When the ringtones are louder than the buildings

Dubai, 75°F and sunny

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The first day in Dubai was crazy.  There are minor problems with getting the internet, a sim card, a bus, etc., etc.  Traffic is out of control.  A bus will sit in congestion for hours.  Some bus stops are air conditioned, women must sit in the first three rows of the bus, and the driver will not move unless all women are seated.  Natalia warned me about all of this.  I took the bus to the Gold Souks with my New Zealand roommate today.  We are getting by on the expat cost of living (alternatives seems to be more closely inline with the budget of the rich and famous).  The bus ride costs the equivalent of 50 cents and lunch is under $3.

The best time so far is actually sitting down, collecting thoughts and writing.  But there is the equivalent of a human zoo around me, always.  WHY IS THERE ALWAYS SOME MAN SCREAMING?!  One of the five daily prayers is being broadcast over loudspeakers, a french guy is screaming into skype, kids are singing, someone’s ring-tone is set for loud-as-hell, and some other guy is blasting electronica from his laptop.  I feel like a queen, being served tea while I sit here, but I am also wondering why this hostel is a sporting camp center?  There are always large groups of people – or kids – jumping around, knocking furniture over.  I need to find a research space somewhere.

And although I’ve just consumed “The Complete Residents’ Guide to Dubai” (12th ed., 2008), I need a more tailored and up-to-the-minute account of the UAE.  I need a more defined idea of the types of public spaces I’ll be looking to for some answers.  I’m escaping the congestion and chaos of Dubai with a trip to visit friends and former co-workers, Craig and Jen Kolstad, in Abu Dhabi.  Can’t wait to catch up with them, talk to the Urban Planning Council, and maybe squeeze in a dive to see those gorgeous Arabian Gulf coral reefs that I keep hearing about.

See you in Abu Dhabi.

(ps- i’m really excited to see the video of the 2008 Branner presentations!)

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