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Monday, May 21, 2012

World's Greatest Daad

With Father's Day coming up, we need to start thinking about all those special dads out there. If you are a doting father, just remember that nothing you do will ever compare to the U.A.E.'s own Daad Mohammed Al Balushi. You see, when his parents named him Daad, they could not have known the destiny that they imparted on him. Daad is the proud father of 92 children and counting. Don't think that this man is just resting on his laurels, either. Daad has made an ambitious promise to father 100 children by the year 2015; a promise this 64 year old wonder intends on keeping.

His rhymes are so potent that in this small segment he made all of the ladies in the area pregnant.
I first learned of Daad's adventures in fatherhood from an article celebrating people dedicated to passing along their DNA to as many children as possible (Daad is #4 on the list). This man from Ajman made his fateful promise to the late Sheikh Zayed in 2002 and so far has worked to keep his word. Because it would be impossible for one woman to aid Daad in his quest, he has enlisted the help of 18 women to be the mothers of his children.

Naturally, those of you reading this are thinking, "Hey wait a minute, doesn't Sharia law allow a man to marry only four wives? How can the government of the U.A.E. get behind this?" Don't worry. Daad has thought of that. You see, Daad only keeps four wives at a time, divorcing them as he goes along. In fact, he married his 18th wife last year, and all of the expenses were paid for by His Highness Sheikh Humaid, the leader of Ajman. How's that for a lucky lady!

Daad is "pretty sure" he can name at least two of the kids on his lap.
Don't think that Daad is not selective of his brides to be. He has clearly stated that he will not marry a divorcee or widow. What are Daad's specific tastes in women like? In 2010, he married an 18 year old woman from India as arranged by his doctor and was "visibly excited" when talking about how pretty she looked in the pictures of her that he had seen. In fact, even though he has stated that he thinks he has married enough women to meet his 2015 goal, he has mentioned that he will be scouting for a new bride in Jaipur, India when he travels there to have his prosthetic leg fitted (hint, hint, ladies).

I'm sure that all you fathers out there with your one, two, three, or even ten children feel pretty good about yourselves and the time spent with your families. But just remember while you're playing catch with your son or daughter, teaching them to read or ride a bicycle, or just relaxing on the beach while they splash around in the waves, that there is a man out there who has no interest in what you think it means to be a dad.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Island Getaway

I know that a lot of my posts may give a fairly negative view of Emiratis, but there are some pretty decent people here, too. Just as my job doesn't put me into contact with the bottom third of Emiratis as far as functionality, it doesn't usually put me into contact with the top third, either. That's where my friend, "Khalid" comes into play. Khalid is the guy that took me around the Formula One track in his Porsche. From all the times I've met him, he is a really down to earth, fun guy to hang out with. Over the past few months, my family and I have gone out for beach excursions with his friends Safwan and Safwan's wife Katie.

Back in February, we went to Safwan's beach house about a 20 minute boat ride off of Sadiyat Island.  We were able to have fun on Khalid's jet ski and relax in the shade with a few soda pops. Safwan and Katie put on a wonderful BBQ for us and their neighbors kept sending over food that they had cooked. It seems that a lot of the people who life in Abu Dhabi spend their weekends relaxing at their island houses. Of course this seclusion comes at a price. They have to import all of their food and water. I'm not entirely sure of where their electricity comes from, but I think they must have a generator somewhere on their property.
Lucas showing his stuff on the jet ski.

I was going to take Safwan and Katie's parrot back with me so I could be the "weird parrot guy."

She sells seashells by the seashore. The seashells she sells are seashells, I'm sure. In particular, one of them had a dead crab in it.
This is the beach house from the water.
After the wonderful hospitality, we had another chance to relax in the sun with our new friends. A few weeks ago, Khalid took us to a fairly secluded beach on Sadiyat Island where we me Safwan and Katie for another BBQ.
On our way to the beach with the Abu Dhabi construction in the background.

Lucas relaxing near a floating cooler filled with soda pop.

Stopping for gas and a potty break for Khalid's dog at a boat petrol station.
Lucas and Tia enjoying a swim while jumping off the boat.
Sailing into the Abu Dhabi sunset.

After Khalid brought us back to  Abu Dhabi, he said that next time he would take us around Abu Dhabi Island. The total estimated time for that? About six hours.
Tia ready to go around Abu Dhabi Island.
My wife and I with the Sadiyat bridge in the background.

Considering that a majority of my contact with Emiratis is with guys in their late teens and early twenties going to a mid-range post-secondary school, I haven't been meeting a wide range of the local population. Meeting Khalid, Safwan and their wives has given me a better idea of Emirati life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Goodbye, Jeep

About three weeks ago, the security guard at the place where I park my Jeep mentioned to me that he had a friend who was interested in buying it. Even though I wasn't really planning on selling my Jeep, I gave him my number and told his friend to call me. This didn't surprise me as I have had people approach me about selling it before. While I really liked it, a 15 year old vehicle in this climate tends to be a bit of a money pit and I was unsure of how much longer I could expect to keep it in good running order. In this case, I figured that this would be a good time to sell and possibly pick up another vehicle cheaply from someone leaving the country for good.

The fellow called me and as it turned out was a representative for the Emirati man who wanted to buy it. While I used the word "representative" just now, but as things progressed I found that perhaps the word "handler" was more appropriate. "Rameesh" the handler spoke impeccable English and was perhaps Indian. His charge was an Emirati man named "Saeed" who spoke no English. Not only did he speak no English, he hardly acknowledged that I was there. He was a younger guy in about his early 20's and likely from the countryside. At first, I mistakenly attributed his demeanor to dislike or arrogance, but I later realized that Saeed didn't see the need to pay attention to anyone or anything not within his immediate focus.

After a short bout of bargaining we agreed on a price and made arrangements to change over the vehicle the next day. That next afternoon, I called Rameesh the handler to arrange a time and was informed that Saeed was not in contact. He was probably in Oman but Rameesh would be in touch. I didn't hold out a lot of hope for that with the scatter-brained way that Saeed seemed to conduct himself. I was a little surprised when on Tuesday at 2:30 Rameesh called me to tell me that Saeed would like to meet me at the car licensing office to buy the Jeep and switch over the registration.

I was expecting drama and wasn't disappointed. Saeed wanted me to switch the insurance into his name, something I was told by my insurance company that they would no do. Then I had to drive him to an office about a mile away that sold insurance even though there are five companies selling insurance on the premises of the department of motor vehicles where we were. (Emirati law states that the person who is buying the vehicle must give proof of insurance before the registration can be switched over) This was when the need for a handler became apparent. Rameesh had to go into the various offices with Saeed to make sure that he was conducting himself in a civil manner (i.e. waiting in line, not making unreasonable demands of the staff). When Saeed didn't get the price he was hoping for, we went back to the place we had just come from.

At this point, Saeed began prying the license plates off my Jeep with no explanation to his handler or me as to what he was doing. Then he told me to get into his car (we were already at the place we needed to do the paperwork). At this point I stopped and demanded that someone tell me what was going on. Even the handler was a little unsure of what we were doing until he stopped to ask. Saeed didn't want to wait and instead wanted to go to the building next door where he was sure the wait would be shorter.

All this while, I was making sure with Rameesh that the price was what we'd agreed on and that Saeed was responsible for insurance, registration and the cost of getting new plates. I was half expecting him to try something like that and was relieved when he counted out the money.  After the paperwork was finished, he took me to the Jeep where I did a final inspection and made sure to remove the Salik (toll pass) tag off it.

My final view of the Jeep with the new plates Saeed had to have.
He said he would give me a ride across the street to the shopping mall where my wife and kids were waiting for me to finish. Although I didn't need the ride, I didn't feel like arguing. While I was making my final check of the Jeep, he made a final display of his tunnel vision by getting into a third car and driving off somewhere without saying anything. Rameesh didn't know what he was up to and when I checked the car with my bag in it, I found it was locked. Luckily, I was able to catch him as he doubled back and got the keys to unlock the car to get my stuff and meet my family a five minute walk away.

The whole thing was probably not much more annoying than the usual experience of selling a car, but it was the departure from what I knew was supposed to happen and the nagging expectation that he was going to try to change the deal somehow that made me nervous. If anything, it gave me a greater understanding of a subgroup of Emiratis that I don't have contact with. I see some of my students and wonder how they survive in their daily lives. Then I realize that there is about a quarter to a third of the population that isn't even with it enough to get into my school and wonder how they survive. I now know. Their families hire someone like Rameesh the handler to follow them around.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


The first post after an absence is always the hardest. I feel the need to explain what I've been up to. Also, there is the inevitable backlog of things I would like to talk about and the feeling that the first post back better be good. Without too much explanation, (there will be plenty of time for that) I would just like to say that because I have been busy with some things that have caused a bit of disruption in my life, it has been a while since I last posted. Now let me slip back into the blog as if no break had ever happened.

Last week, I was invited to go paintballing with a coworker who was taking his students on a "team building exercise." Our supervisor who clearly understands the importance of taking the students out for a bit of fun once in a while, gave permission for the outing. I didn't have class at the time, so went along to provide "support."

Napoleon getting ready to shoot students.
We booked the outdoor paintball grounds at the Abu Dhabi Military Officer's Club for 10:00 am on Tuesday and told the students to be there at 9:30. That began predictably with most students turning up around 10:30. By the time everyone was outfitted in their coveralls, given the mask, gun, and given instructions, it was 10:45. Thankfully, the guy running the thing waited until then to start the clock.

After the first round, all of the students were out of ammunition. Luckily, more ammunition could be purchased for 60 Dh per 100 rounds. Some students bought 500 rounds. It should be noted that the price of an hour of paintablling was 150 Dh. That meant that the students spent double the admission price on ammo for just one game. And yes, the students used all of their ammo on just the last game. In fact, the whole paintballing "team building" ended because the students used all of their ammo and could not continue.

For those who are not familiar with how paintball games work, if you are shot, you are expected to raise your hands in a surrender gesture and leave the playing field without shooting anymore. For those who have experience dealing with young Emirati males, you can guess how well the honor system works in paintball. Even though we only got to play two games (four would be more reasonable in an hour), I did enjoy shooting the students multiple times. My favorite time was when one student who was holed up in a little bunker was shooting out the front window and didn't notice me until I walked up behind him and shot him three or four times. Of course, there was the time when a student with his hands in the air and walking off the playing field lowered his gun and start shooting at me. While he didn't hit me, I enjoyed shooting him a couple of times.

Overall, it was a great time. I would have liked to get more games in and have had less time standing around in the heat waiting for everyone to buy ammo. Even though I've only been painballing once before, the students' lack of any kind of tactics or aiming made me one of the best players on the field and that is always fun.