We Are Family

I’m just gonna lay it on the line… I suck at good-byes.

If you had the great misfortune of crossing my family’s path at O’Hare on August 13, 2014, you unwillingly observed one of the grittiest displays of snot, tears, and sweat outside of a South Africa/New Zealand rugby match. Not our strongest moment. Ultimately, I physically peeled myself away from Kate and Jenna when I could no longer breathe.

Yet, all three of us survived the separation.

It’s a given that I’ll cry again when I see my girls, but it will be tears of relief. We did it! And this opportunity afforded us experiences that were comically far-removed from our previous version of normal.

BG Cover1

Unfortunately, in moving back home I must distance myself from my social circle here, the people who have kept my head above water while I was 7500 miles away from everyone and everything familiar. We undertook this journey together, sharing laughs, tears, bewilderment, anger, and empathy (thankfully, more laughs than the yucky stuff). We all agreed that it’s not what you experience but who’s along for the ride.

There’s an upside as well. No matter where I travel in the future, be it other states, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Cameroon or Brunei, I have family, and that’s pretty darn cool.

So I refuse to say good-bye to any of you. Thanks for the past two years; it was great craic. Let’s meet up someday soon for a pint or a wee dram, and we’ll pick up right where we left off. You guys rock.

Safe travels to all… this summer and beyond.

Peace out.

Khalas.

good-bye

 

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I Wish I Had a Date

My life currently revolves around dates. I’m in the process of ridding my apartment of its contents and have pickups scheduled for the next two weeks. As part of our clearance process, there are steps that must be taken so we can produce the necessary paperwork to have our resident visas canceled. Yesterday, a representative from the gas company stopped in to check the gas line so I could obtain clearance for the first of several utilities. Mind you, I never had a gas connection since I chose electric appliances, but the tech had to drop by to verify anyway.

Just as I suspected...

Just as I suspected…

Next, I’ll wait for my resignation request to move forward, which I submitted on March 8. Rumor had it that all requests would be processed by June 15, but dates don’t seem to mean all that much here so it’s still in limbo. Inshallah, I will receive an email next week so I can begin the multi-step exit process. If all goes according to plan, I’ll clear out of my apartment on June 30, shack up in a hotel for six days, and fly home on July 6. All of this is tentative right now, so we’ll see. I wish I had a date.

I will, however, tell you what kind of dates do matter to the people of the UAE- these babies:

I would be remiss if I didn’t explain the importance of dates in this country. Bedouins harvested, used, and sold dates long before the United Arab Emirates was formed. Nutritious, abundant, and easy to pack for traveling, dates have sustained Middle Easterners for more than 7000 years. Rarely will we attend a meeting without being offered chocolate and dates. Generally wherever there is coffee or tea, dates are nearby.

150-plus varieties of this fruit, which grow on the date palm, are found in the UAE.

Add to that the dozens of variations in which dates can be doctored up, and it’s borderline mind-blowing. Pass a kiosk in the mall and this is what you’ll see:

Dubai even hosts a Date Festival every year:

One of my students (she doesn’t speak much English but she smiles a lot) brought me a container of dates from her grandfather’s date farm.

d1

She had an English-speaking friend tell me that they’d last for months on my kitchen counter and I should eat one every day instead of sharing them. Now, if they were wrapped in bacon (so haramadan!) that would’ve been one thing, but I did end up sharing these with anyone and everyone who stopped over.  In the past two years, it’s definitely one of the nicest gifts I’ve received while here.

Now, the third type of date is something I may need help with, so all you Chicagoans need to flip through your Rolodexes and hook me up with your best catch starting July 6. Inshallah. That may be a taller order to fill than getting me out of here. Yet, after meeting so many people and having such a great time, I’m sure when I return I’ll wish I had a date. And I’m a much more tolerant human now. Really.

Mahna Mahna (A Fractured Fairy Tale)

Once upon a time, there was a Princess who wore an imaginary crown and traveled the world whenever her busy schedule allowed. Due to the Al Isra Wal Miraj holiday, the princess planned a weekend getaway. It’s always fun to visit a kingdom, she thought. I don’t know why but it makes me feel special, even if I’m only wearing an imaginary crown. And with that, she hopped over to the island of Bahrain for the weekend.

Once arriving at the capital city of Manama, the princess took her first of four overpriced taxi rides to the hotel. Hmmm, why does the meter show one price but with a push of a button the fee doubles?  the princess wondered, but it turns out she couldn’t get a straight answer to that question for the rest of the weekend.

I know! I’ll just walk to the souk instead of getting ripped off again.  And with that, the princess adjusted her imaginary crown and ventured out toward the popular shopping venue, armed with enough dinar for her usual paltry souvenirs.

It seemed lovely at the time

It seemed lovely at the time

I wonder if all eyes are upon me because I’m a princess, she questioned.

“No!” a voice boomed. It was a military man brandishing an AK-47. “You’ve completely disregarded the dress code of this country. Exactly who do you think you ARE?”

“OMG, sorry, sorry, sorry! I’m a princess, and didn’t realize I couldn’t make up my own rules in life. I guess I should’ve given that more thought during my three-minute packing session.”

“Away with you!” the man seethed as he waved his weapon in the air. “Everyone! Leer at this slut until she returns to her hotel!” And so they did, and the princess slunk back to the Sheraton with her eyes fixed on the ground while the gazes of many burned holes through her exposed knees.

Back in the safety of the hotel, the princess spotted other tourists who were also inappropriately dressed, and she instantly felt more at home. I think I’ll just chill at the bar and forget about this afternoon’s unfortunate string of events. Sipping her 42 dirham vodka tonic, she was approached by a regal-looking man dressed in white.

“Foolish lady, why are you in this bar? Can’t you see this is a popular hangout for certain men? Who do you think you are?”

“I’m sorry,” the princess winced. And she adjusted her imaginary crown before slithering back to her room.

Well, at least I booked the hotel club lounge for my stay. I’ll head over there for snacks and happy hour, the princess reasoned as she tried to lower her anxiety level without the aid of a Xanax.

This is super-enjoyable, the princess cried as she settled into a comfy chair, armed with an appetizer spread of spring rolls, quesadillas, and a nice glass of cab, her elixir of choice.

Then all of a sudden, the princess heard a blood-curdling scream. What the…? She looked at the other club patrons but they were as puzzled as she. Then… in bounded 4-year old Mariam (aka the human tornado) screaming with arms flailing, followed by five other members of her family. Noooooo, lamented the princess. Don’t set this crew up next to me!” Surely the waiter could see the princess’ imaginary crown. He wouldn’t dare do such a thing… or would he?

For the next hour, the princess witnessed the systematic unfolding of Mariam’s meltdown. The cookie assortment, orange Fanta, and hot chocolate only fueled her ability to snag ice out of the community bucket bare-handed, manhandle every stir stick at the bar, and rearrange plates and bowls that her family had no intention of using. In fact, they seemed unfazed by the whole lengthy show. After the room had been successfully destroyed by a half dozen sugar packets dumped on the table, chair, and floor, Mariam’s family departed, probably to wreak havoc in the pool area (even though it was outside operational hours). The cleaning crew immediately descended upon the destruction and proceeded to tidy up the mess.

After the vacuum was turned off, the princess muttered, “Why was SHE allowed to do those things while I’ve been ostracized for EVERY misstep I’ve made today?”

“Because she is a princess,” one of the workers answered matter-of-factly. “And you… well, you must be a teacher here on a long weekend. We can spot your type a mile away. You often confuse where you live with who you really are.” The waiter smiled, brought over the bottle of cab, and filled up the princess’ glass.

“Thanks. Can I take this to my room?” she asked.

“Certainly, “ the waiter responded. “And, hey, don’t forget your imaginary crown.”

 

(Cast photos below)

The Four Muscat-eers

Right next door to the UAE, the Sultanate of Oman lies on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Since it’s always good to befriend the neighbors, Joe, Bettina, Craig and I opted to hop on a 45-minute flight and spend a few days in the capital of Muscat over Spring Break. For various reasons (single, American, female, no work permit) I’m not allowed to enter some of the Middle Eastern countries, but Oman welcomed us with open arms.

We set up camp at the Crowne Plaza, and by that I mean once we arrived, we never left the place. Instead, we enjoyed the sun, sand, and the refreshingly beautiful mountains.. It was a bit hazy, just like AD has been the past few weeks, but still a nice change of pace.

We happened upon a stingray- the first one I’ve ever seen outside of an aquarium.

Photo: Bettina

Photo: Bettina

Unfortunately, the poor guy was stuck upside down in high tide. We weren’t sure if he was injured and didn’t get close enough to find out. The beach area was also rife with crabs- those little scramblers can send a chill down your spine (Nature Girl at her finest).

It was a relaxing few days of R & R. Luckily, husband & wife guest bloggers and professional campers Andy and Danni took an excursion to Oman over Christmas Break and have finally put the finishing touches on their post/novel. Not much of a camper, in my next post I’m happy to present through their words and photographs the breathtaking side of Oman, which most definitely did not include the food-and-drink-inclusive Club Floor plan at the Crowne Plaza 🙂

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

What, you ask, could possibly have occurred today in Abu Dhabi that incited more pandemonium than a Trump rally back home in the States?

If you live here, you know exactly what I’m referring to. Yes, it rained. And for the first time in any area I’ve been in at any given moment, it rained for more than ten minutes. I think at work we got close to an hour’s worth. A thundershower (can you hear 700 girls screaming about that?) complete with lightning (more screaming).

On the rare occasion that it rains, the students will bolt out of the classroom and into the courtyard. I’d say 70% of the courtyard is covered by a beautiful metal roof, and 15% on either side is open above. I’ll have to take a photo one day, but the teachers were told to delete any photos taken today, so I can’t post them and still expect to have my job tomorrow.

So cue a substantial amount of rain, and the girls immediately tear out to the courtyard. Most of them just stand there and talk while they get soaked to the bone. Some splash, others kick up water, many hug; we even saw a game of ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ (yes, this is high school.)

Fast forward about fifteen minutes and signs of flooding appear.

Because it’s the desert, the sewer system leaves something to be desired. Someone in administration bellows (in Arabic) over the crackling loudspeaker, and one of my students informs me that they’re all supposed to head to the canteen. For safety reasons? Why would they want 700 soaked teenage girls corralled into such a small space? Another 15-20 minutes later, most of them have splashed over to the canteen; the English teachers aren’t sure why, but it frees me from teaching a double period, so I’ll play along.

I’m standing outside the door with several other teachers who were smart enough to decline the order to go inside and monitor the students. I peer beyond the glass door into the open bathroom and spy a layer of bubbles covering the floor; the girls have obviously found a way to amuse themselves despite being detained. After a worried comment to administration, my work is done. But before anyone remedies the situation, the soapy water has oozed out into the canteen.

Slip-n-Slide!!!!!!!

Chaos ensues. After several injuries (shocking, I know) the girls charge the door, probably so they can wash off outside in the newly-formed puddles. When the canteen is officially declared too dangerous to house the girls, they’re eventually funneled back into the classrooms. The few that didn’t dart back to the courtyard won’t sit in their seats for the remainder of the day because they’re wet, cold, and uncomfortable, which couldn’t have been foreseen by any of them, right?

Though the damage has been done and the girls weren’t bused home hours before as they should’ve been, the final bell rings twenty-five minutes early. The teachers are told to stay until 3:30, but that’s ok because it gave me time to write most of this post.

Hamdulilah, this day has finally come to an end. I had to take a secondary route home from school because some of the ramps and underpasses are currently flooded. But I’m home now and have the evening to relax. Calgon, take me away. Oh wait, my bathtub stopper was never installed. It probably would’ve been smarter to stay at work and just bathe on the canteen floor.

Two Sisters

We’re short-staffed at work, so everyone’s been swamped lately. I’ve even been tackling work duties at night and on the weekends, which I haven’t had to do in quite some time. There. That’s my excuse why my post detailing my sister’s visit is long overdue.

After a year and a half, I wasn’t sure Jackie would make it to the UAE, but the plan finally came to fruition. Since she was only here for a week, we charged full speed ahead from day one. Yes, I ran my sister ragged, but there were a million things I insisted she “needed” to see in order to better understand my life as a desert-dweller.

 We began with the good stuff- sun and sand at Saadiyat Beach,

followed by a sunset pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque.

We taxied to Cooper’s for trivia and scored a 4th place “victory.”

Day 2: After a stop at Heritage Village, a great place to buy souvenirs,

we hopped over to Emirates Palace.

Unfortunately, the gold ATM is still out of order. I was disappointed because Jackie’s probably the only visitor I’ll have who would’ve actually contemplated making a purchase (gold shoes would’ve sealed the deal.)

Next, we headed across the street to Jumeirah at Etihad Towers for afternoon tea.

Food here often looks better than it tastes, and this was no exception (“If you ever wanted to make a prawn sandwich that tasted like nothing, you’d make this.”)

But the hot and cold teas were both good and, BONUS! we found a mirror in the lobby that made us look like toothpicks.

We wound down the afternoon at the prosecco bar at the Intercontinental, my home away from home when I first arrived in Abu Dhabi.

The following day I insisted that we hit up the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which showcases Emirati culture past and present. But to be honest, it’s all about the people-watching.

Later in the week, we “Mexican brunched” ourselves at El Sombrero. She had several hours to meet and chat with my amigos; from here on out she’ll know who I’m talking about and why I love them all.

We ended the week with a stop at Mushrif Central Park because I was hell-bent on her leaving with the quintessential falcon photo.

Disappointed that there wasn’t a handler in sight, we were lucky enough to spot an owl (which, blame it on my blindness, I assumed was a falcon until I got up close and realized I was mistaken). Still, super-cute… we’ll take it.

The following day, it was time to have one last chicken shawarma and say good-bye until July. Not my strong point, I kind of drop-kicked her out of the car at Dubai Airport. I told one of my friends on the phone the other day when she asked how happy I’d be to return to the U.S- yes, I’ll be happy. But I must say, after the first six months in Abu Dhabi, the insanity here became my “normal,” so there will be sadness along with an adjustment period back to my former life. I’m thrilled that I’ve hosted a few friends/relatives over the past year and a half because they’ve shared some of my UAE experiences. They’ll agree that it’s good living in Abu Dhabi and the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet are absolutely awesome, just like everyone back home.

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in Madrid

It’s not easy to condense a week-long  vacation into a blog post. But since most of you take vacations and don’t report every detail to me, I’ll return the favor. I met the girls in the Madrid airport and we spent our first night in the Nuevo Madrid Hotel, eating (our first of several) Iberico ham & Brie sandwiches in bed, for lack of anywhere better.

Girls in hotel lobby

Girls in hotel lobby

The following day, we met my sister Jackie and my nephew Louis at the Madrid train station to ride the high-speed train to Barcelona.

My best Christmas surprise was that the girls had dug my beloved elf Buddy out of storage and brought him to Spain. He was super-scared to ride the train at first but later admitted it was an enjoyable few hours. He’s growing up so quickly!

For the next several nights, we stayed in a 3-bedroom apartment in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona. Here’s our awesome view:

I chose this place because of the location and the fact that many reviewers complained about other buildings sporting a heinous number of stairs but no elevator. I was aware that the elevator would be small, but thought “better something than nothing.” It was beyond claustrophobic, more like a dumb-waiter, but we were able to send our luggage up and down and Jackie and I could use it at night to avoid climbing the stairway to heaven.

Other highlights:

  1. Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona. Construction began in 1882, was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, and resumed in the 1950’s but its completion isn’t projected until 2026.

Typical "Berg Girl at a museum" expression

Typical “Berg Girl at a museum” expression

2. Tio de Nadal- While waiting for our entrance time to Sagrada Familia, we wandered the nearby streets and repeatedly saw this log everywhere but had no clue what it was.

Jackie said it was some kind of local tradition. Well, it turns out that his name is Tió de Nadal and he’s a present-pooping log. I’ll briefly explain, but this shit’s hard to believe.

 

In the Catalonia region of Spain, Tió is brought into the home on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and is “fed” each day and covered with a blanket to keep warm until Christmas Eve. On December 24th the children hit poor Tió with a stick so he can crap out presents for them. While at the Barcelona football team’s stadium, Camp Nou, we witnessed some children hitting Tió and, lo and behold, when the blanket was lifted gift bags for all the kids were pulled out from under him. Magic.

3. There was more to Camp Nou than just witnessing Tió-abuse. I wouldn’t even have gone here if Louis wasn’t with us, but we ended up spending more time at Camp Nou than any other attraction. There was no match being played, but my sis and Lou had already attended a Madrid game before the girls and I arrived in Spain, so we just toured the stadium. Memorabilia fills cases in multiple rooms and lines the walls; we were also able to go into the stands. Super cool. Thanks, Lou! Next time, just buy the jersey outright. Lesson learned, I hope.

 

 

4. Gúell Park- Located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona. Carmel Hill is one big hill, I tell ya. The street we climbed had an escalator running up the middle for the last two blocks.

The park surroundings are very gingerbread-like.

Antoni Gaudí designed this park, as well as Sagrada Familia.

(This part’s for Jenna only: Gaudí, Gaudí, Gaudí, Gaudí, Gaudí! Enough??)

Lots of buildings, sculptures, and mosaic work. The girls were on a mission to find the salamanca, which means lizard for those of you who find that my level of Español surpasses yours :).

5. Flamenco Show: Not to knock my sis for planning many of the activities, but Kate, Jenna, and I agreed to dub this event “toe-tapping, knee-slapping, chest-pounding, hand-clapping, finger-snapping, greasy-haired fun.”

By the time we trained back to super-crowded Madrid, I was wiped out. We shopped, ate, stopped for coffee,

Enjoying your Starbucks, Janet?

Enjoying your Starbucks, Janet?

and meandered through a Titanic exhibit. Oh yeah, we also visited the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Spain’s contemporary art museum. Always cool to see some Dali and Picasso works, but we spent most of our time re-naming the questionable sculptures.

We also consumed gluttonous amounts of gelato, sangria, and churros with chocolate.

Louis enjoyed the seafood paella and lobster slightly more than Kate did; I think it was a little too close to its original form for her liking.

I concluded the trip with a chilly day in Rome (the girls had taken my winter coat back with them), walking around, seeing the sights on my own. Accidentally ended up at Eataly too, a nice surprise. I confirmed that even though my Spanish is terrible, my Italian is worse.

On deck: a month of Trimester 2 at work before my sister visits! No days off, but I have a few weekend activities to anticipate. I also plan to visit a few nearby countries that are just a short, inexpensive plane hop away. It’s now or never, as I’m entering the home stretch of this journey. I think I need some churros and chocolate to wash down that bittersweet pill.

Hasta luego!

 

Breaking Free

There’s an Arabic expression used when you’re happy about something (or when someone sneezes, which I do quite often here). All you UAE teachers can belt out that magic word with me… “HAMdullah!!” It basically means “Thank God!” and I screamed it from the rooftops when we got the ok to take our students on a field trip last Thursday. After overcoming numerous obstacles that I CANNOT get in to in a blog post, we were cleared to attend a quasi trade show on its final day.

Taweya, which focused on various aspects of societal awareness, was held at ADNEC, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company. I’ve been to two other events held there, so my first thought was, “How are we gonna keep track of all the girls in such a huge venue?” I was never cleared to go on a field trip last year so feelings of inadequacy had long settled in, and though I was excited to go somewhere… anywhere… I was freaking out as well.
So right after Thursday morning announcements we took attendance, collected the permission slips, and waited for the signal to load the buses (which was done in a record 47 minutes!) My first time on a school bus, I was a bit scared. You’d be, too, if you saw the way some of them careen around here- it’s not at all like home. Our driver was fine, although he took the long way from our school to the highway. I have sympathy for anyone who knows less about the area than I do, so I let that go with maybe only one or two disparaging remarks.
There were six chaperones for four classes (and since it was a Thursday, many girls opted out of the excursion and just declared it a 3-day weekend for themselves, so classes were small). You’d think six chaperones would be adequate for sixty 10th graders but girls here are very protected, hence my job of looking after 13 students actually made me quite nervous. I must’ve counted to 13 a half dozen times before we even left the school grounds. I put one of my responsible favorites in charge of role call and told her she’d also have to round everyone up at the end of the trip (ironically, she was one of the last three to return to our meeting spot at the agreed-upon time.)
When we arrived at ADNEC we were ushered from the bus to the waiting room by security. Once allowed into the exhibit area, my bff co-worker Katie and I were thrilled to see the amount of security present, rendering our jobs all too easy. No worries of girls getting lost, leaving, hiding out in the bathroom, nothing… ahhhhh. The exhibits only spanned two of the rooms in ADNEC so we were able to walk around the area multiple times during our visit, keeping an eye on different groups of girls throughout the morning. Though the students would spot us and run over to chat every once in awhile, Katie and I had plenty of time to do what the Emirati culture does best- relax. Almost every booth offered coffee and/or tea, water, chocolate, dates, and even roses, not to mention plenty of swag. It’s a story best told in pictures, so here you go:

Greeted by a live Emirati bobblehead

Greeted by a live Emirati bobblehead

The UAE needs to start conserving water soon, inshallah

The UAE needs to start conserving water soon. Inshallah

Tea, cheese pancakes, and chocolate at one of the booths

Tea, cheese pancakes, and chocolate at one of the booths

Cool demonstration by police dogs

Cool demonstration by police dogs

CSI

CSI

Driving simulator. Though some of the girls play video games, it's obvious they don't have driver's licenses.

Driving simulator. Though some of the girls play video games, it’s obvious they don’t have driver’s licenses.

By far, the Emirates Driving School won the

By far, the Emirates Driving School won the “most popular attraction” award. The students waited in line to spin around in this car.

Meanwhile, Katie & I made sand decorations.

Meanwhile, Katie & I made sand decorations

in a shot glass

in a shot glass

Tea, dates, water. Good thing because we hadn't snacked for 3 minutes.

Tea, dates, and water. Good thing because we hadn’t snacked for at least 3 minutes.

Pantry goods storage safety: store cleaning products separately from food. Hopefully next year they'll move the cleaning products off the bottom shelf so pets and kids can't reach them. Again, inshallah.

These poor Emirati mannequins were served uncooked macaroni- yuck! The real point of the exhibit was pantry goods storage safety: store cleaning products separately from food (see back left of photo). Hopefully next year they’ll move the cleaning products off the bottom shelf so pets and kids can’t reach them. Again, inshallah.

In other words, watch out for buses or this could be you.

In other words, watch out for buses or this could be you.

US Customs Official pic

US Customs Official pic

The Emirati culture revolves around gift-giving: pens, pencils, highlighters, chocolate, flowers, coloring books, CDs, brochures, bags, etc.

The Emirati culture revolves around gift-giving: pens, pencils, highlighters, chocolate, flowers, coloring books, CDs, brochures, bags, etc.

We spread the word for the students to meet us at the entrance doors at 1pm. Yalla (hurry up!)!! Tweny minutes of yalla. The girls are capable of moving so slowly that sometimes I swear they’re walking backwards. Really, it’s kind of an art. Then there were the last minute hunger pangs and desperate need to grab Starbucks on the way out. We eventually navigated our way back to the bus, where all the students piled on top of each other in the back (see any number of previous posts regarding non-existent safety regulations while driving). Katie and I both may have dozed off despite the usual clapping, chanting, and screaming these girls do so well. But we’ll chalk up another success on our behalves. It’s a new day, people. We’re rockin’ it outta the park this year. Hamdullah!

Baby, It’s Cold Inside!

The luxury of a long weekend allowed time to explore a few attractions I’d heard about but hadn’t yet visited. Besides, who doesn’t like an excuse for a road trip? I decided that one day would be dedicated to “chillin’ in Dubai,” and by that I mean hitting up sights that offer a temporary respite from the 100+ degree temps.

Watching enthusiastic desert-dwellers enjoy freezing temp activities is almost as exciting as watching their reaction to rain, something I witnessed only twice last year. In the land of everything, what isn’t here naturally can be created in the blink of an eye.
Stop #1: Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates
Real snow!! And lots of it- three football fields’ worth, they claim. Pretty cool for a desert. This 25-story tall ski hill has a chairlift and five ski runs that range from beginner to black diamond.

Throw in tube slides, a freestyle area for snowboarders, and a children’s interactive snow park.


Those who are so inclined can also roll down a long, brain-scrambling run inside a giant clear inflatable ball. Should you decide to partake in these activities for the afternoon, skis, poles, hats, boots, socks, gloves, etc. are available for obvious reasons.
Stop #2: Dubai Ice Rink, Dubai Mall
This is just one of the many attractions at Dubai Mall, “the world’s largest shopping and entertainment destination.” The Olympic-size rink hosts shows on ice and big-screen telecasts of popular sporting events. It’s also the venue for Dubai tournaments of the Emirates Hockey League Cup. Every night they host a disco dance party with a DJ and light display. Groovy.

Stop #3: Chillout Ice Lounge, Times Square Center, Dubai
Dubai would have to hang its head in shame if it wasn’t the home of the Middle East’s first ice lounge. Luckily, someone had the bright idea to create a hot drink café (where else?) in the middle of a mall. The entrance fee is quite pricey (75dhs/ $20US) so I’d recommend waiting for a Groupon or using the Dubai Entertainer. A BYOJ (bring your own jeans) kinda thing, the fee includes use of socks, boots, gloves, a hat, and a winter coat. A hot beverage of your choice is also included and can be sipped while sitting on a faux-fur covered ice block chair at an ice table.

Visitors admire the changing colored lights while kicking up “snow” off the ground.

You can stay as long as you’d like, taking pictures on or next to the ice sculptures, but 20-30 minutes is enough because it’s a tiny place. And it really is cold.

It gets HOT in the UAE, even for someone who prefers warm weather. But I admit it was actually enjoyable to beat the heat in Dubai, if only for a day.

Eid al-Adha

My daughters have a soft spot when it comes to cute farm animals… they do eat meat but they’re not into gyros, and cringe when I post anything from the UAE that has to do with a lamb sandwich.


But in the spirit of education, here goes…
Starting tomorrow, Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, will be celebrated by Muslims for four days. One of Islam’s holiest days, Eid al-Adha celebrates Abraham’s willingness to take his son’s life at the request of God. As the story goes, just as Abraham prepares to kill his son Ishmael (Isaac), he is told that his intent to carry out this act is proof enough that he loves God and, as such, is given a sheep to sacrifice instead. Today, Muslims continue the practice of sacrificing sheep (or camels or goats) in observance of Eid al-Adha. The week before Eid, many sheep are seen being transported in trucks (and even cars) on their final ride to the families’ homes.

PC: AJ

PC: AJ


The animals are ritualistically killed and the meat divided into thirds with equal shares given to 1) the family, 2) friends/neighbors/relatives, and 3) those in need.
At this time of year, thousands of Muslims also take part in the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Participation in the Hajj at least once in a lifetime is a requirement of all Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so. Many people save for years to be able to experience this event.
For non-Muslims, Eid al-Adha will just be a nice 4-day weekend. As is typical here, many of the students already began their holiday earlier in the week; today we had a grand total of one dozen 10th, 11th, and 12th graders in attendance.
A few days ago, I asked the girls how their families celebrate Eid. Most times I wish I could extract more elaborate responses than I do, and this was no exception. Some are traveling to visit family; most seem to be having parties “in the home,” which is a popular phrase they use instead of saying “at home.” Many of the girls watch the animal slaughter take place, and since they probably have done so most of their lives, are not squeamish about this ritual as it holds extreme religious importance to them. They are focused on the communal aspect of Eid and are as excited as kids at Christmas, as gift giving (especially money) is also involved. The girls didn’t pass out gifts this year but last year I received a handmade keychain.

And here’s a window decoration at our school:

As for me, I’ll spend the long weekend in and around the area, eating camel burgers and lamb sandwiches, and will report back on the happenings.
Eid Mubarak, everyone!

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