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More UAE observations

I'm sure I'll look back on this list in a few months and understand these things better, but for now, here are some observations on the way things go here in the UAE.

Wow, do they ever know how to do malls here. They shouldn't even be called malls. I know this sounds crazy but the malls here are almost like community centers. I want to write a whole post about it. We went to Sahara Centre in Sharjah last week because it was the only place in three emirates that hadn't depleted their stock of a certain iPhone for a certain someone. It was a Thursday night - the start of the weekend - and the families were out in full force. There's a small indoor amusement park/arcade there (really!) but instead of it being all skeezy and grimy and teenager-make-out-y, it was...wholesome. Packs of well behaved 10-year-olds were roaming the arcade, playing nicely on video games. Families with younger children were riding the more gentle roller coasters. And the place was spotless. Again, wow.

Another thing: they love their traffic circles here. We use Nigel the GPS to get around and it seems like every other word he says is "roundabout." Most of the time, I love roundabouts, too. But then you get into these massive seven-lane vortexes with about eleven major roads spouting off of them and it's a little much. Another thing the UAE seems fond of is reducing lanes at random. You'll be driving along, trying to stay right because you know you need to turn soon when all of a sudden your lane disappears. So you move over but pretty soon that lane disappears, too! Then, mere inches before your turn, the lane you need shows up out of nowhere and you try to merge into it but it's packed with traffic. This is how accidents happen. The truth is that this will all be less scary once we actually know our way around. Driving is always terrifying when you aren't sure where you're going.

Almost everyone here is from somewhere else, have you heard? The closest thing I've ever experienced to this complete hodgepodge of cultures and languages is the United States, but there, it's generally only second- or third-generation people. Here, it seems like every other person (or two out of three people...or three out of four...) came here themselves, from Elsewhere. Hey, I guess we are some of those people, too. But you walk down the street or go to the store and you could literally count through all your fingers and toes pretty quick while naming nationalities before you started repeating them. In Miriam's little KG2 class alone, I've figured out the ethnic backgrounds of eight of the kids and none of them are repeats (South African, Nigerian, Jordanian, Syrian, Pakistani, Turkish, Greek/African (!!), and American) (and the American is Miriam) (and the teacher is Iraqi). It's amazing.

Of course, this means the lingua franca around here is English, not Arabic. It's liberating in a way because you don't have to speak Arabic, but on the other hand, dangit, you don't have to speak Arabic.

And yes, it is very hot here. And humid. I don't mind the humidity too much because I know it's so good for my skin. I spent too long desiccating in Utah and Arizona and the Middle East. It's nice to not have to put on chapstick and lotion every two minutes. As for the heat...well, let's just say I'm happy the sun goes down early. Everywhere you go, there's AC, so that helps too. In a way, it doesn't feel as hot here for that reason. In places like Damascus or Cairo where it's very hot in the summer but not so hot that you can't get away with not having AC, you suffer more. Here, even the little ubiquitous outdoor guard shacks have AC.

We should get a car early next week so that will help with exploring our surroundings a little more. I can't wait to go wadi bashing. Then I'll have some real adventures to report.

Flashback Friday: In which I am not as brave as my octogenarian great-aunt

Everyday life