Monday, April 14, 2014

Watching Over You

The screen capture below from my iPhone shows the messages I get from the UAE Ministry of Information (MOI) from time to time.  What is this information, you ask?  It is a notification that Cindy is entering and/or leaving the country.  For instance, you can discern below that on January 30, at approximately 7:43pm, Cindy returned to the UAE.  The notification has her name in Arabic (in parentheses, beginning in the first line of the message and continuing onto the second line).  It also has her visa number (which I have blurred). 

In case you're curious, she does not get similar messages about me. 

As best we can discern, male guardians receive messages like this about any dependents.  Cindy is sponsored by me on my visa, therefore I get messages about her.  We have friends, however, where the husband is sponsored on the wife's visa, but the husband still gets the message.  So it seems to be about male guardianship rather than who sponsors whom for a visa.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Even the Ambassador Says So!

by Cindy

An article in our paper recently declared that More US Citizens Should Visit the UAE.  It even quoted William Rugh, who served as US Ambassador from 1992 to 1995.  He said more must be done to encourage US citizens and officials to visit the Emirates to improve their understanding of the country.

We agree and your bedroom is ready for your visit!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

21 Stereotype-Exploding Facts About The Middle East

by Cindy

I cannot say it any better so here it is from someone else.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love living in the Middle East?

Facts About the Middle East

The John Smith of the UAE

by Cindy

I was at the ATM today and I noticed this picture explaining how to insert your card.  I also noticed that here in the UAE the de facto name must be Tariq Adel.  I guess they don't get John Smith over here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Birthday Bash

by Cindy

The kid's birthdays around here are ridiculous - and I don't even have kids!  As an outsider I can see how over the top they are.  I really do feel sorry for the average family who has to try to reciprocate in some way.  For the first birthday people rent hotel ballrooms and it only escalates from there.  The idea of a party at the park doesn't really exist here.  This particular email caught my attention.

It is an advertisement to have your kids birthday at the Atlantis hotel.  There are only two of these hotels in the world so I'm wondering...if you have your birthday here how exactly do you top this?  Maybe next year you go to the Bahamas location.  On your private jet.  And then what???  How exactly do you top that year after year?  I'm thankful we don't have to play this game!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dining in the Dark

by Cindy

Jeff and I recently enjoyed a one-of-a-kind dinner.  We had a reason to celebrate so off we went - how can you resist this advertisement?  “From a pitch-black dining room to waiters with night vision goggles, Noire brings you the thrill of dining in the dark.”

The advertisement goes on to say, “Here’s where your senses come to life as you explore an exotic gourmet menu full of sumptuous surprises and flavours like never before. To make this unforgettable Dubai dining experience truly rewarding, we’re donating 10% of the proceeds to Sightsavers, the international charity organization aiming at combating blindness in developing countries.”

The event was an Italian-themed five course evening with Italian wine pairings.  That was all we knew.  We didn't know what foods would be served nor what wines would be paired. We found out everything at the end of the meal.

The entire evening is limited to 30 people.  Upon arrival there was a brief explanation of the process for dinner.   We were asked if we had any allergies, assured them that we didn't, and so we were ready to go.

When it was time to enter the dining room, a hostess, who was wearing night vision goggles, asked us if we are scared of the dark.  If you answered “yes” to that question, I am not sure what they would have done!  She had me put my hand on her shoulder and Jeff’s hand on my shoulder as we entered.  Jeff and I thought there would be at least a little bit of light but there was nothing.  No sliver of light, no nothing.  You couldn't see your hand in front of your face – not even one inch away from your eyes.  Dark.  Pitch black.  You can’t be afraid of the dark! 

After the evening was over, we tried out the night vision goggles for a picture.
During the dinner, this is what the waitstaff were wearing.

To seat us she guided my hand around the chair so I could tell which way it was facing and told me to sit with my hands in my lap while the other guests were seated.  Once everyone was in place they had us find our napkins right in front of us, directed us to the forks on the left and the bread plate beyond that.  On the right, the spoon and knife and the water glass (plastic) beyond that.  When wine was served, the server would ask us to reach out our hand and he or she would place the glass (again, plastic) in our hand.

Our appetizer  was already on the table and they directed our hands towards that and told us we could go ahead and eat.  They told us it was a canape and that it was already sitting on a spoon (kind of like the large, porcelain spoons sometimes used at Asian restaurants with soup).  The spoon was constructed so that it rested flat on the table, not spilling its contents.  Jeff and I thought it tasted like some kind of pasta but we knew that pasta shouldn’t be the first course when eating Italian so we were a bit stumped.  This was paired with a white wine and Jeff and I were able to guess the grape variety on this particular tasting.

The idea of the whole evening is to heighten your senses.  I would say that generally that’s what happened.  When you have no idea what you are eating, you do seem to keep it in your mouth longer to try to figure out what it might be. 
The second course came and you could tell it was a hot dish from the smells.  It was served in a shallow bowl, like a pasta bowl.  We could also tell it contained seafood.  You wanted to get close to it to smell it but you couldn't judge distances so you were afraid that you might put your nose right into your dish!  It was all really quite strange. 

Be sure you are picturing this correctly:  They have placed food in front of you.  Only because I can reach up with my hands can I discern that it is a bowl.  I have no idea what is in the bowl so I don't know if I should pick up a fork, a spoon, a knife or what.  I know I am eating Italian so now I start to think if this is some kind of string pasta, how on earth am I going to eat this!!!  I decide to pick up the spoon as that seems to go with the idea of having a bowl. 

We figured out it was shrimp with some scallops.  The sauce we couldn't quite figure out.  Jeff thought it was a butter sauce, I didn't think it was rich enough for that.  I was betting on a broth of some kind. 

It was helpful to have the food in a bowl so we could scrape it onto the utensil.  Remember, it is pitch black dark so you can't even tell if you have food on your utensil!  More than once I brought my cutlery to my mouth with no food on it.

The third course was a sorbet (we guessed raspberry, but it was passion fruit blended with several other fruits - how were we supposed to get that??).  The fourth course Jeff correctly guessed was veal - although we had assumed it was paired with some sort of mashed potatoes, when in fact the mushy stuff we were tasting was actually pureed beans.  Fifth and finally, dessert was a total mystery to us, but we found out later is was a custard with fresh fruit. 

Out of the five courses, I think Jeff and I guessed three of them.  Out of the wines, we I think we also guessed three out of five.  One was a varietal we hadn't heard of before.  The food and pairings were very enjoyable and I would say that in some ways we did experience heightened senses.

If you ever get a chance to do something like this – go for it!  It was so much fun and not like anything we have done before.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Frisco, TX and the UAE

by Cindy

Just last week our ruler received a key to the city of Frisco, TX!  Apparently there is a partnership between our university and the city.  The details were hard to find but the Frisco city council was definitely here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy 4th Birthday

by Cindy

We recently celebrated the 4th birthday of our church. It is a real blessing to know that the church is growing, thriving really, and that our church is part of planting other churches in the country.  All in a country that practices another religion.  Jeff and I are blessed to be a part of this fellowship and love seeing people put their faith in Jesus on a weekly basis.

Baptism in the pool / water.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Building on the Sand

by Cindy

They have been trimming the trees here in the desert.  It's funny to me because here they trim the top of the trees, not the bottom.  It does make a bit of sense, considering that all we have is sand and when the wind blows, the trees often topple if they are too big and too top heavy.  But it does make for some funny looking trees.

It also reminds me of this from Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Monday, January 13, 2014

Your Definition of Success

by Cindy

How do you define success?  It's an interesting question and it's definitely dependent on your culture.

Recently SAP published 99 Facts on the Future of Business and since we use SAP in one of my classes, I ran through a few of the slides with my class.  Some made me feel old, some were surprising - Typical mobile phone users check their phone 150 times a day - I am definitely NOT typical!  Many of my students agreed and said it is actually a number much larger than 150.  The one that we discussed the most though was this one - Only 11% (of Gen Y) define having a lot of money as a definition of success.  Admittedly, I don't know anything about the gentleman who is the source of this quote but the quote was very interesting.

I started the discussion with my very general, high level thoughts on the US.  First, I think Americans are defined by what we do for a living.  I illustrated the point by explaining when you are introduced to someone you get their name and then the next question is always, "what do you do?"  The other measure of success is the house you live in, in particular, the size and location of the house in which you live.  The size and location is of course based on the amount of money you make so I said, in general, most Americans my age or older would say that money is a definition of success.

My students, who are Gen Y, and from all different cultures had some interesting answers on whether their culture believes that having a lot of money is a definition of success.

For many in the Middle East, you are defined by your family name.  And if they know you well enough, they will even clarify how close you are to the patriarch of the family.  "She's the daughter!" or "yea but she's only a cousin of..."

For my students from the sub-continent, they are successful based on how many family members they are supporting.  If you support your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. then you are considered successful.  The more people = the more successful.

For my European students, it is about the job you have - for whom do you work and how long you have worked for them (representing loyalty). do you (really) define success?...

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Most Appropriate Way for a Woman to Cover

by Cindy

When we are in America, one of the most common subjects I am asked about is about women covering.  The questions vary from whether or not I cover, what it's like to teach women/students who cover, how many women cover, etc.  Today CNN International had a nice article on covering in the Middle East.  You'll see from the article that there are many varying views on covering.  It is certainly not a case of "one cover fits all."

As for my experience - there are certain places in town you can go where more women will be covered or even more people in local dress.  In the classroom, I rarely have a class where no female is covered but the ratio of covered to not covered can vary.  And certainly way the women cover varies quite a bit.  Some only cover when they are in the Middle East (they view it more as cultural than religious) while some cover no matter what.

What I can say for sure:

  • Not all Muslim women cover
  • Those that do cover have different reasons for covering
  • They cover in different ways
  • Covering in no way correlates to how religious a woman is
Hopefully you find the article interesting and enlightening!