Friday, June 18, 2010

Write About What You Know

I often look back at all those classes we had to take in school and at university and wonder..what do I recall from them. Yes, I learned a bit throughout my education, but the majority we learn by doing or through least I do. And yes, there were all those art and culture classes for enrichment as well. I must be so well rounded :-) I joke, but really I'm grateful for all of them.

This morning I was listening to a local talk radio program - Dubai Eye - while I was out running some errands. (I think they have an internet feed for those interested.) They have a Saturday morning program that discusses books which is kind of nice sometimes. This morning they made reference to a poem from British Literature that I didn't even think I knew, but since I took two classes of Brit Lit to meet my cultural literature requirements at school, apparently I did vaguely - and I mean vaguely - remember. I was amazed it was still in the cobwebs of my brain because I have not thought about it since then!

What I recall most about anything from British Literature is the instructor. I took Brit Lit at a local community college in summer school while I worked - like a lot of people did. It was cheaper and in theory people thought it was easier, but that was not always the case.

Honestly, some of the best instruction I ever had in even the driest of subjects was at that school. For example, Steven Pitts, where ever he is totally rocked economics and I actually learned and enjoyed his lectures! He was finishing a PhD at the same time and I really hope he ended up with some super high position somewhere because he gave so much..I digress...

I had two semesters with the same instructor for Brit Lit. I don't recall much except fighting my way through the likes of Beowulf, Cantebury Tales, Sir Gallant and the Green Knight. There should be a class in Old English first! While I probably don't recall much of the content of a lot of these, I do recall that I found this man very entertaining and he reminded me very much of the late Irish actor Richard Harris.

The one thing that I appreciated the most and share often is his anecdote he told us when everyone was very stressed about writing essays for the final exam. "Don't worry too much", was his advice. "Write what you know".

He proceeded to tell us about about what I recall was a theology literature class or something of the like he had to take back when he was at university. This was one of those classes everyone had to take. It was a very boring class, but no one minded because it was very predictable and a sure thing. There were no regular exams or homework, but just an essay at the end of the semester and every year the question was the same. It has been for years. Forgive me that I am not religious to recall it, but it was something to do with tracing the journey of the Apostle Paul at some point in time and discussing something literature-like in relation to this.

The particular year he took the class the professor got quite ill and ended up in the hospital. Some students didn't even know because they had not been coming to class at all. A few others only showed up on occasion.

Since there was a different professor that year, come final day the exam question was not the same. As you can imagine, there were a lot of simultaneous "Oh shit" moments in that room. They were asked to write a critique of a particular speech that Jesus made. Crickets chirping, people looking around the room. Only one guy was writing like crazy.

The next week, exam papers come back and there were a lot C's and D's. Only one A. It was the guy who was writing like mad. How could this be? He never came to the class at all the entire semester!

After class, he asked the guy if he could read his essay. And the first sentence read... "While some may choose to critique the Word of our Lord, Jesus Christ, I will write about the journey of Paul through....etc, etc, etc".

While the instructor was sick in the hospital, he graded the essays from his bed.

So the morale of the story, "Write about what you know".

That my friends was one of the most impressionable and hysterical lectures I ever received throughout my education.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We are the problem...

I wake up on most mornings to the sound of my toddler calling "Mommmyyy!". The day begins...

I take my shower. Since water is scarce in the desert, the water from the taps is desalinated from the sea.

I use my soap, shampoo and conditioner - made by Proctor & Gamble in France. I put on my organic deodarent. Made in Austin, Texas. Cool that I would have access to something like that here.

I get dressed. My clothes for work, which were dry cleaned, need to be re-ironed with my iron made in China or some other faraway place.

With the exception of those that I bought in Turkey when I lived there, my clothes were made in Sri Lanka, the Phillipines, India, Vietnam or some other far away place. I wish I could get good Turkish textiles here!

I eat my breakfast. Typically consisting of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and cheese. Most of that is all from somewhere else in the world. Very little produce is grown here - obviously the climate doesn't allow for that. Even though the bread is made here...the flour, from somewhere else. The tea I drink with my breakfast, elsewhere. My son often eats Cheerios...a very international cuisine as its all the way from the US. However, he will sometimes join me in bread, or if I make waffles or pancakes he is happy. We occasionally eat eggs. I usually go for for the organic fed or free range, but I'm not sure if those are from here or not. The tea and olives I do tend to bring from Turkey myself as they are much better than most things I can find here. Turkey made me a tea snob!

I get in my car to drive to work and half the time I'm dropping my son at nursery on the way. I'm blessed he has such a stimulating place with caring teachers to go to.

While he enjoys his morning, I work on my computer which was made in China. Preparing for my next proposal, I need to print some documents. Someone else has a very large document in the cue. Darn. I print it again on another printer as time is of the essence.

After a fast moving morning, I get in my car again and drive to pick my son up from nursery to take him back home. By then he is asleep and I carry him upstairs and put him in his bed. Still thankful I didn't have to buy one because my friend gave me her daughter's old one. I give him a kiss on the head and off I go.

There is a Starbuck's in my complex. I'll often stop there for my afternoon coffee to give me that little extra pick up for the rest of the day. The staff there is so incredibly nice and friendly. Love them.

There I get my coffee. The beans, originally from wherever SB's buys them, are sent to be processed somewhere. They likely come from a warehouse to Dubai somehow. I assume sent to probably the SB's main distributor in the Middle East who then sends it to Dubai. What a bunch of jet set beans! I get my coffee in an SB's paper cup.

I dart back to work and drive around sometimes for 30 minutes before I can find a parking space. Gotta be early, or its full! Even parking far away is not an option because there is nowhere left to park!

Somewhere in between there I had lunch from either the sandwich lady in our building or one of the fast fresh food places. They all package their stuff in paper or plastic. They all, like my breakfast, use ingredients that came from elsewhere. I'm drinking my water from a large plastic bottle. All water here is bottled..don't touch that tap stuff.

When work is done, I drive back home with the other few million people.

I'll sit with my son for dinner and hear about his day. He eats well; and healthy stuff too - fish and vegetables. His snacks throughout the day are also healthy. I am fortunate that we have an organic store in Dubai. I try to buy as much as I can for him from there. Its great and from all over the place - India, Africa, Germany or who knows where.

I've got some beautiful tulips in a vase on my table. They are likely from Holland, the typical import of all flowers to Dubai.

If there is time, I go exercise or do yoga. I have a pair of sport shoes made in the Far East somewhere. I am not sure where the yoga clothes are made.

I'll check my emails and personal things on my MacBook that I use for my photography hobby. I love it, really.

I'm also planning my next vacation. I wonder where I will fly to next?

If I'm not exhausted at that point. I'll read a few pages of a book from my Kindle, or one of the few last paper books that I have. Then I drift off to sleep rather quickly to get up and start it all over again....

...sounds like a nice life...It is, but what is wrong with this picture?!! The use of energy and resources is what is wrong with this picture!! Granted, I do live in a country that doesn't have much in terms of natural resources (except oil) and the occasional local tomato. However, I am sure if I were not in Dubai and say living in the US, there would be just as much energy consumption going on there as I have here to sustain my lifestyle.

I am not opposed to environmentalism, or saving energy by any means. But what can we do on a large scale because the "system" is now like that. I have been thinking about this ever since the BP oil spill. The link to the Garrison Keillor editorial at the end of this blog entry also got me thinking about it even more.

Additional food for thought, I read just a few days ago about the increase of suicides in a factory in China. This factory is where Apple and many other technology companies make most of their products. As a Mac user, is their blood on my hands as well?

What has happened with BP in the Gulf is an awful horrible thing. That ecosystem will never be the same. But "we" let it happen. Yes, BP could have taken more safety measures. However, all of us sitting here at our computers live in the developed world. We are dependent on what they are doing - drilling for oil to sustain our lifestyle.

As a good friend of mine always said "when you point the finger at someone, don't forget there are always three more pointing back at you".