When I first started writing this blog, I assumed that only my family and friends in Canada would be reading it. I had decided that this would be a great way for me to keep a record of my time here, and to let people back home know what I was doing. I have heard from some of those people and they seem to be enjoying reading the blog, so that makes me happy. I thought that there was a chance that some random person might stumble on the blog and read it, but I would never know who that person was and they wouldn’t know me, so it wouldn’t worry about their reaction to anything I wrote.
Recently I became aware of readers I had not anticipated. Last Thursday I got a couple of messages from people in Waterloo telling me that a link to my blog was posted on the Daily Bulletin. The Daily Bulletin is an electronic news bulletin posted on the University of Waterloo website. That day the hits on my blog shot up, from a previous high of 72 in a single day, to 250 on Thursday. I have no idea how the editor found out about my blog, but I was flattered by the attention – at least for one day. The second surprise happened at work. A couple of students from my first year class came by my office to ask for clarification about an assignment question. As they left, one of them said that she enjoyed reading my blog. I don’t even remember saying anything about it in class, but she told me that I had mentioned it. It never occurred to me that any of my current students would be reading the blog. Finally, one of my colleagues in Dubai also mentioned he read a blog post. I didn’t expect this at all. I did make a conscious decision not to write about something that happened last week. The reason I chose to censor myself was that the incident wasn’t really about me, but rather someone I have met here. I was really just a concerned observer. It really wasn’t my story to tell, and I thought it would be violating this person’s privacy to report about it in the blog. Now, I am even more satisfied I made the right decision. However, I am going to try to write the blog without really thinking about who is reading it.
After two weeks, I can feel myself settling into a routine. After going to the Carrefour (a large grocery store) at the Emirates Mall the previous Friday, I had vowed never to go shopping there again on the weekend. The local grocery store, which is just a five minute walk away, is perfectly adequate. It has a good selection of produce, meat, and fish. There are aisles containing things you would see in a drug store in Canada, and there are a couple of aisles of department store items as well. However, there are a few things I have not been able to find in the local store, including fresh spinach. Now, I had assumed that there would be grocery items that I was used to finding in Canada that I would be unable to find in Dubai. I was perfectly willing to give them up for four months. For example, I didn’t expect to eat any pork until I returned in December. However, since I was taken to the Carrefour when I first arrived, I knew that the big store had some of the things I was missing in the small store. Knowing that the Carrefour had fresh spinach, I didn’t want to go without. I decided I wanted to include a weekly trip to shop at the Carrefour, but that it was not going to happen on a Friday or Saturday.
Just a quick note about buying pork in Dubai. You can get pork at the larger grocery stores like the Carrefour. However, it is sold in a part of the store that is completely isolated. I actually don’t plan to buy or eat pork while I am here.
I decided that Sunday would be my grocery day. I don’t teach on Sundays so I could take the 3:00 p.m. bus trip back from campus and go grocery shopping before dinner. I took the metro to the Carrefour Emirates Mall, which takes about 20 minutes door to door. There may be a large grocery store closer geographically, but I am not sure it would take less time to get to one, unless I took a taxi. The trip to the Emirates Mall has a very nice view of the Burj Al Arab and the metro station connects inside with the Emirates Mall, and the Carrefour is very close to that tunnel. For the first time on the metro, I encountered attendants checking the validity of the riders. A man walked into the car I was in with a hand-held scanner. He took each person’s card and scanned it to verify that they had paid. I was standing in the middle of the car, and handed him my card. A few seconds later, a second attendant came into the car and was checking people on the other side. He asked for my card, and I said that the other guy had just scanned it, but he could check it again. He continued on and had to wake up one of the passengers to scan his card. I can’t imagine it would be easy to get into the metro without paying – there is so much security. However, it would be quite easy to get on a bus without paying. I wonder how much the buses are checked.
When I got to the Carrefour I noticed it was busy, but not really crowded. I headed over to non-food section of the store. I bought a couple of more houseware items, but I was actually most interested in looking at the prices of the cameras in the store. I do need to buy a new camera, and I am considering stepping up to something more powerful than a digital pocket camera. Right now, I am just pricing them, and I was curious how the Carrefour prices and selection compared. There are certain sections of the store that have brand representatives stocking the shelves and selling the wares. From what I can tell, these are not Carrefour employees. As soon as I approached the cameras, I had two salespeople jumping in my face. I told them that I was just looking at prices. Without being able to do a direct comparison, it seemed that the prices here were not significantly better than other places I had seen in Dubai. The selection wasn’t great, but the major brands like Nikon and Fuji were represented. From what I have seen so far, the prices on the cameras here are a little higher than Canada – although again, I haven’t done a direct comparison yet. I will continue to do my research.
I had a bit of a sore throat when I woke up yesterday, so I thought I would look for some vitamin C when I was shopping. I actually have never bought vitamins before, but I felt that my diet was unusual here, and I might not be getting proper vitamins. There was one little section of the store that seemed to have items like vitamins. After a bit of deliberation I decided to get a multi-vitamin rather than just vitamin C. I was about to head for the main store checkout, when I was told to pay for the vitamins at the cashier within the section. After I paid, the cashier put the purchase in a plastic bag, and stapled the bag. Sitting here now, I wish I had looked around that section more to figure out exactly what else was considered a “controlled substance”.
I found pre-made salad dressing which is something I had been looking for, but couldn’t find anywhere. I had resigned myself to just adding oil and vinegar to any salad I was going to make. I stood there and debated about buying a bottle, because I know that it is not a healthy choice. In the end, I bought a small bottle of salad dressing, and some balsamic vinegar. I hope I use the latter much more than the former. I also found the fresh spinach that I was at the top of my shopping list, as well as fresh berries that I couldn’t find at the local store. I actually would have preferred frozen berries, but I have not been able to find them anywhere.
Now that I have my shopping routine figured out, I can turn my attention to solidifying my fitness routine – but I will save that for another blog.