Dubai Metro has been launched.

I know because I spent the last hour and 9 minutes waiting for it to pull from the station. Waiting and wading–through the terrible commentary of the anchors on Dubai One’s Special Coverage. Through the images of Dubai, images that corresponded with one-word descriptors of the Metro (“convenience,” “style”). Through the speeches venerating the visionary VP of the country, president and Prime Minster of Dubai.

And then, at approximately 9:08:34 PM the metro’s first ticket was purchased. Shiekh Mo pulled the money from his very own modest brown leather wallet. (But, and I must add this, it was a woman who purchased the ticket. There He was, surrounded by several-hundred men of varying degrees of importance, but Woman gets credit for using the touch-screen ticket dispenser to validate Sheikh Mo’s purchase.)

At 9:09:09 PM on 09/09/09, he pressed the Nol Red card to the gate and became the first patron ever.
He was followed by a sea of penguin-looking “dignitaries, businessmen, and others,” as Dubai One so succinctly put it.

Up the stairs, through the breezeway over the freeway, out of the mall, and all the way to the world’s longest driverless train he walked. You may not think that is remarkable, but oh it was for the anchors.

Riding the metro will take you out of your comfort zone–your sedentary lifestyle, as Sheikh Mohammad is demonstrating.

And what an exemplary job he did of walking up all those stairs!

Then, he and his dignitaries, businessmen, and less common-ers boarded the train. The cameras recorded and TV stations broadcasted and we all waited with great anticipation for the train to make it to the next station…

We all waited with great anticipation for the train to make it to the next station…

We all–what the heck is the hold up??

I still don’t know. But five minutes later, when the train did finally pull away from the station, it was packed.

Oh look, now they’re all back on TV at the next station. Still walking, and climbing, and setting an example for all of us lazy, car-dependent Dubai residents.

Another little ceremony for this station. Ah, a laser show. That links East and West by lighting up Arabic writing…? The Metro, the anchors tell me, is actually redefining “Arab.” Wow! This Metro has so much more meaning than I ever imagined!

Man, all this excitement, anticipation, and watching people break free of the sedentary lifestyles has worked up my appetite. I’m off to make this.

My Favorite Part Of Being Out Of School

I never wanted to go to college.

I planned to drop out of high school and clean vomit of tavern floors in Dublin–or pretty much anything that would let me travel. My parents wouldn’t hear of it and then we all moved to Dubai and so we all got our wishes granted, because not only were we living somewhere new and exciting, but my tuition was 100% FREE. So my parents sent me to college and I had no way out of it.

Now that I’m done, I realize what a complete imbecile I was. Why on Earth would you not go to college? (Answer: Because school means wooooork and graaaaades and teeeessts and papeeeers. Ugh.) Don’t answer that; it’s rhetorical. The thing about college is this: it rocks. The even cooler thing about college? FINISHING rocks EVEN MORE.

I’m living with my parents again, which may not sound very cool, but which most certainly is. Let me tell you about the last, oh, 36 hours.

I slept in till 11 because I didn’t have to do anything at all. (I’m now babysitting only three times a week.)
But I got up and got dressed anyway. And then noticed the awful headache I had and how achey it made my head and how awful my head felt! When my parents got home for lunch, I whiiiiined about my siinuuuseees. My mom, who suffers from sinus aches more than I do, took pity on my and offered me some rhino-relief pills. I only took one. I only took one! (That’s important! But I’ll come back to it.)
Then I went up to the library with them and was yawning within an hour. Yawning and losing focus and yawning some more.
I fell asleep on the couch.
I got up for dinner.
I fell asleep on the couch.

Pssh. So much for that non-drowsy meds. Also, so much for one pill equaling half a dose. If I had been smart about it, I would have read the instructions and realized that one pill=full-dose=DO NOT TAKE (I can never handle full doses of any medicine).
But I wasn’t and I didn’t, and so at 11 PM, I woke up and went to bed.

I woke up several more times throughout the night and finally woke up all the way at 7:30 this morning. 7:30! I read a bit.
At 9 the maid came and I decided not to leave my room until she was gone.
She didn’t leave for three hours and I read the whole time. In bed. In my PJs. In BED!
This afternoon, I babysat for three hours, which means I got paid to make gingerbread cookies and watch Bolt while munching on popcorn.

Go to college. You’ll be so happy you did.

(PS I really have been productive. I’ve worked out several times since last week’s post and have lost 5 pounderinos. I cleaned my room, organized my closet, did laundry, and while my Arabic study hasn’t been great, I have been doing some each day. I also have more pictures to post. Woohoo!)

Wanted: Short-term Commitment

Today, my parents announced that it was time to get me married.

This is a major change of policy, as my parents have long encouraged my bachelorettehood.
“Finish college!” They said.
“Get a degree!” The insisted.
“We don’t trust your judgment. We’ll choose for you!” They assured.

And then this afternoon while discussing future travel plans, I wished aloud for a travel companion because solo travel is just so exhausting. To that, my mom replied, “Yeah, too bad you’re not married.”

Dad: Maybe we could do something about it before she leaves.

So we thought about it and talked about it and thought some more and after several minutes of we all agreed that it was highly unlikely we would, in the next three weeks, find a young man possessing not just time and resources to travel for the next two months, but also a willingness to marry for the sole purpose of accompanying me on my travels around the Middle East. Because, you see, I am not really interested in getting married. It’s just that I don’t have money for a bodyguard.

But I’m not giving up! If you know of anyone, send ’em my way. I do cook (noodles) and clean (occasionally) and I’m really awesome company (most of the time).

Also, clearly I know how to have a good time:

And I’m not afraid of a little dirt.

Dubai. Dubai! OMG DUBAI.

This afternoon I went to Dubai. I needed a haircut. Badly. (See profile.) I didn’t cheap out on this one, and for someone with a fast-diminishing savings account and a babysitter’s income, it was really an unwise decision. In case you’re wondering, yes, I am accepting donations. Please contact me at annaraybia {at} gmail {dot} com.

So: Dubai. Dubai. Wow. Dubai.
I mean, I was there in June. And actually, I was there just a few weeks ago at the airport. But I haven’t *really* been there in closer to 4 years. Normally when I come to visit at Christmas, we go to the mall because there is always some new mall to see. And just in December, we went to the Atlantis (just to visit for the afternoon. And indulge in a nice fat scoop from Coldstone). So maybe I shouldn’t be *this* shocked. I promise to one day to a side-by-side picture comparison so you can experience, to some degree, the urge I feel to just drop my jaw and utter incoherent phrases about how Dubai is so diff–I mean did you see–how in the–and so fast!!
But for now I will just show you some freaking pictures already.

This is a road I have been on many, many times before. It’s parallel to the beach, and runs right along Mall of the Emirates, which was not even there when I first started using it to get to school.

You see that raised, white part running along the road? That’s the monorail. That wasn’t even conceived of in 2004, but will make its inaugural run next week: on 09.09.09

Bur al-Arab
It’s $80 just to go inside, so of course this is the closest I’ve been:

Actually, that’s not true. Some friends and I once drove up to the bridge entrance, just to see if we could get through. Turns out, you really do need a reservation.

Whoa! Intersection?? NO WAY!

And this ladder leads to Heaven:


By the time my split ends were annihilated, night had fallen and the moon was shining brightly.

Unfortunately, my tripod was not around to ensure the picture was properly captured.

Humidity has been especially high lately. My sunglasses fog up when I leave the house, my camera lens fogs up whenever I try to take a picture, and the windows always look like this:

So there you have it. And here I have this. Mmmmmm.

Arabian Night

Yesterday, the sun peeked at me through the trees:

I walked a bit and found it again

and was reminded of all the times I had seen it as a student, leaving the library just as the call for Maghrib prayer rang out across the campus.

There’s nothing quite like it in the world.

What I Do(n’t) All Day

It’s 12:40 AM and I am tired.

Just like I’ve been all day.

Just like I was yesterday.

Because the day before yesterday, I stayed up late, doing nothing in particular. I did go to the grocery store and my friend’s office around midnight Friday morning, but was home by one. Still, I didn’t get to bed till 3 because there’s this thing called Twitter that sucks your life away! I don’t even know why I love it so much, or why I find it more valuable than sleep, but it keeps me up late. A lot.

I didn’t sleep in Friday morning because I had church and, actually, this Friday I got up early to take a shower, only to find that someone was already using it! So I got up a half-hour early only to be cranky and unable to fall back to sleep.
I didn’t take a nap Friday afternoon because I really don’t like napping. Sometimes it’s wonderful, but mostly it’s just several hours that could be spend reading or eating or tweeting.

And that night, I went to two parties. I participated in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which means at the appropriate times I threw toast and rice and toilet paper with about 20 other people. I also danced the Time Warp, and was really weirded out by much of the film.

Then I went to a more normal party, filled with professors and alcohol, and this time I was home by 12. But still, didn’t sleep until 3. I’d like to say I was doing something more productive than Tweet-stalking, but I won’t.

At noon today, I woke up. A new day! I’m going to DO STUFF!

But my afternoon plans fell through and I soon found myself on the couch with book one of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes propped up on my knees. At 5, I got dressed. And at six, I finally went over to help my friend make dinner. At 8, I fell asleep (on her couch, while my friends and fellow dinnerguests photographed the room’s various rugs and vases, and also me).

So here I am, back on the couch but this time with my computer in my lap and Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long blog playing in the background.

Tomorrow, I will resume my babysitting job. It’s not much, but it earns me a pittance and gets me off the couch.

[In my defense, I have read several books since being home, and have had a few successful study sessions.]

It’s nice to have a break, but this is ridiculous. I feel the knowledge leaking out of my brain and running across the mush that used to be my muscles.
My life is easy and luxurious, and completely unfulfilling. I miss my busy life. I miss earning money. I miss having a job with coworkers and a boss and a punch clock.

I’m writing this to explain why this blog is so uninteresting. Normally I have a lot to say about the Emirates but, since I don’t normally spend so much time on the couch, well, I haven’t seen much of it.

But more than that, it’s to remind myself that my late-night lazy-day lifestyle sucks and why don’t I do something already? So here’s the plan for the week:

1. Get rid of “stuff” in my room. Find a home for books, CDs, the two drawers brimming with jewel cases, and the t-shirts taking up my closet space

2. After doing laundry, hang clothes in closet on newly-vacated hangers.

3. Take more pictures.

4. Spend some time on campus making observations so I have something to write about.

5. Get some exercise, lest I be rendered unfit for my own wardrobe.

6. Do an hour of Arabic every day.

Also, no naps. No late-night tweeting. Cut back on the baked goods and learn at least one new dinner dish.

To productivity!

To fulfillment!

To interesting blog posts!

An Update About Nothing In Particular

First, photos.
Facebook tells me anyone can see them. I hope that’s true.

Second, we had a blackout yesterday. Rawr.
This is the candle we lit:

And then later we lit more, but they were less interesting and entirely lacking the Arabian Nights theme, so, no pictures of those.

So, how did we pass the 6 hours time?

Well, first we hung out at Burger King, because it was the only place on campus with any power.

The Oasis.

Then we wandered around in the dark until we came upon this streetlamp, which we used to pretend K was getting abducted by aliens:


And then we met some ghost-children on the swings:

K joined them:

And then the power came back on and we all went back to doing whatever is it we were doing before it went out. Like Facebooking and watching British cooking shows on BBCLifestyle. This fellow Ramsay is the Simon Cowell of the culinary world. It’s really quality television.

Now the weekend has arrived and I am off to enjoy it.

The Week in Pictures…ish

There’s not much to say for the week. The most exciting thing that happened was the fried-egg experiment that turned out totally lame. Still, sometimes dull makes for nice photography.

There are so many things I dislike about AUS. But the symmetry is not one of them:

The security guards? Definitely are:

This is The Ugliest House in the Emirates:

I think it looks pretty cool, but I’ve been told the night masks its true and overpowering ugliness.

My favorite part of AUS is the library.
The atrium looks like a wedding cake:

And there’s a gorgeous spiral staircase from basement to top floor. Unfortunately, the power was out and this was the best picture I could get:

Lame. But do you know what’s even lamer? The power being out for three days. In the summer. S-E-W-A spells Incompetent.

Finally, today was Day 1 of the Holy Month of Ramadan, and thus the beginning of the Muslims’ 30-day fast. In the UAE, it’s against the law to eat in public during this month and so all the food courts in the mall close down for the day, as well as all the restaurants on campus. Business hours are cut to six-hour days (and often fewer), and the whole country turns sluggish–and to an even greater degree this year because its the heat of the summer. From sunrise to sunset, there is no eating, drinking or smoking. That makes a lot of people really cranky, and exceptionally inefficient. These are all reasons to loathe Ramadan.

And then, the sun sets. The cannon is fired, and suddenly there is life once again. People are feasting and partying and inviting each other over to feast and party with neighbours and family members, parties where they stuff you so full you can hardly walk out the door. Malls become packed, restaurants make fortunes, and the land echoes with prayers and recitations of the Qu’ran.

It is a very cool time to be in the Middle East.

Happy Ramadan

The Sidewalk-fried Egg

So are you excited for this? Because no one I know has ever successful fried an egg on the sidewalk. Few places are hot enough to accomplish it and even fewer people are up to the task. It’s a good thing we have 8 1/2 year olds in this world.

My brave 8 1/2 year old assistant.

And then we went back inside to wait. Come on, it isn’t *that* hot over here.

About an hour later, we returned, ready with plates and a salt shaker.

This is what we found:

Awesome. This kind of heat and we can’t even cook an egg properly. Just awesome.

PS But it *did* cook. I’m thinking this weekend I’ll try it with a cookie sheet instead of just the brick. That ought to be a lot more exciting.

The Cool Thing About Oppressive Heat

My summer in Jordan left me tired, drained, exhausted! Never wanting to think about moving again! Not even to learn Arabic! Not even for cool—well, okay, maybe for cool pictures.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my days occupied with a little babysitting (the daughter from this post in case you’re curious). Today was day 1, and it went swimmingly. L and I baked a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies, did a sinkload of dishes, and fried an egg on the sidewalk. Sort of. This is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life but never lived in a place hot enough to pull it off–until today. It was a hot afternoon, but, well, just not hot enough. It took forever to cook and in the meantime it oozed along the maze of mortar cracks in the sidewalk. Such a letdown to, after all these years of fantasizing, be met with such an anticlimactic egg-frying event.


It cooked.


Hmm. I’m supposed to put a picture right here but I seem to have misplaced my cord. BLAST!
Well, stay tuned. I’ll post it tomorrow. Get really excited so you can experience the whole buildup and letdown I felt this afternoon. πŸ™‚