March 15, 2013

Well that's rude

As we all know, there's a new pope and Google Reader is going to disappear. I find the second bit of news to be very offensive. And as someone using Google's Blogger, I'm a little concerned that my site might be next on the chopping block.

Well, not really. It's more that I'm annoyed with Google in general at the moment. And I'm a petty girl who likes to lash out irrationally when things annoy me.

So I'm moving: http://cantalouqe.wordpress.com/ 

March 08, 2013

The ones I idolized

When I was growing up, there were certain books that had characters I wanted and tried to be. They said things that I could imagine myself saying or wished that I could say. They had qualities that I thought made them great people. They faced issues that I thought were universal, dealing with them in ways that made sense to me.

Take Little Women. Every Christmas, from probably eleven to fourteen, I would read the book, and then sometimes its sequels. It taught me that I was supposed to constantly be good, even when it was very hard. The characters endure all sorts of trials and either blame their own shortcomings or chalk it up to their lot in life. No pains they endure are unjust or uncalled for or worth actively protesting (beyond lightly reprimanding someone for not trying to be good.) They just swallow their struggles and try to keep their heads up, without ever causing trouble for others. And I loved them for it.

But in the real world, people like that are called "sheep" and do not get spectacularly far.

Then there was Franny and Zooey. I still read this often and while I can say that I like the writing style (which I do,) there is also definitely a deeper connection. I will always connect to the existential crisis of Franny. Her discomfort with ego, yet her inability to rid herself of ego, which results in lying on a couch unable to do anything for all the conflict. I just wish I could take her brother's advice and perform for the Fat Lady. But alas, I am Zooey, not Seymour. Nobody is Seymour. And if you haven't read the book then you won't understand any of this....... and also you need to go get a copy of it like yesterday.

But the point is that I end up on a couch lamenting about ego instead of doing anything spectacular or risky or that might possibly be inconvenient for anyone else.

I would like someone to recommend a book to me about someone who takes enormous risks and doesn't care about offending other people or asking for favors. I want a strong protagonist who is ego and doesn't give a damn. A strong protagonist who does not fail and does not make me hate him/her. Although if you can't, that's ok too. I'll just blame myself and wonder who I think I am to request such a thing from others. (Insert winky emoticon here.)

March 06, 2013

You can tell it's spring....

You can tell it's turning towards spring when people become social again. We don't have spring here in terms of weather. (It's 5PM and currently 36 Celsius, aka 97 Fahrenheit. Summer is in full swing. In March.) But about a week ago, I noticed a change in my American friends. Suddenly they were all contacting me! I received a chatty email from a friend who has never emailed me. I received emails from others who had let the conversations lag. Skype dates have been requested. My Facebook wall and inbox started getting sprinkled with attention.

It's very lovely. And I think perhaps it has less to do with the weather and more to do with the longer daylight hours. Because even I feel that effect here in the land without seasons. And on that note, I must go shower to prepare for my later plans. Happy socializing!

February 27, 2013

A taste of Arabs, through YouTube

Here are two YouTube videos that I find highly entertaining now that I live here. They mock some stereotypical things that Arabs do. Although both of them are made by American-Arabs, they definitely apply to many people here too. Enjoy!

The first one is about Arab Hand Gestures. Sabrina sent me this through email and the first gesture I did when I read the title was the "shway shway" one with the pinched fingers. It means "relax, wait" and I see it constantly! I used to think it was rude because a lot of time it's used similarly to a person putting up a finger in your face to tell you to wait one moment. But it's not meant to be rude, it's just meant to tell you to chill out or slow down or wait. And now I do it all the time, so....

This one was shown to me by my boyfriend. The part where the guy is playing video games and he's like "I'm on my way, I'm stuck in traffic" is the moment when I was like, yes, this is you. Also the bit where he says "I want her to smell me in Palestine." My boyfriend wears at least two colognes at a time and when he puts each one on, he sprays it at least twenty times. And the whole "Do you eat pork?" and the "astaghfirullah" is totally on point. Astaghfirullah means something along the lines of "May God forgive me" and is said when someone does something truly heinous. And eating pork is the one thing that is, for whatever reason, non-negotiable and worthy of horrifying people, even if some of the other rules have been bent. 

February 20, 2013

Experience difference

It constantly amazes me what a difference there is between my experience and the experiences of people I meet here. One person I know, for example, likes to insist that he's going to have me deported. Because he's an Emirati and has power in this country he thinks it'd be easy. But when he first informed me of his Emirati status, with all sorts of entitlement, I just laughed. "I'm American," I reminded him. And I meant it in a million of my own entitled ways. (My citizenship is more valuable worldwide. It's very hard to deport an American. And even if somehow he managed the feat, he'd be deporting me back to America, the land that people dream about.)

He didn't get it though, and I muttered to myself, "You know nothing of the world."

But really I meant that he knows nothing of my world. Because my experiences growing up were nothing like his. I never would have made an obnoxious comment about deporting someone, but that's because I had no concept of deportation until at least high school. This guy has possibly witnessed many deportations, former nannies or co-workers. At the very least, he's heard about it as a possibility for someone. Because it is always a possibility for the majority of the population here.

My boyfriend also constantly shows me how differently he grew up from how I grew up. This weekend, for example, there were roses. And I put a petal in my mouth, as if I was going to eat it. And he encouraged me to do so. And in a halfhearted attempt to convince myself to do it, I rambled about how some people do eat them in salads. But then I wavered because I wasn't actually sure about rose salads. So I said that I definitely knew people ate dandelions...

And then I paused and stated flatly, "You don't even know what dandelions are."

He's never seen snow either. As someone who grew up seeing feet of snow pile up at times, that is insane to me. On the other hand, I'd never heard a call to prayer before I lived here. And that's probably just as insane to him.


February 17, 2013

When education is a business

This past weekend I met a large group of teachers through a friend, which lead to typical sharing of teacher stories. And one teacher was complaining about the changes to her school in the past few years. Originally, she loved the school and thought that it had great programs and goals. But lately it has become increasingly apparent that the school is for-profit and money has become it's number one goal, rather than education. The new principal, for example, refers to students and parents as "clients."

If you've ever worked retail (or been a self-entitled/unsatisfied customer,) you know that the client is always right. But the problem with applying that principle to education is that the client is rarely right. Education is full of being wrong, then being told that you're wrong so that you can fix it. But if I can't tell you that you're wrong, how are you going to become educated?

Many children have learned to take advantage of this system. Worst case scenario, a child knows that he cannot be kicked out of school (since his parents pay for it) and he also knows that he cannot be failed (since that would displease the parents.) So no matter how much trouble he causes and how little work he completes, he will always get a passing grade. And his parents are one of two types. One type just doesn't care about the education of their children. The other type spoils the child mercilessly and thinks he can do no wrong; clearly its the teacher's fault that he is misbehaving and not getting better grades. In either case, the child doesn't suffer for his mistakes, and gets to keep coming back to school and moving up the grades with his friends. It is entirely possible for the child to learn absolutely nothing, with zero consequences.

And nobody wins when that's the system.

February 08, 2013

Secret lover

Roughly (slash exactly) two months ago I sent a text message to my exboyfriend that read, "I think we should secretly get back together." His response was, "Are you drunk?" But I was not drunk, and we did secretly get back together. We got back together because love or whatever. And we did it secretly because our break up had been a mess in the worst possible way. A lot of people have very negative opinions of him because of that mess. So I did not want to deal with anyone else weighing in on the reunion until it was clear that it was really going to stick.

It seems like an odd concept, to secretly date someone. But I so preferred it. I didn't have to hang out with his friends and try to impress them. Or pretend that I like the annoying ones. I didn't have to invite him to everything that I did. My friends didn't have to pretend to like him, and I didn't have to listen to their unwanted opinions. I never had to answer questions like, "Where's your boyfriend?" I could have conversations about things besides my love life (because I was pretending I just didn't have one.) And I still got all of the perks of having a boyfriend.

Now that it's clear that it's going to stick, I'm supposed to tell people about it. (He is not a fan of the secretive bit. His best friend has known about it the whole time, contrary to my explicit instructions not to tell even him.) A few of my friends have been informed, briefly, about our renewed relationship. But I am dreading the way full publicity will change my life outside of him. My conversations with people are going to be about him too often, and if my life was a movie, it'd suddenly fail the Bechdel test. And people will always wonder about my other half, even if only briefly. I will be considered part of a whole, rather than whole by myself.

It was nice to have the private aspects of a relationship without the public aspects. And if I had an alcoholic beverage in my hand, I would raise a toast to the glory that it was. To secret relationships!

February 04, 2013

Values

This weekend I went on a yacht for a little party. At one point, one of the fellow boat goers asked, "How many time have you been on a yacht for a party?" I thought about it for a moment, then raised two fingers. Then remembered another time, and put up a third finger. The guy looked at me with surprise. He made a comment about how he wasn't as awesome as I am, so his answer would have been zero. Apparently he had meant the question to be rhetorical.

The entire time everyone kept going on about how awesome it was that we were on a boat for this party. I'm sure someone sang the "I'm on a boat" song. It was like this monumental moment of glory for some of them. But in all honesty, I have no clue why on earth everyone seems to value this nautical experience so much. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to be on boats. But we live on an island and they're pretty common, so... get over it?

I'm totally becoming one of those people who's jaded to things that other people find noteworthy and exciting. But at the same time, there are things that I lack that others don't even think twice about. To me, a party on a yacht isn't a big deal anymore. To you, having an oven and your own bathroom might be no big deal anymore. But I would totally trade a yacht party for my own bathroom and an oven.

January 30, 2013

I'm sure my future self is a sap too

Yesterday I got an email from Futureme.org (which is the greatest website ever and if you don't have an email waiting for you in the future, get on it ASAP.) The English in it was absolutely terrible and sometimes I had trouble following my own syntax, which was amusing. Who knew that I was a terrible writer? And yet when I got the end of the email, I still managed to make myself cry.

I'm such an emotional softie, you have no idea.

It's from a year ago, (which is quite a coincidence because I just read someone's blog entry about a 5 year diary that has you write each entry below last year's entry from the same date, and I was so jealous that I didn't have it and all its nostalgic glory.) A year ago was the time right after getting my current job. I was awash with trepidation and fears and uncertainty. So much uncertainty. I'm still just as uncertain, but I can totally remember that the trepidation of yore was way more paranoid. I sort of felt bad for my previous self, but at the same time as if nothing in my life now was really great either. But then I got distracted by the end, which was this super sappy note about how my friends and boyfriend were there for me, despite all the other terrible shit going on.

Cue the tears.

I'm going to try to out do the email by writing one for my future self that is even more sentimental. Wish me luck!

January 26, 2013

Go see Jane

Yesterday we got a new roommate. There are now five of us living in this crumbling apartment. We barely had enough fridge space when there were four of us, so I have no idea how that's going to work out. I also have to share a bathroom now, which is something I was hoping to never have to do again.

The worst bit is that I wasn't even told that it was going to happen, I figured it out on my own and then surprise, there she was!

One day I will live by myself. And it will be absolutely wonderful. One day...

January 21, 2013

Sometimes I forget

The other day I asked the students what made oxygen and the overwhelming response was, "God."

Sometimes I forget how pious children can be here. But it's cute to hear that answer said so completely without shame. And to see all of the other students nodding along because obviously that was the correct answer.

January 11, 2013

Because sharing is caring

Today I am going to share some internet with you!

This article in the New York Times magazine about a movie that Lindsay Lohan and James Deen star in. Having worked on movies and knowing people in the industry, it was interesting. I've always found it insanely obnoxious that the talent (that's literally what they're referred to on sets) gets treated as if they're gods. The general hierarchy of production sets is obnoxious, actually. There was one movie I was an extra in, and even we got treated like gold compared to how my friend, who was a production assistant, got treated. She spent all day tripping all over herself to hand the director the right whatever or get the talent that one ridiculously specific thing they wanted. We sat on our asses eating free food and then had to occasionally get up and stand in backgrounds. (This was a slightly higher budget film than usual ones my friends worked on in those days, roughly around where The Canyon budget was.)

I'm sad the movie will be terrible. James Deen is my favorite porn star and I just want to give him a hug and tell him that everything's going to be ok. I often contemplate his number of friends. He and I could be such lovely friends. With such lovely benefits.

This chart of heights of movie stars. I always knew that movie stars were short, but it was fun to see it in a chart. And then to put myself on the chart and see that I could still date Johnny Depp. Phew. Also, I have a theory that shorter people are more attractive in the face than taller people, but I can never quite find enough evidence to definitively make the correlation. (I have a lot of strange theories that would confirm your opinion that I am crazy.)

This video of the Egyptian parody of Gangnam Style. I don't understand a word of it, but I just like to watch Arabs dancing. And the part with the girl with the phone held to her ear by her hijab is so Arab. My students are obsessed with fucking Gangnam Style too. Basically I feel that the video will give you some nice pictures of Arab life. One day perhaps I will post a bunch of Youtube clips shown to me by my ex-Arab-boyfriend so that you can get more glimpses of Arabian culture.

This article about why we hate hipsters on food stamps and why that's a good thing(?) I don't know if the author was actually trying to stay that it's a good thing, to be honest. I don't know what the author was trying to say at all, really. And I definitely don't agree with everything in it, but it was good food for thought. I constantly mourn my decision to go to graduate school and hate anything about myself that is vaguely "hipster." But my life when I lived in NYC was insanely hipster and sometimes I just like to beat myself up about it by reading articles like this.

January 06, 2013

One of the most difficult languages to learn

Today was the first day back to work after three blissful weeks of break. It was odd. The teaching bit is like riding a bike, but the language barrier was like a slap in the face. I forgot how little English my students can actually speak. I forgot the constant chattering of Arabic in the staff room. I forgot that my students will constantly have side conversations in Arabic to explain anything I say in English. I forgot how impossible it is to know which Arabic conversations to allow and which are just for fun. I forgot that knowing a few Arabic words doesn't help me at all.

I wish I could say that it encourages me to learn more Arabic, but I'll never learn enough to be useful. I took a class in it when I first came here, but I didn't learn much and it was formal Arabic. (I.e. mostly useless on the streets.) I have multiple books that I could study from to at least review some formal Arabic, but I never manage to find the time. And I know countless people who speak Arabic, but I feel awkward whenever we have "teach me Arabic" conversations. It wasn't awkward when I demanded it of my ex-boyfriend, but he mostly taught me swears...

I'll never be fluent in the language, I've accepted it. If this was a Spanish speaking country, I might be able to reach fluency, (I took Spanish for roughly 8 years in school,) but a brand new language just isn't going to happen.

January 02, 2013

2012 in review

January: Began the year in India, riding tuk tuks and trying in vain to not get groped. Returned to the UAE to deal with my whole unemployment issue. Found a new job at a new school with surprising ease.

February: Moved into shitty apartment with new Russian co-workers, who dissuaded me from ever letting my boyfriend step foot in the place. Hated them with a passion.

March: Played tourist when my brother came for a visit. Tried to figure out what modern Arab culture was.

April: Went to Thailand with boyfriend.  My best friend (and the reason I came to the UAE) went through drama with her job and decided to go back to America.

May: Got extremely frustrated at my job daily. Felt lonely without best friend. Broke up with boyfriend. Confused about everything in life.

June: Went to Dubai with girl friends to celebrate birthday. Failed to be properly broken up with boyfriend until there was enough drama that I cut him off completely. Waited out the end of the school year.

July: Avoided ex-boyfriend and try to keep myself entertained as friends began to leave for their summer holidays. Finally headed back to the United States for a blissful vacation. New York, Maine, and Illinois, but more important than the places was seeing all my friends and family.

August: Finished vacation in the States and returned to Abu Dhabi. Attempted to be friends with ex-boyfriend, but everyone knew that was a bad idea. Lived at friend's apartment because mine had no A/C for far longer than appropriate in this climate.

September: Started new school year. Watched new people flood my friends's school and flounder about. Learned that I would not be paid money that I felt entitled too. Hated financial hole of a life that I live. Ignored issues by going to brunches.

October: More brunches. And some new friendships began to form. And I avoided other friendships. Realized that I actually know a lot of people in this place by now. First desert safari trip. Hurt my foot while playing soccer at island party.

November: Went on a boat cruise and desert camping. Tried not to commemorate anniversary of first date with ex-boyfriend. Attempted to date new boys, but they all bored me. Played tourist when mother came to visit.

December: Kept secrets from friends. Spent far too many days at the same bar with the same people. Played tourist when a friend came to visit. Spent holidays with old and new friends. Rang in the new year with no resolutions or plans for 2013. Because let's be real, my life is totally not up to me.

January 01, 2013

I've been busy, ok!

I haven't posted in awhile, apologies. I had a friend visiting me from the states, so I was busy entertaining her. We mostly hung out around the city. And went out. We went to the same bar so many nights that the waitstaff recognized us and greeted us like old friends. One of the waitresses knew our shot preference and I'm pretty sure she convinced men to buy us drinks one more than one occasion. We went to Dubai too of course, which I loathed, which made my friend loathe it too, haha. I like it when people prefer Abu Dhabi. (One day I will fully explain the difference between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and you too will prefer Abu Dhabi.)

Picture stolen from my friend, (c) her
We also went to the falcon hospital. See picture. That was a new experience for me. I don't particularly like birds (or anything that can fly at me,) but my friend wanted to go and so we went! It was pretty touristy. But it was also clearly a hospital. We passed a room marked ICU at one point, which boggled my mind. The picture is the room where they keep the birds who need to be examined or are waiting for their owners to come get them. The falcons are used for hunting, but the hunting goes down in Pakistan mostly, so they have to be ok-ed before they can travel. They also have their own passports, which is hilarious.

We watched them cut the nails and beaks of the birds too. The bird was sitting there on his perch and this bird doctor came up from behind and clutched him around the wings so he couldn't move, although he definitely tried to. Then this other bird doctor put this thing over the falcon's head. It had anesthesia, which made the bird go limp like he'd died. Then they clipped his nails and then resharpened them. Then they did the same to his beak. Then they took off his anesthesia mask and took him back to his perch. When he fully woke up, he sort of tried to fly off, but they're all tied to the perch, so that didn't work. And the bird doctor just caught him and put on the mask-hood that covers the eyes so the falcons stay calm.

Birds are strange little mini dinosaurs. And they still scare me. But I am glad I went.