Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dubai Paddle Surfing Contest

Dubai Paddle Board Competition

This weekend I went to check out the first annual Dubai Paddle Surfing competition. I wasn't very sure what paddle boarding was, but when I read that all entrants had to wear a Kandora, or national dress, I thought that could be a fun photo opportunity - and it was.

Since the surfing community in Dubai is still growing, I think the turnout wasn't bad considering the size of the population here. However, I think it got plenty of attention on the Um Sequim open beach and more people will definitely join next year. There was even one girl who had a 6 hour lay over in Dubai that joined - what a great use of her time!

It was great to be in that atmosphere of fun music, usual surf sponsors and that wonderful surfer attitude. The sport seems perfect for Dubai because we don't always have the best traditional surfing waves here. Plenty of wind, but not the longest waves to ride which is why kite surfing and sailing are very popular here. Paddle board seems like a great idea for our tamer waves.

I was only there a short time, but thought it was a great event. - And all proceeds were donated to a local charity.

As I left and went home, I made some mental notes..... 1 - Get into this sport as soon as possible. The weather is heating up and it will be hotter than hell here soon. 2 - Make my husband sign up next year so I can cheer for someone paddling around on a surf board in local dress :-) 3 - Collect all friends to join!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Veiled Kiss

So I took Erin to Ikea tonight to try to find a cheap solution for toy storage for his room. I think we were successful. Yes, they have Ikea here - its huge and often crowded. My new favorite time to go - Monday night..almost crickets chirping. Lovely.

Erin had a blast letting me push him around the store. And Ikea is never big enough because he had a blast using the funnel I picked up from the kitchen section as a megaphone. He can already be pretty loud if he wants - he needs no magnification really. He was quite successful in disturbing people. Most people laughed at him. I tried to do that whole "use your inside voice please" and all that good calm mommy stuff - he could care less. My favorite was when I decided to ignore him and I'd just get those stares - you know the ones. The people who look at you like "don't you hear your kid?". They don't know if he's just mental, or if its just worries, its me :-) He's fine.

He desperately wanted to play in the ball pool they have for kids, but they wouldn't let him because he was not tall enough yet. He was so upset. I knew there was another play area further in the mall attached, so I took him there as he protested the entire way - even louder than before and without his megaphone.

As he was playing there, much to my surprise two children were fascinated with his hair. The boy who was maybe around five or so kept coming back to touch it. This happens sometimes, but usually by adults.

When then proceeded to dinner, at Chili's. Yes, we really do live in a "foreign" country. I hate these chain franchise things with a passion, but unfortunately that is almost all there is here. Yuck. But it was one of the better choices believe it or not. I'm mostly pleased Erin was most happy with his milk rather than the greasy food. He ate well, but he is not a big fried food or junk food person - with the exception of his liking for crunchy cookies and biscuits which he gets from me!

After dinner we went to watch these large inflatable balls they have on the water that they rent out and let people run around inside. If you ever want to feel like a hamster, I think this is it.

As we were watching, two Gulf Arab women and their children came by. I overheard them discussing Erin's hair - its quite long now as we haven't cut it yet - more than 2 years. And they were debating if he was a boy or girl. The women knew, but her young daughter was insisting it was a girl. So with what little Arabic I recall I turned to them and said yes, he was a boy. The little girl was shocked- not at my Arabic, but that Erin was a boy :)

They were all incredibly kind and the one woman asked if she could kiss Erin. Of course I didn't mind. If I were to be asked this same question in the US, there is probably no way I would let a stranger kiss my child. But here, that's what they do. And her face was completely covered except for her eyes. I am assuming they were from Saudi, but I am not sure. Erin got a kiss through the veil. Wow...not many males if any are so lucky!

Erin was in a good mood, so he didn't overly protest. He quickly became very shy, but he was polite. Thank goodness he didn't start growling like a lion as he often does these days.

He seems to have a lot of luck with the local ladies. I recall him as a young one year old flirting with some local girls at a nearby table during lunch one day. They love children, and I guess especially young blonde ones. Even when we were in the Maldives, one Arab woman, who I think was on her honeymoon wanted her photo taken with Erin!

The family kept moving on with the exception of the little girl who stayed behind a few more seconds to keep taking video of us. I didn't realize until she was almost finished. I didn't mind, but I just found it funny. I am so interested in their culture and always taking photos of local things. I don't really see anything so unique about us. It was interesting to be on the flip side. I didn't mind, but I just found it very strangely so being a foreigner in a foreign country!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In a Jaguar

First of all, yes I put up the "ticker" that follows visitors to my little blog here. And thank you all 9 of you that do. Really, I am not being sarcastic. I hope you enjoy it and keep coming back for whatever crazy reason that may be.

I debated for a while on whether or not to do this, but I think anyone who keeps a blog has an ego, and is curious..if you are selling something, then ya, you need to target your market. Me, I've nothing to sell, just curious. I almost feel like that little boy on the recent episode of Southpark that had no friends and then he did his big happy dance around his room when he finally got a friend. While I love and appreciate you all, I don't literally get up and dance, but I won't lie - its exciting to see another number on the ticker. And its like an added bonus when its from a new country. So ya, you hard cores could say at some level this does feed the ego, so sorry for that. My ego really isn't that big or needy - at least I hope not - but I am pleased by the little things in life! - And if you haven't seen that episode of Southpark, "You Have Zero Friends". I highly suggest that you watch it. Spot on about Facebook and people's relationship with it. ..and don't buy it..all the episodes are free on their website!

So, back to matters at hand. In Dubai, there are a lot of nice cars. Cars are relatively cheap here because there is no tax in Dubai, so probably the higher end cars that weren't affordable at home are much more accessible to a lot of people. There are also people here with money and that includes those who are into cars to, so pick your favorite - its here. I think it could be Dubai - I'm sorry I don't recall the exact statistic - has the highest number of Bogatis in the world. Its definitely a country in the Gulf, or the Gulf itself. I didn't even know what that was until I visited a car show here several years ago. Ya, I'm female too. I'm not that much into cars at all, but the Bogati made me stop and backtrack. It is the sexiest car ever.

Seeing a few Jags around town makes me recall my very early days in Istanbul. There is public transport all over the city - buses, mini buses, kind of a mini van called a dolmuş (pronounced dolmush). The last two are cool because they have definite routes, but they pretty much can stop anywhere on that route. You just have to let them know.

It can be intimidating for a newcomer - and it was - when you don't know the language. First you get in, take your seat. Then everyone passes their money up front to pay. The driver doesn't go around and collect. So note, if you are sitting in the front seat you have to work a little more to make sure all the money is passed up to the driver and then you are the first point of contact to distribute any change back to everyone. The driver needs help because all these transactions are done en route. There is no time in the big city.

Oh, in reference to an earlier post, this is a great place for using demir para, or change. Don't give a big bill out in this situation. Definite social fopa. The driver usually won't have change because he deals in coins and then all the other passengers are gonna have to all dig around and work it out to come up with change for your large bill.

So to get out of these mini buses and vans, you need to say the right phrase to get the drivers attention. I hated this for the longest time because I never could get it quite right, couldn't say it loud enough for the driver to hear and probably my accent just confused everyone. So I'd have to end up yelling "Pardon" - like an excuse me and the several locals would say the magic words for me, Inecek var. (Pronounced Inejek var). The literal translation is more or less "There is someone to get out". The driver would then slam on his breaks and throw everyone around - ya, on the mini buses its like sardines at peak hours. Standing room only.

I have a really good friend I met when I first came to Istanbul. She, from South Africa, followed her husband to Istanbul like me so we shared a lot of the same experiences and cultural adjustments. We met at our first place of work in Istanbul - a consulting company where we would write various reports on different subjects. One night, we were both took the dolmuş to dinner after work, and when it came time to stop I was amazed because my friend said the magic words and the driver immediately stopped and everything worked so smoothly! How did you do that! I was amazed. We were pretty much at the same level of Turkish lessons, but she was going to a slightly more intense school than the one that was near my home where I went so I was very impressed.

I was lucky enough for her to share her secret. No need to say the right thing. Just say "In a jaguar". What? Seriously? Yes, she said it works everytime - fail proof. Hmmm. The next day even though intimidated, I gave it a shot. And guess what? I was heard, the driver stopped smoothly, I got out and all was good in the world. I tried it again the next day. Again success!!! Wow! I even did it once when my husband was with me to prove it worked and he was equally impressed.

Now, several years later, I know how to pronounce it properly. I know the rules of the road and how to be seen and heard. Even still, every time I laugh inside because I really really want to say "In a jaguar" to see if it still works.

In Dubai, there are only large public buses. And if you did need them to stop, you would inform the driver in English. All novelty lost for me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Inshallah, the polite blow off

I've not done much of anything the last week because I had/have pneumonia. Yes, the body does get tired, and mine said enough already!

During that break, I had more time to contemplate the meaning of something that I find so incredibly interesting, the word Inshallah. Literally, it means "God willing" and is often used that way. For example, "I hope I recover from pneumonia quickly." Response, "Inshallah".

Or, "Inshallah I will get that big promotion". In this context, its almost like asking "Please God, let me pass that exam". If discussing this with your friend, the likely response from your friend would be "Inshallah". So you could use it in the context to wish for something.

However, there is one way that it is used - by both the religious and non-religious alike that makes me laugh. Let's say for example you ran into someone you haven't seen in years. "You say hey we should get together for dinner or drinks!" They respond "Inshallah". Forget it. Not gonna happen. You have a better chance of the Divine himself coming to dinner. Its like a "Thanks, but no thanks." No one would admit this when they use it this way, but this is what it is in context.

Think about it. It is the perfect scapegoat. How can you be responsible for something if it is all God's will? If God wants you to have dinner, he will find a way to make your friend show up at your house. If not, so sorry. God must not have wanted you to reunite anyway - no matter how much you tried.

I even called some friends on it once. I don't remember the exact subject, but we had a small gathering at our house and as some people were leaving, one friend gave another an Inshallah for an invitation of some sort. It was something different like maybe skydiving, or something that required waking up at sunrise and taking a long drive into the desert that after a 3am night was not too desirable. I interrupted and said, "Come on. Just be honest. You don't really want to do it, so just say it! Don't blame it on God's will!". They of course cracked up and confirmed that my interpretation of Inshallah was spot on. Its not really rocket science - observe it a few times and you get the hang of it.

So folks, the good news is, you have an out for everything you do because it wasn't God's Will. He's in control. The bad news is, you'll know when you're politely snubbed in the name of God.