Thursday, December 3, 2009

Socially naive people...a huge pet peeve

Some people are so naive I could just slap them, really. I don't know if naive is the right work - maybe its social clue?

We were invited to go to dinner the other night with some good friends at the new Cavalli restaurant in Dubai - or new-ish. Its pretty fancy w/ all kinds of bling..or let me start from the walk up a very dark staircase all covered in black carpet of faux fur - or something in between. You only saving grace is the purple lighting under each step.

Then you enter the club which is two smaller bars and several tables. The tables are separated by strings of crystal balls, which is kind of interesting. The best part was the great live music. The band was good. Everything else was alright. I'm not into bling anyway, at all really, but once in a while I'll play along. If you live in Dubai and plan to go, my advice, just drink. But I assume one doesn't go to places like this for the food. My martini was great and it went downhill after that.

There were some others at the dinner and a couple that was an acquaintance that my husband knew through work. The woman must have asked what I do and she learned I work, but was on a long leave because of my son's new diagnosis of diabetes. She later leaned over to tell me she was sorry to hear it, but continued to go on how she hopes and looks forward to the day when she too could have a long leave when she has a child so she could spend some time with them.

While I'm all for a long maternity leave, I guarantee you this is no cake walk we are having and you should pray to your God that you never have to need such a leave. Yes, it has its nice moments and I'm spending time with my son, but when she proceed to ask me what I am doing to fill my days as I'm on leave of absence I nearly fell out of my blue leather Cavalli chair!

My response was "Watching my son's blood sugars go up and down".  She kept babbling about how nice leave must be, so she didn't get the point. And I don't think it was nervous babble.  I think she really just didn't get how her question could be interpreted. Maybe because she is newly wed? Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but if it were a few weeks ago, I probably would have not been in a better place and I would have just walked out or said much worse.

Mental note, when people take leave because they or their child is ill or has been diagnosed with something that needs to be managed because it is chronic, it is not a fun vacation.  Think before you open your mouth please. I am so sick and tired of excusing everyone because they do not know any better - which applies to all social situations really. I don't expect a pity party by any means, but if your kid is sick and you are on leave of absence, I'm not going to expect you to be filling your life with coffee mornings and painting classes.

Rant finished. Thank you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Buying Pork is not something I do a lot of. I was never a huge fan of it while in the US - although the bacon at the now non-existent Buffalo Grill in Houston was always pretty amazing. Never really ate it in Turkey as it was only available at one butcher shop, and I could do without the Oscar Mayer fatty bacon. So, I never missed it at all, and only tested it when visiting countries where it was everywhere in the menu and you couldn't escape it.

Well, tonight I decided to cook chicken wrapped in bacon. Chicken is always very easy to cook, but bacon might make it more interesting. So, I pop out to the local market to get my two important ingredients. Buying pork here, or the thought of it always makes me laugh a little inside. Every market here that sells pork has to have a special section, and I mean not just an aisle, but a pork room that has a huge advertisement across the top "Pork Section for Non-Muslims Only". Its as if you are walking into the gates of Hell, really. And if there is a local nearby, if I ever have to slip in then I do for some reason feel a bit uncomfortable doing it. I mean it is their country and why am I desecrating it by buying pork?

Even though permissible, it seems disrespectful to me in some way. If they see me go in, is it like I am spitting in their face? Eating pork in their country. I mean its nice they've developed this way to categorize it. And what would happen if someone in local dress walked in there? Alarms, lights? What might happen?

And why do Muslims not eat pork? I am told that it is because it is believed to be a dirty animal. The quotes I see on the Internet from the Koran are: " Forbidden to you for (food) are: dead meat, blood and the flesh of the swine and that which hath been invoked the name other than Allah. " To me dead meat could be interpreted in various ways, but I guess that means road kill. Blood, ok, no vampires. I assume this has a lot to do with how animals are slaughtered differently than in the West. All the blood is drained from the body as I understand it. And the flesh of swine, that's pretty explanatory. So that is kind of categorized as dirty in that statement, and I get it.

Jews don't eat pork either. I think that's because its not Kosher. I don't know what that means as I'm not Jewish, so I went to Wiki, and it says because it doesn't ruminate (chew cud), but has cloven hoofs - a religious doctrine is cited. However, if an animal has both, then that's ok. Something I came across on someone's blog or Q&A took it to the next level and stated that this represents some kind of hypocrisy. It was deeper than I wanted to dive tonight, so I clicked back to my search page.

Christians eat pork, and lots of it. However, through this search I learned that in the Old Testament of the Bible it states that Christians were instructed not to eat pork. But, continue reading and another blog said some Christians think that God was only speaking to the Jews and not isn't this the problem with religion? - So many people think God is talking to them only, or not talking to them and giving directives to others that don't apply to them?! Would we not have world peace if people didn't think God had a selective audience??!!!

And as I continue to research this subject on the internet it just becomes comical! - On Answers Yahoo: "I know Jews don't eat pork...What about bacon?" I'm not kidding. Its out there for the world to see.

One final thing I learned. In 2008, it was decided that giraffe is kosher.


Happy Thanksgiving, Eid Mubarak, Ramadan Kutlu Olsun

My life is chaos...or at least it feels that I sit here at a table covered in paperwork and a slew of other things to do, I wonder how is this ever going to get done? "This"..what is "this"? Everything?!! Its absolutely nutts. So much has happened in the last year its been unreal. Just when I think I have things under control, I am thrown another curve ball that rocks my world. And not just for me, but I feel like a lot of people have had a lot of stress, sickness and accidents in their life this year that they would otherwise take a big PASS on.

At the end of October, my son was diagnosed with juvenile, or Type 1, Diabetes. He was only 20 months old. This really wasn't expected and we do not have this running in our family, so it was quite a shock for us and has completely changed my life more than his or anyone else's.

Why does it happen..there are all kinds of theories, but everyone is more looking for a cure. I have tons to say about that..finding the cause to prevent it I think would also be a great idea. Too many kids have this as well as too many other diseases that we just didn't see in the past. Are we as a species getting worse as we multiply, or are we just killing ourselves through development, vaccines and the environment?

Erin is handling it very well, as kids often do better than their parents with these things - which makes it almost more heartbreaking. He is on an insulin pump, which we are informed is the best way to manage diabetes. I believe it, but it is very difficult to get to a manageable state for a toddler in the beginning. He doesn't mind having it at all. However, I think I can compare my emotional roller coaster to the highs and lows of his blood sugars. I should have been vomiting on a daily basis from motion sickness some time ago! I am currently on a leave of absence from work, and happy to be able to do that to support him and get some kind of normalcy in life again, but it has not been easy to say the least, and I do not know what to anticipate when I do return to work. I really do not know how parents who have children with more severe diseases handle it, I really really don't and my heart really goes out to them.

So, here we are at the brink of December and I feel like there is just so much to be done, so much that hasn't been done. We just finished the Eid holiday as they are called in the Arab world, or Ramadan in Turkey. The Festival of Sacrifice. It happened to fall on Thanksgiving this year - it changes every year like a lot of Muslim holidays as it still follows the Muslim calendar, based on the moon. It is called the Festival of Sacrifice to remember the sacrificing of Abraham's, or Ibrahim's (yes, the Biblical and Koran players are the same - oh as well as Judaism) son for God. Although from what I have read, in Islam, there is some grey as to which son he is to sacrifice...regardless, Ibrahim was up for it, even couldn't be distracted by Satan. Fortunately, in the end God stopped and said "sacrifice a sheep instead". ..I'm sure not in those exact words as God is much more formal, but you get the idea. To this day, there are still sheep sacrificed throughout Islamic countries.

This is also the same time that Islamic Pilgrims take a Haj and make their once in a lifetime journey to Mecca, the Islamic holy city located in Saudi Arabia. Thousands upon thousands of people go every year. Its quite an interesting site from what I've seen in pictures and media. I would love to go observe, but this will never happen. You have to be a Muslim to enter Mecca for any reason - even business. And that's ok and keeps it special. I respect that. I still think it would be such an interesting thing to observe. However, I agree, if that can of worms was ever opened, they'd end up with a McD's and a Starbucks in one of the most sacred places on earth and I wouldn't approve of that either.

I was unfortunately sick the entire holiday, so it was good that we decided not to go anywhere for the holiday. We also didn't want to expose Erin to more potential to pick up a flu for just a few days of travel, so we decided to wait. We are not the panicking parents, but we have now learned that a child with diabetes is in a high risk group for flu and other illnesses. When they get it, it is critical. Kind of scary. It even scared me enough to get Erin a flu shot (the regular one, not H1N1) while we were in the US for his pump and treatment, which is something I am fundamentally against as someone who tries to go it more natural. It was a difficult decision for me. So, having not gone through any sick days with him yet, and blood sugars not yet under control, we opted to hang out in the warm weather of Dubai.

I cooked my Thanksgiving dinner early since I knew people would travel for the Eid days off. Did it a week early. Had our "Christmas Group" of close friends over - those that were in town - and did the Turkey, home made pies, all that stuff home made. Honestly, I don't know where I got the energy at all. I don't know where the motivation came from; what was I thinking? I had been so incredibly down the last two months, but despite the diabetes, despite my husband loosing his father this year, my friend loosing her father, another lost her grandmother, and many other tragedies for a not so great year, I knew we still had a lot to be thankful for. I managed to pull it off and we had a nice dinner. I was exhausted, but so glad I did it to be with close friends again and laugh.

Despite the chaos and stress of it all, the mountain of things to do staring at me, and the uncertainty, I am thankful. I have had the most difficult two months of my life, and I hope that is the most difficult I will ever have to endure. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I have never felt so shocked, alone or afraid. So, I didn't have a choice, couldn't have prevented it, but somehow my son ended up with this disease. I HATE it. However, a very manageable one. The important thing is I still have a very happy and healthy son. And for this, I am thankful.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Airport security service improved :-o

Sitting here with my jet lagged toddler for maybe the forth night, I can't help but reflect on my recent trip. I just flew to Houston and back in the month of September and couldn't help but notice this time I did not come across any rude airport security or customs employees on either leg of the trip. That was really refreshing.

Coming in, my husband who has a visa and me a citizen where directed to go to the same line. Last time we were told to separate and then I got reprimanded for it later and for only having one customs form. I was a bit nervous about it coming up to the immigration officer, but he was professional and did his searches and we went on about our business.

At customs we were asked to go have our baggage scanned. That was fine. As long as you ask politely, I'll do it. And they did. Such a different tone. Now that I recall it, we flew on September 11th.

And the big shocker, this time on the way out as we went through security, all the employees were very calm. No one raised their voice unnecessarily, security was professional and did their jobs and we did ours by giving up our bags, belts, shoes and what not for the scanners.

This is maybe the first time in 15 or so years it was professional at every check point. Thanks for that improvement whatever you guys did!

Religious Trendy Dressing

It always crosses my mind whenever I see a man with a short distash, why is that? I am told that this means they are more religious.

How does wearing a piece of clothing that is shorter than everyone make you more religious? I mean in the US we have some religious women who do not wear pants or cut their hair, so I guess that is possible - I don't get that either, and how it makes you more religious, but to each his own.

The modern Gulf Arab men are incredibly polished in their distash - crisply pressed, never dirty or showing age. It looks pretty sharp - and not always in white either, which I don't know anything about what is required to wear a tope or navy colored distash. Although I have read it is considered festive and often done during Ramadan. The younger guys have made it even more Western and wear baseball caps with it. I think its coolest when they tie their head scarfs in a non-traditional way. Its kind of funky, but that's just me.

So at a dinner or party a few weeks ago this subject came up. And not all non-Gulf Arabs themselves were sure what it meant. While their cultures are very different, being a little geographically closer I thought I might get an answer. Someone told me they think they wear a shorter distash to signify that they do not care about modern materialism. Have a shorter robe means that they are above material things signifying their religiousness.

Hmmm...doesn't this kind of contradict that by making a "fashion" statement in itself?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

US Reflections

Last week I was in a hurry and very excited that I was going to the computer store to purchase my long researched and awaited Mac. I was able to meander through the construction and find the computer store hidden behind the upcoming Dubai metro stop that had the Mac and the expertise I had been searching for. But shoot, no easy parking and one of those pay for parking lots.

Now I heard there was a way to pay for parking through your mobile phone by just dialing a number - cool, so I wanted to try that and I also did not have any change at all to drop into the box to get a ticket. I tried to dial what looked like some code number on the meter - nothing. Shoot..what to do, what to do. It was only 30 minutes before the meter would be free and I would only be about 5 - 10 minutes because I knew what I wanted, they were expecting me, so it was a clean deal.

Ah-ha! I had a parking card that my very organized husband bought for me some time ago. So I put that in the machine, it still had credit - thankfully. Oh, but wait, the machine still was not giving me a ticket. Why? After a few more tries, a local man arrives w/ who I assume are his sons. "Do you need change?", he asks. I am so, er...well no, but my parking card is not working. He walks back to his car and gets a dirham for me and puts it in and gives me the ticket. I am grateful and still embarrassed.

Me, walking to the computer store in my mini sun-dress in a sharia lawed country, can't help but wonder...if the situation was reversed and he was dressed as himself, an Arab man in a Dishtash in the US, how quick would someone be to offer him change for the parking meter?


Today I had a doctor appointment. Since I am in the healthcare field, we started chatting a bit. He was pleased to learn I grew up in Houston, TX b/c he spent a few years working there at a hospital in the Medical Center. He really liked it and enjoyed his time there and would like to go back and work there. Wow...he is half Iraqi and speaking the praises of the US. I told him I was not sure I could go back as I am not sure how safe it is and I fear for my personal safety and that of my son as well. We have a lot of problems.

His side of the story was, yes, but no place is perfect. The people are nice, cosmopolitan and it is a nice place to work. There is a lot of opportunity and in the area of medical research there is a lot of potential. Hmmm...I had to agree. It is very easy to criticize where you are from, and I think as Americans, we often take certain things for granted - whether we live there or not. When you grow up with these opportunities and always have them, you think anything is possible. If you know what it is like to not have access to these things and dream about them, it is a big deal. Don't take it for granted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Women in the Middle East

At work I was part of a round table discussion with a woman who has been with the company for several years. I think once they get that high up, they have various goals to meet with so many people, etc, depending on their position. She is also interested in promoting women within the company, so this was also a focus on women and the culture here. The discussion mande me reflect a lot on what some people may have questions about, but what has become a daily thing here...

How are women treated here in the workplace? I have never had an issue being female and working here. Definitely not within my company, and have not run into anything with any clients. There was one time where I extended my hand to a man I met to shake his hand, forgetting that some more religious types will not shake a woman's hand - and he was one of them. I knew that, but just wasn't thinking and I felt really awful afterwards, b/c I could tell he was uncomfortable. I may not agree with it, but its his interpretation of his religion, so who am I to put him in that situation. One of my colleagues who is female was completed ignored by a man in a meeting in Egypt. This is not the norm, but can happen. She did note that later the guy used all of her while he wouldn't acknowledge her, he did listen.

How does the population see Westerners? - I find the general population here quite open and accepting of other cultures. After all, about 80% of the population is from somewhere else. Its quite interesting. While being accepting, they do try to preserve their culture as much as possible b/c it can get mudded out by the others - my words, not theirs.

As pointed out to us by our local visitors the night that Megan tried to steal some food from the table and I nearly burned the house down...even their language is changing b/c there is noone to really teach children the Gulf/UAE dialect of Arabic. In their childrens' school, the Arabic is taught by an Egyptian, for example, who uses a different style of Arabic. I can't imagine how this much feel to be a proud citizen of such a fast developing country that is being watched by the world for various reasons. Feeling proud, but at the same time afraid of loosing that and your children growing up not knowing that. While places change from generation to generation, I think things here are changing at light speed sometimes.

Long time no Blog...Some thoughts about MJ...

It has been such a busy year the end of the day, I just could not open a laptop to write..and my energy was all used up focussing on accomplishing a lot of work. So, now back from two very busy weeks in Turkey and full of that motivation and optimism that you get after a holiday..the kind you want to stay around and keep all the time....but then, you end up back in the grind and all that freshness is forgotten...How can we keep that feeling? More importantly, how can I keep that feeling!?

So Michael Jackson died. What a fiasco. You know, I thought it would be one of those things where I remembered where I was when I learned, but my memory is a bit foggy and I forgot..I am sure I'll recall tomorrow...It was somewhere during the final countdown to vacation so all just a blur.

However, sadly, I have noticed one thing. Despite the tragedy of it all, his music sounds much better to me now. That could be a few reasons - I haven't listned to any MJ in years, and I couldn't get past the allocations of his fondness for children. And now his family is supposively torn over where to put the body. Are really talented people always leading such complicated lives that end in tragedy?

You may recall there was some "news" a while back that when he was living here and on a visit to Dubai he went into a women's restroom. Well, if you see the signs on the door, you would come to Michael's defense. The signs have the portrait drawing of a male or female dressed in local national dress - an Abaya or Distash...b/c they are not real pictures, they look awfully close as each has a long piece of fabric hanging from their head. I myself almost walked into the men's room there. Poor MJ.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Life in Pictures

Life is very surreal at times....sometimes more often than not...

For example, last week we went with four other couples - our close friends from Dubai - to the Maldives - sans children. We had been talking about taking a holiday together for some time, but then the idea to go w/out the kids came up a month or so later. I was hesitant of course as this was the first time I would leave Erin. While I knew he would be fine, I felt guilty of course.

We all met up at the airport - everyone after having a hectic crazy work week, so happy to finally get there. However, I felt like I was watching some kind of movie or t.v. series about friends going on vacation...It wasn't me who was actually going.

We arrived to the Maldives sometime late in the night and then had a 45 minute boat ride to our island. It was pitch black. Even though we had finally arrived and were assigned our rooms, I still could not believe we made it.

It was only the next day when I woke up and actually plunged into the beautiful water that I realized I was on holiday. It felt good. I felt a little less guilty, but enjoyed the novelty of sleeping in late w/out an early morning toddler wake up call.

We had a great time relaxing, laughing and enjoying each others' company. I still had moments of the dream when I would not quite believe I was on holiday. Once the dream was very vivid as I was on the pier waiting for everyone to arrive for our snorkelling trip. As they rounded the corner on the beach all colorful and ready to go, again I was wathing a film.

After four relaxing days, we had to return back to life. I watched the film close as we walking to the boat that would transfer us back to the airport. Was I really there, or was it just a dream?

It was a wonderful dreamlike film, but that dream sadly turned into a nightmare. The evening we got back my father-in-law went into the hospital. He had been having some health problems over the last few months and things were acting up again. Unfortunately, he passed away the next morning.

It was incredibly shocking of course. Again, things went back into surreal, film mode, but only a film of a differen kind. We flew to Istanbul immediately. And while I was there a part of it, sharing my husband's and his families' grief, it was as though I was watching a movie again.

In part this could be a result of experiencing my first Islamic funeral in its entirety - I have been to funerals before, but have never witnessed the entire thing. While theoretically, things are the same, I find Islamic funerals more hands on - or raw, for lack of a better word. However, it was still as though I was watching it through a lens. It wasn't a defense mechanism by any means. As probably with many people, when someone dies, we all wait to wake up from the nightmare. However we didn't wake up.

The film still continues to some extent, but I think if I were directing it and had to end the show somewhere, I would do it as I was leaving Istanbul. We flew over the city, in the direction of the Bosphorous. Just before this beautiful stretch of water, we flew over the graveyard - its quite a large one, and since I know the city well, easy to spot. I looked out of my window and could clearly estimate the area where my father in law is buried. Where just that same afternoon I planted tulips on his grave.

Now back to Dubai, the film is still going...I'm still not quite believing he passed away, that he is gone. That his grandson who he loved so dearly will not get to know him. I know he will be dearly missed by many - especially his family. However, he lived a beautiful, full life and that is something that they will recall and celebrate in time. It was a happy, full life - the kind of story that happy movies are made of.