The Two Bobs

“Well apparently there is a problem with the two bobs” Laura explained in her thick Italian accent. Elize and I stared at her at a complete loss. “What does she mean Gina?” Elize asked in her very precise South African accent which sounds more German and less British than many of the other South Africans — total mystery to me — don’t ask.  Sometimes it becomes quite confusing when we are all together trying to decipher exactly what the other person is talking about when we get stuck in our home country’s sayings, folk-lore and cultures. “The bobs!” Laura says waving her hand across her chest. Ahhh! Elize and I say in unison. Boobs! Laura they are called boobs not bobs. “Yes, of course — whatever. I once took a house slipper to the electrician because he asked for a ciabatta.”  I thought ciabatta was bread? “Yes, ciabatta is bread but it also an extension cord and a house slipper. How was I to know?” Laura explained to us with several hand gestures, a roll of the eyes and shrug of the shoulders; all in a way that only Italians can do.

Because many expat women in the UAE are somewhat confused as to what we can and cannot wear it, and where we can wear it; we sometimes cross the line of appropriateness. We are asked to cover our shoulders and knees while at the local mall, yet there are a number of women’s lingerie stores with very risky advertisements prominently displayed at the front entrance. For many women, it is extremely confusing. I remember when I first arrived staring with dropped jaw at the naughty nurse uniform and the stick on pasties in the front window of the Fredrick’s of Hollywood store. Fredrick’s is definitely a little risqué even for the United States.


“I hate it when this (circling her hand over her entire upper torso) doesn’t seem to work.” Maha explains with a natural, yet unintentionally sultry  Middle Eastern accent. As I understand it, some of the women from some of the Middle Eastern countries rely heavily upon their assests, either directly or indirectly, to get stuff done — not that this is much different from other countries, but it just seems to be amplified when you add sky-high jewel embossed stilettos, tight flashy shirts, fake eye lashes and an entire pot of MAC eye shadow. The combination is a killer presentation intended to lure unsuspecting man flies into a sticky web. It was just the other day that I caught myself saying at the mall, God, she looks sexy in that abaya! Definitely words I never thought I would say but then IT WAS an incredibly sexy, feathery, lacy abaya! (I promise the entire topic of abayas is a future blog post). See why it is confusing? This is definitely a culture that appreciates the finer things and there isn’t a shortage of expensive lingerie stores. Then again, there isn’t a shortage of cheesy lingerie stores either. I found the below items near the children’s pajamas at local store.

photo photo

See why we are confused? As expats I think we feel that simply providing these clothing options gives us a license to wear them, but in this culture we can wear them but we have to put a housecoat on top of it. Most cultures dress for the outside world, but the Middle Eastern culture dresses for their inside world. Their best is viewed by their private inner circle and our best is on display for everyone. It’s a little tricky to get into the swing of it.

Ramadan is Rama-Gone and Other Events from My Terrible Summer


Where in the heck have you been? I am asked by friends and strangers.

Well, it’s been a difficult summer. While many of you were tubing on the river, shaking hands with Mickey in Florida, and basking in the sun in Bangkok — I was having an absolutely crappy summer.  It went south during my dream vacation in the Seychelles when my Granny died. Sniffle. Sniffle. The fact that I wasn’t able to go home for the funeral escalated the downward spiral. It then continued straight south when I found out we had to relocate to a new villa — during Ramadan! This as you may not be aware, is not good because life in the Middle East comes to a near screeching halt during Ramadan. It would be the equivalent of finding a plumber on Christmas —do-able —but not easy.  Unfortunately for us, the business that is conducted during Ramadan is limited due to the emotional commitment of the holiday. The work hours are cut short which is really good for the locals because fasting during 100° temps is only suitable for the camels and other nonhuman reptiles. The commitment Muslims make during Ramadan seriously puts all other religions to shame. The Hindus are in and out of fasting before you can say tandoori chicken and the Christians haven’t formally introduced fasting. In fact, they go the other way and either feed you wafers at church, cake in the basement of a church or biscuits at lunch after church.  The Muslims, on the other hand, deserve some recognition because it takes some award winning who-ha’s to stick to a month-long, 12 hour-a-day fast in 100° of miserable, humidity-filled temperatures.


 You must have lost some weight, didn’t you? said one of my well-intentioned girlfriends who is no longer with us. No, I did not. Since I am a nervous eater and this relocation stuff makes me extremely nervous, I succumbed to the power of the French pastries (those damn French!) which are constantly peering at me from the glass counter of all the grocery stores. Since we are not allowed to eat or drink in public for the month of Ramadan, the holiday can breed serious eating disorders such as gorging crap in the car with the window shade up and generally eating like a malnourished Ethiopian. So during the Ramadan move when I wasn’t gorging in a sweltering hot car while looking for a new villa in the confines of the Ramadan hours, I was on the phone talking with people who are in a state of Ramadan fog because they are lacking the sufficient nutrients to carry on their daily chores. It takes far more effort to get something done during Ramadan than it does on any typical business day, and since it is an honor to be named after the Prophet Muhammad,  one must speak to at least fifteen different Mohammeds before reaching one that can help.  On a non-Ramadan day one must only go through four or so Mohammeds before finding one that is either in the department you need or one you can understand and they can understand you. So when I found one, I quickly became best buddies with Mohammed, my local ADDC (Abu Dhabi Distribution Council) representative who was a life saver in helping me connect my utilities.


So I rushed home to somehow tell my non-English speaking Indian cleaning crew that the water and utilities will be on soon only to find them furiously cleaning the villa with the green, algae infested water from my swimming pool. Whoa! Wait! What are you doing? This isn’t the Ganga River. This isn’t okay! This isn’t acceptable! This is isn’t the way my mother would clean the house! This isn’t allowed. I am sorry. Get out! I felt like the fish in the bowl screaming at Thing One and Thing Two in The Cat in the Hat. And of course no nobody paid any attention to me because number one, they didn’t understand me; and number two, there is always a certain amount of hand waving, commotion, and chaos that occurs regularly so it takes quite a lot to alarm anyone. It’s not okay to clean with green algae water! I hand motioned to the cleaning man who lives in a human tuna can. He responded with a smile and in his version of the English language, he said he understood me — and then he furiously kept on cleaning. What you should understand about living here is that many people speak many different versions of the English language, but most are totally un-recognisable by the native English speaker. It’s like when I speak Italian, which I pretty much lift from all the Dean Martin songs I know, and what I need to say isn’t included in the lyrics of Volare such as; Penso che un sogno cosi non ritorni mai piu. Mi dipingevo le mani e la faccia di blu, I just throw in some English to top it off expecting that all Italians will understand me. I believe that I mistakenly tell people that my heart has wings for them, but I guess there’s no harm in that. So anyway, some Indians speak what I like to call Party-English. It sounds so damn happy that it makes me want to do a Bollywood dance. What are they saying? I have no idea. But there is so much head bobbing and happiness involved that whatever they are trying to say is lost in the festivity of it all.


I frantically called my maintenance man Mohammed. Hello Mohammed, we seem to have a problem at our new villa. I do not have water. Miss Gina, Mohammed says like he is going  to tell me I have cancer. I am so very sorry for this inconvenience. I will send the workers over to your home inshallah. Inshallah?  You might wonder, what is inshallah? Well,  according to GrapeShisha it means the following:

You must have heard it multiple times daily. Inshallah literally means ‘If Allah wills it’, or generalized to ‘God-willing’, but really it is a term of fatalism, which you can’t really express in English, and it will be used to express an event in the future. This means that you could hear it peppered throughout conversations on a daily basis, since the future could mean in few minutes as well as tomorrow as well as next year. Let me give you an example: “I will see you tomorrow, Inshallah”. Or “We will work together, Inshallah”.

However, be aware, the term is not always used in this way, and in many instances when there is not a hope in hell of something happening, it is thrown in for good measure. “We will sign the contract tomorrow, Inshallah” or “Inshallah, you will get a pay rise”, implying that Allah does not want it so you don’t get it. It can even cover uncertainty – “Inshallah, the engineer will come tomorrow between 4 and 6”. That means you do not know if he will come before 4, after 6, at the allocated time or even at all! And if there is a pause between the end of the sentence and the Inshallah, it means either that the person is not so sure any more or really can’t be bothered.

So how exactly does this effect my water situation? Well, I wasn’t quite sure. I was really hoping that Allah was in my court and seriously pulling for me to have water at my house. And in the end, I guess he was because Mohammed said, We have located the problem. As if he were sharing an ancient secret that would flabbergast Indiana Jones. Your water tank is empty. Wait a minute! I have my own water tank? Where is it? It’s located on top of your villa. Like a cistern of sort? I haven’t seen a cistern since I was a kid. Oh my gosh! That should be on the PBS Antique Roadshow. I had no idea my water was on top of my villa. Yes, Miss Gina. Your water is located up THERE. Pointing upward as if my water tank is close to God in some sort of heavenly union. Maybe I am lucky and can shower in Holy Water on a daily basis? Miss Gina, we are here for you 24 hours a day. Any time you need support, please call me and we will be here. Mohammed says slowly with the intensity of a Italian mobster and the heart of a missionary.

Oh, my gosh, this place is too much sometimes!


Pazzo fottuto driver degli Emirati!

It sounded like a good idea. Kerstin, our little momma bear, decided to organize a desert safari for the PTA. “Steve goes dune bashing all the time by himself” she said trying to insert a little confidence into the plan. Well, I thought to myself, Steve runs 20 miles for no reason and is as thin as a Holocaust survivor even after a big meal — so that’s really not too comforting. The thought of tackling massive hills of sand in the middle of nowhere with an Emirati behind the wheel was more than a little frightening but if I didn’t do it, I looked like a ninny-boo-boo and everyone would gossip about me behind my back so I was forced into it.


We met in the school parking lot and began dividing people up into five car loads of five plus the drivers. Since HP is the only doctor in the group, we decided he would take the small children in case of a bloody nose or something like that, so he took the 5 elementary boys and the rest of us dispersed into the other SUVs. I was in the car with the Italians, Enrico and Laura, and Tonya, our Korean axis of evil (this is a story for another day) and her 4th grade daughter. I sat in front with our driver, Yousef, the Italians in the back seat and Tonya and her daughter in the third row.


We stopped off at a camel farm which really wasn’t a farm more like a desert feed lot in the middle of nowhere. I guess I may have downgraded it from a farm because there were no tractors. But then again, there’s really nothing to use a tractor for so why buy one? It’s not like they are planting wheat or anything so as far as implements go, they were sparse. So, yes, it was a feed lot, in the middle of nowhere. With camels. And we stood and took pictures. So far the trip was pretty mundane.


We piled back into the SUVs and headed on our way down a long sandy road which led to an even more deserted spot and as we drove the sand begin to get higher and higher. And all of a sudden the adventure began. The Emirati dropped the SUV into low gear and off we went! We started climbing a dune that had to be the height of a three story building. We drove across the very peak of a sand ridge which was barely a car width and then we would begin sliding sideways down the other side of the dune!

“How long have you been working here?” I asked the driver. “Four days!” he shouted with a smile.

OMG! OMG! I couldn’t breath. Between my allergies and the fact that I was scared I would let out an inappropriate blood curdling Stephen King scream, I couldn’t inhale air. I tried but it wasn’t happening. So I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see but this plan was subverted by Enrico’s praying in the seat behind me. As soon as we peaked and we were getting ready to fall down the other side, Enrico began to both pray and express himself in a way that only Italians can do.

Madre di Dio per favore non fateci morire dalle mani di questo pazzo degli Emirati Arabi!

Mamma mia! Stiamo andando a rotolare giù questa gigantesca collina di sabbia e morire.

sam7P8iyyzlUwqOqUb45tI9Hb65yoqWhUYDgJRtgIvY IQ-q7oGXQuqdZMcDHzwSalJ9cHLZ4JVfdtUlg8XlZ68 rzeGVXJgcYJbGhsg5BWOuyP3UyrpvAoJdSdpzp4dmUw 1kZpMtF3-dqsQjR-v7pcopVgnut733E6ta6iAvnUSH8

WTF! I was raised Southern Baptist so when we pray we don’t really want to ALARM God. We pray politely so not to inconvenience our Savior. Such as in a Jerry Falwell sort of voice. “Lorrrd,  Pleeease fiiiind the tiiiime in your verrry beeza schedule and hear our prayers our precious Lord” Where as the Italians pull the alarm, raise the roof, call the polizia! Some SH&%T is going down and we need GOD pronto, prego, allegra! And they speak fast, and loud, and close, and they have their hands going in a million different directions. When they discuss going to the supermarket, one would think the supermarket is on fire, not that they are simply having a sale.

So I am in the car with Enrico and some SH%&T IS GOING DOWN! And that SH%&T is us! We are going down a sand dune the size of the freaking Tetons in Wyoming. And my eyes are super glued shut and I would’ve been okay if it weren’t for the Italian in the back seat.

Wowzers! Madre di spaghetti ho bisogno di uscire da questa vettura o io potrei fare pipì miei pantaloni!

Odio la musica cazzo che questo ragazzo sta giocando!

I don’t understand. Enrico is excited, he’s happy, he’s crazy, he’s screaming and I don’t know if I should be concerned or enjoying myself. And then after an hour of emotional torment while listening to Arab club music (yes, didn’t know it existed either) it was over and we were delivered to a campsite, with food, henna, shisha, sand surfing, camel riding and a belly dancer.

IMG_1212 IMG_1226 IMG_1227 IMG_1214

After we ate, danced, smoked, and drank (non-alcoholic drinks) and then we headed back into the city. Yousef, our driver, watched soccer on his phone while driving 90 mph on the highway. Yes, I could’ve said something. Any GOOD mother would have said something but this skinny Emirati guy took us on the most amazingly skilled adventure of our life. My guess is at birth he drove himself right out of his mother’s womb. He was that good! If you ever have a chance this is one adventure that you will absolutely never forget. Seriously, if someone ever says do you want to go on a desert safari? Say yes.

Pazzo fottuto driver degli Emirati!

zAbSmXi1J1LO8jzjAil1MgUujQg8lDIS02T5Uig13gw 27nXn4p2aYQR3l9ioSKRbQwp0ApWOU7TDAj-rbtSy7s gOf213YrSb_3UiytP49qUvJzwIZ0nWgyHdqwq3KxZ0s l6qiWgvt0Iq5o8mPKM1z3xNud7O1r5KPHfB1Tj0gUBA KlHkhjcbpeeJ45HenK89eZ4r2gu61Fl_EBp7SGlu5pQ gzu78-6_ZR0wz7FaIVXr7eKIBkRWqxvRJ9Igllc6E6c ZeDIJxTDVPaAg4t5svur8cEH3j74V4nbsVmsU3KCs78