Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We Can Kiss, But Only If My Lawyer Is Present.

Hi! Sorry I have been out of touch; we have been busy serving as seriously lousy hosts to some visiting friends (other than washing my hair before their arrival-- which is something!--I'm not sure I put any significant effort into making their visit more enjoyable; I blame the children's spring break from school for sapping me of my energy and inspiration!). But I have been meaning to follow up on my previous “law and order” post; you would not *believe* what happened to some friends of mine here. This story is entitled, “There But For the Grace of God Go I.”

So this couple I know, they got into a little bit of trouble with the law. Thus, by the powers vested in me by the state of Blog, I hereby pronounce them "Bonnie and Clyde."

(Note: This story was told to me personally by Clyde; however, my ears were hearing it through the haze of a deceptively potent Cosmopolitan. So apologies in advance to Bonnie and Clyde—who are readers of the blog!—if I miss or screw up important details. Here’s the story as well as I remember it, now that the hangover has worn off.)

Ok. So Bonnie and Clyde go out with their friends, whom we will call Loverboy (a Canadian) and Lovergirl (an American), for drinks one night. Many drinks. Loverboy and Lovergirl are dating; Bonnie and Clyde are married. At some point, the couples part ways. Loverboy and Lovergirl get into a cab. Bonnie and Clyde get into another cab. Clyde sends Loverboy a text message to the effect of, “Let’s now go to X party.” Loverboy responds with this text message: “Love to. But I’ve just been arrested.” And he punctuates it with a sad face emoticon, you know, because he just wanted to make clear that this was an unhappy development.

Several more text messages are exchanged, during which Clyde learns that the following events took place: Loverboy and Lovergirl may or may not have been canoodling in the back of the taxi. The taxi cab is pulled over. NOT by a policeman. But by a UAE CITIZEN—an all-powerful Emirati (whom Clyde refers to as a “National”). Emirati families make up only a small percentage of the population here relative to the kajillions of expatriates, but they are afforded all sorts of privileges simply by virtue of the fact that they are natives to this country (for example, a law was recently passed declaring that Emiratis cannot lose their jobs in a financially-driven employee layoff; Emiratis can only be fired for cause). Furthermore, Emiratis can legendarily get away with almost anything on the roads-- speeding, cutting people off, etc.-- and are conveniently identifiable by their license plates: Emiratis have single, double, or triple digit license plate numbers (i.e., A 26) whereas mine, by contrast, has a letter and 5 digits (translation: go ahead, run me off the road, I’m a nobody here, I have no connections!).

Ok, so back to the story. An Emirati man waves the taxi over to the side of the road. He then opens the door of the taxi and starts yelling at the couple something like, “You are disgusting! Do that in your own country! You have offended me and my wife! I have called the police!” Soonafter, the police show up, and the couple is arrested.

Not sure about Lovergirl, but Loverboy is charged with the following 3 offenses:

(1) Public Drunkenness (You are legally allowed to consume alcohol in hotel-affiliated bars, but the minute you step outside the establishment, you are now technically in violation of the public drunkenness law. Nice!)

(2) Inappropriate Public Display (canoodling, which Loverboy denies took place; he is sticking to the story that he was merely “smelling her hair”) (ahaha)

and here’s the crazy one:

(3) Adultery, even though NEITHER PERSON WAS MARRIED. Here in the UAE, it is considered “adultery” for a man and a woman who are not married TO EACH OTHER to be found alone in a secluded area. As Paris would say, Loves it!

Ok, so at this point in the story, it's pretty late and Loverboy is in the clink. Clyde says, sit tight, I will figure out how to spring you in the morning. (Long night for Loverboy ensues, I would imagine.)

Next day, Clyde prepares to orchestrate Operation Smooch. He dresses up in a fancy sportsjacket and grabs his fancy briefcase. He and Bonnie hop in the car to take a morning drive to jail.

Pulling up to the jailhouse, Clyde wonders aloud whether Bonnie should stay in the car. She is agreeable to staying put. Clyde goes into the jail and takes a seat at a counter not unlike the DMV.

Speaking to the guy behind the counter, Clyde is given a bit of a runaround regarding Loverboy’s likelihood of getting out that day—something about the magistrate not being in the office over the weekend, and how it would be at least 2 days until Loverboy could be sprung. “Go speak to the guy in Office 12,” says desk guy to Clyde. So Clyde gets up and goes into a crowded room looking for Office 12, at which point he is confronted by an angry guy with a Breathalyzer. “Blow into this,” says Breathalyzer officer. Panic!, says Clyde's internal monologue, wondering if there could possibly be any alcohol remaining in Clyde's system from the previous night. He attempts to blow into the device but can't get it on the first few tries, having had no previous Breathalyzer experience (you'd think this would be a plus, but instead the officer warns, “Stop messing around or I will arrest you.” Yikes!). Clyde finally gets the machine to register: 0.02%. At which point the officer says politely, “Would you like us to take care of your car for you?””

And just like that:


Can you stand it??

Meanwhile poor Bonnie, sitting out in the car-- in her words: “playing with the windows, trying to get the cross-breeze right”-- gets this text from Clyde: “In jail.” (No accompanying sad face emoticon, which I think only goes to support the case for Clyde's sobriety.)

Long story short(er), Clyde pretends he took a cab to the station and by text message, sends Bonnie home (presumptively, in the hopes of avoiding a Seinfeld-finale-type scenario in which everyone they know ends up behind bars). Bonnie begins frantically calling everyone she knows, desperate to find someone—anyone!—who has not had a drop to drink in the past 2 days and can go surrender his or her passport to the jail as Clyde’s bond. She finds a stone sober friend, that guy goes to the jail, and minutes later, Clyde is a free man. Clyde later said that his half-day behind bars was more than a little bit scary: instead of even a semi-private jail cell, he was tossed into a jam-packed room of about 40 possibly violent criminals-- at which point Clyde tried to stay out of further trouble by fastidiously reading the newspaper and sending text messages (not unlike my own mornings, come to think of it.)

Sadly, the story did not come so quickly to an end for Loverboy, who ended up spending more than 48 hours in jail... all for kissing his date! Both Loverboy and Clyde have future “court dates,” however, so this sordid tale of international intrigue may not be over yet. Stay tuned…

(And for heaven's sake, if you have the freedom to do it, go make out with your sweetheart in public. Do it for us. Do it for Loverboy!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Law and Order, Dubai Style

A tabloid-y newspaper here called "7 Days" recently ran a story entitled, "Top 10 Laws to Remember." Here they are, some more interesting than others, reproduced in part by little old transcriber moi...

#1 - "License to Imbibe" - "We all know about those places you can go to buy alcohol if you don't have a liquor license, but the fact of the matter is that, if you want to enjoy a few drinks in Dubai, you should really have a 'red card.'"

(Editorial note: Daddy is currently in the process of trying to get us a liquor license so that we can legally have wine at the house if/when we have to entertain work people, but it's such a production; just today I got a call from the liquor authorities saying that Daddy's application has been rejected because it is missing a signature from his company representative. Sheesh, Daddy, hurry up: THESE CHILDREN ARE DRIVING ME TO DRINK.)

#2 - "Crimes of Cohabitation" - "It's one that is not often enforced, but since we're talking about laws to remember, it seems fitting to mention the one that outlaws unmarried couples living together . . . . If you are worried about the risk, . . . the choice is to go and get married, or live apart."

(Editorial note: Sucks for college kids.)

#3 - "Illegitimate Bumps" - "Getting pregnant if you are not married is a big no-no here. If you are having your prenatal checkups at a government hospital, you will be asked for your marriage certificate when you register. If you are at a private clinic, you won't have to show your marriage certificate until the baby is born. Either way, you need to have that crucial piece of paper before giving birth here, or you could end up with more than sleepless nights."

(Editorial note: SERIOUSLY?? What if the guy knocks you up but won't marry you?)

#4 - "Remain Orderly" - "Drinking in public view (unless you are at a licensed venue or event) is illegal, so don't take your six-pack down to the creek for a sundowner. Being drunk and disorderly in public is against the law no matter where you are."

(Editorial note: Just ask those Brits who were famously drunk and hooking up on the beach.)

#5 - "Keep the Loving in Check" - "Holding hands is nice and won't land you in any trouble, but think twice before kissing, hugging and other displays of affection. It may be acceptable in some places (like in airport lounges), but it has known to get people into bother, particularly if the hugging and kissing is on the more amorous side. Beware in nightclubs: a seemingly innocent kiss, even between married couples, can result in a bouncer giving you a warning."

(Editorial note: Hugging??)

#6 - "Bounce into Jail" - "Whereas in other countries, bouncing a check is usually seen as a civil offense (unless you are found to be doing it frequently and fraudulently), here in the UAE it is a criminal offense and can result in jail time."

(Editorial note: This doesn't worry me as much, seeing as we don't have a bank account here yet. In fact, I haven't handled a check since November '08.)

#7 - "Don't Have One for the Road" - "It goes without saying that drinking and driving is illegal. But what many people fail to understand is that there is no such thing as a safe, legal limit when it comes to drinking and driving here. Even a sip of wine or a strong brandy pudding can put you over the limit, because the limit is zero. If you are driving, you should stick to soft drinks."

(Editorial note: "Hello, Dad? I am in jail. When they pulled me over, my blood / brandy pudding level was 0.8%.")

#8 - "Over the Counter but Outside the Law" - "Codeine is widely available in over the counter medications in countries like the UK, and Temazepam is a commonly prescribed sleep aid. However, they are illegal substances in the UAE, and possessing them could result in arrest. You can't buy them here, but it's a good idea to tell your overseas visitors not to stock up . . . before they arrive. If they do need these medications, they should carry a doctor's prescription, translated into Arabic if possible."

(Editorial note: I will go to prison before I unhand my TylenolPM!!)

#9 - "Respect Ramadan" - "In the UAE, it is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public view during Ramadan fasting hours. 'In public view' includes your car, the beach, and even the gym. You should not chew gum either. Many restaurants have closed off sections where you can eat lunch out of sight, and most offices set up an area where non-Muslims can eat and drink during the day."

(Editorial note: Unlawful gum chewing??)

#10 - "Look Mum, No Hands"- "It's one of the most widely flouted laws in the history of the legal system, but it is absolutely illegal to drive while talking on your mobile."

(Editorial note: Oops.)

So there they are... did any of them surprise you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Never Knew I Could Hate a Grape

So this post might not have much to do with Dubai, but something affected me today and I wanted to share it.

This morning I attended the first session of a pediatric first aid course.  The training took place in the living room of a friend's friend.  All of us there were the mothers of young children.  All of us appeared to be in our early thirties.  For what it's worth, all of us were white (not sure what that has to do with our first aid aptitude, but it struck me as interesting; draw your own conclusions, if any, as to the sociological significance therein).  All of us, as evidenced by the rapt attention displayed on our faces, were familiar with the nagging parental refrain: What if?, and What would I do?

As the instructor, a local paramedic, was setting up the powerpoint projector, she raised her eyes momentarily and asked, "Which one of you recently had the choking child?"  A woman sitting across from me, attractive, well-dressed, and holding a baby boy on her lap, sheepishly gestured with her hand.  "Well everyone in Dubai is talking about it," said the paramedic matter-of-factly.  "So can you tell us a little bit about what happened?"  And then she went right back to connecting extension cords and rebooting her computer, oblivious to the way she had just left this poor woman dreadfully exposed in front of all of us strangers.

The story began casually enough: Her 3-year-old son was eating some grapes before dinner.  It was a Friday (which is a weekend day here), so her husband was home (thank goodness, she said).  She left the kitchen momentarily, and when she returned, she saw the boy struggling to swallow.  "But you never know how serious they are..." she explained tentatively.  [My brow furrowed in empathy, and I felt a flash of shame in realizing that I now routinely dismiss Sushi's daily pseudo-medical complaints as frivolous ploys for attention.]  The woman tried banging the little boy on the back but it wasn't working.  Ok, this was no joke.  She screamed for her husband, and his banging on the back wasn't working, either.  The little boy continued to struggle.  She frantically called for an ambulance.  The person on the phone was asking for directions.  ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS.  They tried the Heimlich Maneuver but didn't know how to administer it to a child.  The boy was turning blue.  AND THE AMBULANCE DID NOT COME.  The woman started pounding on neighbor's doors, begging for help.  The boy was now bleeding from the mouth.  Still there was no ambulance.  At this point, the husband managed to dislodge the grape enough that the boy was beginning to make some groaning sounds, but the grape remained in the boy's mouth, as he was clenching his jaw.  Fifteen minutes later, the ambulance arrived.  The driver asked the woman which hospital she wanted them to drive to.  Tests were done at the hospital.  The diagnosis: brain damage.  But the doctors would not know the extent of the brain damage until further tests could be performed.

As I sat there listening to the story, I wept, and I wept.  To the point where I was a little bit embarrassed.  And I am not a person who gets all mushy and emotional at the slightest thing; in fact I pride myself on my cynicism.  Yet this woman was tearing my heart out.  Because christ, how many times have I turned my back on the children while they were eating.  And hell, I stopped cutting Sushi's grapes in half ages ago; at 3 years old, she just seems so... grown up, relatively speaking... and it doesn't even *occur* to me to treat her like a little kid anymore.  This could have been *my* story.  The woman was just like me.  This could have been *my* kid.  Turning blue.  Christ.  I was terrified.

By the time the woman finished the story, she, too, was crying, as were a few of the other moms.  Apparently there is a happy ending: the boy seems to have fully recovered, and the brain damage, I guess, never materialized.

But I was shattered.  Aside from the obvious cautionary aspect of the story, there were so many realizations in her tale that unnerved me: Hello, I live in a country where the ambulance DOES NOT COME.  I live in a country where you have to have enough wits about you, while watching your child turning BLUE, to give someone on the phone DIRECTIONS.  I live in a country where the emergency operator takes your street address but can offer you no medical assistance, does not make any effort to walk you through a layperson's rescue whilst you wait for help to arrive. 

Meanwhile, the paramedic was doing little to allay my fears: It's true, she said, that you cannot necessarily rely on the ambulance.  It's not like other countries, where an ambulance is dispatched from the closest hospital; here, you get an ambulance from one of the main public hospitals, regardless of how far away, unless you specifically call the direct phone number of a closer clinic.  She even recommended that, if there is someone else at home during the emergency, that person should stand outside the house and attract as much attention as possible to assist the ambulance driver in finding the house.  Like, jump up and down.  And she warned that often, the drive to the hospital, especially in rush hour traffic, can take an hour at least.

I felt overwhelmed and defeated.  In the States, all my life I had just taken for granted that, in an emergency, qualified help would be at my doorstep within minutes.  And now?  All that security had been taken away.  The chill crept up my spine: In an emergency, we could be on our own.  *I* could be on my own.

In spite of myself, I kept sneaking occasional glances at the woman throughout the 3 hour lesson.  How was she able to regain her composure, after what she had most recently been through?  And didn't it freak her out to hear from the instructor that "everyone in Dubai" was talking about her crisis?  Did she feel like we were all watching her, evaluating her?  And was it just my imagination, or did the paramedic take particular care in walking this woman through the practical portion of the lesson, as in-- I'd better make sure she gets it; this lady has already failed as a parent once... ?

It bothered me throughout the entire class that this woman had involuntarily been put on the spot to discuss such a private ordeal.  Especially because we all know how mothers just LOVE to judge one other.  So when the class was over, I made a point of approaching her.  "Excuse me," I said, "but I just wanted to say that I think you're a real hero.  Saving your child like that, without help... No mother should have to see what you saw, and you should be so proud of yourself for holding it together."  The woman's eyes welled with tears.  "It was all my husband's doing," she said.  "No," I assured her, "you're a hero in my book."  She smiled appreciatively and said, "You wonder, if something *had* happened, and he had not made it, would I have spent the rest of my life saying, 'I should have...' and 'I shouldn't have...'?"  And I strongly felt, from the look in her eyes, that the rest of that thought was, "And for the rest of my life, would people have been looking at me like, there's the woman who let her son choke to death?"  I didn't know what to say.  Because we both knew that the answer to both questions was yes.

And you wanna know one last crummy thing?  Tonight, at dinner, I left the kids alone while they were eating their chicken.  I wandered in and out of the room, listening to them goofing around, checking my email, texting the neighbor.  I wasn't watching them.  The paramedic said that children don't thoroughly chew their food until age FIVE.  And yet there were my 2- and 3-year-olds, jumping around unattended with food in their mouths and making each other laugh.  It's as if the complacency had already crept right back in and reclaimed the comfy spot where it's been living these past 4 years since I became a parent.

In my defense, I will venture this one theory: Maybe I didn't retain the full traumatic impact of that woman's story because I simply... couldn't.  Maybe, in the same way that they say you "forget" the pain of childbirth (or so I hear-- I'm a 3-time c-section champion, myself), maybe mothers have to "forget" the vivid fantasy that a fatal accident could happen to their own children, or else they would be unable to parent.  Maybe, if you let the choking stories and the drowning stories and the car crash stories run too many circles around your head, you lose the ability to live in the everyday world-- maybe you become so morbidly fixated on the "What if?"s that you become ineffective in processing the "What next?"s and the "I love you!"s and the "Hurry up and get in the bath!"s.  I don't know how else to explain why I wandered in and out of the room while the kids were eating tonight.  

But I'm sure as hell going to pay attention in class again tomorrow.  I do know that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Have a Headache THIS BIG...

Ok, first I just have to vent for a minute. Because I have been doing "bedtime" with the kids for over TWO HOURS now. And the best part is, every night, it's something different, a different kid, a different issue. Tonight it was the baby. Screaming whenever I even tried to bring her up to her room. As soon as I took her out of her room, it was all coos and smiles and laughter. I offered her food, I offered her drink, I offered her Tylenol, I offered her play, I offered her cuddles, but she would not go to sleep. I have no idea why this time-- the 73rd attempt, probably-- worked. She is quiet, my head is pounding, and I am asking myself once *again* WHY oh WHY did you have SO MANY CHILDREN SO CLOSE TOGETHER. (For those who are keeping track, the eldest kid is turning 4 next month... I have been away from the children for a total of 6 days over those 4 years... this means that I am more-or-less coming up on my *1,460th* consecutive day of having between 1 and 3 children howling directly into my ear at alarmingly close range and in an impossibly high pitch. And if you don't think that's enough to drive a sane person slowly but surely insane, then I invite you to come over to my house and stay for a while.)

Alright. Now I feel at least a little better (though apparently blogging about aggravation does little to ease the physical manifestations thereof; my shoulder is pinched so tight at this moment that I can hardly turn my head). On to bigger and better things.

Well, Daddy returned from his trip. Obvious revelry ensued. (Mostly because now I have another set of hands around the house into which to shove a child and bark, "TAKE THIS OUTSIDE.") Sushi greeted him with her usual tactless "What did you bring me?", but when she followed it up with, "I was sooo good while you were away!", I could not help but break out into maniacal laughter. (My favorite episode during his absence: Sushi was throwing a colossal fit. The baby was asleep. I dumped the writhing, screeching Sushi in her room and, after about 7 unsuccessful attempts to get her to stay put so that I could get poor Screamer into bed, I locked Sushi's door from the outside [a curious feature of the middle eastern architecture that is near-impossible to resist at desperate moments like these] and said I would be back in five minutes if she would JUST. STOP. CRYING. Always the resourceful one [read: manipulative liar], Sushi opened her second-story bedroom window, leaned OUT of it, and screamed down to Z-Man's ground floor bedroom, "HELP! I need HELP! I accidentally locked myself in my room! Please come up here! QUICK!" Which of course sent him tearing up the stairs in a sweaty panic, only to be stopped firmly in his tracks at the top of the staircase by the death rays shooting out of my eyes. Good times.)

What else. Well, I went on a tour of the American school where Sushi was accepted (Screamer's application would not even be considered there, due to the birthdate issue), JUST to be sure that the international school for both of them was the way to go. And I have to say, I was momentarily comforted by the apple pie names punctuating the artwork in *this* hallway: "Ethan," "Madison," "Jeanne," and "Taylor," to name a few. That said, the tour guide told me that even the American schools teach Arabic (the Ministry of Education apparently *requires* that both Arabic and "Islamic culture" be taught to all students over a certain age), and I reminded myself that my kids will have plenty of time to hang with white kids whenever we return to the US. Thus, barring some upset regarding the baby's nursery school prospects (there's a chance that in the fall she could *squeeze* off the waitlist at the conveniently located nursery where Screamer and Sushi presently attend, but only if Screamer stays there another year and maintains Baby's "sibling priority"), I'm thinking that we're heading into an "international" school experience. (Go on, tell me what a big person I am!) (No, really, tell me, so I don't chicken out.)

Other things. Today we had a "trial day" with a second housemaid candidate, whom I will refer to as "Lucille." She was far from an unknown quantity, as we usually have to contend with during these interviews; rather, Lucille works at the house right across the street from us, but her employer guy just lost his job and is taking his family home to Japan. Lucille wants to stay in this neighborhood and so has been lobbying us aggressively for the second maid position. My problems with Lucille, now confirmed after having spent the day with her, are these: (1) She is bossy; (2) She is old (love me, love my ageism); (3) She is insensitive (when Baby took a faceplant while sitting on the carpet amongst her toys, Lucille reluctantly picked her up and mumbled, "She'll just have to learn"); and (4) She is too alpha female to play second fiddle to Alice, who was here first and should be allowed, I believe, to remain the dominant housemaid. (ahaha who ever could have guessed I'd find myself in a position where I would have to oversee the delicate interpersonal dynamics of a "primary" housemaid and "secondary" housemaid.) This means, of course, that it's back to the drawing board (or bulletin board, as the classified ad case may be) for me. (CONFIDENTIAL NOTE TO THE UNIVERSE: PLEASE SEND ME A SUITABLE SECOND HOUSEMAID SOON. IF I HAVE TO TAKE THESE KIDS TO THE SAME BORING SANDBOX PARK ONE MORE TIME, I MAY RESORT TO EATING A BUCKET OF SAND JUST TO BREAK UP THE MONOTONY.)

Ok, well, I can't think of anything else of interest, and I should probably get some sleep while it's still quiet around here (heaven only knows how long this precarious truce between the children and me will last). So I wish you good evening, and hope that, wherever you are in the world, *your* little rugrats aren't also giving you The Treatment. Sweet dreams...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

School Update...

The girls were both accepted to the international school!  This, despite Screamer's non-qualifying birthdate, and the fact that there were apparently only 10 available spots in Sushi's entire grade level!  They got in!!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

World Issues, Nursery Schools, Same Difference.

So the kids have been going to these school interviews.  Because Sushi is about to outgrow the nursery that she and Screamer presently attend, and I would like to keep them together if possible.  But where to send them?  There are a kajillion schools around here, but most of them boast long waitlists and competitive assessment processes.  Also, there's a whole bevy of international flavors to choose from-- do you want your kids to go to a British school?  French school?  International school?  American school?

When we first contemplated the move to the UAE, I took it as a foregone conclusion that the girls would attend an American school.  My instinct was to keep them as insulated as possible and to surround them with only familiar things and people.  Then we got in with The German, and PopPop became best friends with a Muslim from Pakistan, and I began to think that we had spoken too soon.  Maybe the international school was a better choice for us-- even putting aside the fact that it is located a very convenient 15 minutes away (as opposed to many of the other schools, which require at least 30-45 minutes in the car each way).  Perhaps we should embrace this opportunity, I reasoned with myself, and set an early precedent with the kids that all people are created equal.  'Cuz lord knows, if I've learned one thing from being here, it's that prejudices are learned early and then, once situated, they are awfully hard to rid oneself of.  On both sides of the fence, so to speak.

With this logic in mind, I launched an aggressive campaign to get the girls into the international school where The German sends her kids.  It was going to take a little bit of romancing, because Screamer's birthday falls just short of the age cutoff and the vast majority of schools wouldn't even entertain the conversation.  But fortunately, the principal of the international school agreed to meet with us (I'm sure it had *nothing* to do with the obnoxious number of times I dropped the name of an Ivy League alma matter into the letter that I wrote her in advance.)

To my immense relief, during their interviews both kids performed like the well-rehearsed show ponies that they are, and the principal was visibly impressed.  Yay!!!  I was just about to kick off my high heels (that morning my feet had kinda looked at me, after about 4 straight years in sneakers, like, Dude.) and skip wildly out onto the playground in celebration... when.

Passing through the corridor, I ignored the colorful artwork that would usually preoccupy me so that I could focus on the children's names adorning one of the classroom doors.  Gone were the "Billy" and "Jane" of yesteryear (or, more accurately, "Moishe" and "Rebecca"-- we had sent the girls to a Newish nursery back in the States), and in their places were the following (see photo above):

Stuart (!!  Stuart!  Stuart Goldstein, is that you??)  (no.  but I'll take it.)

Suddenly the school didn't seem so much "international" as it did "middle eastern."  And it *certainly* didn't help that, as I happened to be standing there taking these unauthorized pictures, the teacher behind the door was loudly conducting an apparent lesson in Arabic.  Now, Daddy had advised me that most of the schools here taught a little bit of Arabic, as is certainly their right (this news had initially reduced me to instantaneous tears-- if you're not Newish I don't think you could fully understand my visceral reaction-- my children had just gotten to the point where some Hebrew words were becoming second nature to them, and now not only would their burgeoning Hebrew vocabulary fall heavily into disuse, but it would be replaced by a language that I had previously only known as the language of my ancestral enemies), but even with the warning I don't think I was prepared for what I was hearing.  It wasn't, "Ok, class, the word for 'dog' in Arabic is ___.  Can you repeat ___?"  No, it was an entire fluid conversation in Arabic, the likes of which I had honestly only heard before from passersby in the malls and when flipping through the Arabic channels on tv.  My heart leapt into my throat.  How could I preserve my daughters' fledgling Newish identities when they would be learning Arabic in school, there is nary a single synagogue in the entire country, and even in our own home I felt stifled in doing Newish things, lest we be discovered by the driver or the housemaid?

It was a long drive home (no, wait, I just told you that it was only a 15 minute drive.  but it felt much longer).  I felt a tug of war taking place between my heart-- which warned me that being Newish is a delicate gift, especially in a world in which so many, many hateful people would be more than happy to stomp all over it-- and my head-- which reprimanded me for being so closed-minded as to assume that the children's Arab classmates might wish them harm, or that a few words learned in Arabic would have any lasting effect. (Hell, I only remember about 6 words in French, and I took 4 years of it in high school.)  It was the exact inner collision that I experienced when The German asked me, a few months ago, if I had any baby clothes to donate to the school's Gaza relief effort.  On the one hand, yes!  goodness!  of *course* I wanted to help out all the innocent children who were affected by the Israeli military operation!  And I really did!  I found the whole saga to be utterly heartbreaking!  But on the other hand, it gave me a momentary feeling of ick to imagine one of my daughters' sweet little miniature pink teddy bear onesies being worn by a kid who could possibly grow up actively hating the News just as her parents did and maybe their parents before them.  I wondered, would those Gazans even *want* to put their baby in the hand-me-down clothes of a Newish kid?  I honestly wasn't sure.  

(Side note: I never did make the donation, despite my sincere intentions to do so.  The German had only given me one day's notice, and I had not had the time to open up the boxes and dig for the clothes that the baby had outgrown.  Now certainly one could ask, might I have *made* the time, had the relief effort been for Israeli children??  I truly, *truly* don't know the answer to that question.  Or maybe I just don't want to know.)

Which brings me to today: I am waiting to hear if the girls were accepted to the international school.  And you know what?  If they get in, I believe we're going to send them there.  At least to try it.  I think it would be good for us-- all of us, Daddy and PopPop and me included-- to experience it.  If the kids feel uncomfortable or we feel uncomfortable (or if we make others feel uncomfortable!) then we can always change course.  Nothing is forever.  Hopefully not even the centuries-old stalemate between the Arabs and the News.  Hey, it's gotta start somewhere.  Man in the mirror, people!  ahaha that guy on American Idol sucked.  ahaha  a little levity to wrap this up.  Ok, gotta go.  Wish us luck.  More soon.  xo.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Parenting Poll

[Quiz: which precious ballerina is ours?  Hint: I was never asked to try out for b-ball.]

So a recent Gulf News poll asked UAE parents how they thought best to discipline young children, a topic in which I am naturally very interested.  The results?

15% - "I don't have children" [that's one way to keep them quiet]
23% - "put them in time out"
12% - "ground them"
6% - "ignore them"
15% - "smack them"
9% - "smack them harder"  [hey, I just report it, people]
19% - "tell them off"

ahaha  tell them off.  I do this frequently but didn't realize that it was a recognized school of discipline.  Guess I don't have to feel guilty about it anymore!

[Note: I wonder if the reporters subdivided the smacking categories in an attempt to disguise the fact that "smack them" + "smack them harder" together total 24%, making some version of hitting your kid the preferred method of discipline in the UAE.  Nice!]

Let's see.  Aside from the latest scientific breakthroughs in parenting psychology, what else do I have to report.

Current events - First, the gay book I previously discussed was definitively *not* banned in the UAE (according to UAE mouthpieces), and Margaret Atwood did indeed appear at the literary festival, albeit only by videoconference.  Second, an actual Dubai version of "America's Next Top Model" held an open casting call here recently... only so that the producers could take some photographs of the would-be contestants and them swindle them out of 10,000 dirhams apiece (US $2700) before disappearing into thin air.  (Good thing I was able to convince Sushi at the last minute that we should hold off on her portfolio until she grows a few more inches.)  Third, some woman was stabbed to death a few days ago-- allegedly by her husband-- in the parking lot of our favorite local shopping mall, yikes!  It's causing a big stir because violent crime is supposedly very rare here...

What else.  Sushi performed like a champ at another school interview this morning.  Screamer has seemingly lost interest in climbing out of her crib.  (This is only half-good news: now I have to stupidly hope that the littlest one turns out to be a more committed escape artist, otherwise the shipped-overseas-but-yet-unopened crib tent was just money thrown into the wind... or blinding sandstorm, as the recent case may be.)  Baby now has 2 teeth and is hanging on the precipice of a crawling epiphany.  PopPop has retired his online social networking profile in favor of hanging out with some cool Kenyan fellas who work at our clubhouse restaurant.  Daddy leaves tonight for a 10-day business trip and would be well-advised to enjoy every delicious minute of those long, uninterrupted, EIGHT-HOUR stretches of sleep in fancy hotel beds while they last, since he will be knowingly returning to 2 days of rigorous guilt trip per every 1 night spent away from home, happily and faithfully administered by yours truly.  I consider it my maternal duty--heaven only *knows* how often he would travel for work if I didn't make every trip excruciatingly painful-- the kids might *never* see him!  Surely he, too, will thank me one day... I am confident that what seems like a mind-numbing bitchfest now will prove to be the human embodiment of loving devotion when viewed through the looking glass of time.  (Poetic!)

Ok, I wish I had more to tell you about but it's been pretty quiet. Which is bad for the blog, good for the Mommy.

More soon.  Promise.  xo.