Sunday, June 12, 2011

And So It Goes..

Well it's my last few hours in the great country of the UAE. I've pretty much had the runaround today but now I'm just laying back and relaxing (pretty bored, though).

I woke up this morning to a phone call that basically said if I ever want to come back in the country, I need to get to public relations and beg them to cancel my visa in the next few hours. Apparently, you're supposed to have this done a few days before you leave, but we've been asking for weeks what to do and never got an answer. So as soon as I hung up, I threw some clothes on and went to find out what to do. Luckily they were really nice about it and told me to come back after 2 and it should be done. They weren't too happy that I asked them to put a rush on it, though.

A few of the other exchange students skipped out without doing it since you have to pay 50 dhm for it in person or 200 to do it remotely. Guess they won't be coming back anytime soon. I figured it would be easier to just do it now than have to worry about it years from now.

I cancelled my bank account and returned my mailbox key; those didn't take more than a few minutes each.

Then I went to try to check out of my dorm early so I could get my dorm deposit back (I'm not leaving till about 8pm tonight, but the cashier will be closed and I'll be stuck having them transfer money into my bank account, and I'm not comfortable giving that information to them). They made sure there was no damage and gave me a form to take to someone in student relations or something. He said it would take 5 days, but I might get lucky.

So I went to student accounts to see what they could do about it. As soon as he pulled up my account he said I had a hold. Fantastic. It was through public relations for something, probably pertaining to my visa. So I went back and they had my passport completed and lifted the hold. Back to student accounts. At first, he said I'd have to have the money transfered. I wasn't too happy. So I batted my eyes and looked really sad and eventually convinced him to put a rush on it so I could get cash today. hehe

He signed it and sent me with the form to.. umm someone in another office. He approved it and sent me to the cashier. Finally they gave me my 1000 dhm deposit back! 15 trips later, AUS finally gave me money!

It's been smooth sailing from there. Got some food, did some laundry, finish packing. I'll be heading to the airport shortly. Unfortunately, I'll be there for a while. A friend is taking me so I don't have to worry about taxis but my flight doesn't leave till 1:45 in the morning.

Here's a math problem for you
start time 1:45
+ 17 hours of flight time
+ 5 hours of layovers
- 8 hours of time zones
What day will I land??
If you can figure it out, let me know; I will be soooo confused when I finally get home!

Anyway, I just wanted to write one more blog before I left!

I'm going to miss everyone so much! But I am happy to see all my 'mericans again! :-)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cheater, Cheater

Dear AUS,

You have a serious cheating problem. Never before have I seen so much cheating as I have witnessed in the past semester. If you're going to continue calling AUS the best school in the UAE and saying how its so difficult, then start being honest students. You have lost all credibility in my mind. 

A Disappointed Observer

It's amazing just how much cheating can go on in such a short amount of time. I've seen personally, with my one 2 eyes and ears, 9 people fail courses because of cheating. That's just seen or heard from the professor directly. Add about a dozen more from second hand sources (yes, this is in only my classes). 

Thermodynamics is a tough course. I haven't met a single person that said it was easy. Last week, we had a final on this program called EES (engineering equation solver) that we've been using scarcely for a while. The final was only worth about 3% of our grade. Because of this final, 8 students will be failing the course. In one of the sections (my section, with only 24 students), somehow several copied the same solution with all the right answers. Those same idiots didn't bother to check if the given information was right.. The first pressure was supposed to be 8000kpa, but instead, 8 people had 800kpa. Makes it pretty easy to spot the cheaters, doesn't it? I was in the professor's office when the TA came in to tell him "we have a serious cheating problem". Those students were immediately reported to the dean.

In this same class, everyday I watch people copy homework solutions directly from the solution's manual or each other, which was also probably copied from the solutions manual. If you look at the entire class's homework, they all look eerily similar. 

I worked my butt off in this class and I'm proud to say I passed with a C (not even a C-, it's official!). I had to drop this class a year ago because I was failing and I knew it would be tough again. I will hold my head up high when someone asks me how I did in thermo this time, because every grade I got, I earned. I didn't copy and I didn't cheat. I worked hard and accepted every low test score. 

Today I witnessed it again. We had our Arabic Heritage final. This one, unlike the 3% on EES, was worth 30%. About 10 minutes into the exam, the professor walks to the back of the room and picks up a pile of papers from a student's desk. The moron had copied all semester's notes onto about 3 pages and was literally copying it onto the exam. He was asked to leave and the professor showed us as proof incase the student tried to appeal it. No more than 2 minutes later, the student comes back in and says something to the professor. I couldn't hear what he said, but the professor replied "if you're trying to graduate, you wouldn't have tried to cheat". Apparently the student was supposed to graduate this semester but will probably not pass now that he'll be getting a zero on the final. Serves him right. He obviously has something to learn before he gets out of college. He also apparently tried the same thing on the midterm but the professor looked away and let him go. Too bad you can't have a cheat sheet for life. 

How did I do on this exam? I probably failed. It wouldn't surprise me. Why? 1. I don't speak arabic and there were several translation questions (as there have been all semester) 2. I have a really hard time with arabic names (they all sound the same to me) 3. Many of the questions came from the presentation last week and I despise the fact that our grade is in the incompetent hands of others (I swear I didn't learn a thing from the presentations) 4. The book is full of arab and Islamic propaganda that can't be backed up or proven. Who wrote the book? Who knows. There is no author. It's a copied book that looks like a compilation of internet articles and brochures. Some of the pages are vertical, others horizontal. Some of the information is copied directly from websites (which is honestly how we learned in class some days).  The professor told us if we want more information to go to these Islamic websites. Hello! Can you smell the evangelism?! And tell me, where is the credibility when a professor pulls up this Islamic website, has us read it aloud all class and discuss the opinions it's "teaching"? Maybe to other Muslims it's totally legit, but if I wanted to be preached to about the "truths of Mohammed", I'd find a mosque. There is plenty of evidence he lived, but not everyone believes in the same religion. This is not a religion class, if it were, we would have been aloud to have discussions about it. The professor refused to acknowledge anyone else's opinion on the topic and simply left it at what the article said. And yes, this was tested on the exams. 

But I don't want to get into the religious argument. The point of this blog is to write about the cheating. So back to that.

Cheating doesn't end with just copying on homework and exams. Another huge problem here is negotiations. Some professors won't even entertain the idea, but other can be convinced to change just about anything. One professor, actually asked us the class before a midterm if we'd rather take it that week or the next. Another professor told us to negotiate amongst ourselves (there were only 8 of us in the class) when we want the midterm and let him know... If you don't have your homework done (or haven't had time to copy it) just ask the professor if you can turn it in before he left the office that day. I've never heard them decline that request. 

Some of the other hand, ironically the non-arab professors (I'm not making any judgement on nationality, just a classification of who doesn't do it) rarely do this. The turkish thermo professor sticks strictly to the course policy. Things are turned in on time, no late assignments, midterms and finals are clearly marked on the syllabus and don't even think about negotiating your grade. Before we could take the final, we all had to agree to not approach him about our final grade. He would let us see our final exam, but we were not aloud to discuss the final letter grade. 

My Spanish music professor wrote to us the Etiquette Rules of Post-Exam Consultation. And I have all the respect in the world for him for it, too. He made it clear that there was to be no "grade-related negotiation, haggling, quibbling, wrangling or arguing", because as he states, it's discriminatory and unprofessional. If two students do work to similar standards all semester, they should receive the same grade. If one of those students goes to the professor and they get their grade raised, where is the justice in that? 

After all is said and done, I have had some really great professors. They are all great, genuine people. Especially my music professor. He's new here also, so he and I could relate in a lot of ways (especially being musicians in a society that really doesn't value music). He worked so hard in making me conformable here and when he sensed that I was having a rough time, approached me and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I have so much gratitude for him. 

AUS really is a great school, don't get me wrong. I just wish the student would work a little harder at keeping up it's good name reputation. It won't take long for it to be known otherwise. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time Flies; Just Remember - You're the Pilot

Time is such an arbitrary idea. Sure, it's defined by finite actions - 1 day = 24 hours, 1 hour = 60 minutes, 1 minute = 60 seconds and so on, but does that really mean anything to us?

When we're excited and can't sleep, time drags on forever. When we're doing something we enjoy, time flies by. What does it even mean to "perceive time"? Is it really the time we are perceiving? Or is it the events or changes in time? This is just a paradox. In the notion of perceiving an event followed by another. Perhaps flowing in a straightforward motion.

So why is it, that if what we are really perceiving are the events, that they are what goes by the fastest? Shouldn't time slow down to allow us the most "time" in the pleasant instances?

What about your memory? What's the earliest memory you can remember? Think of a date in the past. Can you remember exactly what you did that day? But what about your graduation day? Or prom or wedding day? Or other memorable event? I bet a significant day you can remember exactly what the air smelled like when you woke up. There's no logical reason why we can't remember insignificant details of the past. The human brain is more than capable of it. In fact some people can.

What brought this up, you ask? In 5 days I'll be flying home. Back to the good old US of A. 4 1/2 months have flown by. Sure many time I felt like it would never end. But looking at the big picture, I feel like i just got here. Some moments I remember vividly - like my first night. I didn't have a phone, my computer battery was dead, and there was no internet. I was literally cut off from the world and there wasn't a single person I could talk to because there was no one here. I remember every thought that went through my head as I laid in bed crying, wondering if I made the right decision to come.

How do we perceive precedence amongst events? Why do I chose to remember that night over what I did the entire first few weeks? Life is full of these questions and I continue to ask myself how over 4 months have gone by and how I didn't take advantage of every opportunity here. I met so many great people but never actually got close to many of them. I guess part of knowing it's a terminal friendship kind of hinders that. It's a shame, too. With so much spare time and no extracurricular activities, why didn't I spend extra time studying to get A's in all of my classes? Sure I could have; but I decided to do more recreational activities instead. I guess that's just a choice in how we spend the little amount of time we are given. 

I had a great time being here. The low points and emotional agony just made the good times even better. Life would be boring if nothing bad ever happened. Would the weeks before spring break been better if I wasn't in the hospital having emergency surgery? Sure. I wouldn't have missed so much school work, including a midterm and many lectures and I also would have had more time to enjoy my free time. But without being rushed around Sharjah in an ambulance, I'd have one less story to tell. I wouldn't be able to constantly laugh when I think about honey (ask me later, I might just tell you the story) or any of the other things that happened. I swear I could write a novel about those 3 days in the hospital!

Moral of the story: value the time you are given. You only get to live once.

It's been 130 days and I have only 5 left. Time to make them the best 5 days of the semester!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Sorry it has taken so long to post a blog about this past weekend - I haven't had 4 seconds to sit still! Anyway, in case you didn't know, I went to Kuwait for the weekend. Random, right?

We left Thursday afternoon, as soon as we were all done with classes. By we, it was Irfan, Sarah and myself. We flew on AirArabia again (the budget airline, only costed $150 round trip!) from Sharjah International Airport (literally only a hop, skip and a jump away from campus). The flight was only an hour and a half but because of the time difference and arriving a bit early, it only took 15 minutes relative time. Cool, huh? So we got there and took a taxi to the hotel. Instead of having running meters, they have fixed prices for everything, which was different, but not bad. We went to check in but had some problems because someone *cough*Irfan*cough* lost his wallet the day before. Don't worry, he got it back a few days later (with everything inside! Gotta love that about this country) So they had to get some approvals to charge his card without him actually having it, but it gave us a chance to sit down, have some coffee and just relax before we went out.

So everything settled and we got to our rooms. They were pretty nice and had a beautiful view. Too bad the windows were incredibly dirty.

That night we just walked around the street we stayed on. We picked that hotel because of its location. There was a lot of stuff within walking distance and a lot of people out just enjoying the weather.

The next day was our only full day there, so we did the few touristy things there were to do in the country. We started at Kuwait Towers. They are three pointy towers with a big ball on the end. One is a restaurant  another is an observation deck and we're not sure what the other was. That was pretty cool, it had a really great view. The water looks incredible from up there.

Then we went to Marina Mall. It's apparently a big attraction? All the tour books said to go there. So we walked around there, ate some food, walked around the marina, then headed back to the hotel because it was so dang hot. Irfan's friend, Fatima came to hang out with us later. She picked us up from the hotel and took us to a place called the Chocolate Bar. The name alone makes it sound like my kind of place. The food was excellent and do I even need to describe the desert?? We kind of rolled out of the mall and back into her car. Talk about a sugar crash!

The Chocolate Bar was is The Avenue's mall, another attraction the tour books recommended. Now that we've done everything everyone recommends, we had another half of a day before we had to go back to the airport. So the three of us, Fatima, her two friends, and their visiting friend (so 3 Americans, 1 German, 1 Kuwaiti, and 2 Canadians) had brunch at (yet another) recommended restaurant then went to the Kuwait Aquarium.

They should have called it the zoo and aquarium since the first half was all desert animals. I was quite confused when I didn't see any fish for quite a while. The place was really nice. Saw some really cool animals that you definitely can't find in the states. Luckily this place let you take pictures, unlike the one in Sharjah.

By this time it was just about time to head back to the airport and go back to Sharjah. We said goodbye to our new friends and parted ways.

Kuwait was overall a pretty cool place to visit. Definitely not something I could do for longer than a weekend, though. Not much to do there and it doesn't flaunt their money. Yes, they have tons of it. But you wouldn't know it based on what Kuwait City looks like. There aren't flashy cars, or huge unnecessary high rise buildings. It had a nice feel to it though. Another safe gulf country with lots of oil money.

That was pretty uneventful till we got on the plane. I was rummaging around the gift shops since I didn't buy anything that says Kuwait when they made the first call for our flight. Sarah went ahead and got on while Irfan waited for me. By the time we got on, there were people sitting in the wrong seats all over the place. Sarah was sitting in our row with two random women. They finally moved and we got our seats when all of a sudden there is yelling coming from two or 3 rows behind us. There was a Khaliji woman sitting in an Indian woman's seat. As soon as I saw that, I knew it was going to be bad. The Khaliji woman was with either one or two others, but since they were behind me and not saying much, I couldn't really tell. The Indian woman was there with her two small children. The seats belonged to the Indian family, but the flight attendant tried to separate the three of them just so the plane could take off. The women was yelling that she had paid for those seats and was not going to be separated from her children (she had every right to be upset). The arab woman kept refusing to move and couldn't understand why the family couldn't just go somewhere else. It started to escalade. The Indian woman was yelling about her lack of intelligence and asked how she's so stupid that she can't even read her ticket and even went so far as to say "you might have money, but I have brains!"Finally the flight attendants convinced the Arabs to move to their right seats and the Indian family took their appropriate seats. That wasn't the end of it, though. Throughout the whole flight people were yelling in Arabic. I couldn't understand most of it, but I'm assuming most was directed towards her (not that she could understand it either). I was so happy when we landed, I just wanted the yelling to stop!

As much as I hate to say it, that whole fiasco pretty much sums up the attitude between ethnicities. It's kind of sad, but it's what I've observed over the past four months.

Now its time for our last week of classes! Alhumdulah! Next week is finals, then a few days later, I'm coming home!

Khalas! That's all for now!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gone but not forgotten! <\3

It's never a good feeling when you lose someone or something very close to you. It's that sinking feeling knowing they won't be there the next time you need them. I lost the one that was always by my side, no matter what I did or where I went. That one that always held my hand when I was in trouble. The one that always gave me an answer when I had none.

I never gave her enough credit. Like I used her over and over again. She never complained. If I could go back now, I wouldn't take her for granted; she gave me so much that I couldn't get by myself. She was intelligent beyond all belief!

That feeling is gone forever now. That security is something I will never feel again. Can it be replaced? Maybe. Maybe in time. I don't know how much time, however. No one really does. I'll be ok, I have friends around me to keep me together; shoulders to cry on, hands to hold.

She wasn't just my calculator - she was my lifeline! She was always there for me! Always right there by my side, willing to lend me a hand when I was stuck. She traveled the world with me! And what did I do? I walked out on her! I never even said good-bye :'( I'm so sorry! They came in in such a rush and I my mind was occupied; I can't believe what I've done!

You always gave it you'r all. You were there for me in the hard times; especially exams. When I didn't know, you always did. You're always sure to make me smile. Like when someone tells me the temperature in Celsius and I don't know if it's hot or cold, you assured that I'd be dressed appropriately. You were so smart, had so much potential. I never gave you a question you couldn't answer. Sure you had a few syntax errors, but they were always my fault! And I forgive you for that one exam when I was solving for angles and you were in degrees when I needed radians. Everyone makes mistakes. But you got right back on your game!

You might be gone, but I will never forget you! <3

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thermo, O Thermo

Thermo O Thermo, O how I loath thee,
Thermo O Thermo, why must you torture me?
I feared you at first, with little to excite,
I'm late everyday, try as I might.
Your tests did I fail, but study did I do,
Homework was simple, but not exams too.
Time had gone by and pass I would not,
To drop the class was what I sought.
A year had gone by, a second chance had appeared,
The professor is different, but content is mirrored.
Classes are bigger and much more involved,
Homework's the same, it hasn't evolved.
Thermo O Thermo, I am trying my best,
Thermo O Thermo, please help with the rest.
I do all the homework, copy do I not,
Understand the material, or so I thought.
It's down to a final, the last grade I will get,
Well I will do, for grades are not set.
My highest grade yet, is soon to come,
Thermo just wait, for I am not done.
Thrice in this class, I just will not do,
Thermo just wait, I am coming for you!

-Yours Truely

Monday, May 9, 2011

You Know You're From Dubai When...

Everyone knows each other.

You love Zaatar W Zeit.

You have never ridden a public bus.

You laugh at how small malls in America or Europe are compared to Dubai.

Taxi drivers play really loud Indian music and won't turn it off.

Ferraris and Lamborghinis are a totally normal sight.

You know some phrases in Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu, and/or Arabic.

You have a maid/know some people with maids.

Your dentist's office is in some villa in Jumeirah.

You've smoked shisha.

You've eaten in the bathroom at the mall during Ramadan.

A thunderstorm makes front page news.

You've gotten lost in Madinat Jumeirah.

You have Mall of the Emirates memorized and have Dubai Mall almost memorized.

You can get cheap Indian food anywhere.

You don't know how to pump gas.

80 degrees Fahrenheit is cool.

70 degrees Fahrenheit is chilly.

You spend Halloween night at the Lakes/Meadows/Springs.

People who aren't from Dubai always ask if you've been in the Burj Al Arab.

You get groceries from Spinney's and Choithram's.

Shawarmas are fast food.

You can't imagine life without A/C.

Everyone has more than one cell phone.

In McDonald's, a hamburger is called a beefburger.

Your house doesn't have carpet floors.

McDonald's has McArabias.

When you get days off when it rains [rain days].

When it rains, everyone runs outside.

You have accidentally said "close" or "open" the light.

A Lamborghini speeds by your car and you don't even blink.

You've crossed really big roads, 4 lanes and above!

When you go overseas, you get kind of scared of thunderstorms since you rarely see them in Dubai.

When you have a few extra days off, you go to Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, or Muscat.

You find American news/American CNN to be highly idiotic---you watch CNN International/BBC News/Al Jazeera instead.

You watch MTV Arabia.

One word: SHAWARMAS.

You love the fact that most places are open 7 days a week.

You love that the malls close really late.

People get excited when it's really cloudy.

When it rains, newspapers always do a 2-page spread showing people walking in the rain.

People overseas are always asking about the beaches.

If you don't speak Arabic, the only words you know are "yallah!" "habibi" and "khalas!"

You call all your friends habibi/habibti, even if you don't speak Arabic.

You have developed a high heat tolerance.

You can never see the stars in the sky, so when you go overseas and see them, you are always fascinated.

IF YOU GO TO DAA (i dont know about other schools) - you can see the burj al arab and jumeirah beach hotel from some of your classes :)

When you go overseas, you are surprised and slightly annoyed at how slow everyone drives.

When you know that even if a you see a school's name followed by the word "college", it's not actually a college.

You attempt to fast during Ramadan.

You are never surprised to see the police speeding by in a Mercedes, BMW, or even a Hummer.

Your school parking lot is like an exotic cars showcase.

When you're WAY cooler than everyone who doesn't live/hasn't lived in Dubai.

Unknown Biases

In school, the most prominent history we learn is of our own. As an American, we start with European history and move to American once we know enough background. Here in the Arab world, (although I'm not for sure what they learn in grade school) college history starts with the beginning of Islam. I would image most nationalities follow a similar schematic. Since they introduce us to the basic concepts so young and are constantly drilled with it, the more detailed information doesn't come as much of a surprise. Today I faced a mental battle in Arabic Heritage class.

All semester we've been learning about Islam and the Arabs, where they started, how the spread and certain hardships they experienced. However, today went from fact to opinion. For the second time in less than a month, the professor taught straight from an internet site. He posted a link on the school's website for us to be able to access it ourselves and also had it up the entire class. He treated us like middle schoolers as he had someone read it aloud and every paragraph or so he would explain something. This is the link:

Notice anything wrong right off the bat? If you noticed its a .com and not a .edu/.gov/.net site, you'd be right. We are criticized all of the time for using .com in research papers because you can't trust them. They are individual's sites that can have whatever information the author wants on them; true or not. The page is very opinionated, calling Spain and all of Europe around 750 filthy, uneducated and basically incompetent. One guy in my class took great offense and displayed that during class. He grew up in that area and knew it wasn't true. But the article wanted to make the point that the Arabs cleaned up Europe. Made it better in every way possible.

I was getting a little upset by this point as well. For as long as I've been studying European history, the muslims have never played a dominant role in the formation of the power that Europe became. The article lists things they brought, such as "Irrigation systems imported from Syria and Muslimia turned the dry plains... into an agricultural cornucopia. Olives and wheat had always grown there. The Muslims added pomegranates, oranges, lemons, aubergines, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, pams, henna, woad, madder, saffron, sugar-cane, cotton, rice, figs, grapes, peaches, apricots and rice." (Burke, 1985, p. 37).

The article also said the Muslims brought all of the knowledge to Europe: 
     "The subjects covered by the texts [brought by the arabs] included medicine, astrology, astronomy pharmacology, psychology, physiology, zoology, biology, botany, mineralogy, optics, chemistry, physics, mathematics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, music, meteorology, geography, mechanics, hydrostatics, navigation and history." (Burke, 1985, p. 42)

As you can also see, the author only quoted one person. I counted thirteen quotes from the same person on a three page article. Very opinionated quotes, might I add, including, 
"The intellectual community which the northern scholars found in Spain was so far superior to what they had at home that it left a lasting jealousy of Muslim culture, which was to colour Western opinions for centuries" (Burke, 1985, p. 41)

The real kicker to me was when Columbus was brought up. The article mentions the "coincidence" of 1492 when both Columbus discovered America and when the Ummayyads were forced out of Spain. The professor went on about finding the new world and the Ummayyads being too busy killing each other to be bothered. He asked our opinions and I raised my hand. I said it couldn't possibly be a coincidence since they had already discovered America many years before and Columbus didn't know it was even a new place. The prof was confused and I understood the confusion so I gave a brief explanation. 

It's unclear who actually discovered America because communication between country's discoveries was a bit lacking. Most believe the Chinese discovered it first many years before Columbus (around 1421). Even if you do give Columbus the credit for it, he thought it was India and even so, never reached the mainland, only the southern islands around the Bahamas. In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci came along in 1497 and "discovered" it. This being said, Columbus's discovery would have had no impact on the Muslim Spain. The prof, not liking what he was hearing, tried to change to "so the muslims discovered America". This irritated me even more because he was trying to make a point that the muslims HAD to have something to do with everything good that happened in that time period.

Regardless of what happened back then, and the opinions of people today, the whole thing really got me thinking. The idea what we only hear what we want to hear is so absolutely true, it's disgusting. Teachers so often only tell the facts that make things seem better for one group, or worse if the idea is to make them look bad. Had a non-muslim been teaching this class, the topic of muslim Spain would have been portrayed in a completely different way. I guess a lot of it, is to teach to the majority to reduce the risk of a complaint. In high school, if even one kid complains about biases, the teacher can get into a lot of trouble. Of course it's a lot different in college, but the same principle is there. 

Although it's not just internet sites with strong opinions vs. fact. I recently read a book called "Why we Suck" which is just that; why America sucks. It's a great book, very funny, but I wouldn't recommend ever quoting it in a relevant situation. Another book I'm currently reading, call The Essentials of the Islamic Faith begins the very first chapter with the quote "The existence of God is too evident to need any arguments." Now this certainly may be a majority's opinion, but certainly not a fact that can be used in an argument. 

I guess to sum up what I'm trying to say, is that I've never seen first had the result of "we hear what we want to hear" when it comes to education. Obviously this happens in social context all of the time, but when we think about higher education I, personally, have always been under the impression it's all fact. I guess I've been proven wrong.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Week with the 'rents

So this past week my parents came for a visit. They were supposed to get in Wednesday night, although because of technical difficulties in the plane, their flight was cancelled, then cancelled again, then roughed through London, they didn't get here until the wee hours of Friday morning. After they napped for a bit, I finally got to see them. They said it took 4 hours to get from the airport to their hotel in Diera (I'm pretty sure I can walk that in about 30 minutes...) and about an hour to get from their hotel to campus. Driving here is insanely difficult. Roads are almost as crazy as the drivers. Here is a recap of the week they were here:

They finally made it to campus and I showed them around for a bit. There was nobody here; the campus was literally deserted. The only people we saw were a few other exchange students. We ate on campus then headed out. Because their luggage was lost somewhere between Pittsburgh, Atlanta, London and Dubai, I took them to Carrefor to get some essentials. Hoping they wouldn't get their luggage until after 24 hours so they would get some reimbursement, they each bough some soups and clothes to get them by. Their luggage, to no surprise, showed up just before that 24 hour mark the next morning.

We were going to go to Abu Dhabi on Saturday because it was one of the only full days we would have. The parents had other plans. Because the maps were so off (roads are built and changed here on a daily basis - but who told them to bring the gps and not rely on maps?? I couldn't imagine who would recommend such a thing!) they went back to the airport to rent a gps to go along with the car instead of said paper maps. This along with not waking up till noon put us not leaving Sharjah until around 3pm. Not gonna work. So we decided to find something local to do. I suggested the old souq in Sharjah, the gps had different plans. We ended up at the Corniche in Dubai, which worked out. We walked around a bit, then went to the marina to see some old ships, found the Dubai spice and textile souqs, ate some arabic food and called it a day.

I had class at day and a steel design midterm until 6:30 so I didn't get to see my parents on Sunday. They did some tours and saw some stuff on their own though. I couldn't comment on exactly what they did since I wasn't there..

After my classes, the came to pick me up and we headed back to Diera for a dinner cruise along the Dubai creek. It was pretty nice. They served the traditional arabic picnic foods: lamb, chicken, rice, hummos, salads, and a bunch of other stuff. The entertainment was... unique.. to say the least. The dude in the dress spinning, I've seen before. The other 3 - nope - and never want to again. The first was a belly dancer with a costume that made her stomach the face and had fake arms the moved as she did. The second one was just awkward. It was a guy in a costume bent over so it looked like 2 ppl dancing together. Finally was a white horse. Your typical two guys in a horse costume. It attacked me. And it hurt. End of story. Check my facebook for pics, there are too many needed to post on here.

After classes tuesday, my parents were supposed to pick me up and then take me to the Sharjah souqs. My professors had other plans for me. I had another midterm the next day and a ton of homework so I had to cancel my plans to study. Bummer.

Wednesday was basically like Tuesday except I wasn't planning on going anywhere with them. They planned a desert safari that left before I finished classes. So they went without me while I stayed home and did homework.

After class Thursday, they came and picked me up yet again and let me pick dinner anywhere I wanted (although I do believe they vetoed the Burj Al Arab). I chose Medinat Jumierah. Its a very nice place. Like a little modern yet very traditional resort complete with it's own souq, river, abras, hotel and everything else that goes along with that. I chose a restaurant called Times of Arabia; it was rated 5 stars and served traditional food. I enjoyed it and I think they did too. Although they keep saying "it's good but I don't know what I'm eating!" After dinner and walking around for a while, I went back to their hotel with them and spent the night.

Finally we went to Abu Dhabi. We first tried to go to the Emirates Palace, but we tried to go in the wrong entrance and they wouldn't let us in without reservations. So we gave up on that idea and headed to heritage village. It was alright but I wasn't impressed. It was basically just like an outside museum that recreated what Arabia looked like before civilization. We walked around for a bit after that then headed to the Marina mall to eat. Dad wanted American food, so we ate at Fuddruckers. Of course, it was a good meal LOL. Then we went to find the Sheikh Zayed mosque. The gps was being retarded and wouldn't give us directions at first but we eventually got there. I wasn't impressed by it. Of course it was also Friday so we (as non-muslims) couldn't go in. So we had enough and headed home. Of course neither way was a direct trip (not for lack of trying). We took several accidental detours but eventually made it.

Saturday was an IXO trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa. I bought my parents tickets so they could come up with all of us. I had to buy them online several days early because they are always sold out the day of and usually the entire next day as well. It was pretty nice. Cool to finally see that observation tower, but looking out into Dubai, I was kind of disappointed in the view. I was also disappointed that we didn't actually learn anything about the building itself. I met and had lunch with one of the head engineers of the Burj before I came to the UAE and I learned much more from him than I did actually being there. I know they don't need to bore everyone with all those facts, but to most people, simple facts are interesting, not just to engineers. After coming down, my parents, Irfan, Caitlin and I had lunch at a restaurant in the mall. After eating, and before the check came, my mom and dad had to leave to go catch their plane. We said our goodbyes and they left.

They arrived back in the states about a day later; luckily they didn't have any problems going home.

Thats a pretty basic outline of their week here. There are plenty of pictures on my facebook and if you don't have a facebook but would like to see them, feel free to contact me and I'll send some your way.

Peace out!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Break in Istanbul!

I guess this is where I'm supposed to write about my trip and all the cool things I saw..
Well the stories begin no further than customs in Turkey. Britton and I went straight through, Irfan wasn't so lucky. They went through his passport with a magnifying glass making sure it was legit; asked him tons of questions like where he was from, where he "bought" his passport and where he parents were from. After about a half hour, we went back over to him to see what's going on (this is after the 8 armed guards left him). They asked if we were with him and obviously said yes.. so they took our passports too. After taking Irfan into the back and interrogating him some more, including asking him to sign a blank paper to compare the signatures, they let us go through. An hour after that mess began, we grabbed our bags and found the driver that was taking us to the hotel (this is all at around 1am, btw)

The hotel was pretty nice.. really small though. But for the price, cleanliness and proximity to everything, the size was OK with me. The Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, metro station and many other things were only about a 5 minute walk down the street.

Because of our late arrival, the next day we got a pretty late start. We had some really good local food and walked around this nice little park (that was an accident, we were looking for the Basilica Cistern). We finally made it and realized it was hiding in plane sight. Basically, it's an underground water basin kept to make sure the church (later turned into a mosque) above it had water. I'm not sure of the exact story of it, though.

We did some shopping; looked at some nice carpets and Irfan fell in love with a baby lamb leather jacket. This begins my new addiction to Turkish apple tea. Everywhere you go, they give you turkish tea. Usually they just give it to you unless you're in a cafe or something, then you obviously order it. Its delicious and I ended up buying a few packages of it to take home.

The next day we went to the Hagia Sophia (pronounced hi-ya sophia). This place was pretty amazing. I didn't read too much about it, so I couldn't tell you much, but I do know it was originally and orthodox patriarchal basilica, later turned mosque, later turned museum. This place is amazing! It's so absolutely beautiful and you can spend hours in it looking at all the architecture and calligraphy.

Of course on this day we also walked around the streets, ate some amazing food and just had a good time. We were standing in this courtyard when we ran into one of the guys that sells the leather jackets Irfan was looking at. They talked some prices and we went back. After some more negotiation, they were still on different pages about the prices and we left empty handed. 

For the third day, we decided to take a pre planned tour with a tour company. We saw a company in one of the areas we were in a lot and picked out one that looked good. It was an all day tour that picked you up from your hotel and provided lunch for 65 Euro/140 Lira/ $110. We started at the castle of 7 towers, which, mom, close your eyes for the next sentence, is a liability waiting to happen. It was really cool to see it, though. It's not a castle, its a fort, I'm not sure why they insist on calling it a castle. You can go up on the walls where the guards would be, but there are no railings or walls to keep you from falling off.. nor are there railings on the flimsy staircases going up or down (don't worry, we only lost a few people at that stop)

Next was the Chora museum. Not too exciting, just a small church with a lot of mosaic artwork. There was a small cafe outside and some more shops, but nothing extravagant happened here.

Then onto Pierre Loti Hill. We parked the bus and took cable cars to the top of this incredibly steep hill. It had a great view and we took some pictures then went into a cafe for some turkish coffee and tea (are you beginning to see where my addiction came from yet?).  

Next was lunch; more turkish kabobs. Then the Rustempasha mosque; just another mosque. The next stop was the spice bazaar. We only had about a half hour to walk around inside and told specifically to meet back at 2:20. There were only 6 of us to begin with and 3 of them didn't show back up. We waited for a bit longer but had to leave them behind because next was a Bosphorus cruise that we couldn't miss. The Bosphous river connects the Black sea and the Sea of Marmara (basically the Mediterranean to the Black sea). This was nice to just sit back and watch both the European side and the Asian side with a tour guide who could tell us about all the buildings on either side. 

That pretty much sums up that day. Busy, but a lot of fun.

The final two days consisted of meeting up with Caitlin and Irfana (each on a different day), going to the grand bazaar (some serious bargaining was going on there), the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. 

So after a great 5 days in Istanbul, we headed home. Unfortunately this meant we got back to our dorms at around 8am..  So I slept most of the next day :-)

All in all it was a great trip, and one of the best spring breaks ever. Definitely worth the expense! 

As always, there are tons of pictures on my facebook, so check them out! If you don't have a facebook, I can send you some if you'd like!

Ma'a salama! 


Friday, April 1, 2011

I just wanted to experience Sharjah's hospital!

After a great competition in Dubai, I spent the next few days in the hospital. I've had an abscess in my lower back for a few days, and stubborn me waited until the pain became unbearable to actually see a doctor about it. I finally did late Saturday night. I saw the dorm nurse and she immediately took me to the health clinic and called a doctor. She gave me some pain killers, antibiotics and told me to come back first thing in the morning.

The next morning (Sunday) right upon entering the health clinic, I was reexamined. Anna was called and I was promptly put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital. The "emergency surgery" was going to have to wait a few hours for insurance to be taken care of. This was such a nightmare. My primary insurance back in the states, although an international plan, would not cover it up front. In my state of pain, I didn't care to pay. I would have handed them cash if it would have moved things along faster. But alas, we waited, made phone calls, and found out the MexEx insurance (the student insurance that we had to buy through ISEP) would cover everything upfront.

A few hours later, I was laying in a very nice private hospital room waiting for the anesthesiologist to knock me out. Before I knew it, I was waking up in the middle of the night covered in bandages, pain-free and slightly loopy. The doctor finally came back to talk to me in the morning and told me exactly what was going on. He said he drained two mugfuls of fluid from the abscess and that it was the largest abscess he's ever seen in his 30 years of surgery. I felt slightly accomplished. He also said I really should have seen a doctor a lot sooner.

I spend another 2 days in the hospital (3 days total) just laying around. Anna stayed with me the entire first day (God bless her and everything she did for me! :-) ), then she brought Caitlin, Irfan and Britton the next day, and her and Caitlin came to bring me home on Tuesday. I was so grateful for them coming, it really made me feel a lot better about everything. Linda sent a beautiful arrangement of flowers and someone sent a fruit bowl and smaller flowers, but they didn't have a card, so unfortunately I don't know who they were from.

The hospital, for the most part, was really nice. The room was great, had a nice flatscreen TV, even had a fold out bed. It was kept very clean; a woman must have come in twice a day to clean it. The nurses were friendly (some didn't speak very good english and we had a few "lost in translation" moments, but most everything got across ok) until one kicked me out.. literally. On tuesday morning, the nurse told me I would be able to leave in about 1-2 hours, so I called Anna. Her and caitlin arrived and we just waited. I was waiting for someone to discharge me so I could leave. Well one of the nurses walked in and literally, almost yelling, said "what are you still doing here?!" We all just kind of stared until I said I was waiting for someone to release me. She said she was waiting for me to go to the cashier before she would bring my medication and I could go. Not something I'm used to in the states. So I had to change, go downstairs, check out, then come back, before they would remove the needle in my hand and let me go. Every time I saw her after that she would explain how there is a breast cancer patient waiting for my room and I was supposed to leave hours ago! Well.. no one gave me any instructions! How was I supposed to know what to do?

So anyway, I came back to my dorm and spend the next day just laying around and relaxing. Now I'm stuck doing make up work and trying to catch up everything I missed. So everything is ok now, and I'll return to classes on Sunday.

Hopefully that was my first, last, and only trip to a UAE hospital!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Whoever said I can't build a bridge...

This past Saturday was the American University in Dubai's 3rd annual wooden bridge competition. I was asked if I wanted to participate around the 2nd week I was here, since I'm a member of ASCE. I said why not, and was put onto a team with three members who have competed before. We worked for many weeks drawing, designing, and testing in SAPP (a computer program that shows stresses). Once we agreed on a design we went straight to work. We printed a 1:1 scale CAD drawing to place the members on and cut the wood beams to their right lengths, cut the gusset plates out and began the gluing process.

Once the trusses were done, we put in some bracing and voila! We have a 2 meter long wooden bridge! Below is my team and our bridge.

A few days before the competition there was some disputes over where the three points of loading would be. The original instructions we're unclear and interpreted differently between schools and groups. So they sent out a few emails in successive days trying to explain, however, in the process, explained it incorrectly. In the end, they decided to just do a one point load to make it fair to everyone. This is what the loading device looks like: 

If you're interested and would like to know how it works, ask me in person one day, because I could spent the next 3 hours trying to explain it. 

When we first finished the bridge, looking at it, I imagined it holding somewhere around 200 pounds at the most. I mean its a wooden bridge! When we got up to the loading deck for testing, I couldn't have been more surprised. While watching from the side, I heard a loud snap after a few minutes. I thought it was a member. It wasn't. The metal rod snapped inside of our bridge! They stopped the loading while everyone was chanting "break that bridge!" to add a 2nd metal rod and continued loading. It held 1710lbs! (776kg) and weighed only 5.6kg. 

Scoring is done by dividing the load it carried by the weight^2.

We were well in the lead when we went and there were only 8 of 23 teams left. Until one of the last University of Sharjah teams went and carried 35 more kgs than our. We were bumped into 2nd place were we finished. Now bad for being open to the entire UAE. Definitely a great first experience for me. When I go back to Marshall, I'd like to see if we can incorporate this into either the curriculum or just have out own competition some day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Among my souvenirs

Oh what a weekend..

Thursday night
I went out with one of my IXO friends. She took me jet skiing first which I thought was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun (and cheap!) to just ride around the Sharjah creek (its not like a normal creek, more like a bay). Afterwards, however, wasn't so much fun. The indian worker tried to accuse me of crashing the jet ski, obviously trying to take advantage of me being a foreigner and just make some money. I didn't crash and no one hit me. So he and my friend argued in arabic for a while and he wouldn't give us our IDs back. Finally she called the police because we just wanted to leave. The three of them talked and talked and talked and again, he tried to take advantage of the situation by speaking to the police in Hindu, since neither of us could understand. The police explained that they get calls like this is all the time and because it's easy for them to use and old scratch over and over on different people. Finally the police made him give us our IDs back and told us to tell him we were going to the police station, but really just leave. So we did.
Then we walked along the beach for a while, got some coffee and dinner, then I took the metro home and she went to her home in Dubai.

Spent the morning and early afternoon doing reading and some homework. A little bit of lounging around. Then around 5, went out with some new friends. Sarah, Jumana, Noor, Zeena, and Farah have really taken me in are showing me around the place. First we went to GBK which stands for something about burgers lol Then we went to see Hall Pass, which is incredibly funny and met up with some more of their friends. Then just hung out a while around Dubai. Unfortunately, we were late coming back, but only by a few minutes, so we didn't have to sign. Once we got back, we all went to Jumana's room to just hang out a bit longer. I ended up not leaving until around 3:30 but didn't even realize it was so late. It was a great day, and I had a blast!

Today was another great day. We were supposed to go to falafel for brunch but the other girls didn't actually wake up until around 2 since we were up so late. So we left around 2:30 and went to this nice local restaurant and I actually hate hummus and falafel and drank mint tea. I didn't have a clue what to order, so we just ordered a few different dishes and just shared everything. It wasn't too bad and the falafel was pretty good. Not something I would crave, but not bad to try. If you know me, you'll know I'm a pretty picky eater and don't usually try new things that look like this, but I was feeling adventurous. We then went for ice cream and hung around this little park, but I can't remember the name of it.

All in all, a very nice weekend. I really don't want to go to classes tomorrow. Weekdays always ruin the weekend. But only 5 days till the next one!

Peace out!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Arabian Nights

I've had Arabian Nights stuck in my head all day. Good theme song for the day though, because I finally got to go on a desert safari! :-)

We got picked up at AUS in two land cruisers. Thinking we would take these to the desert then get in some smaller jeeps, we all piled in - 8 people in each. We first stopped at this little market where some of us bought head scarves, some bought knives, some just got water. Then we were off. There was so much anticipation, because literally, we could just drive off the road anywhere and go dune bashing because we were in the middle of the Arabian Desert the entire time. At one point, we started slowing down. Unsure why, we all just looked around and thought we were just gonna cruise off the road but soon realized there were about 20 camels just a walkin' down the center of the highway! The road we were on was your typical Montana, flat, high speed limit but everyone goes way faster because you get so bored driving on it, road. And there are these camels just nonchalantly walking along. Funny thing is, is they were all single file. I'm yet to see just a bunch of camels walking not in line. Weird.

We didn't get into smaller vehicles, but after feeling the V8, I wouldn't want to. That was a pretty incredible experience. I've been 4 wheeling many times; jeeps, trucks, ATVs, slid around on ice. Nothing compares to this. It wasn't quite as intense as I was expecting, but just the feeling was totally different. You could slide like you were on ice, but have the hills like going on dirt. Not to mention the amazing scenery.

After about 20 minutes, we stopped and had a chance to get out and take pictures. And probably the engines needed to cool off a bit. Here are some pictures from when we stopped.

After some more riding, we finally arrived at this "camp site". I'm not exactly sure what to call it, but thats the term I heard them use. They had camels for us to ride, hookah, henna tattoos, abayas and candoras to try on, dancing and lots of food! We obviously started with the camels because who doesn't love camels?? We couldn't ride them long or very far. And they only had two. But it's ok, because they are still awesome!

Then we smoked some hookah, walked around, tried on some abayas and candoras and waited for dinner. They gave us some appetizers first, and since it was dark, I couldn't really tell what it was. But I was feeling courageous and just ate it. It was really good. Something fried and some type of roll. I think Anna said it was an egg roll? Whatever it was, it was good until Danny opened his mouth. I'm still not sure if he was lying or not, but he said to watch out because there is some liver mixed in and you have to make sure to squeeze out the bile first. I lost my appetite.  

Finally the belly dancers came out and so did our food. Dinner was delicious. Lots of different pastas and meats. I think there was chicken, lamb and camel? Again, I'm not sure of what I was eating, but it sure was good!

So we all piled back into the land cruisers and cruised on home. 
So you think the desert - always hot, right? Wrong. Once the sun went down it was cold. To be fair, it was a chilly day, but still. I wish I had a jacket! Might be the last time for a while I think that!

Arabian nights
Like Arabian days
More often than not
Are hotter than hot
In a lot of good ways

Arabian nights
'Neath Arabian moons
A fool off his guard
Could fall and fall hard
Out there on the dunes

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Settling In

Settling in here hasn't been nearly as difficult as I was expecting (I can say that now that we are two weeks into the semester). Some days are rougher than others, but no day has been unmanageable. Which brings me to my next story: *Attempting to spend* A Day at Jumeirah Beach

It started well.. for about the first half hour. Danny left his phone on the bus. Caitlin, Danny, Matt and I took the bus to Rashidya in an attempt to spend the day a the beach. As soon as we got to the metro, the day started downhill. I called Danny's phone, thinking the bus driver would hear it and answer. He didn't, but he did call me back a little later and he and Danny made arrangements to exchange it. We got directions as to which stop to get off and which bus to take and we thought all was going well. Except Matt didn't bring his metro card and had to buy a day pass. So we get off at (what were told) the right stop. 1st We were told the exit to the terminal was on the wrong side of the highway, so we had to go all the way back through to the right side. 2nd We walked though this empty bus parking lot to what we thought was our bus. 3rd We were told our bus should pick us up in the round about. 4th We see bus 88 at the bus stop and run to it to get on. 5th The bus driver won't let Matt on without the right metro card. 6th We can't understand each other, Matt gets off the bus, before we realize what's going on, the door closes and we drive away - without Matt. 7th We start riding and will call him to let him know which exit to get off and meet us. 8th The bus driver makes us swipe our cards, get off the bus for 2 minutes, then get back on. Apparently we were at a terminal and for our cards to be properly accounted for, we had to make it 2 trips. Found out Matt just went back to AUS. 9th We rode the bus practically an entire loop when we got to the round about we were originally told to get on. Fail. 10th We finally get off at the Iranian hospital (which was actually very gorgeous. There is also a beautiful mosque inside the gates) and decide to walk the rest of the way. 11th We finally arrive 3 1/2 hours later. 12th On the metro going back home, someone puked in one of the cars and it stunk. Bad.

Now for everything in between

I guess we can start at #11. This is what the beach looks like - absolutely beautiful!

Unfortunately, by 3:30 it was warm, but the water gave it a cool chill and the water was pretty cold. But we did walk around a bit and go to see some nice scenery. Before we got to the actual beach, we stopped to see another mosque thats right across the street. Unfortunately, they only let the public in between 10 and 11:30 or something in the morning so we couldn't go inside to look around. But the outside was beautiful (as is just about every mosque I've see).

So we're at the beach, laying in the sand, enjoying the nice weather, talking about what we want to do from there. I kept remarking about the quality of the beach. Beaches here (like anywhere in the Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe, basically anywhere besides the US) are nearly flawless. The water is bright blue and clear, the sand is free of broken glass bottles, the sand is well groomed, the landscape is well taken care of; it just looks like a place where the people in charge want people to come to. 

(this is just one of my favorites of the day)

Also at this beach, there is a long dock that goes well out into the bay. It gives you an astounding view of both the beach and the skyline. People walk, roller skate, ride scooters, run, and just enjoy the view. There are also a lot of big rocks surrounding it that a group of older teenage boys (17? 18? 19?) were running on it - bright ones, I'll tell ya. They also started wrestling on the rocks.. right where if you slip, you'll fall onto maybe 10 more feet of rocks into the shallow water surrounding the bay with more rocks at the bottom. But anyway, here is the view back into Dubai. This pictures has quickly become my favorite picture of my trip thus far (and is also my new desktop background).

Aside from that frustrating trip, everything is still going great. I've been reading a lot of things online, like these most recent Somali Pirates and it's pretty upsetting. But know, there is nothing like that going on in the UAE. There is no civil uproar and anything that even points to unrest; so anyone out there concerned, don't be.

Classes are going great. We've gotten our first few homework assignments and for possibly the first time in my life, I have them done more than a week before they are due! We'll see how long that lasts ;-) We've started working on our bridge design for the wooden bridge competition at the American University of Dubai in March. We've only just begun putting together our best drawings and some SAP testing should find the best one through trial and error. I think I have a working model and I hope I can contribute to our group effort. The other three have competed both previous years the competition was held. I'm also starting to make more and more friends from the area, and not just through the exchange program.

Unfortunately, we only get a 1 day weekend and next week is a 6 day week.. I'm not too happy about that. Because of the holiday last Thursday, we have a make up day on Saturday - which means Saturday through Thursday classes. The following weekend will be a much needed break and it's also the weekend we are going on a desert safari! :-)

Well it seems as though I've written a lot more than I expected to. So I guess I'll stop here.
See ya later, crocodiles!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Strike 1!

Global Village is Dubai’s most popular outdoor cultural entertainment and shopping venue, welcoming millions of guests over the last 14 years. It’s the place to watch spectacular live performances, taste an array of authentic cuisines, purchase genuine merchandise from around the globe or spend a whole evening on thrilling rides.

^^ Well, I couldn't sum it up any better, so I took that from their website :-) We, as a group of exchange students, went to Global Village this past Wednesday evening. It was tons of fun and incredible to see all of the culture of this area. It really made me think about America's culture; or lack there of. What does America have? Really? The native Americans? Most American's don't even claim that, nor should we, because all we did was kick them off of their own land! But anyway back to the middle east - this place was so cool to see what each country has to offer. I had my first date in Saudi Arabia, they were awesome! I tried at least 10 different kinds. Some friends I was with at the time bough a combined 10 kilos of them! I sure hope they don't get sick... Other countries had things such as honey, silks, textiles, shoes, fragrances, incense, food, nuts, spices, anything and everything (mostly) authentic.  However, because the bus was late picking us up, we only got to stay for a few hours before it had to take us home.

So Caitlin and I decided to go back yesterday. Anna gave us a ride to Mirdif mall, which was a big help (especially to avoid the extra "you crossed an emirate border, that'll be an extra 20 dirham" charge) and we caught a taxi from there. Normally, it would have been only a 15 minute ride. Not today. We spend around 2 1/2 hours in that taxi.. that's how crowded it was. Traffic was backed up for miles to get off at the exit. We also felt bad because the taxi driver wasn't making any money from just sitting there. When we (thought, anyway) that we could see the entrance, we got out and walked, along with tons of other impatient people on their way. This is about how we felt a half a mile later... vv

This is my "I am not amused" face. The walk wasn't actually that bad. It was a nice evening, too. But finally we got there. Walked around a bit more. Spend some more money. I had the BEST ice cream! The previous day, I had bought book ends from Africa, but when I got home, I realized I got the head of the lion (which I wanted) and the ass of a rhino... So I brought them back. Luckily, the guy remembered me. However, when I was standing in his little shop, waiting, another guy asked me a question about something he wanted to buy. I kinda looked around with that "are you really asking me?" look. I skeptically told him I didn't work there and was just waiting.. That was interesting. But the guy quickly fixed the problem, and I now have both halves of the lion! I also got really cute shoes! :-) 


This is where our adventure really begins. We leave at 11:30 thinking we have plenty of time to get back for our 1am curfew (since it should only take about 45 minutes to get back). Well, we get to the bus stop and there is a line of people several hundred feet long... vv

Thinking "we'll miss curfew before we even get on a bus!", we went to talk to a guy who seemed to work there. He was a big muslim man, the kind you don't mess with. I guess we looked worried, so when the next bus came, he waved us over, held up the line, and told us to get on! 11:45 - We felt kind of bad for cutting line, but who cares? So this bus ended up taking about 45 minutes only to get us deep into Dubai. 12:30 - we arrive at the bus terminal and get on a Sharjah bus (the one the first guy told us would take us straight to AUS). It doesn't. 1:05 - we got off at the closest mall and jump straight into a taxi. Tell him to step on it! 1:25 - we arrive at our respective dorms. Late. Strike 1.

Not a huge deal to be late, just don't let it happen often. I think at 3, you get into some type of trouble. 

 the "lake"
Some guy selling tea

As always, there are many more picture on my facebook, so don't hesitate to check them out! Anyway - Beach tomorrow! :-)

Later Gators!