Overseas Voting: Do It Before 10 Oct


Absentee Voting Week is September 26-October 3
Be an Active Voter by taking the necessary steps to vote in the 2016 U.S. elections and participating in Absentee Voting Week!

In many states, the voter registration deadline for the November 2016 elections is October 10.  For some voters this might mean their paper voter registration and absentee ballot request must reach their local election officials byOctober 10.  In order to vote in the November 2016 elections, all overseas U.S. citizens need to have completed aFederal Post Card Application (FPCA) in 2016.  Whether you are a first-time voter or have already received ballots and voted absentee in past elections, you must complete an FPCA each year to ensure you are able to participate in elections as an overseas absentee voter.

If you have already completed a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) in 2016 and requested electronic delivery of your ballot, you will be receiving your blank ballot or instructions for how to access your ballot soon if you have not already received it.  If you are not sure about the status of your absentee ballot request you should contact your local election officials in the United States or check the status of your registration via your state’s voter registration verification website.

You can get voting assistance from the U.S. Consulate in Dubai or drop off your completed voting forms and ballots, addressed to your local election officials, during the following hours:

SundayThursday, 9AM – 4PM. Our dropbox for Federal Post Card Applications is located at the entrance to the consular section. Normal transit time from Dubai to the United States is 14 days.


Please help spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues that now is the time to start thinking about overseas voting.  Consider posting to your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other social media account that you are an active voter and will be dropping off or mailing your Federal Post Card Application or completed ballot.  Use #ProudOverseasVoter to help get the word out about voting.

If you have never voted while overseas before, it’s not too late. The process is easy ­– just follow these steps:

  1. Complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)

Whether you are a first-time voter or have voted absentee in past elections, complete an FPCA to receive your ballot this fall.  It allows you to register to vote and request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (presidential and state primaries, run-off, special, and the November general elections) during the course of the year in which you submit the FPCA.  Local election officials in all U.S. states and territories accept the FPCA.

The online voting assistant available at FVAP.gov is an easy way to complete the FPCA.  It will ask you questions specific to your state and tell you if electronic ballot delivery is possible.  No matter which state you vote in, we encourage you to ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  Be sure to include your email address to take advantage of electronic delivery.  The online voting assistant will generate a printable FPCA, which you can then print and sign.


  1. Submit the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)

You can submit your FPCA at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai at the FPCA dropbox which is located at the entrance to the Consular Section.

If it’s more convenient for you, you can have a friend or family member drop off your FPCA on your behalf or you can send your FPCA or ballot directly to your local election officials via international mail or professional courier service at your own expense.


  1. Receive Your Ballot

After submitting your FPCA, most states allow you to confirm online your registration and ballot delivery selection. States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election (on or around September 24) for federal office (President, U.S. Senate, or U.S. House of Representatives) to any overseas U.S. citizen who has completed an FPCA.


  1. Return Your Ballot

As with the FPCA, you can return your voted ballot to your local election officials free of charge via the nearest embassy or consulate or mail it directly at your own expense.


Your Vote Counts

Many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%.  All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline (differs by state).

Be an educated voter.  Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues.   You can also read national and hometown newspapers online, and search the Internet to locate articles and information.

To receive information by email about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP’s Voting Alerts (vote@fvap.gov).  FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.

If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact Dubai’s Voting Assistance Officer at 04-309-4000 or at voteDubai@state.gov.

dubai and the big apple?

The biggest. As in, the largest Apple store in the world. ‘Cause Dubai only does superlatives. Rumored to be coming to a mall near me.

I’ve found it funny to leave LA & SF where 99% of everyone (’cause exaggeration, as I do) has iPhones, to be here where 99% of everyone on the Metro holds Samsung…. (I had to look this up, Galaxy) phones.

Occasionally, I’ll see iProducts. Like this guy, thinking he could take video on his iPad without anyone noticing.

ipad video on the dubai metro

But there are Apple fans here. Once, I saw a woman on the Metro who had a large Apple logo, made of many gold sequins, on either arm of her abaya. (aka aba. men wear a thobe, kandura, or—I’m not fond of this name, especially when said by Westerners—dishdasha.)

I tried to get a picture of the woman and her American-branded traditional-Arabic dress, but was so concerned about being caught and insensitive (unlike the guy above), I ended up with this. You can see the cuff of her garment in the center of the image.

apple logo abaya on the metro obscurred by thumb

All this is to say, I’m excited for an Apple store here. And very excited about the iPhone 6. Soon. September soon.

happy 4-year cativersary to #ourkittyboys!

Four years ago today, July 20, we brought home 2 nearly-5-month-old kittens, brothers, who were in a Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter foster home where they went by Dillon & Bij. They had the best foster mom—and, in the last 4 years, we’ve raised many glasses to Brittany.

A full week after we brought the kittens home, plus a spreadsheet, plus an important trip to Starbucks, Dillon & Bij became Del & Finn.

On July 17 (a few days ago), the four of us celebrated our 4-month anniversary of arriving in Dubai. Since then, ourkittyboys have forgotten & forgiven us for the few weeks they needed to be boarded while we found an apartment.


Ourkittyboys got many treats today. Including, their favorite, tuna juice martinis straight up. Because they’re macho cats.

No they’re not. They’re spoiled. And they’re very photogenic. And we love them. And I may have said to Alfredo when we were discussing the possibility of Dubai, if the cats can’t go, I don’t go.

So, here we are: the four of us in a one-bedroom apartment, 27 stories above the city. Settling in.


Brotherly Love





how hot is it?

It’s so hot—anything and everything you can think of can be delivered to you: from pharmacy items to furniture, food, clothes…. office, plant, patio, pet supplies—if there’s a store, they deliver their stuff.

Because, let the delivery guy deal with the heat.

So, hello, Caribou Coffee. Two drinks, please.

caribou coffee chai tea latte   caribou coffee chai tea latte

Plus, it’s Ramadan. Those celebrating cannot eat or drink anything (including water) at all during the daylight fasting hours, and no one can eat or drink anything (including water, gum, cough drops) in public without risking arrest, or worse—until Iftar arrives (sunset & breaking of the fast). (Also, no smoking during daylight for those celebrating. And no daytime smoking in public for those not.)

There are a few Western-centric restaurants that cover their doors & windows with black curtains—as not to offend anyone walking by. Other restaurants, cafes, etc, are only open for take-away or delivery. The rest of the restaurants are closed during the day, and reopen at Iftar with a buffet feast.

To answer the question, it’s a cool 102F/39C—with 42% humidity, bringing the heat index to 118F/48C—still walkable weather, especially to Caribou, which is down 27 flights from our apartment, exit our building, cross the bridge over the canal to the corner cafe, and stumble in for caffeine. Cool off, come home.

But, sometimes hot = lazy.




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


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 is the honeymoon phase?

The Honeymoon Phase is the first big cresting wave on the abroad side of the undulating line that charts the many stages of culture shock (what is culture shock?)—and its mirror: reverse culture shock.

The Honeymoon Phase

Was fantastic. In the honeymoon phase, everything is new, everything is art.

red flower 2

The firsts are always like that.

The Firsts

The First Dinner in Dubai: Burger King french fries. Because it was late, we were tired, hungry, it was a recognizable brand. I almost never eat fast food in America, but there it was: Burger King attached to a gas station, walking distance from our first hotel.

Now a question in the trivia game of our life: What was your first dinner in Dubai? When the aliens land / one of us is kidnapped by the enemy / we have to prove we’re married to each other: Burger King french fries is the answer. Now you know it, too.

first metro trip

First Photo Taken in Dubai

first photo taken in dubai

Like how photos of the first child fill volumes and volumes of albums—every moment painstakingly placed and pressed to beautiful pages. In focus or not. All of it is important.

But the second kid gets a shoe box with photos thrown in—to be put in an album… someday—a line item on a to-do list that never gets done.

This leads to The Plunge.