Baby?

(OMG, calm down, despite the title this is not a post about me having a baby. Although given how sporadic my blogging is these days, and the fact that one of my last posts was about getting engaged, you could perhaps be forgiven for assuming as much. Although, in semi-related news, Alex and I recently acquired a tiny 5-pound mini-dachshund pup who is both the light of my life and the closest I will get to procreating anytime in the near future. So, in a way, I kind of almost did have a baby. BTW if you would like to be unapologetically spammed with puppy pictures for the next forever and you are not already following me on Instagram, you should - @gubbiofarabia. Hey-oh, prelude over, blog post begins!)

On Sunday evening I was on a flight back from a work trip to Jeddah, feeling like I always do when I come back from Saudi: world-weary, a little cranky, and ready to not be stared at. I had had a great day of meetings, but it was one of those typical two-steps-forward-one-step-back experiences I tend to have in the Magic Kingdom. I spent the morning presenting to some senior leaders at a big local company (Saudi men, all of them) and it went really well and I felt super competent and confident and well-respected and impactful… and then after the meeting I left the building and was walking around the back streets of this semi-dodgy part of Jeddah trying to find my driver and people were glaring and staring and cars were honking and men were yelling things out of windows and I got soooooooo flustered and was reminded once again that the bizarro challenge of being a Western woman working in Saudi is not the professional part at all, but just the “existing as a female in everyday life” part. Which I feel like is the opposite of what people might assume.

So. I’m on the plane and I’m giving a general side-eye to everyone around me, especially the Saudi couple across the aisle from me who are clutching a baby that looks suspiciously capable of dissolving into shrieks at any moment.

The mother is wearing niqab, the full-face veil that’s often erroneously referred to as a burqa in the West.

image

(via)

Now, it’s super-common for women to wear niqab in Saudi - in fact, in some parts of the country it’s the norm. Women wear it in the UAE and other parts of the Gulf as well, and although it’s less prevalent than in the Kingdom, I would say in your average Dubai mall you’d find about 10-20% of local women rockin’ the niq. At any rate, the point is that I have seen a lot of munaqabat (women who wear niqab) in my day.

However, during 5+ years living in Niqabistan (ALL I DO IS WIN with the invention of that word, right? Also, I bet 95% of Americans could be convinced that’s an actual country. Somewhere in Central Asia? Yeah, the Soviets fought Muslims there or something, right? I think I saw something about it on the History Channel one time…) I’ve never really had a meaningful interaction with a stranger wearing niqab. This fact is not intentional on my part or, I assume, on theirs. It’s just that only being able to see a single square-inch of someone’s face feels like a real barrier to entry for casual chit-chat or offhanded questions. It’s also a self-selecting thing, right? You feel like if someone chooses to expose that little of themselves to the world (and more power to ‘em, if so they choose), they probably don’t want Ms. Sunshine over here to come galloping over the moat and into their drapey black fortress bearing idle chatter.

So imagine my surprise when the flight attendant came over to inform Mrs. Niqab that because she was sitting in an exit row, all her belongings (and her husband’s, and her baby’s) had to be put in the overhead compartment for landing. This was no small undertaking, as the flight attendant realized when she started to gather up their items… diaper bag, shopping bag, computer bag, purse, shopping bag… finally, just as the last item had been stowed, Mrs. Niqab lifted her kid towards the flight attendant and asked "baby?", gesturing innocently at the overhead compartment and winking in my direction. There was a super-awkward moment of silence where the flight attendant seemed to think that this crazy Saudi woman was seriously asking her to put her child in the overhead compartment, to the point where I could see the stories she would tell her cabin crew friends starting to take shape in her head: “You think that’s bad?! This one time on a flight from Jeddah, I had a passenger who wanted me to store her baby as carry-on luggage! Can you believe the parenting in this part of the world?!” And then finally the flight attendant got it and the three of us dissolved into laughter - I figured I was entitled to join, thanks to the wink and all. 

Humanity, man. Here’s hoping we never lose sight of it in others.

An Airhead, Not A Ditz

Today a visiting colleague from one of our US offices brought a bag of AirHeads taffy for all us crazy non-Americans over here in Dubai to try.

First, I was judgmental: really, THIS is the greatest cultural export of the United States of America? THIS is what you bring to the Middle East to promote the All-American values of tolerance and democracy and… high-fructose corn syrup?

Then, I was skeptical: surely my palette had evolved in the fifteen or so years since last I consumed an AirHead, and certainly the combination of uberprocessed sugar + Yellow 5 would no longer taste like the best thing in the world. I mean, I am Fancy now - I think the most recent dessert I deigned to eat was something along the lines of artisanal extra-virgin olive oil gelato with a sprinkling offleur de sel at a poncey* hotel restaurant in Mauritius. The allure of CVS candy would be lost on me.

Then, I ate a handful couple and I was bought in: the tang! the chewiness! the mouthfeel! “NOTHING IS BETTER IN ALL THE WORLD THAN AMERICAN CANDY!” I chirped to myself as I buzzed around the office on a sugar high, surreptitiously singing the theme song to Team America: World Police (“AirHeads? Eff yeah!”) as I passed a Pakistani colleague in the hall.

Epilogue: Now I feel violently ill.

Good story.

(OH HI I’M BLOGGING. Mostly because I have recently received a variety of admonisments from friends to the effect of ”Gubbi, Instagram is not your blog” and “Gubbi, Facebook is not your blog” and “Gubbi, we really like you better when we just get to interact with your blog” so I will tell this story here and you will deal with it because guess what, MY BLOG IS MY BLOG.)

*Americans, I need you to help me make poncey happen outside the UK. Get on it.

No One Gives You A Cookie

Over the years, I’ve been asked a couple of times: what’s the most frustrating thing about living abroad?

Some people expect the answer to be cultural stuff - adjusting to a different way of life, a new language, foreign customs, et cetera. Others assume the challenge is distance - negotiating time zones, long-distance calls, and circuitous trips home. Those who know the region sometimes anticipate Dubai-specific gripes - the heat, the traffic, the artificiality, the incompetence.

To be honest with you, none of those things really bother me. (After nearly five years, I’ve even become pretty zen about the incompetence, which is telling given my proclivity for rage.)

To me, the most frustrating thing about living abroad is this: no one gives you a cookie for the tremendous effort you put into maintaining relationships with the friends and family you left behind. There is no medal you get for showing up faithfully at family gatherings year after year; there is no special recognition you receive for rerouting flights to visit friends that never visit you; there is no accounting for the schlepisodes you endure or the cell phone minutes you use or the other plans you cancel to try and keep those relationships alive and well.

And of course, there shouldn’t be - let me be very clear about that. My perspective on the matter has always been pretty straightforward: I am the one who chose to leave, so it is my responsibility to do everything I can do to maintain relationships while I’m gone. For the most part, I do so happily - after all, it’s far from a sacrifice to spend time with people I love, and it’s a privilege to be able to maintain my roots in the country that will always be my home.

But sometimes - just a few of the times, really - I feel a tiny wave of resentment start to creep into that sunny outlook. Times like this morning, when I found out that half of my family members are bailing on a vacation that Alex and I are traveling back to the US for next week - a trip which has been on the books for, oh, about a year. Times that make me get petty (my second-worst attribute, after rage) and start counting things - dollars spent on tickets, hours days crammed in airplanes, meetings missed at work, vacation days expended, nights of jet lag suffered through - with the goal of calling up the offender and being like, ”Seriously? I’m doing all this and you suddenly have more important plans?!”

And in those times, this is the thing I have to remember: no one gives you a cookie. No one’s life stops just because you’re flying halfway around the world to see them. No one owes you anything because you decided to move so far away and now, for one brief shining moment, you’re coming home. No one’s world revolves around you any more than it would if you lived down the street.

"But, but, but—" you want to whine… "Shouldn’t it?!”

Maybe. But that’s just not the way the cookie crumbles—I mean, if anyone had given you a cookie in the first place—I mean—OKAY, I’M MIXING METAPHORS, DEAL WITH IT.

So you shake it off, and you write what is - hopefully! - a more constructive post than the passive-aggressive email blast you were about to send your entire family, and you realize, viscerally, somewhere in the back of your mind: ohhhhhhh, this is why I have a blog.

And then you move on. Because that’s what we do as expats, as nomads, as people who live our lives on a different plane - both literally and figuratively, I suppose. We pack up our well-worn bags and our slightly bruised feelings and we move on, because this is the life we have chosen - cookie or no cookie.

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)

CHHAPPAN BHOG!

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.

In Which I Continue My Quest to Sartorially Display American Power in the Middle East

I’m going back to the US again next week for work, and in keeping with my tradition of ironic / inappropriate online shopping in the lead-up to a trip home, I came across these t-shirts from (where else?) Victoria’s Secret PINK:

Wait, it gets better…

Now, maybe it’s just my wacky messed-up expat sense of humor, but try and tell me I don’t need these to bop around Dubai in… I mean, you know I am continually trying to find ways to up the ante of being That Obnoxious American Abroad, and I feel like this development would really raise my game.

WE OWN THE SEAS.

(BECAUSE MILITARY HEGEMONY SOUNDS MORE LEGIT WHEN IT’S WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS ON THE BACK OF A SORORITY-GIRL T-SHIRT, RIGHT? SHOUTY CLOTHING = SOFT POWER!)

The Slow Dance of Douchery

Scene - driving to lunch in Dubai yesterday afternoon.

Me: Blah blah blah, something inane, blah blah.

Alex: [Falls silent and stares off into the distance mid-conversation.]

Me: Why so distracty, babe - what’s on your mind?

Alex: Oh, nothing… just watching this tailgating Maserati engage in its slow dance of douchery with that Ford Focus up ahead.

End scene - cue applause.

***

[For definitional clarity on the concept of douchery and how it relates to life in Dubai, kindly see this post.]

A Word From Middle America

Broadcasting live from Chicago Midway airport - IT’S GUBBI!!!

(The crowd goes wild… oh wait, that’s just everyone around me watching the Packers-Giants game at the Terminal B sports bar… same same, right?)

Yep, back in America again - I know, right? Before I even had time to recap New Year’s Eve in Dubai (in a word: fireworks) or the awesome Palestinian wedding I attended the first weekend of January (in a word: bling), I headed back across the ponds last Saturday for two weeks of work meetings in DC and Nebraska (plus a bonus Family Fun Weekend in Tennessee) and have not had a second to catch my breath since.

So while I will inevitably post super-belated recaps of the aforementioned fun exotic international events at some point in the future, some bullets in the interim:

  • Oh my gosh, America. So here’s one of the things I find most crazy about being home in the US: you can have a conversation with anyone about anything at any time. Spending time stateside makes me feel like I must be absolutely starved for social interaction at in Dubai, because wow, talking to random people is a thing here. It’s not something I actively miss when I’m overseas, since 90% of the people I deal with on a daily basis in Dubai are either (a) not native English speakers, or (b) from cultures where idle small talk between strangers is frowned upon (I’m looking at you, subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). So it strikes me as absolutely hilarious that I am permitted, nay encouraged, to talk to ALL THE PEOPLE about ALL THE THINGS here. Think the security line at the airport is too long? Gripe to me about it! Want to know where I’m traveling and why? Ask away! Have a comment about the way I’m getting my nails done at the salon? Go ahead, share! Like my purse? Compliment me and I’ll be happy to tell you where I got it, how much it was on sale, and my views on its pros and cons. It is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting to be this involved with everyone around me… but I’m not complaining.
  • I seem to have been away from the US for long enough at this point that I’m woefully, embarassingly behind on the norms of American technology. My mom and I picked something up from the Apple store in Nashville last night and I was totally slack-jawed in amazement when the guy scanned the bar code of the product on his iPhone, swiped my mom’s credit card on his iPhone, emailed the receipt to my mom on his iPhone, and then sent us on our way with nary a line or cashier in sight. I got all overstimulated by the experience and was like, "OMG THE FUTURE IS NOW - IT’S MAAAAAAGIC!" which then required my mom to explain to him that I live in the Middle East where we don’t have technology, which then necessitated a round of small talk (see Bullet #1) on why I live in Dubai.
  • I have roughly the same level of apprehension about flying into Omaha at 10 PM as I have had about landing in random cities in Nigeria in the middle of the night. Let me be clear, I’m from Tennessee, so I am not in any way trying to be high falutin’, but I mean, this is the proper midwest… what adventures await me in Nebraska?! Will there be cows slaughtered upon my arrival for the provision of unlimited USDA Grade A steaks? Will everyone possess a BMI indicative of morbid obesity? Will the tropically conditioned blood in my sensitive expat veins freeze immediately upon stepping outside into the harsh prairie winter? Is Nebraska on the prairie? WHAT IS A PRAIRIE, ANYWAY?!

Okay, boarding now… more hijinx later!

Tennessee Festive

So at the risk of being the absolute last person on the interwebs to post a holiday recap… Merry Christmas!!!! It’s like, so passé that it’s almost not passé, am I right?

(You’d think I’d learn by now that a week at home with family + a week back in Dubai hosting visitors + a couple of 24-hour flight odysseys thrown in the mix = an inevitable 2-week Gubbi internet hiatus, but no, every time I’m like “I’ll toooootally find time to blog in the midst of all the cray!” False.) 

Mia famiglia, in all our Christmas Eve glory.

This was my fifth (!) year making the trip from Dubai to Tennessee for the holiday, and though it’s not an easy journey (2 days of travel for 6 days on the ground, a 10-hour time difference-worth of jet lag, and many many hundreds of the American dollars spent on plane tickets), every year it inevitably proves worthwhile. I know someday I have to become One Of Those Adults Who Doesn’t Spend Every Christmas With Their Family, but, well… every year I hope I can stave off that milestone for just one year longer. 

Their stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

For now I’ll just be thankful that, once again, I got to be part of the annual Christmas morning top-of-the-stairs kids (+ partners, + pets!) family photo shoot:

In case you can’t tell from all the glasses, being almost-legally-blind runs in my family… Alex is less than excited about the little squinty-eyed mole-children I will inevitably produce. 

Since the incorporation of Alex into our family Christmas last year, we’ve adopted a whole new host of holiday traditions: Christmas Eve backyard shisha featuring coals expertly heated, barbecue-style, on the patio grill…

Still no word on what the neighbors think of our innocuous flavored-tobacco pastime.

… and English-style Christmas crackers - complete with bad jokes and funny hats! - a reflection of Alex’s misspent youth in the UK.

Honestly though, gift giving (and receiving!) is still my favorite part of the holiday:

A new sweater, hat, and socks for my increasingly dapper father…

Babby’s First Le Creuset for my master-chef little sister…

And a little uplifting reading for my ever-optimistic (?) counter-cultural brother.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Tennessee Christmas if the neighbors didn’t pop over to play a little banjo in their overalls…

… and my mom and sister didn’t bake a batch or two of disturbingly perfect Christmas cookies.

Christmas at home means never having to say you’re sorry for eating cookies as breakfast.

All in all, a trip well spent and a journey happily taken… Merry Belated to you and yours!

Gubbi’s Guide to Surviving Long-Haul Flights

Me ’n’ my baggages, triumphantly arriving back home after our 30-hour flight odyssey from South Carolina to Dubai last summer.

Since the holiday travel season is upon us and I am now in my fifth straight year of traveling 24 hours each way to get home for Christmas - and also since I am currently scheduled to be on no less than eight 15-hour flights in the next four months - I feel imminently qualified at this moment in time to unleash my travel wisdom upon the interwebs.

So brace yourselves for Gubbi’s Guide to Surviving Long-Haul Flights:

1) Build up a sleep deficit before you go. This isn’t usually a problem for me, as I inevitably find myself either (a) on a flight that leaves at 3 AM, or (b) up until 3 AM packing / doing my nails / downloading TV the night before a flight, but for those of you who are more plan-in-advancey than me, I genuinely believe that going into a long trip a bit sleep-deprived improves the experience. Not only are you better able to sleep on the flight (True story: I once fell asleep around 11 PM on a flight from Dubai to Atlanta. When I woke up, checked my watch, and saw that it was only 11:30, I was really confused because I felt like I had been asleep for much longer than thirty minutes… then I realized it was 11:30 AM and I had, in fact, slept for over 12 hours) but I think your body also adjusts better to new time zones and “goes with the flow” a bit more when you’re tired to begin with.

2) Drink copious amounts of alcohol. Anyone who tells you not to drink on a long-haul flight hates you, hates freedom, and probably wants to kick your puppy in the face. The only way I survive any flight longer than 7 hours is to spend as much of it as possible in a dream-like, twilight haze of prolonged semi-awareness, and obviously alcohol facilitates this process. (The same goes for any prescription / non-prescription pharmaceuticals you may have at your disposal, but you didn’t hear that from me.) Sure, drink lots of water, too, and drink caffeine upon arrival if you touch down in the morning - but mostly, drink booze. Remember: on a long enough flight, it’s always five o’clock somewhere on your flight path.

3) When it comes to entertainment, set your intellectual pretenses aside. If I had a dollar for every issue of The Economist I had purchased in an airport bookstore and never read, I would probably be able to cover the cost of a business class upgrade for my 15-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Chicago this coming Tuesday, and that shit ain’t cheap. Same goes for New York Times best-selling non-fiction, NPR podcasts, and any critically acclaimed Oscar-winning documentaries or foreign films that may be available for viewing on the plane. Acquaint yourself with the fact that in your drooling, ambient, in-flight stupor, you are the lowest common denominator, and select your media accordingly. US Weekly, reality TV, and young adult fiction are all great choices. On an 8-hour flight from Dubai to Hong Kong last summer, I watched Justin Bieber: Never Say Never after a couple mini-bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and literally wept because I was so inspired by this compelling story of a humble young Canadian with a big dream. Truth be told, it was one of my most enjoyable flights in recent memory.

4) Dress comfortably. Let’s face it, the days of being upgraded because you’re a ”sharp dresser” (or whatever the old wisdom used to be) have long since passed. Nowadays you get upgraded because either (a) you have status with the airline, or more rarely, (b) the airline grievously wrongs you and you rage so explosively that they have no choice but to bump you into the fancy cabin to shut you up. Neither of these have anything to do with wearing heels or a blazer, or even real pants - and as far as I’m concerned, leggings become acceptable as pants on any flight that involves crossing an ocean. I think I stopped wearing actual clothes on long-haul flights about a decade ago - my standard uniform is yoga pants, running shoes, a cute t-shirt, a sweatshirt or pashmina, plus makeup and all my nicest jewelry - and I have yet to be laughed out of a business class lounge. (And ladies, don’t forget that the worst pain in our lives besides childbirth is underwire digging into your ribs as you try to nod off sometime around hour thirteen. Sports bras, always.)

5) Don’t talk to strangers… Ohmygosh, nothing strikes terror in my heart (ehrm… except turbulence) like hunkering down for a transcontinental hop and discovering my seatmate is a Chatty Cathy. Sartre and I don’t often see eye to eye, but I firmly believe that when you’re a captive audience hurtling through the sky in a metal tube, hell is other people, and I can’t tell you how many miserable hours I’ve spent listening to fellow travelers ramble on about their volunteer trip to Uganda / secret missionary work in Qatar / pharmaceuticals conference in Saudi Arabia when all I’ve wanted to do is zone the eff out. So do as you would have others do unto you - with one exception, below.

5 & 1/2) … but be kind when strangers really need to talk to you. Flying halfway (or even a quarter or a third of the way) around the world can be a daunting thing whether it’s your first time or your umpteenth, and sometimes the person next to you is the only source of comfort you have. On my last trip back from the US I was in a particularly angsty flying place (in general, I range between “mildly uneasy” and “bat-shit crazily terrified” as a flyer, and during this period I was trending towards the latter) and United - because they treat passengers as cattle rather than as human beings - was unable to sit Alex and I next to each other for our 14-hour flight from DC to Dubai. No one would switch with either of us because we were both stuck in middle seats, and I was suuuuuuuper stressy about the flight ahead, so I started peppering my neighbor - a big burly retired Dallas cop working in Afghanistan as a defense contractor - with really inane conversation (“What airline are you flying from Dubai to Kabul? Did you know that there are four different airlines that do the route because there’s so much demand? When I went to Kabul, I flew Pamir there and Kam Air back! Did you know that Emirates really wants to add Kabul as a destination, but the price of insuring their planes there overnight between flights makes it cost-prohibitive? Did you also know that Air Arabia used to do the route, but had to cancel it due to a security scare back in 2008?”) to keep myself distracted. He put up with me until we safely reached cruising altitude, then answered a final question - “So, what exactly will you be doing there?” - with the conversation-killing "I’ll just be trying to keep my men alive" and pointedly donned his Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the rest of the flight that he had humored me off the ground - especially despite my typical reluctance to do the same.

So there you have it - my learnings, distilled for you. Bon voyage, friends!

Depressing Realization of the Week

Tuesday Morning, 8 AM (Dubai): wake up, think about upcoming travel plans, and excitedly realize, “Ooh, we’ll be leaving for the airport to fly home to the US at EXACTLY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK!”

Wednesday Morning, 8 AM (Dubai): wake up, calculate current time in the US, and not-so-excitedly realize, “Oh… we’ll be landing in Nashville at EXACTLY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK…”

As much as I try to tell myself it does not take a full 24 hours to get from Dubai to Tennessee - well, the facts would beg to differ.