29 September 2014

Holiday Break for Eid Al Adha

This week marks the celebration of Eid Al Adha on the Muslim calendar. Businesses are closed for three or four days, depending on the industry.

Eid Al Adha is celebrated by Muslims to honor the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Moments before Ishmael's demise, God provided a lamb to sacrifice instead. (Qur'an 2:196)

Does this story sound familiar?

27 September 2014

Same News Story, Different Details

Our hotel gives us an English-version of the local newspaper almost every day (we've yet to figure out the schedule of the paper's delivery - some days it's there, some it's not. But when it is, I feel like I've just won a free gift).

Having a background in Journalism, I always find it interesting to read the news in different countries to see how it differs from media reports in America.

Today is a newsier day with only
a quarter page ad below the fold.
The newspaper our hotel distributes is The Gulf Today, which seems to primarily cover news in all the Gulf States (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman) and the Middle East, in general. There is also a large section for Indian news with smaller sections for news from Europe, Australia and the Americas (North and South), although sometimes these stories are mixed throughout the paper leading me to wonder why there's even an Americas section in the first place.

09 September 2014

Life in the Fast Lane: Dangerous Driving in Dubai

Now that I know the rules of the road, here's the fun part.... the dangerous side of driving in Dubai. 

Many years ago my parents were telling me to be careful driving back to college after a weekend at home. I can remember reminding them that I was a good driver, and they don't need to worry.

My mother responded, "It's not your driving I'm worried about. It's the other idiots on the road." 

Never were my mother's words more true as now when I'm driving in Dubai.

Life in the Fast Lane: Driving the Roads of Dubai

Before moving to Dubai, we had read our fair share of warnings about the driving habits of local drivers -- all of which seemed insane to the point of exaggeration. 

Excessive speeds on the highway mixed with third-world driving behavior means that driving in Dubai was NOT for the faint of heart. But before I could jump into that mix, I had to figure out the rules of the roads.

I couldn't wait.

08 September 2014

Smoking Shisha

In an Islamic country, alcohol and recreational drugs (and several prescription drugs) usage is forbidden. I would have assumed that that also meant smoking tobacco, but it turns out that smoking is one of the more debatable transgressions.

In nearly every Arabic restaurant we have visited in Dubai, smoking shisha (flavor-mixed tobacco) is not only allowed, but arguably, encouraged in some restaurants. In many restaurants the lunch specials include the price of the meal plus shisha (the lunch specials are called 'Happy Meals,' which was highly hilarious to me or maybe it was just the shisha talking).

My first exposure to shisha was in Turkey, and there it is called hookah.

No, I take that back. It's possible that both your and my first exposure to shisha was in Alice of Wonderland. The caterpillar is smoking from a shisha pipe and blowing smoke rings while repeatedly [and annoyingly] asking Alice Whooooo are you?
Alice in Wonderland

Renting a Car in the UAE

There's nothing more freeing than a set of wheels. I feel like a bird that has been caged for two weeks then set free to spread its wings. Not that I've actually been caged, but the miserable heat makes exploring or doing anything outdoors... well, miserable.

This weekend I rented a car for a month. It's just a little car -- a white Nissan Sunny, which equates to about a stripped down Nissan Sentra. It came with a handful of small scratches and dings, which is exactly how I like my rental cars. That way if I add to them (or someone else adds one), then it's less likely to be noticed.
Nissan Sunny

I decided to rent from a company that we have in America, because I thought the process would be similar to rentals back home.

It sorta was. Kinda. Not really.

01 September 2014

Friday 'Brunch' in Dubai

In my last post, I highlighted eating out and grocery shopping in Dubai. Apparently, food and where to get more food is a favorite topic of mine. 

All meals in Dubai thus far have been interesting, flavorful, and with the exception of a few nuances, not really anything out of the ordinary for a typical restaurant endeavor. 

Which brings me to the next dining experience we had. 

Friday Brunch is practically a national pastime in Dubai. Since Friday is akin to the Islamic Sabbath Day, most everyone is off work. Almost any upscale, sit-down restaurant across Dubai offers what is known as 'Friday Brunch,' and from what I can tell, the only accurate part of that nomenclature - in the traditional sense - is that it happens on Friday. 

Eating Out and At Home in Dubai

As I mentioned in my first impressions, the food selection in Dubai is something to behold. I can't imagine that there is any place else in the world that could possible match the variety that is found here.

Local Cuisines
Any and every ethnicity of food is available, although some types are more available than others. Of course, Arabic food is plentiful, and most of it in the form of Lebanese restaurants (I haven't seen an Emirati restaurant yet).

27 August 2014

Undercover: Dressing Conservatively in Dubai

When writing my first impressions of Dubai, clothing and dressing conservatively was one of the first things I observed, even though I had researched and thought I fully understood what this meant before I arrived. 

After I began writing how I felt about it, the topic seemed to warrant its own posting, although I must admit that I'm a little nervous about releasing this post or even addressing this issue in a public forum.

Since I was feeling so perplexed in my emotions regarding Muslim attire, I decided to back up and reflect on what it is that I wear, in addition to, my very first dealings with someone in Middle Eastern apparel.

25 August 2014

First Impressions of Dubai - Part 2

These are just a few more observations I've made in my first few days in Dubai (click here for Part 1). As people described to us, Dubai is like Las Vegas on steroids without the gambling. Everything is big and blingy. And now I'm going to add: Dusty.

The Sand
This may be a little predictable, but there is quite a bit of sand in the city. Not outside the city, but all over the downtown area. I wasn't expecting this.

First Impressions of Dubai - Part 1

After the first few days in Dubai, there are definitely some early impressions that have created a lasting impact on me. 

The Heat
We knew it was coming. People warned us and warned us. We'd lived in Las Vegas in the summer, so we knew hot. But nothing -- no, nothing -- prepared us for the scorching inferno that is Dubai. Daily temperatures of +100F with +30% humidity (one day was 66%) make moving outside feel like every drop of energy in your body is dissolving.

The air is so thick and heavy that it's like trying to breathe in syrup, unlike Vegas where the sauna-like air is so dehydrated that your lungs feel like they might dry up and crack.
Feels like 114F.
As Alyson said, "Every good Southerner knows,
it's not the heat. It's the humidity."  

14 July 2014

The Process of Moving to Dubai

This moving process has been a bit of a roller coaster for us (and I have the high blood pressure to prove it). 

I'll start from the beginning and recap a few of the first parts.

Back in late April Chris accepted the new job to be located in Dubai. They wanted him in Walnut Creek, California (outside of San Francisco) A MERE two weeks later to begin training on a new accounting system the company was installing. The training would last two months.

As anyone knows who has moved, especially overseas, this put us in quite a bind by having such a quick turnaround.

06 July 2014

Typhoon Neoguri **UPDATED - TUESDAY, 8 JULY**

Murphy's Law strikes again. Chris is about to be hit with a Super Typhoon. 

A few weeks ago, Chris's company won some work in Okinawa, Japan to build some schools on a military base there. As exciting as going to Japan would be, Chris didn't think they would send him because he would have just arrived in Dubai (he arrived on June 26), plus Japan is not his working region. Chris is over project controls in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, and someone else is over the Asian projects.

20 June 2014

How NOT to Take a Passport Photo

To move to Dubai or most Middle Eastern countries, you will need about 30 to 40 passport photos. Passport photos must be attached to nearly every piece of paperwork you submit -- from a driver's license (which makes sense) to setting up a post office box (which doesn't make sense).

11 June 2014

Living in San Francisco (for a few weeks)

I guess you aren't technically living somewhere unless you've packed up all your belongings and moved into a place for the long haul. However, packing a big suitcase and living in a hotel apartment for weeks on end feels a bit like taking up residence.
Chris at the Gilbane offices in Walnut Creek
For me it's only a few weeks. For Chris it'll be two months. After exploring Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill extensively, it is starting to feel like a home away from home. Northern California is such a beautiful area and a great jumping off place for seeing other cool things in the region. In fact, I thought I'd be blogging more these weeks with extra time to spare, but it seems each day is filled with something new to see. 

06 June 2014

Dubai's Luxury Police Cars

If I have to get arrested in Dubai (just kidding, Mom!), a bonus could be getting to ride in the back of a supercar to the police station. 

Lamborghini Aventador Police Cruiser in Dubai
Photo by

30 May 2014

Sunny in San Francisco

Fortunately for us, it's been gorgeous and sunny in San Francisco. Unfortunately for California, it's because there's a major drought. 
Not enough water to make the hills to sing

Despite crispy grass and brown hilltops, I've been lucky enough to have uncharacteristically beautiful San Francisco weather, which makes for the perfect opportunity to explore the area.

07 May 2014

A Little about Dubai

Despite already knowing a little about Dubai before this job assignment, there is still plenty to learn about our new city. 

Probably the most asked question I've gotten so far is "Where is Dubai?"

United Arab Emirates is the little red dot

We're Moving... Again

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, WE'RE MOVING... AGAIN.

Chris has accepted a position with Gilbane Federal in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It's a really great position and a fantastic opportunity for his career. He will get to do some pretty interesting traveling as he manages some of the projects in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, and he will be able to utilize skills that he had acquired years ago but had not had the opportunity to employ in recent positions. So far he is thriving in his new role and meshing right in with his colleagues.

He is currently training with his new company in San Francisco while I finish packing up the house in Lexington and filling out the paperwork for the international move. He will be in California for two months before mobilizing to Dubai, and I will join him for part of that time.

15 April 2014

Watch Out, Wall Street

So much for dusting off the blog... I've been too busy working. 

When we first moved to Lexington, I unsuccessfully looked for a job, then thought maybe I'd try adult education or corporate training. That was also unsuccessful. Either companies weren't interested in teachers switching careers or the job market just wasn't great in Lexington. Regardless of the reason, I finally faced the fact that unless I wanted to be a substitute teacher (I couldn't even get a job as a tutor), I'd have to either not work or come up with a different plan.