Sunday, November 22, 2009

Translating Seven Different Languages

The true mark of internationally-minded people is being multi-lingual--at least bilingual, but certainly, in Europe, being bilingual is not nearly the rare accomplishment it is in the States. But here we have a Europen fluent in SEVEN languages. Wow! You have simply got to see this.

My New Best Friend

One of the perks of working on a University campus is free access to the gym/rec center. Now, to be sure, the rec center is nothing special, but it's got a bunch of treadmills, elipticals, stationary bikes, and almost every weight machine you could ask for. There is no swimming pool for me to use (disappointed sigh), and there is no track for me to run (eyes rolling--come on, is this a university or no?). But, I do have the BUTT MACHINE. My new best friend. Why? Because this little somethin' is making my knee feel better than it has all year. Part of my runner's knee problem is weak hips. This is something that affects a lot of female runners. So I am doing lots of the butt machine, both where you close with your knees like on the machine in the above picture, and especially the opposite one where you turn the pads around and push them out with your outer bootay muscles. SO GOOD!! And doing it's job because my knee pain has steadily decreased in the last few weeks. Ahhhhhhh......

While spending so much time at the gym, I get to observe the behavior of the Turkish students and people who work here. I must say, it is quite entertaining indeed! It's just generally in the form of people doing next to nothing or ineffective things, like, barely spinning the stationary bike or walking at a snail's pace on the treadmill. Seriously, you would walk faster just naturally walking along. Further observational study is required before I begin posting about my stereotypes.

Personally, I find the gym to be a necessary evil. I hate working-out inside. I hate treadmills. But it gets dark at 4:30 and there's no way I'm getting up early in the morning to run. Yuck. But it is making my knee feel better. And fortunately, I can pass the time giggling to myself about gym-behavior and do my little ethnocentric comparisons.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bali's Double-Wide

And yes, Bali is getting a bit double-wide herself. But this is about her awesome scratchy.

She's never had one she can actually sleep on and love on and take baths on. In other words, this is Christmas times twenty for her. And speaking of Christmas, yes, there are Christmas decorations everywhere! It's a Muslim country!!! Turns out, Turks, especially, our super-secular families in this part of Ankara, celebrate Christmas as New Years. When they say "merry Christmas," they mean "happy New Year!" It's true: everyone loves Christmas.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Workshop in Dubai

Ahh, how fitting: I can hear the call to prayer....

In the middle of October, I had my first real Arabic experience: a professional development workshop in Dubai. Nevermind that only maybe 20% of the population of that city are actually residents of the UAE.
"20%?" you ask. "Really? So few Arabs?"
Really. The other 80% of the population of that place I loving refer to as Vegas-Without-The-Gambling-and-Free-Booze, are the people shipped in to build the place and staff the place and drive the taxis and clean the houses, and the Europeans who go to work their crazy real-estate, finance, and whatever other posh jobs are available there. But this post is not about the human-trafficking and indentured-servitude masked as "providing jobs where the less fortunate can come and work and send home lots of money from the land of prosperity." This post is about my impressions, however misinformed they may actually be, of Dubai.

Without further adieu, the moment you've all been waiting for.... Yes! I went to Mall of the Emirates. Wooo, fancy! What did I find there? EVERYTHING. No, seriously. You name it. It's there. It's a crazy uber-shopping complex with labels and stores and things from all over the world, complete with more Bentleys, Ferraris, and Porsches I've ever seen in one place at one time parked out front. And yes, you've guessed it---THE largest indoor ski resort in the world:

A little anti-climatic? Perhaps for you. For me, it was standing on snow inside, while it was 95% Fahrenheit at 10 o'clock at night outside. It was a ski lift, in-freaking-doors! It was a tiny terrain park. It was women in full ha-jibs tubing! It was 4 ski trails, the longest of which are 400 meters long! It was Japanese tourists skiing! (as an aside, I adore Japanese tourists)

And yes, too, it is one of the most incredibly atrocious wastes of natural resources I have ever seen in my life. Seriously. It makes me a little ill just thinking about it. It's a travesty.

Of course, let's not get carried away with crazy, flashy city-land. I was there to work. I was sent by my school to go to a workshop for IGCSE literature, a two-year course I am currently teaching with my darling little 9th graders (a post for some other time). Here I am getting LOTS of work done:

It was this school's location that gave me a crash-course in Arabic culture every morning. There are no addresses. Everyone uses a PO box for mail, and the city is divided into districts and neighborhoods. In order to arrive at your destination, you must either have: 1. a very detailed map (a little difficult to obtain for a city that is constantly new and expanding) which was not provided for participants, or 2. a taxi-driver who knows the area. No taxi drivers know the area. They are all from Pakistan or India (and kind of hate Arabs, I think). I guess it sort of makes sense that they wouldn't have addresses. I mean, the city is younger than I am and before there was a city, there were tents and camels and horses and that's all.

However, they do happen to have a lovely metro:

I could have even sat in the women-and-children only car, but I did not, since my traveling partner and colleague is a dude. I would have though--for the novelty of it.

Honestly, this is more like what travel has come to mean to me:

An opportunity to drink good beer that I can't get at wherever my current home happens to be.

Yes, as you may have noticed, all my pictures of Dubai are from the inside. Because that's where life has to be lived, because it's too freaking hot out to hang around outside. Humans weren't meant to live in that kind of heat. Nothing is. That's why it's a desert and nothing more. Literally, it's just sand. Which is another reason why my pictures are from the inside. Not because sand is ugly or I don't especially love the desert, because I do. But when you build a city on sand, the air is filled with dust. You can't see far around you for the haze--there's just a ton of dust in the air. And that is why, when you google pictures of Dubai, all you get are computer-generated images. No one can get a good shot of the city because it's too hazy. And that is why I have no picture of the Burj for you, or of The Palm Islands, or of construction progress on The World Islands.

I did manage one photo of the crazy 7-star hotel out in the ocean:

But here's what it really looks like. I stole this pic from Wikipedia:

"Will they finish The World?" you ask.
"Is The Palm sinking?" you wonder.

I don't know. All I know is, the exchange rate is plummeting, there are countless half-finished sky-scrappers, and my fancy-schmancy hotel was the same price as my kinda-crappy last hotel room in Istanbul.

Obviously, my three whole days in Dubai has made me a literal expert on all thing UAE and Arabic culture, so just feel free to ask me anything.