Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dubai, Occupied October 2011

Dubai, October 2011

Isn’t it just my luck that right when things are heating up in my own country, and finally getting to be interesting with the “Occupy Wall Street” protests; here I am in Dubai. First let me qualify that I will only be in Dubai for a total of four days, and therefore all of my comments and observations are based on a very limited perspective.   

Having said that, here goes:
Wikipedia, "The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia .. ." There are 20 million people in the city of Istanbul. There are 4,320,000 people in the whole UAE.    

Dubai is probably the antithesis of the “Occupy” movement, and perhaps the model of the new society as envisioned by those who have gone a long way toward structuring both the world financial globalization, and the current global financial crisis. If you remember, the Bush’s (both father and son) were very good friends and extensive business partners with the royal family of the United Arab Republic. I understand that, contrary to some popular opinion, the Bush’s did not create the current money-resource crises. There were a great many other contributing factors, but they are a viable symbol of the initial first awareness that, “...something is happening here But you don’t know what it is Do you, Mister Jones?”

Only 18% of Emirates are nationals. If you are an Emirates man, and you marry an Emirates woman you are given 30,000 dirham before the wedding and 30,000 dirham after the wedding. You are also given bonuses for each child. The president encourages Emirates to boost the population, and he has had 30 children to provide a good example. For this population, there is free medical, housing, and other incentives provided to stay in the UAE which is comprised of nine localities including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.The rest of the population is 80% Indians, with a small percentage of Pakistani, Indonesians, and Europeans. They are here basically to provide services. They drive the taxis, work in the hotels, sell in the shopping malls, and do most of the work. The Europeans are here to make money. Dubai offers enormous incentives, including a “free zone”, which allows businesses to come here and operate with no local taxes and other creative incentives, including housing and medical care.

On the surface, Dubai is a prosperous, industrious, efficiently managed, and interesting city. The showcases like the Dubai Mall are filled with waterfalls, walk-through aquariums, cinemas, and shops with all the top brands worldwide. The mall was packed the entire day I spent there, and although I could see signs of some economic conservation in empty shops and anxious sales staff, there was also a great deal of commerce. The opulence here is best illustrated by the fact that most of the cars are Mercedes-Benz, BMW’s, Lexus, luxury land rovers, and even Rolls Royce’s. I did not see one single “fuel economy” car. I sat in a BMW tour bus for over 40 minutes with the engine running, and the air conditioner on because there is absolutely no concept of conserving fuel or resources here. The highways are like German autobahns with top speeds of 120 mph, and minimum speed of 60 mph.Dubai has modern highways and buildings that remind me of the 1950’s sci-fi covers on books by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury; buildings that rise up in strange geometrical shapes out of the vast Sahara desert like future cities on Mars. At night, everything lights up in a weird Arabian Las Vegas theme, but with a bit more exotica and a lot more class.

Arab men in white robes and head covers are the essence of “cool”. They have taken “cool” to a new level. They are aloof, and have no interest in foreigners. They have had the world by the balls for a long time now, and they know it. The woman also have a simple, elegant way of ignoring you completely. They know who has money and power, and who does not; and they seem to have no interest who those who "have not". 

There is some evidence that the rulers realized, because they are a very smart and very large family, that this domination would end. Their president was known to say, “I rode in on a camel and built my dream of Dubai. My son rides a BMW, his son will ride a Ferrari, and his son will ride again a camel." Oil reserves here are said to be enough for about another 10 years at the current rate of consumption. Therefore, the Royal family has been very busy diversifying; and they now own the bulk of their wealth in real estate and development. I doubt their descendants will be riding a camel anytime in the near future. The camels now are only for the tourists.

This is the world most of the upper class elite of the world think they would love to live in; and it was created for them. The reality is they are not flocking here. There are many exclusive buildings, villas, apartments empty. Yes, Richard Branson and Donald Trump stay here; and I’m sure many others, but the rich are not leaving wherever they are now to come here. Mainly, I think, because it is a made up place in the middle of the desert and once you've shopped, and dined, and gone dune hopping, and swam in the pool or ocean, and gone on a yacht; there is nothing else to do with all your wealth but more of the same. There is nothing left except to repeat all of those events over and over, reassuring yourself that you are rich and you are having a wonderful life.

When we talk about the current globalization of the world economy, we do need to remember that the minds that created Dubai out of the desert sands using oil to fuel their dream are the same minds that had a great influence on the current structure of the world economy. Perhaps they were not the most powerful influence, but they most certainly had a say. Therefore, Dubai is a small microcosm of what they envisioned for the world, and it is certainly evident in the slow change in the structure of America. Especially in the rise of upper class wealth, the loss of a middle class in America, and the influx of an immigrant workforce. These things may all seem coincidental, and anyone who suggests that there is some plan at work will be accused of being a paranoid world conspiracy buff. But there is no denying that the reality of these changes is having a profound effect not only on the structure of the American Dream, but on what that dream has meant to the rest of the world. Even though anyone who has studied American History knows that that dream has only been a reality for a small part of the whole, it is still a dream that is very much believed in, or had been until the past few decades.

It seems as if now the only choice most of us will have is whether we will live in a country based on this model of a moneyed upper class, and a large working or servant class; and the only distinction will be does the system provide for our needs. Dubai and billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates seem to have the same working model of providing for the needs of the people; while the current American system, and most of the rest of the world are oriented toward discarding the needs of the many, while sucking up more and more of the resources available for the few.

So here I am in Dubai, the working model for everything that is being protested against in the world; and although I am well-fed and sitting here by a pool in a semi-luxury hotel writing this, I can’t help wishing I was out there marching with the rest of the world…because, although I love to live in a world with plenty of food, water, industry, and entertainment, I would also like that world to be available to everyone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fethiye...home to the sea.

Turkey has been quite an adventure. I have met so many new friends, and had such a mix of experiences and feelings since I have been here. I have had some tears, much laughter, and a lot of new awakenings about myself and my journey.

When I was in Hungary I felt as if maybe I had made a big mistake coming on this trip by myself, and then I came to Turkey, connected with my Fellowship here and realized that I would never really have to be by myself anytime on this trip if I didn’t want to be. There are members everywhere, and I can go wherever they are.  Now that I have been with people almost every day, all day in Turkey; I am ready to spend some time with myself to sort through all the stuff that has happened.

Fethiye is a wonderful place, and I would love to come back and really explore this part of Turkey. I think I would want to find a place to stay for a while, but with less British tourists. The town and beach reminds me a lot of Maui when I first moved there in 1987.

I’m writing in the lobby of the hotel, and it’s breakfast time so there is a lot of distraction with people walking by; and I’m finding it hard to concentrate on what I want to say. I leave in a hour or so to catch the bus to Doloman Airport, then fly to Istanbul. I will be at my favorite hotel (IstanbulInn) for one night and then I fly to Beirut. I will only be there overnight in the airport, and then I catch my flight to Dubai. I have a full tour booked in Dubai, so I’m all set for my stay there. I have not done anything about my trip to India, and need to start working on where to stay and what to do there. I really feel like I need to rent a place somewhere for a month or so, and have a base to travel from. That is what I intend to do, but where or how, I have no idea…

I have spent a lot of time in Holland, Paris, Hungary, and here in Istanbul around people who are talking in languages that I don’t understand. In Holland I was with my very good friend, and I never felt uncomfortable with any of her friends speaking Dutch around me. In Paris, I was with my friend from Sydney, so I had someone to talk to in English. In Turkey, I have frequently spent hours with people speaking only Turkish. Most of the people have been wonderful about translating for me, and I know it has been a hard job to translate everything into another language. But my point in this writing is that I have a long history of paranoia about people, and have struggled for years to get over feeling as if people are not to be trusted; and that has been in my own country with my own language.  Some of those feelings resurfaced in Turkey, being around people I didn’t know. What I decided to do about it was this…I decided that no matter what thoughts I was having, I would smile and believe that everyone loved me. I practiced for most of the time, and what I discovered is that it worked. The feelings went away. What others really felt about me was none of my business; but what I felt was, and I could change what I felt. 

Normally, in my own world, I probably am not that concerned about how people feel about me, but out here in the wide universe it is a different story. I do not have my safe little house, and my safe little group, and my safe little friends, and my safe little world to go to. So, I must create my own safe place in myself; and to do that I have to believe that I am loved and cared for; and that I can trust the universe. So I spent a lot of time smiling and the times when I didn’t I could feel the difference.  So much of what I am experiencing is based on trust. I have to trust the people around me, I have to trust the universe, I have to trust myself and my own abilities, I have to trust the taxi drivers!…and I have to especially trust my own intuition.

I’m not sure if I’ve made any sense, and strangely I feel  as if all the time I spend speaking simple English to be understood is making it harder for me to communicate in my own language.  Probably, most of you would rather hear what I am doing…rather than what I am feeling, so I will try and mix it up.

The first day I was in Fethiye, I laid on the beach for the day, and that night we went into town and had a wonderful dinner at the Fish Market. You go to this open air place where there are fish stands everywhere, then you pick out your fish and take it to one of the little places where they cook it for you. They serve you salad and bread with it, and it all costs about 20 lire (about $8?). The fish is so fresh, and there are tables of people eating, drinking, laughing, talking (they really talk a lot in Turkey!). It’s a wonderful place. I went there twice with friends from Japan, Germany, Turkey, England…one of the best experiences of my trip.  I have had quite a few “best experiences of my trip” so far. The culture here is vibrant, and thoughtful, and intellectual, and interesting.

Another great thing I did was rent a bicycle!!...I've wanted to ride a bike since Holland. My friend's bike in Delft’s seat was too high, and it was very cold. Then, in Paris, my other friend never rode a bike and we were doing so many other things; also riding bike in Paris looked like a suicide mission! But when I got to Fethiye, it is a small place with little traffic and they rent bikes to ride along the beach. I tried to talk myself out of it several times, then finally I woke up the second day and said I’m going. My new friend here also had not ridden bike and didn’t want to try; so I did it myself. It was a very old bike, and not in great shape but I rode up and down the beach and back and forth to the hotel where we were all meeting. It was so great because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I got on and pedaled away as if I rode yesterday. So, next I will rent a scooter somewhere, and then maybe a real motorcycle!!...I am working my way up. Need I remind you all that I am 62 years old, so it is not the same as trying new stuff when I was 22 years old!!....But the most important thing is to experience life without letting my fears and doubts stop me!!

I am now in airport at Doloman; flight to Istanbul has been delayed 90 minutes due to air traffic. I had to take a taxi from Fethiya because I couldn’t confirm that the bus would pick me up. It is a very long drive over hills and not very good roads. Today it is pouring rain, and there were some mudslides on the way; which reminded me of home, as we have the same problem on the Pali from Lahaina to Kahului when it rains. Also, the mountains here are so green,  and look a lot like on upcountry Maui. It is a very beautiful place. 

About the rain; everywhere  I’ve gone it has been great weather, and then right before I leave it starts to rain. This happened in New York, and when I went to Holland it was sunny and warm in Amsterdam. Den Haag rained one day while I was there, but mostly it was sunny in Delft. When I left Holland, it began to rain and became very cold. Then in Paris we were amazed that it was sunny for our entire week, and then the day before we left , it started to rain. I was in Istanbul for 9 days, and the first 7 were very warm and sunny. It rained and got cold the last 2 days before I went to Fethiya. It was perfectly sunny and hot in Fethiya, and then last night it started to rain and has rained all day today. And now I go back to Istanbul, but I heard it is very cold; so I am off to Dubai, which is warm.  So the rain has been behind me, as I travel forward; but it is also ahead of me, with major floods in India, Bangkok, and southeast Asia. I seem to be in a sun zone which I am taking with me, and I hope that continues to work for me. May sunshine, peace, and freedom from fear continue to travel with me...thenomadrena.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Aloha dear Blog. It’s been a long time. I can’t really explain why I haven’t been blogging, except to say that I’ve felt like someone picked me up and threw me into a very large blender and turned it on. So many places, experiences, people and events have gone by so fast; and I feel like my inner voice was caught off guard, and unable to catch her breath even.

I am now in Istanbul, Turkey where I’ve been for a week and just today it feels like my spirit has caught up with my feet. I am in the middle of deciding whether to go on to Lebanon, as planned, or change my plans and go to Fetya on the coast of Turkey where my group is having a convention. There are several very good reasons not to go to Lebanon. The US Government has a standing warning for Americans not to go there, and right now they have had some violence on the news. The problem is changing my flights, which I am waiting to hear about. I think if I cannot get Airtreks to change my flights, I will just have to pay extra for the flight to Fetya (which I would have to pay on my own anyway), and a new flight from Istanbul to Dubai. If I do have to do that, I still think it’s a better option because I will be safer. I
When I was in Lebanon before, I was in Baalbek valley during a very dangerous time; they were at war with in Lebanon, and at war with Syria. There was fighting in Baalbek, and when I returned to Damascas there was bombing going on there. I was young, and fearless or very stupid , so I just continued on doing what I was doing despite the very dangerous situation. I am no longer young or stupid, and have no desire to put myself in that situation as part of this trip, which is mainly for my enjoyment!

Istanbul has been a wonderful experience overall. I’ve been with new friends from my group here, and am staying in a very warm and friendly hotel. The food is so good, the people are so friendly, and the sites are amazing. I have visited the mosques, gone on the ferry over the sea to Asia, shopped in the Egyptian Bazaar, and had incredible dinners with my new friends. Being here has settled me down a bit, and helped me get my breath back.

Yesterday I went to the Hamami, and walked into a place a thousand years back in time really. I was shown into a wood dressing room where I took off my clothes and wrapped in a thin cloth. I then walked through a room with a fountain and women sitting around also wrapped in cloth. The floors were all wet tile, and then I walked into a large room, very hot, with a large marble circle platform in the center. Around the room were washing places with women at separate fountains washing themselves. I washed myself and then laid down in the heat on the platform. I didn’t realize this was the place that the attendants washed you, so they asked me to move. For some reason, I was upset by this; probably a combination of the heat, and feeling so vulnerable there. The attendant then came and laid me on the platform where she scrubbed me all over with a rough glove and water. She did this treatment back and front with hot water. She then had me sit up and rinsed me with hot and cold water. Then she poured really sudsy soapy stuff all over me and scrubbed me back and front again. She massaged my body, and especially my feet which was out of this world wonderful. At some point, I felt so sad missing my husband, that I started to cry. I was crying, and the attendant noticed so I tried to explain to her that my husband “was finished”. She understood, and was so kind. The Turkish people I’ve met have been very warm and friendly. I didn’t feel embarrassed about crying there. It was all women, and several women smiled at me. After the attendant had soaped and rinsed me, she walked me over to the sinks and washed my hair. She then took me out, wrapped me in a towel and walked me to my dressing room. I sat on a stool in the room with the other women, still a bit tearful and for some reason now I felt more self-conscious. I sat there for a while, then got dressed and went to tip the attendant. She gave me a big hug. Afterwards, I drank chai and then went to the bank to get some money. On the way back to my hotel I started to feel very sick, like I was going to throw up. When I got to the hotel room, I did throw up the tea. My friend at the hotel (I’ve made friends with the young men who work at the hotel, and have all been to American) said that often that happens after the Hamami because of the heat, and maybe when I drank the tea too fast. I laid down for a bit, and felt much better.

Last night I went to meet my friend and go to a meeting. The meeting was in a hospital near the University in SultanAhmet. At the meeting we had four visitors from Japan. It was so incredible that we were translating the meeting; the man from Japan was translating the meeting from English to Japanese, and my friend was translating from English to Turkish so we all could share together. That also made me cry with joy, that our fellowship is worldwide and sharing with everyone.

Yesterday was an emotional day for me, and it seems as if something in me stopped and caught up to my feelings. So that is why I’ve felt like writing this morning, I believe.  Honestly, I think I need to try and write more not only to share my experiences, but to express how I am feeling and stay in touch with myself better. I have a tendency when I am overwhelmed to shut down, and just let events roll over me. That is now how I want to do this trip, but I seem to have been powerless not to do that the past few months. Which is not to say that I haven’t been very present and had an incredible time, because I have through all my travels so far. I just think I was starting to be overwhelmed, and it’s good that I stopped here in Turkey with friends and had time to catch my breath. I think of my family and friends often, and although the internet has been sporatic here at best, I am grateful for the contact I have with everyone.