Friday, July 29, 2011

My Big Bus Tour

“Traveling reminds you of who you forgot to be.”

It’s easy to let our daily lives consume us, and easy to lose ourselves in the process. I mean our true essence. The ‘you’ that laughs at the silliest things and the ‘you’ that dances along with Jennifer Beals to the song, Maniac, while watching Flashdance. That was me last Thursday, 6pm Dubai time. I also shimmied my maracas to every song in the movie, Burlesque. I find the heat intriguing and the fact that I cannot understand a good goddam thing the Pilates studio’s driver says to me, amusing. This is who I am.

It was July 20th and I had wanted to play tourist and see Dubai. Oh, I saw Dubai all righty. I decided to take the Big Bus Tour, an air conditioned double decker bus that travels around the city. You can hop on and off whenever a sight interests you.

I was genuinely excited. I love tours and buses. I love taking the bus in NYC. It’s the best way to see any city. And if you get over the fact that you look like a big ol’ dork, it’s really fun. At 100 degrees (without the oppressive humidity) I decided to brave the heat and sit outside on the top deck, which was covered but still rather warm. I was going to take advantage of the view, weather be damned.

I had my hat, sunscreen and water at the ready. Bring it on Dubai. I plugged in the headset for the running commentary as we motored along. “Islam is the official language of Dubai... Islam means voluntary submission to God.” We drove through downtown and stopped at two malls. Yes, malls here are landmarks and considered sights to see. I took a pass. I’ve been to three malls since I arrived and I’m pretty sure that there’s not a whole lot of culture going on inside.
The Burj Khalifa  is pretty extraordinary. It cost $1.5 billion, stands at 2,717 ft, is the tallest building in the world and has the fastest elevator at 40 mph. It also has the world's highest occupied floor at 160. When I have a free morning, I'm going to take a ride up to experience the view.

I was enjoying being outside. Just me and the hot wind ripping at my delicate face. And then, before I finished my small bottle of water, my legs and heiny felt as if I was sitting in a puddle. I wore shorts (bad idea due to the naked skin on plastic seat sticking factor) I was at once, sticking and sliding, though I didn’t care, because I was sightseeing in the Middle East and I was ME!

I switched buses so I could take an hour Dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek. A client of mine said this wasn’t to be missed. Unfortunately I had to wait an hour until the next cruise was set to depart. I wasn’t sure of the bus route and if it would wind itself around in time, so I jumped off at the Creek stop. Better safe than sorry was my attitude. I was sorry about that attitude because just walking from the bus to the boat, brought even greater sweating. And since the boat wasn’t to leave for another hour, they kept the air conditioning off.

The boat was empty, save for an Asian mother daughter duo. I took a seat and tried to meditate, so that I might ignore the fact that I was sweating from my elbows and between my toes. The daughter sat down right next to me. And I mean RIGHT NEXT TO ME. The friggin’ boat is empty and you choose a seat next to me? Explain.

I turned to her and said, “You have to sit right here?” Yes, it was sarcastic with a side order of bitch! But my knees were dripping and I needed room to wring out. She said something to the effect of, “My mother and I were sitting here.” What? Her mother was sitting across from me and looked mighty comfortable; in her own row, I might add. As I picked up my bag and slid (literally) down a few seats, I muttered under my breath, “That’s okay, I’ll give us both some personal space.”

A few minutes later, the daughter asked one of the men selling beverages if he had change for 500Dhs (about $138US) because she wanted a drink, which cost 5Dhs ($1.38US) He did not. She then asked me but I didn’t have change either. I immediately asked myself what I was doing. It was hot and she was thirsty and it’s $1.38. I took out 5Dhs and handed it to her. She tried to refuse but I insisted. I said, “It’s okay, just pay it forward.” I’m not sure she understood.

She bought her 7-Up (that’s only going to make you more thirsty) and I looked at her mother and then at the Pakistani beverage man and said, “See, spreading the love.” They in turn responded with what looked like, “See, crazy lady, with dripping elbows.”

The boat slowly filled up and we had a nice crowd as we took off down the creek. Can this boat go any slower? I thought I was going to fall asleep. It was relaxing to say the least. I wish there was more to describe for the reader here but basically I saw creek life, and the city from a different perspective.

After the cruise was over, I waited outside with the other passengers, under an awning, for the Big Bus. And we waited. And we waited. As the temperature climbed, I started to feel claustrophobic. I tried to relax. I breathed deeply, and thought of glaciers.

In the 40 minutes that we waited, taxis came and went, and with each passing one, I asked myself why I didn’t hop in and call it a day. It was just like when I didn’t get a cab when I was in Prague, and dragged my suitcases to my hotel over cobblestone streets in 95 degrees.

I’m sorry that my shoulders aren’t covered and my shorts are above my knees (sometimes it’s too hot to be 100% respectful) but what, Mr. and Mrs. Arab family, do you not understand about waiting your turn in line to board the bus? Two families of four, confidently and boldly, cut to the front of the line, as if the 15 of us infidels didn't exist.

The balls. The gall. The rudeness. I wanted to say something but I promised to keep my nose clean. This is why there’s unrest in the world. Impatient and selfish people, who only see what they want to see, while carrying a sense of entitlement like a trophy.

I hopped off at the Dubai Museum, located in the Al Fahidi Fort. The fort was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. Think the Arabic version of Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. (only without celebrities) Instead, the aim is to present the traditional way of life in Dubai

Back on the bus again, we passed gold, spice and textile souks. Cardamon anyone?! I was a little pressed for time, because I had to get to work, so I didn't hop off. The last bus stop was at yet another mall, so I peeled myself off of my seat, climbed down from the bus and hailed a cab. Look at me wising up. 

Stay tuned for tales from my desert safari.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Dolphin in Dubai

I’d like to think that my teaching skills improve with each and every, “Pull your navel to your spine”, that I utter. I’d also like to think that I can still become a professional dancer. One of my private client's is pregnant and I had her do a modified upper abdominal curl. I swear on my dead dog Little Ricky, that I saw her baby rise to the service and pop her belly out. I almost had an aneurism. I don't think that should've happened. I kept my cool and quickly moved on to another exercise. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing after all.

And then I yelled at a client. She was bitching (and not the first one to do so) about how she couldn't feel anything when we were doing an exercise on the Reformer. She wanted to use more springs to make it heavier. I said, (and I may have raised my voice a wee) "You don't feel anything because you're not doing it right." I realized that this wasn't Pilates Boot Camp or a military drill, and immediately started back pedaling. I think I sweet talked my way out of it but I realized that I might have gone too far. My reaction truly came from my passion. Okay, maybe it also came from being a 'control enthusiast' but my heart was in the right place.

I have to blame the following faux pas on my education, or there lack of. I told my Serbian neighbor, and co-worker, that she was wrong when she said that Washington D.C. was the capital of the United States. I went on further to say that, "The United States doesn't have a capital.” I asked her if she learned that in Serbia. I said that I wasn't sure if D.C. was a state. This was not, I repeat, not, one of my finest moments, and if my parents are reading this, they must be very proud. I said that I was confused and not to hold me to any of it, but inside I was almost certain that I had never heard of the United States having a capital.

I Googled as soon as I got home and sure enough, the Serbs were correct. I have yet to apologize for my gross and embarrassing error and I hope to 'Allah' that they haven't already gone and spread the word in Belgrade. It is Belgrade, isn't it?

I went to Dolphin Bay at Atlantis in Palm Jumeirah this morning. It's a man made island in the shape of a Palm Tree. WHAT?!! I wouldn't normally do something like this but, please, a man made island in the shape of a palm tree. You have to. I also knew the water would be cool (they have to keep the dolphins breathing) and so what the hell.

It turned out to be really fun. The weather wasn't too bad and I was able to walk around without taking a humid sweat shower. I latched onto an Indian couple from England, who were on their honeymoon. C'mon, who doesn't want a little Dani action on their honeymoon.

They were very sweet and true to being newlyweds, when it came to buying the stupidly expensive pictures (that they try to sell you when you’re still feeling a high from swimming with dolphins), the husband could only think of their budget. He made a comment about their wedding photographer being cheaper than the photos. She wanted the full tilt boogie on a CD. Ah, marriage. It was such a racket. I bought three.

We all had a chance to hug our dolphin, whose name was Danita (it was meant to be), for a photo op. My hair was blowing in the wind so I shouted (as only a New Yorker can) at the photographer standing on the beach, "Wait, my hair.”  I fixed it, and then, “Okay. Now." Please, this could be my next headshot. I'm always thinking.

When I got home, I stopped off at a local restaurant for lunch. It's getting a bit tedious to constantly hear, "Will that be ONE?" Or "Are you ALONE?" every time I go out. The best was the woman who checked me in at Dolphin Bay. When I walked up to her podium to give her my name, she immediately said, "Oh, I think your husband just went inside." When I looked at her like she had three tits, she said, "Oh, I'm sorry... I thought he was... Never mind... Just one then?"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Something About The Heat in Dubai is Making Me Bloat

I'm convinced that the heat and humidity is making me retain water. I noticed it two days after I arrived, when I STILL felt as if I had swallowed a balloon (already blown up of course).

And I don't know what it is about the lighting here, but I was in the cab the other day, and when I looked in the rear view mirror, my neck had lost all of its elasticity. Had it always looked this way? Is the lighting in my apartment back home THAT bad? Is the sun duller in the states, than it is in Dubai? How could I not have noticed? And who said that mirroring the walls in the Pilates studios was a good idea? E V E R Y W H E R E I turn, there's my creased and falling neck.

What am I supposed to do? There isn't a moisturizer on planet earth that will save me. If I don't mind suffocating, I suppose I could pull a Diane Keaton and wear a turtleneck. At least I wouldn't have to look at it. And weep into my creases. Did I mention that it's 104 degrees out at this very moment? Project turtleneck will have to wait until winter. Eventually, I'm going to be able to pull the loose skin to the back of my neck and hold it there with one of those Potato Chip bag clips. Don't think I won't.

Nora Ephron had it right, as I do feel badly about my neck. It's one of life's truly cruel jokes.

I had a Pakistani cab driver pick me up (in his car) last night to take me to work. When I told him that I worked in a gym (It's much easier than saying Pilates studio) he asked me what women worked on when they went to the gym. It took 10 minutes to understand his question. But when I did, I said, "Stomach, arms and butts."
He questioned, not understanding, "Butts?"
I said, "Glutes."
He repeated, questioning, "Backside?"
All I was trying to do was not use foul language or insult him but I'd had it.
"ASS! We work on our ASSES." He smiled at me through his rear view mirror and laughed. "Oh, yes, ass."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sassing It Up In Dubai

Let me get this out of the way, since it just happened. I was watching Oprah in Dubai (I'm in Dubai, not Oprah) and it was the Australian episode where she takes her show down under. At the end of the show, Australian celebs like Keith and Nicole, Olivia, and Russell, walk on stage and sing Peter Allen's, "I Still Call Australia Home"

I've been to cities that never close down,
From New York to Rio and old London town, But no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home.

They unfurled a giant Australian flag over the heads of a kabillion member audience and the Qantus Choir was singing back up. I was almost in tears. A sense of pride washed over me and for a moment, I actually felt like an Aussie. I had to have a sit down to remind myself that Australia was not, in fact, my homeland.

I feel better now.

I started teaching Pilates three days after I arrived a little over a week ago, and I've wasted no time in bringing my special brand of humor to the ladies of Dubai.

I believe it was my third Pilates Mat class when I casually called a woman of French persuasion 'Frenchie', when I wanted to get her attention.

For whatever reason, I felt an instant closeness to the clients and I've been letting the sarcasm and brashness fly with reckless abandon. Both of the Pilates studios are all female, which lends itself to a supportive sisterhood kind of vibe. That, and no one cares if their socks match their shorts. I'm speaking of myself of course.

If you permit me, I'd like to illustrate, through the retelling of actual scenes, my innate ability to embarrass myself in Dubai just as I do in Jersey. I like to think that my, 'what's on my lung is on my tongue' attitude, knows no geographical borders.

Pilates Reformer Class
Me: "Let's find our neutral pelvis. This might be politically incorrect but imagine that you're balancing a Martini on your pelvis. Don't spill it." Laughter from the class. In case you don't know, Muslim's don't drink.

Mat Class
I caught my reflection in the mirror (Okay, I actively looked at myself in the mirror) in the middle of instructing the class, paused and said, "Wow, I really need to get a tan." Laughter. A woman in the back row casually said, "It's not about you." It was funny. I replied, "Yes, it is. It's always about me. You guys are just my audience. This is my stage."

Later in the same class, I asked the women if they felt their abdominals during an exercise. Silence. I said, "You guys have to give me feedback. It's like a review. Think of it as reviewing my show." Again, laughter.
Prenatal Class
ME: "So, do you all have other children?" The Pregos all nodded in the negative. "So this is everyone's first then. That's so exciting! Pregnant pause (Pun intended) I mean if you're into that sort of thing." Laughter.

Holy crap. I'm on fire.

In my head, the equation I live by is this: Laughter = Encouragement = Keep Going. Even if it means that I'm probably going to push my luck and inevitably insert my foot so deep in my throat, it's going to come out my arse.

Until then, I'm performing 18 shows a week!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Leaving the Girlfriend Kids for Dubai, UAE

I left America almost a week ago, and am currently in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I'm clarifying the United Arab Emirates part, in case some of you were confused by the title of this entry and thought Dubai was a man, who I left the girlfriend kids for.

Saying good-bye to my boyfriend's daughter the night before I left was all very normal and without tears. Just a promise that I'd bring back something really cool that a 17 year old fashion junky would like. However, my boyfriend's son was a whole other story.

I had an early flight, so we had to leave the house at the butt crack of dawn. It was decided that his son would stay asleep, while my boyfriend drove me to the airport. If all went well and there wasn't any traffic, he'd be back in less than two hours. I said a preliminary good-bye the night before and my boyfriend's son said that he'd be up to say good-bye in the morning. 

It was a restless sleep, full of nerves, excitement and, "Don't forget to pack the hard boiled eggs" reminders. I never travel without my eggs. I shot out of bed as soon as the alarm went off and went into final preparation mode. Passport, check. Visa, check. Money, license, boarding pass, protein bars, phone, camera, eggs. CHECK! I was ready.

While my boyfriend was kind enough to drag my, "I know this is going to be over the limited weight" suitcase to the car, I walked over to his son, who was still sleeping on the couch. I bent down over him, whispered his name and told him that I was leaving, and wanted to say good-bye.

He extended his 12 year old arms out and threw them around my neck in a tight hug, bringing us cheek to cheek. He started to cry. Oh, shit. I felt sad, lost, found, mushy and more like a girlfriend mom than I ever had. He said he didn't want me to go and that he was going to miss me. Oh, double shit. I was hit in the gut in the most beautiful of ways.

I assured him that two months was going to fly by and that I'd miss him as well. I told him to do lots of things over the summer so he could tell me about them when I got back. I said that I'd bring back presents. Parents say that all the time, right? I tried to lighten it up by promising to follow him on Facebook, so he'd better be good.

I kissed his cheek and the top of his head, as I brushed his hair back behind his ear (like my parents did when I was sad) trying to comfort him. I let myself fall hard and heavy into this little person's emotions. And although I've always felt deep in my soul, that I'd be a natural at this parent thing, nothing felt more authentic in that moment, than soothing this sensitive little boy, who was expressing himself in his half sleep state.