Archive | UAE

The Violence Is Always Now

Last week I wrote an article for The National about the newly ironic question of “where do you feel safe?” That’s the second question people ask when I tell them where I live, as if Abu Dhabi is some terrifying city “over there.”  But this question in the context of America’s gun insanity, now has to stand on its head.

I was in a movie theater yesterday, watching Ghostbusters (yay, women are funny! and smart! and don’t need a boyfriend to be successful! IMAGINE THAT), and herd of loud teenagers walked in: big kids, unlaced sneakers, yelling and teasing each other.  There was some kerfuffle over who was sitting where, and you know what went through my mind?  “Oh, shit, I hope no one has a gun.”

Yep. Sitting in a movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at 11AM, with my kids and father-in-law, I thought for a split second that maybe we were all going to become statistics.

Ask me again where I feel safe.

And then, the day my column came out, Nice. With the additional irony that when you write the name of the city, it looks like, you know, nice.

Another tragedy–what an empty word–another instance of ideology trumping respect for human life (and god, it’s awful to have to use the word “trump.” We are going to need some synonyms, stat).  More bombs, more death, more loss. Endless loss.

It’s an entire summer of loss, of memorials and funerals and devastation.

The violence seems never to recede, only to accrue; it billows outward, covering everything.

It’s a sunny day in New York City right now, but somehow the light seems very far away.

prayer flags in Bhutan

prayer flags in Bhutan


Continue Reading · on July 16, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Politics, religion, The National, UAE

Crowned

rootcanalSo my front tooth broke off about a month ago. That tooth is a crown that I have had for more than a decade, and perhaps it was due for a break, but the timing was terrible. (Question: is there ever a good time to break a tooth?)  The tooth–a front tooth–broke off about three hours before I was supposed to leave for the airport for our fifteen-hour flight to New York from Abu Dhabi, which meant that I spent my traveling time tight-lipped, answering questions pretty much in closed-mouth monosyllables to avoid frightening people with my crone-like mouth.

Got to New York, got myself to the dentist, got myself a temporary crown and spent the next month sort of feeling that different tooth the way you do when there’s something not quite right in your mouth. A tongue fidget, really.

For those of you with uncrowned teeth, the process of being crowned is not as pleasant as, say, the phrase “coronation” might imply. Far better to become the ruler of a small country than to find yourself in the dentist’s chair with approximately six people plunging their hands into your mouth.

Why do dentists and their assistants insist on talking to you while you’re splayed out in their chair, your mouth full of assorted non-mouth objects and next to you a tray of gadgets that in another context would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention?

“How does this feel?”

“Unnhunh…”

“Doing okay?”

“Unnnhunnnh” (which means, roughly translated, are you effing serious am I doing okay as you plunge a needle into my gum so you can do the “build up” of the nubbin tooth under the temporary crown? Yep, yep, doing just fine, thanks, unnnghaggh).

I got my crown at the American Dental Center here in Abu Dhabi, which is not to be confused with the British, the German, the French, or the Dubai. Who knew that teeth were such a nationalist preoccupation? At the American Dental center, I was seen to by a crackerjack group of Filipina women, most of whom I think are trained as dentists in the Philippines but who cannot get the full licensing here, and by a cheerfully expert Argentinian dentist. Not one US citizen stuck their hands in my mouth.

The procedure didn’t really hurt (or not much), but the noises emerging from one’s mouth during these sorts of things can be difficult to bear. The whirrings and grindings and clippings and tappings (they literally hammered out the temporary crown) – all those sounds should happen in someone’s workroom, not my mouth. But the resultant permanent crown is a thing of beauty. Not a perfect thing of beauty because then it wouldn’t match my other teeth, but it’s a pretty perfect match. The specialist who builds teeth uses this handy dandy template:

teethIt’s like paint chips. But with teeth. The tooth artist held different tooth samples next to the teeth in my mouth while he and the dentist conferred, sounding a bit like they were playing “Battleship:” apparently my tooth is D2, A2, and a bit of B1.

I am now the proud owner of D2A2B1, which matches my other teeth so perfectly you’d never know it was a fake (or so I tell myself). It’s nice to have my teeth all back where they belong but I have some questions. Do the tooth sample trays look the same, regardless  of which nation’s dentist you see? Does the British dentist offer up big Prince Charles choppers and the French dentist proffer nicotine stains? And where, oh where, does one study to become a tooth artist?

Continue Reading · on February 5, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, health, UAE

Commencement Time, or what does a dinosaur have to do with the liberal arts?

It’s graduation time all over the US and in Abu Dhabi, NYUAD students are readying themselves for the same ritual.  And as students prepare to march across all manner of stages and listen to all manner of speeches, it seems appropriate to think about what we want our kids to study at school… that’s what I’m writing about in The National today.

 

photo credit: http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Forum:Cloning_dinosaurs

 

Continue Reading · on May 22, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, Education, NYUAD, The National, UAE

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

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

 

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

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