Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arab Teenagers - boys with bang-dos

I was in Ras Al Khaimah over the weekend, visiting my friend, and we went to the mall - while there I noticed several Arab teenagers dressed in the weirdest ways. I have no idea what/who is guiding their "fashion" sense - it looked ridiculous to me.

First of all there's the hair-do - and by the way I am talking about teenage boys - not girls and I am of the opinion that the term hairdo and man/boy should not be used in the same sentence. I swear to God this style they all seem to be sporting looks like a boy's version of the Snooki hairdo. Bangs with this big poof hump of hair behind it. Who the hell told them this looks cool????

Secondly there are the clothes - skinny jeans in awful colors - like purple (and again we're talking about boys here). And they wear matching outfits... which again is a very unmanly thing to do in my opinion.

And then there are the shoes. One black one - one yellow one 0r red or whatever color they happen to be wearing. I guess two friends will share - one gets one black shoe and one gets one of the colored ones and then they wear matching outfits. I don't think this is what American teenage boys are wearing these days but I might be wrong - anyone else seen anything like this?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Big 40 and burkinis

I turned 40 last week... yes FORTY... I really can't believe it. I can still clearly recall those days when I thought 20 was grossly old and now I am 40 and I have a teenager. Where the HELL did my life go?

It is kind of scary being 40. The main thing that worries me is security. By now, most people I know who are my age and - let's face it - younger have started to prepare for the future. I haven't been able to do that. I have NO (yes you heard me right no as in zero) savings, nor do I own my own home. In fact, all I do own is my crappy furniture, an even crappier car... and a gender confused cat who attacks my feet at precisely 4:30 am every morning.

I was really dreading my 40th birthday for many reasons. The first being the most obvious - that it was 40 - not a number most people (especially women) look forward to turning. The second being that I am here all alone. Turning 40 is bad enough, turning forty all by yourself is even worse. Luckily I expressed my fear of spending my birthday alone to a friend and he arranged a lovely surprise for me. I ended going to Oman and spending the weekend on the yacht of Omani Sheikh along with a few other people. Our host was very gracious and gave me his room on the yacht - the nicest room with a bathroom with spacious tub. We traveled along the Omani Coastline and went to one of the only places in the world where the giant sea turtles go to lay their eggs. There were baby sea turtles scrambling about all over the beach - the poor things need to safely make it to the water, but get disoriented easily. We had a barbecue in a traditional fisherman's hut where we feasted on freshly caught and grilled Omani rock lobster and hammour. It was delicious - a couple of baby sea turtles, attracted to the light joined us, and were scrambling about on the woven mats on the floor. After that we walked along the beach and found three mothers in the act of laying their eggs. Apparently only one out of 100 of the babies will survive to adulthood. I have a feeling the little lost fellows who joined us will not be among them :(. The sheikh told us that the week before, he and some of his posse had gathered up buckets of the little guys and taken them to the sea. Normally, most of them never even make it to the water as they are eaten by hungry sea gulls who just wait for this time of year to feast on baby turtles.

Some of the guys went fishing and caught a 100 (or was it 200?) kg shark, and we all went swimming and jet skiing. The Omani coastline is quite beautiful and towards muscat you have old castles on the cliffs overlooking the water... built by the Portuguese back in their heyday.

I haven't been swimming/ to a beach in ages. I have some problems with sun - photosensitivity - which doesn't actually mean i burn easily - because I don't - i just react badly to the sun at times. So I have avoided it for several years and consequently am as white as a ghost. One of my big fears before going on this trip was the issue of swimwear... I don't enjoy enjoy wearing bathing suits. I didn't enjoy it back when I was young and had a perfect body, so I certainly don't enjoy it now. It just always has (and still does) felt weird to me to walk about in something that is no bigger than my underwear. I wouldn't wear my underwear in public, so why it suddenly is 'OK' in beach context escapes me. So I actually went in search of a burkini, and I did find a sportswear store that sells them. Unfortunately - they were truly hideous. I am not Muslim, so I don't need the head gear part nor do i need to cover every inch of skin above my ankles and wrists. I just wanted something more modest than a bikini, but also somehow stylish looking - this does not seem to be on offer in burkinis. There were different styles - but they all had ugly prints or weird cuts, so I wandered about in the sportswear section for a bit and what ended up getting was a couple of tennis skirts with built in shorts in bathing suit type material that about 2/3 of the way down my thighs and a couple of t-shirts and tank tops in the same material. I think it did quite nicely, but it got me to thinking about burkini and bathing suit design, and think there is an untapped market out there for more modest BUT sleek/stylish/attractive looking swimwear for women of all kinds - not just Muslim women - who don't feel comfortable prancing about in a nearly-nude state in public.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unlovable

That's how I feel.

Especially these days, now that I am all alone, I can't help but notice all the people around me - all the people who have someone who loves them and thinks they're special.

I don't know what that feels like, and sometimes I can't bear the thought that I will never know. Sometimes I feel I just don't want to go on in life anymore. My heart is like this big aching bleeding mass full of stabs wounds and holes left behind by people I loved who betrayed me or used me and didn't love me back.

I don't know what it is, but I am sure there is something inherently wrong with me.

I feel invisible, unlovable, untouchable.

I keep asking God to seal up my heart so I don't feel anything anymore, so I can't love or even like too much, so I don't want or need love. It's got to the point that I dread meeting anyone that I could like, because I know that if I get to know them more, inevitably, I will feel more and more but I will not be loved or even liked in return and it will hurt. I just want to want to be alone and not care, but that's not how God made me - I am some big joke or flawed design - a human being who craves love and affection more than others do, who has a lot of love and affection to give, but who has been made unlovable. I just don't understand why I even exist.

And because this is how I am - all I am is food for emotional vampires.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The miss who turned out to be a mister...

I spent the first part of my nine day eid holiday up north, sorting out things and packing in my old house.

It so empty and lonely there without the boys. I kept expecting my little one to come round the corner at any minute with his long hair, clad in only his little red underpants and looking for all the world exactly like Mowgli in the Jungle Book.

Or for the older one to suddenly appear at my elbow and tell me some string of new facts he learned from the Discovery Channel or reading.

Luckily, I wasn't completely alone. I had my cat for company. He's a little over a year old now and the most gorgeous cat I have ever seen. I have no idea what breed he is, but he is lovely. Considering his beauty, I have been feeling very guilty for getting him castrated. Cats like him should be allowed to breed.

We actually thought he was a girl for the entire first year. Mainly, because the idiots at the pet store told us he was, but also because of his behavior. He had a collection of small stuffed animals that he played with, and he appeared to be playing house. He would pick them up by the backs of their necks and carry them over to his food dish, where he would place them face down - as if he expected them to eat. Later he would take them over next to the litter box. Presumably so they could relieve themselves. He seemed quite maternal.

So imagine my surprise when my little one carried him over to me and plopped him on my lap and announced "Mom, Misty's got a nut-sack". I scoffed at him, "Can't be" I said, but I checked anyway, and sure enough, under all the gorgeous fur, there was - indeed - a nut-sack. A few days later Misty began "romancing" one of the larger stuffed animals and he started licking himself so I saw not only the nut-sack but his ... noodle as well, so before he reached the stage of spraying all over my house, I took him to the vet.

You might wonder how I managed to miss that he had male equipment - I had raised a stray kitten before and from the time he was tiny I could see his balls. But Misty was so furry and fluffy and I swear he never sexed up a stuffed animal or licked himself openly until after we discovered his nut-sack. It was as if he was hiding it from us until we discovered it.

Anyway, he's fixed now, dashing my sons' hopes of cute Misty babies to care for in the future, but my furniture is safe.

Meanwhile, a few months before I left and took this new job, a stray, that the kids named "loud hungry kitty" because - well - he's a very loud, very hungry kitty, had started coming to the house every day or so begging for food and affection. Unlike most strays, he is quite friendly, and loves people. When I was sitting near the window the other day, he was rubbing himself up against the window right next to me - as if he was trying to rub against me. It was quite heartbreaking. If I didn't already have a cat, I would have adopted him - though he is quite ugly - but I can't handle two cats, much less two males - unlike Misty, Loud Hungry has very prominent "man jewels" and short fur, so I am sure he is a male.

The most I could do for him was put food and water out. Now I worry about him, who will feed him now that I am gone. I didn't see him in my last trip, which worried me since he usually shows up at some point. I hope he didn't get run over by a car or something.

Instead of Loud Hungry, a new stray showed up. Eid morning I woke up to find Misty staring intently out the window at goat that was sprawled across my front door step. Where it came from I have no idea. I don't live in a farming area and I never noticed any goats being kept around my house. The fact that it was eid made me wonder if it was an escapee, on the run from becoming someone's eid feast. I put water out for it too. It was still there when I left later that afternoon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shaping up

I am on this fitness kick lately. Have been trying to go to the gym regularly and not eat junk food. I have lost a lot of weight and now fit back into some of my tinier clothes (yay). I don't want to be skeletal, but my frame is not build to carry any kind of extra weight well. I don't have voluptuous hips and breasts. I look and feel better when I am toned and athletic looking.

Anyway, in celebration of my progress, I went out and bought some new exercise clothes. I need new shoes desperately because I noticed the front of my trainers are starting to split - and since they're about 4 years old, I figured it was about time for a change.

I decided to try the new Reebok "toning" shoes. I don't know if they really work or it is just one big fat gimmick, but they were very comfortable; so I figure, either way, it's all good - if they do help tone my glutes then great, otherwise I just have new and very comfortable pair of shoes.

One thing however that never ceases to amaze me is the absolute lack of awareness of sales staff regarding customer service. The salesman actually brought me dirty sock to wear to try the shoes on with - it had brown smudges on it! Seriously? Why he thought that would be acceptable is beyond me, and are they too cheap to send the socks for washing?

I also bought some self help books. I realize that I have many character flaws, and I would like to try to work on them so that I can lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Random Ramblings

Well, another Ramadan has almost finished. It turns out that I have the entire week off next week, which means that - with the weekends - I have nine days to myself - no kids. I actually temporarily considered going to the US for the week to see the kids for the week, until I saw the price. 16,000 dirhams .... (more than $4,000) for an economy ticket. Then I thought, why not visit my good friend in Turkey? But that ticket cost around 6,000 dirhams - which is more than I usually pay to go to the US. Clearly the airlines are exploiting the Eid holiday and making a killing. So all travel plans have been scrapped and I am stuck here - alone - for 9 days. I miss my kids so much.Publish Post

I checked out the Marina Mall the other day - for the first time - and I visited the Calvin Klein underwear shop. A few years back, I had bought a couple Calvin Klein bras. and they had fit me better than any bra. Anyway, to make a long story short, after this visit, I am convinced that just like clothing sizes (anyone else noticed how a size two or four has grown over the years?) bra sizes have also gone through a change. Now there is no way in hell I am actually a D (0r even close to that) but I actually had to buy a 34D bra. I had a similar experience at La Senza, but I just thought it was their sizing, since I had no earlier point of reference to compare to. But I know for a fact that at Calvin Klein - when I was nursing my youngest son - I wore a C cup (8 years ago), and I can assure you that my breasts have NOT grown since then - if anything they have deflated. So are clothing manufacturers trying to mess with our minds and make us think we are thinner than we are with bigger breasts than we actually have? I wouldn't put it past them. The fashion/beauty industry is all one big mind f**k if you ask me - trying to manipulate us and distort our vision of reality.

Well, that's enough random rambling for now, the sun is down and it's time to eat... yay!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Taxi Thieves

Just want to give a big fat shout out to all the inconsiderate taxi thieves I have encountered in the past few days.

First of all there was Mr. "all dressed up in a nice suit" - sir, even though you may dress like a gentleman - your behavior says otherwise.

Then there was a chubby heavily made up lady - She was perhaps my favorite... she didn't want to stand in the sun so she retreated back from the road side to cower in the shade of building where she could not see taxis approaching nor could they see her, when she saw me hailing a taxi, she quickly dashed out to the road in front of me and grabbed it... nice eh?

Lady with Umbrella - another sun-shy maiden - came to the taxi stand after I did and then planted herself squarely in front of me with her big fat umbrella so I couldn't see anything. Whenever I tried to reposition myself she moved and blocked me.

Here's the real clincher - I am the one who needed the most sun protection yet I stood out in the sun the longest thanks to these gems of humanity. Not only am I light-skinned, but I have photo-sensitivity - and am not supposed to go in the sun. After my little ordeal my skin rash was starting.

So people, next time you steal a taxi, or push in front of someone in a line, don't think that what you're doing is no big deal. You never know how your actions might impact another person's life.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So lonely

Well I have been in Abu Dhabi now for exactly one month (on Wednesday it will be). The kids left more than two weeks ago to go to the US with my mom, because I haven't yet found a place to live, and I can't rightly keep two little boys holed up in a hotel room all day.

My mom tells me they spent the past weekend down at the beach there. My siblings, their spouses and my cousin all rented a big beach house and took their kids down there, and my kids joined. My (paternal) grandparents used to own a house at the same beach when I was little, and visiting it was part of the normal summer routine. This - along with visiting my maternal grandparents at their place on the Chesapeake Bay, and driving out to Wisconsin to visit my great grandparents' farm -was a very important part of my childhood and I am happy they got the chance to experience it too. This was their first visit to the Atlantic Ocean. The sea is very different there, and the waves much more dangerous than they are here or along the Indian Ocean coastline of East Africa - the only beaches they have ever seen until now.

I wonder how they enjoyed the boardwalk - the endless stalls selling waffle cones, greasy pizza, salt water taffy, ice cream, t-shirts, and the games and rides. I wish I could have been there with them.

I am glad they are having this interaction with extended family, but I miss them so much it hurts. It's so lonely without them - especially here since this is a new place and I don't really know much of anyone.

This past weekend I stayed in my room almost the entire time - I did go to the gym twice, but aside from that, my fun weekend activities included organizing my closet and going shopping for sanitary napkins and hangers.

The only good thing about this weekend was that someone from work took me out to dinner. But I wasn't sure why. It was a guy. I don't know if he was just being nice or it was supposed to be date. For some reason, I assumed it was a just being nice kind of thing but then when I told a friend she said she thinks it was a kind of date and that confused me and of course and made me feel more shy than I would have otherwise.

Plus he asked me to go, he picked the place, and I didn't know if I should pay too or not. I didn't want to offend (since he offered) but then I thought maybe I should - I felt kind of awkward at bill-paying time. Not sure how that is supposed to work. I know with my friends how it works, I know how it worked with my husband when I dated him, but I don't know about this person. He's Australian. I don't know how things work in Australia.

Anyway it was nice whatever it was. He is a nice person, interesting to talk to and for a while at least, it took my mind off my kids and my depression regarding not being able to find a nice place to stay.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Am I wrong for hating my husband sometimes?

I just spoke to my ex-husband - actually, he's really my husband since he can't be bothered to divorce me, and the courts here clearly don't give a shit about me and my kids, so the divorce case I filed has been languishing there for the past three years...

Anyway, I have been calling him fairly regularly for the past six months - ever since it looked likely that I would get this new job here in Abu Dhabi. I needed him to cooperate with regard to some documentation for the kids. It was really quite simple: I asked for a letter stating that he has no objection me sponsoring them and for him to send our marriage certificate for attestation.

Apparently, even the smallest of requests is too much for him to do for me - for his sons! He still hasn't done the letter. Now, for those of you who don't live here, or don't know, everyone living in the UAE should have a Residence Visa. Without a proper visa, you can't work, rent a house, open a bank account, etc. For kids it means you can't enroll in school.

When Mr. Dead Beat left us almost 6 years ago, he had just renewed the kids' residence visas - so they were OK for another three years. But once their visas ran out, they couldn't go back to school. That's why I moved to the North from Dubai, because the company that hired me claimed they were going to help me sort all that out. Of course they did not - they did jack shit - all they did, in fact, was to introduce me to an Indian lawyer who can't even practice in the local court and who introduced me to an Egyptian, who took me an Arab lawyer friend of his. The Indian was the front man for a while, and then he just kind of disappeared. My case went nowhere. No one ever bothered to contact me with updates. When I call them, they avoid my calls - usually - or lie to me and tell me that next week they will talk to the judge and it will finish... and then the day they specify comes and goes and no one contacts me...

Anyway, the kids have been home-schooled for three years as a result of this. I couldn't really afford to send them to the only decent school there anyway... since their father also sends NO money for the kids (he doesn't even spend the money it takes to call them). But now, my new company will give me money for school fees IF I can sponsor them and get them enrolled.

So anyway, I called him again to nag him once again, and I got a bit upset this time. First of all, for no reason out of the blue he asked me if I had started drinking now. I never did drink and don't drink now. At this point I might have become just a tad bit snippy and said "No, sorry to disappoint you - I know you like women who drink."

To which he replied, "who says what I like?"

To which I said "I know your girlfriend is a heavy drinker".

And then he asked who told me, and I said "who HASN'T mentioned her heavy drinking when she comes up in conversation?"

Apparently that upset him, after all I guess I am supposed to respect his heavy drinking, virtuous "Muslim" girlfriend who slept with my husband so she is also the mother of his illegitimate daughter. Something tells me alcohol was involved in the conception of that child, but that's a whole different story (sort of).

Anyway, I also went on and told him "you haven't don't anything for your sons in years, and I know they don't matter to you as much as your daughter, but can you please make them a priority for once - just long enough to get this letter done, signed, notarized, attested and sent off?

He got mad and hung up on me.

Am I wrong?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Things you learn from Facebook

I know people have varying views of Facebook. Some of my friends are proud to say they have never opened an account, others seem to be online all the time. For me, as an American expatriate living very far from my family, I found it a useful way to keep generally caught up on everyone back home - my mom and all her sisters have Facebook accounts, as do all of my six siblings - though I think my youngest sister created my middle brother's account so she could use it to send herself gifts for "Roller Coaster Kingdom" and "Cafe World". All of my dad's sibling have accounts as well, as do almost all of my cousins and some of my first cousin's once removed, my neices, my mom's cousins and other second and third cousins, my step-grandmother, my best friend since the 3rd grade, and my ex-husband and his family and friends (more on that later). Aside from them, many close family friends - mostly from church, my much loved grade school teacher's five kids, and other people I went to grade school with - and have fond memories of - are on there.

Finding old high school classmates was a mixed bag of emotions. Most of us are naturally curious about people from our pasts - what do they look like now, what have they accomplished, what do their offspring look like.

I have to admit I didn't really miss anyone from highschool aside from my best friend, but I knew her since grade school anyway, so she didn't count as one of them. But I was curious to know how the so-called "prettiest girl" looks now, and if the twin of the 'cutest' boy actually gay like I suspected (surely he should be out of the closet by now).

I am ashamed to admit that I was pleased - smugly and shallowly pleased to discover that I have aged far better than every other girl (or I guess we should call ourselves women now as we all have or will cross(ed) 40 this year - I still have a couple months to go) in my class. Almost all of them are overweight or wrinkled or grey or all three by now. I don't yet suffer from any of these problems. I know it is mean and God's probably going to teach me a lesson now and have me wake up tomorrow morning with a full head of white hair and an extra 50 pounds of lard on my ass, but I am just being honest and I think there are many of us who have been pleased to find on facebook that the girl who tormented us back in school days, called you ugly and laughed at your clothes - is now 100 lbs overweight and can only fit into oversized t-shirts and stretchy pants. I am not immune to such emotions, and you have to understand - I was decidedly uncool and often made fun of or just plain ignored by the "cool boys and girls". Smart (math nerd), shy and too poor to be nicely dressed, I was what most would call a "geek".

All that being said, I don't really hold that much of a grudge, and am willing to give most people another chance to change my opinion of them. So moving past appearances, I tried to find out more about these people - whom I saw every day for five years, sat side by side in class and yet never knew - and I discovered some of the other girls felt as out of place and lost as I did back then, that the two of my classmates I thought were gay are now"out of the closet" - one even posted a video of himself dancing in a gay pride parade in a satyr costume - which I am sure is a big shock for most of my former classmates who all came from conservative Christian families. A few are atheists now, or disillusioned agnostics, but on the other end of the spectrum, two are preachers, and one is a missionary in Japan. More than a few are teachers. Most are parents.

There is also a broadway producer amongst their ranks. Another one - the only boy who ever showed any interest in me - committed suicide a few years back after his wife screwed him over in a custody battle. Yet another's wife just died from cancer - as did one of the set of girl twins in my class. Both of the girls who got pregnant in our last year are still married to the boys who impregnated them- and quite happily it would seem. Most of the rest are happily married as well - only a few are divorced or never married, and almost all of them as it turns out -even the so called 'bad apples', bullies and mean kids in the class - are very respectable and nice people. Which just goes to show that while time may take away our looks and health it often gives us something much more valuable in return.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Abu Dhabi here I come

It looks like I might be moving to Abu Dhabi...

I don't know that city at all, but I am looking forward to the change.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Apparently white out has the power to erase our memory too... who knew?!

We are editing the latest edition of the magazine right now - always a fun time in our tension-fraught office.

First there’s the first round of editing, which is always (not) fun given the writing skills of most of the contributors. BFB – the self titled “Editor in Chief” – is one of the worst offenders here because she persists in attempting to plagiarise.

The cover story she ‘wrote’ for this issue was basically a compilation of pasted bits of plagiarised text from other articles and copied portions from other companies’ press releases. I guess, technically, its not illegal to use the text from the press releases since that’s why they put them out, but to brazenly write ‘… BFB reports’ at the top of the article is another thing. What exactly did she actually write herself ? The answer is. … next to nothing. All she had to do was go online, look up her topic, slap together pieces of text cut from here or there, and voila! In a few minutes she had what she called an article.

Now in the past, I used to take such articles – if I could – and rewrite them, which would involve a lot of work on my part – reading, researching, thinking how to say and organise the information in an different way and what to add to it so that it could be called an original piece of writing. She was more than happy to let me do this and take credit for the end result. But at the same time she would have the nerve to submit largely plagiarised pieces to me and then go complain to DH that I am the one who is behind deadline (because what was supposed to be a short proof-reading/editing job of an hour or two turned into a total rewrite of an entire day or two).

It was simply a great arrangement for her. She got to take credit for a finished piece that was hardly her work, while passing off any blame for anything – such as being behind deadline – on me.also

This time I decided not to do the work for her. So I highlighted every single plagiarised paragraph with a comment and wrote “please write in your own words.” I left the copied bits from press releases alone, simply because I thought it was asking too much of her to tell her to exert her brains cells to even write them in her own words as well.

What she returned to me was hardly better than the first. Her idea of writing in her own words is something like this.

Original bit of text: “The town was overrun by mice, and the residents were distraught.”

Her rewrite: “The town was overrun by mice, and the inhabitants were very upset.”

Which still qualifies as plagiarism… *sigh*. So I still had a lot of work cut out for me.

Now we are doing the final edit – proofreading the draft copy by hand. I noticed she had told the designer to make an incorrect correction to some punctuation – she circled it in green and wrote out the instructions on the side of the copy. So I told him to change it back, and wrote a note to her explaining why. It was no big deal, just a small thing. I wouldn’t have thought a second time about it except that the copy returned with a scrawled note saying “I didn’t tell him to make those changes, if you check the copy, I only asked him to check the spacing.”

Well, lo and behold, BFB had taken her white out and covered up her incorrect instructions! At this point both the designer and I had a good laugh. We had both seen what she had written before, and we could see the blob of white-out as well. I really don’t know what goes through her mind. Does she really underestimate the intelligence of others so much? We just let it drop, it certainly wasn"t worth making a big deal about it, but it just reaffirmed to me that she has some serious issues.

Of course DH is similar. I am only responsible for the English text in the things we produce. Arabic is his responsibility in the end. What he usually does it send out what I write in English to a translator to produce the Arabic copy. Of course, a translator is only a translator, and it is DH’s job to check and make sure that his translation is accurate.

Recently there was an error in some Arabic text in something we printed and had distributed to several people. An email was sent to DH telling him this. He forwarded it to me with just “FYI” written on the message.

I was really quite puzzled as to why he had sent it to me since the Arabic is not my responsibility and there was no error in the English text. Then it dawned on me that he thought he could blame me for this by claiming that what I wrote in English was wrong. So I went to him and asked him why he sent it to me.

He said “because it’s your fault because you wrote the wrong thing in English.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“No I didn’t. I would never write that, and I just checked to make sure, and the English text is correct.”

He refused to acknowledge that this error was his responsibility alone until I brought the printed English text and showed him. Afterwards he couldn’t even look at me. His cheeks turned pink, and he stared straight ahead and said “cool” in clipped tone that barely contained his resentment. He sat in his office after that and stewed. After all, for DH who is so careful to cover up any mistakes he might make, the knowledge that he alerted me to a mistake he made was an unbearable shame for him. About fifteen minutes later, he came charging out of his office and straight up to my desk with some little stupid thing to nitpick about – he had this weird triumphant half crazed look on his face as if to say “I’ll show you who is the fuck up around here.”

He continued that behaviour for the rest of the day. Even my coworker noticed it and commented. I complained about this to the local guy over him, and I guess it got back to DH. A few weeks later, he called for another meeting to berate me and tear me down, and he brought it up claiming that he had never attempted to blame me for the mistake and had only forwarded it to me for my information. “See I only wrote FYI on the email,” he said, with this smug look on his face which all too clearly said “You can’t prove what I did to you.”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grammar is just so passé?

One of the most annoying things about working with DH and BFB is that they can't accept the fact that they make mistakes and don't know everything. So, every time one of them f***s up, they have to pass blame or try to cover it up.

The flip side of this coin is that they LOVE finding fault with others. They will look and look for the tiniest things to nitpick about. Given that my job is editing - which is not an error free discipline - they can always find some minuscule thing to make a stink about. Never mind that I take articles that are badly written bullshit, full of spelling, grammatical and word-use errors and turn them into something that someone can actually read and understand and - at the very least - won't laugh at and think a 5th grader (or younger) wrote it. Nooooo, there is never any appreciation whatsoever for that; instead they will scan a whole magazine looking for the tiniest thing to pick about - like a set of mismatched quotation marks in some teeny tiny subtext the size of ant poop. But, when BFB's friend edited the text when I was on leave and left it chock full of errors of every kind (style, punctuation, grammar, spelling, blocks of text accidentally repeated, etc), they were so happy with the result and didn't notice a single error.

In fact, shortly after I got back, DH dragged me into a meeting with the new (at that time) Marketing Director (who has already been fired) to discuss how lacking I was compared to this new and supposedly 'professional' editor they used while I was on leave. I anticipated what he was up to, so I got a copy and quickly marked, on the first several pages of my copy of the magazine, all of the errors I could spot at a quick glance - which were many (Lord knows how many I would have found if I had gone through it with a fine-toothed comb like they do when looking for fault with everything I do.) So as soon as DH opened his mouth to discuss how much of an improvement there was in the magazine in the issue I didn't edit, I was ready. And it was amazing how he, suddenly, found all sorts of excuses for and reasons why someone might not notice a tiny error - these weren't even tiny errors, but never mind that. Luckily the Marketing Director was not convinced by DH and took my side. He told him he thought that I am quite a competent writer, and that maybe, if they think this new lady adds so much, they should retain her services (freelance) to help edit the magazine as no professional magazine has only one person writing or rewriting everything and editing it and proofreading it.

So the new arrangement was that this so-called professional was retained to help improve the magazine. Of course, this ended up making more of a headache for me. Miss KIA as I will call her, adds as many errors as she finds - maybe more. She is supposedly British but seemed confused about the spelling of the word 'centred' - and kept changing it to the American spelling 'centered' - to the point where she got me confused, since - after all, I am not British - and I had to look it up just to make sure I wasn't going out of my mind. The fact is that instead of finding real straggling typos and such to fix, she often doesn't notice those and leaves them intact, and only makes unnecessary changes to the text just to say she did something. After all, she doesn't want anyone realizing that her services are unnecessary. Usually, when she makes these changes, she introduces new errors to text that was actually error free before. When I catch these errors and try to fix them, BFB takes a fit and says "well, since she is the professional here, I think we should leave it the way she had it" - she puts a special snotty emphasis on the word professional. Of course anyone who has lived here knows that expert and professional are very loosely used terms in this part of the world. Just about anyone can claim to be an expert here - especially people from certain Western nationalities.

When I persist, BFB emails me the snottiest and bitchiest messages you can imagine. She is a typical passive aggressive, so she doesn't do most of her shit to my face. For example thanks to the wonderful editing skills of KIA, there was a sentence with no subject. By the time I saw it, it was already set in the magazine template, which meant I had to mark it by pen on the first printed draft. After I made my proofreading, BFB got her hands on the manuscript and took here big fat green pen and unmarked most of my changes and wrote "ignore" next to them. Then it came back to our section, and DH told me to look at it and "clear it up". I told him, "well she doesn't know what she is talking about, so there is no need to clear it up with her since editing is my job." But since DH doesn't respect me, he told me I should settle it with her. He told me this at 4:00 PM on a Thursday (end of the work week). So I had to take the manuscript home, and spend my weekend redoing all the work BFB had undone and then writing lengthy emails to BFB explaining the grammatical reason for the corrections.

Well, BFB couldn't understand many of the grammatical terms, I am sure, so she replied to only the one she thought she understood - the one about the sentence with no subject. Her email read something like this:

"Dear Desert

First of all language has moved on to the 21st century, not everything that our teacher taught us in grammar school in high school is considered as Bible. Nowadays, some words or styles are used for certain types of writing and are considered acceptable.

Starting a sentence with the preposition 'With' is not wrong.

Secondly, other writers use different styles in the way they write, that doesn't mean they are wrong. Following the old school of writing that you have to have noun, verb and prepositions arranged just so is passé.

I am not saying that we can be loose with grammar and their uses but sometimes a more modern style can be used. The write up about .... is not a serious piece of literature that every little sentence should follow the A,B,C, D rules of grammar.

Regards,

BFB"
Nowhere in my email to her had I told her that all sentences have to start with a noun. All I had told her is that a sentence must have a subject. I like the way she told me that grammar is passé. I guess that is what she tells herself to explain away the fact that she doesn't understand it.

I am well aware that a more informal writing style prevails these days, but nowhere (in any language that I have ever studied) is having a subject in your sentence considered passé.

My response was:


Dear BFB

I didn't say you have to start the sentence with a noun, and I didn't say that you can't start it with the word with. I said the sentence needs to have A SUBJECT, and this is not passe, and this does not change, no matter what "style" you use. I am not going to argue this further, because I am right. I don't appreciate the mocking tone of your message with the use of words like "passe". Once again, this is very aggressive and unprofessional. I am trying to do my job here. I sent you the explanation for the changes because DH requested that I explain any changes to you that I thought necessary.

I have wasted enough of my weekend re-correcting things you uncorrected. This is an unnecessary waste of my time, and I don't appreciate the tone you are taking with me when I am simply doing my job. I am sorry if you don't understand my corrections, as I gave the best explanation I could using proper grammatical terms. If you still don't get it, then I really don't know what to say.

Here are some examples of how you can CORRECTLY start a sentence with 'with'.

"With a smile, she turned around and walked away.

"With 25 years of experience under his belt, he is certainly the man for the job."

FYI, both of the options I gave (in my previous email) did not start with a noun, so quite frankly I think you are arguing for the sake of arguing. I, however, am simply trying to do my job, which apparently is a waste of time. I am not perfect, and I may not catch every little mistake, but I will correct the ones I do see.

Best regards,

Desert

I copied the local guy who is over DH on my reply - I had already complained to him about DH and BFB earlier - so that he would be aware of the crap I am dealing with.

I also went to her office to discuss this with BFB. Being passive aggressive and all, she couldn't even look me in the eye. She had read my email by that point and knew she had no grammatical leg to stand on, so all she could resort to saying was "Well I don't understand why after you have checked the articles ALL these errors still remain in the first place."


That really pissed me off, so I said: "First of all, these errors weren't there the last time I saw the articles. YOUR friend introduced them with her unnecessary changes. Secondly, why do you expect me to catch every typo error in one go when your 'professional' friend cannot?"

She had nothing to say. I also told her that I do not appreciate her interfering with my job.

That sure felt good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Work update

One thing that has been keeping me away from writing is the fact that I have been going through a lot of shit at work. Yes, I said a ‘bad’ word. Deal with it, because that’s the best way to accurately describe what has been going on. It’s a long story, and too many things have taken place to mention them all in detail here, but basically, it can all be credited to two people – my supervisor – whom I will call DH and a colleague in another section whom I will call BFB. Those initials do not stand for their names, but rather what I call them in my mind…

Now DH is a male, about 29 years old, from an Arabic-speaking (not Gulf) country. BFB is an Asian female who is in her early to mid 40s. They are part of a gang of expats – the wolf pack – here who consider themselves better than everyone else. One of their favourite pastimes, as far as I could tell from the few times I have been in the presence of two or more of them is talking shit about everyone else. According to them, everyone else is incompetent and useless. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that, for the large part, they are insecure and/or under-qualified and clinging to whatever little shreds of power they have been granted because they know that anywhere else – in a more professional environment – they would not be up to muster.

DH – for example – has been in charge of the section since 2007 – so basically that means he was about 25 when he became section manager. Where else on earth would a 25-year-old non-Emirati informatics engineer be made ‘Creative Section’ manager in a fairly large government organisation in the UAE? He has somehow managed – by hook or by crook (or both) – managed to hit pay dirt and he is scared as hell to lose his cruise down easy street. As neither a trained graphic artist/designer nor a particularly creative person, he basically does not have what is required to manage or guide the work of those placed under him. All of his employees have qualifications and skills he neither possesses nor understands – and this makes him insecure and MEAN.

To combat his insecurity, he has formed a close ‘friendship’ with the so-called senior graphic designer, a 29-year-old male from northern Europe, who is his best friend, roommate and illegal business partner. The fact that this guy is the senior graphic designer is really quite laughable – everything he ‘designs’ is lifted from somewhere else – nothing is original or attractive – his ‘designs’ remind me of a prison or a hospital room. Rigid lines, washed out colours, overuse of the corporate ‘palate’ – for crying out loud just because the logo is blue doesn’t mean every god damned thing we put out has to be drowning in the colour blue!

They have enslaved in their section a very nice, quiet Lebanese guy ‘NG’ who has more qualifications, skills and natural talent than both of them combined and multiplied by 100. Poor guy has been with them more than 3 years now. I hate the way they treat him. Like me, he’s an artistic quiet sort, who would prefer to just do his job and stay out of the petty-politics and crap that this place seems to revolve around. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible when one or more of the wolf pack is out to get you.

I guess they had it in for me from almost the first day I joined the “creative” section, when the Marketing Director scrapped DH’s design for the corporate diaries and told him to come up with a new theme that made sense and wasn’t boring. DH came up with nothing, but I did have an idea – which the Marketing Director liked. So we implemented mine… and I did most of the work. In the end, everyone was happy and impressed with the diaries – said it was the best they’d had yet – of course DH was happy to take the credit. But I guess that whole ordeal put me – and the Marketing Director – on his hit list

At the same time, BFB had it out for me, because as PR & Media officer, she should be able to write well in at least one of the two languages we issue our PR material in – English and Arabic – but she her Arabic skills are zero (0), nil, nada, niente, and her English writing is shabby. Until she came here she’d been getting by with bad grammar and by plagiarizing. Part of my job here as ‘Editor’ is to check and fix everything written by her in English, and this make her feel so terribly insecure.

You might wonder why they would hire a non-native speaker to write and then hire a second person – a native speaker to check what she writes – good question. I remember the CEO complaining about her writing shortly after she started, when I used to work in his office. And I – defending her – said “but she has other abilities, and you knew she wasn’t a native English speaker when you hired her.” To which he replied “yeah but ‘R’ (a Czech national) evaluated her and said her English was quite good.”

“So you had one non-native speaker evaluate another one?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean anything – the person with the highest score on TOEFL isn’t a native speaker”

“Native speakers don’t take TOEFL in the first place...”

So basically, since that time both DH and BFB having been working – mostly behind my back to undermine me in every way possible – lying about me, spreading gossip, complaining about me to HR and, generally, making my life a living hell… to the point where I started crying myself to sleep at night – or suffering from insomnia from worry and frustration.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Back at home this weekend, my family will be attending a screening of a documentary made about a very important environmental law that my grandfather passed while he was governor. I wish I could be with them; I wish even more that he could be with them.

I have been away from my blog for a long time, and a lot has happened in that time. One of the most notable – and definitely the saddest – is that Grandpa finally passed away a few months ago at 94 and ½ years old. I wasn’t able to go home for the funeral or memorial service – so it has been a long grieving process for me. It is easier to pretend someone hasn’t died when you aren’t used to seeing him regularly – but that makes accepting and dealing with his death a more drawn out process. I can forget – most of the time – that he is dead and imagine him back in his home, but then when I think about going home and realize that he won’t be there, it hits me and I cry and cry.

I know I should have been prepared for this; after all, no one lives forever. He was in his mid 90s – several years past the life expectancy for an American Male, but he just kept hanging on and in fairly good health, so I managed to delude myself that he’d be around for a few more years.

He didn’t suffer for months or lie around like a vegetable deteriorating for a long time – and I am happy for him in this. That is not how he would have liked to spend the last months/years of his life. He was pretty lucid up to the end. When I was there this past October, he was fit enough that he even managed to attend a political rally. So his death came about relatively quickly, a week or two before he passed on he suffered a series of small strokes and he weakened quickly.

I guess the one thing that bothers me the most is that I didn’t speak to him before he died. I never cashed the cheque he sent me for Christmas either – I am kind of glad I didn’t – I like to look at his scrawled signature – the last thing he sent me before he died.

After his death, they ran many articles about him the local papers – and even in the New York Times. Some of those articles told stories about him that I hadn’t ever heard before.

He was well respected, and for a good reason. There are not many people who would give up lucrative careers to stand up for what they believe to be right, but that’s what he did. He chose the honourable path, not the most profitable one – and I’m immensely proud to be his grand daughter and feel blessed to have known him… and I miss him so very much.

I love you Grandpa.

Living without internet

I know I haven't blogged in a really long time - half a year to be exact - and before that I had been largely MIA as well, but that's because I had so much going on - and a lot of it I wasn't sure if I could or should discuss in a public forum.

Now I am hindered by the fact that lovely Etisalat - ever the caring and efficient service provider - came to our house a few weeks back to "upgrade" the line to some kind of Elife thing - don't ask me what that is supposed to be. All I know is that I didn't ask for it; they just did it, and now, thanks to E-life I am E-dead... no internet at all, and I have given up trying to make Etisalat take responsibility and come back to my house and figure out what the hell is wrong - after several angry phone calls and one 2 minute visit by a technician - I have just given up.

The technician told me "your modem is broken". I said "so does that mean the technician you sent out to do the upgrade broke it?"
He said "I don't get you"
I said "The modem it was working up until the very second you guys came and now it's not"
He said "Must be a coincidence madam" (I hate being called Madam by the way).
I said: "So you're telling me that my kids were using the internet when you guys knocked on our door to do this 'upgrade' which is supposed to improve our services - and somehow - it just coincidentally broke down while it was off while your guys were working on the line?"
He said: "Yes Madam"
I said: "and you don't think a more plausible answer is that either one of your guys accidentally dropped it OR whatever you did here isn't actually working?"
At which point he just mumbled something and said "I don't know you call 101 and tell them"
Of course the 101 people are just call center staff and really are not capable of doing anything to help you. They just put them there I guess so people like me have someone to scream at when we get no help or answers.

Of course none of this should surprise me really, when I moved to this house I asked to transfer my land line - that was almost two years ago and I still don't have a land line. So now I am basically about as connected as an Amish person... and can only access the internet from the office, a friend's house or the mall - I haven't tried that option yet, but supposedly the mall has free wireless throughout.

In other news... I am waiting to see if I will be arrested or not. These stories in the papers here - like the one about the British doctor who was accused (he says falsely) of giving the finger to a local who was tailgating him have me freaked out. I am not going argue about whether giving someone the finger is an offence worthy of imprisonment, what bothers me is the lack of solid evidence. How can someone be arrested just because some said he did something?!

I was driving home from the gym last night on the main road going into the town - it is a fast moving road with 2-3 lanes in places. I approached the one signal on the road and it was backed up quite far due to a red light. But as I approached the light turned green and traffic started moving - fast - except for the car in front of me. This big shiny black SUV just sat there in the middle lane not moving. I waited ... it didn't start. So, I honked - guessing that maybe the driver was sending an sms or using his/her Blackberry or iPhone and hadn't realized the signal had changed.

The car still didn't move. So I pulled into another lane and passed it.

Apparently this was some sort of unforgivable offence. Once I passed it the car roared into action and started following me flashing its high-beams. I ignored it and kept going so it shot into the lane next to me and pulled up alongside me. There was a very mean and angry looking local woman behind the wheel shouting something at me - Lord only knows what it was because I had my windows rolled up. I just shook my head at her and drove on... but then I got scared - she seemed quite unreasonable - nothing I did was illegal or even rude - yet she reacted as if I had driven over her or something - so now I am worrying that I will find myself hauled in for questioning in a day or two - once they track me down.