Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Words to Live By: Mahatma Gandhi Love & Peace

This has been a week of triumphs and tragedies in the global community. 

The tragic side of human nature, an embodiment of hatred, reared its ugly head this past Friday. It came in the form of a suicide bomber murdering people praying on the Holy day during Ramadan at a mosque in Kuwait, a terrorist slaughtering tourists while they sunbathed on a beach in Tunisia, and a man decapitating his employer in France. 

These three acts of violence demonstrate just how deep hatred and ignorance can dwell in the hearts of some people. Violent actions should never be considered morally justifiable, and violence is never the answer to solving problems. 

But on the same day as these three tragedies, the triumph of human spirit and love prevailed. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex marriage is now legalized among all 50 states in the union. Now, any person in the United States may lawfully marry whomever they choose regardless of sexual orientation. SCOTUS has given a decision that validates love, and makes love in the form of marriage a fundamental right for everyone. Love wins, and love will always win.

Venture & Roam: Words to Live By - Mahatma Gandhi Love and Peace Before Power

Love comes in many forms, and love is more than just romance. It can be subtle and quiet, or it can be loud and intense. It is inclusive, caring, and supportive. It can make a person feel like he belongs, and it can inspire compassion towards others. It is about kindness, understanding, and respect.

Gandhi once said that when we allow the power of love to overrule the love of power, we will finally know peace. I think that finding peace goes beyond overcoming the love of power. It requires that we learn to love others unconditionally. We must learn to accept that people come from all walks of life, and often live different lives than the life that we live, and we must love them simply because they exist. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially when we witness so much violence and hatred. But it is so important. To live a life of love, it requires that we remind ourselves daily that every person deserves to be loved. But once we start to live with love in our hearts, we can start to find peace in our own lives and peace in the world.

So this week, try to project more love into the world. Be kinder. Be more gentle. Smile. And find peace.

Life is short. Live it well!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ibn Battuta, Ramadan, & Iftar in Dubai

A few days ago, I went to my first doctor's appointment in Dubai. The clinic's office happens to be located inside of one of Dubai's many shopping centers, the Ibn Battuta Mall. While I found it strange to find a fully operational medical clinic inside of a mall, I soon realized that it was the perfect location for a clinic!

After a physical exam (nothing to get excited about... just a yearly checkup) and getting some blood drawn (ugh... my least favorite thing), it was so nice to relax immediately after my doctor's appointment with some retail therapy and a caramel macchiato at Starbucks. While I enjoyed my coffee, I took the moment to savor the beauty of the Ibn Battuta Mall.

As I sipped my macchiato, I gazed up at the rotunda of the Persia Court. The Ibn Battuta Mall has six distinct areas with decorative themes ranging from Egyptian to Chinese, but the Persia Court is by far my favorite simply because of the mosaic tiles that adorn every inch of the walls and ceiling. It makes you feel as if you've been transported to a magical time and place, and it is a perfect place to sit and relax after being poked and prodded by the doctor.

Venture & Roam: Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai Persia Court
A hallway in the Persia Court of the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai.
Venture & Roam: Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai Persia Court - mosaic tiled ceiling
The rotunda of the Persia Court.
Venture & Roam: Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai Persia Court - mosaic tiled ceiling
Stunning tile work on the ceiling of the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai. 
Venture & Roam: Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai Persia Court - mosaic tiled ceiling
Ahhh, Starbucks.

That was one of the last times that I will be able to enjoy coffee in public during the day. Two days ago the Holy Month of Ramadan began, and the entire U.A.E. adheres to the rules of fasting. Over the next 30 days, it is prohibited by law to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public. (Fear not, non-Muslims may do all of the aforementioned activities in the privacy of their home!) Ramadan, which requires fasting from sunrise to sunset (no small feat in Dubai, where the sun begins to rise at 5am, and does not set until after 7pm) serves as time for spiritual reflection and purification.

For my husband and myself, this is the first time that we have experienced Ramadan. After trying to fast for the first day of Ramadan (in an effort to try to learn about and understand the local culture), we have developed some serious respect for the people who will be fasting for the next month. It is not easy to spend one day refraining from food and water, and we cannot imagine the discipline it must take in order to complete 30 days of fasting.

While we have had to adjust our habits to refrain from eating and drinking (and in my husband's case, smoking) in public, we have had absolutely no problem adjusting to the tradition of Iftar! An important aspect of Ramadan, Iftar is the tradition of breaking fast at sunset with the community and family. Here in Dubai, where everything is bigger and better, Iftar is a feast that is hard to compare.

Venture & Roam: Ramadan Decorations for Iftar in Dubai
Decorations outside of Seasons at the Pullman Dubai
Venture & Roam: Ramadan Decorations for Iftar in Dubai
Dates, dried apricots, and Moroccan mint tea for Iftar

We went to the Iftar buffet at the restaurant in our building on the first night of Ramadan (and the second night too, it was that good!). After not eating for an entire day, we stuffed our faces with the incredible selection of traditional Arabic dishes, international cuisine, and unlimited local desserts. Our favorite dishes were the Lamb Ouzi, a dish that involves slowly roasting lamb over spiced rice, and Umm Ali, a dessert similar to bread pudding. (omg, i'm already drooling again!)

Venture & Roam: Traditional Lamb Ouzi at the Iftar buffet - Seasons Pullman Dubai
Lamb Ouzi
Venture & Roam: Arabic Sweets for dessert at Iftar buffet - Seasons Pullman Dubai
Arabic Sweets, lots of pistachios & dripping with honey
Venture & Roam: Traditional Arabic desserts, including Umm Ali - Seasons Pullman Dubai
Desserts (from L to R: Rosewater & Pistachio Panna Cotta, Creme Caramel, Umm Ali)

While I'm certain that I may not have to eat for the next week after our two Iftar meals (maybe that is the key to surviving Ramadan!), I keep dreaming about our next Iftar. And if the grandeur of Iftar is any indication of the traditions of Ramadan, I'm sure that we'll be just fine over the next month! Ramadan Kareem, & En Guete!

Life is short. Live it well!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Words to Live By: Miriam Beard

It is often quipped that travel is the only thing that a person can buy which makes a person richer. This old adage is true in countless ways. The benefits of traveling go far beyond visiting popular tourist destinations, spending time sipping cocktails on the beach, or even exploring ancient sites. Traveling offers the chance to leave an indelible mark on your soul that changes who you are inherently. 

Very often, traveling to foreign places deeply changes a person's perspective on life. Most of the time that change is for the better: experiencing different ways of living encourages open-mindedness and compassion towards others. It enhances an understanding of unity and equality among people. Traveling broadens the mind and opens the heart.

Sometimes, this change can make a person realize that the troubles he faces in his daily life are small and trivial, even superficial, compared to the problems faced by many others around the world. Experiencing foreign places, witnessing different ways of living, and meeting people from all walks of life forces a person to truly examine the way he lives and his place in the world. It opens his eyes to look at the things that are taken for granted in his own life, and to be thankful for even the most simple things. 

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. Miriam Beard quote on travel and the impact it has on life perspectives.

The change that occurs as a result of traveling becomes deep and permanent, ingrained in your very nature. Those experiences become a part of your identity, and this influences how you view the world. Once you have experienced this change, you cannot go back to the life that you used to live; and it is a change that cannot be understood by those who have not had the same experiences.

Through traveling, we become aware that our way of living is not the only way of living, that our truths are not the only truths, and that other perspectives on life can be just as valid as our own. We realize that we cannot hold onto the convictions, etiquette, and other societal norms that we hung so desperately to in our former lives. These constructs melt away, and a more basic understanding of human nature emerges. Love, empathy, compassion, kindness, forgiveness: these are the things that become the language of the soul through traveling. 

Travel transcends the notion of vacation. It changes the way that you view yourself, and the way that you live, in the world. 

Life is short. Live it well.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dust Clouds and Hot Beach Clubs

A few days ago, my husband and I experienced our first dust cloud in Dubai. Strong winds blew dust and sand into the air, causing the sky to have a hazy glow and reducing visibility substantially. While the conditions were mild in comparison to true sand and dust storms, we still felt excited at the prospect of experiencing something so often discussed when talking about living in a desert atmosphere.

Dust in the air over the Dubai Marina & JLT.

The sand and dust floated through the air on the tailcoats of deceivingly warm breezes. On any normal day, you might beg and pray for a light breeze to cool you down in the hot sun and summer heat. During the summer the breeze may feel like a hair dryer or the burst of air that escapes when you open a hot oven, but the movement of warm breeze across your body provides a release from the stagnant hot air that lingers during the afternoon.

But on this day, we couldn't wait for the winds to die down. Every time the winds picked up, even if it was only a breeze, the dust and sand would swirl through the air, invisible but irritating. The dust flew into our eyes, and our sunglasses offered no relief. The dust found its way into our mouths, the gritty feeling of sand in the brand new layer of chapstick I had applied onto my lips. 

Sunset in a Dust Cloud
But despite the irritated eyes and gritty smiles, the dust cloud left us feeling grateful to witness a sunset that was both eerie and yet incredibly beautiful! The dust cloud refracted the light of the setting sun, and the whole sky was illuminated by a soft yellow glow. 

This past Saturday we went to the Oceana Beach Club on The Palm Jumeirah to spend a day at the pool and beach with some friends. It was well over 100F, and the sun was intensely bright. But after a few hours of bathing in the sun and taking a dip in the cool infinity pool, our final relief from the heat came in the form of a late-afternoon lunch at the neighboring restaurant West 14th (http://west14th.ae). With some cold beer and a fantastic burger (topped with pulled beef), we were left feeling satisfied and relaxed. 

An ice cold Tiger beer
And in case you were wondering about how hot it really feels at the beginning of summer here in Dubai, we had a freshly baked loaf of bread and a pad of ice cold butter served to us before our meal. By the time we had finished our lunch (or most likely before, though we hadn't noticed considering we were preoccupied with stuffing our faces with burgers) our butter has melted into a runny mess. (And that was under the shade of our umbrella!)

Melted Butter

Until next time!

Life is short. Live it well!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Dinner at Pier 7

It's only the beginning of June, and it's already reaching temperatures of over 105F during the day here in Dubai. At night, the heat lingers.

While the sun set around 6:30PM, the nighttime air still clings to 100F, and it will only get warmer over the next two months. 

While it is still bearable to sit outdoors before the worst of the summer heat hits Dubai, we are taking advantage of the outdoor patio dining at Pier 7 (www.pier7.ae) in the Dubai Marina. We are dining at the O'Cacti restaurant, one of seven restaurants located within the round tower of Pier 7.

And what a better way to cool down the heat than a with ginger mojito! 

The Dubai Marina is spectacular at night, with the sparkling lights cascading from the skyscrapers, dancing on the waters of the marina as the yachts and Dhows pass by. 

On a Friday night, the Marina is bustling with activity. The the soft lull of music can be heard drifting lazily through the air, often interrupted by the passing by of a yacht hosting a loud dance party. There are plenty of places to eat, but only a few to have cold adult beverages. The restaurants at Pier 7 are lucky to be connected to one of the many hotels in Dubai. As such, they are capable of offering a wide selection of alcoholic drinks. Cue the mojito, please!

The Dubai Marina is definitely one of our favorite areas to have a nice dinner and enjoy the hot summer evenings. With so many options and so many activities, it is never boring in the Marina! 

Life is short. Live it well! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Long Time, No See

A view of the Dubai Marina from our apartment in JLT

After a long hiatus (almost 3 years, but let's be honest...who's counting?), I've decided that it is time to get back in the saddle and start blogging again. I can't promise that I will be consistent or write anything interesting, but I will do my best to try. At the end of the day, that is all anyone can really do, isn't it? Trying to achieve their best at whatever they set their minds and hearts to do.

So with a new city, a recent marriage, and a new hairdo, I thought it was high time to start writing again. 

We recently moved from Switzerland to Dubai after my husband accepted a temporary position within his company for a project based in the Middle East. As a newly married couple, an adventure in its own right, we now have the excitement of living in a completely different environment. I can honestly say that I am excited for this new adventure, maybe even more so than he is at the moment. 

Relocation, especially abroad, presents its fair share of obstacles and challenges. Culture shock can occur no matter where you move (yes, even when moving to Switzerland from the U.S.! Trust me...) But it also offers so many opportunities. Being an expat provides me with immeasurable experience in expanding my knowledge of different cultures and adapting to different ways of life. It gives me the ability to meet new people from all over the globe. It reminds me that I am extremely lucky, and that I ought to be thankful for the life I have been given. It also reminds me that most people are not as lucky in life, and that life isn't always sunshine and giggles. Ultimately, I think that living abroad as an expat makes me a more understanding, accepting, and compassionate person. (can you feel the warm fuzzies yet?)

I cannot wait to share with you my experiences here in Dubai, reminisce about the last three years in Switzerland, and look forward to whatever the future holds. Life is short, let's live it well!