Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ethnic Stereotypes

In my Grade 12 class we were talking about ethnic stereotypes. I know they are technically wrong to perpetuate as they aren't politely correct-but so darn often they are true that it’s hard to get away from them! I mean, my Korean students generally are amazing at drawing and sketching and gifted in Maths. My British students generally have a dry, formal way of speaking. And my Aussie students, well, they are so Australian in their hearty and energetic personalities. Actually, I teach many Australian students this year and they are such bright teenagers! They stand out as some of the brightest in my English classes. My students this year are a good mix as I also have students from Tanzania, Rwanda, Germany, Holland, Guatemala, Ireland, America, Greece, and more! It is a highly international school flair each ethnic group brings to the mix.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

To Dubai

So this last weekend I was in the Middle East-Dubai to be exact-for a teacher training course for the British exam board I teach (Cambridge International Examinations). The course was useful. The time in Dubai was excellent; that was surprising because previously I was skeptical about the idea of building a megatourist destination in the middle of a desert. Absolute arrogance, I thought, mentally comparing it to the notorious Biblical Tower of Babel.

Instead I was impressed with the absolute ease of the city. The people were mainly not Arabs. Instead they were a mishmash of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangalis, Asians, all laboring together in various blue collar jobs. Hopping into taxis and conversing with the chatty Asian drivers was simple. Shopping at their megamalls with every type of designer store you can dream of was equally simple.

Even better were the souks. Visiting an old covered soul near the "Creek" (the Dubai name for their huge river) brought me back a taste of Bangladesh and I felt like Princess Jasmine stepping into an Arabian Nights tale. Men in punjabis held up beaded skirts and pashminas against me, telling my how lovely I looked. One Indian succeeded in selling me a chiffon belly dancing belt covered in jangling coins. Since coming back to Tanzania I've put it to good use with my "Learn to Belly Dance" dvd.

Another souk shop owner from Kerala, South India, befriended me and presented me with a designer Fendi wallet because he wanted "a friend in the United States." Afterwards he tried to kiss me, so I suspect he wanted more than friendship.

Overall, Dubai impressed me as the best planned and maintained city not in the West that I've ever visited. Would I go back to that Arabian fairy tale of a city? In a heartbeat!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chronicles of a Cycler Part III

Knackered. After a day spent cycling at least 25 kilometers around the city of Dar es Salaam knackered is the only word for me. Hmm…or perhaps sunburned, sandy, or dirt-streaked? All of the above apply.

But what word can I use to describe the Dar experience? The experience of seeing all different aspects of the city-include the huge variety of housing types, ranging from ultra poor stone huts to huge stone mansions? Or the variety of people, ranging from well-dressed women to scraggly kids playing with tires?

It was a long, hot, and hugely informative day. One that culminated in my squished into the back of a tuk-tuk with our two mountain bikes while another guy I biked with sat up front with the driver.