Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fly by Night

What in the hell happened? One minute, I was sitting here, all nice and organized at the beginning of a freshly minted semester, and here I am~frazzled, unwashed, horrid~trembling in the shadow of finals week.

Guh. I don't know where it goes. In unrelated (but awfully relevant) news, my brother just turned 27. TWENTY-SEVEN, for crying out loud!!! That ostensibly means that I am going to be 29 in January.

I have one last year of my 20's remaining. Thank god I will finally be graduated. I don't think I could live with the shame of being 30 and not having earned my undergraduate degree.

Anyhow, this is going to be short and sweet. I miss and love everyone. I will be back tomorrow to gripe loudly about everything that is wrong with the world. Much like Granddaddy Tom, I feel that a good old fashioned rant really puts me back in the "happy place" I need to be in to accomplish the mountain of school work that is breathing down my neck.

It is almost over, and I couldn't be happier. At least if I had time to actually consider how I feel.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is that all there is to a fire?

Days have been long of late, bleeding into nights, all of the above mostly spent hunched over the computer, working on an endless stream of schoolwork...Last night was no exception, and I finally fell into an exhausted slumber around 3am.

Twas not fated to last, that sleep. A pounding on the door downstairs woke me. 4:30am is no time for visitors, and a chill ran through me as I shook Chip awake. "What is that?!" He stood in the darkness, "I'll go check." I lay there, momentarily terrified, and before he made it down the stairs he shouted, "You need to come down here!"

I threw on my robe, and as I descended the stairs the window over the landing emitted an eerie, flickering orange light. Fire. Shit. The pounding on the door was frenzied, a woman's voice yelled, "You need to get out of there!"

I complied.

For a moment, like a terrible dream, I stood transfixed, afraid to round the corner into the alley-convinced that my garage was being consumed, and the house next.

Staring down the alley, heat radiated from the flames that licked the garage of the vacant house next door to death, I stood paralyzed, in disbelief. Another blaze cast a hellish, dancing light further down the alley. My heart beat in a way that made me feel sick, and slowly the firemen made their way towards the blaze.

The overhead powerlines caught the flame, and it slithered along them crackling with an eager, sinister sort of glee. The houses all went dark, leaving the fire alone to light the night like some evil, cackling star landed.

We got the animals, and the flames moved across the alley to another garage. My palpitations continued, and I stood amongst neighbors, faces all lit up with dread and a ghostly orange light.

I watched the firemen hose it all down, peeling off layers of the ruined structure like skin from an onion, hosing each in turn. I wondered at these brave fellows who speak the language of fire, who know how to put it to sleep. We all speak secret languages, I suppose.

Eventually, we climbed the stairs through our dark house, shaken but unscathed, we fell back into an uneasy sort of sleep.

*** *** *** *** ***

I'd been feeling melancholy for weeks now, purposeless and lonely. In a place where life is so much work, and all my life's anchors distant and lost at sea, perhaps I sometimes find it too easy to feel forgotten, as though my own trajectory has finally set me on a course destined not to cross paths with loved ones ever again.

This is, of course, silly self indulgence.

Last weekend, distracted from yard work, I wandered to that derelict garage, ran my hands over the artifacts there, the abandoned memories and keepsakes of someone else. Today, all that is remains is a blackened heap of detritus.

Somewhere in the midst of this, I remember that all of this we hold dear is terribly temporary. We are precious, you and I and all the things that pass between and amongst and around us. I smiled a little more easily today.

Would it be wrong for me to secretly thank the fire (if not the arsonist) for jarring me back into being, and reminding me to breathe a little deeper, laugh a little more, take all this a little less seriously?

Thank you Fire. For sparing our little piece of this place, and giving us the opportunity to appreciate it all for just a little bit longer.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Internet Generation

Insert deep sigh here

Lately, I am unconvinced by the convictions of my generation. It's like somewhere along the way, we all collectively decided to "drink the kool aid," consequences be damned.

The New York Times hosted a little college essay contest and the winning entry entitled "The Posteverything Generation" managed to both sour my stomach and remind me of the futility of the "me" generation.

Perhaps we've been ruined by instantaneity, in the sense that we've become a people who believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right now, regardless of how half-baked and poorly executed the result. The idea that and Facebook groups are somehow a replacement for actual protest and revolutionary tactics is beyond me. What is the conferred advantage of rapidly accessible information at the flick of a switch?

Myanmar, for one, does not seem to be benefiting. No offense, but screw your Facebook group asking me to join in solidarity for the monks being slaughtered in the streets of military junta-run Burma. Did that click-click-clicking do them any good? Did I save a life? Did I actively move the government of Myanmar closer to resolution? I'm afraid not. But did I feel smugly better about myself. You betcha. That seems to be the sole intent of these web-based protests. A pacifier, something to placate that unsettling feeling of wrongness that soaks your conscience if you are so masochistic as to read the international section.

Do I have an alternative? I'm not sure I do. I'm questioning a lot of things right now.

The more educated I become, the farther estranged I feel. From old friends, from family, from the earth itself. I see an entire contingent of bright beautiful people having a lot of fun, and I wonder if I am missing something. Am I working too hard? Do I really think that all this effort will bear fruit on some grand scale? Or do I narrow my scope? Does the deferment of gratification ever end, or do I keep on working this hard forever?

I guess my point is that there is a nice balance in there somewhere. Whether you join Big Brothers/Big Sisters and spend some quality time with an underprivileged kid, teach an ESL class one night a week, start a community garden, go to a developing country and meet a family you want to help out by putting one of their kids through school, volunteer a weekend to clean up a park or river, go to a city council meeting, make a conscious effort to not shop at Walmart, stop eating factory farmed meat, smile at someone on the street, mow your elderly neighbor's lawn...the list is infinite. Joining a Facebook group or signing an online petition seems like the easy way out.

No, I don't think that I can stop what is happening in Myanmar, or Sudan, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, or (enter totally screwed place here).
In some sense, the fact that we've been made aware of all these things seems to have had an anesthetizing, rather than empowering effect.

I do think that we can use our own individual skills and creative genius to make big changes. I think it will take time. But most of all, it will take effort, not button pushing.

I am not afraid to admit that there is much more I don't know than there is I will ever know. I am not afraid to celebrate my smallness. I am not afraid to tell you exactly what I see. I am not afraid to try to make a difference, no matter how small, with my tiny, precious little life.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh troubled times!

I know that you will not all agree with me on this one, but frankly, I am embarrassed by what I just heard on NPR as I sat doing my homework.

Columbia University, one of the foremost universities in this great nation, invites Iranian president Ahmadinejad to speak. I don't really have a serious problem with this action in and of itself. He wouldn't be my first choice. In fact, given the tremendous number of amazing speakers and wonderful minds out there, I suspect he would be one of my last choices. But then, I'm not in charge, so there.

What I find so horrifically offensive are Columbia President Lee Bollinger's pre-speech remarks, including (but certainly not limited to) calling the president "a petty and cruel dictator" to the thrilled and delighted applause and cheering of the collegiate audience.

This is too easy, too much like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, shouldn't students and administrators at one of the most celebrated universities in the country be willing to try a little harder?

Why don't they have a speaker like the Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert come visit? Then Bollinger could ask about the destruction of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure (not to mention the 50 mile long oil slick) inflicted upon Lebanon last year in a very real, very avoidable attack masquerading as a war.

Maybe Columbia could invite Robert Mugabe next, and ask some questions about how he has governed Zimbabwe into the ground (but not until calling him a white-hating tyrant). That would be intellectually stimulating.

I just think this sort of bait-and-switching is intellectually lazy. I mean, if Bollinger needs to feel smug and superior, I happen to know that New York is full of cribs with babies in them, babies with some delicious, easy to steal candy.

That's right. I just think that this promotes ham-handed, overly biased, self-righteous pretend-academic laziness. And quite frankly, I like thinking critically. Critical thinking appears to be a precious commodity here in the "feel good" generation of faux empowerment and self-help junkies. The heckling of a universally disliked dictator (speaking by invitation) does nothing to promote freedom of speech, and even less to stimulate critical thought.

I'm just disgusted.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Folly of Man

I am, as per usual, too busy for words, literally. Tomorrow I head out at the crack of dawn to NYC to give my Dubai presentation, then a little fun time with friends, followed by a trip to San Francisco for more of the same. Meanwhile, not even a week into the semester and I feel overwhelmed. Of course I am trying to get this whole campus energy plan underway, amongst other overly ambitious plans.

But this is what makes me post today {from an article about the Utah mining incident}:

The collapse that trapped the miners is believed to have been caused by settling layers of earth bearing down on the walls of a coal mine. The force can cause pillars to fail, turning chunks of coal into missiles. The unpredictable and dangerous phenomenon is known by miners as a "bump."

"Had I known that this evil mountain, this alive mountain, would do what it did, I would never have sent the miners in here," Murray said earlier. "I'll never go near that mountain again."

Hmmm, the mountain doing what it is geologically predisposed to do is now somehow "evil?" I find that fascinating. How funny is it that when humans drill into the earth, extract carbon, burn it for energy to power our electric lotion warmers and other indispensable necessities, spewing a kabillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and likely irreversibly altering the balance of the planet we are somehow just "doing what we have to do to get by?" Yet when the planet does what it is geared to do: burp, shake, rattle, surge, blow, and rain--it is somehow branded as "evil?"

Furthermore, if we are going to go so far as to charge the planet with being "evil," an inherently moral judgment, does it not stand to reason that we should begin to treat the earth as though it is an actual entity with rights? Surely that would make a river "good" a sequoia "benevolent" and a desert "unforgiving." If we are going to impose our own arbitrary moral attributes onto nature, then we should probably give them standing in a court of law, and allow them to make the case for why they should be allowed to have rights. But wait, who should represent these entities without a voice?

Well, me of course.

Just kidding. Sort of. It is up to all of us to recognize the extreme lack of logic that permeates the era we live in.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Last Days

The last few days here have been pretty sweet, with the woeful exception of my ailment, which seems determined to systematically undermine my system, one portion at a time. It has now transformed itself into a full-fledged cold/flu type thing, and I am typing as I sniffle incessantly. In other news:

The dunes stretch out infinite and undulating, camel-colored but run through with salmon ripples, as though some object was dropped upon them, sending tiny waves cascading out. They rise and fall in the receding sunlight like so much flesh... at points actually appearing to be the arcs of hips, funnels of twisted bodily contours. If you venture out into them, over several of their apexes, press your body to them, and they are warm, lifelike. Close your eyes for a moment or two, and you will be unable to figure out where you begin and end. You could become hopelessly lost here, if not for your telltale footprints leading you back to the point of origin.

The call to prayer slithers around the sundrenched streets of Abu Dhabi outside the window. I think I am falling in love with the Middle East.

Yesterday, I made friends with a camel. Those "ships of the desert" are truly some of the most remarkable animals on earth. Purely otherworldly. This big gal pressed her nose to mine, and nuzzled my face as I fought uneasiness. A Pakistani camel farmer came out and invited us to drink some of the milk he was extracting from one of the herds. In spite of my hatred for milk, I couldn't resist the kind offer, and so I lifted the jug to my mouth and a huge dollop of foamy camel cream landed on my face. We all laughed and laughed. It was delicious, and even though he spoke no English, and me no Arabic, he was clearly indicating that it would "make me strong." Considering how weak I've been, I crossed my fingers that he was right.

You could lose yourself here, in the sun and the sand, beneath the date palm fronds...I think I just might.

Chip and I headed from the desert oasis of Liwa to the Northeast, where we were embraced on all sides by mountains along a cerulean blue coast. These Arabs, they are crazy about building fake islands! Fujaira is lusciously gorgeous. We visited the region's oldest mosque (pictures to come) and went snorkling around a little offshore island. Miraculously, neither of us was burned by the relentless sun!

Chip and I had a better time in Sharjah than I did the first time around. We visited the Yemeni shop in the souq, procured some Xmas gifts (no spoilers, as many of you dear readers will be recipients) and drove around lost a lot. You do that in Sharjah.

Now, back in Dubai, we need to get to the ski slopes. I reckon if I am going to be nursing some stupid sickness and a sporting a chapped, red nose, I might as well be cold while I do it!

Leaving is bittersweet. If I was in tip-top condition, I might even wish I was staying. But right now, I look forward to English speaking, ease, and a little climate comfort. All this, awaiting in NYC. Picture post really is coming soon. I promise!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Intestinal Fortitude...and it's failure

Dear All,

My apologies for not chronicling my more recent adventures in UAE land. Suffice to say that Oman takes the cake as the most glorious nation in the region, scuba diving there I forged fragile friendships for a few fleeting seconds with a myriad of aquatic life, spent a fortune on taxis, made a new friend of the Kiwi persuasian, and purchased a few precious items at the souq.

Chip arrived Sunday, and so did some intestinal flu that has literally laid me out, left me limp, feverish, body creased by paralyzing cramps and many other afflictions too terrible to divulge. Let your imagination fill in the blanks.

I'm shaky, but the fever seems to have subsided, and we are heading into the desert today! I shall declare, and loudly, that Chip is my hero, and has been a perfectly amazing counterpart to my infirmity. Were he not here, it would be perfectly miserable. Know that even in my most agonizing moments, I have been unable to stifle giggles, and even some guffaws--thanks to brave sir Chippins, and in spite of myself.

Onward, to the Liwa Oasis!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Follow up to rant

Okay, okay, after all my grousing in the last post, I feel inclined to mention the multiple things about the place that are both fascinating and wonderful. Some of these things are the exact same things I was complaining about earlier today.

Bur first, let's begin with a confession, shall we? Today I fear I became the very same "ugly American" that I have always loathed the many times I have observed them in their native habitat, the foreign country. It all started with some laundry that was supposed to have been done in the morning. This morning. Long story short, it was not ready when I went to pick it up at noon today. The clerk told me in very poor, virtually nonexistent English that it would not be ready until tomorrow evening. I am supposed to be on an airplane to Oman tomorrow evening, and the thought of spending any more time than absolutely necessary in Sharjah was actually physically painful. So we went back and forth, which is never good between 2 people who literally do not speak one another's language. I yelled, I cursed, I cried, and eventually I hauled out my sketchbook and made a little comic strip of what I was trying to communicate (it was a tremendous failure, and I think it made me look a little bit insane.) Finally, he got someone on the phone (who I also yelled at) who agreed to give me my dirty clothes in a few hours. You see, I succumbed to the age-old conventional wisdom of the tourist that if you speak loudly and slowly, they will understand you. This is never, ever true. Deep down, we all know that.

In the end, I got my laundry, perfectly clean, folded & on hangers as well as lovingly wrapped in plastic. Maybe I should have my good friend Jen write them an apology for me in Arabic, because I really was a jerk.

So. The good things about this place:

1) Safety. I stopped locking the door to my rental car after the 2nd day of driving when I realized, there is nothing to worry about. Crime here is as nonexistent as my laundry man's English.
2) Dates. No, not the ones where you have long awkward pauses and wonder if some creep is going to try to kiss you when he drops you off after dinner. The kind that grow on palm trees. I watched more than one worker today throw a stick up into the fronds to loosen up some ripe dates. There are dozens of varieties. I had a stick-throwing walking tour around the lagoon in Sharjah today myself, and ate so many dates that I couldn't bring myself to eat lunch.
3) Food. All of the food here is top notch. And yes, in spite of the language barriers, this diversity brings great Lebanese, Pakistani, Egyptian, Indian, Thai, Philippine and Chinese food to the UAE.
4) Islam. That's right, I said it. Forget what you hear on the news...Those crazy jihadists are no different than our own abortion clinic bombers and shooters! Muslims are some of the most decent people around. Also, the call to prayer is a haunting and beautiful thing that wafts over the city 5 times a day like exotic incense pouring out from the countless minarets rising out of the mosques.
5) Taxes. Yeah, there aren't any. I'm pretty sure there is nothing not to like about that! I don't know how many double negatives I just used to describe something that is overwhelmingly positive... And the lack of representation? Well, at least when your government royally (no pun intended) screws things up, you can't blame yourself for voting in the wrong guy.
6) Dress Code. You know, I kind of like the fact that I haven't seen any little sorostitutes lately wearing barely-there tops and teensy tiny shorts with clever things written across the butt cheeks. In fact, I don't miss the general slutting up of my country's youth culture at all. These women in abayas are certainly showing off their most telling feature: the eyes. A little dignity and mystery go a long way.

In answer to Granddad's query: I have mixed feelings about this place. I love Abu Dhabi. I am interested in perhaps seeking work here after I graduate next year. For those of you who don't know, my champion amongst champions boyfriend Chip will be joining me here on Sunday! I guarantee you that I will enjoy this place even more with him at my side.

Viva Arabia!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Cultural Capital (of Crap)

Before I start sounding like everything about this place is just fantastic...allow me a very brief rant in which I will tel you all the things about this place that are terrible:

1)The weather. Today, I had to abort a walking mission because I was afraid I would die of heatstroke
2)The ogling. I am really really really tired of being stared at. Seriously. It's ebough to make a lass go out and buy an abaya.
3)The language barrier. Which language? Pick a language: Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Togalog, just to name a few. It is a bit much.
4)The traffic. If you haven't done some serious 3rd world driving, this is not the place to start. It is a nightmare, a nonstop nightmare of epic proportions.
5)The prevailing attitude towards Western women. People keep asking if I am Russian. I am not sure, but I think that means they think I am a prostitute. Mind you, I am dressed VERY conservatively.
6)The attitude surrounding alcohol. I mean, for crying out loud, I need a beer just to deal with issues 1-5!!!

Okay, I will stop now, because I could go on all day. I am in Sharjah (which I'm pretty sure is Arabic for "shitty") the UAE cultural capital. I hate to say it (but really, I LOVE to say it) but if this is the cultural capital, this place is severely screwed.

You heard it from me first. I'd post pictures, but I am at a cafe...all it is is a bunch of ostentatious architecture surrounded by poverty, heat, sand, and endless construction, anyway. I'm sure your mind can fill in the blanks....

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Desert Safari!!! (finally)

I've been besieged by really crummy internet everywhere. Fortunately, here in Abu Dhabi I have finagled my way into a 5 star hotel (with a bargain -basement discount) with excellent internet.

So, with no further ado:

A white Land Cruiser with "Hormuz" emblazened on the side picks me up. Inside, I meet a lovely American family of 3, Joe and his 2 daughters Paige and Kadria. They are incidentally, ethnically Indian, and are on a 12-hour layover on the way back home from the girls' first visit to India.

We head out to the desert, where we stop at a pretty seedy little shop selling snacks and tourist stuff. I am filled with this going to suck? Are they going to aggressively try to sell us a bunch of crap for the next 3 hours? No! 5 more white Hormuz (the tour company) Land Cruisers sidle up to ours, and the drivers begin to take air out of the tires. This is for the "dune bashing."

Did I mention that it is about a million (honestly~about 115) degrees here? It is. And it is decidedly NOT a "dry heat" if you consider the 80+ percent humididy. We are all incredibly relived to return to the air conditioned SUVs. Then, we head out into the desert. This is the desert of my childhood desert dreams!!

Except that, even with the naivety and limitless imagination of a child, I could not have imagined it as wondrous or vast as it really is. It was simply amazing, but before I could fully lose myself in a rhapsody of desert musing, our vehicle made a sharp turn, and acceleratated aggressively, and before I knew it we were literally experiencing a dune rollercoaster. Here are a few images:

I would be a liar if I told you I ever imagined that driving up and down sand dunes could be so phenomenally thrilling. But oh, it was, and is. Finally, the caravan came to a halt, good news for me, because I was beginning to get a little motion sickness.

We all stepped out into the searing heat, and our hosts produced a number of snowboards. Yes, snowboards, for sandboarding. Images follow here:

The trip down was a lot more fun than the trek up! These are my sweet new friends:

Then, we packed it in, watched the sun set from the acme of another dune, and headed to a "Bedouin Village" where I got to ride a camel and hold a falcon!!

Then, we got henna designs, smoked a shisha pipe (that's not drugs, in case you were wondering!!) and ate a Middle Eastern feast while watching a belly dancer.

All in all, this was a major highlight. It was in fact so awesome that I went again a few days later with my friend Jereme, a landscape architecture student and fellow NWF fellow who is in Dubai doing an internship. More on him later.

I've done a full 180! As of today I have seen and done much more than the desert safari, and I am beginning to really like the place quite a bit. Surprise, surprise...

Next Post, Al Ain and the livestock market.

and why the hell am I here?

So, dear Aunt Amy inquired as to what the purpose of my being here is. My first thought is, "Jeeze-Louise, don't these people (ahem, my family) tell each other anything?" Immediately followed by the thought that my parents might not even know precisely what this is all about.

I'm going to put it in a nutshell for those of you not in the know:

In January, I applied for a fellowship with a big huge design firm. The prize was worth 20 thousand dollars, and I didn't really think I stood a chance. But (in keeping with my regular practice of scholarship/fellowship application) I applied in spite of the rather poor odds of winning. I submitted a portfolio, as well as an essay answering the question, "If you could go anywhere in the world to study a completely designed environment, where would you go, and why?"

I wrote them a pretty outrageous (and by that, I mean outlandish) essay about how I would go to Dubai, scuba dive, charter a helicopter, and so on--in order to better understand the Palm Islands. In case you want to know more about the islands:

I received a phone call in late February telling me I was a finalist, the week later had a phone interview...and the following week was told I didn't get it. WHAT?! It's true. and then...

Right before the end of the semester, I received another phonecall, informing me that one of the fellowship recipients had dropped out, and I was next in line!!! The rest is history! I've been working in NYC all summer for my internship with the firm, and now I am being paid full-time to be here in the UAE with a travel stipend to conduct "research." Not bad, huh?

If you want to read more, here is an article:,1370,135131-9886-52162,00.html

Ball State loves writing articles about me:,1371,300258-18490-51715,00.html

I'll stop bragging now, and get back to the Desert Safari. Next!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The shopping capital of the world

Single female travel here is not advised~not because it is dangerous (it is really, really not) but rather because it is uncomfortable. The worker men just stare and stare. Not like the playful Latins or Italians, there is no accompanying ch-ch-ch! or "oye, guerita!" or anything, really. Just a somber, earnest stare that burns itself into your psyche.

Not to be melodramatic or anything.

Then there was yesterday, meeting up with a classmate of mine who grew up here, and her mother, who's been in the Middle East for 30 years. They pretty much drove me around to a ton of shopping malls and centers, and indicated that shopping is a national pastime, which it really does appear to be. I was pretty impressed, for someone who is not really impressed by shopping malls. Don't worry, you would be too. Emirates Mall comes complete with an indoor ski slope featuring a 400 meter run,
as well as a bevy of tall Persians in long white dishdashas and more ladies in long black abayas than you can shake a shwarma stick at. All of these people appear to have more money than god, and seem to rather like spending it. Unlike everyone else in Dubai, I really didn't come here to buy a bunch of stuff I don't need and can't afford, so the whole outing left me feeling a little out-of sorts. What am I doing here?

I retreated to my hotel and resumed reading a book... I really have become quite dull.

o, after determining rather hastily that this entire trip was a mistake, that the 20-year-old me had 20 times more balls than the 28-year-old me, and a bunch of other nonsense, I finally decided to get over it and ventured out into Dubai in a big way. What better way to break the proverbial ice (or in this case sift the sand?) than a desert safari?

I thought it sounded pretty cheesy and touristy, but what the hell? I am a tourist here, after all.
I will end this entry with a little tiny teaser. The description for the desert safari read:

  • Dune bashing
  • Sand skiing
  • Sunset in the desert
  • Camel riding
  • Arabic tea and coffee
  • BBQ dinner
  • Shisha, Henna
  • Photo with Falcon
  • Belly dancing
Timing: daily 3:30 to 9:30 pm

All this for a mere $45? And what in the world is "dune bashing?"

Intrigued, I made a phone call. The driver picked me up at a fashionably late 4pm, in a world that was surely over 110 degrees, and the rest is history!

Next chapter: Desert Safari

Monday, July 9, 2007

Welcome to Dubai

It's been a harrowing few days...another little bicycle smashup, although the blame lays squarely across my shoulders this time, and I was the only thing that got smashed up, in addition to having my front wheel stolen, in broad daylight on 1st Ave. All this the day I departed! No wonder I barely squeaked out to the airport in time.

Too many hours in the air, followed by too much harrassment at the Dubai airport. All my luggage was searched, exhaustively (pots of hair and face product were unscrewed, yes) and then my body was groped a bit in excess of what I thought was decent (by a very heavily made up Emirati woman in full abaya sporting blue contact lenses, no less!) particularly in the breast region. This is the benefit of looking like a drug trafficker, I suppose.

Good times.

Initial impressions: a city rising from the sand, mostly as monochromatic as the sand itself.
Clumps of construction workers form a sort of human topography, rising in dark, sweaty swells clustered around cranes. They work around the clock, and the music of the night differs only slightly from the day. The din of vehicular congestion is replaced by the steady throbbing of African drums and techno music emanating from hotels around the city, but the steady clanking of structural steel and pile drivers is perpetual.

I am restless, and the sun will be up soon. I need to get over this jet lag, but have no idea how or when. Arabiya music television is rather surprising, or not. Lots of buxom women with ripe mouths and bodies singing poppy songs, "mudwrestling" while singing said songs, amidst strange backdrops involving Satan, sadomasochism, and marriage.

Who knows? More soon.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Desert Calls

Dear friends & family,

I am, at long last, deigning to share my adventures with you. Whooooo! I know, don't break anything as you cartwheel about in unabashed revelry.

Working full time and riding a bike to and fro through the chaos of this city has taken a toll on my eloquence. Being constantly busy is quite tiring. Also, having a social life in this city could easily be a full-time job.

I've been studying Argentine Tango and trying to brush up on some French here. A bicycle accident last week reminded me that I am not as invincible as I like to imagine. Paradoxically, emerging uninjured from the event (stiff neck, no bruises) has certainly made me wonder.

Thus far, my work here at Hart Howerton has been both interesting and uneventful, almost equally in turn. Designing places for people far richer than anyone I will probably ever know is very funny, and a bit disturbing, too. Let's just say that I do a lot of moving pools and tennis courts around, and contemplating what the "mood" of equestrian centers and tropical roadways should be.

Currently, I am in NYC, staring down the barrel of a gun that looks suspiciously like a voyage on a Boeing 747, more likely than not bound to deliver me to the fringe of the Near East. Please feel free to correct me--isn't the UAE considered the Near East? I am quite ready to jump off this cliff and explore the bizarre twists and turns of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the other 5 Emirates, and Oman

I am told it will be hotter than Hades, on the order of 120+ with 80% humidity. Please believe me when I admit that I rather like it hot. Perhaps not quite that hot, though.

I will update when I arrive, and you can be certain that I will be posting many many pictures along the way.

Welcome, to a vicarious experience.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Boy, they sure don't give you a lot of fonts to work with.

I'm sitting in my underwear, in front of a fan, really resisting the desire to do anything at all here today. I am seriously worn out by my life lately. My brain is fried, and my words thus reflect that I am surely becoming the most vapid person on earth. Seriously.