September 29, 2012

Brunches

The past two weekends have been spent at brunch all day on Fridays. Hotels here have this deal where you pay a certain price for all you can eat and all you can drink of their selections. Each hotel has certain pros and cons to their individual brunches. Last weekend's brunch had a better alcohol selection, but limited food selection. Yesterday's brunch has wonderful food selection, but ran out of the boxed wine we were forced to suffer. They happened to run out of the wine precisely five minutes after the organizer of our brunch outing had handed them our collected money. Coincidence? Probably not.

I'm invited to a brunch again next weekend, but I cannot bring myself to do it again. They are absolutely exhausting. You never eat a lot of food, but you drink for four hours. And then everyone goes to the bars afterwards. And suddenly it's 10pm and you're still drinking and you haven't eaten a thing in six hours, but boy have you drank! And you have four new best friends and you must be hilarious because there is a picture of you making someone cry from laughter. It's the most terrible and wonderful way to spend a Friday.

September 22, 2012

My IQ is 10

Recently I started watching The West Wing. As a tip to anyone going to a country that is not America, it's not necessarily the best idea to watch such idealized, patriotic television programming. The highs of watching it are coupled with the lows of returning to reality. The episode I just watched had one of the characters saying something along the lines of "Everything eventually leaks around here. It's how I know for sure the government isn't covering up aliens in New Mexico." Now, I don't actually agree with that logic because the American government manages to cover up quite a lot of things....

But I do miss having some idea of what the hell is going on. Lately I find myself making lots of new acquaintances. Which leads to constantly having to explain why I no longer work at my previous school. When I tell people that I got fired, they want to know why. Which is a questions that I hate. Because besides being invasive, I can't answer the damn thing. I have no clue what happened. My best guess is that I don't have enough wasta? (That's the Arabic word for clout.) But it's not even a very good guess.

I miss America mostly because I understood it. I had a pretty good idea what was going on day to day and why things happened the way they did. But here, even in my social life, I have no clue. And that's an area that I like to consider myself moderately good at handling! And yet I did a shitton of stupid things yesterday, including completely killing my chances with a guy that I find intriguing. And I did it on purpose! I killed the chances on purpose!

My friend asked me why I was being such a fool and my very honest answer was, "He's too smart for me." In this country, I am an absolute idiot with nothing going for me. I don't speak the language that every single person that I work with speaks. I have zero training for or knowledge about the most important aspect of my job. (I.e. class room management with grade school children who do not speak English.) Socially, I make blunders that I did not even see coming, due largely to my complete ignorance of the rest of the world. I associate with the wrong people and I have very little wasta, even though I have been given multiple windows that I failed to take advantage of.

I do it wrong, and then I do it wrong again. Because I am stupid. Now please excuse me while I publish my faults to the Internet. Because that's a good idea, right?

September 17, 2012

How to be an American

I am an American. I was born and raised in the country, thus I can claim it as my nationality. In U.A.E., it's one of the first things people notice about me and the primary adjective they use to describe me. I speak American English and pretty much only pay attention to American media. Even living abroad, I find Americans to be the easiest friends and my second pick for friendship nationality is Canadian. (For example, I know a lot of Irish people here. While they're fun and I hang out with them sometimes, it's just easier to become bosom buddies with Americans. And sure, I dated an Arab, but he made fun of every Arab stereotype ever and wishes he wasn't one. And most of our issues stemmed from the fact that he wasn't culturally as American as I wanted, even though he tried his hardest.)

My parents were American. My mom was also born in the country, although she was raised by parents straight from Poland and grew up speaking Polish at home. My dad wasn't born in the country, he was born in Latvia. But he moved to America around college age, never left, and eventually took the citizenship test. He and my mom made a conscious decision to only speak English around my brother and I. I honestly know very little about Polish or Latvian culture and I know zero Polish or Latvian people besides my grandma. In terms of countries I want to visit, Poland and Latvia are very far down the list. My parents wanted us to be as American as possible and they did a damn good job of it.

First generation means first generation to live in the country, for the purposes of this entry. Thus I am 2.5 generation American. But in the U.A.E., there is no such thing as any generation Emirati. You either are or you aren't and thus it will be for your children. My ex was born in U.A.E., but he is and always will be Lebanese, as will his children. Even though he has lived here his entire life and will probably do so forever. He's been to Lebanon twice and people there immediately recognize his accent as Gulf. His brother was also born and raised in the U.A.E., but married a British woman. Let's pretend that they plan to live in the U.A.E. for their entire life. Thus, their son is theoretically in the same boat as I was in, with 2.5 generation in the U.A.E.

But he will never be an Emirati. It impossible for him to ever gain a passport from here. The labor laws state that locals get first priority for all jobs, but he will never get that benefit. He's young right now, but he's already bilingual. His media choices are probably influenced by my ex, so I would guess they include terrible American movies, American video games, British sitcoms, and random Arab pop culture. When he gets older, his classmates will influence him to enjoy things like American wrestling, Apple products and Canadian-American pop stars. He is whiter than most of his classmates will be, so he will hang out with the other white-ish ones. I would guess that he'll hang out with a lot of Lebanese people like his father and a lot of Western-Arab mixed people like him. He will be neither technically nor culturally, an Emirati. Technically, he will maybe be British? Culturally... it's hard to classify the mix.

Sometimes I get the opportunity to ask my classes how many of them are locals. The first thing that happens is some smart child has to translate "Emirati" into Arabic for the rest of the class because they don't understand the question. Then some kids will raise their hands. And then one kid will get yelled at for raising her hand because she's 2.5 generation and does not yet realize that she's not actually Emirati. But the Emiratis know and will quickly tell her to put her hand down. (All yelling is done in Arabic, but I get the gist.)

Nobody would ever tell me that I was not an American. And now, after being here, it is amazing how easily that status was obtained.

September 14, 2012

You can do better

One day not too far in the past, I was told for the millionth time that I "can do better" than the male person whose company I was keeping. Now, by virtue of the fact that I am hanging out with said male, isn't it obvious that I might find something about him attractive? Isn't it obvious that he is better than others before him and thus gets a place in my rooster? And if he is better than others before him, isn't it obvious that the statement is stupid?

Now, in their defense, these comments usually come at times when I appear to be waffling or have verbally raised questions about whether or not this male is worth my time. They would claim that I seemed like I wanted to hear their opinion. And most likely, on some level, I did.

But that opinion is the worst one ever. It's vague and does not offer me any concrete reasons to leave the man. It doesn't tell me what exactly needs to be better about the man. It doesn't specify a man that I know who is better. It just vaguely shits on the show with its pessimism, bundled in deceptive optimism. And it usually comes from people who do not at all know me well enough to know my many, varied, deep rooted imperfections. It's probably just a surface comment, based on our respective appearances, which in no way indicates our full worth.

That's the bit that most irks me, to be honest. The idea that I can do better. How the fuck do they know? I've never done better before! Where is this mysterious man with whom I would be perfect? Am I really going to spend the rest of my life always trying to do better and better and better?  When do I know when the man is the right one? See: the secretary problem. Which would make a great movie, by the way. Unless Grey Gardens is that movie... oh god, that's my future. I'm going to end up alone in a crumbling mansion filled with animals because I could always do better....

The worst bit about hearing "you can do better" is that I always end up believing them.

September 10, 2012

When to just give up...

Recently, I received word that something very uncool is happening to me. I'm going to be shorted on a chunk of money that I should be entitled to. I could fight the matter and perhaps even win. But the odds are against me. And the fight would be long and arduous. It would require talking to many, many people who don't care and don't speak good English and can't help me at all. It would be a lot of walking in circles and finding out no information after hours of effort, day after day.

Or I could just give up. Accept that life is an unfair bitch and swallow yet another loss. Just become that bitter person who hates the world already.

I'm trying to stop being so melodramatic. "At least you're not a heroin addict," I said to myself yesterday, in an attempt to cheer up. But that statement perfectly encapsulates why my world view is darkening. I'm not a heroin addict. And yet, somehow, I'm still short on money, still roasting in this hell, and still handed useless piles of baking soda.

What the fuck am I supposed to do with this baking soda???

September 05, 2012

n00b

Last night I went to dinner with some friends. And a shitton of strangers. It was a huge table of people who work at the school that I once worked for/got fired from. Most of them are new this year and just assumed that I worked at the school too, since I was there at the table. I immediately realized I should have passed on this particular group outing, but alas I was there and eventually it came out that I no longer worked at their school.

It is extremely awkward to tell someone the story of the time you got fired by their brand new foreign employer. It's even worse when you're talking to someone who's teaching the exact same job you had, under the exact same supervisor.

They're so naive about everything. But it makes me feel extremely old, so I can't even be amused by it. One of them asked me why I still hung out with people from the old job instead of making new friends at my new school, and I don't know if she meant for the question to be rude, but it totally was. I stared at her for a second and then said flatly, "I'm the only English speaker at my new school." She doesn't seem to realize what a Western bubble she is living in. And I would love to watch her realize how few people in this country speak English like she does...

But at the same time, I partially envy her n00b bubble. It sucks knowing all the holes that line the day to day road here. It would be nice to have a week or two where I can't see them coming.

September 02, 2012

Did you know...

Did you know that the word "semetic" includes many groups besides Jews, including Arabs? Yet somehow the word "anti-semetic" has come to only be about the Jewish people. I loathe that anti-arabism does not roll off the tongue in quite the same way.

Did you know that only 0.5% of the American population is Arab? It amazed me when I was home over the summer how few of them there really are. Comparing the demographics of America to those of the UAE, America actually seems slightly homogeneous. And did you know that on the census, Arabs are told to bubble in the "white" bubble? That makes zero sense to me.

Did you know that most aboriginal people have O blood types? Sometimes A, but never B or AB. Blood type facts are actually quite fascinating, but I have no idea how I ended up looking up that information...

The Internet is a fascinating wealth of knowledge.