Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 2

These days seem to go quite fast. I have a feeling this two weeks will fly by in a flash. Today wasn't nearly as exciting as yesterday, but tomorrow looks promising. I suppose i'll start again with the people i have met today. Most of them i have technically met before because they are with my group, but honestly don't know a good deal about them as i haven't had a lot of time to talk to them.

Mary Jane and Jamie - our two ASU sanctioned instructors on our journey here in Dubai. Mary Jane speaks Arabic fairly fluently, but she admits she has some work to do when it comes to reading it. I don't blame her. Arabic script looks extremely hard to decipher. She served in the Peace Corp. in Morocco, which is a place i think i never want to go. She has also traveled several places in the Middle East, including Turkey, Egypt and others. This is her first trip to Dubai. She has ran several of the study abroad programs through ASU before. She's probably in her early to mid 50s, long greying stringy hair, and doesn't wear make up. She's very nice though and very knowledgeable (which i suppose makes sense since she's an instructor). Jamie is probably in his mid to late 30s. He's very tall and skinny, nearly completely bald, and wears glasses. He too is very knowledgeable. I think he's ran study abroads before as well, but this is his first time in Dubai also. I don't know much about him other than he really likes nice cars. People ask him questions of the "should i this" or "should i that" nature, and he seems like he wants us to be kind of low key and really conservative, but still try and be adventurous and enjoy ourselves. Not sure if that makes sense. But i can see where he's coming from being half way around the world and responsible for 12 kids' well being.

Daisy - a student in our program. Daisy is probably the only student in the program older than me. She is a Filipino woman with a husband and a couple kids back home. Just guessing, but she's probably around 35 to 39 years old. Daisy is a pretty lady, small like most Filipinos, and nice. She's interested in the night life and wants to get out and go to clubs and bars. Probably looking for a nice break from her kids to have some personal time. I know she works for an airline because she talked to me before about coming on the flight with me through London, but later said she is just seeing what the best deal is for her since she has the option to fly for free. She ended up taking a different flight altogether, which is fine.

Josie - another student in our program. She's somewhat tall for a girl, pleasant enough looking with long dark hair and a cute face. I don't know how old she is, but i know that she's had a rough go since she got here. She started getting a sore throat on the plane and by the time she got here it was full-blown strep throat. As a result we really haven't seen much of her. She's just been in her room taking medicine and trying to get better. I feel bad cuz i know how bad that sucks. I always get sick when i travel for some reason, and i had strep for the few days before i left for this trip. Luckily i got some antibiotics and got it cleared up before hand. I am still taking them now. I don't really know much else about her cuz i haven't talked with her much, but she is in the dorm directly across the hall from me.

Marisol - i don't know if i spelled that right, but she is a student from ASU. She lives near Esther Mendoza in North Central Phoenix, but i doubt they know each other. She admits it's a ghetto area, but she seems like a pretty cool girl. She is Mexican, 20 years old, very white looking though with green eyes. She's very nice and easy to talk to. She works in a hookah bar back home so you would think she wouldn't be as excited as she is to go to a sheesha bar here. She says this trip is the biggest or most elaborate thing she's ever done. As far as travel goes, i think most people would feel the same about themselves, myself included.

Tatiana - another student with the program. Tatiana is 21 and originally comes from the Los Angeles area, but from the way she looks, talks, and acts, you would think she's from the cast of Jersey Shore. Since she's been here, all she talks about is getting hammered and dancing at the clubs. She is ready to rage all day everyday. She's pretty tall for a girl, dresses quite scandalously, but isn't really what i would consider attractive. She's not ugly either, but she has a muscular athletic build and is of Lebanese decent. I don't dislike her, but i don't think like she and i have a lot in common. However, she seems to want to hang out with Mariella a lot, and since Mariella and Leonard and i have been chumming around she wants us all to go out with her. I don't have a problem going out and experiencing the night life, but Tatiana makes it sound like it's not going to be fun unless things are going to get sloppy and everyone is blitzed, and i really don't want to be a part of that kind of scene. This is just the first impression, so i'll have to reassess later i suppose.

David - one of the students not from ASU. David actually comes from Chicago, but is attending with our program. This is the first time any of us have met him. He's a nice dude, a little quiet, but he seems like he wants to get to know people and make friends. Not sure how old he is, but i would guess around 22 or 23. He looks a lot like a kid i grew up with name Andrew Mills. He's a little chubby, but not like over weight or anything. David can talk some wicked I.T. stuff, so he also reminds me of my old roommate Rob. We hung out intermittently a few different times today, and so far i think he's a decent guy.

Jennifer - a student from ASU. Jennifer is kind of hippy-ish from what i can tell. I don't really like hippies cuz i don't have anything in common with them and think they are lame, but Jennifer seems nice enough. She reminds me a little of a girl Candace that i dated. She and Jill seem to talk a lot and have a good deal in common though, so that's a good thing. I have only talked with her for a bit, but she seems like the pretty big world traveler type. She's all about experiencing the culture. She got here early yesterday, but just went by herself down to old town Dubai to the spice souk and talked and shopped with locals and visited a mosque and what not. I think she's probably about the same age as me, but may actually be a little older. She's very fair skinned and has long blonde hair.

Danielle - the other student in our program not from ASU. Danielle is from St. Louis and like David is just attending ASU for this program. She reminds me somewhat of my brother-in-law Greg's wife Brooke with the way she looks and her mannerisms. She really small, pretty, short dark hair and expensive looking clothes. She talks a lot too, but i get the feeling she is going to be one of those people who puts their foot in their mouth pretty regularly. I know Leonard isn't too fond of her already because she managed to say something that offended him. That seems hard to do. Leonard is such an easy going guy. She talks a lot about St. Louis, which is fine because it's what she knows. From the sounds of it she comes from money because she talks a lot about how she wants some very expensive things and talks as if it's not difficult for her to obtain them. She will turn 21 on this trip in a few days. Kind of not sure what my opinion of her right now is either. We'll see.

Hana - the last student in our program. I have met her, but i haven't talked to her much at all. She seems nice enough though. She looks like she's either a Pacific Islander or from Micronesia. She's fairly dark and is a pretty girl. I'm guessing she's pretty young, but not sure exactly how old she is. Other than that, i really don't know anything about her.

That's everyone in our program including myself and the descriptions of Leonard, Mariella, and Jill i posted yesterday. i woke up naturally at about 8:10, which was nice because i was supposed to skype Jenn around that time. I don't have an alarm clock here. I was planning to use my phone, but it's not working at all over here. It won't register a time at all. David told me tonight that he could probably set it up for me so i am going to have him take a look at it tomorrow. That will be nice too because i want to start carrying a calculator to make simple conversions, like dollars-to-dirhams and Celsius-to-Fahrenheit. Anyway, when i wake up this morning i get out of bed and skype with Jenn for a while. It wasn't so late this time, so her family was there and was watching us talk. Again, we just kind of review the day. I told her i was doing this blog and she said she would go on and read it. Our group met today around 10:00 to just say hi and get reacquainted. We went over todays events, which are sparse. After the meeting, a few of us walk to the local grocery store for a few things. I want some dish soap to do dishes with in my room, and other people have some basic groceries they need. The grocery store is really just a 5 minute walk from the Academy, but everyone is relying on me since they all got in late last night. So i lead them all to the store, and i apparently don't know the area as well as i think because we took "the long way". It wasn't bad though, we got to get out and just walk around the neighborhood. It's a very new and really nice part of town. The houses in this area are huge and very fancy. There are new ones going up all over the place, mostly made of concrete. The finished ones look like mini-mansions, and they are all different architectural styles. Pretty neat to look at. The long walk also took us past the Thai Embassy so we could get a good look at that (not like it has any significance for us) and we got a good look at the local mosque. It was very ornate and a neat structure to look at. Of course, we didn't try and go inside. I don't think we would have been turned away, but none of us were dressed necessarily "respectfully". The grocery store is right next to the mosque, so we went inside and all did our separate shopping. The grocery store isn't really any different from one in the states except that they played Arabic music instead of grocery store music.

Once we all had our shopping done, we walked back to the Academy (the short way this time). Then we all gathered together again right away and headed to the mall for lunch. Tatiana was meeting a friend of her brothers for lunch at the mall and told us the name of the restaurant. We went looking for places to eat as well, not necessarily the same as her, though many people did end up going there. Turns out it was one of the restaurants in the food court. They have several American places, but i am feeling adventurous today and decide i need to try something i'm not used to. David and i decide we are going to eat at this place called Hatam. I don't know what kind of food it is, but i think it might be Indian influenced. Not sure. Anyway, David and i make an agreement, and he gets the lamb kabab and i get the minced chicken. We are going to split it so we each get half a meal of each. David finishes his pretty quickly and says he thought it was pretty good. I took my time and ultimately end up regretting my decision to be adventurous. I didn't get sick or anything, i just didn't like the food. I wasn't all that impressed with it. It's not disgusting, just not my kind of food. So i eat as much as i can tolerate and chuck the rest.

Those who are here for the first time want to walk around and see everything, so for the second day in a row i find myself roaming the mall. I have seen way too much of this mall lately. I don't think i want to come back unless i have a purpose. I walked around with Jennifer and David for a bit. We go to the toy store upstairs and just look around at some of the stuff they have. There is some neat things in there. One thing i thought was funny was the power wheels they sell for kids. When i think of how cool power wheels were when i was a kid, i think of kids roaming around in little jeeps and trucks. Over here, the power wheels are all little Mercedes, Bentleys, Ferraris, and Jaguars. Kind of funny how the concept converted over. I walk around with David some more and help him find a SIM card for his phone so he can use it just like Leonard did. Then i just kind of wander around by myself for a while. I went up to check out the mosques upstairs. I don't know if they are technically considered mosques, they are separate men's and women's prayer rooms. I didn't actually go in though. I still think that might be kind of disrespectful. I am only in shorts and a t-shirt. Our group all finally meets back up and we take some cabs back to the Academy.

We don't have much time before our 3:00 meeting with the Dean, so everyone goes and changes and meets together again to go to a classroom and have a presentation from the Dean of the Academy. He is a skinny Irish man wearing glasses and a business suit who has spent several years living here in Dubai. His English sounds more upper class British than Irish. I don't hear a trace of Irish accent, even though that's where he spent all his childhood. He tells us all about the college here and what they do. It's a small place. They never have more than about 400 students at a time, and he said they designed it like that. He tells us a lot of interesting as well as uninteresting things about the hotel business, but he also has a presentation based on what it's like to do business in the Gulf region. Some of the stats from that were pretty interesting. For example, there are no business taxes, no income taxes, no capital taxes, but in order to get a business license at all you must give 51% of your profits to an Emirati national. Apparently it's still a lucrative enough deal that people do it all the time. Some of the small nuances were quite interesting. He talked a lot about Arab culture and Islam and how they affect business in this region. That was all quite interesting too. But i don't really care to go into a lot of the detail of it all. It was a 2 hour meeting, and i don't think i can effectively recreate it.

Once the meeting is out, the new people are saying they want to go out and experience the night life. Tatiana is particularly ready to "rage". She's intent on getting hammered tonight. A group of us walk over and meet up with Shaheem and Alex who are sitting over by the diner. We ask them what they are doing and they are just going to take it easy tonight. They want to get some dinner and just stay in and play Magic the Gathering, which i found is really popular with these guys over here. I didn't know anyone played that at all any more. So they are out for the night. I also hear that Yaz's uncle passed away last night and he will be gone for a couple days. I'm sad to hear that. I like Yaz and i hope he's doing ok. That's unfortunate. Our group decides to meet in the courtyard by the diner around 7:00 and make plans to go out. I head back to my room and for the first time since i have been here i turn on the TV. I've heard a lot about some Arabic MTV over here that some other people in the group thought was amusing. I watched about 30 minutes of it and conclude that it's kind of weird. It's their version of cultural "pop" music set to music videos and sung by dudes in long white robes. I wonder how popular it is. I couldn't understand a word, and it's not really like the pop music sound in the states. But i let it play in the background for a bit as i doze off. I finally turn it off and fall asleep.

When i wake up, it's 8:00. I stumble out of my room and go over to the place we were all going to meet. Everyone is gone already. They were just going to go back to the sheesha bar we went to last night. I start walking that direction to catch up and run into Leonard and Mariella headed back to the Academy. They sent the others along and said no one really showed up and they are thinking they don't want to go anymore. This is when Leonard mentions to me he doesn't really like Danielle because of something she said to him. He's kind of in a sour mood over it. So i walk back to the Academy with them thinking i will just go back to sleep or something when Tatiana emerges from her room. It's go time for her. I thought she had already gone over with the other people. She talks Mariella into getting dressed up and going, and Mariella in turn convinces Leonard to go and we all head back to the sheesha bar we were at the night before. We meet Danielle, David and Marisol. They already have drinks and a hookah on the way. Tatiana doesn't waste time getting a waiter to take her drink orders. I pull up a bean bag and we all just talk for a bit. We aren't there very long when Mariella goes to the restroom. While she's there, Leonard decides he thinks he will head back. He doesn't really feel like being out tonight. Not sure if that had anything to do with the company. We all just continue sitting and talking. Mariella comes back a few minutes later and discovers that Leonard is gone. She looks visibly conflicted. She would like to stay but wants Leonard to come back. So she goes to look for him. We tell her he left a while ago and we doubt she will catch him. She leaves to find him and we don't see either of them for the rest of the night.

The rest of the evening, David, Danielle, Marisol, Tatiana and i just sit and chat with one another. This is when i really got to know all of them. Danielle does a lot of the talking, or maybe it just seemed like it. I did my fair share i know. David is fairly quiet, but throws in his input when he feels it is necessary. Marisol is just happy to have a hookah. She works in a hookah bar and says she has been looking forward to the sheesha over here. I guess it's one of her main pleasures in life. She said coming here has made her night, so i am glad she's enjoying herself. She is fairly quiet as she sits and smokes the hookah, but also puts in input when she feels appropriate. Danielle talks a lot about her plans for her 21st birthday when she gets back home. Tatiana tells us she is a rugby player on a girls league at ASU. She has a couple shots and a couple beers, but complains that the drinks aren't very strong. She also tells us she wants to be in the FBI, which is interesting. She is doing her paper here in Dubai on crime and law enforcement. The night slowly winds down and we head back home. It was good and interesting to hang out with these guys and get to know them better, but tonight wasn't as exciting as last night. I think it was too similar. Hopefully we will have better plans for tomorrow. I know Tatiana is looking for the dance club scene. I don't much care for that myself. I mean, look at me... i'm white. I got no dance moves. Ask my wife about dancing in a club on our cruise. It was pretty bad.

So now i'm back home and i am happy to say i will be able to get to bed much earlier than last night. We have a big day planned for tomorrow. Lots of tours and sight seeing of the city of Dubai, so i am excited. Anything sounds good except for wandering the mall for the 3rd straight day.