December 21, 2012

Break lifestyle

Being on break is an absolute joy. This week there were only a few people around, so I basically hung out with the same two people every day. I'd wake up around noon and talk to my two friends about how I'm  never drinking again. I'd spend the day lying in bed watching movies. Eventually I would get up and get pretty, then go off to dinner. Then we'd go out and dance until the wee hours of the morning, making temporary new friends to bond with for a dance or a drink. Wake up the next day around noon and repeat it all again!

Today one of my friend arrives from America for a stay. And my other friends are starting to trickle back in from their travels to foreign lands. So things are about to get busy, in the best possible way. We have sights to see and Christmas dinners to eat and brunches to drink! It will not at all be like my holidays growing up or the typical holidays in America. There will definitely be no snow. I won't be with my family, but with people I've barely known for a year, some of whom I've known less than that. The Christmas trees are all fake and the ornaments lack all sentimentality. Nothing about it will be traditional. But in a weird way, I delight in that.

I take far too much pride in being unconventional, perhaps. But at least this year will be more normal than last year when I was in India being rudely awakened to the meaning of "third world country."

December 14, 2012

Today's random sharings

Yesterday my taxi driver turned to the classical station, which I've never heard in a taxi before. My ex used to play that station when we were hungover and driving somewhere, but I hadn't heard it in forever. I was hungover yesterday, so it was appropriate for the driver to find it and it made me very happy. I tipped him roughly 25 cents as a thank you.

I'm currently on winter break, which is 3 glorious weeks in this land. I am poor, so I can't go anywhere exotic like many of my friends are doing for at least a week or two, but I don't even care. I am so excited to have zero responsibilities. I can just sit back and enjoy the classical music!

December 11, 2012

Income Based Repayment!

I just found out that I qualified for income based repayment for my enormous student loans! I have never been more excited about anything concerning my finances! My life is saved! If you don't know what income based repayment is, it's exactly what the words imply. I get to pay 15% of my income to my loans, no more and no less. And after 25 years, America will eat my debt.

Greatest windfall of all: my taxable income for this year is going to be very close to $0 after adjustments.

Now, obviously I can't rely on this plan for the next 25 years, especially if I ever plan to get rich. But with no foreseeable means of becoming rich, it's a pretty sweet deal that will allow me to save up a safety net for when I get fired again, etc.

I know it's impolite to talk about money, but I am just too excited about this new crutch. Anything to avoid paying that damn fortune I owe, haha.

December 09, 2012

Cutting Ties

I haven't decided if I'm going to be staying here beyond this year.

But I have given my mother permission to give away my cat. I got a cat when I was in graduate school and she is the most wonderfully friendly cat in the world. She's super needy and talkative, so whenever she happened to be somewhere besides my room and I wanted to snuggle, I would shout her name (which was Cat) and she would meow back, then come closer until she found me. It was like Marco Polo, except our roles were "Cat!" "Meow!" And I gave Cat to my mother when I first came here, thinking I would be back in a year, no big deal. But by this point, it's a hassle for my mother, and in the interest of simplifying life for all parties involved, I have accepted that I won't ever play Cat Meow with her again.

I have also tentatively declined an invitation to a friend's wedding. She was my roommate for 1.5 years of college and we went to Europe together and by all typical standards, I should definitely be at her wedding. But the wedding falls a month before I technically finish here. If I know I'm moving back to the States, I'm all for ditching out a month early. But if I'm staying, that's a terrible plan. Thus, the tentative declination.

It's slightly unnerving to be so untethered. It's like being in high school all over again and having existential crises about where I fit in. And exactly like in high school, there is no real good answer to those questions.

December 03, 2012

Conversion Challenge Accepted

There are many people who have attempted to convert me to Islam and all of my students are deeply confused by the fact that I'm not. I once received "A brief illustrated guide to understanding Islam," which attempts to use logic to prove that the Quran is flawless and therefore, holy. Another student offered to give me a Quran to study. And once a student tried to trick me into saying the Muslim creed. (I might not know much Arabic, but I can recognize the creed.) When I refused to say it properly, he was very upset.

It's like a challenge to try to convert me. I don't blame them. It's a great boon for their place with Allah if they teach others about religion. I just don't know that they realize that includes teaching, not just forcing someone to recite a creed or handing someone a book that they'll likely just throw away. (Although to be fair, I have skimmed my illustrated guide. Apparently the Quran is flawless because it likens mountains to pegs.)

I once had a conversation with a man in a bar about how I couldn't be a Muslim because I didn't speak Arabic. And he nodded sagely, then insisted, "But you could learn!" My half-Lebanese friend insisted that I didn't need to know Arabic to be a Muslim, but the man and I shook our heads sadly. And that's my newest escape. "Maybe when I learn Arabic I can be a Muslim...."

November 28, 2012

Things I miss about America

I miss being surrounded by people who all speak languages I understand. I miss eavesdropping on conversations in English or hell, Spanish. I miss being able to make an offhand comment to the person next to me and have them understand it and possibly become my new best friend. I miss being able to understand all verbal announcements and signs.

I miss my best friends. I miss having a phone that receives action every day, from multiple people. I miss being in the same time zone and being able to call a friend at noon and have it be noon for them too. I miss having guy friends who aren't just friends' boyfriends. I miss having so many friends that I can pick ones to hang out with based on my mood. I miss having friends who'd just meet me at the bar at the drop of a hat for no reason.

I miss organizations that are organized and follow rules. I miss shops being open for the same steady hours all the time. I miss the subways and their schedules and convenient routes and that map I basically have memorized. I miss contracts meaning something and wasta meaning nothing. I miss the predictability of American politics and government.

Tomorrow my mom is coming to visit for about a week. I don't know how to show her how different it is here without sounding pessimistic. "Hey, look at how absurdly impossible it is to communicate with our extremely rude taxi driver!" is not the proper way to phrase that novelty, you know?

November 23, 2012

National Day decorations

The villa across the street from my apartment.
December 2nd is the day that the UAE celebrates it's independence and formation. Only 41 years old. Your parents are older than this country, haha.

Perhaps because the country is still so youthful, it likes to celebrate big time. I have been in various cities across America for fourth of July and none of those celebrations compares to the way they do patriotism here. Everybody gets these huge UAE flags and drapes them over the sides of their buildings. Cars get done up shamelessly with paint and stickers, with the best decorated cars winning chunks of cash. My school looks someone shredded a UAE flag all over it.

The colors of the flag are the Pan-Arab colors, which were chosen during the Arab Revolt, which was meant to bring the lands out of control of the Ottoman Empire and form one unified Arab country. That didn't happen, but as the countries eventually formed later on, they adopted the colors to symbolize their Arab loyalty. And those are the colors that are slowly taking over the city as we get closer and closer to December 2nd.

November 17, 2012

Contrary to popular belief

I just made some really amazing tomato soup from scratch. I like to perpetuate the myth that I can't cook, but the truth is that I am at least adequate at following recipes. I am also a shockingly healthy eater. I rarely eat meat at home, and my shopping list is always half vegetables. I have sesame oil in my cabinet and frozen shrimp in my freezer. Later this week I will be making a cauliflower and quinoa kugel. My kitchen is far different than anyone I know would ever guess.

The myth that I don't cook comes mostly from my laziness. When I lived with my first roommate here, I let her cook for me. When I had a boyfriend, he brought me food that his mom had cooked. (I still have one of her plastic containers and three of her plates, which is probably rude of me, oops.) When I stayed at my friends' places this summer, they all cooked for me. And I never cook for anyone, so they assume that when they're not there, someone else must be cooking for me. I also will eat anything that is put in front of me, so they probably think I lack any taste buds.

The other day I was at the mall with some friends and I kept harping about how I wanted fried chicken like whoa. They probably imagine that all I do at home is order fried chicken. Or that I just don't eat because I'm too lazy to even order for myself. I find that myth highly amusing and plan to keep it up forever. So please, keep the truth on the DL.

November 16, 2012


October and November are two of my least favorite months. Perhaps I have mild seasonal depression because there's a certain point in the earlier evenings where I realize the day is over and I just crash and hate everything. The shorter days make me too moody. Yes, I'm aware the shortest days are actually in December, but the dwindling hours of these months feel more suffocating for me. They remind me of my impending death and the fruitlessness of life. I get invited to do things or think about being productive and then I lie back down and wonder, "What's the point?"

And then I hear how melodramatic I sound and I smile an ironic smile and it's a little bit better. And soon it will be December, which is vacation, and then the days will widen and life will widen and everything will be better.

In other news, I think that I look  more Arabic today than I did a year ago. Sometimes I look at my eyes and my nose and I wonder when they got to be quite so Middle Eastern. Do you think that's really a possibility? People say that couples start to look like each other. Maybe I'm starting to look like everyone around me too.

November 10, 2012

Welcome to my weekends

I'm pretty sure I slept for like two hours last night.

Here's how my day went yesterday: Wake up absurdly early, after not enough sleep, for no reason. Surf the Internet and watch The Hills to occupy myself. Wait for friend at bus station and run away from creepy Pakistani man. Laugh at friend for breaking a bottle of vodka. Take bus to Dubai and fail to sleep. Argue with multiple idiotic taxi drivers who refuse to drive us to our destination and don't know where anything is in Dubai. (Dubai taxis are the absolute worst.) Arrive at McDonalds where we stumble upon some of our friends. Go to wrong dock, then right dock to get on yacht. Hang out on a boat for a few hours. Try to convince friend to text my exboyfriend and wish him a happy anniversary from me. (One year ago we had our first date. I spent the day after it jumping on the couch and exclaiming to my friend about how happy I was.) Watch sunset over the ocean. Take taxi to middle of nowhere petrol station because that taxi driver is yet another idiot. (He was nice, but still an idiot.) Wait for acquaintance to pick us up from middle of nowhere petrol station. Laugh at friend for her drunken beat boxing. Get text message from exboyfriend (who has followed orders and avoided me over a month now) because he wanted to commemorate our anniversary too. Wax nostalgic about ex with friend because she's drunk and missing him, who would never have let us end up stranded at a random petrol station. Take another taxi with an asshole Pakistani guy who overcharges us and kicks us out of the taxi at a random roundabout. Which is ok because our acquaintance was waiting for us there, to save us from our wanderings and take us into the desert. Get drunk with strangers and predict drunk friend's wandering to another dune. Laugh when acquaintance finds wandering drunk friend at the next dune. Make a new friend and crash in his tent because I sure as hell didn't come with a tent.

My new friend wants to marry me. But I told my drunk friend that I want to marry my ex, and I feel that multiple marriages could get complicated.

Did you keep all the people straight? I hate not being able to name the characters, but let's just call them all Mohammed.

Sleep deprivation makes me a little nonsensical, apologies.

November 05, 2012


Saturdays are the last day of our weekend here and I usually spend them lying in bed curled around my computer and a bottle of water. It's likely that I woke up around noon, which is always a shame when I try to sleep at my days-before-work bedtime, which is around 11pm. It is a day of nursing my awful hangover and dreading the work week ahead.

And at some point I will inevitably run out of water. It's not as easy as going to the faucet and pouring out a new glass in this country where the tap water isn't quite desalinated enough. Instead, I have to find my flip flops and change into the shorts that cover my knees (for the sake of propriety. And also the pockets.) If I'm feeling motivated, I'll grab whatever bags of garbage my roommates have piled near the front door on my way out.

To get to water, I have to walk down the sandy stairs of our building, down the sandy street and past the people walking either to or from prayer at the mosque across the street. (I somehow always manage to be leaving the building at one of the prayer times.) Then I cross a road near one of it's U-turns and throw the trash into the bins there. Then, across the parking lot of the bus station, past the buses and the passengers, into the bus station where there is a little shop. I pull some 1.5 liter bottles of water from the sliding door fridge and hand them to the cashier, who puts them into a blue plastic bag for me. Sometimes I add a pack of cigarettes or a bag of Cheetos or a Snickers. I always eye the roasted nuts and peas and noodles he has on a table in front of the register, but their foreign packaging makes me wary. And wordlessly I hand him the money, always overpaying by enough to get back the coin dirhams that are nice to have for taxis.

And then it's back to my apartment, where I change back into my pajama shorts, and settle back in around my computer. Such is my life.

October 28, 2012

Eid al Adha

Today is Sunday, but I didn't have to go to work because this weekend was four days long thanks to Eid al Adha. That means "feast of sacrifice," more or less. Last year I saw a goat being walked down the road, clearly on its way to being sacrificed. This year I didn't see any of the sacrificial animals. I just saw less crowded bars; many Westerners take the break to travel to the desert or another city.

I have no passport and no money, so I stayed in Abu Dhabi and tried to relax. Which, it turns out, I'm not particularly good at. I'll work on it.

October 26, 2012

Persians vs. Arabs

So I'm trying to watch Aladdin, right? Everyone complains about all its Arab stereotypes, so I wanted to see them in action. But the problem is that it's not Arab. It's really more Persian. And I don't know why on earth I feel like it's necessary to make that distinction or why I see it, but I want to make it. Perhaps because in this region, that's the one general distinction that I've learned beyond the more recognizable East/West distinction.

In the Strait of Hormuz, between the UAE and Iran, there are these islands, Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb. They're not particularly big and like five people live on them, but the UAE and Iran have often argued about who exactly owns them. Historically, the Persians controlled the islands and the Qasimi tribe (whose descendants are now sheikh families in UAE) controlled them at another point. And thus Iran claims them on the basis of the Persian possession while the UAE claims them on the basis of the Qasimi possession. And unless you've looked it up, I'm guessing you have no clue what the difference is between the Persians and the Qasimi, so why should they matter at all?

I think that it's easy to lump all of Middle East history into a clump of general Arabs. But before the Arabs, there were Persians in Iran and a lot of tribes in Arabia. And then Islam happened and united those tribes into "Arabs." And the Arabs began to conquer the surrounding lands, making them practice the religion and speak the language of Arabs. But the Persians were not so ready to let go of their own history and culture. And to this day, Iran clings to it's own variation of Islam (Shia) and its own language (Farsi) and its own history (Persian.) And the culture that I'm seeing in this Disney movie makes me think "Persian." But that's probably because it's the only distinction I know from "Arab."

October 21, 2012

At least you have your health

This weekend I went to Maya Island, which is a man-made hotel island that opens itself up for parties on Fridays during the prime beach-weather months. We were there during the day, before it gets ridiculous, when it's just people hanging out by the pool eating fries and drinking beers. The group I was with decided at one point to play football (by which they meant soccer) and I followed after them to watch. But they insisted I play, so we compromised that I would tend goal. I was absolutely shit at it. At one point, the ball was coming at me and some guy was about to kick it in. I went to kick the ball away, but instead I kicked him in the shin. Hard.

I didn't realize how hard until a few hours later, when I could barely walk. Apparently, it was enough to mildly fracture my foot. By the time I got home, any pressure on the ball of my foot made me want to cry out in pain.

According to the Internet, the cure for a foot fracture is to put as little pressure on it as possible and give it time to heal. So I'm home from work today. It's a four day week and I am considering taking the whole week off to ensure proper healing of the foot. I even quit smoking to help my recovery. But I did not go to a doctor because I don't have insurance or money. My work will probably request a doctor's note if I want to get paid for the days off, which is amusing since they're the ones who failed to provide me with insurance or money. Tomorrow will be more healing, but the next day I might go in just to show them that I am indeed injured. (My friend got me a comically oversized flat-soled shoe that makes it possible to walk without much pain.) Or I'll take the week and they can dock my pay, whatever. I would much rather have a functioning foot than a few days of pay.

I might have absolutely nothing else in life, but I would like to be able to say "at least I have my health."

October 13, 2012

Desert safaris

Yesterday I went on my first desert safari tourist trip. It started with some dune-bashing, which I found absolutely wonderful. The moment when the vehicle is tilted almost to the point of rolling over and there is sand cascading up all the windows on one side is fantastic. Our driver was far more adventurous than the one leading the pack, and at one point threw up his hands in frustration with the lame maneuvering of the leader. I echoed the sentiment. The dune bashing was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Then there was a pit stop to see a group of camels, but after riding one in India, I'm over that attraction. Eventually we ended up at the camp. There was a belly dancer, who got upstaged by a little girl who got on stage while her group went into hysterics taking photos. (In fairness, the child was a great dancer.) There was henna, but after getting it up and down my arms in India, I'm over that attraction too. There was shisha, but it was apple flavored, which tastes like black licorice and is generally everyone's least favorite. There was food and I was encouraged to take more by the people working there, which was a very Arab thing for them to do. There was a huge dune, which was a bitch to climb up, but a joy to sled down. (The boards were meant for sandboarding, but I'm a skiier not a boarder, so I used it as a sled.) And there was a random cat, who crept under the table and scared the shit out of me, but cuddled so affectionately that I forgave it.

Generally, I loathe touristy things, but a desert trip is exotic enough that even with the touristy elements it can still keep my attention. I kept marveling at the fact that we were in the middle of the fucking desert. Because in Abu Dhabi, that fact is not always abundantly clear. But sitting on top of a sand dune watching headlights bob up and down other dunes in the distance makes the desertness of this place very, very obvious.

October 09, 2012

Waiting for Superman

Today I watched Waiting for Superman. It was a whole lot of propaganda. The gist is that American teacher unions are bad, which I've been preaching ever since I learned what the rubber room was. But then they go on to talk about how amazing charter schools are. The truth of the matter is that charter schools have roughly the same or worse outcomes for their students as public schools. The narrator admits at one point that he's only looking at the best charter schools and there are a lot of failing ones... but then distracts from that fact with the crossed fingers of people waiting breathlessly to get into a charter school. In the end, all schools are going to struggle a hell of a lot more than they're going to succeed, charter, public or private. There is no real solution to the education or inequality or life problems that the movie touches on.

My friend had a baby this week. The first of my really close friends to do so. I'm supposed to write a letter to him, but I can't get past "Welcome to the world." I'm not in a good place to spew drivel about the bountiful options of life or the wonderful lift of love. I'm a metaphoric failing charter school right now, and we should not be allowed to write letters to babies who have just poked their heads into the sunlight. I'd just ramble on and on about how nobody values education in the right way, and he'd be completely unedified by my words.

Just like you, poor audience. But you're not new to the world, per se, so it's your own damn fault for reading a single word I write. You should know better. But you don't because that's just the state of education these days. Nobody ever knows any better.

October 06, 2012

I'll always have Eritrea

I went to brunch again yesterday. Oops.

Usually I find myself socially amazing and the wit of everything, but yesterday I felt very flat and uninspiring. I think part of it had to do with the crowd, who were all born and raised here. Including locals, with whom I will always pause when I hear their nationality. The status and power that comes with it overwhelms me, to the point where I mention my American nationality with forced flippancy. I also vaguely alluded to America's military influence in the UAE, which was a totally lame attempt to make myself feel less inferior.

At one point, I was talking to someone who had the opportunity to get citizenship here, (if you work closely for a sheikh, it can be gifted to you) but his family declined and went with the American passport. And I was outraged on his behalf. He kept talking about the travel benefits of the American one and insisting he doesn't need a UAE passport. But the nationality here has insane financial benefit and I could not fathom anyone turning down such a wonderful opportunity. Granted, it was offered to his family at a time when it wasn't clear just what exactly it would entail, but I still insisted they picked the wrong passport.

But maybe I don't know anything. I kept babbling about how useless I think an American passport is to a rich person. But to a rich person, how useless are the UAE benefits? I didn't even think of that until this moment, to be honest. My worldview is skewed greatly by virtue of the fact that I am a poor, naive American.

I did impress someone by knowing where Eritrea was though. She said most people don't even know it's a country. So at least I have that.

October 02, 2012

The daily struggle

When I walk into each period that I teach, four children run up to me to ask to go to the bathroom, two students are physically fighting in the back of the classroom, and roughly two of the students are ready to begin. If I say, "Please sit down and take out your books," roughly 5% of the class will heed my instructions. If I repeat, "Please sit down and take out your books," nobody new will take out their books and the 5% who are ready take it as their cue to start talking to their neighbor.

I am not good at classroom management. I am especially not good at elementary school classroom management.

How do I make the entire classroom follow my instructions? It seems like it should be easy, even for 3rd graders, to sit down and take out their books. And yet, it is insanely difficult for me to motivate them to do it. The task literally drives me insane. To the point where I cannot control my urge to give up and walk out of the classroom. I have done it, actually, multiple times. Just walked out of the classroom. Only to get two feet away before I realize I cannot actually just leave.

Every week day, I have to wake up and go into a school filled with students who do not want to listen to me. Every week day, I contemplate vaguely how much it would really hurt me to not go into school that one day. And every day, I suck it up, put out my cigarette, and get on my way to work. Because I had great teachers who managed their classrooms and taught us to do what we are supposed to do. I managed to be trained into that sense of responsibility.

It terrifies me how incapable I am of doing that for others. Why am I so terrible at my job? And do I really have to fail at it again tomorrow?

September 29, 2012


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


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.

August 27, 2012


Work has started again and all my friends are back, which means life is falling back into a routine. The routine consists of work, followed by laziness sprinkled with lots of bitching about work. A lot of the complaints blame the specific school or the culture of schools here or the culture of here in general. And while there are definitely some valid reasons to blame each of those scapegoats, I also think people just enjoy a good bitch session.

I would elaborate on the bitching, but it's probably against the confidentiality clause in my contract.

I do think that it's detrimental though. I noticed it a lot last year because once I got fired, my friends and I were bitching about different schools, people, etc. And since I no longer had personal investment in their issues (beyond general empathy, which, let's be real, is a department where I'm lacking) I could see these "issues" objectively. Which meant I could see how redundant the complaints were and how there was zero accountability in the bitching and how it never seemed to help the situation.

Is it going to be mean when I start pointing this fact out? There's probably great therapeutic reasons for bitch sessions... Maybe... I would like someone to find cold hard facts to back that theory. Then I will be all for it.

August 23, 2012

What a drag

My air conditioning is still not fixed. But that was to be expected.

The first of my friends from last year is back. I am much delighted by her return to my life because she feeds me and makes it less sad when I drink alcohol. This morning she and I went to breakfast and made jokes about the people who don't take their sunglasses off inside. ("It's so sunny in here!") It reminded me of the amusing days when I used to listen to similar indoor-sunglasses mocking from my ex.

Who is a huge pain in my ass now that he's an ex. Last night I had to leave the bar I was at because he cannot accept that we are broken up and was annoying the shit out of me. I can't decide if I should call him and yell at him for ruining my night or just let my anger simmer. He was a great, fun boyfriend. But as an ex-boyfriend, he is the absolute worst.

August 18, 2012

Ineffective is an understatement

Well, the air conditioner is still not fixed. I know that the maintenance people have been in the apartment because they have moved chairs around so that they can use them as ladders. One chair has a footprint from some ineffective man who does not know how to fix air conditioners, but knows how to make his presence conspicuous.

Thus I'm still at my friend's apartment. An apartment to which some other maintenance people have keys. Earlier the doorbell rang out, followed by the door opening before I had time to move the five steps from the living room to the door. The men did not seem to have a purpose, per se, and just stood there being confused for a moment before excusing themselves. And since I was clothed in my scandalous Western clothes (shorts and a baggy tshirt,) the doorbell rang again five minutes later, with the door opening simultaneously. They pretended that they were confused and did not realize it was my apartment again, while giggling like school children.

Then I went to the mall and ogled at the fact that it was so empty. Summer and Ramadan combined to make the place more or less deserted. And walking through a food court that isn't serving food, even though it's 5pm, is fantastically surreal.

August 12, 2012

Off to a strangled start

I arrived back in Abu Dhabi at roughly 2am yesterday morning. I got to my apartment to find that the air conditioning was still not working. So I dumped my stuff and headed to my friend's apartment since she had been letting me stay there before my America trip and I had the key to her wonderfully cool, albeit Internet-less apartment. I'm currently sitting in the building's overly cooled hallway, stealing Internet from my other friend who lives across the hall and thankfully did not disable her Internet while she went away.

I have the password because it's the Internet that I used to pay for. Yes, I am sitting, huddled in a blanket, in the hallway right in front of the apartment that I first lived in when I came to Abu Dhabi. It's almost like life has come full circle. Except that last year, I was let into the apartment by the man who'd picked me up from the airport and I knew that I was living with one of my best friends and I was so happy to finally have a job. It was an infinitely better night's sleep than I could have in my current sauna apartment and I got to unpack, unlike in my friend's apartment where I am forced to yet again live out of a suitcase...

But this year I know way more than I did back then, so I'm not overly bothered. On the flight over, I was next to a teacher who was coming to Abu Dhabi to teach for the first time. And next to her was another teacher who was coming for the first time. And they were both sharing what little details they knew about life here, clearly clueless about what to expect. I smiled fondly as I eavesdropped. At one point, she mentioned how ridiculous she heard the driving is, and I inadvertently chortled. She glanced at me, but I immediately tried to look like I was insane. I didn't want her to think that I had first hand knowledge or opinions about Abu Dhabi!

Mostly because I have no good advice to give anyone. You just have to live through it, really. Usually, in the end, you realize that absolutely nothing is in your power, so knowledge or advice is kind of useless. For example, it's Ramadan right now, thus there is little chance my a/c will be fixed before that ends. And even then, who knows.. I was never given maintenance people's numbers, nobody is at the school to answer the phone, and I highly doubt my principal will ever read that email I sent him. But it'll get sorted out. Somehow. Eventually. Maybe. Insha'allah.

And I'm totally fine with that limbo state. Or at the very least I know that I should be fine with it. All right, I have some highly humorous advice for anyone moving to Abu Dhabi to teach: don't sweat the small stuff.

August 09, 2012

Back to the desert

I'm going back to Abu Dhabi tomorrow night. I didn't realize I was going to be so upset about it. I haven't cried manically or anything, but I'm just feeling very much in a funk. Tonight I went out with two good guy friends for trivia night and it was just a normal time out shooting the shit, but it was great.   I have some really awesome friends here.

And then there's just the city. I overheard a guy say something to his friend about the "loca cavrona" and I miss overhearing Spanish. Even the subway rides, listening to my overly ghetto music choices, surrounded by people I feel a solidarity with solely because we share that which is New York life. The people watching is improved by the empathy of that kindred connection. I get New Yorkers in a way that I will never get Abu Dhabians.

My friend who convinced me to go to Abu Dhabi with her just got a job teaching in the Bronx. I have never been more jealous of a person in my life. She gets to stay here and start that life, while I have to go back to the desert and continue that life for at least another year.

My life there isn't that bad. And I know part of it is probably the return to obligations and not being on vacation... it's really not that bad. I'll be just fine.

August 07, 2012

The end is nigh

I go back to Abu Dhabi in a few days. I feel like I still need to squeeze in so many things. One last time with one last friend. There are some people that I just didn't have time to see for a proper hang out and they probably hate me. I also recognize that I need to do a better job of keeping in contact with people while I'm gone.

I also need to just cut some friends off the list.... is that mean?


But maybe I'm at that age where it's important to just have the close ones. There are some friendships that I think I just maintain out of guilt. Because I know they need me in some manner and even though I don't particularly feel close to them anymore, I feel an obligation to still be there if they ask me to be. I'm an utter failure at saying no to attention from people, even if I would rather just stay in the apartment and play Civilization all day.

July 30, 2012

Travel woes

I spent five days in Chicagoland last week. There was so much silence. At night, I could hear my cat (who's staying with my mom while I attempt to sort out my financial life/career) as she walked across my carpeted room. There was also a lot of silence in conversations, as we drove places or sat in favorite restaurants or watched television together. I always find it slightly disconcerting.

This past weekend I was in Maine. The friends I went with are anything but quiet. It was disconcerting in its own way. If I never hear the word "wedding" again it will be too soon. I also don't need to gossip about anyone I went to college with for the rest of my life.

The process of getting to Maine was exhausting. I flew into NYC from Chicago around 1am, thanks to weather delays. I had slept 2 hours on that flight. I took a half hour taxi (which cost far too much money, but I needed to save time) to a friend's apartment where I slept for 2 hours. Then I took the subway to Grand Central and got on a train to Connecticut, which allowed me another hour of sleep. From there, I met up with my friends and we drove the 4 hours to Maine. There was no way that I was sleeping in that car, so I just had to suffice on 5 hours of terrible travel-sleep.

Getting back to NYC yesterday was also a pain, but at least it didn't interfere with my sleep pattern.

I am so tired of not being "home," if my place in Abu Dhabi can be counted as that. At the least, I miss having my own bed that I return to every night, in a room that is filled with only my things. It sounds pathetic, but it is absolutely exhausting to turn futons back into couches every day and pack a bag every week as I move on to the next place a friend so nicely lets me crash.

In the future, my travels will be very different. I will never have lay-overs, no matter how much money it saves me. I will stay in one place for at least one week, in a hotel where I don't have to clean up a single thing and they'll do my laundry for me. And public transportation will be out of the question when I have heavy bags to carry, no matter how overpriced a taxi may be. In the future, you see, I will be rich...

July 21, 2012

I have plenty of time to blog!

Being back in NYC this past week has been like returning home. This morning I went down to the bodega for a bacon, egg, and cheese and some toilet paper, which this man had to get a stick to knock down from its high shelf. It's a moment that I've had hundreds of times and I will always feel pleased in a NYC bodega. The only difference is that this time I was totally aware of how Arab everyone working there was and straining my ears to hear a word that I recognized. Their accent was decidedly not Gulf, so the only one I got was "yanni."

Seeing everyone has been amazing. They are all horrifyingly jealous of my stories. Including the time I was violently ill in India. They say things like "I wish I could travel." And I agree that it is an absolutely amazing experience. But I also envy them for getting to have stability and lives that aren't subject to change and uncertainty and constant newness. I suppose the grass is always greener.

It's been pouring for two days here and I love every minute of it.

July 15, 2012

Going home

The dates are ripe and it's time to go home. In a little over a day, I will be back in my precious New York City.

I couldn't sleep last night from the excitement. And also the anxiety. I haven't seen my friends in almost a year. I'm different. They're different. How do I catch them up on all of the insane things that have happened to me this year? Or explain my day to day life in this strange land?

There is no way to explain how normal it became to hear a call to prayer five times a day. To talk to a mother in a veil. To have a boyfriend who sprinkles his sentences with Arabic phrases without thinking twice about it. To avoid going outside for fear of heat rash. To maintain a Western lifestyle in an Islamic country. To run the line between appropriate to people of this country and appropriate to me. To teach children with whom I have nothing in common with, culturally. To see the date palms as they ripen.

My American friends are never going to understand. But I can't wait to see them all the same.

(I will be back in Abu Dhabi the second week of August. It's likely I won't update until then. Apologies.)

July 10, 2012


Today was officially my last day of work for this school year, alhamdulillah! I spent it sitting at a desk where I was supposed to hand out report cards. Roughly ten parents came to pick up report cards. Many of those who didn't make it to pick up the reports are travelling or will do it later, perhaps. But it is also very possible that many will just never pick them up because they're not interested in the results.

The first concrete road was constructed in Abu Dhabi in 1961. My mother was born 2 years after that. If my mother had been born 2 years after the first road of her country, I think my education would have gone down a little bit differently. And if that had happened and now I was a mother, (which I likely would be at 25 in this country,) I probably wouldn't care too much about a 2nd grader's report card.

I used to imagine that I wanted my children to never be as educated as I am. I wanted them to not be aware of the burden of potential and to just be happy. Ironically, I went into education because I think it is a solution to many of the world's problem. But on a personal level, I really wish I had spent more time just hanging around with people and doing stupid things. School is a waste of time. Alhamdulillah it's summer!

July 06, 2012

Arab men

Not only did I not get back together with my ex, but we exploded into a fight of terrible. And now he is stalking me. He won't admit that it is stalking and he doesn't seem to see his actions as a problem. And I am left behind closed doors wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I didn't see this coming. I should have seen this coming!

Every single person that I've told about it comments something along the lines of, "Well, yeah, Arab men..." Even the Arab man with whom I had a long talk about it, he said the same thing! Everyone just accepts that if you break up with an Arab man, he will not let you go and will harass you, as if you made some terrible decision, and he won't just let you get on with your life.

Stereotypes make it far too easy for people to brush off issues.

Today I discovered that if you Google "stalker cures," the answers are depressingly slim. Nobody wants to help the stalker, they're all just like "get away from him ASAP." And yes, obviously, but what about him? There's no hope for him? Isn't anybody else curious about what exactly tipped the scales from normal to stalker? Isn't anybody else curious about how to tip the scale back?

I should have gone into psychology. There is clearly a lot of work to be done there.

June 26, 2012

Someone has a brain, I'm sure

I absolutely loathe that this blog is public and anyone with half a brain that I know in real life could find it. I hate that social media tries to link everyone up through everything. It is creepy that Linkedin knows who I know and shows me who looks at my profile. It's creepy that my mother could find my Twitter without me even realizing it for far too long. I wish the Internet was more like real life and people communicated directly and openly.

That's a laugh. I don't actually believe there's such a thing as open communication, don't worry. Although! I have a tip to anyone suffering from communication issues with their significant other. Break up with them. Then be in an undefined position where you still see each other all the the time, but suddenly because you are not "together," communication just flows! You will do things like admit your darkest fears about the relationship and make contracts to put in writing precisely what you want from each other. It will be amazingly easy to say it all.

But it won't fix whatever issues are behind your communication issues. And then he will send you a message on Facebook and you will see all of those issues right there on the computer screen. Because the Internet is a part of real life now and insists on ruining everything.

(And although this ruins the beautiful closed circle of the entry as it stands above, I need to tell you all that Dogville was one of the greatest movies I've ever seen. And I've seen quite a lot of movies.  The bit when the man is going on about arrogance and discipline was the best speech I've ever heard and had been set up absolutely perfectly by the rest of the movie. Go see it. Now.)

June 22, 2012

Happy tears!

Are you ever so deliriously happy that you cry? I've just been looking around the Internet for the past hour or so, and every other things makes me cry. In a good way though, like this type of stuff. It's not just the Internet that's causing my happiness, obviously, but also just the way everything is in my life. I woke up to 5 text messages today from my renewed social life and my ex-boyfriend and I are probably getting back together because love blah blah blah. And there's only a week left of school and I'm going home for a few weeks soon and everything is on the up, up, up!

I hope things are on the up for you too, dears!

June 14, 2012

Arabic for Dummies: Part 2

This is the sarcastic issue. These are Arabic words that I use sarcastically. Some of this is likely blasphemous since it includes references to Allah and I'm using it sarcastically. Fortunately, it's hard to tell when someone who doesn't speak a language is doing it sarcastically. I also don't do it around any of my co-workers, who would actually be offended. Just around my friends. Especially the ones who know Arabic.

Adi - normal, ok, no problem
(I use this when people act like idiots, to indicate that incompetent behavior is normal behavior for them. For example, "Can you get the taxi? I don't have any money." "Sure. Adi.")

Mabrouk - Congratulations
(When people do things that are tiny and insignificant and really the opposite of impressive, I like to congratulate them in Arabic. For example, "You got yourself a glass of water. Mabrouk.")

Insha'allah - Allah willing
(I repeat this whenever someone says it to me but I can tell what they really mean is don't hold your breath. I also say it when I can tell that someone is predicting something that won't actually happen. For example, "When will you be there?" "At 8." "Insha'allah, see you at 8.")

Hamdulillah - Thank Allah
(I say this when someone does something finally, at long last, when it is really way past the appropriate time to do it. For example, "I brought you this book that I borrowed from you seven years ago." "Hamdulillah.")

You're welcome.

June 10, 2012

The Lifestyle

This weekend was my birthday, so like any good recently single girl, I had to go out and party. Which meant a trip to Dubai for me and a few of my friends. It's slightly more difficult to go out in Dubai for us, being from Abu Dhabi and therefore clueless. Mostly it just involves a lot of travel between the different venues that we do know or want to try. We tried to go to one club, but that night there was a cover of 150 dirhams per person. (Roughly $50USD) Certain clubs also have things like "Indian Night," and if you're the wrong ethnicity, you don't usually have fun. (Although I totally enjoyed the bit when we stumbled into an Indian Night.)

We also went to dinner at JBR Walk. It's a strip of a restaurants on a wee street where people drive their fancy cars so that everyone can see them. And our food was fine, but not necessarily worth the price we paid, just like the cars. (The restaurants aren't actually that showy - there's a Chili's, for example - but still overpriced.)

Here in Abu Dhabi people also try to live "the lifestyle." The lifestyle of spending all of your money on fun, constantly, with no regard for tomorrow or the substance of what you're spending the money on. The slogan of Abu Dhabi Mall is actually "It's a lifestyle," which I find sadly un-self-aware. (The marketing in this country as a whole is really odd to me and my acclimatization to America's perfected marketing. It's like they don't know that there's a science behind it here.)

And there are times that I really get sick of the superficiality of it all, like 5am on my birthday when I am drunkenly calling my ex-boyfriend because he seems so much more real than the dude I was just talking to, who stole his entire appearance from LMFAO and didn't even flinch about buying all of my friends their drinks.

But then the next day, soberly, the lifestyle can be salvation. Going to the insanely huge mall for breakfast and window shopping was a wonderfully effective distraction from my guilt over my slip up.

June 06, 2012

Graduation differences

Two days ago I went to the school's graduation for the 12th grade boys and the 6th grade girls. (At grade 5, they split by gender, and girls classes only go up to 6, at which point they transfer to another school. This is due to the space available at the school and when they move to a bigger building, insha'allah, there will be girl classes up to 12 too.) The kids wore robes over nice clothes, just like they do at American graduations. But the girls' robes were failing to cover elaborate party dresses of poof.

There was also a performance part of the ceremony, which America doesn't usually have. A group of girls performed a traditional Emirati dance, which consists of a lot of hair shaking. It was odd to see the girls, some of whom wear scarves during the normal day, with their hair down and straightened and tossed around enough to make Willow Smith very proud. (Although none of them have a clue who Willow Smith is, sadly.) If you want to see an example, go to youtube. Then a group of boys performed a traditional Emirati dance, which includes color guard-esque gun tosses and tapping of camel sticks. You can watch that on youtube too.

The students were all back at school the next day and they have finals in two weeks or so. That was another difference from American graduation, to continue school after the ceremony. Not that the days are very learning-intensive anymore. But I still couldn't have imagined it that way before seeing it with my own eyes.

June 02, 2012

Arabic for Dummies: Part 1

I am going to teach you some simple Arabic phrases today. Coupled with the place where I learned the phrases. Get excited!

Yalla bye - Come on, bye
(This is Arablish, obviously, but everyone and their mom says it at the end of conversations. When I first realized my ex-boyfriend was saying it, I was offended because the "yalla" can mean "hurry up," which is how I'd heard it used at school. So it seemed highly rude to end a phone conversation with, "Hurry up, bye." But yalla also means "let's go," "come on," or other general interjections and isn't always negative or commanding. I still haven't entirely gotten used to it, but there's a first grader who likes to talk to me at recess and he uses it, which makes it almost endearing.)

Shukran habibi (shukran habibti) - Thank you, my love/friend/dear
(The one in parentheses is the female version. This is pretty basic Arabic that you pick up within like a week, so I can't remember where exactly I first heard it. But I do know that I use it whenever I have manipulated someone into doing something for me. At my old apartment, a bunch of our friends used to spend weekend days being lazy on our couches. And if I could manage to convince another lazy soul to get up and get me water, etc. they would always receive a gushy "shukran habibti.")

Wa'allah? - Swear to Allah?
(This is a request to prompt the other person to respond "Wa'allah" as a statement, affirming that they indeed swear to Allah. Which is basically a verification that they are telling the truth. I use this constantly at school when kids fidget and pretend they need to go to the bathroom so super badly. It's amazing how many of them will swear to Allah when they are obviously lying. But if they say it, I let them go. It's not my problem at that point, it's between them and Allah.)

Tawil belik (tawli belik) - Calm down
(This is a Lebanese phrase, actually. I learned it while at a 2 day concert with my ex-boyfriend and his friend. In the morning the day after the first concert, we woke up and there were roughly ten people in a room that had originally only had 3. We started drinking immediately, of course, and the Arabs were so amused by my lack of Arabic knowledge that they decided I needed to know "tawil belik." Which is a hilariously appropriate thing to say to a drunk person every other minute. And they laughed every time anyone said it.)

You're welcome.

Also, you might have other things you are curious about my life here in Abu Dhabi. If you have questions that you would like answered with a long rambling post, I'd love to hear them. Or if you want to know other phrases in Arabic, I can make another entry with more, if I know them. (I will be posting an entry about greetings in Arabic in a few days, so don't worry about those, I've got them covered.) Ask away!

May 26, 2012

It's official

I'm now single. I'm announcing that here because I can't do it on Facebook or Twitter, in order to avoid tackiness. And nothing is real unless it's announced on the Internet, so this will just have to do.

I'm not heart-broken, although I do occasionally start to tear up at slight provocations. I'm mostly worried about losing my main source of distraction. There are a lot of hours in a day. I have no idea what I used to do with all this time. On some levels I hope he magically does exactly the perfect thing to make us get back together. Unfortunately, that thing does not exist.

I've been watching a lot of Qi lately. It's an absolutely pretentious show to enjoy as much as I do. I'm also reading a biography of Malcolm X for who knows what reason. And I really should get working on that memoir of this absolutely ridiculous year.

I'm probably going to turn into a complete egoist being alone with my pretentious hobbies.

May 20, 2012

The one where I talk about the things I'm not supposed to

The school year is beginning to wind down. As a teacher this means that the students are getting wild and we all just want it to be over. Which begs the question, what next? I don't, technically speaking, have the money to even pay for a ticket home for the summer. But I cannot imagine spending the whole summer here, where it will be deathly hot. I also don't have any idea if my job here will continue. I also have no idea if I'd be able to find a job in America. Sometimes I stare at my bank accounts and wonder if they've ever had any money in them.

It's an absolutely petrifying position to be in.

As a result I am taking it out on my boyfriend. I told him we were no longer a couple today, then when he asked if I was serious, I said, "meh." My officially stated reason for being annoyed with him is that he is a selfish person. If he was smarter, he would point out that that is a selfish reason, thereby invalidating the complaint. The unofficial reason is that I do not want to have to consider him in planning my future. I want to be free to rigorously pursue jobs in America. Not that there is any hope that I'll get one.

Really I just want to curl into a ball until someone fixes everything for me. I epitomize maturity.

May 07, 2012

Languages are hard

Do you ever think about the weird snippets of other languages you know? Do they ever pop into your head at odd times? I was just walking down the hall and I turned on a light and thought, "Kapunka." Which means "Thank you" in Thai.

I also learned the other day that when I say "Seedha" to tell taxi drivers to go straight, it's Urdu, not Arabic. (Because all the taxi drivers are Indian/Pakistani.) I said it as one of the Arabic words I know, to someone who was inquiring, and she was like "Psh, that's Urdu." Which I didn't even know, because I learned it from an Arab, who says it often when we share taxis, so I just assumed it was Arabic. (In my defense, he says "Yameen" and "Ya'sar" for "Right" and "Left," which are Arabic.)

And then there are the few bits of Polish I learned from my grandmother, the most important being "Dupa," which means "Butt."

And I also sometimes try to scrape the lining of my brain for a way to say something in Arabic, but I can only come up with the Spanish. The other day I was trying to think of how to say "I think," but I could only come up with "Pienso." Which is to be expected since my knowledge of Arabic amounts to nothing useful, while my Spanish is pretty extensive. But did I move to a Spanish-speaking country? No, of course not, I picked an Arab one.

C'est la vie.

April 29, 2012

Giving context is exhausting

A few days ago my best friend in this country (and the one who got me the job that brought me here) quit her job and left the country. I know that I will see her again soon, this summer most likely, but it is quite a blow to my emotional happiness to lose my best friend here. Now, nobody in this entire country understands me quite as much.

She had the same cultural and educational background as me. When I talked about Thanksgiving, I didn't have to stop to explain turkey and cranberry sauce and casserole. When I mentioned Jeopardy, she knew exactly what that was and what the theme song conveyed. We could talk about politics without stopping to explain filibuster or what politics in America really means. We even had the same misconceptions of this new country and were forming our new perceptions together.

We had the same history for a year in NYC before our time together here. We went to the same university for grad school and took most of the same classes, which means we both approached our jobs with the same attitude. We had many mutual friends that we could reference with ease. We had spent enough time together to know one another's life stories. And we had so many times together that we could reminisce about situations similar to a myriad of things happening here.

It gets tiring to explain yourself to others. From my habits like refusing to take photographs to my history with different boys du jour, she knew it all and didn't question it. I miss not having to give context for the things I want to say. When she was at the airport, one of my last texts to her was "I can't do this without you." And I'm afraid there's a bit too much truth in that statement.

April 19, 2012

So much remains the same

Today is Thursday, which is the start of our weekend here. (Friday is the holy day in Islam, thus we have to have Friday off, thus Thursday is our Friday.) I'm currently waiting for a friend to pick me up. I'm also currently procrastinating some chores that could easily be done while I am waiting... but they won't be.

Contrary to popular belief, life in modern foreign countries often ends up very similar to life in the modern country one comes from. I still am happiest when the text message on my phone comes from a boy. I still spend all my free time at home in bed, on the computer. I still enjoy dinners with my girl friends more for the gossip than the food. I still end up too busy on the weekends to really catch up on sleep. I still don't ever have quite enough money. And I still procrastinate doing my laundry.

The brands are different though. It's annoyingly difficult to find the brand of face lotion I prefer, so ever since the last one was taken from me (while going through security in Thailand) I just haven't used any face lotion. And contrary to popular belief, there really hasn't been any noticeable difference.

April 14, 2012

Remind me to work on that

Tomorrow is Sunday, which is our Monday here, which means that today is that dreadful time at the end of the weekend when all that lies ahead is five days of work.

Yesterday my friend was playing that game where you ask questions along the lines of "who would you pick if you had to be stranded on a desert island for a year?" I talked about this guy I had an absurd crush on for all four years of university. She also asked what our biggest wishes in life were. I said, without hesitation, "To be rich." And when she asked what age we all wanted to be married at, I rolled my eyes and said with sarcasm, "25." Because when my best friend and I made plans for our lives, at the mature age of 18, that's what I had decided.

In 8 weeks, I turn 25. I don't actually plan to marry next year, but I do strongly associate the age of 25 with maturity. That is the year I feel that I need to stop messing around with my life. My things should be in order and I should feel prepared to handle all sorts of situations. 25 is the time I should really start to achieve my goals!

Unfortunately, my goals have never been hazier...

April 09, 2012

Land of smiles

I was in Thailand last week. To everyone who asks me how it was, I say that it is a beautiful country. It is a beautiful country. It is also full of tourists. We lost a ton of money before we caught on to the bargaining game that lowers prices to a quarter of what was originally stated. Thai people are very good at catering to their tourists. They're also good at keeping their own culture by knowing exactly enough English to sell you something, then switching back to Thai for everything else.

It exhausts me to think of all the things we did. Two boat tours, which included snorkeling in absurdly shallow water and canoeing through absurdly low-roofed caves. A "Thai fantasy" show. Bungee jumped and then shook for a good half hour from the adrenaline. My boyfriend almost crashed the scooter we rented. Saw a ton of other people who had actually crashed and had to wear patches of gauze. Saw a woman(?) shoot darts out of her vagina. Watched more than one lady boy hit on my boyfriend. Multiple massages and a foot scrub during which I flinched continuously from my ticklishness. Ate a grasshopper (crunchy) and a silkworm (grossly mushy inside.) More seafood than I can remember. And many, many hours on the beach. I am now toasted to a golden brown.

March 31, 2012

I wish I could say more, but...

Yesterday I went jet-skiing for the first time in my life. It is the epitome of Abu Dhabi activities.

I cannot tell if the noises I hear outside are coming from a child or a cat. I also just watched a mosquito fly past my face in my room. I have no idea how it got in here. This apartment is such a downgrade from all my previous residences.

Tonight I'm going to a dinner with some friends and a friend's dad. I am petrified of people's parents.

Then, at midnight, I leave for Thailand. Someone should really pack my bag already...

March 25, 2012

Middle Eastern cinema

Yesterday I decided on a whim to watch Sex and the City 2 because it takes place in Abu Dhabi. Or rather, that is the claim. Nothing was filmed here, it was all filmed in Morocco, which I could have easily found out online and saved myself the two and a half hours. But I watched it. I didn't necessarily find it racist, (the girls are too air headed for it to be actually mean-spirited,) but I definitely found it boring. The only enjoyable thing about it was when people around them spoke in Arabic. I still giggle when people say "yalla."

The next movie I'm planning to watch is City of Life, which was actually filmed in Dubai and produced by an Emirati. I wish there were more films here though. I have a friend who watches a ton of movies, but the closest he can get to a portrayal of the Middle East is Don't Mess With the Zohan. (Which was surprisingly not that racist.) They're working on the industry's growth, of course, but I want it now!

March 22, 2012

Overheard in the UAE

Today, I overheard a student saying to her teacher, "Miss, can I go ask the Miss?" (The Miss is a totally normal way to refer to a teacher here.)

The other day, I overheard someone tell a story that included the line, "Karim Shawi was dating Minyawi's sister." (The entire story was about these characters, whom I could not for the life of me keep straight.)

I overhear many things said in theoretically acceptable English that sound extremely strange to my American ears.

March 19, 2012

Western-friendly, I guess

My brother left yesterday. He said that he had a good time. He also said that this city is very "Western-friendly." I wouldn't disagree with that. I hope that he did learn a little bit about the world outside the west though. On his last night, we watched clips where Russel Peters talk about the Middle East and I don't think he would have fully appreciated the jokes if he hadn't been here.

March 11, 2012

Being sick in a foreign country

I have either a massive cold or super allergies. Either way it is massively super lame.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. My senior year of college I was sick for a solid 6 months. (Meaning it was most probably allergies.) The next year that it happened, I went into an intensive dietary fix. There are certain foods that allegedly cure seasonal or environmental allergies. (Including, but not limited to: pumpkin, squash, red onion, apples, spinach, carrots, pine nuts.) I ate them all, at every meal, and I was cured! Whether it was placebo effect or the allergies had run their course, I did it every year around the time I got my allergies and I never saw them again.

Here is what everyone here has told me to do: take medicine.

I hate medicine and much prefer to let my immune system do what it does best. And yet I find myself popping two Panadol each morning. Panadol is not a brand found in America, so that in itself is foreign. Plus I used to avoid all medicines of that pain-relief type; I was staunchly against symptom-medication. But here, no problem, hand me the drugs. I'm also taking a generic antihistamine that may or may not be doing anything. And there's a tea for cold and flu, which contains a drug that I don't even bother to remember. I've also taken four different antibiotics in the past six months, although that's not related to this bout of illness.

Being sick in a foreign country makes me feel incapable of letting my body fix itself. It has enough to deal with to add on whatever actual diseases attack it, right? Right.

March 06, 2012

Russian hospitality

My brother is coming to visit me next week. Previous to this, the only time he left America was to visit Canada. He also currently lives next to a corn field. I'm very excited to show him the wonders of Abu Dhabi.

When I told my Russian roommates that my brother was coming to see me, they seemed very concerned with the idea of him staying in our apartment. "It's not illegal. He's my brother," I insisted before they could even attempt to pull the Tawajed clause card. (On my second day in the apartment, they had informed me that they would be sticking to the shariah law that states that it is illegal to have male guests step foot in the apartment. Lucky for me, there is a clear exception for relatives, such as my brother.)

Eventually, I gathered that their concern was that he might somehow happen to glimpse them in a towel during the half second walk from their bathroom to their rooms. I have no idea how I responded to that without laughing, but apparently I did.

"I guess it's ok..." they eventually acquiesced.

March 03, 2012

Let's give this another go

Earlier today, I watched a video that insinuated that Rick Santorum is gay and heartbroken, so he supports anti-gay marriage politics to express his frustrations with a lover who scorned him. It was ridiculous and obviously satirical and we've all seen a million of those types of videos. But in other countries, where politics and government are taken seriously, that video would be totally taboo. Nobody would ever make a video like that about anyone in the U.A.E., for example. But for Americans, that type of creative political expression is a basic human right and a very important part of free speech.

I deleted my last blog because my definition of free speech was too broad. Nothing was defamation, (by my American standards.) I didn't actually get in trouble for the blog, (as far as I know.) And everything I said was true, (from my perception.) But I need to be more sensitive to the country that I am allowed to live and work in. If there was any chance that anything was remotely defamatory or illegal or untrue, I am responsible for that. I need to be responsible for my words.

I'm still debating what that will mean. Anonymity is no longer under preservation. Perhaps that will be enough to keep me from blabbing away. I'm contemplating not talking about my boyfriend. But that would be strange since he consumes so much of my time. He also happens to be an Arab, thus our issues are often a wonderful microcosm of larger issues. I probably shouldn't talk about my job at all. Which is strange since it's the only reason I am in this country and (theoretically) the only reason I remain. Thus the two biggest things in my life are banned from the list of discussion topics. And what's left?

We shall see. I miss blogging though. So let's give it another go...