy and got some alcohol pads to sanitize the wounds with and a skin repairing cream. Yazan can’t join the race now with fresh wounds. We all felt pretty bad at this point. We’d just have to go on without him.

Race Day!


The day of the Spartan Race – Sprint 5k, we woke up full of energy and mentally prepared. We stuffed our bags with a change of outfits, towels and the basic essentials and headed to the gas station. There, we grabbed some breakfast and we were off to the race location: Jebel Ali Racecourse.

We arrived an hour before our race, which was 12:45 pm and parked outside. Anything that’s not in a clear bag wasn’t allowed into the race area so the officials gave us some to place our stuff in. Next, we registered in, got our race kit and headed to drop our bags off at security. We were all ready to kick-start the race.

Let’s Get Ready to Race!

So much excitement brewing, but reality was starting to set in. I was getting anxious. They let us do some warm ups with a coach.

Dubai is essentially a desert. I hope anyone attending doesn’t mind getting dirty ’cause the first obstacle involved crossing a mud pond. (Is this the same thing as a mud bath? LOL) You’d think the sand would absorb the water, but nooooo!

I was standing there thinking, ‘Why do we have to go through the large mud puddle?’ Then the answer hit me – to get to the other side! (Hahaha)

They cover this whole with the heaviest plastic around and fill it with water. This made the bottom extremely slippery. I remember a lady putting her hand on me for support and in my mind, I thought ‘for Gods sake, I’m barely keeping myself from falling!’ In that moment of thought, I fell.

Walking through the water made our outfits super heavy. In addition, we had to run through the sand. The resistance of the sand didn’t make running any easier. My sister and I were exhausted! I asked my husband to carry on without us as we were having to go at it using our own pace. What do you know… he did!

Determined to Finish

We kept on going from one obstacle to another; from crawling to jumping off walls to climbing ropes and walls; carrying a 20kg sand bag up and down a hill and so on… it was a difficult challenge.

There were 3 obstacles that I failed to do and had to do burpees instead:

  • Pulling a rope that had a bag attached at it’s end. The bag probably doubles my weight because that thing WOULD NOT move!

  • Rope climbing, of course!

  • Throwing an arrow into a pile of farm straws? (LOL) I’m not really sure what they’re called though I almost got it – just not exactly. 🙂

At the end of the race, there was a line burning logs that we had to jump over. My sister and I joined hands and over the fire we jumped. Yay!! We were so full of pride and joy of finally finishing a SPARTAN RACE!

It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever done in all my life. It was a dream that came true. Writing about it alone makes me happy 🙂

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Rush-A-Way Dubai

I had a marvelous time during the Rush-A-Way Race event.  I found out about it while looking for fitness events in Dubai for my husband and I to join.  Fitness Link gave me all of the details I needed to know about the race being held December 15, 2015.   Just so you know, Rush-A-Way is actually an interpretation of the television show, ‘The Amazing Race,’ American style, just smaller.

 

Each team member must be at least 16 years old and one of you must have a UAE driver’s license to join in the race.

You and your partner against other teams of two race around Dubai going through a series of challenges.  You and your team complete 10 small adventures from making sushi rolls to presenting at a station.  Each set puts your physical and mental fitness and navigation skills on the line.

 

Before the event started, I received an email advising me of the rules and it supplied me with information on how to register my team. The thing is you won’t have a clue as to what you’ll do until the time of the event. Since my husband could not attend this date, I invited my sister to be my partner and luckily, she was a willing contestant.

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The day of the race we arrived at the Jebel Ali Recreation Club for the briefing.  We were asked to use the team’s account details to create an application on our phones that would allow them access for the day’s challenges.  We could also get our team’s  number once we completed our entry.  Once that number was issued, the race was on!

 

Our first challenge of the day was a riddle.  We had to answer the riddle and come up with a number that would unlock the next task.  If you didn’t get it correctly, you were penalized five minutes.  You couldn’t go anywhere until time had lapsed.  This meant that the other contestants could get ahead of you.  However, we got it right and moved on!

 

We could see our next moves as they appeared on our phones as we knocked them out.  With teamwork, my sister and I, were able to pull navigation off smoothly.  She drove, of course, while I directed.  The tasks were never the same though each one proved to be fun and exciting.  Some obstacles were physical and others were pretty tasty.

 

We didn’t win first prize, but winning is not always about a prize.  It’s about the experience and it’s one I will never forget.  We had a great time discovering the beautiful land of Dubai, we tried something new and it gave us memories that we can talk about for years to come.  My sister and I took 5th place in the Rush-A-Way Race this time; maybe next time will be a little different.

 

You can purchase tickets for 95 $ at RushAWay Website.  If you want to register for the next race this April 8th, go here for more information: www.facebook.com/rushawayuae, www.facebook.com/events/1411308292498073,  https://www.rushawayuae.com/.

 

All contestants will receive a T-shirt and snacks, plus a goodie bag.  Rush-A-Way Race was created for all to enjoy, not just fitness gurus.  It’s a chance to bond with friends and family in a way you would not normally do.

 

 

 

Places you MUST visit when in Northern Italy.

After arriving in Milan at around 10am and battling with every single car rental company in Italy to no avail, we decided to jump on the train to Verona via Milan’s Central Station. As we purchased our tickets from the self-service machines, a slightly concerning message flashed across the screen, warning us to be careful and to watch out for pickpockets.. We had just arrived from one of the safest cities in the world. How bad could it be that it would warrant such a warning?

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Best. Pizza. Ever.
Best. Pizza. Ever.

Verona

When we finally arrived at what was meant to be our hotel, we were taken aback by the fact that everything from the room keys to the cards were hotel-esque, except for the actual building itself. More like a renovated house than a hotel, it was clean and comfortable.

After a small rest to recover from our disappointing arrival into Italy, we decided to head to the Arena, situated just 15 minutes away from our “hotel.” Full to the brim with shops, cafes, and restaurants, I was able to snag a beautiful Pandora charm for my sister.

Verona was wonderful; the churches, ancient buildings, intricate architecture, and vast amount of Italian marble dominated the large stations.

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Granada Land

With our love for amusement parks, we headed to Granada Land the following day for a bit of fun! The park was celebrating its 40th anniversary, which they advertised with large signs scattered throughout the park. Wow, I thought. This place is almost as old as the UAE!

We could easily see why this theme park was ranked fifth of the best amusement parks in the world! If you like plenty of rides and a fun day out, you should definitely check out Granada Land!

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mwahahahaha…

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Parco Natura Viva

After checking out and leaving our luggage at the train station, we headed to Parco Natura Viva; a huge Safari Park and Zoo. We decided to grab a rental that had Four Wheel Drive to explore the park. It was so refreshing to be able to drive through the grounds and see the animals free to roam without cages or restraints!

The animals were clearly used to humans driving around; as one very bold giraffe peeked into our window! Even though the safari park was not as big as we had anticipated, the zoo was so huge that we, unfortunately, didn’t have time to explore it all.

Visiting Parco Natura Viva was a really great experience and we would highly recommend it; just give yourself enough time to explore it all in depth!

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Mont Blanc

Not everything had gone as planned thus far. However, I was determined not to let the next part fail. Forget everything else. We were about to embark on the ultimate adventure, which we had been dreaming of for years; hiking Mont Blanc.

We headed back after our mini-safari adventure to Verona, where we jumped on a bus to Turin. Arriving quite late in Turin, our host met us at the station and drove us to our hotel. A small, yet stunning room was waiting for us; well styled and gorgeously modern, I loved it!

We rose early with a spring in our step. This was the day we had both been waiting for. After gathering our things, we headed to the station to meet our guide, Elisabetta. We agreed to leave our luggage at another guide’s house whilst we went for the hike.

Boots, bags, sleeping bags, and food for the trip were all packed and ready. It was time to head for the mountains. The trip there was incredible in itself. The greenery was such a striking contrast compared to how it is back home and there was so much of it! Waterfalls, houses in the mountains, old castles; was this place real?

After driving for two hours, it was time to jump out and start walking. The cold air hit our faces immediately and I had no other choice but to wear every single item I had brought; hence the mix-matched outfit! That didn’t matter. I didn’t care. I was finally doing it.

When we initially booked the hike, the website; Trekking Alps asked us whether we wanted to opt for the easy, medium, or hard hike. We were coming to see it all and live out our dream; so we went with HARD. What were we thinking? The hike was tiring and cold, simply unbearable.

The breathtaking views and intense adrenaline rush were what pushed us forward the whole time. Just knowing that we were hiking the “white mountain” kept our spirits high! It may have been deadly cold; however, we had been sweating underneath our layered clothes, which caused an icy chill to shoot through us when we stopped for some lunch.

Powering through, we continued on for another two hours. We were done. Completely exhausted. Or so we thought. Elisabetta turned and looked at us, imparting some not-so-great news. “We need another three hours to reach our hut. It’s not heated or equipped.” Followed by, “Come on guys, we can do this!” To which the only response that was appropriate was, “No, no we can’t.”

Elisabetta told us of a hotel we could stay at back down the way we came, to which we quickly agreed! After giving them a call, we were all booked in. Yes! I had seen the views, felt the burn, now I was ready to warm up and feel the soft sheets of a large bed! “How long will it take to get to the hotel?” I asked.

“Around three hours,” Elisabetta said calmly.

We wanted to cry. Surely, she could not be serious! After thinking we couldn’t take another step, we made it to the hotel. We knew along the way that the river was the half way point, back when we thought we couldn’t take another step, yet look at us! We laughed and felt proud on our way back down, with the occasional, “Go on without me, I can’t go any further!”

Feeling the burn from our muscles, we started to think that our gym membership was a waste of time. This was a completely different type of workout and to be honest, even though we were unprepared, we were surprised by how much we achieved!

After a grueling four hours, we made it back to the car. We did it! The moment I got into the car, I fell fast asleep, awaking to the view of a beautiful wooden house. The owner of the house, a very proud man, greeted us and showed us around. The bed was the most inviting thing I had seen all day; but not before one of the best hot showers of my life! That night, we slept like babies!

The next day, we awoke feeling well rested and proud of our previous day’s adventure! Our host had prepared breakfast for us, but not just any breakfast: homemade Italian breakfast. Honey, eggs, marmalade, cheese, bread; all locally sourced, mainly from the farm! It was incredible!

After packing up our stuff, we went and had a little walk around, where we bought some souvenirs before heading back to Turin. Looking back on the hike, I feel so immensely proud of what we achieved. I suppose you never really know how strong you are until it’s your only option.

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Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.
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2300 meters above sea level
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Bed & Breakfast | Mont Blanc
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That breakfast tho!!!

Why Italy wasn’t exactly my favorite.

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at Dubai International Airport, not knowing what’s waiting for us on the other side.

After having everything planned and our week in Italy laid out, we arrived in Milan excited and anxious to get our incredible trip underway.

We had planned to hire a car and do a mini tour of Italy hitting up spots such as Florence, Lake Como and Venice. We have booked it online through Carrentals.com . After passing customs we headed to the car hire desk to collect our wheels for the week.

The lady behind the desk checked our details and asked us for our credit card to pay the balance remaining on the hire. This is where the trouble began.

Credit card? We don’t have a credit card! We explained that we only had a debit card or cash, but apparently, neither would be accepted.

Even though their website clearly stated that the use of a debit card would be accepted with a 1,700 euro hold on the card which would be released upon returning the vehicle. After pointing this out, she still refused.

We remembered that my brother had a credit card, but again, unless it was here with us, it wasn’t allowed. Great.

We approached every other car hire company at the arrivals terminal, each and everyone turning us away when they learnt we didn’t have a credit card. Tears started to fill my eyes through complete despair and frustration. I couldn’t believe there was only ONE way you could rent a car. There are no other options!

Everything was booked. The hotels. The tours. Our whole trip was about to get flushed away over a piece of plastic.

We had a 3 hour tour booked in Milan for 3pm which had to be cancelled. Where would we leave our luggage while we were on the tour? We had done zero research on these things as we didn’t expect not to have a car.

Our hotel was booked for that night in Verona, two hours away from Milan. In hindsight we could have left our luggage at the train station, but at the time it didn’t cross our mind.

We headed straight to Verona and started researching public transport options. We only had a week and we had an itinerary full of activities.

That evening, feeling totally down and out about the car hire mess we grabbed some pizza at the Arena. Our waiter approached us and asked if we spoke Arabic to which we obviously replied, yes. After chatting for a little while I turned to my husband and proposed the idea that we could ask the waiter whether he knew anywhere or anyone we could rent a car from.

The waiter told us that he had a friend who may be able to help us out and he would get back to us later that night. Surprisingly, he did indeed get back to us and told us his friend could rent out his car for the week.

Amazing! Finally, we can get on with our trip! We arranged to meet his friend at the restaurant the following night.

As promised, his friend did indeed have a car he could let us hire but after my husband expected it, he quickly realized the tires were not safe enough to go long distances.

Our mystery man said he would get them fixed by tomorrow 12pm and that was that.

The following day we packed up our belongings and checked out of the hotel. We had plans to head to Venice that day which was only an hour 20min from Verona. This is when problem number 2 popped up. The guy was unreachable. We sent him messages. Tried to contact the waiter. Nothing. It is like they just vanished off the face of the earth.

Public transportation would have taken 4 hours to get to Venice and we really didn’t want to waste half a day so again, it had to be cancelled. Venice stinks and I suffer from motion sickness, I told myself.

Feeling defeated yet again, we called our hotel in Verona and asked if we could extend for another night. After all this bad luck we should have really expected the following response. “Sorry, we are fully booked”

Really? Really!?

After some searching, we found another hotel to take us in.

Following Venice we had plans to head to Tuscany, that too, had to be cancelled.

Up till now, absolutely nothing had gone right on this trip. We had seen nothing we had planned to see. It was just one obstacle after another. We had one more trip paid for. A hike up Mont Blanc. This has to work out. It just had to!

We took the bus from Verona to Turin and after spending the night we met up with our guide and left our luggage at their house. The hike would involve sleeping out in the mountains for the night and she reassured us that our belonging would be safe.

The hike was incredible! Finally something good had happened! After hiking for 5 hours we still had 2 hours to reach the lake, then another hour to arrive at our accommodations for the night. We were exhausted. The cold was intolerable and made every movement slow.

Our guide then turned and informed us that the hut we would be staying in was not at all equipped with heating or even bathrooms! No chance. The cold was too much. My only savor would have been a nice warm and cozy hut where I could have a warm shower and sleep. Our bodies couldn’t deal with sub-zero temperatures, we are from Dubai, 50 degrees we can handle, not minus 10!

We skipped the sleepover and headed back down the mountain. After trekking for a further 4 hours back down, we stayed in a wooden house in the mountainsides. It was absolutely stunning. Modern with hints of vintage chic! Finally!

Easily the best two days in Italy!

The bus took us back to Milan and after leaving our luggage at the airport we went and explored Milan for the day, it was amazing. After all that had happened, at least we managed to have a couple of good days without being rejected, ditched and/or abandoned!

All trip details coming up in my next blog. Stay tuned.

Japan Trip Diary, With Pictures.

Time well wasted at Haneda Airport

We arrived at the airport around 1:00am which meant waiting till 5.30am when the metro lines opened to head to our hotel! Nothing strikes boredom into the heart of any traveler than the idea of waiting around in an airport, however, we were pleasantly surprised with how we could fill our time. We started with a mini tour of the airport followed by a tasty croissant at one of the cafes which happened to be open at that time; Cafe Cardinal.

We then came across quite a novel idea where you purchase a small wooden tag from a vending machine (obviously), write a personalized note onto it and hang it next to thousands of others on their Wishes Wall. Another great and strangely exciting discovery occurred inside the restrooms at the airport. They were seriously high tech with a range of buttons positioned on the wall which would clean the toilet for you!

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From Tokyo, this is Homs <3
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Memories Wall | Haneda International Airport | Tokyo

Tokyo Subway: The mayhem begins

When it came to transportation, our luck was about to run out when we ventured inside the subway for the first time. Unlike the toilets in the airport, the only thing we were impressed with here was the locals ability to actually read the evil metro map! If it wasn’t bad enough that we had to try and figure out where on earth we were going, it was all written in Japanese. Obviously. A smaller map in English gave us a little clue, but not much. I passed on much of the navigating responsibility to my husband, then at least I couldn’t be blamed if we got completely lost! However, near the end of our trip we had almost mastered the metro map!

Tokyo Transportation Network
Tokyo Subway Map

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End of day yet?
End of day yet?

Accommodation: Everything in small in Japan

We finally arrived at the Yokohama Sakuragicho Washington Hotel and were extremely happy with our hotel choice! Set in an awesome location just 2 minutes from the train station, there was a great array of restaurants, attractions and cafe’s just a short walk away. Not only was the location perfect, but the view from our room was stunning, overlooking the large Ferris wheel in the bay.

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Even though the rooms were really small (like most things in Japan) we had everything we needed and wanted! Checking out of a hotel is normally a standard procedure passing your key to the front desk, but not here. Machines are available for you to simply insert your room card, pay any remaining fees and away you go!

After robots checking us out of our hotel we took a different approach to our accommodation in Tokyo, staying in a wonderful place through Airbnb. Our host was just great and the room was rather spacious, which is always a plus!

Theme parks ban the Selfie Stick?!

Japan boasts an abundance of attractions to suit everyone’s taste and even though we had only a short time here, we managed to fit quite a bit in! Just like Dubai, there were many theme parks, zoo’s and malls like the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse which we thoroughly enjoyed, Akihabara where we picked up some amazing cosmetics and even Tokyo Train station, yes, you read that right. This station is no ordinary train station, but is home to an unbelievable underground shopping mall with every retail outlet you could imagine!

Disney Land was a simply magical place (obviously!)  which brought back so many childhood memories as you pass by Disney princesses and enjoy all the bright colors and fun activities. But as you can imagine it was super crowded and we had to queue for hours to get on a single ride!

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No exactly happy with the long queue.
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Of course we posed with the flag.

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Lines weren’t as bad at other theme parks such as Yokohama Cosmo World which had a ton of great rides but also had the most baffling rule I have ever encountered. Signs covered the park completely banning selfie sticks. I know everyone has a different view on the Selfie Stick Trend but that was just amusing!

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Visiting the Amazon in JAPAN?

Roller coaster rides can give you the screams and excitement but nothing can compare to the feeling of returning to your childhood like a trip to the zoo! We can’t rate the Yokohama Zoo; Zoorasia high enough. Each area throughout the park was themed, so you would take a journey through different areas across the globe from the Amazon to the Dessert all in one place, seeing the different species which walk the lands.

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Vending machines

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In comparison, Ueno Zoo was nothing to write home about. It was considerably smaller than Zoorasia and nowhere near as nice, however, our trip wasn’t for nothing, we wanted to visit the panda’s, an animal you can’t see at Zoorasia!

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So cute!

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Hot chocolate with a group of cats!

Japan is known for the weird and wonderful and if you are cat lovers like we are, then a trip here would not be complete without a visit to the Cat Cafe. Enjoy a drink while being surrounded by purring felines! It can be quite torturous as they have a rule that you can’t go around picking up the cats, you have to wait for them to come to you, which is fair!

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Honestly, these cats won’t come. =(

I mentioned in my previous blog post about some of the struggles we had finding food, however it wasn’t all doom and gloom towards the end of our time in Japan. While exploring ChinaTown and browsing at the souvenirs we came across Strawberry Cheesecake KitKat. Yes. Strawberry. Cheesecake. KitKat. To be honest, if you don’t at least get yourself a different flavored KitKat in Japan your trip pretty much doesn’t count!

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Combining culture with couture

The big tourist attractions are all well and good, but we wanted a little culture on our visit too. Sankeien Gardens is a photographers paradise, with open ponds, tree’s in full bloom and historic Japanese buildings to explore made for a wonderful contrast and a beautiful experience. Japan has an intriguing way of combining history, beauty and shopping, so at least when you are browsing the different shops you can also feel as though you are getting a bit of culture too.

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Sensō-ji Temple was another location which we loved so much we returned for round two! Not only do you get to admire the stunning ancient Buddhist temple, but the surround area is home to an array of shops, which kept me happy on more than one occasion! Asakusa was a similar area which combined plenty of shops as well as the Buddhist temple; Sanju.

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Yes, malls seem to dominate Japan, however, you can get your culture-fix without being tempted to splurge on ANOTHER pair of stilettos. When we came out, we knew that Japan was famous for its innovative technologies and advanced forward thinking, so it was great to see it in action at the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum which is perfect for the geek which lives within us all as we browsed through all the latest gadgets and technologies.

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If you don’t fancy getting your geek on at the Museum, then you can let your inner art critic out at the Hakone Open Air Museum which has some amazing art pieces. We were lucky enough to be blessed with gorgeous weather that day which made for even more incredible views!

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Lake Ashi stole my heart

Coming from Dubai, I have seen the big theme parks, the flashy shopping malls, I wanted something more. Up until this point, I had seen a fair amount in Japan considering the short duration of the trip however, nothing stood out more than my trip to Lake Ashi in Hakone. Out of the hustle and bustle, my lungs were filled with fresh air as it’s cool grasp swept gently across my face with majestic mountains dominating the surrounds. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to access the mountain due to the surrounding volcanoes being rather active! However, ever single time I look at my photographs taken here, I have the overwhelming feeling to take a long deep breath.

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My time in Japan will never be forgotten. It was crazy at times but I think that’s just what makes Japan so unique. Maybe next time we could stay a little longer and return back to the beauty of Lake Ashi for one more breath.

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التفكير الإيجابي في الاسلام – 10 أسباب تدعوك للتفاؤل

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نستيقظ صباحاً، نبحث عن هواتفنا، نلقي نظرة على آخر تغريدات تويتر حول العالم مع فنجان القهوة الصباحي.. العناوين: جريمة قتل، حرب، إرهاب، تعنيف، حوادث سيارات، غرق، تعذيب…

في نهاية اليوم، نشاهد نشرة الأخبار المسائية، مقاطع الموت و الخراب و الجريمة في كل مكان.

خلال النهار، في العمل أو الجامعة نحن أيضاً مهمومون: كيف أنهي المشروع في الوقت المحدد؟ هل في رصيدي ما يكفي من المال لدفع الإجارات و الفواتير المترتبة علي هذا الشهر؟ كيف أوفر لرحلتي القادمة؟ كيف علي أن أقدم لوالدي و أقاربي؟ هل قضيت وقتاً كافياً مع عائلتي؟ كم شخصاً أعجب بكتاباتي على فيس بوك؟ كيف لي أن أنظم أوقات صلواتي في أيام العمل الشاق؟ عليّ أن أجد بعض الوقت لأهتم بصحتي و أقوم ببعض التمارين!

إذا كنت ممن ينطبق عليه ما سبق فسوف تلاحظ بأنك يوماً بعد يوم و مع تراكم كل ذلك في عقلك الباطن (على الأقل) قد قتلت إيجابيتك! من السهل جداً أن تقع في هذه الدوامة إن لم تكن مؤمناً و حذراً و ستفقد القدرة على رؤية الصورة الأكبر للأشياء و الهدف الأكبر للحياة.

إذا كنت كذلك، اقرأ معي 10 أسباب تحثك كمسلم أن تبقى إيجابياَ:

  1. التركيز على الصورة الأكبر

في كثير من المواضع في القرآن الكريم يذكرنا الخالق بأن كل مافي الدنيا فان و مؤقت و أن الهدف الحقيقي هو أبعد من اليوم و غداً و بعد 5 أو 10 سنوات و أن عليك العمل بإيمان و عزيمة مهما كان يومك سهلاً أو صعباً، فذلك لن يدوم. ومن أجمل ما قيل في هذا النطاق: اعمل لدنياك كأنك تعيش أبداً ، واعمل لآخرتك كأنك تموت غداً

بالنظر إلى الصورة الأكبر و إيمانك بوجود الجنة و النار فإنه و برغم علمك بنهاية المسيئين، أنت أيضاً تعلم بأن باب التوبة مفتوح دائماً، و بأنه بإمكانك البدء من الصفر و بناء حياة جديدة و نظيفة تخلصك و تسعدك في الدنيا و الآخرة.

  1. الله يعدنا بالتيسير

إذا استعنت على مصابك بالصبر و الإيمان فإن الله يعدك بالتيسير: (إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا) –  سورة الشرح

مثلاً، عندما ذكر الله تعالى مسألة الطلاق و هي من أصعب الأوقات التي من الممكن أن تمر على الإنسان و تؤثر سلباً على نفسيته. في سورة الطلاق، قال تعالى: (ومن يتق الله يجعل له مخرجاً * و يرزقه من حيث لا يحتسب و من يتوكل على الله فهو حسبه) – سورة الطلاق

  1. الإيجابية صفة من صفات المؤمنين
    قالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ: (عَجَبًا لأَمْرِ المؤمنِ إِنَّ أمْرَه كُلَّهُ لهُ خَيرٌ ليسَ ذلكَ لأَحَدٍ إلا للمُؤْمنِ إِنْ أصَابتهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فكانتْ خَيرًا لهُ وإنْ أصَابتهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبرَ فكانتْ خَيرًا لهُ)  رواهُ مُسْلِمٌ .”
  1. المسلم يشكر الله في جميع الأحوال

لقد حثنا الرسول عليه الصلاة و السلام بأن نشكر الله عند سماعنا أخباراً جيدة أو سيئة على حد سواء.

عند تلقي الرسول عليه الصلاة و السلام لخبر سار كان يقول: (الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي بِنِعْمَتِهِ تَتِمُّ الصَّالِحَاتُ) و عند تلقيه لخبر سيء كان يقول: (لْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ عَلَى كُلِّ حَالٍ) –
‏اأخرجه ابن ماجه ( 2 / 422 ) و ابن السني ( رقم 372 ) و الحاكم ( 1 / 499 ) وصححه الألباني في “السلسلة الصحيحة” ( 1 / 472 )

  1. التفكير الإيجابي هو اتباع لرسول الله عليه الصلاة و السلام

كان محمد عليه الصلاة و السلام شخصيةً تشع بالإيجابية برغم جميع ما تعرض له من إهانات و صعوبات في مكة. كان دائم البحث عن طرق يطمئن بها المسلمين الأوائل مثلاً.

و في أقرب فرصة، أذن لهم بالهجرة إلى الحبشة حيث هناك حاكم عادل لايظلم عنه أحد. لقد كانت هذه الحادثة هي أول علامة من علامات حرية الاعتقاد في الإسلام. و بعد سنوات من ذلك، وجد الرسول عليه الصلاة و السلام حلاً دائماً لهم للعيش بسلام و النمو بالمجتمع حيث أذن لهم بالهجرة إلى المدينة.

كان عليه الصلاة و السلام إيجابياً لدرجة أنه كان يدعو لأكثر الناس عداوة له و لرسالته بالهدايه، حتى دخل الكثير منهم الإسلام و من أبرزهم كان عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه.

كانت ثقة الرسول عليه الصلاة و السلام بالله مصدر إيجابيته و توكله و لعل أكثر القصص المؤثرة في هذا الموضع، قصته مع أبو بكر رضي الله عنه و جملته (لا تحزن، إن الله معنا) – تأملوها جيداً: (إن الله معنا).

  1. لقد حثنا الرسول على نشر الأخبار الطيبة

  (عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم إِذَا بَعَثَ أَحَدًا مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ فِي بَعْضِ أَمْرِهِ قَالَ‏ بَشِّرُوا وَلاَ تُنَفِّرُوا وَيَسِّرُوا وَلاَ تُعَسِّرُوا)

  1. الإيجابية سمة من سمات الصحابة

إذا كنت قد قرأت قصص الصحابة رضي الله عنهم ستجد العديد من الأمثلة الدالة على التفكير الإيجابي و النظر للأمور بصورتها الأكبر. من كلمات السيدة خديجة رضي الله عنها عندما قدم إليها الرسول بعد نزول الوحي للمرة الأولى، لقصص الكرم التي اتصفت به السيدة عائشة رضي الله عنها برغم حاجتها، لنشر جعفر بن أبي طالب و مصعب بن العمير للاسلام في أصعب المناطق، لإصرار عبد الله بن المكتوم على الأذان و الصلاة برغم فقده للبصر و إسلام الكثير من العبيد برغم ما عانوه من أسيادهم في تلك الفترة نتيجة لذلك.

  1. المتفائل إنسان ناجح

يقول واتسون تشرشهيل ( المتشائم يرى الصعوبات في جميع الفرص، أما المتفائل فهو يرى الفرص في جميع الصعوبات)

عليك التركيز على الحل، لا المشكلة. ابحث عن الفرص، لا الأعذار. الإيجابية و الاجتهاد هي أهم صفات الفائزين في الدنيا و الآخرة.

  1. الإيجابية أفضل لصحتك

بناءً على العديد من الدراسات الحديثة عن المتفائلين و المتشائمين، تمت ملاحظة ما يلي على المتفائلين:

+ يعيشون مدة أطول

+ يعانون من الاكتئاب و التوتر بنسبة أقل

+ يعيشون بسلام داخلي و تصالح مع الذات

+ أقل عرضة لمشاكل ضغط الدم

+ أكثر تحملاً للمشاكل و التعامل مع الظروف الصعبة

  1. المتفائل إنسان محبوب

تنجذب الناس بطبيعتها نحو الأشخاص الإيجابيين فهم أناس يحبون العمل الجماعي و يبحثون دائماً عن الحلول. بعكس الأشخاص دائمي التذمر و النقد و محبي المشاكل.

في نهاية هذا المنشور البسيط، إليك 10 عادات تساعدك على البقاء إيجابياً:

  1. ركز على الحلول لا المشاكل
  2. دائماً فكر بالصورة الأكبر للمواقف و الأحداث
  3. طور من نفسك و أوجد طرقاً جديدة لفعل الأشياء الروتينية
  4. توكل على الله عز و جل
  5. قف بتوازن بين الخوف و الأمل – التفاؤل و الموضوعية
  6. ابدأ يومك بأدعية و أذكار
  7. أحط نفسك بأناس إيجابيين، مبدعين و ملهمين
  8. اعمل دائماً على تنشيط جسدك
  9. ابتسم دائماً
  10. لا تصدق كل ما تسمعه في الأخبار و اعمل على تحسين الوضع بدلاً من الشعور بالذنب السلبي

How to Find Out Your Color Season! – Infographic

We’ve all experienced it.  You put on a beautiful new dress, with the perfect accessories, new hair style and your makeup is flawless. But something just isn’t right after taking that last look in your full length mirror before stepping out the door.  You can’t put your finger on it because you know how gorgeous you should look right now.  Well, chances are you’re wearing a color that clashes with your features and complexion.  That’s right, the color scheme you’ve chosen for your garments could be the culprit.

Every woman (and man) has a color tone (warm/cool) that falls into four seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall).  Choosing the right colors for your clothing could result in a healthy glow, highlighting your facial features for the better.  On the other hand, wearing the wrong colors could dull your face making blemishes and other imperfections stand out.

I know, you’re wondering “What is a color season?” and “How do I know my color tone?”.  The first step is to figure out if you have a warm (spring and fall) or cool (summer and winter) color tone.  What color is your hair?  What color are your eyes? Once you have those answers, see the infographic below:

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So are you a…

  1. Summer
  2. Winter
  3. Spring
  4. Fall

Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for the next part where I tell you which colors work best for your season!

How do foreign exchange rates really play into your financial stability?

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Understand how currency trading benefits marketers and perhaps you

Foreign markets have long understood the value in catering their services and products to another country which pays better. Labor has been outsourced to countries which have lower rates for manufacturing goods (Such as China or Indian manufacturers), and then selling them to countries which have the highest yield on the dollar. Understand that the money is all a game of trading. It is shifting one asset to another assets, one location to another location, in order to make the most out of it. The most common way of gaining quick capital is to do it with foreign commerce.

What does it mean when someone says the Exchange Rate?

Exchange rates are the rates which are established between countries as to the worth of currency. For example: 1 USD is 3.67 AED. 1 Euro is equal to 4.07 AED. However, 1 AED is equal to 33.85 Yen or 17.82 rupees. Keep in mind that these markets do fluctuate and that as stocks either increase or decrease in a particular country, that the exchange rate will either go up or down dependent upon that.

What does this mean for my finances?

There are many ways in which foreign investments, trade, commerce, exchange rates, and such play into your finances. This blog cannot explain it all in one post. However, there are two areas which should be of interest to you. The first is in production costs and the second is in the buyer’s costs. Here is how each benefits works:

Production Costs as it relates to Foreign exchange rates – Marketers and pretty much everyone that manufactures a product on a large scale does so in countries where the exchange rate is low. For example: If it cost 45 AED a day in labor to produce a product that can be produced for 200 YEN, then the company will use the YEN based country as it will only cost them about 7 AED to do so. Of course, each country has its own labor laws and minimum wages, but this is the basic principal of outsourcing or production cost management.

Buyer Exchange Rates as it relates to my finances – When selling a product or service, marketers look for the highest yield on their investment. This means that they will not only use the lower production costs but then they will take that product and sell it to the country with the highest rate of exchange. For example: If a product costs 20 AED and a market wants to get more profit, they offer it to those that pay in Euros for the “same price” of 20 Euros. In reality, the product has seen a 400% markup as 1 AED = 4 EURO. The marketer makes 60 AED on their item.

How can this system work for you?

As stated, there are several ways in which the exchange rate of currency can be used. However, you should keep in mind that you cannot launder money through foreign countries to get a higher yield. Neither can you hide your assets in another country to keep from paying taxes on them. But you can offer your services/products in a country or in a country’s currency and reap the financial benefits. The most common ways in which to do this are:

  • Have a freelance site which targets markets (clients) in high yield countries such as America and the UK.
  • Have an ecommerce site that does NOT convert the asked price to the exchange rate price but offers only fixed rate prices for products.

What you should know

Many countries have stipulations as to the amount of money you can legally earn in that country before having to pay taxes to both that country and your country.

Products which are made in certain countries should be examined for quality. Check the labels of your products to see if the product is made in that country or just distributed and sold in that country. You may be surprised on what is being outsourced and marked up.

To save on your financial spending and savings, shop from people locally. You will get a better product, support the local economy, and ensure that you do not pay a tremendous markup on the product. For example: Most produce is marked up at minimum 70% when it is transported. This is to accommodate for the bruised and unsellable product. However, if you buy locally you get it from a farmer and the markup is generally less than 40%.

Exchange rates are a part of the financial marketing system. It is unavoidable. Understanding how the market works and areas in which you can utilize the exchange rates to your advantage will build your finances and make money work for you not you for money.

~ Sondos Shapsogh