Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 5

Today was our free day. You would think i would be able to sleep in, but that's not the case. I woke up around 7:00 naturally. I am so screwed up on sleep right now, it's ridiculous. I still don't have an alarm clock and my ipod alarm never seems to go off at the right times.

I started the day by getting up and messing around on the internet for a while. I have things i have to do for my class, like look up a recent news article about Dubai relating to my research paper, but i can't do it at night because the internet is so slow and usually doesn't connect. So i looked for some articles about gambling in Dubai. It is of course illegal right now, but since Dubai has allowed a lot of concessions on social laws to accommodate tourists, it seems building a casino to attract tourism should be the next reasonable step. So far they have not made any plans to build a casino, though the Burj al Arab was originally designed with a casino. It was finished in 1999, and the area where the casino was supposed to be was changed to a bar when the government wouldn't approve of gambling in the UAE. Shaheem seems to think the government will come around within the next 10 years. I can't find much on the internet about gambling in Dubai, and a lot of sites are blocked, but what i found was that although Dubai bans gambling, it is one of the biggest investors in Las Vegas property, owning a large portion of MGM stock. Interesting.

Jenn and i skyped this morning like usual. She is going to be staying at Cheryl's over the weekend since Travis will be gone hunting so the two of them can have someone to be with and be so in love with each other. So that should be exciting for her. After talking with Jenn, i got ready and met up with Danielle and Leonard. The three of us had a tee time on one of the local golf courses here. I like playing golf, but i am not good at it. Danielle tells me she is about the same, though she golfs more often than i do in a year. Leonard played all through high school. We get a cab down by the Burj al Arab and ask him to take us to the Emirates Golf Club. He doesn't speak English very well, and i repeat the name to him several time and tell him it's down by the Marina Walk. So he starts driving. The whole time, i am under the impression he has no idea where he is going. When the cabbie last night took us to the Marina Walk, we drove right past the golf course and he pointed it out to us. This guy doesn't know where he's going. I finally tell him i think we need to go just East of Sheik Zayed road and just north of the Marina Walk (for those of you who are unaware, i have a good sense of direction. I'm not bragging, but it's true). Danielle whips out her phone and looks up a map to show him. He looks at it and starts going the right way. The area we are looking at has about 3 or 4 golf courses all lumped together in the same spot. So he is unaware of which course to drop us at. He ends dropping us at the Address Golf Academy. The Address is a hotel down by the Burj Khalifa, and this course is a lot more expensive than the one we have booked a tee time for. So once we realize he has dropped us at the wrong spot, we get another cabbie who actually knows what he's doing to take us down to the Emirates Golf Club. You would think our troubles end here, but we walk around this freaking place for at least 15 to 20 minutes, going from building to building looking for the par 3 course we have a tee time with. We finally find it, but they are giving Leonard crap about his shoes. They said he needs closed toe trainers, and he's wearing vans. He tells them his shoes are closed toe, but they said they need to be training shoes, like tennis shoes. Leonard makes a big fuss about it, maybe more than needed, and asks to speak with a manager. It really is a ridiculous situation though. The shoes he is wearing are fine. It all shakes out that he has to go rent some golf shoes from the pro shop, but because the guy at the caddy shack wants to smooth things over he gives us a discount on our rental clubs. In the meantime though, we have to go all the way back over to the pro shop to get shoes for Leonard. While there, Danielle and i go in together on a box of 15 balls. It is the same price as if we bought 3 balls each, and Danielle is worried about losing them along the way and not being able to find them.

Once we have our balls and Leonard has his shoes, we go back and get our clubs and finally get started golfing about an hour after our scheduled tee time. It's ok though, because there is no one on the course really, so we can take our time. The course is in a pretty cool location. It has the high rise skyline to the west and south, and everything else around us is lush residential area. You can see in this picture of Leonard there is a big portrait of the Sheiks Zayed and (i think) Mohammad on the side of one of the sky scrapers. The building in the picture of me are to the south and are closer to the Marina Walk. I have a rough start with golfing. We wanted to get here early to get some practice swings in at the driving range, but with the misdirected cabbie and shoe fiasco, we didn't have time to warm up. As a result, i shot a 9 on a par 3 for the first 2 holes. The whole course is a par 3 course. So i am a bit discouraged at the beginning. For only being a par 3 though, it's kind of a challenging course. The grass is fine, but it's sparse. This is the least expensive of the courses we chose to play at, and as a result receives the least amount of attention. The reality is that there are basically enormous sand traps between every tee box and green. And it's not loose sand, it's packed down and hard to get underneath, so it's hard for me to get my groove the first couple holes. Once i get to hole 3 though, i finally get the knack of it and start to do decently well. I bogey most of the holes from here through the rest of my game. I had a couple par opportunities, but botched them during my short game. Leonard lives up to his high school experience and does really well. Danielle does about as well as i do, with the exception of starting well and ending well. She mentions that this study abroad seems much more like a vacation than a school study program (i guess she's done a few study abroads). I think Jamie and Mary Jane planned it this way so we would have lots of free time. Either way, i'm enjoying myself. We play through the course and finish up with only losing 2 balls, one from her and one from me. The reality is that we probably could have done without buying the 15 pack of balls because neither of us want to take them home with us. I have a golf bag at home full of balls. Danielle has the idea of selling them to someone in the parking lot, but we never really give it a chance to pan out. I suggest maybe we come back and just hit some balls at the driving range and put those in with the range balls and leave them on the course. We'll see what happens. After returning the shoes, we ask the receptionist to contact a cabbie for us, which she does. We don't expect it to be an unmarked Lexus cabbie though, which is what shows up. It's apparently the same price, and we have him drop us at the Mall of Emirates so i can change some dollars for dirhams and so Leonard can hit an ATM. Then we head back to the Academy.

At home, we meet up with Mariella and Marisol and all head across the street to the Wild Wadi Water Park. It's 200 dirhams for all day admission or 165 after 4:00, which we do (about $45). The park closes at 6:00, but we are thinking that 2 hours is really all we will need. It's a cool little park that has an interesting lay out. There is a tube slide that basically goes around the entire park and is connected by lazy rivers. The slides have sections where water jets push you, usually up the slides, so there is no need to get out and climb up. It's cool cuz you can sit in your tube and ride all the slides without getting out. It takes about 15 minutes to do the full circuit and there are lots of different tube slide options to choose from that end up in the same place, so you can do it a few time with different rides each time. It's also a way of transporting yourself to different slides because there are plenty of little stopping areas where you can get out of the tube and climb up some stairs in whatever part of the park you want to be in. So it's kind of a neat little set up. The downside to the park is that it's not fully open right now. They have a big set of slides that we aren't able to go on at all. They aren't going to be open till Jan 11th, though Daniel tells us it will probably be more like March cuz they never open on time. So outside of the tube circuit, there is just really one other big slide that you ride tubeless. It has a few big drops, but it's not anything really special. It was fun though and Danielle and i ride it twice. They had a couple wave machines like the one that was on Jenn's and my cruise we took last summer, but we didn't do them. We didn't really take any pictures inside the park cuz we were in the water most of the time, but we got this really cheezy one outside afterward. By the end of our time there it was pretty cold too. It was fun, but i think i would be more interested in what the water park at Atlantis has to offer. Apparently there is a slide there that goes through a tank of sharks. OOOOHHH! Scary!

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful. We came back to the Academy and changed and had dinner here. We got food from the diner here, and then Shaheem brought out some food that his mom had made for us. It was traditional Emirati food, a version of chicken and rice that was specific to this area. It was really really good, and super nice of him to do for us. Yaz is out chatting with people. The students here start school on Sunday, so they are just taking it easy until then. I would think they would want to go out and live it up before school starts, but he said they kinda just lay low. He said two weeks in Dubai is good, but once you're here for a few years, you've done it all and there is nothing else to see or do. I can see that. That's how i felt about Moab. Good place to visit, but i wouldn't chose to live there long term.

After dinner i just came back to my room. I was going to get on the internet and do a little more research for my news article, but the internet is so bad here in the evenings. It's incredibly slow or usually just doesn't connect at all. So i laid down for a brief nap around 7:00 and woke up just after midnight. So much for a brief nap. I should have gone to the movie theater and watched Tron by myself since Jenn doesn't want to see it with me and i don't know that anyone here wants to see it. But anyway, i will probably take a shower now and mess around on the internet for a bit before trying to go back to sleep.