Monday, April 27, 2009

R.I.P. Billy

Our dog Billy died a couple of month's ago; she got hit by a car.

It was horrible, I was right there and I couldn't stop it.

Ever since I had surgery on my eye, a driver has been taking me to and from work. On the morning it happened, my driver was late, and I was standing outside the gate waiting for her with my two ton computer bag, purse and lunch. Billy was always hyper in the morning. She was just a baby so she had a lot of energy; as usual she was running around in the courtyard excitedly knowing that Salman would come out to walk her in a few minutes.

The street we live on is usually pretty quiet and empty. It is only a bit busy in the morning, because we live just down from the English Speaking School so there are parents and buses going to and fro dropping kids. Every morning, I was very careful to close the gate behind me if Billy was not on her walk yet, to make sure she didn't get out. But that morning, my lazy maid, who had just woken up and called the grocery to bring her a phone card, opened the ,after I was already outside. She asked me if the grocery had come and told her no and to please be careful because Billy was behind her and I didn't want her to get out. At the same time my driver showed up - 15 minutes late - so I rushed to get in the car. As I was about to close the door, I saw that, instead of doing as I asked, she had stepped through the gate and left it wide open. Billy shot out past her and into the sand lot next to our house. "Ashari!" I said. "I am late for work, please grab her before she goes far and put her back inside." Ashari, who pretty much considered herself too good for most work, laughed and waved her hand lazily and said "oh she will come back." "No!" I told her, "You know she is not supposed to be let out, especially not in the morning; you see this traffic? She will go into the road and she will get hit by a car!" Just as I said that, little Billy shot into the road, and headed towards our car. My driver, seeing this opened her door to try to grab her as she passed. But, this freaked Billy out and she turned and ran into the middle of the road where she was immediately hit by an oncoming car.

I heard the sickening thud as she bounced off the car. My heart started to pound, and I felt like crying. There was silence for a few seconds, and then the howling started. I jumped out of the passenger seat of the car and ran to look in the road. I saw her dragging herself in circles crying and trying to bite her own backside. I was afraid another car would hit her, but luckily, the next driver saw her and stopped so that none of the cars coming behind her could run over Billy. I stepped towards Billy thinking to try (as gently as possible) to move her to the shoulder of the road. But she was wild with pain and bared her teeth and growled at me menacingly, when I approached , so I stepped back. I tried again, and again she growled at me and I knew she would bite me if I touched her.

At this point the driver, a Filipina, tried walking towards Billy, but she got the same response. I told her "don't touch her, if she is threatening to bite me and she knows me, she will bite you for sure." I ran into the house to get Salman. Billy always loved Salman the most, and I wanted to see what her reaction to him would be. She let him get closer, but when his hand was almost close enough to touch her, she suddenly snapped at him and tried to bite him. I told him to go back to the side of the road and ran back into the courtyard to look for something that I could use to pick her up that would shield me from her bites.

When I came back out, the driver was now sitting down on the curb with her pant leg rolled up going on about how she was going to die. She had done exactly what I had instructed her not to do and had approached Billy and had been bitten. She must have gone very close, because Billy appeared to be paralyzed from her middle down and couldn't walk or jump.

Then, driver started insisting that she had to get to a doctor right that moment before she died. I told her "you don't die on the spot from a dog bite, in fact you don't die from them at all unless they have rabies and that only after a long time if you haven't bothered to get the shots."

But she started getting dramatic and saying she could feel herself getting sick and feeling faint, which was kind of annoying, but after a few minutes she got up again and found a long plank and pushed Billy out of the road over to the shoulder. We put a couple big rocks around her so she couldn't squirm back into the road. Then I called "A", since he was the one who bought her in the first place and asked him to come quickly and take her to a vet.

Billy stayed with us about a week after that, but she stopped eating like she did before and she made a terrible mess every time she went to the toilet because she couldn't lift her hind legs. We had to give her a bath every day. Meanwhile Ashari, who was responsible for the whole accident, refused to help clean up after her at all. But I was determined to take care of her. The vet had said her hip was broken and maybe if we took her to Dubai she could get surgery to help her. But I didn't have the money for the surgery, so he said to try to keep her from moving, and once the bones were healed she might be able to walk again, but with a bad limp. To me it seemed like she was paralyzed, but even then I thought that maybe I could do like my uncle did for his dog after it got paralyzed in its hind quarters. He made a little cart for it that he would strap it to so that it could run around using its front legs and the wheels of the cart. I had already started eyeing Salman's skateboard with a design in mind.

Unfortunately, she refused to sit still and seemed to be making her condition worse by insisting on dragging herself all over the place. On her last morning with us, I went out to find her sitting in the little cage we had put her in, in a last ditch attempt to try to make her stay still. Only to discover that she had eaten off one of her own legs. The kids saw it and started to cry.

That morning I made the difficult decision to have her put to sleep. With one leg now missing and no idea why she ate it or if she would try to eat more of her body, I didn't have any hope for her recovery anymore. The vet said it was probably a good decision.

I cried a lot that day. I felt so bad and guilty. She was just a baby, and she should have had so many more years to run, jump and play ahead of her. I don't know what happens to dogs after they die, but I hope she is at peace now and maybe even running free like she always tried to do at every chance she got. Whenever I take a walk in our neighborhood up the hill behind our house. I remember her running as fast her little legs would carry her in front of us up that hill, and I feel sad.

After she died, I took the kids to see Marley and Me. I didn't expect it to move me so much. I was teary eyed by the end of the movie, which almost never happens to me, the only other time I can remember tearing up like that in a movie was at the end of Titanic when they showed the old couple hugging each other in the bed as the waters swallowed them up, and the children being put to bed for the last time in their soon to be flooded room and the dead woman floating in the water with her frozen lifeless infant in her arms.

Salman was silent after the movie, but half way home he started bawling his eyes out. He didn't cry when Billy died. He was quiet and I didn't understand why I appeared to be the only one upset when he had spent the most time with her. But whatever he was feeling from that time that he had bottled up inside came pouring out with the emotions triggered by Marley and Me.

A week or so after that I went back on my "No more dogs rule" and we got Max a fully grown, very well behaved beautiful dog. He seems to be a cross between something like a chow - with very thick golden fur and something with a more "wolf - like face" . Everywhere we take him for a walk people stop and ask about him. I put his picture on my Facebook, and I got more comments for that than any other picture I have ever put there.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Ramblings - A Trip to the Local Mall

I went to the Mall today with the boys. I am sick of this mall. I don't like Malls in General and going to the same one over and over again is just kind of sickening. But what do you do on a weekend, when it is too hot outside to do anything other than swim and you have no intention of parading around in a bathing suit on a public beach while a bunch of weird men, swimming in their tighty whities (which become nearly transparent when wet), gawk at my ghostly white cellulite and spider vein covered thighs and try to incorporate me into their "day at the beach" home videos.

Once when I first moved here, I went to the beach with my husband and Salman. We were taking a walk along the beach, and an Iranian man suddenly came up and grabbed Salman and was talking about how cute he was. His friend was armed with a video camera. He asked my husband if he could get a picture with Salman. My husband said OK (I don't know why - possibly his need to appear pleasant in front of and to please everyone except for me had kicked in) so the guy picked up Salman and stood near me. When I realized I was going to be in the shot, I ducked out of it, to the side... he then pretended like he had realized the view behind him wasn't nice and moved again so that I would be in the shot... so I ducked out of it again... he kept doing that while my husband stood there grinning like an idiot and chatting with the guy... finally I went and stood behind the guy with the camera and told them "Please take the shot and give me back my son."

Soooo there will be no trips to the beach that involve me wearing a bathing suit.

The good and the bad thing about this town is that there is only one mall. It's good because it means it hasn't yet become a materialistic shopping haven like Dubai. It's bad because it basically has no clothing stores that I recognize aside from Next and G2000, neither of which make for a rocking wardrobe, but at least I can occasionally find something appropriately boring enough looking to wear to work in them. However, I have banned myself from shopping at the Next here after the time I went in, and I was the only customer and wanted to try on 6 things and was told that I could only take 4 in with me. I can understand such "security" measures in a busy store during a sale, but when you have only ONE customer, probably the only one you have had all day, is it really necessary? Is it really so hard for them to remember I have six and not four items in there with me? Do I really look that dishonest? Do they have a lot of problems with middle aged, middle class American moms stealing from them? Anyway, when they insisted, I handed them everything and told them "forget it" and walked out in a huff. In retrospect, I think I might have acted like a bit of a brat, but I had gone shopping merely to blow off steam after having another great day at work of being spoken to sarcastically, blamed for things that weren't my fault, and yelled at for not having ESP and I really didn't need that hassle.

Anyway... today I took the boys to Chiles, where we all ordered Chicken Enchilada soup, and the boys got chocolate milk shakes. After that, we went to check out what was playing in the movie theatre and the only option had another hour before it started so we went for a little shopping.

During my window shopping I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of incredibly hideous window displays. There was one outfit in particular on display that caught my attention. A frilly cheap black lace poofy ultra mini skirt and a red satin corseted bustier top. By the way, it is not a lingerie store. I have no idea to whom that is supposed to appeal or who actually shops there, since the rest of their clothes are gross too - ranging from frighteningly garish to down right sleazy like the one I just described, but they need to fire their window dresser.

It is always amusing to see what people wear to the mall and to see all the different kinds of people. There was this one couple, actually I am not sure if they were a couple or what because the guy was so young and the woman looked quite old, who looked like they were going to a costume party as obnoxious tourists. The guy had a big floppy sun hat on his head, sandals and socks on his feet and was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with an unbuttoned button up shirt a clashing print over it carrying a pink cloth bag over his shoulder. The woman was wearing thin cotton blue and white striped 3/4 length pants, a big t-shirt and orange flip flops.

Most of the people in the mall here are locals, especially men. They crowd the Starbucks. I like Starbucks' hot chocolate with whipped cream, but I never go to this one because it would mean having to weave through tables full of smoking local men who seem to have nothing better to do than stare. So if I want my hot chocolate I have drive all the way out Al Hamra to the deserted mall there where they seem to only have a Spinneys and a Starbucks that are actually open and operating. Which is fine by me, because I much prefer shopping in a nice clean nearly empty Spinneys than in an over-crowded Carrefour full of men holding hands and window shopping in the strangest aisles - like the dog food section, or the diapers and sanitary napkins aisle - and women loading carts pushed by minuscule Indonesian maids, cleaners with massive mops wiping up spills in the canned food aisles, and my favorite - the plastic bag hogs in the produce section who take the entire roll of plastic bags off the dispenser and carry it around in their cart like it is their personal supply and give you shocked looks when you have the audacity to take it out of their cart.

The young local guys, I have noticed, have started getting creative with their Kandoras - I am not sure I like it. I saw a young man in a Burberry print Kandora with matching baseball cap. I have been seeing more and more of the Kandora's with prints on them. I also saw an extremely obese homosexual Local man in a brilliantly shocking blue Kandora. There was another Local walking ahead of me with hips and butt just like a woman's. This is not all that uncommon I have discovered. I saw it a lot in my gym in Dubai. A lot of Arab men look at lot better in a Kandora than they do in gym shorts with socks pulled up to their knees. They would enter the gym looking like dignified businessmen in their crisp clean Kandoras and emerge from the locker rooms looking quite silly at times in what they thought were fashionable exercise outfits. Kandoras hide all kinds of flaws and are flattering to most body types, unless they are too tight and the man happens to be bottom heavy like that one I saw today. Such men look better in the loose fitting Kandoras. I think men should make a habit of checking their posterior view in a mirror like women do before leaving the house.

After watching the movie we came home where I am ending my day by writing this and watching Survivor Tocantins and wondering how "Coach" made it this far with his annoying habit for telling tall tales and the fact that in spite of all of his big talking he is crappy at most of the physical challenges. I am also thinking if I should try sign up for Survivor so I could go on an enforced diet - if I could manage to last long enough - to starve for several weeks. However, the seemingly mandatory costume for women, namely a bikini / tube top and optional pair of microscopic Lycra shorts, doesn't really appeal to me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My life as a whipping boy

Apparently it is my fault that my boss forgot to pick up his wife and son from the Airport.

It is my fault in spite of the fact that:

  • His wife never sent any flight details to me or to the email account of his that I have access to.

  • On Saturday, when she was supposed to arrive, I called and asked him about her flight details so I could arrange for a driver (just in case he didn't want to pick them up himself, or in case he wanted the driver to drive HIM to get them) and he told me in his big man voice "No-ho, I'm going to pick them up myself"; and even after I said, "well I thought maybe you would like a driver so you don't have to worry about parking and to help with the luggage", he said "nah, I don't need any help, I will get them myself" Well okay then...

  • After reading his emails Saturday Night and seeing one from his wife that made it clear she would in fact NOT arrive that evening because her flight had been cancelled (thanks to inclement weather) and that she would now arrive Sunday evening 'at around the same time' (still no mention of Airline, flight number, exact arrival time, routing of the flight), I called him to see if he still planned to pick her up himself, and he said he would like to if he could, but he would let me know for sure "tomorrow".

  • On Sunday, after someone from the Marketing department asked if they could confirm an appointment between him and the Chinese Commercial attache, instead of just putting it on his calendar without asking him, I went and asked him if it would be okay or would he rather keep his day free for his family who would be arriving that evening, and he looked at me like I am an imbecile and told me "boy you don't even know what is going on do you?" To which I replied "why has something changed?" To which he replied "She doesn't even know my wife isn't coming tonight!" (he directed this to the Deputy Director who was seated in front of his desk). To which I responded "why not?" , which he answered by explaining that there had been a problem with their second flight (Mechanical problem) and it had been grounded and they were going to spend the night at the airport Hotel and depart at 10 AM today. He then told me. "NO PROBLEM GO AHEAD AND BOOK THE COMMERCIAL ATTACHE, MY FAMILY WONT BE HERE TOMORROW."

  • I made a point of asking him to repeat the time (10 AM) and clarify what time zone he was referring to. He told me he meant 10 AM US eastern standard time - which is 7 PM our time. In other words he told me his wife would be departing from the US at 7PM our time today.

But, in spite of all of this, it is still my fault that he missed the chance to pick her up OR have a driver pick her up at 9 AM THIS MORNING!

So how did leaving at 7 PM this evening turn into arriving at 9 AM this morning? Good question. I don't have a God damned clue. But it is STILL ALL MY FAULT.

At about at about 9:30 this morning after calling Fatema and asking her if there were any company drivers currently in Dubai on an errand, he then called me to ask me to call Delta Airlines because "a family was coming in on a flight from Atlanta."

"Your family?" I asked. A response that was met with immediate sarcasm - as if I am the dolt who doesn't know how to say things in a direct fashion. Anyway, once it was established that it wasn't just any family but was in fact his family, he told me to ask Delta what time their flights from Atlanta were landing. I called and found out that they had two today - one that had already landed at 9 AM and one that would be landing around 8 PM. I called him back and told him this and asked him which one his wife was supposed to be on. He said he didn't know and to wait because he would call me back and tell me what to do. He then called Fatema and told her something which resulted in her immediately making another call as soon as she hung up, meanwhile he called me and asked me "so what have you done?"

"About what?"

"My family," he yells.

"Nothing, you told me to wait until you call me back"

He changed the subject

"Did Fatema find a car for them?"

"I don't know, she is on the phone right now with someone"

"Why don't you know?"

"Because she is on the phone and I have to wait for her to get off to find out what she has done."

"This is all your fault"


"Shut up, I don't want to hear your voice, you forgot to arrange for them to be picked up and I am really angry.."

Later after he arrived at the office, he called me in to berate me in front of the deputy director where he denied telling me that they were leaving at 10 AM US time and told me that all I do is "sit around on my butt all day doing nothing" that I should have known that he didn't really know what he was talking about and that I should have had the initiative to call Delta Airlines and ask them "what about the plane with the problem?"

Apparently it was also my fault that I didn't realize yesterday, after he vanished from the office and skipped his afternoon appointments that he need a driver to take him to the Hotel that is within 5 minutes walking distance of our office to an event where for some reason only he was not able to get valet parking (hence the monumental need for a driver).

It was also my fault that while Fatema was scrambling around looking for a last minute solution for a car to pick up his wife, she missed a call on her other line. Apparently I am somehow supposed to magically know when her other line is ringing and who is calling on it, even though her lines are in no way connected to mine.

And to conclude all of this, after telling us we had "better find a car" to take his wife to make up for the big mess we had made, he refused to give us her phone number so that we could give it to the driver so he could find her and meet her and never called us back when we asked how we were supposed to arrange for them to meet up.

His wife ended up taking a taxi, which is easy enough to do. I am sure he will tell her that it is ALL MY FAULT.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The SWAT Team pays a visit - was my neighbor an assassin?

I have been somewhat depressed lately and haven't felt like posting anything, but yesterday's events bear mentioning.

I was awakened by the children at about 9 AM telling me that their teacher called and said he wasn't coming, because the police had blocked off the road in front of our house, and he couldn't get through. I was in half-asleep mode, so that didn't really register completely. I asked Salman to clarify exactly where the police were positioned, not realizing that they were right outside the wall to my villa and barring my driveway, the neighbor's driveway and the small section of road in front of our houses. Once I realized how close they were and that they appeared only interested in blocking our two houses, I was a little alarmed.

I couldn't really see over the wall, so I stood on the sofa in my living room, and from there I could make out about ten unmarked cars of different kinds and several men - mostly locals - in the road outside of my neighbor's place and in their courtyard. I was relieved to know that their interest seemed to be in my neighbor's house and not mine, but still, paranoid thoughts crept through my mind and got me worrying that they might try to search my house and I have absolutely no idea what the rules are here in regard to that - are the police allowed to search homes without a warrant? Not that I am hiding anything, but still being half asleep with a tendency to worry about strange things, I started fretting that any second they would be pounding on my door.

The dog - Max (Billy died, that is another sad story I have to tell) - was getting restless and barking. He is a really really good dog, but hearing strange voices just over the wall and not seeing the people they belong to was getting to him, plus he had had his breakfast and needed to go relieve himself. So, Salman and I took him out for a walk.

As soon as we emerged from our gate, the men in the road stopped talking and stared at us. I felt like a suspect the way they watched our every move. We crossed the road to the field opposite us with the men still watching us. I hate being stared at so I pretended not to notice. And walked a distance from them.

Now opposite my neighbor's house, I could see that not only were their several men in Kandoras and street clothes going in and out, there were what looked like members of a SWAT team deployed inside the courtyard as well, I saw at least four men with all black clothes, including bullet proof vests and helmets and guns. There was a big dark hummer with black out windows with a light on top and a bunch of other cars all with Dubai plates. I didn't see a single RAK police car in the area.

We walked behind in the neighborhood a bit, when we came back, we saw that they were removing our neighbor's cars from the courtyard and putting them on a car carrier. I approached an Indian guy standing by the side of the road. I asked him if he knew what was going on, he shrugged his shoulders. I asked if he knew how much longer they would take, a young local guy with longish hair in jeans and a t-shirt came over when he saw me talking to the Indian guy. He was with the police officers, so I asked him how long they would have the road and my house blocked because I needed to go to the supermarket. He was very gracious and apologized profusely saying "why didn't you tell me, we can move our cars for you right now if you like." I told him "no, it's okay, I will be going later, so as long I am not blocked in then, this is not bothering me."

Then he asked me which car(s) was mine. I told him the red one on the street that they had blocked in and that there was one inside my gate as well.

I asked him what was going on. He just smiled and said "oh nothing, just some problem with the cars and nodded towards the car being moved onto the vehicle carrier." I didn't buy it, maybe I look naive to them, but you don't need to call out special forces to repossess a car. But I didn't say anything; I guess they probably aren't allowed to discuss whatever they are doing with bystanders anyway. The young guy's boss - a Middle Aged Emirati in a Kandora - saw him talking to me and came over. Then they started asking us about our neighbors. I am afraid I was of no use as a witness. I am ashamed to say I have not given the slightest bit of attention to my neighbors to the point where I was not even able to say how many people stayed there, what sex, race or nationality any of the were. I told them, "sorry, I am always at work so I have never seen them, just saw a car parked outside once or twice." I told them to ask Salman, he told them he saw one guy a couple of times who always wears white pants and a white shirt. I was embarrassed by our inability to be useful in this regard; like a typical American, I obviously had no clue what sort of people my next door neighbors were. Judging from how involved my in laws were in their neighbor's lives, I am sure Indian neighbors would have been able to give the police a much more detailed report including their comings and goings, how many they were, and what they looked like as well as a good amount of speculation about their love lives...
Salman actually noticed more details about them than he told the police. Later in the day after they had left, he mentioned to me that the man he saw had blond hair and blue eyes. I laughed considering that information is a lot more useful than the white shirt and pants bit the police got from us.

I apologized to the police officers for not being able to give them more helpful information. The younger one told me to tell them if I need to take my car out and then joked that they were thinking to take my car too. I smiled and told him, "please don't!" then we took Max to finish his business. We took a long walk in the light rain, and when we came back things were starting to wind down at our neighbor's place.

After they had all gone, I noticed some cars in the field opposite the house parked there all day facing us. I don't think that anyone was home when they raided my neighbor's place, so I am not sure that their work here is done yet and the house may still be under surveillance. That evening, as I was standing in my gate looking at the weeds growing in the flowers we planted near the road, I noticed a small white car drive slowly by and then pull in front of my neighbor's gate, stop for a few minutes, and then pull away quickly.

Over all, the whole experience creeped me out because

1. I had been obliviously living next to some sort of dangerous criminal all this time
2. We had obviously been under surveillance for quite some time - at least I know now that I was not paranoid for feeling like some cars used to drive by too slowly too often.
3. They haven't caught them yet.

I made the boys sleep with me last night and I jumped at every noise from outside and every time the dog barked. I keep imagining my criminal neighbor coming home, realizing the police are closing in on him and jumping the wall to my house and holding us hostage.

I told "A" about everything I saw and my conversations with the police and he said once when he took the boys out he saw a guy who looked like a Russian coming out of the house (maybe the blond man Salman saw too) and that he suspects that, judging from what I described, maybe my neighbors were Russian Mafia or drug dealers. But who knows really.... And I thought RAK was such a peaceful little haven..

An update to this... now everyone I am telling this story too is speculating that it all might have something to do with the investigation into the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev, the opponent of Chechnya's Russian backed leader, in Dubai at the end of March.... scary thought, I might have been living next to assassins all this time.....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009