Septmeber 15, 2009: The Day My World Changed Forever

I know I fell off the blogging wagon. I have been so touched by how many people have commented on my disappearance, and feel that I should explain myself. First though, I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my useless ramblings.

Those who know me personally will know that September 15 is my birthday. I don’t want a year to pass without a comment on my last birthday. September 15, 2009 started out wonderfully. Friends at work surprised me with a card and a Snickers bar with a single lit candle. Lots of well wishers called, posted messages on my Facebook page and the lovely Charmaine invited me over for a delicious dinner. It was an all round pleasant birthday.

That night I got the most dreadful call I have ever received: my mom died suddenly … yes on my birthday.
I can’t quite describe the effect this has had on me. For the first 6 months after my mom’s death, it took every ounce of strength I had in my body just to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other to walk, string words together to formulate sentences, and frankly, not lose my mind. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a talker, but lately talking about the mundane no longer makes sense to me and the struggle to maintain a veneer of normalcy while internally I’m lacerated, has required more energy than I ever thought possible.

I’m not going to be philosophical about this, but my mom dying was the ultimate form of abandonment, albeit unintentional. I write all this not because I seek sympathy, but because I wanted to explain where I’ve been in the last year. I know the heartbreak will become heartache and eventually the memories will become a source of comfort.

This year, I choose not to celebrate my birthday (although that would upset my mother terribly). Instead, on this eve of the first anniversary of my mom’s death, I would like to take a moment to publicly remember the most fearless, courageous, funny, and crazy (in a good way) woman I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I’m honored to have called her “Mommy”. I beg her forgiveness everyday for the terrible teenager that I was. I thank her everyday for teaching me the difference between right and wrong, for setting my moral compass, and most importantly for loving me in spite of myself.
To Mom, with all my love.

They’re Called Daytime Running Lights, People!

My thoughts on UAE drivers are well known. After driving here for almost a year, I thought I understood everything.
I am no longer surprised when people park in the middle of the street, or at a stop sign, or on the sidewalk, or in front of a gate. I’m not even surprised when people park in front of my car blocking me in and then getting mad at me when I want to get out of my parking spot. I no longer freak out when people try to mow me down at 100 miles/hour because they think my modest 70 mph is not fast enough.

However, I’ve noticed that whenever I get on the highway to Dubai, some crazy driver will chase me at high speed, waving frantically, and indicate that I pull over. I’m a big city person, I don’t pull over for anyone! On several occasions after experiencing this crazy behavior, I pulled into gas stations to see if there was something unusual about my car, but never noticed anything. Then after one persistent local man, on the verge of an apoplectic seizure, scared me half to death and practically threatened to push me off the road, I figured it out.

My car has daytime running lights!

I guess they think that I’ve turned on my headlights by mistake or something. People, they are called
“daytime running lights”; they are supposed to be on during the day. In fact they are mandatory in some countries. I’m not some flaky girl who doesn’t know how to drive her car. I wonder if these crazy drivers think that I’m wearing out my headlights and are simply trying to save me money. It’s actually quite thoughtful in this land of bling. Could it be that even crazy drivers have a pet peeve and I happen to push their buttons as I drive around blissfully oblivious of the anxiety that I cause them? I don’t know, but now every time someone freaks out over my car, I give them a blank stare (as I laugh out loud inside). Funnily, they don’t seem to freak out when someone drives around in low light with their headlights off. Hmm, I wonder which scenario is more dangerous?

OK, another interesting traffic quirk here. In most places when a police car or any other emergency vehicle comes up behind you with lights flashing, a driver would pull over, right? Not on the streets of Abu Dhabi. In the last month, I’ve witnessed police cars on Al Khaleej Al Arabi (street 30) forced to negotiate their way through traffic as drivers doggedly try to outrun them. From what I have observed, the police are simply trying to get somewhere (an emergency ostensibly), but the drivers do not budge or simply speed up daring the police to pass them. If you’re thinking it’s because traffic is really heavy and they can’t pull over, you would be wrong. Each time I’ve witnessed this scenario, there has been plenty of space to move over or at least switch to another lane. The only explanation I have is that people really see the “fast lane” as their personal turf and they’ll be damned if they are going to give it up for anyone, not even the po-po. Gotta love it!

Personally, I come from the land of the “we’ll ticket you for even thinking about going above 40 mph” so I pull over and pray that the fuss isn’t about trying to give me a speeding ticket.

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A Little Taste of California

There are two things that people should know about me: I love Los Angeles and I love coffee (oh and I love good quality cheese and good quality chocolate).  One of the things I miss most about LA is Peet’s Coffee; sometimes the service at my Larchmont Blvd location was a little slow so I’d go to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf across the street… anything to avoid Starbucks (also on the same street).

Before I moved to Abu Dhabi, I’d read that there was at least one Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Dubai; it turns out there are quite a few. I managed to take this picture when I was at Ibn Batutta Mall in Dubai knitting with my Amiras in early February… yes, I know this post is a little late, but really, is it ever too late to post about good coffee?

Oh, that yummy goodness!

Seeing this place made me so homesick.  I even contemplated daily drives to Dubai  (80 miles away) for a little “LA fix”.  Then, just 2 weeks ago, I found it: Abu Dhabi’s only Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  AND, it’s only a 5 minute car ride from my office… oh happy day!  It’s at the ADNEC in Hall D (as soon as you enter the hall, take the escalator up and presto).  Anyone who knows about ADNEC knows that it isn’t a natural destination unless you are actually attending an event there; I happened to be at IDEX when I discovered CB&TL.

Do you think if I’m very, very good, Peet’s might move here? Oh my goodness, what if Pinkberry came here? OK, enough already; I’m off to bed.

A quick note to Shyma: it was so great to meet you🙂

The View from My Balcony

After enough nudging from people, I’ve promised myself to write more on my blog (thanks Lindsay … and Gary for the reminder).

I forgot to mention in my last post that one of the really cool things that happened in November is that our little knitting group finally came up with a name. Yes, we are the U-knitted Amiras. I know, it only took us 3 months, but this name feels right. For those of you who don’t know, “amira” is Arabic for “princess”, and who doesn’t want to be a princess right? We met on Friday and I have to say my heart filled with joy when I saw my girls. I think we’re becoming a real unit. I like belonging to something.

One of the things that people often ask me about is what Abu Dhabi looks like, so I thought I’d post some pictures of the view from my balcony. I will post more pictures in the future, it’s just that my camera and my laptop are not compatible and I seem to have lost the adapter that I need to make my memory stick fit into my laptop… anyone want to buy me a new laptop? Ha!

When I look straight ahead, I see Hamdan Street. The domed white building on the left is a mosque. There are apparently three mosques right outside my window. It took me forever to figure out which buildings were the mosques. I could hear the calls to prayer everyday, but couldn’t quite figure out where they came from. People thought I was kidding when I’d ask; I guess when you’ve lived in the region for a long time, you don’t remember how different it is from home. In any event, now I can spot the mosques. Qatar Airways was my first landmark when I first moved here. As I’ve said before, addresses as we understand them in the West do not exist here.

Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi

Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi

My favorite view is to my left. It’s the Corniche. The water is so blue and I find it so peaceful to look out there on a nice quiet morning. Sometimes you can see sailboats and jet skis on the water … I am dying to go jet skiing. My friends and I keep saying we’re going to walk the entire length of the Corniche but something always seems to come up so we haven’t done it yet. The weather is so gorgeous right now that we have to do it soon.

The Corniche

The Corniche

By the way, the walk from my apartment to the point on the Corniche in the picture is only about 5 minutes. The island on the other side of the water is Lulu Island… “lulu” is Arabic for “pearl” which is what these parts were well known for before black gold was found. I’ll take pearls any day!

This is a weird shot, but I thought it good to show what I see when I look down. Looking at this green, I have to remind myself that this place is actually a desert. It’s easy to forget that sometimes in Abu Dhabi. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere near as green as Ireland, but still, given that it’s in the middle of the sand, this is pretty impressive.

The view below

The view below

On my right, is my second landmark, the Sheraton Hotel. I discovered the hard way that to simply give a cab driver “the Sheraton” as a landmark does not work because, drum roll please, there are TWO Sheraton hotels in Abu Dhabi. My landmark is “the Sheraton Hotel, Khalidiya”… you live and learn.

The Sheraton, Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi

The Sheraton, Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi

There is some sort of construction going on across the street from me adjacent to the Sheraton, Khalidiya. I’m not sure what it is but I figured I’d track it’s progress. So this is what it looked like a month ago:

Construction outside Sheraton, Khalidiya

Construction outside Sheraton, Khalidiya

The last picture for this evening, is Hamdan Street by night. I love to sit outside during the last call to prayer of the day and sip my tea while I look out at this view:

Hamdan Street at night

Hamdan Street at night

Bad Blogger

Yes, it’s true, I’m a terrible blogger.  Of course, I could also claim that the reason that I haven’t written is because I wanted to be sure that everyone was absolutely sure of who our new president is… ok, that’s not true; of course everyone knows who the new president is.

So, it’s been over a month since I’ve written, and a lot has happened. This post will just be a recap of what I’ve been up to.

On November 12 I got a call from our transportation person telling me that my car had FINALLY arrived in the UAE. I almost passed out with excitement until he told me that it would take a few weeks before it could clear Customs, get registered, inspected and insured.  Aah, one hand giveth and the other taketh away!

On November 14 my household effects arrived. The movers unpacked everything in less than an hour. I would like to credit their efficiency, but I think the speed with which they worked is a statement on how much I own.   I even managed to make it to my knitting group meeting that afternoon.

Two weeks after I got word of my car arriving, I finally received permission to drive it on November 25.  It’s weird driving my own car again. It feels so big after driving my tiny rental Peugeot 307.  To be honest, it is taking some getting used to, but I’m happy to say that I’m getting a lot more respect on the road.  No, mine is not the massive SUV common on the roads of the UAE; it is instead a smaller crossover SUV but is substantial enough for people not to bully me on the roads.

One of the things I looked forward to all of November (besides the election!) was Thanksgiving in London.  I left for London on Thanksgiving morning with dreams of yarn, knitting and cool weather.  I arrived in London to discover that because of currency fluctuations, I could actually afford to buy yarn in the UK. In fact, for some yarns, it was actually cheaper to shop in the UK.  Sadly, I only managed 2 trips to the LYS and very little knitting: 5 scarves and a sweater of my own design that I eventually frogged because I didn’t like the way it draped.  I had hoped to knit more, but I managed to catch a cold while there and it threw me completely for a loop. I just couldn’t focus.

Here is the only evidence I have of my knitting while on holiday; it’s a scarf that I knitted for Jill using Rowan Felted Tweed. I don’t know if I would use this particular yarn again for a scarf because the final product was not as soft as the yarn felt on the shelf. I’ll have to make her something else. You’ll notice the lovely crocheted bedspread in the background. Jill crocheted it herself. It’s really pretty.


While in London, I realized how spoiled I have been by living in LA and Abu Dhabi.  I am way too soft now to stand on cold platforms while waiting for a delayed train that shows up filled to capacity.  The weather didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Everyone told me that it would feel terribly cold after Abu Dhabi.  I like the cold (as long as I’m nicely bundled up) so I felt fine. I have missed the sound of rain so much that London in all its dreariness was surprisingly appealing.  I only wish we could have had a nice thunderstorm … I love those, especially when I’m sitting indoors with a nice cup of hot chocolate.  Ahh!  I spent almost every day in my favorite part of London: Islington.  Islington is great; it has so many cute little stores and restaurants. If I were to live in the UK again, that’s where I’d want to live.

I didn’t take any pictures in Islington … never seemed to have my camera on me, but here is the platform I stood on everyday
Alexandra Palace Station

and train I took everyday to get to Islington!


I got back to the UAE on December 11. Another thing that I have to mention is that this trip to the UK was my first time flying with Etihad Airways. So what’s my verdict on Etihad? It’s not bad. My flight out was virtually empty which meant I actually lay down as I had more than one seat to myself. The flight back was pretty crowded but I can’t really complain. My only real criticism of Etihad is that on both the flights on which I flew, the cabin temperature was really warm. One could argue that that the airline is only trying to prepare you for the desert. I usually find planes really cold and dress in layers, so I was absolutely boiling on Etihad and some layers could not be removed in a ladylike manner!

The 44th President of the United States of America!

Ladies and Gentlemen, here he is:

I woke to the shrill ringing of my cell phone this morning and the lyrics “at first I was afraid, I was petrified” rushed through my head (that’s “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor by the way).  I knew it was an election call, but what was the news? I picked up the phone to hear my friend Lynn screaming “He’s winning! He’s winning!”

It was so hard to process and I refused to believe it was really happening until I saw the words flash across the TV screen “Barack Obama has won the US presidential election”.  OH MY GOD!!! I was so shocked.

This, my friends, is democracy American style… they said America could never do it, they said America would never do it. Well guess what? We can and we did! I am tremendously proud of my country.  I know it sounds hokey, but it’s true.

I think a lot of pundits have tried to make race a central character in this election and given how great the politicization of race has been in our history it was an easy route to take.  Yes, his win as a black candidate is historic (boy is it ever historic), BUT, as my colleague Claudia eloquently put it “He was great candidate who just happened to be black”. I couldn’t have said it better. Yes, race may have been a factor for some, but this was a resounding expression of the American will and we should be given credit for that.  Obama was “judged not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character”.  Yes, America, we can!

I thought McCain’s concession speech was excellent. He was gracious and sincere… good job Senator McCain! I loved the tribute President Obama paid to his wife and he’d better deliver on that promise of a puppy because his kids have a whole nation of witnesses to that promise!

As a person of color I am privileged to have borne witness to this historical moment. As an American living in a foreign country, I have been humbled by how much interest people have taken in our election and our democratic process.  I hold my head up high and say “Yes we can!”

President Obama has a very difficult job ahead of him and the expectations of millions to manage. I don’t envy him at all, but I wish him all the success in the world.

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The Day Before…

OMG, it’s Election Day in the United States!  The time difference means that much of the voting will take place while we sleep. I hope that this doesn’t turn into the drawn out counting process that it was in the last two elections. I want to wake up in the morning and know for sure who the 44th President of the United States is.  I don’t think I can take waiting any longer.  Although, my state’s (California) results won’t be out until about 11 am our time, so if it’s a close call, we’ll have to wait for California’s results to be announced.

I’m so excited! I am, of course, streaming both KCRW and WNYC to keep on top of what’s going on.  I love NPR!

I had an interesting conversation with one of my non-American colleagues this afternoon.  She has just returned from her first trip to the United States and was giddy over the election process. It was nice to get her perspective. She said in Washington, DC where she was, the air was electric with anticipation. She said she wished she could vote too and was a little bummed to have missed the actual voting day.

There was sad news on the Obama front today; his grandmother passed away from cancer and Obama’s campaign director in Nevada died of a heart attack last night.

Quick change of topic, but my colleague told me one of the things she really loved in the States was the Fall foliage. She said she didn’t know nature could produce such pretty colors. It evoked fond memories of a trip my brother and I took to Princeton, NJ in 2001.  It was about a month after 9/11, we drove down the Garden State Parkway from Northern NJ to Princeton and the Fall colors were at their finest, the leaves vibrant, the sky really blue, and the air so beautifully crisp (perfect knitting weather!)  I highly recommend that everyone take a Mid-Atlantic/New England Fall road trip.  It’s so pretty.