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!