Monday, August 4, 2008

The heat is on...

You know how I know it's really hot out there?

When we come into an air conditioned area it feels really refreshing, chilly enough to make the kids complain about how cold it is. Then we spend some time inside, and it starts to feel kind of warm, first comfortable, then maybe a little too warm, maybe even sweat a little. Then we go back outside. YOW!

"Too awt! Too aaaawt!" sings out Thomas, especially as he's being buckled into his car seat.

I often see cars with the engines running as the owners go inside to do their errands for however long, so they can come back out to cool seats. Good thing gas is so cheap...

I know it's hot because I look forward to sandstorms when the sun is blotted out for a while and if we're not actually in the middle of a big one we can go hang out in the pool even though it's the middle of the day. Here's a video of a small one we had the other day. It's the "fog" you see in the distance. All the clothes hung up to dry outside blow away. Must get clothespins. The fogging of the lens is from the heat and humidity, despite all that wind.
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video
I've read Bethy the riot act about crayons in the car, (and only have the cheap ones...Crayola will melt like that) and Mike says he's been told not to leave a mobile phone in the car as the batteries can, and apparently will explode and cause an inferno.

I mentioned before that we never go anywhere in the car without a frozen bottle of water, a bottle of water with electrolytes, and bananas. The diaper bag may be forgotten, but we had better have water! Mike and I have studied up on heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how to treat them, since the kids in particular are at risk with their smaller body size.

According to the CDC, "Temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region and last for several weeks are defined as extreme heat." Let's see now, the average high temperature for July and August in Seattle is...75 F. The average high temperatures for Dubai in July and August are 114 and
116 F.

Hmm, guess that qualifies. The long pants or skirts that I wear (to be appropriate) don't really help the situation, but I have to tell you, the Emerati women wear pants tightly fitted at the ankle (sirwal) under the floor-length dress (jillabeela) and the black cloak (abaya). Then they most likely cover their hair with the shaila and sometimes their entire face with the nikab that only shows their eyes. The burqa mask may be worn underneath this to cover their mouths. I would suffocate under all this!

I was surprised and gratified that these garments are not the plain black I had envisioned and thought I knew from photos and television. They are beautiful, embroidered or with sequins all around the edges in elaborate designs, sometimes all black shimmery, but I've even seen pink sequins . Mike loves to see the women in the full outfit with just the small horizontal opening for eyes and glasses.

If you watch surreptitiously you can see the women before and after a meal carefully and discretely rearranging their facial covers, and in the ladies restroom the veils often come off. I feel pretty special that I get to see their faces, though I make sure never to approach anyone without their full headgear on, lest I should make them uncomfortable. I do say nyah-nyah about it to Mike, though, being the mature adult that I am.

The look of just kohl-rimmed eyes showing beneath the veil is intriguing and mysterious, and the abayas, I have to tell you, are figure flattering, up to a point anyway. But how they don't all keel over from heat prostration is completely beyond me!

I finally got my hands on some sweetened Turkish coffee. Words almost fail me. It was like drinking the dark, rich, gorgeous soul of coffee. So, so tasty. I must learn how to make it, now, if not sooner.

One important tip, though, is not to swig that last mouthful. Very chewy and gritty, those grounds.

Monday was an interesting day. Mike was off to work by 4:45 again, and as he walked out the door he mentioned over his shoulder, "Natalie, there's an...army of ants. Bye!"

There was indeed. Small, nonthreatening, but a definite swarm coming in under the door in a steady stream. I put on my shoes and surveyed the situation. Deciding that it was time to call in the troops I called guest services. "So sorry, Ma'am, I will tell housekeeping immediately Ma'am. Is there anything else, Ma'am?" Nope, I said. Just the ants, please.

3 hours later I was deciding that maybe housekeeping wasn't coming immediately. I had tucked my feet up on the couch and was making sure the sleeping children weren't being carried away by a well-coordinated bevy of ants (OK, so actually the ants stayed on the marble flooring and are pretty harmless little critters), so I dialed "0" again. Turns out that housekeeping doesn't actually get here until 8 am, so I guess I was foolish to expect them. Silly me.

When they did get here my guys went to town for us, vacuuming everything, scrubbing and spraying furiously, and also called in an exterminator to come in while we were gone for the day. Not a single intrepid little ant remained when we returned. A little bit sad, a lot less crawly.

We headed out to what we've christened the Big Blue School (Gems World Academy Dubai -resembles something out of Dr Seuss) and I actually drove straight there. Without directions. This calls for a whoo-hoo.

Emboldened, I kept driving and found the scrapbooking store. Two for two! Pretty soon I'm going to get some serious attitude. This feeling of elation continued right up to the point when someone mentioned how nice and light traffic is during the summer.

Dang.

My Mom wanted to post this comment on the last blog entry: "Ah so very sweet. I'm so proud of you and the way you are being a great guest in this country. Love, Mumsey"

This would be a good time for confessions. Moms tend to elicit that response in me, actually.

My language studies are not going as well as I might have hoped. I am able to meet and greet many people relatively well. (Emphasis on the "relatively" part of that statement) Well enough that it creates a sort of problem.
Now folks are momentarily fooled into thinking I can have a conversation with them in their native tongue. Their faces brighten and they lean forward and a stream of incomprehensible words wash over me. Then I confess to them as I am to you.

Apparently the next phrase I need to learn in each language is "I don't speak ____ " (Tagalog, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Urudu, Swahili, Malayalam, Farsi, you get the idea). What's funny about all this is sometimes I don't know what the language is, just what to say to whom.

What I love about all this is that people are so willing to put up with my ineptitude and carefully talk me through the phrase I've asked for, even patiently helping me get it written down when it's a real mouthful. Like Bethy, some days I wish for "Aloha".

I've run into some "why bother" backlash from some expats. I could live my whole life here without interacting with Arabs if I liked, I'm told. Everybody speaks English. Why bother try to learn the local customs, why bother to speak a few words to people in their country's language? Why fret about trying to wear the right clothes, to act the right way when you'll never blend in?

Why? Why?!

Because I didn't travel exactly halfway across the world to stay in exactly the same comfortable little world. Because I'm not looking to blend, but to represent Americans (and Westerners) as not being self-centered, xenophobic, small-minded, well, jerks. Not all of us, anyway. Who's with me on this?

I have a lot to learn, and am approaching this opportunity humbly and with gratitude, and I can only hope I never become complacent or jaded in this wonderful new place.

To make up for my rant, here is a somewhat poor quality video of a certain little boy and one of his favorite pastimes. I present to you: More Gecko.

video

8 comments:

Jean said...

Now that gecko video is something I can relate to. Charlie never feels he has had a true visit to Hawaii unless he spots a gecko or two. His favorite method for attracting the critters is to sit quietly on the lanai and sip Bud Lite. I'm not sure I would suggest that approach to Thomas. Perhaps he should continue to chase geckos in the dark until he's at least 21. Then he can switch to Bud Lite or the brew of his choice.

Joanna said...

Excellent blog! Very interesting and good photos. Makes me want to come and visit. Hmmm ...
Keep on bloggin'!

Natalie said...

Hey! A mother-daughter comment fest! How cool!

Jean,

Do you think the critters would approach without the Bud Light? I'll bet it would work a lot better with a NW microbrew, but maybe that's just me. :)maybe we can have the beer, (not outside in Dubai, of course) and Thomas can chase the geckos. We're team players like that.

Joanna! Way to come out of the camp cave. :) Come visit, by all means! Our villa is yours...when we get one.

Love,
~Natalie

charlie c said...

Jean gave you some erroneous information re Gecko attractant. It's Coors Lite not Bud Lite.

Natalie said...

Oh, good. Now I know just what to do in Hawaii. Phew.

Did you give Jean a hard time for not knowing your brand of beer after 30+ years of marriage, or do you only drink it when you're attempting to attract the geckos?

charlie c said...

Well - Coors works in Hawaii where it's hot and sandy, so, should work in Dubai. It also quenches the thirst between really good microbrews. It's also quite benign so Thomas and Bethy should be able to handle a sip or two. Jeez, we have a picture of Joanna, at age two in her mother's arms, sipping from a bottle of Old Milwaukee at my sister's place near Milwaukee. And, that stuff was more potent than Coors Lite. So, if you can get Coors in Dubai, give it a try as a Gecko getter and let us know how it works. There might be a non-alcoholic version sold in Dubai and I can't vouch for its Gecko attractant qualities.

Natalie said...

The geckos needn't fear non-alcoholic beer from us.

sherrip said...

Natalie, I love your rants! Girl, I'm with you!! Not all Americans are jerks.