Saturday, December 31, 2005

Taking it in...

The last few days have flown many new sights and experiences to take little sleep!

First, I must admit that despite the 7 hour layover in Amsterdam Molly and I never made it to the city. We moved in slow motion (my body thought it was 2am instead of the morning), and took the best advice I received about the trip: find the "comfortable chairs" in the Amsterdam airport and take a nap (courtesy of John L. and Rich C.). That was sort of the only sleep I had for a day. I'm telling time you're there, find the chair!

We made it to the hotel in Dubai by 3am on the 30th. I have a whole new respect for what international students go through to get to college after a 31 hour journey! Somehow we are all adjusting to the time change, and staying busy has helped a lot. The energy of our group has buoyed us as well...we're having an amazing, eye opening experience.

The highlight of yesterday for me was visiting friends - Seff, Zia, Samira, and Senai Sauders - our friends who moved from MHC to Dubai in 2001. Seff and I worked together in Student Programs, and hugging her in her own home in this land that has always seemed so far away brought tears to my eyes. Dinner was delicious...local fruits that look nothing like anything I've ever seen before, yummy Persian dishes of rice with lentils, lamb with carrots and celery, salmon and spices, and a big cake of rice (that I first thought was dessert), and a fantastic 'Lady Gray' tea later on. Several friends were at their home, a traveler passing through, another friend staying for a while, and two collegues of Zia's from the University. The MHC students had a great time with the kids (ages 10 and 7) and the night ended with me pulling them away from the kareoke machine so that we could get some sleep before our first big day. Zia said that this connection with students was what he missed most (among many things) about Mount Holyoke....when he worked in Res Life and lived on campus the kids had "unlimited Aunties." Zia was full of questions about MHC, and being at their home on the first day bridged the two worlds of MHC and Dubai. We'll see them again before we leave, hopefully at the beach tomorrow.

Today's first training day at Dubai Women's College was fantastic! The MHC students were articulate, calm, caring, and skilled. The DWC students were incredibly friendly, warm, conversational, and welcoming. Every person I passed by on the campus smiled and said hello, and I think this comforting welcome helped us to feel at ease. Today we learned about each other, the two Colleges, and the many differences and similarities between us. We laughed a lot, and shared personal stories and goals. By the end of the day the DWC students seemed pleased with the experience, and the MHC facilitators were very happy with how their first day of training flowed through. I can see that all of their hard work in preparing to come here has paid off, as they feel confident with the program they are presenting and have time to learn about themselves in this process as well.

I think everyone is taking a nap right now, hoping to experience some Dubai night life on New Year's Eve. I can't see how the sleepyheads who just left my room will make it out tonight (one is didn't even make it off my couch and is snoozing right next to me), but then again New Year's in Dubai doesn't happen often for us! Yes, we are VERY safe here and will have a happy and healthy holiday.

We're looking forward to sleeping late tomorrow morning, going to the beach or maybe the Global Village, and preparing for the rest of the training ahead. So far I have most enjoyed the warm welcome everywhere we go, and the new sights...the desert sand, different architecture, familiar product logos in arabic script (Dunkin Donuts, Subway) and many more. I'm struck by how quickly I am looking past unfamiliar styles of dress and seeing individual faces and life stories. I'm very glad to be here.


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