Dubai – I expected streets paved with gold. My first few hours there I saw a giant rat crawling along a drainpipe outside a building. Nothing like a rat (and the odd cockroach) to signal the normality of a place. Dubai is definitely moneycentric but it is possible to avoid the ostentatious places.
For a woman traveling alone in Dubai, the attention from men can be somewhat daunting; granted I was showing more skin than just an ankle but nothing overly brazen. I heard the odd harsh whisper when I passed by some men. I was asked if I was Russian (later I saw a whole bar full of Russian women looking for ‘dates’). Some men were polite when they asked me to go for coffee. Generally men were very friendly but nothing too creepy. (Although the official from Ethiopian consulate did contact me at my hotel on a Friday night because he ‘was in the area and wanted to talk’. I thought something was wrong with my visa but he probably wanted to be thorough in other ways I care not to think about.)
There were not a lot of local women out and about. Evidently they have there own private clubs which leaves the men to wander the streets. When you did see women shopping, some had their heads covered; others had their entire faces covered with only their eyes showing. I really began to wonder what it was they could possibly buy with a wardrobe limited to only black and long dresses of the same style but many shops are filled with higher quality all-black items. The big question for me was how does a woman with her face covered eat in public, especially ice cream?
I have issues with eating ice cream cones in public myself. Opening one’s mouth only to stick your tongue out wide and lick is just plain obnoxious. It was hot enough and I’d been without ice cream long enough to temporarily ignore my difficulty however.
Mine was a steady diet of ice cream and chicken shwarma. I’d never had meat from a giant log before and it was much tastier than I thought it would be. (In another life, the sight of juices emanating from formed log meat once made me gag and I had to turn the sight into a giant blur just to order my vegetarian falafel.) It was comforting actually to know it was halal. Of the umpteen different shwarma huts around my hotel, they all made it differently. Some places even gave you super sour pickled vegetables, the closest approximation to healthy food I ate.
I did finally manage to get my brain into shopping mode (much to my bank accounts detriment) and picked up some presents for the boyfriend. And I knew this day would come at some point but had always refused to accept it…I bought a mobile. I hate mobile phone culture – people oblivious of their surroundings, ignoring their friends seated in front of them for the one on the phone; other people having access to you at all times; having private conversations in public. I’d always relied on public phones if I was ever required to coordinate with people. The problem in Addis is that you rarely see public phones (I noticed in Toronto too that public phones seemed to be disappearing). People are reluctant to let you use private telephones here because they are charged per outgoing call made. Anyways all this justification resulted in me buying a mobile. It’s not operational yet because I still need to buy the SIM card. But very soon, I’ll be just like you and you and you.
My favourite part about Dubai was the water. There was a large channel running through part of town. There were water taxis ferrying people to the other side constantly and for only 50 cents, you could have a mini tour and feel exotic for about 7 minutes. And then there was the beach. It was amazing…white sand and warm azure water. The only trouble that comes with going to the beach by yourself is trying to swim carefree when you’re constantly looking back to see no one is going through/walking away with your things. I can now say I’ve peed in several bodies of water.
Now it’s back to work. This week there are no students in school but the teachers are meeting for ‘development’. You remember when you were a kid and you got time off from school and the teachers had a ‘development day’? And you were thinking, ya right they probably don’t even come to school. Well, evidently they do. My brain has been consumed with trying to figure out some sort of teaching style that’s firm, fair and friendly for four year olds. And something that won’t mess them up for the rest of their lives. If I think about it too much though, the pressure won’t allow me to do anything so I’m trying to take it easy. I figure I’ll be a teacher that’s constantly learning. I just have to make it appear like I know what I’m doing…a familiar feeling.