Thursday, June 5, 2014

Can You Find Me Now?

I love my cell phone. It does everything from keeping up with friends to babysitting my kids. Still, traveling to new countries I am reluctant to get a local sim card. For one week and a handful of calls, the purchase seems silly. And yes, I am stubborn. I grew up before cell phones and want to believe I can function without one.

After relating my experiences on my last trip to Spencer, he pointedly asked if I had finally learned my lesson. Maybe I did learn my lesson, but I am stubborn and have a point to prove.

So there I was, second day in the Middle East, first day in Dubai. After a fantastic day working with great people, and no, I am not just saying that because I discovered a blog reader there, I decided to explore the souk. I wandered along the Creek and admired the woodwork. The boats were really cool. Some appeared cobbled together, but there was real artistry in the carpentry work. The entire trip I saw no large trees. Where did these boats come from?

The Creek leads into the textile souk. From all accounts, the last great souk in Emirates. Terrible at bartering, I wandered in and out of shops. I really wanted a mosaic lamp, but settled for pillow shams and matching ceramic for a small fortune. After exploring the attic of one shop I decided that my next formal dress must be custom made in Dubai. A future posting is in order.

With fancy dress balls whirling in my head, I walked to the Dubai Museum to meet my ride to Abu Dabhi. No car. I walked every entrance for 20 minutes. No car. Between entrances I checked the packed parking lot. No car. The whole time thinking about what I would do as a kid to find someone- basically keep looking and don't panic after 20 minutes. Finally, I had the brilliant idea to go into the museum, where I handed the man behind the desk the contact sheet and asked him to make the call. Sure enough, the car was parked in the back of the lot awaiting a call to come forward. He had called the Consulate to say the crazy American girl he was meeting was missing, but didn't think to use his own eyes and legs to get out of the car and walk to the museum. Thanks buddy. I can function without a cell, apparently no one else can.

In Abu Dhabi I was able to rely on the hotel. Calls to work were easy, there was a phone in my room. Calls to me were another matter. Wednesday after work I rushed back to the hotel to change clothes for an art opening. I didn't think it would be appropriate to attend in the clothes I wore while climbing scaffold, so I rushed through the hotel and screeched to a halt at the reception desk. "If anyone calls, please put them through to my room." Seemed straight forward enough, but it wasn't.

Quickly, I threw on more appropriate attire, washed my face, and put on deodorant. Each step, was later determined to be a waste of time. Running downstairs for my ride, I went straight to the concierge desk at the taxi stand. Concerned I would miss a call or the car, I hovered at the desk. Frequently told to go and sit, I pestered them about incoming calls. When the car arrived a half hour later, I was informed that they did try to call. Five times they called to say the car was going to be late, but the person at the desk was not able to find me. Really? The theme- if only I had a cell phone everyone would know how to find me.

Made it to the reception and the event was worth the earlier confusion. I had a nice time chatting until I remembered I was supposed to be working and then did a little of that to. Not acclimated to the heat, my attire consisting of pants, my lightest pair of dress pants, and a summer weight sweater to cover my arms, was not a wise idea. Half of the opening remarks were completely drowned out by my own thoughts focused on the pools of sweat collecting in places that sweat had never pooled before. Knowing that people were standing behind me seeing the dark spots expand behind my knees, I began to reconsider Abu Dhabi as a future posting.

United Arab Emirates was a soft landing into my first Middle Eastern experience. I met some great people and found that I really enjoy the work, if only I could write my reports as quickly as I write this.  In another blog post I may discuss how an offer of beer and brunch by a kind soul got me to ditch my entire tourist itinerary or how Mandarin at FSI is the worst form of Chinese torture. Excuse the typos and oddly placed woods, I write this entry on my phone while watching the kids play at the park.

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