Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Films in Dubai

Last night my husband and I went to see Robin Hood at the cinema here. A friend recommended we watch this in the VIP section here in the Dubai Mall. We had never gone there before, so maybe once a year we can splurge. They also have another VIP type section in another place that you pay extra for with similar service. Big lazy boy type chairs, popcorn and other things are ordered at your seat. A call button in case you need anything. The call button strikes me as funny because the only thing I've ever needed during a film was to go to the bathroom and I don't think a call button will help in that situation.

They also provide blankets...wouldn't it just be more logical to turn down the air conditioning and save money rather than cover up? Its a nice theater, but not necessary to have all that luxury - especially if it were to be a really bad movie! Like I said, maybe once a year.

There is even one VIP movie place in Istanbul who's big thing was that they serve champagne before the film. We went there once to see what all the rage was about and I found the people and everything a bit too pretentious. I think this has fizzled out a bit. Doesn't matter though because all the good movies are shown in Beyoglu where they have real movie theaters that are very old...A few even smell like the street cats have been visiting, but I guess that's what you get for good, cheap movies and hard core nostalgia.

We don't go to as many films here as we used to in Turkey or in the US and I think there are a few reasons for this...
- they only get the big Hollywood blockbuster types most of the time that aren't always that great and just as good at home. Also we don't have the same hype found in the States for them.
- sometimes movies are so over edited here its funny...I don't care if they cut out the sex scenes, but sometimes they'll cut something - you have no idea what, and it didn't seem like sex would be anywhere in that particular movie, but its like there was a bump in the road, but you're not sure. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does go wrong, its no good.
- there are so many people who talk in the movie, or leave their phones on and they actually take a call in the middle of the film. There is just no way to enjoy it. And Murphy's rule, it always happens at some critical point in the story.

The last one just baffles me beyond belief. And unfortunate to say, it is usually young Emirati guys...late teens, early twenties maybe. I also find Indians do it too. Yes. There. I said it. Sorry to seem like I'm generalizing here, but this is my experience. Disclaimer: Definitely not all Emiratis nor all Indians do this, but unfortunately every time I have experienced it, it's about an 80:20 split.

And its not just in films. We went to see famous drummer, Zakir Hussain, in Dubai once. He is from India, and a lot of his own people would not give him the respect he deserved. Everyone was late and they kept talking. So much that he stopped playing! We saw him in Istanbul a few years before and people were so into his music, you could hear a pin drop. I told my shocking experience to my Indian friends at work the next day and their response to me was that they were not surprised. I didn't dig any further, but I thought that was unfortunate.

Here, the first few times I came across it, I didn't want to over step my boundaries as I didn't know the culture very well and wasn't sure what the reaction would be. Sometimes I still don't say anything. However, when I was pregnant, it was great. That's just a license to be nutts. No one is going to say no to a pregnant woman!

It took me months to use the pregnancy card when I started to show, but once I learned of its special powers, I used it. I never abused it, but it did give me some super powers. One of those was going to ask people to not speak during a film.

I remember seeing The Kingdom here and a couple of guys started carrying on a fairly loud conversation during the film. Me and my 7 month pregnant self got up to tell them that pregnancy hormones effect the ears and I really needed them to be quiet because I couldn't hear the movie. They either didn't understand, or thought I was nutts, or perhaps both. But they stopped.

I usually find that when you do ask someone to stop, they generally do - but not right away. They finish their discussion at a lower volume first. I guess this is compromise.

Now when the phone rings in a movie that just drives me insane. I don't really find one ever has any chance there. It happens often. Now with a diabetic child, I keep my phone on vibrate in case of an emergency, but I will either leave the cinema or do some crazy yoga pose to put my head as far down near my feet as possible and whisper to try not to disturb anyone. I will not speak as though I am walking down the street for the world to hear.

I understand people can have emergencies, but if you are just chatting with your friends as if you are watching television at home, why? If you are expecting a call, just don't go.

I recall once in Istanbul when my husband and I took our then 16-year old niece to see her first concert, The Spice Girls, along with all the other parents and guardians and tons of screaming girls. It was fun. However, a man behind us got a phone call and proceeded to chit chat with his friend for about three or four songs. It was really annoying. You could not help but overhear every single word. Some Turks tend to speak very loudly into their telephones anyway, and the guy who was yelling into his phone was not the smallest guy, so he had a lot of power behind his diaphragm to get that conversation heard. It was as though he was using a cone attached to a string instead of a piece of modern technology. I was annoyed, but mostly for the poor girl who was experiencing her first concert.

The icing on the cake however was once in Dubai someone brought their baby to a rated R action movie. It was a midnight showing. I don't remember the film, but I'm sure it was something popular and the new parents really wanted to come watch it. Sure, why not bring the baby to the film? All they do is sleep anyway, right? Wrong. I was amazed at this couple's ability to under estimate today's sound systems. Even the deepest sleeping infant is going to wake up in a action movie...possibly even a drama because films are just so loud now.

I find everything else pretty standard about watching a movie here...popcorn, coke, candy, etc. Even the US larger than life sizes. There are no pickles...don't know if they still sell them in the US, but not here. That's just an odd movie snack anyway. They are all well kept, comfortable places where with any luck, you'll spend a couple of entertaining hours. We just have a little more entertainment than we would prefer sometimes.

The one thing that I did appreciate about the VIP section here is that no one is talking in the film, or answering their mobile phones. Or at least you can't hear them! Perhaps people figure that if they are going to pay that much for a film, they actually want to watch it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Young Entrepreneurs

When I was diagnosed with pneumonia, I was at the medical clinic in the Dubai Mall. Typical check-up, the doctor listens to my lungs and says "its not good". It sounds like you have bronchitis - maybe even pneumonia. Pneumonia? Ya, right. So I went to xray, came back and got the news. "You have pneumonia".

How does this happen? Well, be tired and run down and then get more tired and run down, and then get the flu the same time as your kid. You nurse him back to health so you dig down deep, and keep going. I don't know if its adrenaline, but mom's run on some super power when they need to. I feel like mine isn't as strong as a lot of other mom's I know, but we all have it to some degree.

The most amazing thing about pneumonia is how hearing that diagnosis psychology effects you. You suddenly feel the need to go lay down and sleep! But, before I slept I needed to go to the organic store in the same mall to pick up a few things. It was an exhausting short walk, but at least an interesting one.

It was spring break for most of the schools here and they were having a young entrepreneurs contest that many of the local high schools participated in. There were Emirates as well as expat children alike. There was a lot of jewelry making booths, some people selling techie things and a few off the wall things. I only wish I had the energy to wander through the hundreds of stalls there because a lot of the kids seemed quite board. I think there was an award for the best idea, and also who could make the most money from their idea. Most of them didn't seem to care about making money too much. Only one booth I passed really tried to encourage me to come to their booth. I really wish I had the energy to do so. They seemed so disappointed when I declined..and probably the dark circles under my eyes didn't help at all. I may have scared them.

The shocker for me in all of this was how many middle age Filipino women there were at the booths. No, they are not exchange students. They are the hired help - the maids and nannies - of the Emirates. And it wasn't just one or two - there were many of them. I saw some booths where it seemed the Filipino women were doing all the stock and inventory while the girls just hung out. I saw other booths with no students at all! I guess in some circles that could be considered innovative. Get someone to come set it all up for you and then you can show up later.

However, it kind of saddened me on some level. When I think of entrepreneur I think of getting your hands dirty. And I'm thinking of the women who were commissioned to go set it up for them. Are they thinking "How did I get here?"...maybe not, but I sure would be.

It would be easy for me to disregard this approach and say its lazy. They should do it themselves, etc. Maybe that is the case. And be sure if my son ever has to participate in a project like this for school, no way will someone else be sent to do it for him. If he sells enough widgets and then can pay for it himself, then more power to him, but I'm pretty confident that wasn't the case here.

I have to remember though, this is not America. Not everyone here is from a culture where you necessarily work hard with no help. Its just not something they grew up with. Don't get me wrong, there are many hard working Emirate people here who are making a difference. Disagree with their young entrepreneurial approach? Maybe. But this is their culture and I can't really criticize it because it is not mine to do so.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Facebook Thoughts

For the last few months I've been having a kind of love-hate thing going on with Facebook. What started out as a really good idea is now full of clutter and time wasters. I do not participate in any Farmville or Mafia type stuff, but it just seems to take a long time. And as I've been on leave of absence, I was spending more time on it than I probably should. However, having said that, I genuinely love that I have reconnected with a lot of old friends and am now able to easily know what is going on in their lives. Its fantastic! I love hearing about what is going on with them.

I was away from the internet for about a week and that is always refreshing. During that time, no Facebook was great. When I did check in I saw that not always a lot happened and it made me rethink its usefulness again. I don't want to hide people, but is there a way we can make it only post status and photos and things that people put up and hide applications? I don't want to loose my connections with friends because this is such an easy way to get a rundown of what is going on, but it again made me rethink its usefulness.

I considered this more a few weeks back when a friend on my list wrote something that was pretty rude, and well, just down right bitchy. To paraphrase - she was tired of hearing people bragging about their travels, kids and great husbands. It wasn't directed at anyone in particular, but since a lot of people seem to write about these things, it is possible she could have alienated about 80-90% of her friend list. It was just so negative and passive aggressive at the same time that it really struck a nerve with me.

I think I was just mostly shocked because not once have I ever thought negative of anything that anyone has posted about their personal lives. And I guess I also never realized this person was so hostile. Opinionated yes, but hostile, no. We hadn't connected for years, but I can't help but wonder what happened along the way to make someone so angry. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and can write whatever they want on their wall. Its all yours to put out there. It just made me wonder - does everyone else wish they could write something similar? Should I envision people sitting at their computers getting annoyed when they read about something incredibly funny a "friend's" child has said or done? Is it abnormal that I'm not upset when a friend posts something positive they did, or a milestone achieved in their life?

This really made me question the usefulness of Facebook and behavior of people in general. I like to think that people are generally good. But are they/we? Are there more people out there who like to see others fail, or don't want to hear that they are well? In that case, is it more appropriate to drill the Facebook friend list down to those 20 or 30 people that you are extremely close to?

I haven't decided which side of the fence I am on. But it does make me wonder...if there is that much negative energy being sent to people when they write about something positive in their life, what good is that? I'm not necessarily superstitious, but just as people believe in the power of prayer, I equally believe in the power of negative energy - its harmful to both sender and receiver.

After working in a highly negative environment in the past many years ago, I now usually rid my life quickly of things that do not contribute to the positive because I see how harmful they are for others as well as those creating the negativity. I don't even have to be the subject of negativity, to observe it makes my stomach turn. I think it's safe to say its my number one pet peeve. I just recently left a group here that I was a member of in Dubai because there was suddenly too much negativity going around and really the women were starting to fight like immature school girls. It made me recall that same work environment. Just unnecessary and a waste of energy.

Before I digress and rant more...back to the question at hand...Facebook...useful social tool or time waster..or if you are into conspiracy theory, statistic collector for "big brother"? I'm not sure which it is, if any.

I can say my week away has been good and I hope to be able to check in with Facebook once a week or so...I want to say I can do that, but honestly, that is really difficult because I love my friends dearly. I am truly happy for you and all the amazing things going on in your life. I love keeping up with what is going on with you - this includes everything from drinking a cup of coffee to an amazing trip to Timbuktu.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Where's My Soup????

As soon as I was diagnosed with pneumonia, friends came to the rescue with food. My Turkish girlfriends who were amazing in keeping me well fed after I delivered my son over two years ago did the same for me when I was sick. Back then it struck me as interesting because often in the US there are many people who think, "oh they probably just want to be alone so they can adjust", grieve or do whatever it is the situation calls for. In Turkey it seems the motto is "you must eat". It's nice and very thoughtful. In the US we often do not ask for help. In Turkey, help comes whether you want it or not - its insisted upon and could be insulting to refuse it in some cases.

So while I was sick, my close Turkish girl friends gave me all kinds of support that I really appreciate so very much. My friend Yonca made soup for me. Sick or not, I love soup and would never refuse it - unless tripe soup or something meat based. In her incredibly busy life of raising two kids, a full time job, writing a column, training for a race, moderating the Turkish women's group in Dubai and a slew of other things, she took the time to make soup for me.

She called when she arrived, but I didn't answer as I fell asleep while putting Erin to sleep. A common thing in the last several weeks because I was too exhausted to stay awake. So, she sent Sarper a message that she left soup by the door. When he came back from the gym, there was no soup....hmmm...very odd.

He called her, said there was no soup. She was certain she left it there. She has visited us several times so surely she couldn't have left it in the wrong place. I checked later, but still no soup. Sarper spoke to her again and we then realized she left it in front of the wrong door. It was left at our neighbor's house. However, by then it was around midnight or so and too late to go knock on their door to request it back. I was a wee bit disappointed because I would have loved some warm soup! I was really looking forward to it for the next day.

We knocked on their door a couple of times and there was no disappointing. I was too sick to knock on their door again for a couple of days to see what happened and Sarper was traveling. When I finally merged, I looked out in the hallway only to find all of Yonca's containers bagged up and empty! Odd. She had also left some honey with the soup, but there was no honey. Even more perplexing.

The next day Yonca brought a new batch of soup - to the correct apartment. It was incredibly good! I gave her back the empty containers and we were both in disbelief that they just left the empty containers outside. Furthermore she wrote a note with it addressed to me and listed all the ingredients. Knowing that Erin is diabetic and we have to carb count everything, she even took the time to do all this. She also signed it with her personalized four leave clover stationary (which is what her name means in Turkish). You would think this would be a true trigger for the neighbor that the soup was not intended for them.

I had knocked a few times to get the honey, but no answer. I must admit I don't know all of my neighbors that well. Some we do, but other apartments you rarely see anyone entering or exiting. And I'm just not that nosy anyway to really follow other's comings and goings.

But man, I really wanna know what happened to my soup!! If someone left food at your door and you didn't know who it was from, would you eat it? I wouldn't! If you did eat it, would you be bold enough to put the empty containers back outside and wait for the new food service to pick it up? I wouldn't do that either! And if it was addressed to someone or not, I would go around and knock on a few doors to see if anyone was missing any soup!

The following day I resurfaced to take out the trash. I saw a guy going to the elevator that I didn't recognize so much so I decided to ask. Yes, he lived there. He was aware there was soup left, but didn't share any information of its were abouts. I asked him about the honey. He didn't know so had to call his roommate to ask where he kept it. He presented the honey. He was at least kind enough to say he hoped I was feeling better. At that point I decided to drop the pneumonia card. I figure in case they did eat it a little bit of guilt won't hurt. I haven't seen them since.

Now I'm no rocket scientist, but I'm thinking two single guys - they ate the soup. I can see Joey and Chandler on Friends eating anything that was left at their door. - Especially Joey. He'd finish it off before Chandler would be home. But just as we will never know who shot JFK, we will probably never know the real truth.

A few days after that my friend Aysen called me because she was also coming by to bring me soup. Yeah! More soup. And pumpkin, which is one of my favorites. She and her daughter arrived with lovely flowers, strawberries and some kind of chocolate that was in the shape of Pringles - they were so good - but no soup.

Aysen set the soup out for it to thaw. She left and when she came back home to get the soup to bring it to me it was gone! Her maid threw it away!!

I don't know what is up with me and soup, but I guess I just wasn't destined to have any during my recovery. But thank you very much my friends for your hard work and efforts!!