Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Small world

This morning I ran into a friend of mine, a fellow student at MHC. We were chatting about our breaks and she said "I've enjoyed reading the blog, because I grew up in Dubai."

Every day I find more and more coincidences between my life in MHC and my life in Dubai. I knew about three MHC students who were in Dubai for various reasons during our stay there and I'm sure there were more. Seff, Zia, and their children have lasting ties here even though they've settled in Dubai. And now that I am home, I find out that Zainab (with whom I had a class every Tuesday directly before my planning meetings for going to Dubai) is from there.

Growing up in a small town, where everybody has known everybody since they were born, and there was barely any influx, I never would have suspected that the rest of the world was so close.

In summary: I love my life.

Just like Home: January 2, 2005

Professor Smith of Zayed University whispered, "some say this is a an Indian nation ruled by Arabs."

Before traveling to Dubai, many asked me, "What are the people like?" After being there about a week there is no real answer to that question. No its not an attempt to dodge the question but unlike most American cities Dubai is the epitome of a "melting pot." Diversity here is not the "kumbaya", black and white version but the United Nations- every flag represented kind. Despite all of this international diversity many of the same issues still arise: discrimination, oppression, lack of opportunity and political silencing. Despite the beauty of the promise structures like the Global Village (a an amusement and shopping park with pavilions from virtually every country) represent- Dubai is not all gold and glitter but the ugliness of reality rears its ugly head in the most simple situations. My first day at the college I finished eating and went to remove my tray from the table and was politely informed that Arabs didn't have to clean up after themselves but the Indian woman in the far corner was fingered and I was told she would pick my tray up. Professors from Zayed University told tales of students having their maids on campus just to carry their books from class to class or at days end maids meeting their students at the camous gate to have all of their belongings thrown in their arms. What's poignant about Dubai and about melting pots around the world is that international, racial and cultural diversity is not enough- the recipe must also include cultural literacy, opportunity, some threshold of equality and interaction in more than just servitude relationships. Sometimes Dubai is so different and exotic and other times its painful realities are just like home.

A call to action: January 3, 2005

Members of the Baby Boomer generation can often detail where they were when they learned of President Kennedy's assassination. The shock of that moment recreates smells, sights and sounds that the pain can be relived even now. In my lifetime I doubted the possibility of ever experiencing such an event and the death of recent American leaders affirmed that my reaction would not produce the same result many experienced in the wake of Kennedy's death. Dubai has taught me that my doubts and assumptions are all standing to be reworked, molded, changed and deemed false and the death of Sheikh Maktoum is yet another example.

Sheikh Maktoum is to the people of Dubai like the founding fathers are to most patriotic of Americans. The announcement of his death mid-morning of our training today produced a blanket of sadness and despair that quickly descended over the room and enveloped all of us inside. Did we know this man? No, but we knew the tears streaking the faces of our newfound friends and soon they marked ours too. It seems so ironic that we traveled all this way to teach about leadership and attempt to display the profound effect that a great leader can have on her people--but in that instance we didn't have to say anything. . .there was a living example. I say living because great leaders never really die. They take on the immortal wings of legend, example and praise that transcends time and generations. I couldn't help but wish that one day I would see a great leader pass and have the same reaction because they had done so much for me . . .What a call to action

Role Model

The idea of a role model are often those people society, history and popular media place up on a pedestal. They are our heroes, our inspiration our oil when the chain of momentum in life seems rusty. They are prolific, larger then life and so great that they're often just outside of our reach- to keep us motivated. Or are they? Today I presented my first individual presentation on "The Art of Communication," and Fatma and Latifa told me after we finished that they were not, "thinking about how to be great communicators but how to be more like me." Such a sincere compliment affirmed the hard work we all have put into this venture but it also led to me reconsider the concept of role model. To a woman my same age with similar aspirations I could serve as a source of inspiration and that comment alone made reminds me of the incredible need for opportunities like this, so that these women may continue to be role models for me and hopefully for one or two of them- I can be too. Often times we measure success by the product that we deliver or in this instance the quality of training we provide the women of Dubai Women's College- but truly success can also be measured by not just what you deliver but what you've received and that has been so much. To think that there are still so many days ahead with new lessons, ideas and stories to exchange. . .