Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For Lyra. A story for me and you.

This is a butterfly his name is Tom. Tom has no family he is sad because he has no family and friends. Then Tom saw a butterfly. He made a friend with the butterfly. Tom is happy now :-). The butterfly is a girl. The name is Arora.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Screaming Like a Little Girl

Yesterday at dinner, Lyra related a story from the playground

L: Yesterday, I almost did the splits when I was playing on the gymnasium.
Me: What happened
L: Well, I was stepping across to the spiral thing and when I stepped my foot started to go down the spiral. I was standing there almost in the splits. I screamed and Dromo and Faisal laughed at me
Me: Why did they laugh? Were they being mean ?
L: No, they thought it was funny because I screamed I sounded like a little girl.
Russ: How apropos.

While out in the desert Saturday night a creepy crawly creature approached our bonfire. It was a Camel Spider. Jack, the neighbor boy, discovered it. Poor Jack, he was quite distraught afterward. Quite a bit of a shock to the system. At first we all thought it might be a scorpion, but upon closer inspection it was determined to be a Camel Spider. We rounded it up into a cup to bring home. Lyra now has it in her "Creature Keeper" which is a small terrarium she got with a goldfish one time. We're keeping it until Aunt Amy and Mary come.

Yesterday, I did a little research on Camel Spiders so we'd know what to feed it. Seems like most bugs or other creepy crawlies will do. Russell's been trying to catch some flies - but I think it needs a bit more sustenance. Maybe a cricket or two.

Here's a picture of a camel spider that most looks like the one we found.
Actually, a camel spider is NOT a spider. It is actually a member of the arachnid family, but is a completely separate species. It is called a Solifugae - which means it tries to get away from the sun. Although completely creepy, it is quite innocuous for humans. It has no venom and is mostly docile.
But that doesn't stop me from wanting to scream like a little girl when I see it. Ugggh, yuck.
For a few more facts on camel spiders, here's a good link:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Car Naps

How does she stand having her head back like that?

Last week, Lyra had to bring a national food from home to the school for the other kids to taste. By coincidence, Russell had some golabki (Polish cabbage roles) that she could bring. She had to prepare a little sign that was submitted with her food. It asked things like "What country is it from?" or "When do you eat it?" - I think meaning is it a special holiday food. Lyra's answer was "3 o'clock". Which cracked me up.

Also, we've lost our ability for secret spelling. Today I was asking Russ if we would carve the P-U-M-P-K-I-N-S tonight and she turned to me, "Pumpkins?" uh oh - on to a new era. I wonder if she knows Pig Latin.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I met a Sheikh

So, today we had a bunch of business meetings and I was invited to present to the Board of Directors for our JV in Saudi Arabia. Our JV partner there is a Sheikh. Whenever I go to our offices in Jeddah, I always use his office. But he's never been in the office at the same time as me. So, in all these years we've never met.

What's a Sheikh like? Pretty nice and down to earth actually. I'm not sure what he's Sheikh of though. Not exactly sure how that works in Saudi. Does he have a little Sheikhdom in Saudi Arabia or is it just a title? He's from a pretty influential family and he has a lot of interactions with the royal family there, but I'm pretty sure that Sheikh's are not rulers in Saudi Arabia the way they are here in the Emirates.

Hmm, something to google.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's Snowing!

More old videos of Lyra. We'll be excited to come back to snow. Not so excited about the cold though.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

She Reads

Here and there throughout the summer, Russell and I would remember to bring out Lyra's reading lists. We'd review a few lists to see if she remembered her words. For the most part she did, but no huge gains in progress. But as soon as school started - something must have clicked. The first time she had Library Day, she came home with a chapter book called Rainbow Fairies. I found her sitting on the steps or curled up on the couch reading it. How fun to see her enjoying books and looking so grown up all of a sudden.


Monday, October 12, 2009

They're Baaaaaack

About March or April, this town started to empty. People were getting laid off and leaving the country. Where there used to be long stretches of traffic for miles - now it was free flowing and easy. The rumors were running rampant! 1,000 cars a day were abandoned at the airport, holes for new building foundations were being filled in, cranes were being dismantled, the only projects left would be high visibility government projects like the Metro and Burj Dubai.

Everyone was sure that come the end of the school year, thousands more would leave and never come back. Slowly but surely the city seemed more and more empty. I returned in July and it seemed like I was one of just a few people here. Parking was easy, restaurant reservations were available, HUGE sales were on enticing folks to buy. But no one was here. And we all wondered if folks would return.

It's normal for the city to empty in the summer. Kids go home with one of the parents, lots of people here take 4 or 5 week vacations back in their homelands, and the only folks left are those who have to be. But this year, it seemed different - it REALLY was empty. And no one was sure if people would come back.

Ramadan started in the middle of August - and a lot of schools decided to delay the first day of school until after the end of Ramadan. Our school returned for about 3 weeks and then we had a 1 - week break. All during Ramadan, everyone would wonder how many people were really coming back.

And so, for 3 weeks now, we've been back. Ramadan is over. Swine flu delays are over. The hot weather is finishing. And . . . they're back. Traffic hasn't recovered to pre-meltdown days. But certainly we're back to the traffic levels of March/April. It took me an hour to get into work today - and earlier this summer it was taking 20 minutes. Oh well - it was nice to have the place to ourselves for a little while.

She's so cute


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thinking Required

This is a picture of the driveway that goes past the entrance to my building. It is a one-way drive for dropping off passengers and then loops back to join the main road. Right now, there's road construction going on at the end of the drive and so you can't rejoin the main road. So, they've closed the driveway. But look where they've put the pylons - not up toward the drive entrance (where you see that woman walking), but here at the door. It's been like this for weeks.

I guess they think that this allows drivers to pull in for passenger drop off. But once the passenger is out, the driver has to reverse back up the drive and reverse into traffic on the main road to get out. I see things like this and shake my head. Yesterday there was a little traffic jam as a car and 2 taxis had pulled in for drop off. The rear-most taxi couldn't see that the road was blocked and kept honking and wondering why the front car wasn't moving along. Meanwhile a van pulls up behind the rear taxi - but is still in traffic and the traffic starts to build up behind him. As I walked in the door, everyone was busily honking their horns (of course that is the miraculous cure for all traffic jams) and no one was getting out to explain that everyone needed to reverse about 30 yards to let the first car out.

I wandered in wondering if this traffic snarl might finally convince building security to put the blockade down closer to the main road. But as you can see - nothing has changed.

Birthday Bash

So, your daughter's turning 1? You and your wife decide to celebrate this important occasion with friends and family. But maybe you're not sure how to go about it.

1. Plan the event on a school night at 8pm.
2. Be sure everyone knows to bring their kids - especially the ones that have school in the morning.
3. When everyone arrives, arrange for some friendly chit chat for an hour. No, make that two.
4. At 10pm, bring out the cake and candle.
5. While everyone is singing Happy Birthday, start bringing in the dinner. Make sure that you've put on a huge spread.
6. At 10:45, say good-bye to your guests and their nearly catatonic children.

One of the guys on my team followed this plan to the letter. Although the timing was unusual, it was a nice evening. I didn't read the invitations very well and failed to notice that the start time had moved from 7pm to 8pm. So, I rushed over after all my meetings hoping that my arrival at 7:45 wasn't too late. Needless to say, I was the first to arrive.

It was me and his father-in-law, who is an extremely friendly man, alone in a big party room for about 20 minutes. I enjoyed talking to him, even though I felt embarassed about arriving so early. I'm really bad at chitter chatter - but he kept up his end of the conversation nicely. Within 5 minutes I had an invitation to stay with him and his wife at their home in Bombay. He's thrilled to offer us a personalize insider tour. If I ever get there, I'm definitely going to look him up. I can tell he's one of those sorts that knows every nook and cranny of a place.

Numerous times during the evening I was asked where Lyra and Russell were. I explained that she was in bed and really it was past her bedtime. Earlier in the week, I had thought they could come and then maybe organize a quick get away. But looking back I can see that there is no way a get away would have been possible unless someone in the family started throwing up or otherwise indicating serious illness. People here are SO hospitable that they really can't understand that you wouldn't want to visit for hours and hours. They really were almost hurt that I didn't bring Lyra and Russell for a visit - but it would have been a nightmare scenario this morning at 6am alarm clock.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Can't Hear You

Lately, I can't hear the morning call to prayer and I wonder why. It's particularly odd since the timing right now is about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off. And usually, I'm in a semi-alert state by then anyway. This morning - I could hear a faint sound if I strained my ears. What's up with that?

I wonder if I've just become "immune" to it. You know, like living with a cuckcoo clock - after a while you just don't hear the sound any more. But I would have thought that if I was actively straining to hear the call that I would be able to. And this morning I could barely hear them.

Maybe it's the A/C fan that is on in the room. It's still hot enough here for the A/C to be running 24 hours a day - and even at 5:20am it's running. It is pretty loud - enough to mask most sounds. But when we first moved in (almost exactly 2 years ago) I could hear the call as plain as day each morning. And we had the A/C running non-stop then, too.

The only other thing I can think of is that the mosque-guys have turned down the volume. I'd be surprised by that - really. The whole purpose of the call is to wake up the neighborhood. Turning down the volume seems counter productive to that objective.

So, it's a mystery.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What to Wear?

Amygirl asked "do you find yourself buying and wearing different styles than you would have in the past?" (thanks for the question).

Actually, I think my clothing changes are due more to climate differences than because of accommodations for the culture here.

These days, flip flops are standard daily attire. I throw them on when heading out for yoga, slip them on to walk the dog, or wear them at the grocery store. There's hardly a day that goes by that I don't wear flip flops. And at work, I never wear socks or nylons anymore. The thought of encasing my feet and legs in warm fabric is seems suffocating. Back in the US, I was pretty conservative about my work dress and there's rarely a day that I didn't weare socks or tights - especially with heels. So, I guess my footwear has changed pretty dramatically.

I do try and keep my shoulders and thighs covered if I'm out. I try not to wear sleeveless tops or shorts. But I think my shift away from shorts has more to do with being in my mid-40s than with being here. I don't like the spider veins on my legs - and I was already getting a bit uncomfortable in shorts that didn't cover most of my thighs. And with the sleeveless tops - I'm probably about 50-60% of the time. Just yesterday I was out with a tank top on. But I was at our Mirdif mall where a lot of westerners go - so I don't feel awkward. But if I were down in the older part of town near the souks, I'd definitely have my shoulders covered.

A few weeks ago, I was going through my closet trying to clear out a few things. I usually have a rule that if I haven't worn it in a year then it should go out. But it was harder to apply this rule with so many of my cold weather clothes. There are suits and trousers here that I've never worn. And I think that I'll wear them again when we're back in cooler climate. But sometimes I wonder if they'll look dated by then. So, I did toss quite a few things - but still kept a lot. It's hard when the outside temps are near 110C to really look at lined wool trousers and feel like you'll ever want to put them on (ugh).

So that's it really. I don't need to cover my head or wear an abaya in Dubai. I have that for visits to Saudi - where it's only necessary for me to wear the abaya. We have a friend who just recently moved to Yemen - and she wears both a head cover and an abaya - but she still looks like a "brazen westerner" since she allows some of her hair to be seen and she doesn't cover her entire face (which most Yemeni women are fully covered except the eyes).