Monday, November 27, 2006

"Fall in Line"

This was a sign in the convenience store near our office... I didn't see anyone fall on the ground while I was there!

To explain, many people here in Dubai are not used to lining up. They are from places where a crowd would push up to the counter all at one time. I guess this was the management's attempt to get people to stay in line. I'm not sure if it's working. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Thanks-giving" in Dubai

This post is from my favorite guest blogger... my wife :) She wrote this to family recently and I thought you'd want to see it.


Thinking of you today as I do some early Thanksgiving preparations. We are planning an afternoon meal on Thursday with our American co-workers. I am assigned to cook some of my family's favorites (spinach, strawberry jello, sweet potato casserole). I have also been making a pumpkin cheesecake today! That's a new one. I'll let you know how it turns out.

So often I find myself thinking that my life here is very similar to what things were like in the U.S. I suppose it stems from getting "used to" being here (after 4 years). In many ways it is the same. The routines of the day look a lot like they would look if I were still in Kentucky. And yet every few days I am reminded of how very different it is. Here are a few examples from this last week.

As part of our rent renewal (annual payment, one check, and really really huge!), our landlord has agreed to put a fresh coat of paint on the inside of the villa. This is nothing fancy, just white paint, but we are grateful for the fresh coat. So one day last week he sends the painter around to have a look at things. I see him coming from down the street. He's walking, with a grocery bag in hand (his supplies). He smiles and greets me, seems nice enough. But then I realize that he doesn't speak English. I think he is Iranian, but I am not sure. Maybe Pakistani? We try to communicate, using lots of hand gestures, but we don't get very far. I try to pull in the Pakistani gardener from across the street to help with the attempted conversation, but they can't communicate either. Oh well.... maybe next week.

I remember today that I need some new shower curtain liners. After four years of living here I am still not really sure where to find those.

I went to the grocery store yesterday to load up on all the ingredients for the Thanksgiving dishes I am about to prepare. I hesitated in front of the sweet potatoes. There were two choices. Australian and South African. One was about 5 times as much as the other, so I went for the cheaper option. This morning, while the water was beginning to boil, I washed them and started cutting them into chunks to put into the pot. Imagine my surprise when they were white inside! I worried that they were not "sweet" at all, but figured I would go ahead and cook them anyway, and see how they turned out. I figured no one in my family would mind mashed potatoes tonight. But sure enough, they were sweet after all. So my casserole has a different look to it this year. :)

I was lucky enough to find real sour cream yesterday for the jello. Usually I have to substitute with plain yogurt. What a treat!

I think about how I'd like to see the Macy's parade on Thursday morning when I wake up. And, yes, I'd even like to see some football! Maybe we can work that out on the internet somehow.

As I was cooking today I remembered an event from last year around this time. I have a gas stove and oven that is supplied with propane from a tank that sits in the garage. A long hose connects the two. It's hard to know when the propane will run out, no real warnings. Last year it happened as I was preparing my turkey :). Fortunately, there are many delivery trucks around town for this very purpose. They are just a phone call away. Twenty minutes later I was up and running again.

The weather is easing and we are really enjoying the temps in the low 30's (remember, that is Celsius). I cooked with the windows open today, so that was nice. I am thinking about getting some poinsettias this weekend. They love being outside on the front porch.

Two days ago Aqmed rang the doorbell. He is the Yemeni carpet salesman who comes by from time to time wearing his dishdasha (long white robe) and peddling carpets from the back of his Mitsubishi Pajero SUV. He is very friendly and speaks excellent English. He is probably 60 or so, and he brings his adult son with him to do the heavy lifting. If we show any interest at all they will come into our house and unroll carpets on top of carpets for our inspection. He has taught us the arabic word "helwah", (referring to his carpets) which means beautiful or excellent (I think). He's a hoot. He's the only male gulf arab who greets me with the British kiss on the cheek (touch cheeks, kiss the air).

See, just like I said before, it's the same as in the US. :) I hope this inside look at my day reminds you that the impressions of Dubai in the media are not the whole picture of life here. See anything that strikes you as different from your week?

There's so much to be thankful for. New paint, plenty to chose from at the grocery store, running water, quick propane delivery, Butterball turkeys in the grocery store, and nice weather. And that's just the small stuff.

Most of all I am so thankful for each of you. I hope your Thanksgiving is fun and refreshing. (It really is the best holiday of the year, if you ask me).

Lots of love,

Update: The pumpkin cheesecake turned out great! (It wasn't for Thursday, it was just for fun).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mecca Property Ad: Room with a View?

This a very interesting property ad that recently appeared in one of our local papers. You may know that Mecca (or Makkah as spelled in the ad) is the most holy city for Islam. It is located in Saudi Arabia and it is the city to which Muslims take the Hajj, or pilgrimage, which is a Koranic requirement for all Muslims who can afford it.

Another fascinating fact about Mecca is that only Muslims are allowed to enter the city. Non-Muslims may never enter.

The large background picture in the ad is of the center of the Grand Mosque. In it stands the Kaaba which is the place of worship that Abraham is supposed to have built. When Muslims pray they orient themselves so that they are praying toward the Kaaba. You may have heard that they pray facing Mecca but more specifically it is toward the Kaaba.

To state the obvious, this ad is a fascinating example of "East meets West". Luxury property marketing with a deeply religious context.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Birthday Party at the Burj

Ah. Life in Dubai... it's different.

My 13 year old daughter attended a birthday party for a classmate at the ultra luxurious Burj Al Arab Hotel last night. Room rates run in the $4000 a night range I think. The friend was turning 14. (What did you do for your 14th birthday party?!)

The party was held on the one of the top floors in a special ballroom. The festivities included DJ and massive food layout. It was impressive.

My wife and I went to pick her up there (she needed us both there right?) and caught the amazing fountain and flames on tape on the way out. Enjoy.

By the way. The birthday girl left in a red Bentley sports car as the evening finished off. Wow.

Click on the link to watch the video... roughly 1 minute. Don't miss the big burst near the end!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Interesting Gulf News Articles... Labor and Corruption

Will anything change here?... the "jury is out" I'd say.

Discrimination common among UAE companies

By Saifur Rahman, Business News Editor

Dubai: About 65 per cent of the UAE's companies discriminate among employees on grounds of age, 41 per cent on gender and 41 per cent on disability, a latest survey said.

UAE least corrupt among Mideast states

By Duraid Al Baik, Foreign Editor

Dubai: The UAE has been named the least corrupt country in the Middle East by Transparency International (TI) in its latest report. The UAE ranked first among Middle East and Arab countries with a score of 6.2, and 31st among 163 countries in the world in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) issued yesterday by TI in Berlin, Germany. The CPI is measured on a scale from 0 to 10, with higher numbers indicating less corruption.

According to the index details obtained by Gulf News, Israel and Oman, which ranked first and second in 2005 declined to the third and fifth positions respectively, paving the way for the UAE to become the first in the region.

Mohammad: Protect rights of workers

Gulf News Report

Dubai: All necessary measures must be taken to ensure the rights of expatriate workers are protected and their living and working conditions are significantly improved, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai ordered authorities yesterday.

He also instructed the Minister of Labour, Dr. Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, during a meeting attended by other senior officials, to implement "an effective mechanism that empowers workers whose salaries have been withheld for more than two months to receive what is rightfully theirs, as well as enable them to switch jobs with no obstacles, as long as they meet the rules set by the UAE and the Ministry of Labour in this matter," WAM reported yesterday.

Made me Laugh...

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?"/ Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."

Charles M. Schulz (author of Peanuts cartoon)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Worldwide Accents

Dubai is a truly multi-national city. It's reported that there are over 200 different nationalities represented in the Dubai/UAE labor market. And due to the nature of my work I interact with lots of different people each day.

My family and I have begun to acquire a taste for trying to recognize and imitate different accents from around the world. For example, would you know the difference between a South African accent and an Australian accent? Or an Australian accent and a New Zealand accent? (that's a tough one!)

For your fun, The Speech Accent Archive is a website that will play different English language accents from all around the world. Try a few from different places even from the same country!

Quote on Salvation

My wife read this quote to me recently from a book called Hard Sayings of the Bible (IVPress)... I thought it summed up Christian salvation quite succinctly. See what you think.

"Salvation is not something we possess. It is rather a relationship in which we stand."

Are you counting salvation as something to acquire or a relationship to enter and maintain? Food for thought.