where are you from?

Where are you from?

I’m nominating this as the most frequently asked question in Dubai. There are some strong contenders, like: How many children do you have? and How old are you?—which are often asked in succession, after a brief Hello, of me only—not my husband—and which I’ll explore more in a post I’ve been drafting called What’s It Like to Be a Woman in the Middle East?

Originally, this post was called, They Hate Americans There, Don’t They? But that’s not really a question. However, since I heard that a lot before we moved, the short answer: No.

So, given it’s gender neutrality, the fact that’s it’s a legit inquiry, and I’ve heard other people get asked this question, let’s give first-place to: Where Are You From?

When we first moved here, I didn’t know what to say. How broad or specific? What phrase would be the least offensive? Should I lie (—because they hate Americans here, right)?

We checked into our hotel the first night: where are you from? The next morning, the Metro ticket seller: where are you from? The taxi driver—most taxi drivers—where are you from? The staff at DKC, servers at most restaurants, people I stop to ask directions…

The serious Russian property agent I met our 5th day here during our apartment search. I started with, the United States. She asked, where? Southern California. Oh? Los Angeles. OH! Everyone, she believed, from Los Angeles was rich, skinny, blonde, lived in mansions with pools and ocean views, and partied all the time. I tried to explain the quiet suburbia of Burbank—our tree-lined street, the view of the mountains, the 45-minute drive to the ocean. Nope, the movies and tv shows, she said: everyone lives in palaces by the ocean.

Alfredo’s coworker answers with, Hollywood—cuts to the chase, to this idea, ideal.

The property agent we met the next day was in her early 20s from Sri Lanka. I answered confidently with California. Is the country of California tropical? It’s warm. Like this warm? she gestured to the Dubai air. Well, it’s a bit cooler, but Southern California is a desert, too. Are there camels in the country of California? No camels. What animals do you have? Coyotes. She gasped. And hawks, like falcons. NO—I hate birds—I’m afraid of them!

America. Maybe—as much as California would like to think of itself as a country (complete with rivalries North & South, and hawks not falcons)—maybe I should say America.

Where are you…Are you from France? He had a very impressive camera around his neck and a motorcycle helmet in his hand. We were leaning against the rail of the bridge, the best view for photos, looking down at the start line for the camel races. No, but thank you. (I look French! That’s a compliment, oui?) Not French? Not French. Are you…where are you…from? America. HA–America! I saw you and I thought…what’s the word?…not beautiful…  my English is not so good  …I thought you were from France, but America—you are even more…   strong!

[Strong: aggressive, courageous, fierce, firm, forceful, intelligent, intense, severe, tenacious, tough, vehement, brave, eager, gutsy, independent, iron-willed, pushy, resourceful, self-assertive, wicked, zealous]


camel races_start line
hey country of California, you should get some camels, yeah?

What I’m realizing when people ask me this is: What kind of white person are you? Are you French, British, German, Russian, Australian … I’ve been told I could pass for Northern Jordanian, Egyptian—it all depends on where they’re from / what they know / what they want me to be. And, sort of—in short—America / American isn’t an option people think of first. Hate, in relation to America, hasn’t factored into any conversation I’ve had.

[Side note: We met a gallery owner the other day. He’s Serbian. Spent time in NYC, California…asked us where we were from. I said Los Angeles. Alfredo proudly said San Francisco. The guy said, oh, I can tell, you’re nicer! (gah) The SF rivalry of LA extends to here.]

One of our guide books says that Dubai is around 98% expats—from all over the world. Because of this, Where are you from? is a popular question. Because of this, there are prejudices. I’ve heard people talk negatively about cultures other than their own. (Go ahead, cue People are people.)

We live in Dubai. Dubai, if you’ve looked at a map of the world, is in the Middle East. The Middle East, as you probably know, has a certain reputation relating to tolerance and acceptance. Dubai is in the pupil of the eye of the storm of the Middle East, meaning, it’s different. “On 2 December 1971, Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates … During the 1970s, Dubai continued to grow from revenues generated from oil and trade … Dubai [continues] to focus on free trade and tourism …” After the economic collapse in 2009, and thanks to the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, today, Dubai is booming again. Dubai has overtaken Heathrow as the busiest airport for international passengers, Dubai: with its malls and malls and malls and shopping and fashion and festivals (combined into the Dubai Shopping Festival, the internationally acclaimed festival and one of the best shopping experiences in the world); Dubai: with its record of breaking world records—and plans to break more; Dubai: with its galleries and support of the arts; Dubai: the superlative, the premier, the top… you don’t become all that by being xenophobic.

I grew up in a whitewhitewhite small town where words like African-American, Mexican, Asian, vegetarian, gay, Buddhist… weren’t in most people’s vocabulary. I grew up in the kind of white that inspires videos like, If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say and its sequel If Black People Said the Stuff White People Say — which reminded me of moving from whitesmalltown to Brooklyn (pre, very much pre, hipster—read: white—gentrification) and having my dorm neighbor say, You have blonde hair growing straight out of your head! In full disclosure, and possibly in some sense to keep balance, weeks later I asked a classmate how she washed her dreads.

But you have to ask about culture. The trick is how. Here are 12 Things Never to Say to an Asian Woman—#1: Where are you from? #11 is funny. For more, here’s a guideline on How to Ask Someone About Their Ethnicity Without Being an Asshole. No one’s been an asshole about it here—even if conversations jump directly to this most frequently asked question (which I prefer over How many children do you have?). Curiosity, as the comments in this article point out, is what drives this question.

where are you from_the 8 year old girl said


What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from?



where do you live?

We live in Dubai.

When we first moved here, when we were both in the honeymoon phase, we’d wake up saying this, we’d wander around saying this, we’d take pictures of ketchup packets and more ketchup packets and ketchup bottles (American Garden U.S. Ketchup U.S. Grade A Born in the USA !!) —

dubai products_american garden US ketchup born in the usa   product_hellmanns real ketchup

we’d photograph everything. Everything was new. It was a self-congratulatory statement: we did what we set out to do. It was awe and excitement—and we said it a lot.

We live in Dubai.

And then we had to get an apartment, set up utilities, a bank account, get checks, visas, residence cards, driving licenses, furniture, internet, a car…  The questions started: How come…? What…? Really? No, I mean, really…? Why…?

We live in Dubai.

Then a couple of things happened. And another thing. And another. And, yeah, we live in Dubai.

But now, with all those things purchased / acquired / settled … and even though it’s 104F/40C…110F/43C…113F/45C…and this is just the sixth day of summer…and even though my head is usually full of liquid cotton (thank you to all who have sent well wishes and recommendations—this may be something I get used to: condensation forming in my inner ear as I move to/from the 104F/40C outside and 65F/18C inside), we’re starting to say it as reassurance, again as celebration:

We live in Dubai.

We live in Dubai.

3 month anniversary_sunset


because monopoly

I spent the day at the Mall of the Emirates (MOE) yesterday (future post: Dubai’s mall culture), and was fascinated by the giant Monopoly game on the ground floor.

According to the dubaicityguide: …this is “the region’s first ‘living’ Monopoly game…Presented in a larger-than life format, fans of the world’s best-selling game will be amongst the first to play a live-sized Monopoly game, branded with some of the UAE [and England] and Majid Al Futtaim’s most iconic attractions and destinations.” All in the name of family fun—complete with full-size & functioning jail that take time outs to a new level.

“Adding to the fun and memorable experience, souvenirs to capture the moment will also be available such as photo opportunities with the iconic Mr. Monopoly and a Monopoly-themed manicure for the ladies.”

Here’s another article.

And here are pix:

monopoly at MOE, dubai
the games start tomorrow. we’re going to a play in the evening (there’s a theater inside the MOE), so we’ll check out how this works. more pix then.  (i’ll do the math for you aed500=$136)


MOE_monopoly9  MOE_monopoly jail MOE_monopoly13   MOE_monopoly2   MOE_monopoly11   MOE_monopoly12

MOE_monopoly3 MOE_monopoly4   MOE_monopoly7 MOE_monopoly8  MOE_monopoly10

how do you get around, pt 2?

We finally broke down and rented a car—which, 3 days later, broke down from a faulty battery. But, that’s been fixed, and now we have a car in our assigned parking spot in our apartment building and we’re checking it out—to see if we need/want/like having a car to get around. Or, if we just avoid the Metro on Fridays.

As a test, and to celebrate our mobility, we drove to the waterfront area of Abu Dhabi—one of the 7 emirates, and the capital of the UAE (click here and scroll to end of post to see map). We needed to get back in time for our appointment at the Salt Cave (we didn’t; we were late), so we didn’t do much exploring—simply enjoyed a mini road trip.

Here are just a few pix from our trip on Friday, June 6:


abudhabi_copperbuilding abudhabi_mosque  abudhabi_bridge  abudhabi_bridge2   abudhabi_old and new   abudhabi_oldbuilding abudhabi_shopping cart   abudhabi_oldbuildingCU          abudhabi_waterandbuildings   abudhabi_rope   abudhabi_payphone       abudhabi_wackybuilding

these long stretches of board that hide what’s behind—usually construction—is called ‘hoarding.’ this is the hoarding at the site where alfredo works: coming soon, theme parks!
back in dubai, near the nakheel metro station


what do you do for a cold?

We went to the Salt Cave—in an effort to clear up the remnants of what was a cold, turned ear infection, turned “acute serous otitis media of the left ear,” which makes me feel like my head is full of cotton, muffles my hearing, leaves a strange tinny echo in my fluff brain, and generally makes me fall-down dizzy.

Nearly a month of discomfort, three trips to see the senior ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist and head (gotta love a pun) of the department, multiple tests (no hearing loss, yay, but an inverted line graph that shows some absent reflexes in my left ear), many drugs—which I do not do well with (I am Sensitive; the caffeine in a chai latte keeps me awake for 2 nights)—and a prescription for more, though, as a last resort and hopefully, says the doc, this issue will go away in a week (or maybe 2, 3 at the most) because the side effects for this drug are really bad, like can cause hair to grow where it shouldn’t…or maybe he said I shouldn’t take it if I already have hair where I shouldn’t—his accent was thick and my hearing’s not so good. Since I have hair where I should and don’t where I shouldn’t (and that’s also something to be thankful for—yay), I’m holding off filling that prescription, and attempting less werewolf-side-effect treatments.

“Especially in a high polluted and dusty environment salt therapy is the perfect way to detoxify the lungs…improve health, rejuvenate and balance the body and mind…strengthen the immune system…[and cure] ear infections.”

The Salt Cave & Spa didn’t cure me, not completely—but it did help. It is wonderfully refreshing—and reminds me of the Isak Dinesen quote—
“Do you know a cure for me?”
“Why yes,” he said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.”
“Salt water?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”
—turned meme for ipad covers and tote bags: “The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea.”

Being in the Salt Cave gave me the chance to relax in a very serene and surreal (what isn’t here) environment—a spa deep in the spa ghetto (definition 3a) of the (also super surreal) Wafi Mall: “Influenced by many architectural styles, from Egyptian to Turkish, the mall is dominated by its modern interpretation of the Pharaohs, whose epic splendour is conveyed through exquisite stained glass, intricate mosaics, carvings and sculptures.” In short, this is a mall in the shape of a pyramid. Because Dubai.

The new (unscientific and not medically supported) theory is that I’m experiencing irritation caused by air conditioning—especially when going from 113F/45C outside to 65F/18C inside or the reverse…so, condensation, i.e., fluid, appears in my ears—not unlike how my sunglasses fog up when leaving the ACed mall and walk into the blazing outdoors. As a control test, I should—it’s been recommended—go somewhere where there’s no air conditioning—which is, I think, in the Arctic Circle, or at least many meridians away from me.

If anyone has any additional recommendations, suggestions, or theories—I’m all ears. Well, one is slightly impaired, so, please speak loudly & clearly—or I will have to ask you to repeat yourself, please.

lounge chairs inside the salt cave and spa at the wafi mall, dubai
inside the salt cave, the floor is covered in salt. you’re given blue surgical booties to cover your shoes or feet.
men relaxing in the salt cave & spa, wafi mall, dubai
we were 5 minutes late for our 7:00pm appointment. at 7:01pm, we got a call (which we didn’t answer) from the salt cave coordinator; she did not leave a message. when we did show up, there were 2 guys (in traditional dress) at the reception desk, talking to the coordinator. she’d given away our appointment to them. i called you so many times! she said to us. but, we were there, so she couldn’t tell us to leave. she asked me if i was willing to share the cave with the men. yes. then, she asked the men if they were willing to share the cave with us, or, more specifically me: a woman. luckily, they said yes. so, these 2 guys, and then later their friend, sat with us in the salt cave for a 45-minute session.
children's play area inside the salt cave, wafi mall, dubai
children’s play area inside the salt cave, complete with tiny plastic chairs and a pint-size wheelbarrow, for mining and transporting salt around the cave—disney dwarf style
air duct inside salt cave & spa, wafi mall, dubai
the air conditioning was turned off, & through the air ducts, salt-infused air was pumped through the cave. after 5 minutes or so, salt starts to settle everywhere: lips, clothes, hair. it’s rather comforting. a sodium snow storm of sorts.
salt-encrusted fire extenguisher inside salt cave, wafi mall, dubai
this reminded me of the shining. if the shining had taken place in a salt cave inside a pyramid-shaped mall in the middle of the middle east.
salt cave_me
that’s me in the salt cave / that’s me in the red light / losing my congestion

(from June 6, 2014)

what’s the opposite of jack kerouac?

Off the Road. Off-roading is a popular pastime in the UAE—with routes detailed in photo-rich, coffee-table sized books that are available in grocery stores and anywhere ex-pats shop.

Armed with one of these books, spotty wifi to Google maps, and lots of snacks (read: cookies), we headed out Saturday morning, June 7,  in my friend’s SUV—an SUV with all-wheel drive, not 4-wheel drive…whatever, it worked. Isaac is a good friend from grad school (Iowa Writers’ Workshop…Go Hawks!): a poet, visual/conceptual/performance/interactive artist, photographer, philosopher, & explorer (in all definitions). He lives 3 hours from us in Abu Dhabi. Geographically, he’s the closest friend I have.

There were lots of photo stops on this 6+hour trip. The off-roading part through a wadi (river wash bed) reminded us of riding the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction at Disneyland. (I’m breaking a 7-year habit of writing Disneyland Resort right there….copywriting rules & legal regs no longer apply to me—and for that, I am so happy.)

Speaking of Harrison Ford, there’s talk of going on another road trip this weekend to check out the Abu Dhabi location where Star Wars is being filmed.

First Photo Stop: A Billboard

We pulled over at this billboard for an Aigner watch—on a trucking road in the middle of nowhere & nothing. The surrealism and irony of it—contrast of luxury in an austere landscape—struck us funny.

We saw the same billboard for the next couple of kilometers, since ad space seems to be purchased by the kilometer. Some companies take the Burma Shave approach with their space, others simply repeat the same ad. (future post: more about UAE advertising)

offroadtrip_truck   offroadtrip_billboard full   offroadtrip_billboard CU

aigner watch face as face, advertisement in the mountains of fujayrah, UAE
watch-face / watch your head / time on my mind

Second Stop: Friday Market in Al Fujayrah

From the Virtual Tourist: “Fujairah is the only Emirate of the UAE that is almost totally mountainous. The Hajjar Mountains separate Fujairah from the rest of the country. The mountain range got its name from the Arabic word meaning “stone mountains”. They aren’t very high but on the way from the plain (200m) to Masafi (450m) and Diba Al Hisn (on the ocean coast) the road runs on the level 200-550 m between mountains which rise between 500m up to 990m (Jabal Dad Mountain – the highest mountain in the area). The road is very picturesque and you will see deep wadies (canyons) and huge rocks.”

In Al Fujayrah, there’s an ~2-kilometers stretch of the road lined by colorful stalls packed with just about anything: fruit, plants, rugs, clothes, car tires, electronics, pottery, statues, furniture, musical instruments, every sort of molded or inflated plastic item, every sort of aluminum object—each stall the territory of a guy in a green shirt eager (understatement) to make a sale. This stretch of road is known as Friday Market.

Again, the VT: “A market, called the Masafi Friday Market or Souq al Juma, as it is known locally, even though it is open seven days a week, is found on the Dubai-Fujairah Road as you approach Masafi. The main items to bargain for are rugs, earthenware, antiques and souvenirs. This is a great place to buy carpets, mats, shrubs (from Afghanis and Pakistanis).”

We parked. Before we’d even touched the handles to exit our ACed cocoon and step into the 113F/45C heat, a green-shirt had a fresh mango sliced and was pushing wedges into our hands through the barely cracked-open car door.

We chose that stall because the hard sell of fresh fruit seemed better than the hard sell of inflated plastic balls, even if one did have cartoonish vehicles, including a cop car & pickup, and the words honk honk fast cars speed trucks—pop-art like.

We each got a coconut—hacked, stabbed, and poked with a straw—so incredible to watch what someone can do with a mini-machete…and so cool & refreshing to drink. Plus, seedless clementines, cut sugar cane.

IMG_9090     offroadtrip_balls      IMG_9093     offroadtrip_fruit at the friday market in fujayrah, UAE        offroadtrip_fruits

coconut with straw at masafi friday market in fujayrah, UAE
coconut in chiaroscuro
fresh coconut from masafi friday market, fujayrah, UAE off-road trip
coconut in Isaac’s hand
not a lychee at the masafi friday market, fujayrah, UAE off-roading
a fruit similar to lychee, but sweet, not tart. i don’t remember the name
Red Bull car driven by 2 girls who were upset (understatement) about having their picture taken. C’mon, girls, you’re Westerners marketing a product that’s rumored to be made with bull semen by driving around in a vehicle with a giant phallus, um, can rising from the taint, er trunk, of a 4-balled, gah, -wheeled vehicle …get over yourselves.

Gas Station Stop

IMG_9106  IMG_9117

a mailbox in the middle of nowhere

Lazy Photography aka Drive-By Shooting aka Not Leaving the Car or Slowing Down to Get the Shot

there was so much construction, so many buildings being built—and so many new structures unoccupied. #optimism ? #forward thinking ? #planningforthefuture ? #buildingsoutnumberedthepeople25to1 #middleofnowhereconstruction #itsajob #whatelseistheretodoexceptmaybedrink #ha

offroadtrip_newbuilding2     IMG_9124   offroadtrip_stuffIMG_9125 IMG_9132  IMG_9138 IMG_9134   IMG_9140 IMG_9143 IMG_9150  IMG_9165   offroadtrip_new restaurant

Another Photo Stop: More Rocks

finger shark spotted among the rocks
Finger Shark Gonna Getcha

IMG_9184   IMG_9226

The First Real Off-Roading Route

IMG_9236 IMG_9238 IMG_9256 IMG_9259


this rock looked like a lamb lying down (far from broadway)
this looked like jaba the hut’s hut, or so i’m told
al fujayrah UAE off-road trip
rocks. rocks. and more rocks. do not great photographs make. reminds me of the time i took an old, wood train—from bangkok to chiang mai, thailand—through the mountains and rainforests. romantic and breathtaking trip. i took rolls of film (that long ago), got them back : tree. tree. tree. tree. tree.

IMG_9291   IMG_9279    IMG_9281  IMG_9294 IMG_9306     IMG_9308 IMG_9339


IMG_9351 IMG_9352

 Camels, because Camels—2 of Them Under a Tree…and then They Moved On

camel in al fujayrah UAE off-road trip
note the front legs are roped together. also note to never ever ever threaten, harm, disturb, or the worst, kill a camel.

IMG_9393   IMG_9413 IMG_9419 IMG_9431   IMG_9423

More Lazy Photography from the Front Seat of an SUV through the Wadi with Lots of Date Palms

   IMG_9441     offroadtrip_orange building     IMG_9457    IMG_9461   offroadtrip_flag     offroadtrip_dudeonabike     IMG_9477       offroadtrip_dude

 It’s Just a Donkey…or Two

IMG_9510 IMG_9523

Driving through Sharjah, UAE

IMG_9536 IMG_9538 IMG_9541

 And Back to Dubai

Very nice to spend the day away from malls, skyscrapers, concrete, and such.


is this your only id?

My passport and paperwork are still being processed, so—until complete, hopefully today, or very soon, and I become like a real person with a real, official Emirate ID card—I am like the Dude with only a grocery store club card as an ID.

is this your only id


what happens in dubai, again?

Things fall and fall: a metaphor, and sometimes, things literally fall. Like, me.

The Plunge stage manifested itself as a cold (my new excuse as to why I haven’t been posting), which left me without a voice for a few days, and has lingered for nearly two weeks—mostly, now, in my left ear so my hearing’s muffled and there’s this strange, tinny echo inside my brain. I went to the doctor last week, got 7-days’ worth of medicine, didn’t leave the apartment for a while, and slept a lot.

Yesterday, I thought I was getting better, so we went out to brunch. Yesterday, it was 106F/41C. We walked to the restaurant, walked to the Metro, walked to the coffee shop. The sun was intense. I was getting tired—from the heat, from being sick, from cold meds, and not having walked much in a couple of weeks. Because of all that, I tripped at the top of a 9-step flight of concrete stairs and started a trajectory, head first, toward the concrete patio below.

sculpture of a man diving, roated to look like he's flying

I had two choices: make it safely or skid face first down steps and across the concrete—meaning who knows what, definitely skin removed from my face, at least time in the hospital, maybe broken bones, cracked skull. My arms shot out, full wingspan. My eyes locked on the spot of each narrow step, in secession, where I needed to put my foot. Every action a will to not to get hurt. The main thought on loop: I do not want to go to the hospital. Skipping a few steps: bam bam bam bam, on the fourth slam of my Chuck Taylors, I was on the level patio of the coffee shop where we were going. The fall took less than two seconds. No turned ankle, no pulled muscles, no skin off my face, no trips to the emergency room.

I felt like Vincent & Jules in the Hamburger Scene of Pulp Fiction—though, concrete coming at me not quite like bullets…

Alfredo calmly walked down the steps and, together, we strolled into the shop. The entire wait staff was lined up, semi-circle, at the front window facing the patio, mouths open, watching me. Waiting. I smiled, sat down, and ordered a glass of water and orange juice. Alfredo asked for Turkish coffee and butter cookies, please. The staff went back to work.

What little energy I had before the fall was gone. We sat. We were relaxed.

We took a cab home. I went to bed immediately, and slept for 14 hours. I woke up still unhurt. I woke up in my bed, instead of in a hospital. And with the feeling something strange had happened. Or maybe it hadn’t.

Divine intervention? A miracle? Or, this shit happens? … can we go now?

Maybe I’ll go walk the earth…and get into adventures. 

Or, is that what I’m doing already?


Another perspective, from Eat Pray Love: “…And all I could think to do was stand up, while still sobbing, and try to balance on one foot in the middle of my living room. Just to prove that—while I couldn’t stop the tears or change my dismal interior dialogue—I was not yet totally out of control: at least I could cry hysterically while balanced on one foot [or, in my case, balanced while keeping myself from falling face-first down a flight of stairs]. Hey, it was a start.”

what is the plunge?

The Plunge is the first major stock crash in a bear market on the culture shock (what is culture shock?) index. The slimy, murky, seaweedy, coral scratching your skin, can’t see what’s in front of you, uncomfortable bottom of the cold ocean Plunge that’s the mirror to the cloudless, clear, crisp, endless blue sky of The Honeymoon Phase. The Plunge is why I haven’t been posting.

The Plunge

Came faster than I thought it would. But, in Dubai, things fall. It’s what happens.

Alfredo went home—and I had a week to myself, by myself.

What Caused The Plunge?

There were 2 defining moments of the crash:

  1. I took the Metro at noon on a Friday.I left the apartment to go sofa shopping near Al Karama. Friday at noon is the time religious services end. The sidewalks were full of large groups of women walking together, having left the women-only services. And large groups of men together. Everyone, it seemed, was going to the Metro.Thoughts: Wow, I’ve never seen the women-only car this full. I’ll walk further down the platform, to a mixed car. Wow, this is also crazy crowded. Glad I got a spot near the door.[The doors closing.] The doors are closing, didn’t you hear that? Oh, you want to comein anyway. Ok.C’mon. Shoot, sorry, sir, I almost grabbed your crotch instead of that bar. Oh, more people. What’s that smell? Oh, that smell is everyone. Seriously, that smell.C’mon, the door is closing. Might lose your shoe, get your foot in. Is he going to lose his shoe? What happens if he loses his shoe? What happens if he loses his foot? He didn’t lose his shoe or his foot. Are accidents, lost body parts, frequent? The dooris closed. No more people closed. Must not breathe.[The next station is …] Yeah, sure, go ahead and shoulder your way in. Oh, you’re determined to come in, too. Small man thinking you’re big. All right. Really? Ha. You think standing with your arms crossed at the door is going to stop these guys from coming in? Yeah, didn’t think so. But, seriously, no more people can fit in this car. We’ve won the World Record. We’ve reached the maximum number of clowns.Coeds in a phone booth. Done. Nope? Ok. Seriously. That smell. I would not do well if I were in the middle of the crowd behind me. Keep looking out the window. Keep facing forward. Nose pressed to the glass. Cannot move. Cannot breathe.Only 6 more stops… Only 5 more stops… This trip is finite. This trip will end. Soon. Let it end soon.Gah.On March 18, I wrote: “I don’t think I’ll get tired of riding the Dubai Metro.” On Friday, May 9, I got tired of riding the Metro.
  2. I went to the movies.I went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. I love Wes Anderson movies. I love all the actors in this movie. Harvey Keitel is on the movie poster. Harvey Keitel is in the movie trailer I saw on You Tube. By everything I saw before I saw the movie, Harvey Keitel is in this movie. But, I did not see Harvey Keitel in this movie. All Harvey Keitel scenes were edited out. All scenes suggesting, showing, or discussing sex were censored and cut. If those scenes set up character development,motivation, held key information about a murder or the murderer—didn’t matter. Even the brief shot that I also saw in the trailer—the shot that showed a cartoonish and silly drawing of naked ladies, framed and hung over a mantel—gone.One of my favorite things to do is to go to the movies. In America, I loved escaping into the big screen.This is not America. I should not compare. I cannot go to the movies here.(See also: Lady Gaga’s Dubai Concert Will Be Censored.)

Here vs. There

“Expat spouses in particular often feel isolated and resentful when they experience life in a new cultural environment.”

Alfredo was in our cities—LA & SF—with our friends, family, working on our house. He was telling our stories, he was being productive. He could have seen an uncensored movie, if he’d had the time. He checked in with family, friends, home, and flew back. He returned to his schedule, to work—to long hours in one place, so every time he goes out, it’s still new; he returned to his Dubai honeymoon.

While I took The Plunge with ripples from Confronting Deeper Issues—like death, family, what does it mean to be a woman (in my family, in a large corporation, in ads, in America, in Dubai, in the liminal spaces), censorship, marriage, trust, happiness, art, purpose.

The focus-on-the-positive stories from last week:

  • I went on my first trip to the beach—and floated on the waves of the Persian Gulf and saw camels on the beach.
  • I hung out with one of Alfredo’s coworkers.
  • I explored the Marina.

moon over the marina

2 Months Ago

Today is our 2-month anniversary of living here, so a little reflection seems appropriate while I adjust and readjust.


After 2 months, the unfamiliar is becoming familiar. And I’m an expat spending more than just a vacation abroad, and I have to go through this thing called culture shock. And I’m a writer. And I have no other job right now than to document.

So, here I go through these stages, these waves—and waves within various sizes of waves, rising and falling, cresting and crashing…and navigating, negotiating—attempting adjustment, & balance.