The serendipitous intersection of language

Something that has never ceased to fascinate me is the art of translation. Being bilingual and growing up in dual cultures, I realize quite obviously that there are phrases that cannot be translated accurately. These lost in translation treasures are uniquely defined by the connotation that comes with the phrase. There are histories, feelings, memories, cultures associated with the phrase that cannot be carried over to a corresponding phrase in another language with the same denotation. Specific words make you feel specific things. Even the sounds that make up a word mean things to us. There are combinations of letters that make us feel a cacophonous sound; likewise there are soothing words. Continue reading

“Pour me a heavy dose of atmosphere”

Towards the end of May, we decided to take another trip to the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah before it became too hot to camp there during the night. While we were driving through the off-road trail to our normal spot, I leaned my head out of the window and stretched my hand towards the sky. The Milky Way! You could see the Milky Way with your bare eyes. We curse at ourselves since none of us brought our cameras. But we swore we would be back soon.

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Waking up in Hatta

After a night camping in Ras Al Khaimah with the crew, we decided to end the trip with a drive to a dam in Dubai-Hatta. We arrived shortly before sunrise, and took time to stroll along the dam. Throwing rocks down the slope and into the water. The air was just beginning to warm up. I walked to the edge of the reservoir. One side was the expansive lake, the other was a plunging cliff. I swung myself over the railing and sat on the edge. In the distant were roosters crowing and the sound of a village waking up. I breathed in the expanse and closed my eyes.

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Dubai Rising

My abroad experience ended on June 12th, when my flight took off and left the place I had come to call home for four months. I came quietly and left loudly. In the hours before my departure, some friends took me around Dubai, blasting music and running through malls. It is unbelievable how one loses the ability to process goodbyes when it is finally real. After tight hugs and goodbyes, I had to sprint towards my gate to make the boarding time. I finally decide to edit some remaining pictures from my semester abroad a month after I left. I could barely believe I was ever there. And at the same time I could barely believe I’m not there anymore. Suddenly the skyscrapers seemed so close, and the hot, night air at my fingertips. Dubai rises in from the scorching sands of the Arabia, and Dubai rises from deep within my heart.

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Star Chasing

Last Thursday night I traveled with a group of friends to Ras Al Khaimah, determined to capture the brilliance of the night sky and make some good kebabs. The scenery absolutely blew my breath away. That night while sleeping underneath the stars I couldn’t help but stay wide awake. Being under so many stars was totally unreal. Every few minutes airplanes would streak across the sky, quietly roaring and flashing bright lights.

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So here are some long overdue pictures of my trip to Oman, like almost a month ago. Right after Oman, I was hit hard with a strand of the flu that left me out for more than a week. Since then it’s been a slow recovery interspersed with many adventures that distracted me from uploading Oman pictures. But basically Oman was breathtaking. The country is scattered with steep stone mountains that rise high up into the hazy atmosphere. The country has not forgotten its natural beauty or history. The following pictures were taken at Nizwa historical fort and Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. The pictures seriously can’t do the places justice!

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Red Line Blues

The Metro pumps hundreds, thousands of people…of humans through the the veins of Dubai. Most people take the Red Line, the central artery. As its doors open, people gush out, and others push in. Inside the vessel is tremendous silence and tremendous noise, in the same instance. Many passengers sit with hazed eyes, staring emptily out the windows. Others shout frustratingly into their mobile phones. All the silence and noise is wrapped together with the rhythmic drone of the train. Among all the people, you’ve never felt so near but distant to others in the same moment. Your proximity is incredibly close, and you are sharing the same journey for a short span of time. But you also realize that each person is spinning in their own universe, a billion miles from you. It is this vessel that carries me into and out of Dubai each time I visit.

Sharjah Light Festival

The first week upon arrival to Sharjah was filled with orientation activities. It wasn’t until the Friday before classes began that I had a chance to steal away and spent some time alone in downtown Sharjah to watch the light festival. The Sharjah Light Festival is an annual one week event. Many destinations around Khalid Lagoon and around the city are illuminated with lights. This is much more a cultural festival than just a fancy lights show. The local Emiratis are proud of their UAE heritage and where they came from. The UAE as a whole is a relatively young country, so the amount of growth it experienced in the last few years was tremendous. To celebrate and commemorate, the light festival merged the traditional history of the region with rapid modern growth and innovation. The light show tells a story of Sharjah, the emirate with a bright future.

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Listening: Warm Streetlights to Cool Early Mornings

I’ve arrived at Dubai International Airport three days ago, and have not found the time to reflect upon my arrival in the Middle East until now, yes, conveniently at 3AM (thanks jetlag). However I snapped a few photos on my first night here at American University of Sharjah. My excitement and really good chai kept me up. In between social media and tossing and turning, I took time to just listen to my surroundings and notice how the light falls onto my dorm floor and walls. The culture shock of the UAE is not there, at least not yet for me. If and when it will rear its head is another story. It’s hard to feel like you are almost halfway across the world when you are in the UAE. The country is very Westernized. With many international expats, English is usually the common denominator for these immigrants from the UK ranging to those from Singapore. Also the history of British colonization of the UAE also lends itself to the Western feel.

But there are definitely differences, and they may appear in subtle and nuanced fashions. I’m a student here, both academically and culturally. Instead of being quick to make judgments or jump to conclusions, I feel like the best way for me to learn is to listen to the culture. In the loudness along with the quiet. I’m absolutely ecstatic for my four month journey here, and I look forward to more hot Arabian nights to come.

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