Thursday, October 23, 2014

I did it!

I have not posted for three weeks.  With much going on, and much to say, I have also been working on launching my photography website.  While I love sharing it here, I thought it would be nice to get more of those images off my hard drive and document them in a website.

For now, I will continue to keep my writing about Life here.  Or, possibly post it in both places for a while as I will blog there as well.

I have been pouring my thoughts out here since 2008!  It is not something I am not ready to drop just yet.  And, writing my rebuttal to all that media discussion in Dubai about how people with nannies or hired help are just lazy is really cooking in my head.

If you have a few minutes to click over to Pamela Durant Photography, I would be very pleased to hear your feedback.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Safa Park

Safa Park April 2014

My heart broke a bit today.  There is a large canal project that started in Dubai last year that will run right through the city.  There was a lot of discussion when it was presented to the public because the fate of the city's beloved Safa Park was at question.

I read several articles in the local papers, and I seem to recall reading on more than one occasion that the park would remain as is, and the water was going to run next to it.  As of today, I am not so sure.
Foggy Morning Safa Park Field Trip

Every morning as I take my six year old son to school or drive to work I pass the park and witness the progress.  The trees in the parking lot on the Sheikh Zayed Road side where cleared to make way for new roads.  This did not surprise me as I expected the parking lot to go.

Fast forward to today as I drove along the side of the park and there I saw the demolition happening inside the park. How can this be?  I was speechless.

My favorite tree in Safa Park

My son was with me and equally shocked.  He started to talk about how sad many of the trees looked, and began to label them.  "Happy, sad, happy, sad, sad, happy..." The number of sad trees quickly outnumbered the happy ones.  He then realized the fate of the trees along the perimeter and several meters into the park.  These will all be cut down.

I am not a typical tree hugger, but my heart aches a bit to write that sentence.

Safa park was a gathering place for many.  It was representative of Dubai with all the many walks of life and cultures enjoying the largest, urban green space in Dubai.  It has been around since at least the 1970s, maybe longer.  For a country that is only 42 years old, it is an important landmark.

Citizens and residents would go there to meet, enjoy time off with their family, play sports, do yoga, enjoy the new cafe that opened, visit the  market, read a book, take a school trip, and more.  Just a quick Google search for Safa Park and its significance is quickly understood.
Burj Khalifa Overlooking Safa Park

We had my son's birthday party there earlier this year.  He liked it so much he was considering it again for next year.

I see the other areas that Dubai has developed and they are beautiful once finished.  They landscape and care for them well, and there have been many new parks that have come up in the last several years I have lived here.

I appreciate them all, but Safa Park has this unexplainable soul.  As soon as you enter the park gates, there is an energetic calm given off from all the nature there.  Perhaps this is why so many of those trees look sad long before the construction has reached them.  The impact of demolishing one side is felt by the other.  It is very interesting how nature is in synch this way.

Watching my son & husband in Safa Park

Many of the pictures I have seen of the development look nice.  Some look green, which is good, but in the meantime it is heart breaking to watch. As the cooler months set in, and the seasonal birds migrate through they will find their beloved park in a different state.

I feel a little helpless and at a loss for words as I write about this.  I am a resident of Dubai and maybe it is not my place to share this opinion.  Perhaps, but I love that park, its nature and what it represents for Dubai.

So often, I really wish the way forward did not come with a price of something that seemed so perfect in the first place.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dressing to Drop Off the Kids

Picture from the 7Days article discussing
the school drop off dress code
After I dropped my son off at school today, I had a laugh out loud moment as I listened to the local news on the radio.  A school in Dubai posted a sign addressing what the moms are wearing during school runs.

A colleague and I often joke about this as there are some really attractive moms here.  There are moms from all over the world living in Dubai, and they dress in many different ways.  And yes, there are a few that I have even done a double take on as I venture off to work in my "corporate uniform". Sometimes its a wow, she looks great.  Other times its a wow, I can't believe she wore that!

I totally agree with dressing for the occasion, and while the school run is not what I consider an occasion, I do respect that I live in a place that is not always so casual in it's dress code.

Despite the tolerance here, and probably well over 90% of the families are from elsewhere at my son's school, there are times I have made a conscious choice to modify something.  However, I think I own some dresses in the figure above.  I am sure I have a sundress like the one on the left of the picture.  The others just really aren't my style.  Although the second one could be going to the gym, and that could be me and many other moms on certain mornings.

Thankfully, I have no Captain America t-shrits that show my stomach.  Phew.

I do have skirts and wear a lot of them.  Some above the knee, and a few below the knee.  When I wear the ones below the knee, people keep looking at my stomach to see if I am pregnant!  No one looks at anything when it is a short skirt.

I am not any of the three with straps. My shoulders never offend because I am always so cold from the massive amounts of climate control here. I would not be able to tolerate wearing those without a sweater or shawl.

But in all seriousness, as I've mentioned in other posts about the dress code question before, I get it. But why is this particular discussion always about women?  There is no dress code mentioned for men.

I have seen some dads at drop off that made me think wow, I can't believe he wore that.  Most are heading to work in their standard pants, shirt and ties.  Some in shorts, and that is okay too.  But there have been a few that look like they just rolled out of bed.  I have nothing against rolling out of bed.  I mean, haven't we all just done pretty much exactly that to rush to get our kids to school on time?  However, I think we should roll out and get dressed before we leave the house.

My first request would be can we please ask the dads not to drop their kids off in boxer shorts?  Or shorts that look like boxer shorts?  It is just inappropriate and way more offensive than a sundress.

Here is the 7 Days article

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Confessions of a Mom Whose Kid is "Too Busy"

Two weeks into the new school year and I am late to schedule any after school activities for my first grader.  I know what we are considering, but waiting for his school that is slow to schedule their after school activities may be causing us to loose places elsewhere.  

One of the many beauties of Dubai - you can find a class for anything and everything here, and a lot of it is really good quality.  I want my son to be exposed to, and try different things, but how much is really too much?

Every year I see one or two local newspaper articles about over scheduling one's child.  They must have enough downtime to be bored.  They must feel bored.  I used to read those articles and think, ya, awful parents.  How dare they over schedule their child?  Apparently some mild form of modern abuse.

After some internet search, I see there are even books written on the subject. By definition, I now fall into a certain category of parent.  But really, I am NOT that parent.

In the NYTimes last year there was an about this very subject.  It was written by a parent of two busy children titled Overscheduled Children - How Big a Problem?  Bruce Fieler and his wife both work, and their kids participate in a fair amount of after school activities.  

I can totally relate to everything he said in that article since both my husband and I work very full time jobs.  And even if I didn't work, would it matter?  I would probably not enroll my child in any fewer activities.  

The "experts" say that children need time to be free and be bored.  I totally agree, and we experience this.  However, I also agree with the NYT article.  Boredom leads into the "Can I have the iPad?" request.  No.  

My son is very happy to draw, play legos and do other things, but iPad is The Bomb in their world. And once they learn more about apps, download, etc, they want more.  Who doesn't?  Look at all the adult Candy Crush addicts out there.

Last year he still had plenty of free time to play, and many of his friends were in the same activities. Like Fieler, I also feel these activities are helping him grow and learn about different things.

What they are not is me coddling him or competing with other parents or kids - the main criticism in the books cited.  Be sure, I could care less about what the next kid does or what other kids' parents think.  I'll let someone accuse me of being too interested in my son, but caring about others to the point it is a competition? ...No. For us, it is about trying, or doing your best. 

Once when my son was three, he told me he "can't" do something.  All of my hair stood up on end. I basically explained to him that this is not a word we use.  I'm not sure if he got it at that time, and in all fairness to him he was just being a whiny three year old that day, as you do.  But "can't"? It is a 4-letter word.  We "try".

I emphasized the word so much that when he was frustrated putting together the cute little car track he had, from that day on, those tracks were fondly known as "tries".

I don't want to sound like one of those people that walked up hill both ways to school in the snow, but... When I was young, I played in the forests of rural Ohio.  (Okay, maybe I wasn't in the forrest that deep, but it felt like it).  My friends and I played outside all day, and our parents didn't worry about us being abducted.  I do not really worry about this in Dubai, but I am aware that we live in a much different time.  We also do not have forests here either.  

When we later moved to Texas, I recall being outdoors with my friends at the playground a lot.  We have a playground here, but its not the same.  This is a big city, and we can't easily rally the neighborhood for a game of anything, or playground experimentation. 

My favorite quote from the article,  “As a general principle, there is a line between a highly enriched, interesting, growth-promoting childhood and an over scheduled childhood,” he said. “And nobody knows where that line is.”

So if no one knows where this line is, why are we trying to define it?  Experts always want to put kids or parent behaviors, in some kind of box.  Maybe this doesn't fit in a black or white box.  Exploring and learning can be grey.  It should actually not walk a straight line, but maybe zig zag a bit?

I do not have all the answers, but to all those other parents that are genuinely trying to do right by their child and keep them busy, learning, healthy and happy without being overly competitive - carry on.  

For the NYTimes article referenced above, please click here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

... and there was Palio

Palio di Siena, Italy
We happened to be lucky enough to catch Palio di Siena this summer.  Palio is held twice a year, in July and August.  After seeing Piazza del Campo several years ago, I tried very hard to imagine how that worked in what seemed like a small space for a horse race on somewhat banked cobblestone street.

I learned that they lay thick, hard dirt over the brick around the square so the horses can race.  This doesn't always keep the horses from slipping, but more humans fall than horses.  I read this is quite common as it is a bareback race.  

Piazza del Campo filling up with spectators to watch Il Palio

According to information on Wikipedia, the event dates back to the 14th Century.  The races replaced bullfighting, and the first races were on buffalos and then donkeys.  It was not until 1656 that the "modern" Palio was established.

We caught a practice run two days before the big race day.  The crowds still come out for it, so you can experience the real thing even if you are not there for the finale.

We went back to Siena the day of the final to meet some friends.  While we did not watch the event, we did see the Contrade, or districts, parade their horses through the streets in full traditional dress.  

A horse entering Piazza del Campo for Palio

Tickets to watch the event on shop balconies are sold for a premium price.  We stood in the square, which was free. While we did not have a bird's eye view of the race, we were still able to enjoy the event.  If we needed to use any facilities, the side street bar where we had drinks before had no issues with us going back there.

The streets of the piazza are cleaned before Il Palio

Palio requires a lot of waiting for a short race, but it is worth the wait.
Blink and you might miss the horse running by!