Archive | Abu Dhabi

Traveling While Female…

Hi there blogosphere….

I seem to have taken an inadvertent hiatus from blogging for a while … it’s the kind of thing like forgetting to write your grandmother: the longer you wait, the more it becomes A THING and the more it becomes A THING the harder it is to write.

So today, I am metaphorically writing my grandmother (may she rest in peace) and alerting you to my column in The National today.

In the column I’m wondering about how we female-type people travel alone without fear — or rather, how we manage our fears and anxieties while still exploring the world.  And by “explore the world” I mean everything from climbing Everest to going out to dinner alone in the neighborhood.   How can it be that after so many centuries, a woman alone still presents such a target/threat/opportunity/challenge to men–and why is it that so many men persist in believing that a woman alone is pining for his company?  See: fish, bicycle, necessity thereof.

Enjoy. And if you have your own travel tips (or horror stories) feel free to share them in the comments.

PS I love you, grandmother.

Continue Reading · on March 27, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Feminism, Gender, NYC, Politics, The National, Travel, UAE

a decade of caleb

This face of joy is Caleb, at one, at Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island.  He’d learned to walk at nine months, which meant that despite having a brain about the size of a walnut and a diaper the size of a basketball, he would climb up stairs, stagger along the curb, or waddle straight into the surf, utterly without fear.

This August, we spent our tenth summer on LBI and it’s Caleb’s favorite beach (which, given that he’s now spent time on beaches in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, is quite a compliment).  Our first summer on LBI, I was hugely, gigantically pregnant and wearing a maternity bathing suit that was so hideous it can be only excused by pregnantbrain. Why else would a woman in her last weeks of pregnancy purchase and wear a shiny teal maternity tankini? On the upside, I suppose I was responsible for any number of teen-age girls not getting pregnant  that summer. They took one look at my spherical teal body and told their boyfriends to back the hell off

But Caleb. My sweet, fearless Caleb, who still plunges into the ocean with the grace and abandon of a seal, he’s ten. He’s learning Arabic and computer coding and the trumpet; he wants to be an author, or maybe a spy, or maybe a mad scientist, perhaps a basketball player.  I think he might be headed for the stage, because the boy has never met a hat he doesn’t like:

calebinnurseryschoolnursery school graduation

calebindiaIndia – tiger safari (no tigers, just a hat)

calebsingaporeUniversal Studios Singapore: minion loot

This boy who loves hats and computers, who doesn’t read books so much as devour them, and who was as happy with his book about military history as he was about an envelope containing 300 dirhams (about 80 bucks, and okay, he was a bit more excited by the cash), doesn’t yet realize the strength of his own gifts.  He measures himself against his older brother, not willing to concede the difference that almost four years makes.  I think that might be why Caleb learned to walk so young: he wanted to keep up.  Now, however, with the dawning of pre-adolescent self-consciousness, he sometimes doesn’t try to keep up because he’s sure that he’ll never catch his brother.  It’s a funny trick of growing up, isn’t it, the way the confidence of childhood evanesces just when we need it most?

Caleb is our current-events child; he reads the newspaper and tells us what’s happening in Gaza, in Syria, in Ferguson–and then asks the hard questions that we should all be asking and attempting to answer: how do these things happen, why do these things happen, why do people care about the color of other people’s skin or the way they worship?

We moved to Abu Dhabi on the eve of Caleb’s 7th birthday and the traveling we’ve done since we’ve been here means that he’s been to more countries by ten than I had by thirty-five.  His passport looks weather-beaten, as if he were a career foreign services officer–and who knows, perhaps that’s where he’s headed.  I can’t even begin to predict what he’s going to be when he grows up–perhaps the stage, or maybe he’ll go concoct strange potions in some jungle laboratory. Who knows.

All I know is that our lives for the past decade have been richer and more joyous for Caleb’s presence.  I can’t wait to see what’s next on the journey.

calebsand

 

Continue Reading · on August 24, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, birth, Children, family, Kids, Parenting, Travel

Ladies Night at the Ice Rink

The image of the veiled woman remains a potent symbol of the “mysterious” Middle East and the question of “do you have to cover…”  is almost always the first question that anyone asks me when I tell them where I live.   It’s easy, particularly in the West, to lose sight of the fact that behind the veil is a person, and to keep in mind that gender politics are complicated here — but then again, point me to a place where gender politics aren’t complicated.

I wrote about Gloria Steinem and feminism the other day, and then the other day, at the ice rink, of all places, I was reminded that “feminism” has many different forms.  I had gone to the ice rink in the ginormous sports complex where Liam and Caleb play football because Caleb and I had to wait for Liam to finish practice, Caleb was hungry, there is a pizza place inside the ice rink, so off we went…only to be told that Caleb couldn’t come inside.  It was Ladies Night, no men allowed, not even nine-year-old men.

Inside, the place buzzed with energy as girls of all ages skated, watched the skaters, or walked around gossiping with each other, safe from the eyes of the men working in the restaurant kitchen:

IMG_8520

I bought Caleb’s pizza and brought it to him outside on the patio.  I’ve never seen so many people coming to the ice rink as I did that night, including some who were clearly coming for the gossip and a night out, and not for the skating, at least judging from her shoes:

IMG_8525can you see the heels she’s got on? Four or five inches, at the very least

The girls in the skating rink seemed entirely delighted to be there, and many of the girls on the ice were twirling and jumping and speeding around with the ease that comes only with a lot of practice.

Did it seem strange that “ladies night” kept out my little boy?  Yes.  Am I reminded that change happens incrementally, in loops and swirls and swerves, and not in a straight unbending line? Yes.

Because that night at the ice rink, sitting outside with my son, I was reminded that the girl in the abaya isn’t a metaphor but just a chick with a wicked slapshot, who perhaps daydreams about an Olympic medal in women’s hockey.

IMG_8524

 

Continue Reading · on March 31, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Feminism, Gender, Politics, UAE

so I wrote a book…

Last year, at the tender age of 49, I was delighted to be included in two fantastic anthologies: You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth, edited by the brilliantly funny Leslie Marinelli of The Bearded Iris and In The Powder Room; and The Herstory Project, edited by the equally talented Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger.

What’s that you say? You don’t have either of these books on your shelf? Get thee to a bookseller pronto, my friend.

And now –well, not quite now, but soon — my very own book will be joining those books in the hazy labryinth of amazon.  Yes. The Time Locket will be available in kindle format this week, so you can order this time-traveling, history-bending adventure story just in time for Valentine’s Day.

TheTimeLocket_Cover

Continue Reading · on February 10, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, Books, writing

Uber: sweet rides in Abu Dhabi

A few months ago, I read about a new app called Uber, which worked a bit like a taxi service, except you order an Uber car online and can track its progress to you on your smartphone.   Pretty cool, I thought at the time,but something like that would never come to Abu Dhabi because people here are too tied to their cars and the status (real or imagined, mostly the latter) that they think cars give them.

Well think again: Uber is here in the Dhabs, people, and it’s pretty cool.   I met with the Uber people a few weeks ago and they explained how Uber works: you sign up for an account using your  credit card and then that card is charged for your fare.  You can change the method of payment on the spot (decide to pay cash, for instance; or split the ride between two credit cards if you’re sharing with another Uber-ite); you can track the arrival of your driver (unlike when you call to order a cab, and the dispatcher says “five minutes ma’am” but then it might be twenty or thirty minutes), and your receipt shows up on your phone and in your email. There are no other fees involved and the app is free.

Dazzled by the idea of a clean swift car that would be an alternative to a taxi, or to driving myself and wrestling with traffic, crazy Dhabi drivers, and parking, I decided to Uber one night when I had to pick Liam up at a friend’s on one side of town and get him to soccer practice on the other side of town.

I clicked my Uber app, tapped my location pin, and got a little flag telling me the driver’s name, his phone number, and when he’d be arriving.

Perfect.

Except that my housing development is new enough that it doesn’t always show up on a GPS, so the driver didn’t arrive for almost 25 minutes. And then the GPS couldn’t find where we were going, and so we were very late picking up Liam, who had hurt his foot and decided against soccer practice (but that wasn’t Uber’s fault). During this whole ordeal, the driver was unfailingly polite and apologetic, but it was one of those moments where I found myself wishing devoutly for Manhattan’s organized street grid rather than Abu Dhabi’s hieroglyphic sprawl.

I figured there was no way I could write about Uber in good faith, not with such a mess of an experience, but when I explained the problem to Uber’s people, they apologized and asked me to try again, and gave me additional credit for my next ride: customer service par excellence.

So the other night, when Husband and I had to go to a reception where adult beverages would be served, we tried Uber again. Drinking and driving in Abu Dhabi carry incredibly stiff penalties–like jail or deportation–so if you think you’re going to have even a sip or two of wine, taxis are in order.  And if you’re going to be somewhere away from downtown late at night, good luck finding a cab (or requesting one and having to wait for forty minutes).

This time, uber worked like a charm: the driver arrived faster than the app could track him and he knew exactly where we were going.  It was great.  Yes, it was more expensive than a cab, but an incredibly smooth experience and I liked knowing that if there were a problem, I would be able to tap into customer service right away. With an Abu Dhabi taxi, if you’ve got a problem, your best solution is just to get out of the car.

Uber believes in their service and they’d like to introduce themselves to Abu Dhabi, so they’ve offered this promotional code to readers: type in ubermamma and get your first Uber ride for free (up to 80dh).

All of us have those GPS problems now and again — it’s practically a rite (ride?) of passage — but I think that Uber’s service is going to be a great addition to Abu Dhabi life.  It’s like having your own chauffeur service, but without actually having to, you know, pay for a chauffeur.

Happy Uber-ing!

 

 

Uber offered me a free ride in exchange for this post, and then another free ride after the fiasco of the first ride, but the opinions here are my own

 

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Continue Reading · on February 9, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

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