Saturday, March 17, 2012

...bookshop conversations

There are many "bookshops" here in Madinat Zayed, but don't get the mistaken impression that we have our choice of Barnes and Nobles-type shops in which to while away our time.  The bookshops are actually school supply stores--selling paper, notebooks, markers, folders, etc.  They are all about the same, although one might have a certain item that I'm looking for that the others don't carry.

What distinguishes one bookshop from another is the level of conversation one is able to have with the proprietors.  The owner of the shop that carries colored index cards doesn't speak English.  We communicate through acting things out, pointing, and the calculator.  He has a broad smile and produces the desired objects with a flourish. We are both delighted when he understands me.

In another shop is a well-educated young man who is working in his family's business just until he finds a job in his field of engineering.  He speaks Arabic, English and German.  His English is excellent and he loves to talk about languages. We talk long after our transaction is complete, and probably longer than would be considered proper.  How nice it would be to sit and drink coffee together and talk about cerebral things--but it can't be done. Not out here in the rural area, anyway.

I don't go to the third shop often, but when I do the conversation goes something like this:
Clerk: Hello, how are you?
Me:  I am well, and you?
Clerk:  Germany?
Me: No, I'm from America, but my grandfather was German.
Clerk:  How many years you have--30?
Me: You think I'm 30? Thank you, but my son is 28, so that isn't possible.
Clerk:  You much little.
Me:  You think I look young?  Thank you!
Clerk:  Where your wife?
Me:  My husband? He's in America. (Lying through my teeth, but it must be done!)
Clerk: Oh too bad, much problem.
Me: Yes, it is too bad. (Not really, since he doesn't exist!)
Clerk:  You go Dubai?
Me:  Sometimes.
Clerk:  You go Abu Dhabi?
Me: Yes, I go to Abu Dhabi sometimes.
Clerk: Dancing?
Me:  No, I don't go dancing. Do you?
Clerk: Oh, no, no, no.

Then we smile and nod and he shows me my total on the calculator.  I enjoy these exchanges so much that I purposely wait awhile before going back--he doesn't seem to remember that I'm not from Germany, and he hasn't figured out yet that my long-awaited husband still hasn't arrived.

Sometimes, for convenience sake, I pick up needed supplies at the department store in Abu Dhabi.  That's not nearly as much fun as going to the local shops.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Been there...

Done that...

And got the T-shirt!

Friday, March 2, 2012


I have never been a runner.  Never.  I remember in 7th grade PE in San Diego being exhorted by athletic Miss Zinn to "RUN!" and so I did, but she couldn't make me like it.  In 11th grade we moved to a small town in rural Oregon where everyone went out for sports--both for something to do, and because bodies were needed to field a team.  I have painful memories of those track meets--I had no idea what I was doing, and was the last one to cross the line, every time. 

It's not that I wasn't active--I was.  As kids we all had bikes and roller skates.  As an adult I hiked, walked, and rode my fat tired bike all over the place.  A few years ago a friend introduced me to cycling and I was hooked. I put lots of miles on my beautiful, cobalt blue Giant before coming here.  (She's the one item in my storage unit that I really miss!) I don't have a bicycle here, and not sure that I'll get one. 

When I first arrived, we spent an entire month in a hotel in Abu Dhabi. It had a good gym with plenty of treadmills and I went every day.  I started out walking, but with my son's encouragement, started to run.  Once we came out here to the Western Region, I asked around and found out that there were only two options--The Liwa Hotel gym or the Tilal Liwa Hotel gym. (Someone would make a killing if they opened a 24 hour Fitness Center here!)  The Liwa Hotel is in the town where I teach, and the Tilal Liwa is closer to where I live.  We had stayed at the Tilal for a few days, and the road leading to it has many, many speed humps.  I knew that I would never, at the end of a long day of teaching, make the drive over all those humps, to get to the gym.  So the Liwa Hotel it was. 

A couple of months ago I found out that a group of teachers met to walk or run at the local park every Friday morning, so I joined them.  One of the guys, who was also not a runner before coming here, told us about an upcoming 10K race.  It never occurred to me to sign up--after all, I'm not a runner.  Every week we'd meet and talk as we walked the first lap together.  They convinced me to sign up and give it a try.

By this time next week I will have my first 10K under my belt.  Yikes. I am nervous, but determined to finish, even if I'm still the last one to cross the finish line.

Oh, and there's another meaning for the word "runner" that is used here.  A "runner" is someone who, for whatever reason, packs up and heads to the airport in the middle of the night without telling anyone that he or she is leaving.  I just might be turning into a runner, but I'm not a "runner."