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Friday, April 1, 2011

Our Man Overseas

Do you have a correspondent in the United Arab Emirates? I do, and he has given me permission to share on my blog some of his daily life abroad. A lot of what Americans take for granted as “ordinary” is different in other countries. For instance,

How does one go about crossing the street in Dubai? My correspondent explains as follows:
Yesterday I went for a short walk. Out of the sun it was actually pleasant--nice breeze, not too hot. After I figured out which pedestrian signal controller box I should use to get across the street, I waited for the green little-walking-man icon and step into the crosswalk. Hearing what sounded a lot like a small-car engine revving, I looked left and saw a little car--not red, for once--making a left turn against the signal, and bearing down on me. After honking, the driver put his hand up to the windshield, palm-out, in a STOP! gesture. Not wanting to get taken out at the shins, I stopped. Now, I had the signal in my favor. He should have yielded to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, anyway. Many American pedestrians, in my position, might have given the driver our national one-finger salute in response to his behavior. In the UAE, however, the person making the rude gesture could find himself in trouble, because the driver on the receiving end of the gesture would be entirely within his rights in going to the police and making a complaint. The offender might then be ticketed or given a ride downtown for a little talking-to. Something to bear in mind on your next visit.

They have malls there, right?
The Dubai Mall is bigger than the Detroit Metro airport. Of course it wouldn't be complete without a ski hill and a small luge run, now, would it? There’s also a small skating rink. It looked strange to me, with all the painted winter-theme walls air-conditioners mounted at ceiling height, and the people all bundled up like children in '50s-era photos, zipping downhill, or down luge run, or circling the rink. Most appeared to be adults, but there were kids, too. We had lunch in an Iranian restaurant, from which we could see parts of the ski hill, as well as a large LED display panel. The panel displayed shots of a store that (apparently) sells Ferrari-branded items, and other mall-related stuff--then all of a sudden it flashed the reminder, “DRESS APPROPRIATELY.” A while later it said “PRAYER TIME.” There was a guy in a U of M cap sitting a couple of tables away. Just another day at the Dubai Mall. Not the largest mall in Dubai, either.

Tell us about TV.
Okay, last night I was going through the channels on the TV in my room. The TV looks just like the ones in furniture stores, which are only plastic shells. Eight times out of ten, when I go to raise the volume it shoots me back to Channel 0, which is blank. Then I get to scroll through the channels again (the number buttons won't allow me to enter a channel directly), and what a panorama of channels it is! The Bollywood movie channel, of course--which I find myself watching for a few minutes at a time. They get RAI 1, the Italian TV channel, too, for some reason. And where else would you get to see a drag-racing show in Arabic, taped at the drag racing facility here? Apparently if you have the dirhams to burn, you can go there and drive an almost-really real drag racer.

I’ll have to ask our correspondent to tell me something about food. We don’t watch TV at our house, and I’m not a mall shopper, but how and what people eat in different parts of the world always fascinates me—and usually makes my mouth water.

13 comments:

Dawn said...

This is really interesting. I like finding out how people in other places live. Thanks for sharing!

P. J. Grath said...

Rule #1 in foreign cities: Be careful crossing streets.

Gerry said...

Remember to look the wrong way, too. It's good to experience the befuddlement that comes over a person confronted with unfamiliar food and appliances--or even carwashes. Quebec can be a very mysterious place.

It would be good, too, if a lot more of us had a good look around at the world and faced the fact that the rest of it is moving along at quite a clip without regard to whatever is going on here.

P. J. Grath said...

Good reminder, Gerry, about looking the "wrong way." I try to remember that when making a right turn out of my driveway onto the highway, as so many drivers don't seem to mind crossing yellow lines on blind hills to pass.

Amen to your other comment, also.

dmarks said...

I have a correspondent from Benghazi. Yes, that place.

He lived his whole life in Libya until about 6 weeks before all hell broke loose.

(Hell was alive and well in Libya for 40 years, and sat on a throne. But had not broken loose).

P. J. Grath said...

Your correspondent left 6 weeks before--??? Did he know something was going to happen?

Kathy said...

How fascinating that you have a correspondent from Dubai. It is interesting learning what life is like in other parts of this world. Last year I had a reader from Dubai. She kept mourning that she didn't have any wilderness anywhere nearby.

P. J. Grath said...

Hi, Kathy. I have another correspondent in New South Wales and hear from her just about every other day, so I’m learning a lot about life in Australia, starting with Australian geography. Where blog readers come from can be very mysterious. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started getting more visitors from France than from the U.S. Wish they would leave comments once in a while!

Kathy said...

Do you have a program which tells you where your readers are from? How do you know that you're having visitors from France? You've got me curious!

P. J. Grath said...

It isn't a separate program, Kathy, but part of Blogger. Under the "Stats" tab, I can see how many visits my blog has had, either by day, week, month or "all time" (though I don't think "all time" goes back to 2007 when I first started). I can also see referring links, e.g., how many came from Lake Superior Spirit! And there is a breakdown by country, with a map that shades countries with high visit numbers. I always wish (plaintively) that more Canadians would visit my blog and am bewildered by some of the visitor sources that show much higher numbers than Canada. It's a mystery!

P. J. Grath said...

Okay, here’s the lineup for this week, starting with #1 visiting country, France. Countries in descending order after France are United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Slovenia, Iran, Australia, Germany, Russia and Romania. See what a mean about how mysterious and bewildering it is? If I look at stats only for today, the United States has edged ahead of France, with Australia in third place, followed by (in order) Germany, Romania, Denmark, India, Brazil, Colombia and South Korea. I should add that the last two countries accounted for only one visit apiece. Also, I have a good friend married to a Brazilian, and they may be there now visiting his family!

Kathy said...

I want to know this information. Darn WordPress. The things they don't tell us. :(

P. J. Grath said...

Kathy, I can also get stats from another site. It’s called StatCounter, and here’s the link:
http://statcounter.com/ Just go there and
follow the directions to add a counter to your blog. Like Blogger, it breaks down your visitors by country, gives you referring links, tells you what search engines and search words brought them to you, etc. It actually has much more detailed information than Blogger, but now that Blogger has stats (or now that I discovered how to find them!) I haven’t been logging into StatCounter very often. Anyway, take a look and see what you think. It’s free.