"Not all those who wander are lost"

Christmas in the UAE

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.

-Anthony Brandt



Christmas Eve!  Andy, Stan, and I headed off in the morning to get the breakfast special at Fibber McGee’s.  We walked into the Irish pub and looked around.  Nobody else was there.  We hung out there for a few hours eating breakfast and hanging out trying to wait for the metro which doesn’t open until 2pm on Fridays (Islamic day of worship).  Eventually Andy and Stan decided to cab it back to EA so they would be there in time to get cleaned up before going to church with Michelle (recent RIT grad who does student services at RIT Dubai now).  I decided that it was a better use of my time to head to the the organic grocery store I spotted.

Organic Foods was, well, organic and therefore great.  I loaded up on peanut buttery goodness before heading to the other grocery store to pick up a few things I was missing.  While I was checking out I noticed a guy wearing the traditional garb and a thought dawned on me.  This was the first non-Caucasian I had seen in either grocery store.  Whether it was the stores or the time/day I don’t know but somehow I had stumbled upon the whitest place I have been in Dubai.

I was sitting in my room enjoying my traditional Christmas Eve burrito when one of the guys from Harriot Watt walked in and asked if I wanted to play soccer with them.  The Harriot Watt team had a friendly match against a Chinese team staying at EA at 7:00.  It was 7:04.  I stuffed the second half of my burrito in my mouth at once, grabbed my cleats, and ran out the door.  It was the first time I had played a full 11v11 game of soccer since high school.  The game was fun, quite high scoring (6-7 at the end I think) and in general not the prettiest game.  There was a lot of dribbling through, or into, people and a lot less passing than there could or should have been but it was still fun.  I even scored a left footed goal that soared over the keeper and hit perfectly in the top corner.  I was pleased:  both about the game and that my burrito kept going down despite all my running.



Christmas Day!  There were no presents, stockings, or trees when I woke up.  It’s hard to feel Christmasy when there’s no snow on the ground and no family around.  Instead Stan, Andy, and I headed out in a rental car to Snoopy Island on the east coast to go snorkeling.  Driving across to the east coast in the morning was quite the experience.  The road we had chosen to traverse the country was a two lane road with fairly wide shoulders.  The vehicles on the road however didn’t seem to know this.  Trucks drove half on the shoulders going 70kph while cars weaved around each other in the center of the road, some times reaching 4 vehicles abreast.  Despite the interesting and often scary driving we made it there without too much trouble and parked at a public area in sight of the island.  The only problem was we still had no snorkeling gear.  We walked across the beach to a nearby hotel to inquire, but they only had kayaks.  We kept walking down the beach hoping to find somewhere to rent snorkeling equipment but eventually got yelled at by locals to not go further (they didn’t want us near their families and wives).  Deciding that we needed to go down the beach more we headed back to the car and cruised down the road a little more.  We found the hotel that we had been told had snorkeling gear, but once we found out it was 70dhs just to get on the beach there before rentals we decided it wasn’t worth it.  We jumped back in the car and drove 10 minutes back up the road to Dibba to look into buying our own gear.  After driving straight through town without seeing anything promising we stopped at a tiny little general store and found some masks.  Good enough.

With our minimal gear we headed back and stopped at a public beach (next to the correct hotel this time).  We had the interesting choice of gear when we crossed the broken Heineken bottles to the beach:  Andy with his goggles and camera, Stan with his goggles and snorkel, and me with my goggles and banana.

Anxious to get out Andy and I crashed into the water and began to swim.  A ways out we realized that Stan was still struggling with this snorkel.  We tread water and waited.  After what felt like quite a while, since I was treading water, Stan decided he didn’t want to swim out the island.  Unfortunately I had pawned off the banana to him since he could fit it in his pocket.  I decided to head back and get it.  I made it back to the beach, retrieved the banana, shoved it in my pocket, and headed back toward the island.  I made it about half way again before I noticed the banana was no longer in my pocket.  Curses.  It had floated away just after I started swimming, but I wasn’t going back for it this time.  After swimming against the tide the entire way, I finally made it out to the island and climbed up on the rocks for a break.  The island was really just a large crumbly rock with an occasional little plant and frequent piles of bird droppings.  Being me I had to climb the rocks.

That was probably not the best idea.  Most of the island was very sharp fractured rocks that came apart if they were pulled on.  Combining this with my bare feet made my little climb up to the top take much longer than expected, but I made it to the top.  The way down was no easier, especially trying to avoid getting my hands, and especially the open wound on my finger, in bird poop.  It was equally sketchy, painful, and bad of an idea going back down but I succeeded in getting down safely, but not in avoiding bird poo.  Once I was finally back down I noticed a sign around the corner from where I started with a picture of the grim reaper on it.  It said something along the lines of “Danger, climbing could result in death” in about 6 languages.

I rejoined Andy in the water chasing around fish around the coral reef like sharks with brain damage.  Andy delighted in swimming at every interesting fish he saw with his camera outstretched in front of him to try to get pictures.  I contented myself with looking at the interesting ones and swimming through schools of fish trying to touch them.  Eventually we headed back to the beach to rejoin Stan.  The tide had turned so once again we were fighting it.

Still early in the day we relaxed, napped, and read on the beach for a while before moseying back toward Dubai.  Along the way we stopped at one of the many roadside stands and bought mangos, papayas, pomegranates, and several other unknown tropical fruits.

We made it back to EA in time for me to make my traditional Christmas dinner:  burrito, mango, and pomegranate.  I skyped with the family and watched everyone open presents.  It was great to be able to still be there and see the goings on at home.  We even took a family picture, me included.

We are indeed a strange bunch.  After many hours of skyping they headed outside and I headed off to bed.

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