A Note from the Void

I’ll be back to blogging sometime soon, I swear. But that time is not now, as I am currently typing this update fat-thumbedly on my new iPhone in Dubai airport’s Terminal 2 (departure zone of choice for gun runners, opium traders, Somali housemaids, and - oh yes! - the region’s most esteemed budget airline, Fly Dubai), heading to Beirut for the weekend for a friend’s 30th birthday.

So! In the meantime, maybe you should follow me on the Instagrams? Holla atcha girl @gubbiofarabia … because you know there will be hijinx to document.

And then later, I’ll write about all the things… inshallah.

Love y’all!

Relevant question for my life.
I will be back to the bloggerwebs soon* with adventures from Rwanda, Nebraska, and more!
*As soon as my post-travel laziness subsides… y’all know how it goes.
(via explodingdog)

Relevant question for my life.

I will be back to the bloggerwebs soon* with adventures from Rwanda, Nebraska, and more!

*As soon as my post-travel laziness subsides… y’all know how it goes.

(via explodingdog)

Three Somewhat Unrelated Stories About Language

Numero Un: Do you ever come across words in another language that you just instinctively LOVE even though you don’t have any idea what they mean?

Case in point - ever since I moved to Dubai, I’ve been obsessed with this local chain of downmarket Indian restaurants called (in what I can only assume is an English transliteration of the Hindi name)


Say it out loud, right now: Chhappan Bhog! Isn’t there something instinctively satisfying about such a bizarre and exotic jumble of consonants? Like, who knew “double Hs” were a thing? And what does one make of the “Bh” combination? (Personally, I like to use it as an excuse to pronounce the whole syllable in a very dark, sinister, throaty tone, like the voice on a horror movie trailer - but this has little to no grounding in the study of Hindi phonology, so…)

No? Just me? Someone else tell me you find this phonetically compelling! You kind of want to franchise it in the US, don’t you?! Chhappan Bhog for everyone! Move over, golden arches - here comes the neon “Bh”!

Numero Deux: I have an Australian colleague who’s been with me at all the recent work events I’ve gone to in the US. Now, this is funny for a number of reasons - not least of which is watching Nebraskans’ jaws (or in the case of Nebraskan ladies, panties) drop when they hear his accent… suppose they don’t get a lot of folks from down under out on the prairie. (Yes, I am continuing to insist that Nebraska is on the prairie. Don’t take that away from me.)

Personally I’m unmoved, as Aussies are kind of a dime a dozen in Dubai, but I will say that all this Antipodean QT has netted me some great new vocabulary. I have, on various nights out, been called a “pisshead” (one who gets drunk) and a “piker” (one who leaves early or skips out) by this colleague, both of which I greatly enjoy. I have also loved learning the hierarchy of Australian classism, which includes such denigrations as “bogan” (a redneck) and “cashed-up bogan,” otherwise known as a ”CUB” (a bogan who comes into wealth, i.e. one who is nouveau riche).

The one thing I have not taken a liking to is the Aussie pronounciation of the letter “H” as though it has a letter “H” at the beginning - that is, “haytch” - which I think is about as aurally pleasing as fingernails running down a blackboard. I have learned to deftly steer important work conversations away from discussion of the HR (“haytch arr”) function or the potential use of HP (“haytch pee”) as a case study solely in the interest of protecting my fragile, bleeding eardrums - business impact be damned.

Numero Trois: This is kind of awkward, but basically I can’t say the names of either of my two primary colleagues at my new job.

Now, let me be clear - I’m not being all “Oh, those Ay-rabs and their kuh-raaaaazy foreign names!” After the amount of time I’ve spent in the region, I can pronounce most Arabic monikers with a vague degree of accuracy: I can more or less do the gutteral “a” at the beginning of “Ali” and “Abdullah,” the ever-so-slightly rolled “r” of Rashid, the fancy “t” in Fatima, and even the “Kh” (yes, that’s one letter) at the beginning of “Khalid.”

But there are still a handful of Arabic letters that I just cannot do no matter how hard I try (i.e. the “q” in “Qatar”) and as luck would have it they’re the main letters in these guys’ names. First there’s “Ihsan” (إحسان‎) which uses this really intense “h” sound like you’d make to fog up your glasses (“HHHHHHHHH” - you know what I mean). Then there’s “Ghasan” (غسان) which starts with this over-the-top guttural “gh” noise like the rattling sound you make in the back of your throat when you’re gargling.

Since I can’t say either of these letters with any kind of ease or aplomb, I basically have two options. Option A: be That American who doesn’t even make an effort to pronounce Arabic words correctly, i.e. “Uh-ssan” and “Guh-ssan” - which, I mean, is annoying to begin with, but even worse because it makes their names rhyme! Option B: be That American who overpronounces every syllable of a foreign word in an effort to demonstrate cultural sensitivity, i.e. “Ih-BREATHE OUT LIKE I’M CLEANING MY GLASSES-hhhhhhhhhh-san” and “GARGLING IN THE BACK OF MY THROAT-Gh-HOLD ON, WAIT FOR IT-Ghhhhhuh-san” - which makes me sound like a giant douche.

Sadly, I usually default to Option C: a mangled, unintelligible hybrid of the two, which tends to evoke a raised eyebrow and a quizzical look. Expat problems, man.

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

March 14: Clouds

One funny thing about Dubai is that we don’t really have clouds - certainly not big puffy cumulus and nimbus ones like I grew up with in Tennessee.

(Oh gosh - shout-out to the children’s book Nimby, anyone?)

Anyhow, “clouds” in Dubai tend to be either (a) nonexistent, or (b) an all-encompassing sandy fog… neither of which makes for a very good picture.

So in keeping with my Africa theme this week, instead of Dubai clouds I present you with a fantastically cloudy sunrise over the Victoria Nile, taken on my trip to Uganda in 2008.

Oh, you heard me right - I was into Uganda before it was #stopkony #kony2012 cool.


(March Photo A Day Challenge)

Being Lost in the Translation Only

March 13: A Sign

I mean, it really pains me to have to choose just one picture for this, because if there’s anything we have a competitive advantage on in Dubai it’s our ample supply of well-meaning yet unintentionally hilarious “English” signs… one of the perks of living in a multicultural polyglot city, I suppose.

But if I have to choose just one, it’s this sign, snapped recently at a construction site on Sheikh Zayed Road.




The illustrations really make it, don’t you think?

(March Photo A Day Challenge)

Today in Common Travel Itineraries

If simultaneously booking tickets to both Rwanda and Nebraska didn’t trigger a security freeze on my credit card, I can only assume I’ve finally beaten the international fraud-alert system that has hounded me for so long.

Starting Friday, the rest of my March looks like this:

  • Nairobi, Kenya - vacay!
  • Kigali, Rwanda - vacay!
  • Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda* - gorilla tracking / vacay!
  • Dubai, UAE - home for 12 hours to repack my bags
  • Nashville, Tennessee - jet-lag recuperation weekend with the parents
  • Omaha, Nebraska - week-long work training

I am so excite!!!

*Astute readers should note that the national park in question is located on Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, as the cool kids call it) - a.k.a. the country I’ve been obsessed with ever since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible in high school - a.k.a. there might be another destination added to the list above if I can get people tipsy enough in the bar at our mountaintop lodge to put good judgment aside and take a brief cross-border excursion.

(I mean, come on, I already had to refrain from booking an alternate flight itinerary for this trip that would have allowed us to spend a day in Burundi… HOW MUCH MORE RESTRAINT AND SELF-DISCIPLINE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!)

Fork It Over

March 12: Fork

Really, a fork? I don’t have a lot to work with in terms of telling a witty anecdote or a funny story here, so… check out them tines.

And more importantly, my disco nail: keeping manicures super profesh since 2011.

(March Photo A Day Challenge)

Are The Gorillas Okay With Pink?

March 11: Someone You Talked to Today

This is my friend A, of “our friends J+A” fame. (Names redacted, always redacted, in the interest of future political careers.)

I’ve spent much of today - and indeed, much of the past few weeks - talking to A as we’ve hashed out plans for our upcoming Rwanda adventure which is now, lo and behold, happening in less than a week!

Highlights of today’s travel-planning convo included the proposed itinerary for our Saturday-night bar crawl in Kigali, the importance of getting pre-departure gel manicures so we don’t have to worry about our nail game while tracking gorillas in the jungle, the relative merits of purchasing matching his-and-hers Columbia hiking pants for our respective partners, and the pros and cons of various pet-sitting options for J+A’s poodle Harley (pictured above) while we’re gone.

Obviously, we take our Serious Developing World Travel Adventures with a grain of salt. (Malaria meds, schmalaria meds… I mean, what?! - Mom, I’m on it, I promise!)

(March Photo A Day Challenge)

Turn Down the Volume

March 10: Loud

It’s funny, because growing up I was always the shy, quiet girl.

I don’t know when the transition from that girl to The Loud American took place, but as this picture indicates… it happened.

In a quiet bar in Singapore with two of my best friends (both of whom happen to be demure Asian types - the perfect foil!) somehow my trademark “HA!” was captured on film. A laugh so loud, so brazen that people mistake it for sarcasm, and I find myself scrambling to explain - “No, I just really think it’s that funny! And I’m really that inappropriately shrill and loud!

Would that there were an audio track to accompany the photo…

(March Photo A Day Challenge)

Oh Sorry I’m Just Hiding in the Corner Eating Refined Carbs

March 9: Red

Did you guys know Dubai has the only Magnolia Bakery outside of the US?

(True story: right before Magnolia opened its Dubai location a few years ago, they apparently realized they didn’t have enough of whatever proprietary flour they use to make their cupcakes. There was no time to ship more over and have it clear customs, so apparently some lucky Magnolia employee took the 14-hour flight from New York to Dubai with a giant body-sized bag of flour strapped into the plane seat next to her.)

Anyhow, today is our Tim Ferriss-mandated diet cheat day, so thus far I have inhaled French toast, fruit salad with yogurt, a turkey and brie tartine, a Fatburger with cheese and chili-cheese fries, two Negro Modelos, and this Magnolia red velvet cupcake… I should probably mention that it is only 6 PM.


(March Photo A Day Challenge)