Sunday, August 7, 2011

A 165MB file and a New Zealander in Petra

Yesterday, my prodigal friend J and I had a nice BBM conversation as I sat in traffic, making my way from work to a dinner, and it was almost like old times. It started because he'd given me a file on a disc that he wanted me to look at -- and it was a Microsoft Word file, which is relatively straightforward, but it was a 165MB Word document.

For some reason, my MacBook Pro resisted opening this file. I'd just inserted the disc and it started making really funny noises; so I ejected it as quickly as possible, before my computer could break down in cyber tears.

What followed was a big production between our secretaries, on trying to get the file open, and a long discussion between J and myself on where the problem lay. All this time, the file was in limbo.


"I don't know anyone who sends a 165 MB Word file," I told him. "But, yes, of course, it's you. You're different from everyone else." He most certainly is.

Of course, J had his own two cents to say. "You should get docx so you won't have this problem." He meant the Microsoft software for opening files in the docx format.

Of course I had docx. I had every single new software because I'd just bought my new Mac when my old one had tanked during a business trip to Seoul -- and I'd loaded it up with all the newbies in one go.

"I do have docx," I replied. "Everything's been upgraded on my new computer."

His message came back pretty quickly. "Then I don't understand it." I was so sure he was typing that with just a hint of condescension.

I almost sighed through the Blackberry, but it was a sigh of amused exasperation. I replied: "So many things between us are so difficult to understand anyway. What else is new? I'm used to it by now."


Some people are shocked when they read my recounts of conversations with J because everything's so direct. In fact, that's why I recount some of them in this blog -- because they're pretty amusing. But that's really how we talk -- or maybe that's just how I talk and how he patiently listens. Anyway, he must've known exactly what I meant, because he just said: "Oh ok." Then he added that smiley face after his message.


Then he continued: "So where's dinner tonight? Umu or Masseto?"

Umu is the Japanese restaurant of the Dusit Thani Manila while Masseto is a restaurant and wine bar in Salcedo Village. J often teases me that my non-work life revolves around these restaurants and just a couple of others. Actually, it was neither, as I had a work event to attend. And he's worse than I am because until recently, he basically only went to two restaurants in Manila. Now, I hear he's diversified and reluctantly added another one to his discriminating list.

We talked for a while longer about a couple of things I'm not allowed to print, and I thought it was the end of our BBMs for the night. But a little later, as I was headed finally to dinner, my Blackberry pings again and it's J. He'd been reading this blog on his iPad perhaps, as he said: "I'm reading your blog. I actually met the lady who married a bedouin during a visit to Petra. In fact, I have her autograph in my book."

Now that got my attention. J was referring to a previous post on this blog where I mentioned a book I'd bought and just finished, written by a New Zealand woman named Marguerite van Geldermalsen who'd backpacked through Jordan and met the love of her life hawking souvenirs across one of the tourist monuments in Petra. It was a pretty amazing and improbably story -- and one that probably required so much adjustment that I was continuously expecting the story to take a turn for the worse and for this lady to say that she'd given up being a desert nomad to return to civilization.


But, no, the story continued in a beautiful and really incredible way. Life with her bedouin husband was all about sleeping in a cave without windows or proper doors, a pit for a toilet, no running water for years (which meant they had to get on a donkey and fill up plastic containers at a spring some kilometers away, every few days), and the claustrophobic relationships within the tribe. But she not only survived, she flourished and was very happy. I doubt if few others could have persevered under such conditions. So who says love can't conquer all?
Anyway, this was the fascinating story I'd just finished. I'd long been hearing about this lady, and so when I saw her book at a bookstore at the Dubai Mall last month, I bought it along with a few other fascinating books that provide insights into the Arabic culture and way of life.


And last night, J told me that he'd actually met this lady and she'd even signed his copy of her book. It seemed pretty incredibly to chance upon this lady while touring Petra -- but that's J for you, full of pretty incredible experiences. He does lead a never-endingly eventful life, although he stays home way more than I do since he actively dislikes cocktail parties. But then my life is never-endingly eventful too. So most of the time, I'd say we're about even as far as amazing experiences are concerned.

But this was one time I actually had experience envy. That New Zealand lady is not in Petra anymore, so it's almost impossible to meet her again. And her experience as the lone foreigner in a tribe in a desert for decades is certainly one great travel story. And love story.

Join our Italy events this September.

with Margarita Fores
and the Embassy of Italy & Bacchus Epicerie
September 8 at Whitespace

TRAVELIFE Gastronomic Tour of Italy
September 17-25

For reservations and information, please contact:
Bernice or Rachel at TRAVELIFE
813-8400/ 892-2620


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