Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fun with Elf on the Shelf

I previously wrote a post asking friends and familiy to participate in Elf on the Shelf for a bit of Christmas fun.  We had two particpants and loved the photos we received!!  We hope to make this a bit of a tradition and get even more people involved in the years to come! Below are the wonderful pictures!  Thank you to Joni and Jamie, Keith, Kara and Nina for participating!  Seeing your photos helped us to feel a bit closer to home this holiday season.

# 1 - Joni Luke and her Santa! 

Joni with her Santa!
Hope Santa doesn't shoot a reindeer!

#2 - Kara and her elf named Merry!

Our sweet niece and her Elf on the Shelf book.
Kara with her elf, Merry.
Merry was present at the birth of Jesus, too.

Merry the musician.

Keeping a close watch.

Just hanging around. . .
Kara stayed in her bed all night!

 AND last but not least, our elf Tinsel:

Searching for a good Christmas movie on Netflix.

Snuggling up with Grover.

Hope everyone was good and Santa brought all kinds of goodies!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Time in Berlin

Because we are unable to be home with family this year, Ben and I chose to spend our Christmas in Berlin, Germany.  We left Dubai in the early hours of December 21st and arrived in Berlin around 1:30 pm.  Our flights were mostly uneventful although we weren't able to accomplish much shut eye. After landing we made our way through customs, figured out the train system here and made our way to our hostel. After we checked in around 3:30 pm, we decided to take a nap prior to exploring and finding something to eat.  We set the alarm so we would wake up after a couple of hours which turned into 16 hours.... Oops....

We awoke, showered and headed out into the city early the 22nd. Many, many places were still closed even though it was after 8 am, but we did find this cafe that had a large selection of German pastries and good coffee. Ben had a cherry strudel and I had some delicious thing that I cannot remember what it was called.  After breakfast we continued exploring on foot and purchased tickets to a few of the museums.  There were displays from Germany's past, as well as Egypt, Rome, and Greece.  Since it was about 27 degrees and we are used to thinking that 70 degrees is cold in Dubai, we were happy to get out of the cold for a bit.  I found the museums to be a bit lack luster since most of the cool looking things only had descriptions in German...

When we were finished at the first museum, we decided it was time to check out the Christmas markets.  We went to the closest market and the first thing we grabbed was a warm mug of gluhwein, or mulled wine.  Holy bajeezes it was delicious! It tasted like adult Christmas in a cup! The tasty nectar of the gods came in actual mugs which you pay a 3 Euro deposit for the first time and then continue to have the same mug refilled as you go.  You can have additional alcohol added, such as rum, but we chose the traditional wine sans the rum.

Next it was time for food! The Christmas market had many stands with traditional German food for us to choose from. Ben and I decided to share a bratwurst so that we would have enough room to try other foods as well. The brats were cooked on this large circling grill over an open fire and the guy spun the grill himself.  The brat was hot and delicious and the bun was very fresh.

There were many stands with yummy treats and I was drawn to the candied almonds.  They had many flavors to choose from including chili, rum and Baileys. The woman at the stand was very kind and allowed me to try most of the flavors and I purchased a small bag of the Baileys almonds for munching.  We also tried traditional Berlin lard cookie things and a pretzel covered in cheese - both we're outstanding!

After going through one more museum we headed back to the hostel. We stopped at another Christmas market where we tried chestnuts that were actually roasted on an open fire! They are so tasty! Ben thinks they taste like a potato with butter and I think they taste similar to edamame. Either way they are delicious! When we got back to the hostel we talked with the K's and decided to go see Stomp.  We jumped on the train and made our way to the theater, purchased our tickets and went next door for supper. Ben was excited to have a good beer and we were both excited for pork and sauerkraut. Ben had a brat with sauerkraut and I ordered the shank which turned out to be a huge chunk of meat still on the bone and incredibly hard to eat (but was still good).  After supper we went to Stomp which was AWESOME and then headed back to the hostel for the night.

My favorite part of the day was being able to enjoy the snow. It began in the morning and continued throughout most of the day. It helped to make Germany feel a bit more like Christmas even though we were away from the people we love.

Monday, December 17, 2012

'Tis the Season

 It is hard for me to believe that Christmas is just a week away.  I think the warm climate has something to do with it, but this year also seemed to pass in a blur.  It's crazy to look back on the year and see how many HUGE life changes occurred.  Ben and I got engaged, I quit my job, got married and moved to another country.  Big year.

My new look.  I think green is my color.
I am lacking in holiday spirit and I think a big part of that is being away from family. I miss my mom and hate that I can't be there to wake up on Christmas morning and have our delicious french toast casserole (a tradition we started a few years ago).  After our breakfast we normally open a few gifts together and listen to Christmas music.  The time we spend together is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  We also started a tradition of wearing ugly Christmas sweaters while opening our gifts and we each have a hat (my is a reindeer and hers is Santa).  Grover has a hat, too, but he doesn't keep it on very long.  Sometimes I make homemade hot chocolate with a candy cane garnish for the present opening as well.  If we're going to load ourselves up on calories we should go big or go home, right? 

I miss my dad.  We do our Christmas on Christmas Eve. Dad and I normally open our presents on the couch and he tries to find clever ways of wrapping my presents.  He is a good source to get the practical gifts.  For example, I normally ask for rock salt or things such as jumper cables or a shop vac.  One year he wrapped a few pieces of this square type salt and when I opened it he said it was candy.  The taste test proved it was definitely NOT candy.  After opening presents we generally tend to ride the snow mobile if there is snow.

I miss my brother.  We work out a time that Shane is free to come to Ma's and we have yummy eats and treats.  We usually play the game Boxers or Briefs and laugh until we cry.  The poor people who join us have to deal with the three of us laughing and them not really knowing why we think something is so funny. Popo Jijo knows why, though.

I miss Elyssa.  We usually celebrate Christmas with hot chocolate, Harry Potter and some sort of take out food. We are very classy.

I miss my in-laws.  I am excited to eventually celebrate Christmas with them and join in their Christmas traditions.

Despite missing everyone and feeling a bit homesick, there are things I am very thankful for and that bring cheer to the season.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband.  I am thankful we both have jobs and are able to travel for Christmas.  I am thankful for our "Dubai family" and the time we spend together.  I am very thankful that despite all of the horribleness we seem to hear about these days, that our families are all well and able to be together despite our absence.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Men v Women: Who are the Best Drivers?"

Newspaper article from 12/12/12 in 7Days - UAE.

Men v Women: Who are the best drivers?

UAE Survey states guys are more dangerous but the girls are too cautious and can't park.

The argument about whether men or women are the best drivers has rumbled on for years and a survey by authorities in the UAE has only added to the debate.
Male and female drivers across the Emirates were polled and the findings show the gender divide on who rules the roads is as wide as ever.
Nearly 750 (375 men and 375 women) motorists surveyed - 44 percent believe men are better drivers, with only 10 percent insisting women are better behind the wheel.  Forty-six percent believe gender does not play a role in driving standards. 
However, male motorists should stop and think before bragging as they're also considered the most dangerous on UAE roads - 67 percent of those surveyed said men are more reckless and drive too fast, while 59 percent said women are too cautious.
In the survey, conducted by the 999 magazine, a UAE Ministry of Interior and Abu Dhabi Police publication, 63 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that women are bad at parking, 17 percent disagreed.
A magazine spokesman said: "the survey shows there is a perception about men versus women in driving skills.  Although nearly half of the UAE residents believe gender does not play a defining role in determining who is the better driver - a fact reflected in official statistics - a big portion of the public remains divided on this."
Lt Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Hinkdi, editor-in-chief of 999 added: "Official figures do not show a skill gap between men and women.  Driving skills depend on personality, awareness and experience, not gender."
So are the finding on the finer points of motoring a true reflection of life on the open road? Lesley Cully, founder of UAE road safety campaign group Buckle Up in the Back, said: "It's interesting that these results were from a balanced base of men and women respondents.  If you asked my husband then me, you'd probably also get a very different opinion!  I, of course, am amazing at parking and directions whereas my husband is not then I'm sure he'd tell you otherwise!  Seriously, though, it's up to all of us to become less aggressive on the roads and more responsible for our driving."
Bobby Easow of Drive Dubai driving school, which opens for business today, said: "Your driving attitude is what makes you a good driver.  There is a common notion that men are more aggressive while driving and that women are too careful.  This is not true."  "
Driving attitude is something that is unconsciously absorbed and cultivated while driving on roads."  he added.  "In countries like India where most city roads have no clear lane markings and minimal lane discipline, you will notice drivers giving way to lane-cutters and even pedestrians.  You will also notice a low number of accidents in spite of the lack of proper infrastructure and 'chaotic' driving.  This is in contrast with the driving in the UAE where many cases of road rage and aggressive-driving related accidents have been recorded even though the quality of the infrastructure.  A higher emotional intelligence with the right attitude is what makes a better driver."

Women vs Men

Who are more prone to accidents due to using mobile phone while driving?
Men - 23%
Women - 21%
Gender doesn't play role - 56%
Who are more prone to accidents due to changing lanes without indicating?
Men - 37%
Women - 21%
Gender doesn't play role - 43%
Who are more prone to accidents due to speeding?
Men - 69%
Women - 9%
Gender doesn't play role - 22%
This seems to be the never ending battle!  I agree with the article that a lot of our driving skills have to do with our attitude.  I also think a lot of it has to do with where you are from.  There is obviously going to be a varying range of skilled drivers in each culture.  Combine all of those cultures and those varying skills and you get a whole mess of crap.  Dubai is one giant melting pot of drivers and each person thinks they are in the right.  I do not hold myself above this - I, too, believe that we Americans have it right when it comes to driving! That attitude is exactly what makes driving here dangerous. 
When it comes to driving in our family - Grover sucks.  Ben is very good in high-stress situations whereas I am not.  I am a good driver but parallel parking is not one of my strong points. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

This is how we roll. . .

Because who doesn't have a scarf-wearing camel sticking out of their vehicle?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Leave the Car and Walk with Pride"

Article regarding UAE National Day, December 2, 2012.

"Leave the Car and Walk with Pride"

Cops fed up with National Day traffic chaos warn that vehicles involved in unofficial parades will be clamped


Traffic police in Dubai have had enough of unruly road users spoiling the UAE's big day and have vowed to clamp down on menacing motorists this weekend - literally.
Officers have warned that steering wheels will be locked and cars clamped if drivers are found parading around Dubai in convoys during celebrations for UAE's 41st National Day.  Instead of hopping in cars and honking horns to celebrate, residents have been urged to out out and walk with friends as they embrace the occasion.
General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen, head of Dubai Traffic Police, said: "All car parades are banned this year.  I want people to march on foot to celebrate this year."
However, Al Zafeen said the force is prepared for the potential chaos on the roads with 500 officers on the streets on Saturday and Sunday.
"Our patrols will be everywhere on these two days," he added.  "We will clamp cars violating these rules at the side of the road or lock the steering wheels for at least eight hours.  Drivers must respect traffic laws.  Celebrating National Day is not a reason to commit violations.  On National Day weekend last year we seized about 1,000 vehicles."
Al Zafeen added: "They were seized for different violations and the top reason for doing so was motorists' reckless and noisy driving.  Some drivers were even caught spraying colored aerosols on other road users and passerby and throwing rubbish from vehicles.  This is not acceptable."  He warned: "All the chaos is usually focused on Jumeriah Beach Road.  We will seize cars for a minimum of three months if people commit violations." 
However, the traffic cop said it is not only Dubai resident to blame.  "For three years we have seen the same behavior and same chaos happening," he said.  "People come from other provinces and even from GCC countries to commit violations on Dubai roads." 
Statistics show 24 accidents and 1,345 traffic offenses were recorded last year.  A child, who was hanging out of a car, [you see that ALL the time...] died when the driver made a sharp turn.  Al Zafeen added: "There was a case of a pregnant woman in labor who was stuck in traffic for hours in Jumeriah.  She almost gave birth inside the vehicle.  I know people who book in hotels outside Dubai to escape from the noise on Jumeriah Beach Road."

Our 1st Thanksgiving as Husband & Wife

Friends Season 10 - The One With the Late Thanksgiving

We had two Thanksgivings this year.  The first was on the beach with some of Ben's, David's, Naomi's and Casey's friends from their masters class.  It was great to meet new people and they were all so welcoming and sweet.. Good people. :) They also loved and raved about my homemade biscuits so that won them all bonus points as well!

On Friday after Thanksgiving, Naomi and I prepared a Thanksgiving feast for our Dubai family. (Dubai family = Naomi, Casey, David, Ben & me).  We put a lot of last minute thought into what we wanted to do (probably should have started planning a bit earlier....) and everything turned out wonderfully. We got together around 9:30 a.m. to finalize our menu and went to Lulu's (grocery store) to pick up what we needed.  Naomi and I cooked our first turkey together with the help of conversations with our mothers and MIL's and the internet. The turkey was kosher so we didn't have to brine it which was nice.  We made Ben take out the innards because neither of us wanted to stick our hand in there. I cut up an onion to put inside and was throwing the pieces in until Ben came over and just shoved them all in. He he..... We forgot fresh rosemary, so we sprinkled some dried rosemary inside and on the outside of the turkey. We also melted some butter and poured over top of the turkey and then shoved it in the oven! Aside from turkey we also had stuffing, roast sweet potatoes (which were put in the microwave to be reheated and left until the next morning....oops.), homemade biscuits, turkey gravy, sweet potato pie, snow pie, [made by Ben/me], mashed potatoes [made by David], green bean casserole, corn casserole, cranberry sauce, apple crisp and a couple appetizers [made by Naomi/Casey]. We hosted supper at our place and ate 2 hours later than expected and then did dessert, homemade hot chocolate with Baileys and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at the K's. It was really quite wonderful.

While we missed our family and friends, it was truly a great Thanksgiving!  It was a learning experience in having to cook everything ourselves, but it was a lot of fun to cook everything and prepare a large meal with my loving husband.  We work very well together in the kitchen and we really enjoy cooking together.  Part of the way through cooking Ben took over getting things in and out of the oven.  I tend to burn myself a lot and he doesn't.  I happily accepted his help.  We also learned how expensive it is to put together such a large meal and how much time and effort is put into getting everything ready.  At the end of the day both Ben and I were ready to just sit/lay down and relax.  My old lady body was aching and Ben said he was sore from everything as well.  Kudos to our mothers.  This experience was yet another thing that makes me marvel at how much of a rock star my mom is. 

Shopping for all of the food was a bit of a challenge here.  Naomi and I went to Geant and got some of the things we needed on Thursday.  On Friday morning we went to Choithrams, a British grocery store, and got the remainder of what we needed.  I was excited to find Cool Whip but disappointed that they didn't have Pillsbury frozen pie crusts.  Those taste almost as good as homemade crusts and are much easier.  Ben kind of scoffed at me for wanting pre-made pie crusts, giving me the, "Well my mom always makes her own...", bit.  (FYI - my mother-in-law is the queen of pies... SO good!).  I appointed him pie crust maker for our two pies and he quickly learned why I wanted to get the pre-made.  We didn't have much time to get everything done and I wanted to cheat and have those already done.  He did a great job.  The pie crusts were delicious, but I'm pretty sure he plans on never making a pie crust again unless absolutely necessary.  :)  He's more of a meal maker rather than a baker.  I'm the baker in this duo.

While we did our cooking we had Christmas music playing, the windows open and a candle burning.  We sang, danced around and really enjoyed ourselves.  I'm excited for future holidays and having fun together while preparing everything.  I'm also excited to host our families in our home in the future!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thoughts on Dubai

Burj Khalifa - Tallest building in the world.  Modeled after a lotus flower.

It is no secret that when we first moved here I completely hated Dubai.  I hated the heat.  Feeling trapped inside because of 120 degree weather is not exactly ideal.  I hated that my family and friends were so far away and I couldn't just pop over to see them or easily call/text.  I hated that there is no Target.  Still hate that actually....

I think much of my dislike stemmed from homesickness and lack of purpose.  I had no job and no way to really meet new people aside from through Ben.  My days were spent at home either reading, watching TV or sleeping.  My depression started sinking its claws in and I'm sure it was frustrating for Ben.  I would cry often and there was really no way he could comfort me, aside from just being there, and that was hard for him.  I did have times of fun and happiness but there were many down times as well.

Now that I have a job and am out of the house, around people and doing something with my time, many things have improved here.  I have gotten to know more wonderful people and form personal relationships with them rather than seeing them occasionally through Ben's work outings.  I have become accustomed to the way of life here, although some things are still frustrating, and am enjoying it.  Ben and I both help the other to stay active with friends, so we do more now than when we first moved here.  I think part of that is also due to a bit more financial stability as well. 

I think a big turning point for me was Thanksgiving.  We had Thanksgiving at the beach with some people that Ben, David, Naomi and Casey knew from their masters course and they were all so welcoming and wonderful and made us feel like we belonged there with them.  We also put together a very nice Thanksgiving on Friday for our little Dubai family and made the holiday truly wonderful.  It made me realize how much I will miss this.  I have found that being abroad makes you bond with people in a different way than when you are home.  You feel closer to those around you because everyone is away from family, gets homesick, misses Target...  I can't really describe it, but you automatically feel closer to the people you spend your time with.  You're there for each other on the down days and understand what the other is going through.   You don't have your normal family/friend support so you have to depend on one another. 

Dubai has become a much more enjoyable place and is really growing on me.  I'm not to the point where I can say that I "love" Dubai, but I'm getting there.  I'm still not thrilled with the nasty smelling water, but I very much am enjoying the weather we are having now.  Plants are blooming, the temperatures are around 85 degrees and it gets cool enough to where I can wear pants and long sleeves and be comfortable in the evening.  When the sun goes down I think it is cold and want a jacket even though it is still "warm" for Iowa standards. 

However, I do absolutely love the culture here.  Dubai is a huge melting pot of religion, culture, fashion, everything.  I enjoy celebrating the different holidays of other religions and learning more about them.  I enjoy dressing up in the different traditional clothes of India, Dubai, etc. 

It often amazes me that I am living here.  I am blessed to have such an amazing opportunity. 


My Friend, My Seester :)

Seesters  :)
Below is the Maid of Honor speech written by my Elsie for Ben's and my wedding.  I feel truly honored and blessed that such an amazing woman wrote this for me.  She is more than a best friend; she is family.  She is a sister to me and will always be a huge part of my life. 
While Lyssa was not able to attend our wedding due to a prior obligation, she made the trek to Minneapolis after work on July 12th to have a girls night and celebrate.  True to form, we went to Target and bought as much junk food as possible (adding to what Lyssa had already packed), got some disgustingly delicious McDonald's and rented The Hunger Games from the hotel TV. 

Our wedding celebration feast!

Prior to our feast she read me her speech.  I may be biased, but I'm pretty sure this is the absolute best maid of honor speech I have EVER heard.  :) 

"Despite the fact that I delivered my first maid of honor speech in February, I have to admit that when I hear that phrase, it's you that I think of. For as long as I can remember, I have been looking forward to the day that I get to speak at your wedding reception. I've been mentally filing embarrassing snippets for years in anticipation of this moment. Well, I could not be happier that this day has finally come. It's crazy to think that a decade ago a comment about your hypothetical wedding to Ben might have elicited a giggle and you rolling your eyes (sorry Ben) and today you walked down the aisle toward your future with him.

I could ramble on and on about how happy I am for you, but instead I think I need to make a few things clear for Ben's sake...

First: There are certain things that will always be special between me and Lyndsey. If you attempt to take credit for them or make them something that belongs to you two, I will hurt you. These things include, but are not limited to: Totino's pizzas, Trolli Eggs, Chinese take-out & movie dates, orange rolls, sex on the beach, and the nicknames Lilly & Elsie.

Second: Marrying my best friend means wholeheartedly accepting everything about her. This list includes, but is not limited to: the surprising amount of noise that comes from every orifice on that girl's body - and the scents that often accompany said noises, the, shall we say, enthusiastic way she wakes people up in the morning, her free commentary during movies, the way she enjoys pushing people's buttons for no reason other than her own entertainment, and the borderline inappropriate relationship she holds with the devil come to life (I think she calls him Grover).

Third: Even though you and I are friends (as evidenced by a drawing of Calvin & Hobbes from back in the day), if you ever hurt my twin, there will be hell to pay. Just saying.

And lastly: I couldn't be happier that after a decade of loving Lyndsey, she has finally realized that she loves you too. You might not know this, but Lyndsey and I have this habit of initiating three-way phone calls without the caller realizing it. By this I mean, when one of us gets a phone call, unless we leave the room it is fair game for the other to be a part of the conversation. Lyndsey always left the room to talk to you, but she didn't always close her door. I could tell from the tone of her voice and the look on her face that she had been talking to you. Before she even realized it, she would glow after she talked to you. You make her happy in a way that I know nobody else has ever come close to. You compliment her in every aspect of her life. In short, you are perfect for her. Bear with me while I quote one of those romantic comedies she and I love so much:

To say you [she is my] best friend is the understatement of the century. [She's] the sister I never had. [She's] sometimes the mother I often need. The reason why I can stumble fearlessly into adventure is because she’s always there. She’s always there....

...and now she'll be there for you and I couldn't be happier about it.

Please join me in raising our glasses and toasting my best friend and the love of her life. Congratulations, Ben and Lyndsey!!"

Love you, Elsie!  :)

Your Lilly. 

typical.... (2008)
typical.... (2012)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2 dozen + 1

I have now been on this earth for a quarter of a century.  When the heck did I grow up?

It has been my goal the past couple of years to come up with birthday plans that are out of the ordinary and adventurous.  Last year I gathered a group of friends and we all returned to our teenie-bopper days and went roller skating!  This year I decided to take advantage of living somewhere warm and on the sea, and we all went crab hunting! 

Yes.  I said crab hunting!  We were picked up at our apartment at 4 p.m.  We then drove roughly an hour and a half to Umm Al Quwain where we were served sandwiches and pop.  After everyone who was going arrived, we were given life jackets and skater boy shoes to wear.  We boarded the boat and headed out to sea.  It was dark out by this time and we had no light aside from the moon and a flashlight the guy driving the boat was using to look into the water.  That seems safe.

I luh my life vest!

The water wasn't very deep from what I could tell and after about a 5-10 minute boat ride our skipper just jumped out of the boat.... We were all at a loss for what we were supposed to do, so some Russian guy just decided to jump into the water too.  Then we all did.  The water came up to about my hips and was semi-cold.  We grabbed spears off of the boat and they pulled out about 5 large flashlight things so we could look into the water.  The water was clear so you could see down to the bottom.  It was really interesting! There were sea cucumbers that would pee (or just deflate...) when you took them out of the water, star fish, I saw a sea horse, Ben saw a bottom feeder shark thing, and much more. 

Tom Hanks would be proud.
I ended up spearing 4 crabs! The trick was to hold your spear straight up and down to stab it - not at an angle.  I couldn't help but think of Castaway throughout the experience.  Ben caught one crab, but it got away.  Those suckers moved fast once they were spooked and then they spooked us humans.  What was WORSE than the creepy, crawly crabs were the fish that would jump across the water and smack into you.  Not. Kidding.  I was able to dodge them at the beginning of our hunt, but towards the end I went over to help Ben with one of the lights and got smacked twice.  The first time It hit me in the life vest and, being the girl that I am, I screamed and jumped around in the water because it scared me.  The second one hit me right below my chin.  I lost my cool even more....  Ben, of course, found this all very amusing and couldn't stop laughing.  Meanwhile I was almost crying and freaking out.  Traumatizing.  Although I'd definitely be laughing if the roles were reversed.  We later learned the fish were actually barracudas.  Awesome.

Say hello to my little friend.

It seemed not long after we started our hunt that it was over.  We made our way back to shore where we showered and got ready for supper.  They had a buffet waiting for us and took our crab away to cook so we could feast on it as well.  The food was lack luster, but the crab was pretty tasty.  We enjoyed wine and beers from the bar at the hotel.  We had to fight off stray cats, which was a bit annoying, but all-in-all we enjoyed the night.

This was an experience that I wouldn't mind having again.  It was fun to do something out of the ordinary and unique!  How many opportunities are you going to get to crab hunt?!

Ines, Rachael, me & David

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A month in two weeks....yowza

I don't know how everyone else feels about the past couple of weeks, but so much has been going on here that I feel like it has been a month instead of just 14 days. . .  This possibly could be due to the fact I have started a new job in which I have mountains of work to do and it seems never ending.  I accepted a job at Collegiate American School (where Ben works) as their teacher resource manager and I also cover the library part-time.  Essentially my job is to organize all of the textbooks, manipulatives and reading materials and input a system to keep track of the materials.  I wish I could convey to you how huge a job this is, but words fail me at the moment.  I was sent to another school in the district for training and they have a great system there, so I am working on getting that going at our school.  CAS is only on its second year so there is still much work to be done and progress to be made in setting up their own systems and what not.  Training went well, although I was a bit overwhelmed with how much there was to learn.  This past week I was able to actually put together the teacher resource center at CAS and have things a bit more accessible than sitting around in boxes.  Of course, the day after I had everything shelved they brought in a HUGE shipment and new books and manipulatives and my room is completely trashed again.  Grrr....

My room!

Class pets?
 So, my home at school is above.  This was taken after I had started a little bit of arranging, but had much more to go.  Now my room is overflowing with crap again.  I have two bathrooms in my room and a small kitchenette.  Pretty baller. 

These two birdies on the clock are there every day at about the same time.  Class pets?  Perhaps.

Perks of working with a spouse

I have found there is a perk to working with your spouse - occasional cups of hot chocolate hand delivered to your desk.  :)   We have a machine at work that you push the hot chocolate button and it spits out delicious sweetness.  After texting my wonderful husband to see if he had any chocolate (I had a craving. . . ), he showed up a while later with this hot chocolate!  Even though we work in the same building we don't really see each other that often.  He is very busy with class and all of his other work and I am swamped in the library and TRC. 

Evaporated Milk = Creamer
O!  Something I found interesting and awesome is that they use evaporated milk for creamer!!  YUM!!!!  Ma and I LOVE evaporated milk and we can drink it right out of the can.  Gross and unhealthy?  Yes.....  It's just so goooood!  Anyway, when I was training at DIA one of the ladies made me coffee and tea and put the evaporated milk in it and it was delicious!

Last weekend Ben had a conference that he attended to earn credit for his masters on Friday and Saturday, so I decided to go to the Dubai flea market with a friend.  I didn't really know what to expect but hoped for greatness.  The flea market was in Al Safa Park which was huge and green and wonderful!  When we arrived at the area of the park where the flea market was, we discovered that it was essentially a multi-cultural yard sale!  It was sooooo cool!!  I had a couple really awesome finds - an Arabic painting that Ben and I both love, a necklace made by an African woman and a few traditional Indian casual dresses.  I L-O-V-E the Indian dresses!!  These women know what they are doing!!  The dresses are insanely comfortable and lightweight.  It is basically like wearing pajamas except you still look cute because the dresses are gorgeous.  Diwali is coming up this week and we are allowed to dress up at school, so I will be wearing one of my new dresses!!  Pictures will follow!

This past week I had to do another border run to Oman.  This time my visa wasn't expired so it was a lot less costly which was a plus.  There were three of us from CAS that needed to go and we had a driver and van to take us.  Since it was still daylight when we left, I was able to read a bit and also enjoy the company of coworkers.  We left right after school so we stopped at the BK Lounge and then headed off.  We stopped along the way so that our driver, Kamel, could pray.  It was rather humorous because I thought we were pulling over with something wrong with the van, Sharon thought that we had made it to the border and the other woman thought a bathroom break or something.  I guess it was a bit more humorous if you were there. . . We made it through the border run with no hiccups.  Since I knew to expect men with large guns it was less daunting this time.

Mountains on the way to Oman.
This weekend was spent reading, relaxing and enjoying time in with friends.  Ben hadn't gotten to sleep in for a couple of weeks so he was excited to just relax and I needed to just be still and let my body rest.  (Lots of heavy lifting and constantly on my feet.)  We both feel as though we could use an extra day tacked onto this weekend, but the next two weeks will be 4 day weeks for us, so we can't complain to much.  I have been put in charge of the bulletin boards in the library  so I am excited to let my creativity show!!  The only thing is that they don't have a ton of materials for the boards, so a trip to the craft store might be in the near future.  O, last week at the Thursday morning meeting that staff has each week I was awarded "The Bucket", which is passed around teacher-to-teacher to recognize hard work.  I hadn't heard of the bucket or what it was, but was excited to get something with lots of yummy treats in it!!  This week I will pass it along to someone else and am on the lookout for the deserving candidate!  Honestly, everyone at the school deserves it! 

Anyway....I am sorry for my lack luster post, but I am still worn out and not all that mentally alive right now.  I'm thinking bed early tonight so I can be in a decent mood tomorrow!!

O!  Since working in the library the past couple of weeks, I have started to look into what I need to do to become an elementary librarian.  I know it has only been two weeks, but I LOVE the library!!  I want to be the librarian and have things to get kids pumped up about reading.  I want to be able to help them find the resources they need to finish a report or project.  I have found that in the key places Ben and I are looking to relocate that there are colleges accredited by the ALA in which I can obtain a Masters in Library Science.  Yes, you need a masters.  I admit I was a little floored by this.  A librarian needs a masters?!  But there will be more on that topic later to come.  I am excited about this possible career path, though.  It would allow me to be creative, organized and share my passion for reading. 

Alright.  I'm out of fuel.

Coming up:

25th bday


Thursday, November 1, 2012

"A Hair-Raising Discovery For Husband"

Below is an article that was front and center of the newspaper on October 31st, 2012.  I found this article interesting because this is an example of how some client's ended up in my previous office; not in the headlines of a newspaper.  I now see the newspaper on a daily basis at my job so I will likely continue to post articles that I find facinating.

October 31, 2012

"A Hair-Raising Discovery for Husband"

A husband has described how he lashed out when a surprise visit to one of his wives ended in a  shock discovery.
The Jordanian told DUbai Court of Misdemeanors yesterday how he decided to go and see one of his two spouses at her home in Discovery Gardens only to find her in bed with a male hairdresser.
The 31-year-old- said: "I found her with him, totally naked.  I was angry so I assultaed both of them and tried to call police.  They kicked my hand so I dropped my phone.  I then went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife."
"I was in shock and didn't know what to do,"he added in court records.  "The stranger started begging me not to inform police and my wife excaped."
The 31-year-old husband called one of his wife's colleagues, who came to their home and he asked him about the relationship between the two.
"Her colleague informed me that the man is my wife's hairdresser," he said.
The husband told the Lebanese hairdresser that if he left the country within 24 hours he would not inform Dubai Police.  However, the 33-year-old refused to leave so the husband filed a complaint at Jebel Ali Police Station. 
A police investigation revealed the alleged lovers had known each other for three months.  The husband added: "My wife and I had been married for six years.  I discovered the hairdresser was visiting her every two days."
The husband added: "I found a booking in my wife's name for a hotel in Dubai and protection in the bin [trash]."
The Jordanian wife claimed the Lebanese man was just a friend and she had only called him to come to the house because she had pains in her stomach.  She said he had gone to sleep in the guest room and had no idea why he was lying next to her naked.  The Court was told that the husband waived his rights, saying that he has forgiven his wife and wants a fresh start with her.
The woman and the Lebanese man are charged with having an illegal affair and consuming alcohol.
The case has been adjourned.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Christmas Fun!

I know it is early and Thanksgiving hasn't even happened yet (or Halloween, but it is irrelevant), but I want to get this out there early so that people have a chance to participate if they wish.  Since Ben and I are unable to be with family and friends this holiday season, we would like to extend the invitation to have a little fun.

Have you ever heard of Elf on the Shelf?  Well this year we would like you to join us in a bit of fun and competition!  Here is what you do:

Step 1:  Purchase an Elf on the Shelf or some kind of elf that you can use.

Step 2:  Take a picture with you and your elf.  If you are doing this with someone, i.e. significant other, friend, imaginary friend, etc., please have all of you in the picture.

Step 3:  Take at least one picture of your elf in a silly, cute, crazy or whatever pose.

Step 4:  Send the picture of you and your elf and the picture(s) of your elf to me and I will post them on the blog!  Ben and I will select a winner and there will be some form of prize.  The prize has yet to be determined, but it will be something fun from Dubai so it is worth it to participate!

You may think this is silly and you are right! So be a good sport and participate!!  If you are interested, either message me on Facebook or shoot me an email!  I have passed this idea onto other expats in Dubai and they are going to do the same thing with their family and friends.  Since we cannot all be together we thought it would be something fun to unite us all. 

A bit confused?  See the below pictures of Elf on the Shelf ideas:

This is a chance to be creative!  Please, please, please join in the fun!  The more the merrier!


Life As Of Now

There has not been a whole lot to report that has happened in our lives.  The few things that have happened are that Ben has started one of his masters courses which will last until Saturday.  It consumes much of his time.  He leaves for work at 6:45 a.m., goes to class after work and returns home around 8:45 p.m.  It is exhausting for him and it doesn't help that he has developed a bit of a "man cold".  If you do not know, a "man cold"is a cold that a man is miserable with and a woman would be just fine.  :)  We are women - hear us roar! 

I have had a bit of luck and potentially have been offered a job.  I say potentially because they are hesitant to hire me, I think, because this job is not "in my field".  I would be working as an assistant librarian/resource manager at Ben's school.  The pay would be horrible, but I'd have the same hours as Ben, maybe the same breaks (tbd), health insurance (tbd) and my residency visa.   I plan to return to school and become a teacher so this experience will also add to my resume.  After discussion with Ben, we decided it would be smart to take the job.  It is better than no money coming in and it will occupy my day.  While I love spending the whole day watching Grey's Anatomy (my life currently. . . not kidding), I would prefer something a bit more productive and that would allow me to feel as though I am contributing something.  Also, I doubt that any law firm would wish to hire me since we will be returning to the States in July.  There is a lot of time and work that goes into training someone in a law firm and I would feel guilty lying about how long we were staying to obtain a job because I know the stress of having turn over in a law firm.  It sucks.  So, as long as they will have me, I will accept the job at Ben's school and hopefully can negotiate a bit more pay. 

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Ben and I have made the decision to return to the States at the end of this school year!  We have put much thought into this and we think it is what is best for us.  We have not decided where we will be for sure, but are aiming for the Midwest.  We want to be close to family and friends and have all four seasons.  Keep your ears open for any music instructor positions that might become available!  Ben is looking for elementary!!  Same for any paralegal/legal assistant jobs!  Although I thought I disliked it at the time, I wouldn't mind being in another firm that does family law.  I really am not picky though.  We are excited about our decision, but we will miss the friends we have made here.  Life would be so much easier if everyone could just move where we do.  :)

My Loves

This is what I live with & I love it!


Beach + Date = bliss!

This past weekend Ben and I had the pleasure of going to the beach with good friends.  We arrived around 1 p.m. with games and sunscreen.  Ben stayed on shore, but the rest of us (Naomi, Casey and David) ventured into the water and enjoyed the relief from the hot sun.  The water is still quite warm here, but is cooler than the heat of sitting on the beach.  Casey made his way back to shore and played mini bags with Ben, a gift from Ben's parents for Christmas last year. 

Casey & Ben playing mini bags.
 After enjoying the beach for a couple of hours, we made the decision to return home for some R&R.  Ben read as I watched Grey's Anatomy (my shameful new addiction. . . ) and crocheted.  At 7:30 p.m. we made our way to the Marriot in The Greens for supper at Cucina.  I had been craving fish and this place had the most fun way to fulfill that craving!  Our waiter escorted Ben and me to the front of the restaurant where they had fresh fish, lobster and prawns on display.  We were to select what we wanted, as much as we wanted, and they would weigh it, cook it and serve us.  Ben and I chose prawns and hammour.  For sauce Ben chose garlic butter goodness and I went with creamy herb.  For our sides Ben had new potatoes and I had steamed veggies.  The food was awesome, the chef was awesome and our waiter was awesome!  Ben and I both enjoyed a glass of wine with our supper, he drank red and I had chardonay, and indulged in creme brulee for dessert. 

Creme Brulee w/fresh strawberries

It is days like these that I feel incredibly lucky to live where I do now.  Ben and I will both leave with some pretty amazing memories of this place!

Banana/Brownie Wonderfulness

It is no secret that I love to bake.  That being said, I finally found the perfect banana bread recipe I must share and a quick and easy brownie that actually tastes good instead of tasting like chalk.  See the following:

Banana Bread:

You need:

4 large over ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 C melted butter
3/4 C sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C flour

To do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix bananas and butter in large bowl.  Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla.  Sprinkle mixture with baking soda and mix in.  Add flour last.  Mix.  Pour mixture into buttered pan.  Bake for 50 mins - 1 hour.

*  I did not have a loaf pan so used our smallest casserole dish and I think that was part of the deliciousness.  It was more of a bar than a loaf of bread.  I also added almost a full bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Amazing.


Mug Brownies:

You need:

4 T flour
4 T sugar
2 T cocoa powder
2 T vegetable oil
2 T water
dash salt

To do:

Mix all ingredients in a microwavable mug.  Microwave for 1-2 minutes, depending on your microwave, and devour!

* Seriously delicious!  The ingredients as shown are good for sharing.  If you cut it in half it is perfect for one.  I like to add milk to mine.  Ben eats it plain and enjoys it.  These are dangerous - once you realize how tasty they are and how easy they are to make you're screwed. . .  You're welcome! :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Oman Border Run

Last night I went for a border run to get a new stamp in my passport so that I'm legally here in Dubai.  I went with a company that takes its passengers in a van to the Oman/Dubai border where you simply cross, then cross back.  The drive to Oman is about an hour and a half.  This is normally not a big deal for me, but for some reason I get motion sickness like crazy here.  Armed with my Sea Bands, no pun intended, I felt semi-at ease.  That is until this chick decided it would be a good idea to eat her donkey smelling burrito in the van with recycled air.... Seriously? 

The trip went well with zero problems.  It was a bit unnerving to have armed men hardcore staring us down at the passport check points.  I'm hoping I have my residency visa prior to my 30 day mark so that I don't have to go visit them again.  Don't worry - we were safe. 

The people that I traveled with were all very nice.  There were two other Americans and three Brits.  While I enjoyed chatting with everyone, I was disappointed that their conversations centered around drinking.  The only thing they seemed to want to talk about was how they were "so smashed" and it takes X amount of drinks for them to get drunk, and they did this stupid thing and on and on and on.... Can we please have an intelligent conversation?  O yes, we can!  About Kim Kardashion.  Sigh...

After our return to Dubai, Ben picked me up and we made it home around 12:30 a.m.  Both of us had to get up early this morning to go into school and neither of us were pleased with how fast the morning came.  I had an interview with the principal and vice principal at Ben's school for a potential resource manager/assistant librarian position.  Basically I will be organizing a lot of crap if I get the job which I am more than ok with.  Fingers crossed that I am offered the job and that the money is decent. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Grover Killing Sock

There are some things that I do not want to forget about Grover.  His silly playfulness is one of those things.  In the video he is "killing" my sock.  I only get him to do it a couple of times, but he was really giving Ben and me some good laughs!  He rather enjoys killing my socks.  He loves Ben's socks, too, but he just carries those around the apartment.  Because of this, Ben's dirty work socks can be found in random places.  He's such a weird, sweet little boy!


We Come in Peace!

One of the storefront displays in Mall of the Emirates! (See movie Mars Attacks if you don't get my excitement.)


There are a few things on my mind that really aren't worthy of their very own post, so this might be a bit random.

  • The buses and metros here have a women and children only section.  I love this.  It generally tends to smell better and you don't have weird men staring at you.  Because they do stare at you.  Also, if you're not sitting or standing next to some one's grody armpit on the metro, it smells like my eighth grade home ec room - the kitchen side.  That's a weird connection I made yesterday.
  • It is often times annoying to take Grover on walks.  Not because of anything he does, but because of the reaction he gets from everyone.  I understand that Muslims believe dogs are dirty and should not be touched, but he's on a leash!  I'm not going to let him come close to you - so there is no need to freak out, scream, run away, or whatever.  You'd think I was walking Hannibal Lecter on a leash.....seriously.
  • I interviewed at a recruitment agency on Sunday and they had a paralegal and legal secretary position they were going to send my CV in for.  We'll see if I hear back about that job opportunity.  The lack of U.A.E. experience puts me at a disadvantage.  I DO have an interview at Ben's school for a resource manager/assistant librarian thing.  Not really sure what it includes, but I was told there would be lots of organizing!  I love to organize things!
  • School is stressful for Ben right now and he has a masters class coming up.  I am trying to be as helpful as I can by keeping the house clean and having meals cooked so he can relax when he gets home.  He's been putting in 10-12 hour days regularly.  Luckily, he has a five day break coming up at the end of October.  We were thinking about doing a mini-trip, but as of now that isn't exactly in the cards for us.  There are many things we have yet to do in Dubai, so we can take advantage of the opportunity and do things here for cheaper than traveling.
  • The green skittles here aren't lime - they are green apple.  They are disgusting.
  • When talking to Shane about the many different cultures present in Dubai, I mentioned the Indians.  He cleverly made the joke, "So, are they from India or are they the native people of the land?" I thought it was hilarious!  
  • To fill a bit of my time during the day, I have gotten back into crocheting.  I made a hot drink cozy (below) and am currently working on a shawl which may turn into a blanket thing for Grover.  Every time I set it down he lays on it.  Cute little turd. 
Going Green!

The end.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Fountains & Candylicious!

Date night!
Our family  :)

This past week I asked Ben if we could pretty please have a husband and wife date night.  Being the wonderful, loving husband he is, Ben asked if I would do him the honor of accompanying him on a date Friday night.   Ben planned the night's activities and one of our friends here let us borrow his car.

We started off the night eating supper at home and then headed out to the Dubai Mall.  After about 35 minutes driving around to find parking, we finally made it in.  We did a bit of window shopping and stopped in Bloomingdale's for a new dish washer thingamajig.  Both Ben and I love the juice over here, it is all made from fresh fruit, so we made our way over to the Lemon Bar for refreshment.  Ben had a strawberry kiwi smoothie with ice cream and I had the "Good Morning" which included strawberries, banana, oats and frozen yogurt.  The whole purpose of going to the mall was to watch the fountains in front of the Burj Khalifa so we went to find a seat.  At some point I will have to record the fountains so you can get an idea of how gorgeous they are!  Obviously it wouldn't be as great on camera as it is in real life, so maybe you should just come here to watch them. . . ?  The fountains are the largest choreographed fountains in the world.  Truly breathtaking.

Waiting for the fountains to begin!
Sitting in front of the Burj Khalifa.

After the fountains we decided to find Candylicious and look around.  I had heard talk of how awesome it was so I really wanted to check it out!  We walked around for about half and hour drooling over all the delicious treats available and decided to grab a bag of Garrett's popcorn to munch on.  We left the mall, popcorn in hand, and made our way back home. 

Lollipop for me!
Jelly Belly's galore!
Lollipop tree @ Candylicious

Once home, we took Grover for a short walk and curled up in bed to watch The Mummy.  It was much needed sweet night out.  :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

American Girl in an Islamic Land

At the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.  Nasif is in top right, Debbie in bottom left.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Bur Dubai.  This was truly an amazing and eye opening experience.  In the few hours that we were there, I feel as though I gained a completely different perspective on many aspects of the Islamic culture that we are exposed to as Americans. 

I am told that at these luncheons they often have an Emirati man and woman who volunteer to answer your questions and disprove many myths you may have heard regarding the Islamic faith and culture.  Since I was expecting this, I found it to be a bit of a surprise that the woman leading the discussion was actually an American Muslim woman named Debbie.  What surprised me most about this woman was that she was dressed in the traditional abaya and hijab/shayla.  (Abaya = the long dress; hijab/shayla = head scarf that covers the hair and neck).  It was her choice to wear the black dress and head scarf that we so often perceive as oppressive; her husband did not force her to wear it and she was not just dressed in costume for her job. 

Traditional male clothing. Ghutrah thrown back in modern style.
The topic of dress was the first discussion we embarked upon.  To start with the more simple side of things, I will discuss the men first.  The traditional dress for the men is the dishdasha (the white "dress") and the ghutrah (white head scarf) with the black camel tie.  The dishdasha is solid white and Ben regularly has made fun of me for trying to figure out what the men wear underneath saying that I am checking them out.  Really, I am/was simply curious since it can be a struggle for women everywhere to find the right colored undergarments to go under white or other light colored fabrics.  Lucky for me, Nasif, the Emirati male present, was kind enough to explain to us that they wear a white kilt underneath the dishdasha, although I have been told that on occasion some men just let everything go free.  (I was told this by a woman who dates a man who in fact does do this at times.  I'm hoping his dishdasha is made of a very dense fabric. . . ).  Nasif also answered questions about the different ways in which the ghutrah is worn.  There are three main variations that I have seen: the sides down and flowing, the sides flipped up over their head, and the sides tucked into their camel tie.  Nasif explained that the flipping back of the ghutrah is merely to appear more fashionable.  Men over the age of 60 will not wear theirs that way - this is a more modern style.   For cleaning, since the dishdashas are white, Nasif said that bleach pens come in handy and regular washing.  There are also men who wear a tan colored dishdasha which were often warn in the past to blend into the dessert.  This was helpful for hunting or in times of war. 

The fabric the clothing is made of, for both men and women, is imported from Japan.  This came about when the Arabs traded uncultured pearls with the Japanese.  In return for the pearls the Arabs received the material.  The fabric is light and high quality.  The color of the material has shaped the look that we are familiar with when picturing typical Muslims.  They were provided with white and black fabric, so that is what they used.  This tradition has carried throughout the years. 

Abaya and shayla. Debbie's abaya is more fashionable with the silver.
Now for the women.  The traditional dress for the women is the abaya (black dress) and the hijab/shayla (head scarf) which covers the hair and neck, leaving the face exposed.  The more conservative Muslim women will wear the burqa which covers the entire face.  I think the biggest myth about the conservative dress of the women is that it is forced upon them.*  As I mentioned earlier, Debbie, the woman who spoke to us, chose to wear the traditional garb.  To add more to the shock, or it was to me, is that she is AMERICAN and chooses to dress this way.  The women, and men, dress in the same style of clothing to maintain equality and to preserve the faith of those around them.  Nasif gave the example that when going to mosque, the focus of every Muslim man and woman is to surrender everything and pray.  They should not be worried about those around them or distracted by some one's beauty, stunning clothing, etc.  To be a distraction is to hinder someone in their worship.  The clothes also serve as an equalizer - it does not matter how much money you have, you are the same as the person next to you.  The rich travel into the next life just as wealthy as the poor.  While this idea that men and women should be conservative for this purpose may seem extreme, take a look at Christianity - we do the same thing.  I attended a church camp where dresses and shorts had to be a certain length, tank tops had to be three finger widths wide on the shoulder (no strapless) and there was no PDA (this includes hugs - only side hugs were allowed).  I remember them saying that you shouldn't sit on boys laps or be flirty.  They told us all of these things can create impure thoughts in young men, even though that may not have been our intention.  It was not just at this camp that I heard such things, but also in churches and I know some Christian colleges have strict rules regarding the conduct of men and women.  How is this so different from what the Muslims believe and do?

Aside from the women wearing the abaya and shayla for conservative religious purposes, they also wear them because of their convenience. (This goes for the men as well.)  We had to laugh when Debbie told us that she loves the abaya and shayla - especially on mornings when she has a hard time getting out of bed so she doesn't get to shower before taking her boys to school.  "No one knows I'm still wearing my jammies underneath. . . ".  I have heard the same about Muslim men.  I know of a man that does not wear his dishdasha everyday, but if he is feeling particularly lazy he will throw it on to run to the store or grab coffee.

Let us not forget one of the key reasons that the dishdashas and abayas are still around - it's hot.  The Arab people have been living in the desert since before Christ, so they know how to dress for heat.  (Speaking of, what do you think Jesus wore?  Jeans and a t-shirt?  Unlikely.).  The long flowy clothes protect their skin from the hot sun and keep them cooler.  Exposed skin is more uncomfortable and hot than the loosely clothed skin.  (Seriously.  I've tested this theory.)  The shaylas and ghutrahs keep sand out of their mouth, nose and eyes.  While we commonly believe that black attracts heat and traps it in, it actually protects the skin from harmful UV rays.  There may be a slight temperature difference between the white the men wear and the black the women wear, but it is not as significant as we have been led to believe.  Nasif told us that the men did not choose black for the women - they chose it themselves.  We all looked at him questioningly when he mentioned this and he responded, "How many of you are wearing black today?  Isn't it hot out?  So why do you wear it? Because it is attractive and fashionable, right?" What truth he spoke.  Why do we tend to sway towards darker clothing?  Because it is slimming and it goes with practically everything.  Are Arab women any different?  Don't they want to feel slender and fashionable?

Left to right: Donut hole-style dessert, white rice, delicious diarrhea soup stuff, "leftovers"beef, tabbouleh, "leftovers"chicken.

Aside from the clothing we went through what a typical meal would be like in the home of an Emirati.  We were served Arab coffee (flavored with saffron and cardamom) in the little cups you get when you drink tea in a Chinese restaurant.  They were filled only part of the way - this is done so you do not burn your fingers (no handle).  We were served by a silent servant and when he came around for seconds if you did not wish more you would rock your cup back and forth a couple of times between your fingers.  After the coffee we munched on some dates.  Dates are very, very common here.  And delicious.  The food was arranged in the center of our seating area and we served ourselves.  You are not offered as many plates and utensils as in the States because if you dirty more dishes you use more water which wasn't always plentiful in the desert prior to the urbanization of this land.  For lunch we were fed traditional Arabic dishes.  There were two dishes that are called "leftovers" (I cannot remember the Arabic name) and it is a typical dish made on Thursday evenings.  Friday is the beginning of the week in the Islamic calendar, so Thursday the women would clean out the fridge and make what they could.  The dish consisted of seasoned rice and chicken.  There was also an option of the same thing with beef.  We also enjoyed tabbouleh which is a mixture of parsley, tomato, onion and oil.  I'm not too fond of this by itself, but if you pair it with naan it is quite tasty.  There was also white rice with a veggie soupy thingy to go over top.  It looked like diarrhea but was crazy good.  For dessert we had donut hole type things with date syrup.  Everything was delicious!  To close the meal we had tea.

Going back to the coffee - when you visit an Arab home, it is very typical for you to receive coffee or hot tea as a refreshment instead of ice water or iced tea.  Can you guess why?  It is because drinking the hot liquid will make you feel more comfortable in the heat than the iced drink would.  The hot temperature warms your body and makes the heat more tolerable while the cool drink does the opposite.  I completely understand this logic but it is so hard for me to grasp since in the heat of the summer I only crave freezing cold water.   O, and their flavored coffee = AWESOME.

Another topic that peaked interest in the group was education.  Maybe because the other women in attendance were all teachers? Hmm? When Emirati children reach grade five, boys and girls are separated and go to separate schools.  Nasif gave the explanation that girls distract boys, at no fault of their own, and therefore the boys distract the class.  By separating the young boys from the young girls you allow the girls the chance to succeed and excel without disruption.  They want their women to succeed and do well in life.  According to Nasif it doesn't matter one way or another for the boys if they are separated - they will be distracted by something, anything, no matter what.  (Chuckle. . . ).  Nasif told us that despite what many people think, women are held in high esteem in the Islamic faith.  "Behind every good man is a good woman." If the women are well mannered, respectful and educated, their children will be as well.**

Nasif addressed the topic of arranged marriages and multiple wives with us briefly.  Yes, arranged marriages do occur but are not forced like they once were.  Couples meet prior to marriage and can say yes or no to their parents.  Having multiple wives is not as common as one might believe.  In order to have multiple wives it is required that the wives receive the same of everything.  Their homes should be of equal value, they should receive equal gifts and equal amounts of clothing, jewelry, etc.  The husband is required to spend an equal amount of time with each wife.  I'm sure you can imagine how costly that would be.  One wife is expensive enough for a man.

Entrance to mosque.

After our discussions in the Cultural Centre, we walked over the mosque.  We had to bring shaylas to cover our hair and neck and we took off our shoes before entering.  It is important to be clean/pure when entering the mosque, hence the removal of shoes.  Plus, you are going to be on the floor and praying - the less dirt the better.  Inside the mosque was beautiful.  There was a large chandelier in the center of the room and the carpet was plush and soft.  I was under the impression that unless you were Muslim you were not allowed in the mosque.  This is not the case.  Debbie said that it is likely that you would not be bothered so long as you were covered and did not cut in front of anyone.  You might have someone ask if they can help you, do you want to become a Muslim, do you want/need a Quran, that sort of thing.  I was/am excited to hear this because I would very much like to attend a service at a mosque.  I think it would be a very enlightening and really give me a taste of the culture I am living in.  Men and women generally do not pray in the same area.  Most of the time there is a separate room for women and separate room for men.  If men and women do pray in the same room, the men are in front and the women in back.  This is so the men can focus and not give their attention to the women but to Allah.  I really wouldn't mind that arrangement.  Men tend to smell worse than women so not being surrounded by them would be a plus.

I gained a new respect for Ramadan from this educational experience.  During Ramadan you are not allowed to eat, drink, gossip or have relations with your spouse from dawn 'til dusk.  (Roughly 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.).  I thought of this much like a Christian fast where you use the time that you would normally do these things to spend in prayer.  While this may be part of what Ramadan is, it is also for you to gain an appreciation of the things you have.  Nasif's example was that if you are not allowed to have relations with your spouse, this will arouse desire and desire will help you to see how precious a thing you have.  Ramadan is also a time for charity and to share your wealth and good fortune with others.  It is required in Islam to be charitable and share your blessings.  I found it interesting that if you make a mistake during Ramadan and have a drink of water or smoke a cigarette because you just can't wait, you have to give enough food and clothing for a certain amount of people (I cannot remember the exact number but I'm thinking 30? Or as many as you can if you cannot afford that much.).  You also have to increase the length of your fast.  If you break the fast because you know you have the resources to fulfill the charity, you are to fast for 60 days and your required charitable giving increases.

I feel so incredibly blessed that I am able to live in Dubai and gain a better understanding of the Islamic people.  The media and even our own churches have painted such a negative veil over my eyes, and the eyes of many, many Americans, that it has been wonderful to see another side to it all.  What many people do not realize is that Islam is just like Christianity in that there are the peaceful followers and the extremists.  Don't believe me?  Take a look at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas that goes around to soldiers funerals and protests and has an extreme hate for homosexuals.  There are "Christians"who have killed people and claimed that God told them to do it.  We may not have a violent religious warfare going on in the name of Christ, (which by the way - has happened in the past. . . ) , but I think the hate that many people carry for Muslims is crippling to both sides. 

I find it important to point out that Muslims have a skewed view of Americans as well.  They, too, have heard the negative media and do not know the good in Americans.  Nasif is passionate about outreach and educating Westerners of the Islamic faith and culture and told us that he also has to reach out to Muslims and educate them about Westerners.

This was a truly enriching experience and I am SO glad that I went.  The Cultural Centre has other things to offer and I am ready to go back and learn more.  I think it is necessary for me to learn as much as I can about the culture here so that I leave with a better understanding of the people I lived with for a year or two.  I feel as though I left much out of this, even though it is a bit of a novel.  I cannot wait to learn more!

*  The Islamic faith is just like any other religion in that there are many interpretations of what the Quran says to do.  There are regions in which the women are forced to cover themselves and it is very oppressive.  What I am discussing in this post is what I learned from one group of believers.  I do know that in Saudi Arabia the women are required to wear the abaya and burqa, covering themselves completely.  If you are interested in learning more about other beliefs than just what I have discussed, I highly recommend reading the Princess Trilogy by Jean Sasson.

**  I would like to believe that Nasif is right and that women are held in high esteem by the men in this culture.  We did not discuss the roles of women as much and as in depth as I would have liked.  There is still much more that I would like to learn.  I think I still need convincing to believe that women are treasured as much as he led us to believe.  If you read the Princess Trilogy listed above, you will see where my doubt comes from on this subject.  There are men throughout the series (the books are nonfiction) that think of women as objects, only here for sexual pleasures and children.  House maids are brutally raped; girls are married at very young ages to men many years their senior; women are bought from poor families and kept as property and sex slaves.  I do realize that this is likely a minority and that it is hard for me to grasp that women are valued in this culture after the years of negative media that I have been exposed to.  I look forward to more time spent in this Islamic world to gain my own knowledge and personal experience to form my own opinion.