Sunday, June 27, 2010

School's out for summer

I’m trying to remember when I had six consecutive weeks of paid vacation... oh wait, this has never happened. Even in college I worked and took classes every single summer. Until now! One of the biggest perks of working in the UAE is kicking in tomorrow: Annual Leave, not only a benefit but a requirement.

In less than 24 hours I get to lock up my suits and high-heels and forget everything I know about institutional research and policy for six glorious weeks. But the real reason I’m as giddy as a fifth grader on the last day of school  is that we're going home for the first time since moving overseas! We are spending 35 days trekking around the United States, seeing family, friends, and a range of beautiful cities (we have at least 12 stops in five states). On the itinerary are two road trips, all the Tex-Mex we can eat, white-water rafting, and possibly the most exciting for me, a haircut at my sister's salon!

We’ll probably take a blogging break while we’re in the US but I’m sure there will be plenty of pictures and stories to share upon our return, so stay tuned...until then, happy summer!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

National pastime

After living in the UAE for nearly a year, we can attest to the fact that Emirati's love cars...

They decorate them for their national holiday.

They're building an amusement park nearby called Ferarri World - which will include, no surprise, the fastest roller coaster in the world.

Last November they built a racetrack to bring Formula One to Abu Dhabi. The fever pitch from the time we arrived last August to the big event in November was exhausting, and guess what, they've already starting advertising for the next one!

I didn't take this picture, but given the right camera I might have. I've never seen so many designer cars on the road at one time as I do while driving around Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

But not even the most stereotypical Emirati can match the dedication to cars of this man--

They call him the Rainbow Sheikh (here in the UAE, "rainbow" does not have the same connotation is it does in the US), and we went to see his private collection, which is housed in a huge, pyramid shaped warehouse about 20 kilometers outside of Abu Dhabi. There are cars of every color of the rainbow, every style from armored tanks and taxis to fully restored Thunderbirds, each one waxed and detailed to perfection and sitting in it's own parking spot under spotlights. There are rows upon rows of cars (I'd estimate 300 or so), ranging from the ordinary pickup truck to the sublime specialty vehicle (silver sequined dune buggy anyone?), and most of them setting some kind of record.

Here's a taste of what we saw--

This jeep greets you at the entrance. Upon closer inspection we found there is a full restaurant housed inside.

Here's a Mercedes with Shannon-sized wheels (literally).

Me again, learning a new meaning for the term "Monster truck"
that's Sheikh Zayed, Founder of the UAE in the background).

Dick Tracy would be proud.

You just can never have too many Hummers.

Yes, we were overwhelmed by this too. In a Bedouin culture which historically valued mobility and courage in battle and now is awash in petro-dollars, it's no wonder that high performance luxury automobiles have come to play such a powerful role in Emirati culture.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Last week a couple of friends from Boston (Joel and Allison) came to stay with us in Abu Dhabi, and we spent five days taking them on a tour of greatest hits – to grand malls and the Grand Mosque, the resort in the desert, to Dubai to see the record-setting buildings and fantastic fountains, and of course, our favorite Lebanese restaurant. Having visitors always helps me to see where I live with fresh eyes – they point out the interesting and unusual things that I have become used to seeing and have taken for granted. It's fun to be reminded of these things.

Allison and Joel at Ibn Battuta Mall
Burj Khalifa

Dubai Fountain

Most salient to me about the visit was the comfort of being with old friends, people who know our histories and weaknesses, with whom we have broken bread at least a few dozen times, who ask about our family members by name. People with whom we can skip politeness and get to the heart of the matter. Joel and Sam resumed whatever intense theological discourse they were having last time we saw each other, and Allison and I cooked together and compared notes on our careers and marriages. And we laughed. The genuine kind of laughter that makes you shut your eyes and hold your sides. The kind you can really only share with true friends – the kind of friends who will travel half way around the world to see you.

Joel and Allison are dear friends, and have amazing hearts to serve God and bring hope to the people of Africa in particular, which includes raising money to send Ugandan orphans to school and provide them with means to support themselves. You can read about their inspiring work at