Friday, October 31, 2008

The Day the World Changed....

Last Friday, one of our good friends in the US was struck by a car as she walked her son to school...

To see this sentence and read it again, it is still just unbelievable and difficult to accept.

She suffered some pretty serious injuries, but the unthinkable happened and her son died. They were at a cross walk, crossing the street. I heard it happened in front of their home. Reports say the car stopped at the stop sign, but proceeded through and the driver did not see them because the sun was in his eyes. Regardless of how it happened, it doesn't matter. It doesn't make it any less painful. It won't bring him back.

We have been haunted by this since learning about it. My husband and I both had nightmares about it. I still do - I'm not sure if he does as I haven't asked. Its incredibly upsetting and there is not a day that does not go by that I do not think of them and share their pain.

We hope and pray that they can find the strength to get through this. I know life is unfair, and this is the most unfair incident I think I have personally experienced to date. However, I also find it a bit unfair that we will move on and continue as they are still grieving. They will eventually have to move on in some capacity as well, but I do not want them to think that their son will be forgotten, or that their pain is any less significant. It is not.

For all who know them and knew their son, I think we all agree that the world changed the day Jett was taken away and it will never be the same again.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Airport Pet Peeves

...ok, I hesitate to do this b/c I am so thankful that we are able to travel and see so many things and meet so many amazing people. However, there is always something at the beginning or end of those experiences that you just wish you didn't have to deal with or isn't necessary to deal with because it just kind of takes away from the great experience you just had or are about to have. Travel nuisances! I've got a few. Some of them I have shared with the appropriate agencies, others I have not due to time. It takes time to constructively criticize something without just sounding like a ranting nutt. And maybe that is what I am. But now that I travel with a child, I notice other things that I never knew could be improved.

In theory, I should just be glad that we get to our destination in one piece because that really is the point, right? Yes it is. However, we are paying for a service. And if airlines are going to keep jacking up the prices and blame it on the cost of fuel, then my expectation for service is going to continue to increase as well. And with the likes of Singapore Airlines out there who really make you feel welcome and special, others should take note!

Yes, we all hate lost luggage. That has happened to me on a few occasions. If the people who are handling the situation are professional about it and follow up and are supportive then I don't mind because they usually find it. However, when it takes me 11 calls to get through to someone who can actually help or even pretends to care, I'm not so happy about it..that would be you, the US carrier with the same name as a letter in the Greek alphabet. If only I had time to log all of that big mess because it was stranger than fiction and no one would have believed the ridiculous answers/responses I would get from people when I actually got a hold of someone.

I finally did get my luggage back. Another airline who I had a connecting flight with actually helped me get it (thank you Emirates). It had gone through New York and my luggage was accidentally delivered to a Korean woman in Queens. There were only a few items missing when I returned it, but they were all new. I don't think it was the woman in Queens. I would bet money it happened at the airport. I'm sorry New York, but pretty much everyone I have known who has flown through NY has had valuables stolen from their luggage at one time or another. Fortunately we can now lock up again that we have those special locks that only homeland security can open with a special key. What was missing from my luggage that time? An outfit I bought at an outlet for my neighbor's son's birthday. It wasn't expensive at all, but sad someone stole it. The other thing that was missing were some toys I bought for my cats! Go figure...

Now travelling with a baby. My biggest, kindest request of all is to please, please bring the strollers out sooner rather than later. I have had to stand for two hours once and wait for the stroller after getting all our luggage. There is nothing worse than waiting for your stroller with a very heavy, jet lagged baby who just wants to go home and get into bed.

Its very kind that I know of at least one airline that offers free strollers you can use inside the airport. However, in most cases when I've needed one, they are never at the gates and when I ask people they send me on a wild goose chase and no one can ever seem to find one nor are they very inclined to help me find one. That just adds to the fun. But, looking on the positive side, this is just adding to the newly found muscle tone I have in my arms and shoulders from picking up my baby. If only I could get it to work for my legs too! I guess two hours of squats and lunges while waiting for the stroller would have been one way.

Also, I would love it if the strollers came out clean. I know that they must send it through a scanner for security reasons, but when I leave my things with you - as a custodian, you are the one who holds my belongings and keeps them safe until I get them back. I would really love them to come back in the same condition that I left them in. I work hard and have to pay for these things. I don't get them for free and I don't take them for granted, so I would just like my goods to come back damage free and clean. Yes, I'm sure he'll eat dirt whlie playing outside one day, but for now I would like the place where my infant son sits to be clean and damage free. Who pays for this? Its not really the airline's fault because its going through the airport system. I might even relax on the timeliness if I can get my goods back clean. Inventors, there is potential to find something better than a plastic bag.

One of my biggest pet peeves ever, as a law abiding citizen and tax payer of the US, is the way I am treated by Homeland Security every single time I enter back into the US. I know they have a very specific, special job that must be quite the power trip for some, but really I could do without the harassment. I am not the only American living abroad who has experienced this. We have many friends who have unfortunately shared the same attitude and harassment.

And forget about those of us who are citizens, I am always amazed at how tolerant visitors to the US are of the manner in which American employees treat them upon entering and exiting our country. While I am grateful that we have security checks and are probably able to intercept many things that we do not want in the US, I am shocked when I observe what has become the norm - a non-professional, condescending tone that has become an epidemic among security and immigration employees at US airports. Personally, I find it embarrassing as a US citizen to see it getting worse every year because this is the first impression that many people have of the US. As a citizen of a country, you want that impression to be a positive one. I cannot recall of any country that I have visited ever treating me like this. Regardless of region of political relations with the US, my experience as a foreigner entering other countries has always been professional. It is unfortunately, only when I enter the US there is an exceptional amount of attitude that is projected.

Now, I am sure that the immigration/security/whoeverelse officers see a lot of crazy things, but I just don’t think that the condescending tone and attitude are appropriate. I have nearly had my head bitten off b/c I asked to borrow an officer's pen. As much as I think its ridiculous, I can take off my baby's shoes when you ask - I only wish that you would ask me politely rather than being rude about it. I know you never know what he might be packing in his little Pedi-Peds, but as he gets older and understands more, I am not sure how I am going to explain to him why people are so rude for no reason as I try to teach him to be a respectful human being?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Local Encounter Part 2

Its been a while...I've got tons of stuff to do and not enough time to do it! But who doesn't. And I just when I've got too much going on, today I stayed home from work with a bad cold. Can't say I'm significantly better, so we'll see how it goes tomorrow. At least its quieter than the office and I can get some work done when I'm feeling okay.

...So where were we..local encounter. Its always so much better to write these things right after they happen! I'm sure it would have made for much more interesting reading. Anyway, during Ramadan we invited our friends over for an after Iftar meal. I am sorry I don't remember what the meal after Iftar is called. The girl who used to work with Sarper came with her two sisters and her husband. We really enjoy our visits a lot with them and laugh a lot.

It was kind of a comedy of a night for me...they welcomed us into their lovely home and it was so nice for sure you want to reciprocate the same. In doing so I managed to almost burn down a piece of furniture. One of my candle holders a friend brought me from Kazakhstan caught fire. I think it must have been the paint or plastic or something, but I looked over and it was flaming! A little excitement, but fortunately manageable.

So I continued to bring the food out and we were serving kofte (Turkish meat balls for lack of a better way to explain it). When I come to bring more food out of the kitchen, there is Megan (one of my cats) getting ready to go for the kofte! She was on the edge of the table?!!! Did they see? I'm not sure...what do you do...Did they see? If so, throw it away? Its one of those dilemmas if you dropped the roast on the floor, would you throw it away or still serve it to the guests...of course if they saw it its a whole different story. And I find with the exception of falcons and horses the Gulf locals are not really animal people. I don't think they mind animals, but they don't really keep pets in their homes as far as I know. They were okay with our cats around - and our cats liked them as well, but for sure they don't want to share the dinner table with them. So, I took the kofte back to the kitchen and covered it until we were ready to sit down and eat. I was hoping there was a chance they didn't see. We've got this big pillar in our living room - its odd, but kind of divides it into living-dining area - so maybe the pillar was blocking them. They tasted a little bit of everything, so I guess I was okay...phew....

We again learned a lot about the local culture and at this point I realized just how much they are loosing their culture. I always wondered about this because locals account for less than 20% of the population, so how does this work for them. We learned a lot from the eldest sister about how things used to be in Dubai and what she remembered from her childhood. But not only are they outnumbered, but they have other challenges as a result of this. For example, in their schools they also lack enough locals to teach. So when the kids learn Arabic, its a slightly different dialect. What a big challenge for them. I am most impressed with how they still welcome the growth and change. They don't seem to resent the growth and change happening around them, but instead they embrace it and are taking advantage of the opportunities. I would think that in my country many would take to the streets and protest...and yet some of those same people would point fingers and say that the ME is not modern. I have found it to be quite the contrary and while limited, the interaction I have had with locals confirms this.