Saturday, November 26, 2011

On the Vulnerability of the Blogging Experience

A different perspective of Abu Dhabi

You can see our building from here. Really.
This is what rain looks like here. It doesn't last long. 

It’s been a few weeks since I last contributed to this blog. I have to admit to a certain funk that overcame me after that last few posts went commentless. It kind of makes me feel like no one’s bothering to read about our adventures. I don’t know if it’s possible to find anyone more insecure than a blogger whose only traffic is self-generated by page refreshes checking for comments. And even that traffic has diminished as I’ve all but given up on the hope of an audience. However, last week, Julie got a brief note from a friend of our who said she was up late into the night catching up no all that we were doing, and I realized that even an audience of one is still an audience. I’ve got a fair bit to catch up on, so if you feel the need to skim, I’ll understand.
Every two years the college hosts a major event called the Festival of Thinkers. They bring major figures in various fields from all over the world to meet together and give presentations on their work. Roaming the streets of Abu Dhabi during these few days are leaders of industry, pioneers in education, founders of international charities, astronauts and Nobel laureates. For the most part, the event had little impact on my day to day activities in the classroom, but on one day I was able to volunteer to escort a group of ‘Thinkers’ to Sharjah where they sat on a panel to discuss the causes and consequences of global poverty. These people came from diverse backgrounds but each charity they worked in was born out of a common desire to make a lasting impact. The drive to Sharjah was a little over two hours and during that time I was privileged to speak with and listen to these people. One man worked to help exploited and trafficked children in Vietnam, another co-founded a charity to help blind children in Tibet and India. There was a woman who established a tele-conferencing mentorship program for orphans in South Africa and a woman who worked to get kids off the street in Chicago. 
The stories I heard were such a contrast to the opulence we experience on an almost daily basis. I was reminded of how much of my current station and success is the product of something as arbitrary as my passport. My educational, vocational and social opportunities were all made possible not by how hard I’ve worked or any particular talents I might possess, but by the fact that I was born in Canada. A few years ago, we Canadians were extremely inconvenienced by the fact that to get into the US we actually had to procure a passport. The Americans weren’t asking us for visas, they weren’t asking us to make travel arrangements to visit their country months or even weeks ahead. As long as we had a valid passport we could visit their country (as well as a host of others around the world) whenever the whim struck us.
It is easy to take for granted what we have or even lose sight of our wealth. Surrounded by the gold and Ferraris and five star hotels, sometimes I’m tempted to dwell on what I don’t have, yet we are so rich. I feel like there’s so much more I could and should be doing with what we have. The least I could do is link to these charities. So much of their discussions revolved around fundraising and the difficulties in this financial climate of securing the resources necessary to continue the work they’re doing. So if you’re looking for a worthy cause to support this Christmas, you could do a whole lot worse than any of these charities.
Work continues to go well. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the opportunities to learn new things and grow in new ways. I recently finished a short course in Photoshop that was being offered on my lunch break for the last few weeks, and though I’m far from an expert, I did get some of the basics down and learned the all important lesson that if you want to do good work it’s going to take a lot of time and attention to detail.
Karate continues to play a pretty significant role in our daily lives. Liam and Lucy recently tested for their purple and blue belts respectively (Miranda is, with a little practice, only a few weeks away from a test herself). Both Liam and Lucy passed with solid grades. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how they’ve been pushed to excel in this and the confidence it’s given them. These accomplishments are not easily won and they deserve some recognition for it.
Miranda checking out the new dojo
Miranda with her personal instructor

Well we’ve secured a new Lego Advent Calendar, the decorations are up and the playlists on our iPods are all holiday themed. Last year, it felt like Christmas kind of snuck up on us and caught us a little unawares. This year, Julie has made it priority #1 to experience a little holiday cheer every day in the coming month. Setting up the tree on Thanksgiving put us off to a good start. We live in a good sized apartment, but it’s still an apartment, so we’ll keep it fairly simple on the gift side of things. But the toys under the tree have such little to do with holiday cheer that they’ll not be missed that much.
Speaking of toys, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but most Legos here are prohibitively expensive which is why we used one of our precious check in baggage allotment to ship a rubbermaid bin full of the stuff. However, we have been able to get our Lego fix with mini figures. I really shouldn’t be getting so much joy from such tiny toys, but, as Julie will tell you, there are still a number of areas in my life where I could stand to do a little more maturing. I'm just glad that I’ve got four good excuses to expand our collection.

And some pictures from our very eventful day yesterday:

A picnic at Safa Park in Dubai

Dubai from the park.

Getting lost in the maze!

No this way!

Are you sure I can get there from here?

We found the way out!

At the walk for hope on Yas Island. This is where the city hosts the F1 Race.

Miranda trying not to smile.

The sign says 1 KM left to go (four km behind us).

She can be a little sassy when she wants to.