That’s a Pisser

images-3“That’s a real pisser!” Mini said to me.

Whoa…what do you mean that’s a real pisser? I am no Lily Librarian. I have seen and heard a fair amount in my life but I didn’t expect my ten year-old to use the word pisser straight in my face. Continue reading “That’s a Pisser”

50 Countries

Something wonderful happened last week.

A large group of children and parents gathered for a bite to eat. Well, it was a little more than just food it was something much larger and interesting. It is what we call International Day and it is always a spectacular display. Over 50 nationalities side-by-side sharing cultures and traditions the expat way. Continue reading “50 Countries”

The Glamorous Life

entertainerLiving in possibly the world’s glitziest city takes cash. Cold. Hard. Cash. There might be an oil field a few kilometers from my villa but I am not on the payroll. So therefore, we expats have to find ways to make the biggest splash with the least amount of cash — because this awesome lifestyle doesn’t come cheap! Those gold flaked cappuccinos… well, they don’t grow on trees.

The expat secret to living the luxury lifestyle can be found in one little book or now that we are in 2015, should I say, one little mobile app. And everyone knows it. It’s called The Entertainer.  Continue reading “The Glamorous Life”

Women’s Work in the UAE

2593111251 Want to support women’s work in the UAE? Plan to attend this NYU sponsored event exploring the various ways women’s work in the UAE goes beyond “fixing” the women to transforming the contexts in which they live and work. Representatives from the education, entrepreneurship, private, and public sectors discuss cutting-edge research and private-public partnerships that support work-life balance strategies, nationalization efforts, and social policy aimed at encouraging women’s employment. In examining different ways to conceptualize women’s non-linear career paths, the panel moves away from simplistic stereotypes about women’s “preferences” or assumptions about their “choices” to a characterization of the micro mechanisms that facilitate their learning, career development, and long-term well-being.

Date January 11, 2015
Time 06:30pm – 08:00pm
Location NYUAD Saadiyat Campus, Conference Center

Fatima Al-Shamsi Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration, Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi
Rabea Ataya Founder and CEO,
Anisa Al-Sharif Entrepreneur and former Director of Policy and Strategy for Socioeconomic Development, The Executive Council, Dubai

Moderated by
May Al-Dabbagh Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, NYU Abu Dhabi

Please confirm your attendance to Maisoon Moubark before January 8, 2015.

Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

My Abu Dhabi Thoughts 2014

— The big smile of a laborer — because I know it comes from the heart

— The smell of shisha at a cafe — even though I don’t smoke

— The thrill of the city lights as they shine against the dark desert sky

— The willingness of a friend or a stranger to do almost anything — for nothing in return

— The way a friend from another country pauses to come up with the best word so I will understand them accurately

— The twinkle in an eye from a soul that has lived through tragedy

— The cheery conversation of two British kiddos during the morning school run

— The smell of foods I have never heard of — from countries I’ve never visited


— How I secretly am drawn to the chaos of miscommunication

— That I have almost grown to appreciate the smell of oud

— That I could now compete on a game show and correctly guess a sentence understanding only two words

— When disaster strikes we all pull together empathizing with people and countries we have never met or visited

— I am addicted to the surprises that the UAE constantly offers

— Realizing I now understand global politics, history, relations and also realizing that many people don’t

— My empathy for others has grown enormously

— What I want is for everyone I love to feel/see what I am experiencing

— I have grown used to driving in the chaos of the UAE roads

— I feel a little lost without a National dress

— Mam/Sir doesn’t bother me anymore

— It saddens me to know that many people around the world are misinformed about life in the Middle East

— The slang words I don’t understand but am always willing to try

— I love rubbing elbows with people in the supermarket

— The smell of rain is like heaven

— I love unexpected friendships that pop up out of nowhere

— And most of all, I love seeing the world in my child’s eyes


— My heart is full for the one we lost on a sad December day

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Thank you to the unknown artists whose photography and art I have used in this post.

I Was a Pilot @iPilot

ipilot_logo-01-300x300The Abu Dhabi PTA was invited to the iPilot grand opening at Yas Mall; and of course, we accepted because when else will we have the opportunity to fly an Airbus 380….in the mall? Never. So we went.

We arrived at the little iPilot office which is conveniently located near Cheesecake Factory for our flight simulation experience. The design was very airport like. The flight attendant greeting us looked just as spiffy as any Etihad or Emirate attendant and was accommodating too ushering us into the cockpit of what looked like a REAL PLANE!

Here’s what the company has to say on their website, “At iPILOT we enable you to fulfill your dream of being the Pilot of a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A380. Our simulators are so real that Pilots can train in them. They offer a total immersion experience with a fully enclosed Cockpit. You can take off and land to any of over 24 000 Airports around the World, with Hong Kong Kai Tak and St. Maarten being firm Favorites. Our Instructors, many of which are Experienced Pilots, guide our Customers through this experience of a lifetime. iPILOT has been featured by CNN, The Sunday Times, BBC London, The Observer, German TV Sat 1 and RTL. It has been voted by Sunday Times Travel as one of the hottest things to do… Book Your Flight Experience Today!”

Maha was dressed for the occasion. Sporting her usual uniform of heels, Bebe top, and ripped cool jeans; she was ready to take on any of the 24,000 airports mentioned above. Of course there is always a pilot and then a co-pilot; so we agreed to take turns. I would take off and Maha would land. As it mentions in the company info it FEELS like a real plane. Not that I have ever sat in a real plane cockpit but let’s just say, it’s a plane, in a mall, and it fooled me. All the buttons, and lights, and gears, and even a working headset so Maha and I could communicate our flight patterns. That’s industry talk. I know. You won’t get it until you too have had the iPilot experience 🙂

So we were prepped on the important stuff and then practically left on our own to guide the big bird into the air. I must say it is quite the sight to see a well-dressed woman behind the controls of an airplane. Yes, the UAE does have the famous female pilot Major Mariam Al Mansouri, but she wasn’t wearing stilletos and ripped cool jeans while flying an Airbus A380, which I was informed, is the big monster double decker of a plane. The whole experience was a little surreal. I felt the motion of the plane as I guided it off of the runway and up into the air. I managed to not harm anyone on board or take out any high-rise buildings in the process. I turned the controls over to Maha and she steered the plane in for the landing. We waved hello to the Burj Khalifa as we speed past enroute home. Two chicks. Two PTA moms. Bringing a big giant plane in for a safe landing. What an experience! We looked at each other as we were leaving and said, “Our husbands would love this!” Go and fulfill your dream of being an airline pilot. Go experience it for yourself. What a great gift to give for the holidays.


iPilot at Yas Mall is now open and there is currently a Groupon offer available. For more information on iPilot please visit their UAE website for general information or stop by and visit them at Yas Mall.

Carols, Marshmallows and Santa

Santa GirlYes, Christmas in the Middle East sounds like an oxymoron — and a little far fetched I agree. I too was blown away when I laid my eyes on my first Christmas tree. And of course, in full UAE style, there’s never just a simple Christmas tree but instead holiday sequoia-like trees that are three stories high and decorated by highly qualified Indian engineers. They spring up overnight immaculately decorated from top to bottom with an elaborate Santa village and dancing Filipino elves singing at the top of their lungs while enthusiastically pulling the willing into Santa’s house for a chat with the breaded guy. Even in the Middle East there’s a fascination with Christmas and all of the festivities; the colors, the baking, the snow, the giving. It’s the magic of the holiday and you don’t have to believe to participate. Muslims, Hindus, Shinto and Buddhist lined up in long queues to snap a pic and share in the joy.

This weekend we attended our first Carols in the Desert which has become an Abu Dhabi tradition for expats and some locals to drive 45 minutes into the middle of the desert to cook, dance, sing, and camp. This year over 2,000 people attended making the place look sort of like a festive refugee camp with the barren desert dotted with family camps spread over a large area of sand dunes. We arrived past dark without any idea of where we were going. Dragging a rolling Nascar cooler through the sand, up the dunes and stopped just as we crested the top only to find our friends had given up at the very same spot. Unable to see, unable to walk, we all decided this looks like a good spot. Since I had never attended I had no idea what to expect. Our Arizona friends, remember them, the Partridge Family of the Middle East? They were there of course because they will bust out in a song and strumming a guitar at any given opportunity. I could faintly hear them jamming away on the other side of the camp. In fact, many of my friends were there but it was so dark you couldn’t see. Hello. Hello. Hello. You could scream into the pitch dark night. Everyone around us was keeping a close eye on their small children for fear they would wander off and end up as camel food.

My friend Kerstin brought along ginormous marshmallows and they were the talk of the festive refugee camp. Never knowing what will be the conversation piece that pulls people together from the far corners of the desert, I was not surprised that it was the incredible hunk of gooeyness that was on the end of our camp fire stick. “Where’d you get those marshmallows? They’re like incredible. They’re like on steroids. They’re like a science experiment. They’re like the size of my bra cup. They’re like the size of my jock cup. They’re like a two-day meal. They’re like swelling up in my belly and I am not feeling so well.” Looking back on the event, I believe if I had a little more insight I would’ve definitely been better prepared for the Carols in the Desert. I would’ve made sure I had on a costume. Maybe a Grinch or a Mrs. Claus. I would’ve brought a lighted Jedi sword, a headlamp with an adjustable strap, popcorn, glow sticks, a pop-up tent, and maybe a glow in the dark frisbee. I believe that could possibly make Carols in the Desert an extraordinary event. There’s always next year and many opportunities in between to practice for perfecting the practice of being a festive refugee.


The Expat Calendar


We arrive in a limo jet with the clothes on our back. Oh, my, God, this place is hot! we say through perspiration. We heat ramen noodles in the hotel sink while we adjust to the noise, and the smells, and the scene. “Why did you bring me here!” we shout to our spouse. I need something familiar, I need my good friends, and I need my mother! We rush to organize paperwork we don’t understand.  You need what?!? I just gave you that now you need it again? I need to talk to what man? I can’t understand him. This is not how we do it in my country. We form lines and queues. Why did you butt ahead of me? Come on, I need this paperwork by next week or the school is going to kick my kid onto the street!


We are still waiting on paperwork and heating ramen noodles in the hotel sink. Yes, our lives look fabulous as we lay by the pool but what else is there to do when we don’t have a clue? We are completely lost in a land we don’t understand. So don’t hate us as we hang out in a grand hotel and gather our brains that have turned to complete mush, while we fight to pull it all together in a system we do not trust. This is complete idiocracy we silently scream as we shake our fist to the man behind the counter. Will I ever have my identity back? My passport, my visa, my license too? We are down to a plea as we cry to the man. The kids are tugging our legs as they cry too. Please have some sympathy for us this place feels like a zoo.


Ahhh, we have chosen a villa and our shipment will come soon. You have 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and maid’s room? You think we live grand but our neighbors are junk collectors who slaughter goats in their garden as our kids peer from their bedroom window crying out to stop them. We did not sign up for this. This is not the suburbs. People do not own peacocks, and 10 puppies, and erect large privacy screens 30 feet high, so we cannot accidentally catch a glimpse of their wives thigh. We lived in neighborhoods, and threw block parties, and mowed our grass. We shared power tools and shared gossip about what was going on about town, so please forgive us if we seem a little shocked, because this is not how its done where we are from and we need a little time to adjust to the goat slaughtering, the smell of curry and the ungodly heat of the sun.


Vroom vroom! This town is going crazy because the F1 is coming soon. People are talking, the place is buzzing, and we starting to get used to it now. We have our visas, our villas, our license, and our Emirates ID too. We feel like a person again and we are ready to have some fun too. The concerts are the hot topic; who is coming, who is going and how do we get the tickets. Our kids have friends and we have made some lovely parents from school. We are no longer crying for our mothers or our friends from back home, we are organizing Harvest Festivals, searching for canned pumpkin and making plans for Thanksgiving. We took a deep breath and started to get in the swing, we now have internet, TV and our preferred mobile phone. We are starting to like it here and not missing home.


What the heck just happened? They are erecting Christmas lights! It looks really festive, this is really weird. Why would a Muslim country erect Christmas lights and sell Christmas trees? This is not what I learned from TV. Ahh, it’s not Christmas lights its the UAE National Day. This place will get crazy just like Mardi Gras; except it is all about the UAE and the celebration of its founding. We dress in crazy clothes, we eat traditional food, and we pet camels. There is a huge parade and the cars are decorated. It’s all about the UAE and how far it has come, while still hanging onto tradition and just having fun. We start to feel like we are apart of something different and that’s okay. We are beginning to feel like an expat in a good way. People are talking about holiday break and where they will go. The newbies will race home to celebrate Christmas with family, while the seasoned expats take off to Rome, or to some other far away place on the globe; and send their family a note to meet us over here instead of grabbing a plane to go home.


Whew! We all return from holiday vacation and we are recharged to tackle this country with new gusto. The weather is fabulous and now we are hooked. We can finally see it’s a wonderful life if we can overlook the disorganization, the drivers, and the kooky stuff. We’ve decided we like this place and the people as well. Being an expat is kind of neat. The people are inviting, and our kids love it here too. Living on the beach is fantastic and trying new food is easy when you live in a country so culturally diverse. January is the month to just kick back and relax and take in all the beauty this life offers us up. We swap stories of the countries we’ve visited and the people we’ve met and how to squeeze out every last drop of our newfound adventure and our new attitude.


We continue to bask in the beauty of it all and talk about far away places as we hang out on the beach sipping cocktails and listening to jazz, wishing we could share it with the people back home, if they’d just climb on a plane come visit us here. There’s nothing to fear it’s a safe place we say to them. Turn off your TV and listen to me. They have no idea how big this world is and the enormous beauty we see, as we try to wrap our arms around it all. It’s hard to explain to the people who can’t see it and we would love to share just one day with them. Please get on a plane before the weather gets hot. We beg for them to visit but many do not.


The weather is still beautiful and we are enjoying this magical place. Someone is playing bagpipes on the beach. How awesome can that be? We take seaplane tours, we take desert safari trips, we take the kids to the sand dunes. We drive to Dubai, we go to Oman, we talk about the camel beauty contest and the camel races, we eat, we dance and we meet new people too. We join sewing classes, we taking cooking lessons on the beach. We drink gold cappuccino and take Mosque tours, we take helicopter rides and go to the zoo. We absorb everything this country offers and more as we count down the days that weather allows us to play.


April is all about spring break. Where are you going? We organize with our friends. I think we’ll go to Thailand. I’m sorry but we’ve already been. Have you been to the Seychelles? We ask our friends. What side of the island has the strongest currents, should we stay in a resort or rent a villa? What country has the best food? Korea or Bali is what I have heard. We may go to Australia someone else said. No, you must go to Singapore if you haven’t already been. I know we seem like a bunch of spoiled children but what would you do if you were in our shoes? Wouldn’t you jump on a plane and go visit all these places if they were right there at your finger tips too?


Here comes the heat. We are limited now. We are beginning to wander back to the malls to catch a movie or an indoor ski slope, next door to Cheesecake Factory and the place that sells fizzy soap. We head to Adventure Headquarters and jump on the trampoline or just take a stroll, through the manmade entertainment that the UAE offers, to amuse us while the sun heats up to unbearable temps. The Emirates Palace, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab are just a few of the places we visit we it’s hot to keep us busy during the indoor season.


We feel our lives winding down as we begin to finalize plans for the summer. Where we are going and who will see. How many cities will we visit and how long will it be? Who can fit us into their homes for more than a week? We are very excited to see our families and tell them about our lives in the UAE. It feels like an eternity since we moved across the globe and away from our homelands. How much we have changed and how small the world has become. We may sound like blue bloods as we tell our stories of things that many will never see, but to be honest, nothing feels as good as being home with our families.

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Thank You


Thank you for everything you do.

For working in miserably hot conditions that would make others crumble. For leaving your families for an opportunity that some cannot comprehend. For all of the difficult work you do to make our lives more enjoyable.

Thank you for cleaning the toilets. The floors. The laundry. The sidewalks. The dishes.

Thank you for being kind.

The kind of person we feel comfortable allowing into our homes, our lives, and into the hearts of our children. The kind of person who has our best interest at heart. The kind of person we will miss when we return home. The kind stranger that does their job with a smile on their face.

Thank you for being that kind of person.

Thank you for being there.

There to carry our groceries and to clean our pools. To wash our windows and our car. To drive us around. There to manage the things that make our lives possible. To maintain all things that seem impossible. Being there to do the mundane. As we sometimes pass by without seeing you.

Thank you for being where you are needed.

Thank you for doing that thing.

That thing that is beyond understanding. The thing that springs from the ground and becomes a community before our eyes. The thing that nobody else really wants to do and the things you don’t fully understand. The things that we need but don’t realize it. The things you do knowing it will not be appreciated or acknowledged.

The things that make a difference.

Thank you for giving us a gift.

A little glimpse of the globe and a better understanding of our place in the world. Thank you for extending a helping hand with only the best intention. Thank you for the new definition of community and the lesson in compassion.

Thank you for your work which has created our beautiful memories.

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The 6 Girlfriends Every Woman Needs

cropped-1454943_10151811784198440_1420869117_n.jpgEvery girl needs a excellent woman in her life. Seriously, how can we make it through the chaos without a gaggle of girlfriends? They are there for us in a variety of ways. Maybe not the same girlfriend every time, but a different one for a different need or a different chapter in our lives. Where ever we find them or for whatever reason — life is always better with your girls.


1. Mamma Bear: She bakes cookies, wears mom jeans and she’ll babysit your kids when you’re out of town. If your plane crashes on the way home you’ll leave the kids in her trusted hands. She quilts, scrapbooks and does other crap like that. When she drives she probably doesn’t exceed the speed limit unless she’s rushing a feverish kid to the urgent care. She thinks dressing up is putting on lipstick regardless of whatever else she is wearing. She wears a fanny pack stocked full of bandaids and neosporin and totes a snack cooler full of orange slices and avocados. She’s an old-fashion mother who sets rules and sticks by them. That’s why you’ve willed both the kids and the insurance policy to her  —  who else could handle 1,2,3 more kids?

2. Mrs. Perfect: She is perfect. Period. She never has a hair out of place, mismatched clothes, or a handbag that isn’t perfectly appropriate. Rock climbing? There’s a bag for that. Rolling Stones concert? Something functional; yet just a little edgy. Her car smells like L’Occitane. Her closet is colored coordinated. Her sheets are sprayed with some foo-fooey, lavender-scented Pottery Barn scam in a spray bottle. She’s the perfect corporate wife who will win her husband a promotion by smiling appropriately at a dinner party. She’s the friend you call when you have no idea how to decorate your new house. She’ll match your drapes to your sofa and your pajamas to the bed comforter. She will go ape wild in Williams Sonoma whipping up a housewarming basket that is so gorgeous you’ll never want to unwrap it — so you’ll just sit it in a corner of the kitchen and dust it until the cellophane cracks open.

3. The Mysterious Girl:  She wouldn’t be caught dead doing strenuous activities like tennis and zumba. “I’ll catch you Pansies at the club.” She wears sky-high heels, tight pants and has every cosmetic compact produced by MAC. She is too cool for school and doesn’t try too hard at anything. She sits quietly when all the other girlfriends are cackling over something pointless. Nothing really bothers her and she behaves like nothing really surprises her. She’s level headed and doesn’t rush into things. When she loves you: she loves you dearly. But when you get on her bad side — you are there to stay. There’s always something secretive about her — kind of like she buries her past lovers in the back yard. She’s the friend you go to when you have really big problems because she’ll hide you from the authorities and she has a few “key people” on speed dial.

4. Miss Innocent: She wears a cross around her neck given to her by her grandmother when she was in 10th grade. She covers her mouth a lot because she is astonished by most everything she hears yet soaks in all the juicy details like a dry sponge. Strangely, she sings all the words to the most explicit rap music as she twerks till dawn at all the ladies nights. She doesn’t drink because it’s against her religion yet will shockingly light up a cigarette as if she’s had the habit all her life. She buys her clothes at the grocery store and still manages to throw it all together. She’s the girl that reminds you that life is good. Just roll with it, flow with it and everything will be just fine. She silently assures you that it’s okay to be yourself regardless of the situation, the location or the company. You are you and that is good enough.

5. Burpee Queen: On the otherhand, Miss Burpee reminds you that you are not okay the way you are. She’s the girl who shames you out of wearing sweatpants to the grocery store. Who challenges you to put on the heels that are way beyond your comfort zone. She researches the new cellulite cream and reminds you that you should use it. She knows all of the gym instructors by first name and spends her spare time flexing for selfies with a selfie stick. There’s not an ounce of fat on her tomboy body and yet she is still at the gym every single day. She does pole dancing, windsurfing, kayaking all with equal skill. You hate her. You love her. You want to kill her but she’s the friend who kicks you in the bum when you need it and is a living example that you can be better you if you just get out of bed and do it.

6. The Diplomat: Brings up the probing questions. She’s got the MBA hanging on the wall at home and had she’d not been more interested in having fun in life, might have went on to law school. She’s the one that keeps you in check. Did you ask this question? That question? Do you completely understand what is going on? She seriously never wants to be the one that rains on the parade; but then again, how do you know for sure that this is what it seems….she might ask. You love her because when you need to be serious you give her a call. When you need a confidante or an informal advisor, she’s there with her thinking cap on. And when you need to have fun. She’s there too. She’s cool, she’s calculated, and she’s J. Crew all the way.


Girlfriends. My girls are intelligent. Nothing gets past them. They enrich my life and they have a huge heart. Always quick to lend a helping hand to someone who needs it. They are nurses, teachers, marketing gurus, artists, and managers. Thick as thieves. Stuck like glue. Birds of feather. Six different countries. Six different languages. Together by choice or by necessity. My life is always better with my girls.

These are my girls. Tell me about yours.