Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Art of Humility

I often feel that one of the keys to integrating with a new culture is personal humility.  Not so much in the sense that you are less of a person, but in the sense that you need to put all the confusion, misunderstanding, language barrier and embarrassment aside, take a deep breath and self-deprecate.  Often. Laugh at yourself.  Laugh at the situation.  Often.

Most likely, the people of your newly embraced culture are not going laugh or ridicule you unless it is customary to do so.  If this is the case, then do not be insulted or angered.  Laugh with them.

If they are not like this, then you should laugh and embrace your embarrassment as you learn the rules of the road.

To say I have had many moments of humility in my years abroad would be an understatement. I thought I was on a brink of another one this week when I purchased a new dishwasher.

I arrived home late the day it arrived, so I never really looked at it until the next day.  Much to my surprise, it was gold?  I specifically asked for silver.  How did I end up with a gold dishwasher?  And who buys a gold dishwasher?  I had a lot of questions.

Several calls to many customer service centers led to dead ends.  I would have to go all the way back to the hypermarket where I purchased it to see if they might change it.

Might change it?  I had my previous dishwasher for about 16 years.  I don't think I could bare to live with a gold one that long!

So after a long day at work, I ventured into the trenches of the Dubai Shopping Festival to the super store to find the person that sold this to me.  Head high, I had my assertive game face ready.  I couldn't find the person I wanted so I spoke with someone else explaining the challenges I have with appliances that have too much bling.

He immediately opened the door of the display and showed me a bit of goldish-green paper on the inside.  He very calmly suggested I try to remove the paper from the door.

Fantastic.  The protective sheet of paper should be removed from the door.  While the solution was easy it was not what I expected at all, but yet, I should have known!  Logic, where are you hiding?

Was I embarrassed?  A bit.  Did I laugh at myself?  A bit more.  I do not surprise myself anymore, but I could not chalk this one up to culture clash.  This is my overworked brain loosing its touch with reality and common sense.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how humility is not just practical for learning new cultural norms.  It goes way beyond that.  Even into the world of gold appliances.  As I walked to my car with a much needed ironing board I purchased that same day, I hoped I would remember to remove it's plastic packaging before use.

Struggling to fit it into my car, I wondered for a brief second if I shouldn't just tie it on to the top of my car like a surfboard.  You know, just to seal the deal on humility.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Dervish in the Desert

What do you get when you shoot a dervish who has lights all over his outfit during a tourist show?  A spinning top.

A real dervish is not lit, nor is it about entertainment.  The spinning that dervishes do might be best described as a meditation related to Sufism.

I am not a Sufi scholar, but I once read this is a symbolic imitation of the planets orbiting the sun. There are many references out there for Sufism if you wish to read more. If you want to enjoy it in fictional content, then I highly suggest Elif Safak's The Forty Rules of Love.  

The only dervishes I have ever seen in Dubai are in shows like this that focus on a performance.

So for now I leave you with a couple of images of dervish light painting that I took last month at a business outing in the desert.

A Whirling Dervish show in the desert in Dubai

A Whirling Dervish show in the desert in Dubai

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cirque Du Soleil - Michael Jackson - One Leg and Life Lessons

Tonight I took my son to see the Cirque Du Soleil Michael Jackson show in Dubai.  It was fun, amazing, inspiring, reflective and entertaining.  There were some of the usual acrobatics and other acts we are used to seeing in a Cirque show, but this one was focussed on capturing the essence of Michael Jackson through dancing, his lyrics and music.

The show was very moving in several places and also covered many favorites and did these well. The dancing, choreography and production where fantastic.

What most moved me in this show was a one legged dancer.  I saw him in the opening and I first thought he was a regular dancer using crutches as a prop.  I later realized this was a real one legged dancer.

I did a quick internet search, and learned his name is Jean Sok.  He does not focus on the why or how he lost his leg at the age of 15, nor does he need to.  He is amazing and proved himself in several numbers.  An article says he moved Jackson's choreographer to tears at his audition, and I can see why.  He certainly moved me to tears.

There are a lot of good messages and discussions I expect to have with my son as a result of his curiosity about show - respect for nature, respect for each other, the importance of children and having a dream.  However, if he took away anything from this entertaining evening, I hope that Sok left an impression on him.

This morning I read an article about a woman running for a Senate seat in the US.  She allegedly dropped out of the race because one of her children has been diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.  A diabetic organization in my Facebook feed asked the question, "What advice would you give her?"

As the parent of a Type 1 child, there are many things I could say.  Many people responded "one day at a time".  There is a lot of truth in that.  It can be extremely overwhelming.

If I were to answer that question now, I would tell her to take her child to see the Cirque Michael Jackson show and look for the one legged dancer.

Sometimes a perceived obstacle is not a road block.  Tell your Type 1 child that this is just one of those things, and even though they are diabetic they can still achieve anything they put their mind to. Never think that you "can't" and never think that your "disease" or condition will get in the way of your dreams.

Jean Sok - you rocked it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Burj Khalifa 2014 New Year

December was a good month, but super busy.  While my head exploded with observations, I was not able to post at all.  After the weekend of Thanksgiving and National Day we worked a lot to wrap up the year, but had a lot of fun and good times with friends in Dubai.

I think I could also contribute my lack of posting for the fair amount of time required to do the holiday things that need to be done to make it special for my son… and that is never a bad thing.  It was a lot of fun and many great memories were created.

Once again, it was very difficult to leave the comfort of home and company of great neighbors to take in the fireworks anywhere else.  If there was a time to do it, this would have been the year to conquer the crowds as Dubai is now the world record holder for the largest firework display.

After a busy day of shopping, cooking and doing some much needed organization, I insisted to get in one last run before the new year.  Sometime after 6:00pm I ventured out into the streets around Burj Khalifa.

Much of my route was closed for obvious reasons, but I took on a new obstacle course instead. Hundreds of people were multiplying exponentially in the streets to find the best place to enjoy the show.  There I found myself dodging people from all walks of life, different religions, countries and languages - a multi-cultural obstacle course.  One of the beauties of Dubai.

If you haven't seen the firework shows on Youtube yet, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Palm shows.  The videos are pretty amazing and one local photographer I follow noted that it was really difficult to do it justice.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.