Thursday, December 15, 2005

ferengi/white girl factor

The Ethiopian government is atypical when it comes to baggage checks I find. As soon as you enter the airport, all your baggage (large and otherwise) is checked via xray. Every person I saw was asked to remove their shoes when they went through the metal detector, except your's truly - evidently the white girl could never be a terrorist. Once you enter into the gate area to wait (further) for your flight, there's another carry-on luggage/shoe check. This time, I even offered to remove my shoes but they waved me aside.

On the return, their concern is not so much to do with bombs and such but whether you're bringing something into the country that you can sell and more importantly, they can tax. So your luggage is xrayed again as you leave the airport. I brought some definitely suspicious items in (or at least I thought they were) and a couple of mobile phones (something they could've easily taxed me on) but as my ridiculously giant black bag rolled by, they chatted to themselves instead of inspecting. Fine by me.

I'm very aware of other people's experiences...

Monday, December 12, 2005

at school the week before

kid 1: loud sneeze causes two abnormally long snot strings

kid 2: looks over at kid 1 and says “wooooow!”

more on dubai

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.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

sittin in my basement...girl gettin on my nerves

I'm not exactly in a basement. It's more like the upstairs of the Golden Fork - an internet cafe to be exact. In Dubai.

And it's not a girl gettin on my nerves. It's more like a smoker boy with a headset on chatting in Arabic.

I'm hiding out via the internet because I am an overwhelmed shopper. Before I left for Ethiopia, I was all 'save save save'. I was in Ethiopia and I was all 'save save save'. And now I'm forced to shop. What's a girl to do? I can't decide on anything and spending money now feels impossibly wrong. There's supposed to be deals to be found here (everyone kept telling me things were so cheap) but I can't part with my durham all that easily.

Gotta get back to that muggy mug mug. It's sort of like I'm making up for missing the summer in Toronto.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

tis the season

( on my list)

I’m vaguely aware the Christmas season is upon us. There’s no snow here, no marketing frenzy and no tangible contact with family to remind me that Christmas is less than a month away. I was excited about going to a German Christmas bizarre that happened – but our Sunday was wasted supervising the worker dudes who put a closet in our bedroom. (The closet is exciting though. Our clothes have been piled in my giant luggage for the past six months and it’s hard to feel permanent somewhere if the luggage is in sight.) The boyfriend doesn’t like Christmas so I was going to entice him into going to the bizarre with promises of bratwurst and schnitzel.

This will be my first Christmas sans family. It’s hard to think about this year just because I know they’ll be getting together like the days of yore for movie watching, good food eating (mmm chocolate logs), “Blue Christmas” (oo-oo-oo-oo-oo) fun.

If anyone has ideas for super simple Chirstmas ornaments, please let me know. I will make Christmas happen. Christmas is forced upon us in Canada, why not do it here?

uma, oprah. oprah, uma.

I heard the big O was on Letterman. If anyone can make fun of Oprah properly, it's my Dave.

The big O is supposed to make an appearance in Ethiopia again for the fistula hospital. Write her and tell her to not to endorse Meles in any way.

You'll get an overly fake thank you! in response but it could be worth a try.