Showing posts from August, 2010

Bacha bazi, the horror, in Afghanistan

In a piece called Afghanistan's dirty little secret for the San Francisco Chronicle on the weekend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joel Brinkley explores the practice of bacha baz, or bazi: what seems like a pretty systemic situation where older, more powerful men sexually abuse young boys ages 9-15. 

"Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from a perverse interpretation of Islamic law," writes Brinkley. "Women are simply unapproachable. Afghan men cannot talk to an unrelated woman until after proposing marriage. Before then, they can't even look at a woman, except perhaps her feet. Otherwise, she is covered, head to ankle."

Snap caption: Learner driver takes a wrong turn in Al Ain

*Photo courtesy of Essam al Ghalib - thanks Essam!

They come on a promise, and a contract

One of the great tragedies of the world right now has to be the ongoing exploitation of millions of low-income workers through the systemic practice of contract substitution. This happens when workers are recruited in their home countries with one offer, only to face a whole different, and substandard, package when they arrive - and when it's too late for them to do anything about it.

Worrying they'll lose their job, often in debt to recruitment companies in their home countries, they sign, and suffer the consequences for years. Their wages are lower, they have only one or even no days off; sometimes they are put in jobs that are nothing like what they agreed to.

No one seems to measure this – how could you – although international organisations acknowledge it's a problem. A very thorough package by The National's Ramona Ruiz today, however, does a great job of sketching out just how widespread it is. Take a read, please.

Thousands fall victim to broken contracts

Debts c…

Why I love boric acid OR Cockroaches: 0 Me: 1

I have been writing a little eco-tips column for the weekend paper's House and Home section, which is fun, and in it today I detail my recent victorious battle with cockroaches. I hate cockroaches. They ruin my life. And I come from Canada where, if you have even one (and no one has just one), you are basically one dirty mother*&^%er.

*Rich-Joseph Facun's pic from The National – those are  not my dead roaches, but it's still satisfying to see them

Cab sports velour Louis Vuitton steering wheel cover

*authenticity not be verified

Overheard in the newsroom

"And here comes the regret."
-Colleague, about four minutes after polishing off some Kentucky Fried Chicken

Snap caption: Like father, like son


Sweet, sweet daily Ramadan respite for those who do not fast

I was so happy to find a place that was serving food and drink during the day last weekend I snapped this pic in Jones the Grocer, also affectionately known as Jones the Robber for its outrageous prices. We all complain about them, but we love the place – it is regularly jam-packed and close to work and my apartment – and continue to pay. It is also a favourite of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. I've seen him there myself. Not during Ramadan, of course. 

Yes, those are my poached eggs in the forefront.

Hmm, might the taking of multiple wives not be contributing to the problem?

AFP reports that a Kuwaiti MP is seeking state aid to help men take a second wife in an attempt to reduce the number of spinsters in the country.

"The proposal", argues the independent Shiite MP, Faisal al Duwaisan, "aims at solving the problem of unmarried women".

Overheard in the newsroom: Ramadan edition

"I know you haven't had anything to eat or drink for 14 hours, but can you do a few more things for me?"

AARP wants me: It was probably the US mailbox and subscription to Oprah magazine

I received this extremely premature and most definitely unwanted membership card to the American Association of Retired Persons in the mail the other day. 

Snap caption: Shirt for sale in Carrefour inappropriate to wear in any country, not just the UAE


Quite necessary sign in the women's bathroom of a popular watering hole


My first real iftar

Last night I was lucky enough to be a guest for my very first Emirati iftar. It speaks to how private Emiratis are that I have lived here for more than two years and this was the first time I have crossed into one of their private homes. (Perhaps it also speaks to my laziness and trepidation, but definitely not lack of interest) It's just not easy, is all. And it was an event organised through work, so the whole thing is even a bit more shameful. When it comes to meeting and befriending Emiratis, I have failed miserably. But moving on from here: last night was lovely lovely lovely. Of course the men and women socialised and ate separately; we said goodbye to our colleagues on the street. Once inside we were led into a gorgeous majlis with the biggest carpet I have ever seen. It was a massive room, filled with four couches, four settees, eight or so chairs, plush and peach coloured, arranged around the outside of the room with pillows placed just so. After a bit of a group discussi…

Grand mufti of Dubai not so into Emiratis marrying foreigners

Mixed marriages should only be allowed in certain circumstances, to prevent a proliferation of Emirati spinsters, says Dr Ahmed al Haddad.  

In Islam, choosing your life partner is a personal freedom,” he said, speaking at a Ramadan majlis on Sunday night. “But personal freedoms can be restricted for the benefit of the public interest.”  

Mixed marriages are more likely to end in divorce and their children are more likely to commit crimes, some experts at the majilis said.

“There should be very specific circumstances for when such marriages are allowed,” Dr al Haddad said. “Such as when a man is too old and cannot find an Emirati to marry him, or when he wants to take a third of fourth wife for certain reasons and no Emirati woman agrees to do so.”

Are you also tired of One Woman's Search for Everything?

Me too, but that is not stopping me from bitching a little that Eat Pray Love won't be hitting UAE theatres until October. October! Well, understandable, when Abu Dhabi Mall has already committed to currently showing such cutting edge films as The Maiden Heist and Whatever Works, both released in 2009.

I too have had my fill of the blind devotion Elizabeth Gilbert's book has attracted, a love-in propelled for much longer than it should have been by the release of the movie starring Julia Roberts and, of course, Oprah. But a friend highly recommended it, and although I was prepared to hate it, I enjoyed it in spite of myself, which is why I was looking forward to settling down in a darkened theatre to watch it. That and a dearth of much that is watchable in theatres.

Then today, I was grumbling about it not showing, feeling a bit silly about even bringing it up, and my smart female British colleague said the best thing ever.

"What is Eat Pray Love?"

Giant date aimed at Guinness Book record

I didn't make it to the Liwa Date Festival this year, and I was sad about that for one reason: This giant date. See, there is a door. What is inside? I need to know. The one person I know who went to the date festival couldn't tell me, as it was closed for business. Not to worry, I have this picture now, and for now, it will have to be enough. The accompanying press release was titled "Emiratis enter Guinness World Records with their submission of the largest artificial date in the world".

Overheard in the office

"We're not engaged. We're just an office couple."

Ramadan week 2: Can an elite athlete fast?

Why yes, they can. And do. The National's Matt Kwong had a story today that made me feel like a big whiny baby for being cranky that last Friday I had to go into the bathroom at the gym to drink water. In less than three months Adil Khalid, the Emirati sailing champion, training for the UAE at the 2010 Asian Games in China. Despite not being able to consume a morsel of food or a drop of water for hours, he trains twice a day. 

I think the message the rest of us can safely take away from this is: quit complaining about the heat and not being able to drink water in public, and get off your a**.

Snap caption: Well hellooooo Sawyer

Delma Street, just before Muroor.

Three weeks and 10 calls later, I have my new Showtime digital converter

Has everyone else been experiencing the special irritation that Showtime has been bestowing on us? In an effort to switch over all the boxes, instead of just saying, 'hey, bring 'em into the shop and we'll replace them' (I think that's how Rogers would approach it, and I never thought I'd think fondly of how they did business) they have been sending a technician to each of their subscriber's homes and having him install it.

Not so much a problem in a place with a proper addressing system, or any addressing system, this approach is, I'm guessing, proving to be a massive headache for all involved. Perhaps it's why every couple of days for the last three weeks I've been getting calls from Showtime, asking where I live. I start to explain, but already I feel short-tempered because explaining where I live is basically impossible. In 18 months I've never been able to get someone here without going outside to flag them down and then walking here, l…

I guess they'll just get another one

The London Evening Standardreports two Arabs from Abu Dhabi crashed a Lamborghini into Knightsbridge's Lowndes Square, reportedly telling a passerby: "It's all right, we'll pay for the damage."

Ramadan Kareem

The Ramadan Crescent Moon Sighting Society has spoken.

Nice pieces on the society's search for the Ramadan moon here and an inspiring take on the ritual of daily fasting from a fairly recent convert here.

This week in leaving a job suddenly, and with great flair: David Allan Coe would be proud

I only ever give two weeks notice, clean up my space and pass on relevant information and contacts to my boss so the person who follows will have a leg up. But for years when I waitressed in various jobs I would dream about untying my apron and throwing it at various managers before storming out. I saw this once, and all that happened was that I had to work longer filling it for the girl who did it. The closest I came to this sort of behaviour was when I told the total jerk in a bar I worked for I would not be finishing out the weekend - oooh, rebel.

But I have always admired people, while not personally knowing any, who go bigger. I have a friend who recently lost her job after pouring not one but two pints of beer over her boss's head while out after work. I knew someone else who text-messaged his boss in the middle of the night, while drunk, some choice words about quitting. I recently worked with someone who began sending witty – and inappropriate – responses to spam and event…

Having trouble mixing and matching, I apologise

Due to a lack of design skills, time, any sort of tenacity and, let's face it, interest, I keep changing the look of this blog, trying to find something I like. I rue the day I clicked on Design Template-New!

Turns out the options on Design Template-New! aren't really all that great. (No offense Awesome Inc. - I certainly could never do better myself) Really I'd just like it back the way it was, but as someone who is still in Abu Dhabi and not back in Canada, you can't  – and shouldn't always  – go home again. At least not right away, before experiencing things a bit. I am trying to get rid of the stupid boxes that surround each post,  but that is proving to be a challenge. (Update - I may have succeeded, but now I don't like the colour, sigh.)

So it will just be trying stuff on now and then until I can settle on something normal and not too irritating.

The laundry men are lovely, though they think I am ridiculous

One of the pure joys, for me, about living in Abu Dhabi is the luxury of sending my clothes out. Removing the ongoing chore of washing, ironing, folding etc has freed me up to do ... well, I can never exactly figure out what I've done with those hours in the week. But suffice to say it is such an ongoing delight to get those lovely pressed packages back every week I was less than enthused with the introduction of a washing machine into my home several weeks ago, with the suggestion that we'd save "hundreds of dirhams" every month. Maybe so, but without a dryer I now have visions of laundry bits hanging all over my house, and worse, me ironing on an ongoing basis.

So, suffice it to say, the washing machine has been used twice. And until an workable system of doing the laundry can be worked out, one that will ensure bits of clothes won't be draped everywhere drying most of the time, everything is being sent to the shop. Which brings me to the black dress I couldn&#…

Don't give them any ideas: Abu Dhabi quote of the week

The Entertainment Weekly cover story this week asks "Is James Bond dead?" The franchise is in trouble due to MGM's cash woes, and the article jokes about the problem by suggesting:

“[MGM] should sell the Bond franchise for a billion dollars to some sovereign company in Abu Dhabi and promise to make Bond movies in Abu Dhabi."

Really Maggi? Puccini, for broccoli soup?

I am left not knowing where to lodge my strenuous objection to the use of the stirring Turandot aria Nessun Dorma to accompany a television advertisement for a pouch of Nestle soup, particularly when the crescendo is utterly ruined with this voiceover: "So rich in broccoli you'll savour a soup that is three times richer than regular soups".

I also highly doubt that "three times richer" claim.

Confused UAE residents may find their "Blackberry or iPhone?" debate just got easier

The UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority says it will suspend Blackberry messaging, emailing and browsing service by October 11 if the company does not make the information contained in what people communicate available. The complaint now is that it's shipped away. It's a matter of "national security". Other Gulf countries appear to be moving in the same direction. Etisalat and du, the country's two main service providers, say they will come up with alternative services (ones where all the info stays in the country) in the coming days. Blackberry, over to you...

UPDATE: More context here...