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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pre-Departure Bucket List

I now have exactly three weeks left in Dubai, and I am freaking out.  I have had an incredibly fulfilling stay here, but I'm still going to cry like a baby when I leave this place and my friends.  I'm doing my best to finish up my school assignments and allow myself as much free time as possible.  That said, if I fail to complete the following list, I will definitely be going home unfulfilled in some way.  I won't be discontent, but I'll regret having missed these activities.  If you have any desire to join or aid me in my quest to do these things, let me know, and you already know I'll agree.

Absolutely Must Do:
The American study abroads frollicking in the desert at the AUD Desert Safari at the beginning of the semester

  • Return to the desert, either to quad-bike or just picnic  I just want to go be in the middle of the desert one more time
  • Ride a horse in the desert, either at a place like Dubai Polo Club or by wrangling an Arabian horse in the desert myself
  • Visit Abu Dhabi, specifically Sheik Zayed Mosque, this can be a really brief trip, I just want to see this mosque
  • Go to the mall or something in my abaya and hijab
  • The Burj al Arab, viewed from Medinat Jumeira
My Time Would Be Greatly Enriched If I Do:
  • Visit Muscat, Oman, to see the city and dive in the Indian Ocean
  • Go on a boat/scuba dive, just something in the water
  • Visit Atlantis and/or Burj al Arab
  • Do some souvenir shopping at Souk Naif

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Middle East Film and Comic Con

Last weekend, I and another study abroad from AUD, Kelsey, volunteered at the Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC).  Why did we decide to spend a perfectly good weekend doing unpaid labor at a venue we really had no prior interest in?  Well, we knew there would be celebrities.  And I personally love nothing more than a good people-watching session, and I can think of no better spot for people watching than a comic convention.

Volunteer spots were advertised through the school's career service website, so we contacted the agency in charge of the event, Extra Cake Productions.  We received a bit of instruction, notice that we'd be working in the Game Zone, and two shirts each.

Apparently, comic conventions are pretty self-sustaining events, meaning that once the planning is done and the first guests show up, there isn't much for a volunteer to do.  Also, a whole lot more people are interested in volunteering for comic cons than I had expected, so what little responsibilities were left to us volunteers were pretty well covered by others, which left us with more time to explore and utilize our free admission.

Since this is my first comic con, I don't have much to compare Dubai to, but it seemed to fit the expectations I had formed from geeky friends and the movie Galaxy Quest.  The comic con caters to a certain niche in society that I suppose I'm not really part of but can appreciate all the same.  I'll admit that the lack of anything Star Trek-y at this comic con left me a bit disappointed.  MEFCC had a lot more to do with gaming, from the large Game Zone where I was stationed to the amount of people dressed as video game characters, than I was prepared for.  Lots of people looked really cool in their costumes, but I had no idea who/what they were supposed to be.

A few highlights:
  1. Seeing people of all types of nationality and ethnicity enjoying something together with no hints of class or race segregation, besides a few VIP events,
  2. People in national Emirati dress somehow...nerdified, i.e. a man in a kandura and gutra with a painted mask on his face, a woman in abaya and Darth Vader helmet, and a woman in an abaya that opened to show a short skirt, crazy tights, and knee-high black leather costumy boots,
  3. Arab art, including graphic design pieces, original paintings, and Arabic comics and books,
  4. Taking pictures with everyone, of course, 
  5. Although I didn't get to chill with Samwise Gamgee like I thought I would, I went to a Q & A with Alan Tudyk, which was cool,
  6. Getting to play with stuff I normally wouldn't, including unreleased games and some role-playing/Dungeons and Dragonsesk game (didn't really get into that),
  7. Generally having free run of the place, free admission, and free food as a volunteer,
  8. Practicing my Arabic...even if my geeky vocabulary is rather limited,
  9. Getting our shirts that fit in nicely with our Batman theme ("With great power comes great responsibility" on the front, "crew" and the logo on the back), and at least one shirt is currently for sale to the highest bidder,
  10. Actually getting to help a few people so I didn't feel I was just taking up space.
The characters from Freej, if you haven't heard of this show, please google it

A guy from Assassins Creed, or so I'm told

Being shot by the Predator, or a really bad Costa ad

My roommate getting her face eaten off by a zombie

No idea who these guys are supposed to be

Alan Tudyk

At this point we'd pretty much take a picture with anybody
You can see many more pictures at MEFCC's Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bill Clinton's Visit to AUD

Bill Clinton and the Clinton Scholars
Today, the students at American University in Dubai got a great privilege that most students within the US don't even get to experience. We were visited by William Jefferson Clinton. The former president has now visited AUD six times and has a great legacy within the university itself. Pictures of Clinton shaking hands with the Sheikh and posing with former AUD students line the halls of our Administration building and dot the website. Since I'm attending AUD as a Clinton Scholar, I'm particularly grateful of the patronage and the bit of extra recognition we received today.

Asking each of us about our hometowns, schools, and what we think of Dubai
The news of Clinton’s visit actually reached students pretty late, but preparations were still made for a Q and A session in the cafeteria and opportunities for both the Clinton Scholars and SGA to take group pictures with him. Clinton has a warm, inviting personality which makes anyone he’s speaking with temporarily forget his celebrity status and encourages genuine conversation. His time with us American students was brief, but he had time to ask each of us about our background and how we are finding Dubai and AUD. The Q and A session was unmediated and chaotic, allowing for some redundant or down-right dumb questions to be asked, but the candid nature of the discussion was still pretty nice. The questions in these categories centered on Syria and North Korea, and their banality or hostile wording limited the scope of the discussion and wasted time. Worse than the few disrespectful questions was the general disrespect of students who showed up to watch the Q and A. The cafeteria was not an ideal place to host such an event, but students showed a great level of immaturity and disrespect by talking loudly during the event, leaving me temporarily embarrassed to be associated with them.

In case you were wondering, I was not chosen to ask a question, but I can live with that.

Mr. Clinton between the President of AUD and the President of AUD's SGA during the Q&A Session
That said, I am so grateful for AUD’s efforts in organizing the event, the effort made to include the Clinton Scholars, and of course for Clinton’s decision to visit itself. I’m blown away every week by the opportunities I have while in Dubai as a student at AUD. This has been an experience I will never forget on so many levels.

About Your Author

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Troy, AL, United States
I am a Political Science student at Troy University in southeastern Alabama. I have been given fantastic opportunities to travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other brief trips, to study and glimpse other cultures. I believe there is much to be learned about other people while studying, and I want to share my experiences with you.