Well hello there! After a work trip to London, let's get back into the posts with my Dubai Diaries for January.
2013 began with one of my busiest and craziest months at work ever. I don't talk work here, but let me just say once again: it was CRAZY. Part-way through the month, we had a weekend where we saw Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty in a J&J-mini-film-fest, and I loved the Jessica Chastain character in Zero Dark. There's a moment when the head of the CIA says to another guy in a packed room, "who is she?" and she answers, "I'm the motherf'er that found the place." That was what I was channeling at work this month. Kicking butt and taking no prisoners.
Aside from those shenanigans, I moved to a new section of our office and now sit among some friendly Indian and Sri Lankans who joke around and are quite chatty. I drop by the Lebanese friends' section to catch up.
We had some really fun excursions to begin the year: a roadtrip to Al Ain to see the camel market and oasis. I didn't bring a camel home with me, though some of them were really sweet with big cow eyes and eyelashes. We packed a picnic that day and ate under a tree in the oasis, which smelled of thick lush palm and earth. Driving in Al Ain is always crazy - there are these beautiful long palm-lined roads that are almost Californian but the signage is really hard to follow, if it appears at all. The Lonely Planet guide even talks about how it's easy to get lost there, with all of the roundabouts. Thankfully before this roadtrip, I drew a map and wrote the names of all the streets we needed, the long multiple names of Sheikhs. "This... should... be... Sheikh... bin... Khalifa... al... Zubair... YES, this is the street, we're going the right way!!"
There was a super windy day, with the paper reporting huge surf. The next afternoon, the view of the Arabian Gulf was crystal clear, all of that sandy stuff blasted away.
The weather was actually a little chilly all month, and James was able to walk to work every day. Said the friendly man from Ghana whom I usually exchange greetings with when I'm outside our building, bundled up in a thick toque with WASHINGTON written on the brim: "This weather. It's not working for me."
On the morning of the Dubai marathon, we walked out to get to the 10k start line and were greeted with a thick fog blanket, very cool. James was cheering me on, and we almost wished there was a coffee stand set-up for him. The run was excellent, my fastest 10k... ever? Since I started recording my times. Surprisingly good (for me, I'm still the slow-steady type and always will be). To keep warm, James just headed back to the apartment during the race (since it was *right* there), and then he popped into the grocer to get me a chocolate milk at the finish. Yum.
Speaking of the grocery: I had a funny experience there that I wanted to capture because it's something that you sometimes run into as an expat, where the craziest things end up being inexplicably more expensive than anticipated. Like, you know to expect it when you buy truffle blahblah caviar whatever, but pine nuts? Yes, I wanted to make a recipe with some pine nuts so I found a little package and brought it home with my groceries. Yet, the grocery bill had been a lot more than my quick mental ballpark estimate, so I scanned the receipt. And those little dinky pinenuts were 50 Dirhams (like 12 bucks!!). Groceries here tend to be reasonably priced and I do generally pay attention to the prices, but in this case, it was sticker shock. See also: a bag of that prewashed spinach costs about nine bucks, while a wedge of mediocre Parmesan cheese was once priced at ten bucks. I put the cheese back, and now buy frozen spinach, way cheaper. And have now learned my lesson with the pignoli.
Oh Dubai - the ad in the photo below says "A Luxury Car with Every Luxury Hotel Apartment."
One night, we went out for good Mexican food, the kind where they mash the avocado for guacamole right at your table and serve it with chips. When we were hailing our taxi on Jumeirah Road after the meal, cars drove past noisily honking away. Turns out the UAE had won its match in the Gulf Cup football tournament.
Another night, we hit an Argentinean steakhouse that was really fantastic. My colleague in Buenos Aires was pleased as punch to hear what I ordered.
Our local gallery had a neat movie on exhibition; it was a man who put on a blindfold while on a plane here and he spent his entire visit to Dubai in the dark, reacting to the things he could hear and touch.
We got out air conditioners fixed and the guys asked when we last had the filters cleaned. Um, never, and I doubt any of our many landlords even know they have to do this.
And a few moments when I felt like, wow I really *have* been here a while: I got into a taxi and the driver knew where I was going (must have ridden in his cab before), and I went to Starbucks (quite a few times this busy month, with no time to cook) and the barista whom I hadn't seen in 6 months greeted me by name.
Places to remember:
- Al Ain Oasis
- Camel market in Al Ain
- Pavilion exhibits
- Zaroob for lunch
I've been reading some excellent books this month:
- A Hologram for The King, by Dave Eggers: Christmas present from Mom & Dad, really excellent story of a businessman trying to get a deal signed in Saudi Arabia
- Sideways on a Scooter, by Miranda Kennedy: She moves to Delhi and writes about her expat experiences/impressions
- Wings of the Sphinx, by Andrew Camilleri: One of James's faves, on his Ideal Bookshelf, a great crime novel