Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dubai: Still Standing!

First off, did this magazine cover give anyone-- OTHER THAN ME-- a freaking heart attack???

(Thankfully, the story was about someone else, meaning that the anonymity of yours truly is still intact... for now... !)

Second, I'm genuinely sorry that I haven't written in so long. It's not that I don't think about you-- I do!-- it's just that I've made the scope of this blog so limited (i.e., our family's "adventures" in Dubai) that it doesn't lend itself to philosophical diatribes about our rather boring daily existence. This realization has inspired me to perhaps start *another* blog, the focus of which would be our rather boring daily existence... but in the meantime, I apologize again for the lack of Dubai updates. If nothing else, you can take comfort in the fact that no news is good news (cuz lord knows if there was any trouble brewing, I'd be whining to you guys about it).

Third... heard anything about Dubai lately?

Lots of friends have been emailing to ask whether the recently sensationalized Dubai debt situation is affecting us, and how it is being spun over here.

Well, I can’t speak for Daddy, and I’m sure he could explain more eloquently the impact that the Dubai World debt "restructuring" is having on his business prospects, if any. But as far as I can tell, the impact has been minimal on us, for two reasons. One, Daddy’s job is based not out of Dubai, but Abu Dhabi, which has a far more stable financial foundation; and two, the news as it has been described in our local newspapers presents a slightly more ambiguous-- or even optimistic?-- picture than what has been presented to the world at large. Not only is the restructuring being couched in less certain terms (as in, "we as UAE journalists don't know whether Dubai World actually *cannot* pay its debt at this time, or is merely *postponing* debt repayment in order to ultimately make a greater return on the investment"), but also, we are being reminded that it is not the government *itself* which is ostensibly out of money, but merely one huge project in which the government is a part-owner.

That said, if it’s even partly true that Dubai has run out of money, and that at least for now the fairy tale has come to an end, then it’s very bad news indeed for the already-fractured skyline of this city. Everywhere you look, there are half-built skyscrapers and inanimate cranes and enormous craters that have been dug out of the sides of highways, all of which could very well remain frozen in time like this... forever? The omnipresent construction zones and orange cones and scaffolding and affiliated chaos is one of my least favorite things about living here, and the idea that the city might be paralyzed in this half-formed state is downright depressing. Driving on the disjointed roads is perilous to say the least, and at this point, I have given up on hoping for street signs and just hope for pavement instead. So in this regard, yes, I guess the debt "crisis" is impacting us, but thankfully, in only superficial ways as far as I can tell.

[Note to Daddy: It's entirely possible that the Dubai debt crisis is having a huge impact on us financially, and that you have told me about it at length. If this is the case, I'm sorry, I don't think I retained any of that information, I blame the children, any conversations that take place after 8pm are likely to result in your simply talking to yourself while my eyes glaze over and my thoughts drift to some version of "Where did it all go wrong?" as I mentally inventory the children's various misdeeds of the concluding day. Apologies all around. Do tell me again, but preferably not in the comments section of the blog. Email would be best, as I could then reread it in the freshness of morning, and I will amend the blog accordingly.]

What else has been happening. Well, a couple of people asked me about the recently celebrated Eid holiday, but I don’t really have much to say about that, because it only substantively manifested itself in our world insofar as the schools were closed for a week (the Eid holiday coincided with UAE’s National Day, so in total the kids were home for 10 days, woohoo). Well wait, we did traipse out to the Marina Walk to check out the National Day activities one night, but it was so crowded in the temporary "Heritage Village" construct that we just took a few pictures of a growly camel and left. PopPop and I also took Sushi and Screamer to a National Day parade, but again, it was only minimally noteworthy (Sushi saw her life flash before her eyes when we realized—too late—that we were standing right next to the pyrotechnic tent; poor skittish little thing that she is, I fear that from this day forward, the mere sight of a bandleader baton will trigger her PTSD).

One nice recent event was Thanksgiving: unlike last year, when at the end of November we were only 1 week into our Dubai adventure and were far too overwhelmed to be bothered with a turkey dinner, this year we properly celebrated at our house with The Australian and her gorgeous family (her idea! otherwise we might have just ignored it for a second year in a row). It was particularly lovely because, as I explained to Mr. & Mrs. Australian and their two angelic daughters in a toast, we didn’t do Thanksgiving last year because it is a holiday meant to be shared with extended family; and whereas last year we had no extended family in Dubai, this year, thanks to them, we do. Mr. Australian did a stunning job with his very first turkey, and Daddy single-handedly cooked just about everything else, so cheers to both men. (Hey, I was responsible for decorations and general ambience, which is no small feat. Have you ever tried to iTunes-ify an entire holiday event from scratch? These playlists don’t write themselves, people!)

What else. Well, we were exceedingly proud that Sushi was selected by her teacher to be one of only three presenters at their "Winter Performance," and even though she was literally trembling with nerves at the time (she later said, "I knew I was scared because I had goosebumps"), she delivered her line perfectly. If she’s inherited any of her parents’ overly-theatrical DNA, it will hopefully be the first in a long line of starring roles. J

[A note about the Winter Performance: Boy, they’re not kidding around with this Christmas thing at the American school. I mean, thankfully, I didn't hear any discussion of Jesus himself in the lessons, but wow, they really hammered the kids with Christmas trees and Christmas carols and Santa Claus (they even visited a PTA-sponsored "Santa’s Grotto" in the front lobby, where kids had the option of having their photo taken with Santa) (Sushi didn't, and yet I still saw her eyes light up with glee when all the teachers started screaming, "Santa's here!" like groupies, which broke my heart for the kid a little bit). The three songs Sushi’s class sang at the performance were "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells," and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." And even though I privately mentioned to Sushi’s teacher that we aren't, ahem, Christian—and she received the news with respectful passivity ("That *shouldn’t* be a problem here in the American school..."), I also haven’t heard any overly inclusive messages yet. It's ok, though; Sushi and Screamer seem to be fine with the idea that Christmas is a holiday celebrated by other people just like Ramadan and Eid are... and with Alice and Z-Man in the house, we have built-in recipients for all such holiday-specific school-sponsored crafts. Still, I never expected that a Christmas onslaught would be a problem I'd face here in Dubai...!]

Finally, if anyone's wondering why I am not posting anything specifically about the Festival of Tights (shout out to those of you who were reading this a year ago!), it's because it hasn't really gotten started yet. I mean, sure, the holiday has already come and gone in the real world, but here in Dubai, where I think we're just about the only News (second shout out!), we can set the Newish calendar however we like. And Mommy? She likes the Festival of Tights to take place smack dab in the middle of school break, and for the schmandle lighting to be a sunrise ritual instead of a sunset one (all the better for toy-enjoyment, methinks). So check back in a few days to see how the all the latke-induced shenanigans all went down... xoxo!