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.