Last week was a vacation week for our family. The kids were out of school, and so I took a break from the hospital. We hired at taxi to the train station, boarded the SGR Express for a 5 hour trip to Mombasa, and then hopped another taxi to the small village of Kilifi. In Kilifi we took a 16 hour beginners sailing course. It was mostly fun and sometimes frustrating, but we all learned to sail in just a week. (More practice will be required by all of us.) On our second day of classes we were placed in small boats by ourselves as we manned the tiller and the mainsheet solo, hopping from side to side to maintain the balance of the boat. Every one of us capsized at some point which was part of the fun. After four days, we hopped on the train and began the 11 hour trip back to Kijabe, sunburned and accomplished.
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country with strict religious rules. Many women are covered in burkas. You hear the call to prayer throughout the day. Yet I think it felt like the most American place I have ever visited outside of the United States. I have been wondering about why (because it is actually very different – I am referring to only how I felt being there), and I think it dawned on me today. It was the consumerism, the “bigness”, and the ambition. I have never felt more at home in another cultural context, and it was because of all the shopping and dining options, the open freeways, the grandiosity, the comfortable and spacious accommodations, and the wealth. We ate at Five Guys Burgers, Krispy Kreme, Shake Shack, and Chili’s (although the best food we ate was Lebanese). We went to the world’s biggest mall to look for clothes at The Gap and to visit to the tallest building (Burj Khalifa) in the world. I come from a state which claims that everything is bigger, and surprisingly in Dubai I found myself myself in a city where everything was the biggest. It felt like Dallas on steroids.