Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Blog!

I started a new travel blog about my trip to Latin America this summer. Check it out here.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The End

Okay, I'm not doing anything blogworthy here so I think it's time to put this site to rest. I've been lounging around my parents' postage stamp sized studio apartment in Manhattan with my sister and her boyfriend. She's got a journalism internship, he's working on a new CD, and they both wait tables at a Turkish restaurant. I get lost on the subway a lot. I've been trying to find yoga studios and am reading all the instructional books I got in Rishikesh so when school starts I'll be ready to teach my own classes at the rec center (which you should take).

Anyway, things will probably either stay like this, which is not terribly interesting, or I'll come back to VA, which is also not terribly interesting. But don't worry, if I ever start doing anything interesting again I'll make a new blog and let you know right away.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm Back

My flight landed in JFK New York Airport this evening and I'm currently at the apartment, wrestling with a good 9 or 10 hours of jet leg. The weather is a hell of a lot more reasonable here though, and the familiarity of it all puts me at ease.

It's good to be back in the U.S., but it begs the question of what to do with this blog. I'm thinking it may have to be retired until my next international adventure. I dunno, maybe there will be blogworthy stuff here in the Big Apple. I've may spend a few weeks here before heading back to the 'burg. I guess we'll see how things go. Anyway, seeing as I'm in the continent, lemme know if you wanna chill.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Desert Safari

I finally got to see some desert today. The first event was dune bashing, a.k.a. letting basically all the air out of your tires so you at least have SOME traction on the sand and racing up and down huge dunes in a 4WD. It's quite popular here and the dunes are all covered in tire tracks to spoil all my photos. It feels like being in those cheesy car commercials where they drive big SUVs around on exotic terrain to show how rugged and manly you'll feel if you buy it. You feel less manly when the car breaks down though. I also got some quick camel riding in. They're a lot larger than I thought they were, and hanging on while they stand up and sit down can be tricky. They're very cool animals though and they're a lot less unwieldy than the elephants. None of them had wood which was disappointing. I guess I'm just more arousing to elephants than to camels. Then it was time for dinner and the belly dancer. She was pretty good and actually managed to pressure some audience members into participating (I think the bar was a factor in this). There were lots of white, pudgy bellies (including mine) wobbling about in a very unsexy fashion. A few Swiss-German backpacker girls went up as a group and were actually able to shake up something tasty, especially when props were incorporated, but other than that the crowd was pretty pathetic, as is to be expected. Strange that a culture so protective of its women would allow a dance this blatantly sexual to be performed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Head Count

I realized this blog was set up to only allow comments from people with blogger accounts, which I'm hoping is the reason why nobody comments. Anyway, that's fixed now, and I'd like to know how many people actually read this. You don't even have to give your name, I just want to know my readership size. Please?

Towering Achievement

Dubai is like a game of Sim City with cheat codes. It's estimated that 20% of the world's stationary cranes (the ones used for tall buildings) are in Dubai and it's easy to tell driving down Sheik Zayed Road where there are literally hundreds of skyscrapers under construction. Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, clocks in at 141 stories and there are three stationary cranes on top working on another twenty. What makes everything so striking though is it's all been built in the past few decades so everything's ultramodern and flashy. Adding to the atmosphere is a very subtle hint of arabian influence in the architecture.

The iconic Burj al-Arab's design was inspired by traditional Arabian sailing ships called dhows, and with a desert backdrop as well as a coastline, the landscape is striking in a very futuristic, almost alien way. The reason is because of Middle Eastern oil money and prudent management by the Al-Maktoum family, which has produced a life of luxury for the allegedly anti-materialistic Muslim rulers. You can find Emirati women in full burqa sporting several thousand dollar watches here. These men came by to pick up the latest iPod, possibly on their way to the in-mall mosque for afternoon prayer.

The woman helping them is an asian migrant worker, and being both asian and a woman makes her almost as much a product for sale as the iPods. I met female migrant worker and she painted a pretty grim picture of the situation. It's apparently quite common for Arab men in flashy cars to pull up next to foreign girls and flat out proposition them. It's like sampling ethnic food; they just want a taste of Indonesian women, Malaysian women, Chinese women, etc. Furthermore, as non-citizens (even for those born here), they have few if any rights. Work visas can be revoked quite easily and there's a 100 durham a day fine for being here illegally. There are no worker's rights or unions and sometimes jobs are simply taken to be given to full blooded Emiratis---who do not seem to understand how to take direction and therefore are frequently incompetent.

On the one hand the place is super-westernized and modern and on the other it's still ultra-conservative and backward. You can get your kid a McArabia meal at the megamall while using a wifi hotspot without access to websites like Orkut (a popular asian social networking site like Myspace) because of censorship. It will be very interesting to see what it's like here in a few decades.

The general feeling seems to be that the Arabs do not want permanent dependence on foreign labor. If they did, maybe they'd give them citizenship. All expats are simply hired help, and eventually they will finish their jobs and go home. This is impractical, however, as there simply aren't enough Emiratis (who constitute less than 20% of the population) to fill all the lower level positions even if they were willing to, which they aren't.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dubai Days

The first thing you notice about Dubai when you show up in late July is that it is STUPID hot. Like, a hundred and twenty degrees. And with a sixty or seventy pound backpack to lug around that can be a real drag. However, now that I'm in Ethan's palatial studio apartment and have somewhere safe to leave my things, I think I'll be able to handle the heat. I got some good practice in Delhi where temperatures were similar.

The second thing you notice is the architecture. There are huge skyscrapers and ancient forts side by side, patches of desert sand next to huge highways. It's the same with the people. This seems to reflect the culture as well. There are women in burkas and masks walking around next to women in miniskirts with bare midriffs. I don't know much about the country yet but it is certainly interesting enough to be worth learning. Hopefully I will have more insights tomorrow.