Laurel and Associates, Ltd. – Madison, WI



On November 17, 2015, Posted by , In Travelogue, By , , With Comments Off on Dubai

I’m sorry that I haven’t written until now. I was exhausted when I left Madison, WI and have been trying to get some sleep at night to keep going during the day.

The following will be snatches of information in no particular order:

There are two women who are Emiratis who work in the ministry who have been attending the training-both the basic technical trainer’s toolbox training and now the advanced: accelerated learning and tomorrow- how to avoid learner overload.

They are very young and seem umbilically attached to their phones. They wear exquisite abayas (long robes) and hijabs (black veils). They look lovely. To start the accelerated learning training, I gave everyone a small car and a thick sheet of paper on which to draw what they would see along the road when they went on their ideal road trip. Both of the women drew beach scenes and explained that they would sun bathe. I asked if they wore their abayas and they laughed- they wear bikinis when at secluded beaches with family and close friends. One even told me that she wasn’t usually this dark, she had a tan!

I asked them why the Emerati men wore white and the women wore black. It is just tradition and apparently the women can wear other colors: beige, light and dark blue, etc. I asked why they didn’t and they said they were used to wearing black- and another woman in the class suggested that black dye used to be the most expensive, so wearing black clothing indicated wealth. It is all so interesting!

It is a matter of national pride to wear traditional dress, so many wear it. Men wear dishdash or kandoora with the headscarf known as keffiyeh. The traditional keffiyah in UAE is white and it is held in place by the agal which is a type of rope. These days the younger Emiratis prefer red and white keffiyehs around their head and avoid the agal.

Seta told me that women who are not Arab or Emirati have also taken to wearing the traditional clothing. Even her older daughter has an abaya!

Lunch has been catered everyday, in the hope that the participants would take a shorter lunch. Ha! Their sense of what 10 minutes is happens to be extremely divergent from my own. I probably lose 2 hours or more waiting for people to come back. Anyway, you’ll be interested (or appalled) to know that our lunch has been catered either by Subway or Pizza Hut. Massive quantities of food are provided- for example, everyone got their own pizza- and we’re not talking small pizzas!

The front desk staff remembered me from my visit in January of this year, which was nice. I can’t believe all of the construction- there are six buildings going up around the hotel. This seems to be true throughout the parts of Dubai I’ve seen.

Seta, who is the administrator over training and was the person who brought me here the first time, brought me home with her tonight. She lives in a gated community. She explained that this is not for security but more to delineate small communities of homes and apartments that pay the landlord to maintain the roads and the buildings, etc.

I only saw the first floor, which was absolutely enormous- entering out onto a small but lovely garden. Seta didn’t use a key to open her front door. She rang the doorbell and then pounded on the door. She has a young live in housekeeper/cook from Kenya who leaves the key in the door so no one can come in and surprise her (I wonder what horrors she may have left in Kenya). So, with the key in the door on one side, no one can fit a key in the door from the outside. However, once Seta is home, the housekeeper pulls the key out enough so that Hani (sp?) Seta’s husband can use his key.

I met both children: Zora, who is 17 and wants to be a chef. She came home with a traditional Arab delicacy of rice inside some leaf (grape, perhaps). I tried just a little. That was that for me. Zora is graduating soon and will be going to a university in Holland. Because Seta and her husband are Bulgarian and therefore part of the European Union, the cost is 70% less for Zora to go there. I think the costs mentioned refer to housing, books and food, because college in Europe is free. Seta can’t understand our huge tuition costs and result in enormous loans to be paid back (nor can I).

Seta and her 12-year old Marianne (very sweet) took me to the Mall of Dubai to see the dancing water fountains. The mall is enormous, it has four floors and although we walked for probably an hour, we saw 1/20th of the place! There was a Dior exhibit that was actually fascinating- very clever tableaus showing miniature Dior fashions, videos, histories. I’m definitely not into fashion, but this was interesting.

There is an entire section of the mall just for shoes- all high fashion, very high fashion and I’m assuming very expensive.

At the water’s edge, we could see the Burj Khalifa, which is a landmark in Dubai as the tallest sky scraper in the world: rising 2,717 ft and containing 209 floors. It was bathed in the colors of the French flag to show solidarity.

Every nationality, size, shape, color, dress, age of people continually passed by- we ate outside where we had a terrific view of the fountains. They really do dance to the different songs every half hour. They last for the length of a song- 3-6 minutes. I saw the fountains dance to Arabic music, Japanese music, something else, and then Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli singing ”Time to Say Goodbye (Con te partiro) “ just lovely.

Hani joined us for dinner and spent the entire time on his phone. He showed us photos that an employee sent from Saudi- of cars and trucks under water. Saudi had two straight days of rain and now has terrible flooding, that they are not equipped to handle. Who would be?

Since I was in Charleston, S. Carolina as the rains came and saw cars and trucks floating by, I have some idea of their current experience!

Training here at ICBA, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, is crazy because the growing season has just started and the scientists have meetings and research, etc. All this to say that today’s class started with 15, and by the end of the session I had 7!!! People come and go continually, not mentioning if and when they’ll come back. It tries my patience, my resilience and my flexibility in reconfiguring activities.

Seta wants me to come back in the summer when it is so hot no one goes outside or works in the fields. She would have had me come this past summer, but knew I had the operation on my shoulder.

I came here with a contract to conduct two days of Technical Trainer’s Toolbox, one day of Accelerated Learning and one day of How to Avoid Learner Overload (cognitive load theory), with one or two meetings on the fifth day. However, as happened last January, it wasn’t possible to videotape all of the participants in the Technical Trainer’s Toolbox in one afternoon- so seven are coming back Thursday morning to be videotaped facilitating a 10 minute participatory activity that they designed. Then I’ll meet with the climate change group to help them with their training. Then meet with the training director, then make recommendations to the Director General, and who knows what else!! It’s always interesting and I do enjoy the people.

But I’m also bushed so I’m going to end this now.



Comments are closed.