Laurel and Associates, Ltd. – Madison, WI

Days Two and Three of TOT in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Days Two and Three of TOT in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On January 27, 2015, Posted by , In Travelogue, By , , With Comments Off on Days Two and Three of TOT in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Day Two of a two-day Technical Trainers’ Toolbox in Dubai, United Arab Emirates was extended to a half Day Three, which I’ll explain in a moment.

January 27: Day Two

Somehow we managed to get through all of the activities I’d planned for the morning, so the participants would have 50 minutes in the afternoon to prepare their 10-minute participatory learning activity. There were two caveats: (1) no lecture and (2) no activity they had facilitated before.

Because there were 14 participants and I could only schedule in 7 for the rest of the day, I had previously arranged with Ghazi to have a separate video camera and room. That meant that 7 participants would need to be given feedback by someone other than me. They didn’t like that idea. It was finally decided that the 7 people (who had to facilitate their activities today) would do it today and the rest would come in tomorrow morning.

Ghazi started us off and he was absolutely brilliant. He used an art project and questions, and really modeled how to engage the participants completely for the entire 10 minutes. I was thrilled.

Unfortunately, the next facilitator stuck to lecture entirely. I think he is new and feels that he needs to prove himself. I was very disappointed, because he seemed to understand (at least academically) the adult learning principles and participatory techniques I’d been teaching and modeling.

The third facilitator was only marginally better, choosing to refer to a case study he’d used before. So, both number two and number three blatantly ignored my two caveats. Grrr!!!

Number four used brainstorming and questions, which was pretty good.

Aziz was number five and he was fantastic! He had created a horticultural game that engaged everyone, satisfied all learning styles, and was both educational and a lot of fun.

The next one was also quite good, and the last was excellent. Hurray! We ended on a high note!

Everyone then took the post-test and increased their scores by 10-15 points, so they (and I) were very pleased.


January 28- Day two and a half…

This morning we had a role-play, a case study, two games, brainstorming- and one lecture. Ouch!!

Then I met with Setta, who is the Director of Partnerships and Knowledge Management and is the one who suggested I be brought here. I will be giving an hour briefing to the Scientific Director and Director General tomorrow and we discussed what I should include.

Then I met with Ghazi to see examples of training proposals and presentations he designed. I was surprised to see that the proposal specified that the training was for people 25-40. When I asked Ghazi about it, he explained that they wanted to target young people who were more likely to use what they learned and be in positions where that was practical. Older people were typically managers and this particular training was not targeted at them. He acknowledged that the junior people who should attend the trainings are often bumped by managers who want to visit the country.

Ghazi coordinates all of the logistics for enormous conferences all around the Middle East and Africa. It is very impressive!

What a loving man. He had brought an extra banana and apple for me while we waited to go to lunch- and asked for water to be brought when I had a small coughing fit.

He had cartoons and brochures on the wall, as well as a poster he did years ago for a company where the slogan he created was “sweet from salt.” ICBA now uses that slogan, because they can get sugar from date trees that are planted in sea water!

Henda, his wife, joined us to go to a huge mall where we sat and had lunch in the food court. I had chicken tikka and French fries (!), while Ghazi had a big Mac and Henda ate a happy meal! They apparently come here at least once a week to buy happy meals for their two little boys (when there are good toys). Henda came back to our table with two huge bags, because she had purchased two happy meals for each boy so they would get the same toys. Ghazi is Syrian and Henda is Tunisian- and they met at an ICBA conference.

By the way, I discovered that everyone at ICBA calls it IckBa rather than ICBA!

The lunch and driver were very educational. First, I saw incredible electric wire towers like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Second, the food court was spotless, with chairs and tables in radiating rows. It was incredibly well organized, and Henda explained that Dubai puts a lot of money into this. Even the gas stations have very clean and well-organized rest rooms and prayer rooms.

Third, as we drove out of the mall parking lot, there was a terrible stench. Ghazi explained, as he sprayed some air freshener in the car, that we had just passed what we would call in the States a honeydew wagon. There are no septic tanks, so everything has to be piped and carried away. After treatment, the sludge is given to ICBA to use as fertilizer in their enormous test fields.

Ghazi gave me a driving tour of the fields, where they test what will grow in fresh water, part saline, brackish water and seawater.

Let me tell you what I learned about ICBA from reading their strategic plan. It has an international team that includes soil, crop and water scientists, and policy and socioeconomic experts. They focus on challenges in marginal environments- of sustainable production, use of saline and alternative waters, environmental impacts, natural resources assessment and management, and policy and governance.

It has excellent research and training facilities, including an experimental farm, soil, water and agronomy laboratories, and a genebank of salt-tolerant germplasm with over 11,000 accessions representing 260 species.

They operate in six arenas: research innovations, assessment of natural resources in marginal environments, climate change impacts and management, crop productivity and diversification, aquaculture and bioenergy, and policies for resilience.

I read the strategic plan to build my talking points for the management briefing around key provisions for capacity building and a knowledge hub. Then I met with the videographer to create a brief montage of excellent, good, and bad facilitation to accompany my briefing tomorrow.

I asked him where he learned to work with cameras and video and his answer- Youtube!!! While we waited (and waited) for the videos to download into a movie edit program, we had a fascinating conversation. In no particular order, I learned that: Arabic is a very complimentary language- and there are lots of ways to say “good morning” that are in increasingly complimentary language!

By the way, I had thought he was American, because his English was terrific. However, it turns out that he is Lebanese.

He spoke about the government of the Emirate of Dubai, who is a sheikh and, as with the rulers of the other emirates in the United Arab Emirates, is part of a ruling dynasty. The good thing about him is that he makes decisions quickly. The bad thing is that he can change his mind easily. I was told that Dubai used to have a law that gave people who were unjustly fired 3 months of compensation, and those who were justly fired just one month of compensation. After the economic crisis when there were many layoffs, he changed the law so that everyone only got one month of compensation. Why? Because he owns half of the businesses. And if you don’t get a job within that month, you are deported.

He told me that he spent two months in Phoenix so that his wife could have their second child there. The reason was that when she had their first son in Lebanon, even though both he and his wife had visas to live and work in Dubai, the government refused to give their 6-month old baby a visa, claiming she was considered a threat to security. It took a huge effort to get past this.

So, he wanted his next child to be born American and have an American visa. He figured that if things got too bad in Dubai, he could send his son back to America.

He loves how people respect others in America, or at least that was his experience. When I asked him to explain, he gave a few examples. First, we pull over when an ambulance is behind us. In Dubai, no one pulls over and people die because they can’t get emergency care. Second, we slow down for children. In Dubai, people keep speeding without any regard for children in the street. Third, he is very impressed by how America came together over the shooting of a black man. Shootings occur all the time and no one cares in Dubai.

He also spoke to discrimination. Lebanese are discriminated against. A glaring example:
A Lebanese friend of his pulled his car over on the yellow line at the edge of a highway to check something. It is illegal to park there. An Iraqi who was swerving in and out of traffic and moving at a very high speed swerved around a truck and crashed into the parked car. The Lebanese’s 20-year-old daughter was killed on the spot. The Iraqi went free and the Lebanese spent 6 months in prison!!!

So, needless to say, he wants to move his family to America. He is 100% in favor and his wife is 5% in doubt, so he said that they were 195% in favor! He said that Dubai is a transient place, that most people who come to work there end up moving somewhere else.

He really opened my eyes with his perspective, which was completely opposite the perspective I received from my Pakistani driver when I first arrived in Dubai.

I think this message is long enough. I just have two more things to mention.

First, I found out that my aged cat, Jake, is very ill. He is in good hands but it is very hard to be so far away when I know he won’t really relax and eat well until I’m home. So it was very good that I was distracted by work and preparation of my report and sitting with the videographer

Second, Sissy (actually Dr. Dionyssia Aggeliki Lyra, who is a post doctoral fellow from Greece and a very enthusiastic and natural trainer) invited me to go with her and a Pakistani postdoctoral fellow, Shugufta, to visit the Global Village tomorrow after work.
Global Village is the largest seasonal cultural extravaganza in the region that offers visitors an amazing array of festivals, shopping and entertainment in an open-air theme park.
This entertainment and shopping destination is open from November through to April and hosts over 70 participating countries presented in over 36 pavilions, with more than 50 fun rides and 26 restaurants offering food from around the world.
Also included at the Global Village this year is “Illumination World” a Lantern city with popular monuments of the world. Come and see the world light up.
It is apparently a terrific place to shop, particularly since it is sale month in Dubai. It was very sweet of her to invite me and I’m looking forward to it!



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