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.


what’s in a name? pt 4

I remember the first time someone heard my name and knew how to spell it. I was 10.

My family took a cross-country summer vacation to see as many US states as possible. We also spent half a day in Tijuana, Mexico. I think my mom still has bruises on her arm where my older sister hung on from fear, just like she did the first time we went to NYC.

Me, I was happy to be there. My most salient Tijuana memory is seeing a street vendor, an elderly man, and his cluttered table / workshop—small metal-cutting machine, a collection of files, boxes of chunky metal rings,  and a hand-made sign: “Your name on a ring.”

Not sure why I wanted one, and don’t recall all the details, but I do remember telling the man, Dina, and he said, D-I-N-A? And said, yes. Yes!

The man found a ring that fit me, carved & filed away the negative space around each letter until my name appeared on the ring. Way better than a pre-printed personalized mini license plate from a gift shop.

Years later…

I learned why Dina might have been so familiar to that man: the name Dina has etymological roots in Spanish/Latin, plus DINA is a manufacturer of trucks and buses (the Mexican equivalent of Mac trucks)—Diesel Nacional (DiNa), which later became Diesel International, but name changes can be difficult to make stick.

Like, for a very brief moment in the early 2000s, I had the nickname (the only one I can remember having) of Diesel. I think 3 people called me this for a few months, and then the nickname died.

In Dubai

When I meet people in here, after the usual game of Where Are You From?, we exchange names. I get the same response:

You know that’s an Arabic name?

I started asking, What’s it mean?

If there are many Arabic speakers in the group, they’ll speak in Arabic. Discuss. Look confused. Discuss. Return to me and say, it doesn’t mean anything, really.


I asked someone, got the answer nothing, and told her about a Syrian guy I met at the camel races who said, It means the sun and earth. It means everything and nothing. She said, Typical Syrian.

whats in a name camels at the start line

On the Internet…

Home of all answers & misanswers, says, Dina—Hebrew—means avenged, judged and vindicated.

From Dinah:

  • The name Dinah occurs only once in the Bible, as the only daughter of Israel’s arch-father Jacob (Genesis 30:21)
  • The name Dinah is the feminine form of Dan and both come from the verb דין (din), meaning to judge or plead or govern
  • The feminine noun מדונה (medina), meaning province. BDB Theological Dictionary submits that this word is an Aramaic word, but perhaps it was so readily incorporated into Hebrew because it expresses the smallest unit of governable area larger than a single city; i.e. a jurisdiction. Note that this word also exists in Arabic, where it also became applied as the name of the famous city.


What does Dina mean?

  • (Celtic) seaman, mariner; (Germanic) brave as a bear; (Hebrew) vindicated; (Latin) steadfast, constant
  • Dina is unusual as a baby name for girls. Its usage peaked modestly in 1969 with 0.089% of baby girls being given the name Dina. Its ranking then was #199. The baby name has since experienced a substantial fall in popularity, and is today of very light use.
  • Dina is also a variant of the name Murdag (Scottish).

Call me Murdag. Maybe? Call me maybe? Maybe?

where is your child, ma’am?

Ma’am, your child?

That feeling of wearing a wristwatch for years, in a rush one morning, forgetting.

Later, panic.


  • ….next to the bed  ….in the drawer  ….on the dresser  ….by the coffee pot ….the bathroom sink.

I left it on the sink. I must have left it on the sink.

And then I remember: I don’t have kids.

no bbq ing the baby


  • How many children do you have, ma’am? (Followed by confusion & disbelief & confusion.)
  • But why not, madam? (Oh, that familiar judgement.)
  • How old are you, ma’am? (The answer is still none.)
  • What school do your children go to, ma’am? (Perhaps the most presumptuous, with bonus points for acknowledging the judgement that’s coming.)
  • Where are you from? (That, I’ll answer.)

Cab drivers, Filipino expat women who work service jobs, the apartment agents, people I meet at cafes, in the elevator… everyone wants to know.

Every grocery store in Dubai has shelves & shelves stocked with condoms. Stocked, I joke, because no buys them. Everyone here has kids. So many kids.



how did you spend your 4th of july?

One of my father-in-law’s favorite jokes is to ask, Do they have Fourth of July in Dubai? Of course they do! Do you think the calendars go from July 3rd to July 5th?


We were going to spend the evening at a British pub—have dinner with an ex, prove we’re still friends.

Started the day looking for a Farmers’ Market at a hotel near the World Trade Center / Convention Center. Despite what their Facebook page said, it was “closed during the fallow season of the hot summer where there isn’t enough produce to run it.”

Took a wrong turn (happens frequently), ended up (by habit?) at Al Quoz industrial area—home of Al Serkal Avenue my new home away from…

Found the Bookworm book warehouse—despite the massive footprint Google maps gives it, it was a tiny, cramped, shelves lined with books, boxes being packed by 2 Filipino women, 3 tiny room warehouse, not store—also should have checked Facebook: all children’s books.

Next, went in search of Vendome Paris—a Parisian bakery. AKA Alfredo’s heaven. Had to kill time to wait for it to open (shorter hours because of Ramadan).

Checked out More Cafe—a long line at the door, buffet as the main attraction, place packed with SUV baby strollers, screaming children, exasperated parents—AKA my idea of hell. (though, there were books—for adults…will have to check that out during a weekday.)

Drove past a guy walking around looking for the Sand & Surf shop. Gave him a lift to the store; it was hot.

Returned to Vendome as they were unloading their trucks, unlocking their doors. Met the founder (the guy on the left). We bought a chocolate croissant, a mini plain croissant, a sticky raisin amazingness, 2 cookies made by angels, and a local sweet of semolina & almond flour & almonds shaped into a square and soaked in rose water—also very sticky. Plus, a loaf of fantastic French country bread—and a bread bag. It’ll have to do until Alfredo starts baking again.

Anyone know where we can find a Lodge cast iron combocooker in Dubai?

Brought our French treats home (take-out only at most places during Ramadan, or fines for the restaurant).

Enjoyed them all. All of them: the American way.

Alfredo sketched, I read for the rest of the afternoon.

Met one of his coworkers for dinner at a hotel in JBR—hotel restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol, but only after 8pm during Ramadan. No fireworks, no British pub, just a simple burger, veggie wrap, pizza—plus, a mojito, Tiger beer, and, of course, a Bud—to toast to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Hope you’re enjoying the downside of your 3-day weekend!

National Protective Coating Lacquer Thinner in red white and blue
Red. White. Blue. National pride.
Tabaco bottle label with Arabic
Tabasco bottle. Try Tabasco in foods such as Tabbouleh, tomato stew, beans, Dams, eggs with potatoes, Kofta and Samosa, Pearls cholate. Product of United States.
american garden U.S. Ketchup Born in the USA US Grade A
Posted before, still funny. Born in the USA!

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


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.


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. 

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.