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Snarglefard - MrPutter: doing things the hard way, because it is there.
February 22nd, 2002
03:15 am
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Snarglefard
Ok, so I know how Nailbunny feels.

This sentiment of sitting here and wanting to say something, but having nothing of consequence to post. But dammit, I want to post something. My life has just been rather boring recently. So I've been sitting here staring at the screen for a good half-hour, and all that I can come up with is the fact that I absofuckinglutely love this song.

I'm almost tempted to just end this post there, but I doubt you'd be thrilled to have read this far just for that little nugget of useless information.

So... yeah. It's Eid al-Adha in a couple of days and so we have the week off school (there are a number of different Eid holidays scattered throughout the Muslim year -- "Eid" just means "festival" in Arabic). And it's the last day of the Hajj (that part of the year when Muslims are supposed to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca) today. Which makes today pretty much one of the holiest days of the year.

So all the TV channels (other than CNN) are just broadcasting religious programs. Meaning there is fucking nothing on (not that TV here is ever that scintillating anyway). The same is true of all the radio stations. Which is no big deal, since all they ever play (the English ones) is top-of-the-pops Twitney and Backdoor Boyz clones anyway.

And plus, the Dubai ruler's nephew died in a car accident last night (I'm sure Phobia's mom knows about this... he's a big time horse jockey), so the whole emirate is in mourning and nary a shop is open anywhere in Dubai.

Which is not a big deal, since I'm in Abu Dhabi now, due to the holiday. But I just came this afternoon; this morning I was wandering around Dubai, waiting for my ride, and bored out of my skull. All the malls and whatnot were closed down. Which was annoying. O well. I survived.


So yeah.

Ummm... I saw a dead cow in the middle of the road this morning. Someone hit it with their car, I guess. There was cow blood smeared all over the road for a good 2 or 3 blocks.

What else?

Oh! I bought a bike the other day. Yeah. I finally have some semblance of transportation for when I'm in Sharjah (in Abu Dhabi I just borrow my parents' car -- I don't have a license, but no-one cares about that anyway).

Now some of you will be confused by that. Because it is illegal (and I have mentioned this) to ride a bike on a public road here (meaning just about anywhere, since as many roads are unpaved, according to the law, even the desert is a road). However, in this part of the world, the application of the law matters far more than the letter of said law. And this appears to be one of those laws that is not widely applied. It used to be, when I lived here before. You would almost never see anyone on a bike. But nowadays, there are lots of people who do. It's also possible that the law was repealed, but it's more likely that it's just ignored -- by the public and police alike.

So anyway, I bought a bike, so now I can get around campus (not that the campus is that big, but it reduces the 15-minute walk to class down to a 5-minute bike ride).

And more importantly, it means I can get into town when I want to. Since the university is a good 20km or more outside of town, it's difficult. Public transit is not an idea that has caught on around here, as I may have mentioned. Actually, that's not entirely true -- Dubai has buses. Not as good or as well-developed a transit system as you would find in North America; certainly nothing on the scale of Translink. But it has a bus system that is actually deserving of the name.

However, I am in Sharjah, not Dubai. And all Sharjah has are taxis. Cheap taxis, but it still costs a good $10 or more to go downtown, round-trip. And the 40km walk, good exercise though it may be, is not something I want to do on a regular basis (although I have done it once -- it took me almost all day to get there and back).

So yeah. A bike is cool. As long as the heat doesn't make the tires explode. And as long as I don't kill myself dodging semis on the highway (shoulders? sidewalks? what are those?)...

Current Mood: exanimateexanimate
Current Music: Leonard Cohen -- So Long, Marianne

(4 comments , Leave a comment)

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From:starslab
Date:February 21st, 2002 06:50 pm (UTC)
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2 or 3 blocks?! You sure that was a car? I'm thinking more along the lines of semi, though that could just be me. And who gets to clean that up? ;)

I'm curious, could you post a brief description of these 3 cities you mention, because I seem to remember hearing about only 2. That, and as Phobia says, I have the memory of a goldfish. :) I'm also curious as to just how much autonomy each city has, in terms of laws and so on.
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From:mrputter
Date:February 22nd, 2002 01:49 pm (UTC)
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Stay tuned to this space for a response...

I'm planning on writing one, but it will take more time and energy to write than I have right now, seeing as how it's almost 2:00 AM and I'm butt tired.

So it'll come sometime in the next day or so.
From:kalevtait
Date:February 22nd, 2002 02:43 am (UTC)
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erm... as I've just arived in this world recently, I'm a bit unclear as to why riding bicycles would be ilegal in the first place. Explain?
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From:mrputter
Date:February 23rd, 2002 02:59 am (UTC)
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Imagine this. You are in one of the most backward and undeveloped areas in the world. It is 99% desert, with a couple of thousand people wandering around in nomadic tribes, herding camels and planting dates. There is NOTHING of substance in the country. No paved roads, only 2 or 3 automobiles, owned by the British troops who have colonized the region. There is not so much as a permanent building in the country (the closest being a coral fort built by some self-styled ruler, surrounded by a couple dozen mud huts).

This is the UAE in 1962.

Now, someone discovers oil. And someone else pays you more money for it than has been in your country for the last three thousand years. You start producing and selling oil, and you get very very rich, very very fast.

You start building 8-lane freeways everywhere and everyone owns 3 Mercedes', 2 BMWs, a Ferrari and a Porsche.

Look at this! I can go 260 km/h! It takes me half an hour to go to a city which only 20 years ago was 3 days away by camel!

This is the UAE today.


And this is no exaggeration. Many people here learned to drive on camels, over sand dunes. There is no tradition of driving at all, let alone driving safely. They are just learning how to implement proper driving schools and tests and so on.

Combined with really expensive, really fast cars.

Combined with the fastest, best, state-of-the-art roads that money can buy.

Combined with the fact that UAE nationals (who are the ones with no driving experience) have infinite political clout, and the traffic police are usually imported workers from India or somewheres (because no National would stoop so low as to do such a menial job). So when they get stopped for speeding (or whatnot), the transaction goes something along the lines of:
- Salam A'lyakum. I'm sorry sir, but I have to give you this ticket.
- You will tear up this ticket now, or else you are going back to the slums of Kolkata tomorrow.
- Ok, sir, no problem.
- Good man.

Combined with the fact that there's no railways or anything, and material goods get moved from one place to another via a neverending convoys of semis driving along the highways (far far more than you'd ever see in Canada).


The driving standard here is utterly ATROCIOUS. You know how I drive when I'm in a "crazy" mood? This is the norm here, not the exception. Hell, this is the way you have to drive to avoid all the other obstacles (both moving and stationary) on the road.

If you drive on the fast lane of the freeway, and you are doing 160 in a 120 zone, you will stand a significant chance of getting rear-ended.

And I'm not bullshitting -- the death rate from motor vehicle accidents here is two orders of magnitude higher than the corresponding death rate in the US. No exaggeration. I've seen the statistics.


And you want to introduce bicycles to this mix? It's actually pretty suicidal to ride bikes on the road here. But I'll admit I've done it a few times. Although my intent is to mostly just ride around campus, which wouldn't be (as much of) a problem. And is legal, to boot (since it's private property).
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