Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Travel Often Getting Lost Will Help You Find Yourself: D for Dubai

The city has a soul. It's imported, its a bit artificial but nevertheless it has a soul (unlike Doha). It's like California on steroids or rather I should say California dipped in gold.

The best word to describe Dubai would be flamboyant.
As you walk from the beach to inland, the two-storey villas turn into 50+ storey skyscrapers, palm trees turn into dazzling facade lighting decorations and the chill attitude turns into swagger.      

They basically decorated the desert with skyscrapers, including the world's tallest building, and adorned them with led lights. The lighting show of the Burj Khalifa and the adjacent dancing fountain are lovely tourist attractions. After a long shopping day at the Dubai Mall, having dinner at one of the restaurants by the pool while watching these shows is the very definition of 'touristing in Dubai'. Though I have to admit, the blinding lights of the city are probably bad for the environment and a squandering of resources. But, no one feels bad about their lavish lifestyle in this region. They had too much too quickly so they just don't care. Sigh..petrol money..sigh.  

Ohh the captivating murals!

JBR is much like Santa Monica's oceanfront walk. Slightly shorter beach walk accompanied by various restaurants, shops, kids' play areas and a small pop up market, all of which over headed by colorful murals. It's very lively and busy at all times.     

D for Dubai

A little bit obvious and maybe a little too ostentatious but they know how to carve the letter D.  The word 'man-made' is taken to a whole another level. Man-made island in the shape of a palm tree or a man-made Venice-like canal city..You name it, they made it. 

They have 24-lane wide highways whereas in Turkey we still have max 4 lanes in major highways. Nevertheless, the traffic is hectic at peak hour. 

They have built way too many entertainment complexes and tourist attractions. You gotta give credit where credit is due. They had a vision and the money to implement it so they turned a piece of barren land into a commercial hub. 

They brought the whole world to the desert. There is an indoor botanical garden. There is a mall with a ski slope inside. - How intriguing! People'd pay just to say "I skied and saw penguins in the middle of the desert." - There is a giant aquarium in another mall, right around the corner from the giant waterfall with cool sculptures. The variety of the fish and underwater plants in this aquarium is stunning. A visit to the mall turns into watching NatGeo. 

There is a game center which is like a sci-fi movie came true. The experience lives up to the tagline; "Live the game". The virtual reality glasses provide an immersive experience which is the dream of every gamer. From the design of the floor stickers to the graffiti on the walls, from the zombie-themed male and female icons on the restroom doors to the fastrack access named "hackers entrance" everything was well thought out, impeccable.

Last but not least, all service personnel, from the waiter at the Buddha Bar to the attendant at the IMG Worlds of Adventure park, had a big smile on their faces and genuinely wanted to help. They turned every interaction into a heartwarming memory. They have been trained well on how to serve and they didn't hate their jobs (unlike most people in Qatar) so it was positively reflected in their work as well as the tips they got.   

Overall, Dubai was like a hidden gem or an oasis in the Arabian desert. I've already started planning my next trip! 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Be A Badass Pollyanna

When I first moved to Qatar as a single woman who doesn't speak a word of Arabic, I took a chance on myself. Being an expat sounded so promising, full of opportunities to explore and develop both personally and professionally, that I didn't mind being in the middle of the Arabian desert. Since I've survived some pretty messed up shit before I figured I should be able to adapt to the Bedouin desert lifestyle. In the end, how hard can it be? That was the wrong question to ask. I should have asked, "Will I be able to live with myself once I adapt?".

This country makes you racist, sexist, ageist and bitter. 

The other day I found myself thinking a candidate with a newborn is not suitable for a social media position which would require her to control social media platforms after hours and on the weekends. All one needs is a smartphone with a good internet connection but you also need to be vigilant and eager to be online-all-the-time. I didn't think a 30-year-old woman with a baby is up to this challenge thus doesn't deserve to be given a chance. I wanted a young, single person possibly a fresh college graduate who grew up with social media (thus a natural user) and has no apparent ties (thus more flexible to be used and abused by the corporate slavery system).  

I also wanted someone non-Lebanese because you know "the Lebanese way", they tell you a story but the facts are quite different and they give you a million excuses to justify themselves even though deep down they know they aren't right. They also have that "I'm too good for this" attitude, they're not open to change as if they are already perfect.

Ohh, also I wanted a female candidate who is 'presentable' and relatively submissive since the position is embedded in the client's office. We need someone who can be cute and can ask for things so nicely that people would volunteer to make it happen.We need someone who won't get into a quarrel with the client, won't get tired of receiving contradictory orders and rebel. And you know boys..They don't take the path of least resistance, ever. A male candidate will reprehend the client for their impossible requests by day two and we will lose the client by the end of the week.   

Shufti? I've managed to be a racist, sexist and ageist all wrapped in one. Actually, when I first moved to Qatar and made my very first friends I criticized them for their racist/sexist/ageist comments. They've told me "give it 6 months and you'll catch up". I'm reporting from month 11; I've surpassed all expectations :/   

Don't forget the 'bitterness'. Merriam and Webster dictionary defines the word 'bitter' as "expressive of severe pain, grief or regret" or alternatively as "harshly reproachful, marked by cynicism and rancor". Yeap, that sums up mine and everyone else's feelings towards Qatar. 

I wasn't expecting rose gardens coming here but my almost 1 year in Qatar was full of disappointments. My job description was bogus along with the client portfolio. Whoever I tell this gives the same reaction; "Ohh, I experienced the exact same thing". They lie to get you to move to Qatar. They knowingly make promises that they cannot deliver and they are not a tiny bit ashamed of it. It starts with the driver who promises to pick you up at 8 o'clock and ends with your supplier who is bounded by a legal contract to deliver the goods on Monday. Neither of them delivers what they promised and there is nothing you can do about it. You won't find a better driver or a supplier and your next job will not be as promised during the interviews. You need to assume that most of the people you meet here will be dishonest, no one will tell you the truth or talk straight with you. 

This is how Qatar works. Everyone is here to make a quick buck and go back home. It's like everyone is intentionally doing a lousy job. They lie, they cheat, they deceive and they are incapable of shame. So, you need to assume the worst, lower your expectations and learn not to dwell on the things you cannot change. Let the sense of resentment settle in and then try seeing the bright side which is the ridiculous amount of salary you're being paid. There is no tax in this country because living in the desert with these people is tax itself. 

So, moving to the Arabian Gulf means constantly breathing a/c air, eating unhealthy, working for a job you never intended and dealing with lazy, dishonest people. You can choose to focus on the downsides and make your life even more miserable than it already is or you can learn a lesson or two from Eleanor Porter's Pollyanna. When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. You need to make a conscious effort to focus on the good. Play the "Glad Game" and find something to be glad about in every situation. It's the key to survival. 

Qatar is one of the safest countries with extremely low crime rates and rare (almost none) terrorist attacks. You're getting paid more than your mother and father combined. As a millennial, you can afford to have avocado for breakfast, lunch, and dinner whereas most of the millennials living with their parent because they cannot afford to live alone. It's almost always sunny and around 25oC and when it's not (when it's 45oC) you have a/c everywhere. And, there is always Facetime and occasional cheap flight tickets home.

Every day, every interaction is a battle between Pollyanna and my inner Queen of Misery. I am learning to count my blessings and stay positive in the face of adversity. I am super grateful for the values that are instilled in me by my family, the "can do" attitude I have been passed on by the women in my family and the incredible education I received through my family's money. 

I am determined to stay true to my core values and give this 30-year-old new mother a chance on this position. Even though chances are she's going to quit this job in 3 months and I'll have to look for a new candidate I still have to give her an equal chance. Maybe, she'll surprise me by abolishing my new biases that I developed in Qatar. After all, I have to practice what I preach otherwise I am no different than the chauvinists I often criticize.