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Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Explanation

Bad timing, inappropriate subject and being reluctant to step on the toes of the citizens of my host country. That's why I removed my post. I should have known better than to blog about religious topics especially now. I do appreciate a healthy debate but after careful consideration, I thought that this was neither the time or the place to air my opinions on the subject. Nothing good could have possible become of it.

I realize I am a guest in the UAE and will respect the rules of living here, as I would expect those who chose to move to my home country to do the same. I have no problem with abiding by the sensibiliites of my host country just as I would think that Muslim immigrants in the USA should not assume the majority Christian population there would unconditionally accept Muslim rules and practices.

That was the point behind my taxi driver story. In the USA, I should be able to get a ride to my hotel from an airport, alcohol or not. Taxi companies are regulated by the local governments and there are laws to assure equal access to all. If a Muslim taxi driver sees a problem with that, then he/she is in the wrong business because a lot of travelers have alcohol on or in them. The refusal of Muslim taxi drivers to transport alcohol became a big issue in the US media and the misunderstood Fatwa from the local Mullah was finally rescinded. the UAE, I have never had a problem. I expect to be sensitive to religious ideals here in the UAE, but back in the US I shouldn't need the same diligence.

I am willing to be flexible here but Muslims living in my home country need to be the same. That's only fair.

Again, I apologize if I offended anyone, that was not my intention. Live and Let Live!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dubai Demolition Derby

This is video taken from a police camera in a tunnel near Dubai airport. Note the selfishness, aggressiveness and the total lack of spatial awareness displayed by some of the drivers. These are somewhat extreme examples, but lesser degrees of these behaviors are observed on almost every trip to the supermarket, restaurant, parking lot or petrol station. If you are lucky it is at much lower velocities!

The scary thing is that these probably are not drunk drivers, In a country where there there is ZERO tolerance for driving under the influence (you will be jailed, lose your job, bank account frozen and deported). I find it hard to believe there are that many chemically impaired drivers on the road. They are just naturally dense and/or clueless.

The U. A. E. is a melting pot of many kinds of driving from a multitude of countries and they don't mix well. I am not going into the distinctive driving habits of certain ethnicities here, but take it from me, one can guess quite accurately after a short time from a long distance who is behind the wheel!

The link below is to a long, dry and somewhat dated discussion on the matter, but there are a lot of statistics and graphs:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

It is now August in Abu Dhabi which means running from one air conditioned space to another as efficiently as possible. Outdoor diversions are not practical or healthy so most residents spend the Summer behind closed doors. Expat spouses and children usually high-tail it back to their countries of origin to wait out the brutal Gulf climate in more temperate areas while the kids are out of school. Even the shortest automobile trip will turn you into a "wetback" as the car's A/C struggles to transform 120 degree air into a more comfortable temperature. It's usually a losing battle.

Another trait of Summer here is the haze. I shot the photo above at noon local time today from my balcony at the Moonbase 20 miles West of Abu Dhabi City. You can see that the visibility is severely hampered by the crud in the air. Most of my life I lived in the Southeastern U. S. and expected Summers to be a little hazy due to inversions and hydrocarbon emissions from pine trees and such, but the haze here is over the top!

The origin of the haze is a mystery to me. It is not fog. The wind is not strong enough today to kick up a dust storm. It is not pollution or smog, there is no smell. Not enough natural vegetation exists here for their emissions to be a factor. I am stumped! I can only guess that this is dust blown from far away and it is settling here. But then I remember that I also lived in a desert environment in Southwestern Utah which should have been similarly affected by dust from neighboring regions too but the Summer skies there are clear and blue. In other seasons, the Abu Dhabi skies are normal. Maybe Iran is testing some nerve gas, I don't know!

Anyway, because of the Summer climate here people are afflicted with a malaise that is usually associated with the Arctic regions, Cabin Fever. This is where the outside environment is at the least uncomfortable and at the most life-threatening so people tend to stay inside for extended periods of time which eventually drives them crazy from boredom.

How individuals deal with this depends on their situation and character. I am lucky as I don't have a spouse, children or a roommate so I deal with it by surfing the net, emails, Facebook, blogging, cooking, Playstation 3 and accelerated rates of alcohol consumption. I can't get in much trouble doing these. A side effect is that I am saving a boatload of money and the quiet afternoon naps are great. When the weather moderates, I will be back to my old restless self again looking for trouble and excitement. Also, I have a lot of leave left so I have some long weekends planned in more Northern latitudes in the next couple of months.

It must be much tougher for those that are living in close proximity to a roommate, spouse and offspring. Little things quickly become big things and soon divorce and/or manslaughter seem to be reasonable and thoughtful ways to relieve the boredom. As I have said before, if you plan to relocate here with a family make damn sure you all know what you are getting in to and that your bonds are strong. This is no place to come to with the idea that a "change of scenery" will revitalize a relationship.

Tomorrow (August 3) will mark my first anniversity here with boots on the ground in the Emirates. I have learned many things and gone through a lot of ups and downs in the past 12 months. Although it hasn't been all good or all bad, I feel this experience has enriched my life and that I would have ended up regretting it if I had not accepted the challenge. More about this soon in a future blog...stay tuned, don't touch that dial!