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I haven’t blogged in a super long time. I have been thinking about posting and there is no doubt that I have had a lot to say since moving to Dubai, but, for some reason, I just haven’t been making it happen. Two things happened lately that have resulted in me breaking my silence. The first is the topic of this post. The second was a friend reminding me that I had a blog and a conversation about how we both have neglected blogs.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to dinner with an amazing young woman.

Have you ever been trucking along through life thinking that you’re doing pretty good? Maybe you got to do a few cool things recently or have had some minor successes with which you are feeling pretty satisfied? Then you meet someone who completely blows you out of the water. One of those people who, within minutes, you are convinced will do something in life, probably many things, that are truly outstanding.

A few days ago I was invited to dinner by one of my co-workers. She wanted me to meet a Saudi woman who was here for training in Dubai. I heard that the dinner would be with my co-worker, the Saudi woman, and the Saudi woman’s mom who had come with her to Dubai. My initial reaction was ‘ugh, dinner with work people, what a drag’. I almost said no. After saying yes, I almost backed out. In hindsight, it was stupid that I was so reluctant to go, and I can tell you that, without a doubt, I regret feeling that way because I ended up meeting a really awesome lady.

I think many Americans, probably many Westerners in general, have preconceived ideas about what Saudi women are like, so I feel inspired to write about this lady because she, and, for that matter, every Saudi woman that I have had the pleasure of talking to, are doing awesome things that would put most American women to shame.

My new Saudi friend, I think I will call her my friend, we have plans to go skiing in Dubai later this month, is named Samar and she is an electrical engineer. She has more ambition than you can imagine and the charisma of a great leader. Over the course of three hours, she told me one story after another that left me completely in awe of her.

She was the first woman hired at her company, the only woman working at her company, and it took a huge amount of drive for her to achieve that. When Samar was a student at university, she wanted to do the typical two internships in which most engineering students participate, but there weren’t many opportunities for aspiring young female engineers in Saudi Arabia. Together, Samar and her father talked hiring managers at two well-known, global companies into hiring her for internships. When she finally graduated, armed with solid experience working as an electrical engineer, she got a job at a third company as their first female employee and she is setting the stage for more women to follow her.

As we ate dinner, she mentioned several times that although her head was covered, her mind was not; this really resonated with me. She told me about the program that airs on NBC that she films each year, I hope to watch the next season when it airs again this fall, and about a speaking engagement that she has this month for a global conference of young men and women from developing countries. She plans to speak in English so that the maximum number of people can hear her message when it is posted on YouTube. She is a huge advocate for inspiring a youth movement in her country aimed at arming youth with the business and technology skills needed to bring more industry, and with it more good jobs and better opportunities to Saudi Arabia. I can tell that Samar has a sense of responsibility for her future, the future of Saudi women, and the future of her country that would put most of us to shame.

When asked what was in store for her future, she told me that she would get a Harvard MBA in the next few years. HBS is a competitive program to get accepted to, but I have no doubt that she will do it and that it will set the stage for some life accomplishments that are far beyond what most of us dream of.

I think the take aways from this story are that if we should all keep our minds uncovered. That we should all dream a little bigger. And that we should all more actively take responsibility for the future.

I am looking forward to my trip to Ski Dubai later this month and feeling inspired yet again by Samar.

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After our marathon hotel stay when we arrived (87 days!!!), we were finally able to move into our apartment a few days before Christmas. Our container arrived just in time to put our Christmas tree up on the 23rd and to unpack our winter coats only days before we headed to Eastern Europe for Christmas break.

The apartment is working out nicely. I never thought of myself as an apartment dweller, but I think it will be an ok home for a few years. It is fairly roomy, almost as big as our house in Indiana, and has a great view of Atlantis and a not quite as good ocean view. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite features is the 2.7K rubberized jogging track immediately out our back door.

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The only major shortcoming, which is almost universal for Dubai, is the lack of a clothes dryer. The US seems to have a staggering number of clothes dryers per capita compared to the rest of the world, so much so that people look at me a little funny when I lament the fact that I don’t have one. Fortunately, I got on board with a clothes drying rack early, so we don’t have clothes hanging from every door, cabinet door, and piece of furniture like we did in India.

Over the weekend, we put some effort into beautifying our giant balcony by adding four plants including a kumquat tree. I’m hoping to wean Chris and Kai off of their expensive Spanish clementine habit, but that is probably too ambitious of me.

With the exception of having Chris’ office to organize and decorate still, I feel like we are settled in to where our routines and day to day activities can return to normal. What a relief to finally get back in our groove!

We arrived in Dubai one month ago and things have pretty much been business as usual since we got here, or at least as much as one might expect when moving halfway around the world. Kai started daycare the day after we arrived, I dove head first into my new job, and Chris started his first official Sunday work day with gusto. For now, we are in temporary housing, which has its ups and downs, but all in all things are shaping up to be pretty good on this side of the world.

We arrived in Dubai to a brightly lit urban landscape at our temporary home overlooking Dubai Marina. Until our ocean shipment arrives, supposedly next week, we are staying halfway up a mega tall building in a two bedroom, three bathroom hotel suite – the biggest hotel room I have had since our trip to Marrakech.

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Initially I was a bit concerned about living in a high rise with an almost two year old, but it is working out just fine. The amount of safe outdoor play space is far more than I imagined and I am still amazed at the number of Kai-sized kids that we see on a daily basis.

Kai has adjusted really well to her new daycare, one of the biggest worries that I had about moving. They have a lot of great activities there and she seems generally happy with going to daycare. I think my favorite part is that she is learning French. They mainly speak English to the kids at her age, but she can ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ with what sounds to me like a perfect French accent. She also counts to ten now, in both languages! I’m impressed!

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As expected, the bureaucracy here rivals that of India, which I’m sure will make for some interesting stories throughout this journey, still things are going remarkably well. I have managed to get a visa, Emirates ID card, driving license, and temporary car. Unfortunately, Chris’ official documents are still in process and may be for some time. On the other hand, it looks like we are positioned to get Chris’ ‘for real’ car sometime next week – I don’t think we can say the same for mine.

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Another exciting development for next week is that I am expecting our ocean shipment to arrive! I really miss my stuff. I have been wearing the same three pairs of shoes for five weeks now and it is getting old fast. Also, I will be pretty delighted to have my proper dishes, silverwares, pots, pans, and other kitchen paraphernalia. Our hotel room kitchen is just marginally better stocked than our India kitchen was. Enough said.

Maybe next week I can post pictures of our apartment, furnished with our stuff. That is probably a pipe dream, but I can hope.

This weekend we headed to Dubai, the land of superlatives. The world’s tallest building, the largest aquarium tank in the biggest mall, the tallest hotel, you get the idea. Dubai is over the top in a way that would make Las Vegas envious, well, if gambling were legal anyway.

Instead of me returning to Chennai for two days, we decided that I would hop off of my return flight from China during my layover in Dubai and that Chris would meet me there. It is one of those places that we have both always been curious about, but have never had the time or money to throw down and visit. This seemed like the perfect opportunity!

I expected Dubai to be outrageously expensive to visit, like more so than Las Vegas or even New York, but I was pleasantly surprised. While the sky is the limit when it comes to blowing cash in Dubai, there are a surprising number of fun, normal priced activities. As long as your can restrain yourself from buying gold bars out of vending machines anyway. No, we did not buy any gold bars.

 

When we first decided to visit Dubai in August, we realized that it was Ramadan and that there would be some extra rules and regulations in place for the whole month such as no eating or drinking in public during daylight hours. We also realized that visiting the desert in August can be, well, hot. Excruciatingly hot. But its ok, after all, it was a dry heat.

A note to all of those “but it’s dry heat” people: When it is 115 degrees F, it feels pretty darn hot to me whether it is dry or not. The silver lining to this extreme dry heat though is that it is fabulous weather for my constant hand washing of clothes.  When we get back to Indiana, I wonder if I will  just keep sink washing everything?

I blindly picked a hotel on the beach in Dubai Marina, in large part because I like to collect points for their rewards program. It turns out that it doesn’t matter much where you stay in Dubai because everything is pretty spread out and with the sky high temperatures, we typically wanted to take a cab, even for distances that we would normally walk. Being near the ocean was nice though, and I know that Chris likes being near the ocean, even if there is no surf.

On Saturday morning, one of the first things that we did was give in to Chris’ ocean loving tendancies and head for the beach. It was extremely hot out, even first thing in the morning and we decided that being in water was the only way to go if we were going to be outside.  

Before we were even fully submerged in the ocean it quickly became apparent that it was warmer than most hot tubs! Not surprising since the outdoor temperature reached about 115 degrees F several times during our stay in Dubai.  We did swim in the ocean for a little while, but it just wasn’t working out. The sun was so intense and the water was far to warm to feel refreshing.

Eventually, we headed for the chilled swimming pool. I am so thankful for the normal temperature water, but I can still barely comprehend needing to cool a swimming pool. As a child, I always wished that our pool water would get warmer than it did, especially during the beginning and end of the summer. It never occurred to me that anyone would want to chill their pool water.

After we ran out of sunblock, we needed to pick a less sunny activity. I briefly considered buying more sunblock, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

That price tag says 140 AED. At 3.65 AED per dollar, that is a $38 bottle of sunblock, and it isn’t even really sunblock. The sun is intense in Dubai and a girl like me needs at least SPF 60. Plus, did I mention that I simply can’t spend $38 on a bottle of sunblock the size of my hand?

After heading in from the pool, we got ready to go on a desert safari. A safari it was not, but it was an awesome off-road adventure through a remote stretch of sand dunes followed by camel rides and an al fresco Middle Eastern dinner in the desert.

I have probably been oblivious to my previous travels through deserts, because this is the first one that struck me as looking exactly like they do in the cartoons. The reddish sand with perfectly formed ripples was very pretty, especially as the sun began to set. I will post pictures eventually. Chris has the camera right now and I don’t have any phone pictures. I doubt that the phone would do it justice anyway.

This morning I am in Malaysia on my way to Australia for a few weeks. I am really surprised to say this, but when Chris and I parted ways, I was really longing to go back “home” to Chennai. I am craving a bit of a routine, some down time, and a chance to cook for myself. I kind of also miss my Indian washer, even though it has no dryer. I didn’t post about this yet, but I embarked on a three-week trip with no checked luggage, so I am still in full-on hand-wash only mode.

Why would you do something like that? I’ll explain another day. Just trust me on it. No checked bags is the only way to go.

More on Dubai when I can get my hands on those pictures!