So I’ve been here about five days. The first two, which included the conference, were a blur of librarians and jet lag. The third day was a mass of paperwork and mall walking and yesterday was a noodle around town day. Step, the friend I am staying with, is going to Abu Dhabi to teach a few classes for the local digital preservation initiative (oooh metadata) and I will be tagging along. We leave in a few hours and I’m looking forward to the car ride even though traffic here is a really different animal from the no-traffic back home.
I’ve been enjoying myself, despite tiredness and weather adjustment and weird internet foibles. My talk and workshops went really well and you can read about some of the odd synchronicities I’ve experiences over at librarian.net. In a nutshell, when you’re in a place like this with a large number of expats and people who travel around, don’t be surprised if they know you from … somewhere. At a conference of 100 people, I met two people from Vermont, two people who had seen me speak before and one person who I’d served on a five person committee with four years ago. Oneof the women from Vermont actually had my home phone number in her address book because she knew Ola. I’m used to the small world phenomenon but this was pretty impressive even to me.
I wonder sometimes when I travel if the food situation in Vermont won’t be the thing that ultimately causes me to be one of those people with a summer home there and a tiny apartment in some big city somewhere. I’ve eaten food from a different nationality — Iranian, Lebanese, Indian, pseudo-Mexican — at pretty much every meal. It’s great to get to eat so much hummus that you’re not just like “Mmmmm hummus” but where you can actually explore and appreciate the variety of tastes in the different kinds of hummus. All this and I still can have coffee and a bowl of cereal for breakfast and be in the pool as many days as I want to be.
Yesterday I headed into the city with a backpack and no destination other than the public library. The library system here is, like many things here, relatively young. The cab driver didn’t know where it was and there is no big central library. While Zayed University has a really lovely library, the local public facility was small and seemingly underutilized. I walked around taking photos which I am slowly uploading to Flickr for or five at a time. And then I just walked. I had a guide book in my bag and an email from my friend with some good advice but I just ambled around lookin at things. I had some great meals, ate bizarre candy, went to the museum, took an underpass that actually went beneath the canal, took the water taxi back across the canal, went into a bazillion little shops seling all manner of things.
I was, for the most part, almost the only solo female under the age of 60 that I saw all day. I don’t mean just traveller/tourist, I mean female person. It was totally disorienting to be walking up and down completely full streets of people and suddenly thinking “Wow, I haven’t seen another woman in 10-15 minutes”. I vaguely remember Turkey being like this as well. However, unlike Turkey where I didn’t get out of the big downtown Western area much I was out and about walking for hours and it was always somewhat the same. This wasn’t any sort of problem — no one gave me a hard time, no one seemed to much care — it was just a constant vague awareness.
Last night we just sat around on the couches here at Step’s place and ordered food in and watched Syriana which was filmed partly here. Since I’ve been here I’ve been asking Step a million questions “what about the nomads?” “how do the royal families interact with everyone else” “what can you tell about a person by how they’re dressed?” and the movie I think makes a new sort of sense to me than it would have if I had seen it five days ago.