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Friday, December 11, 2009

London - Dubai - Kabul

My first Blog!! So a bit exciting but still experimenting with what to write. I arrived yesterday in Kabul after a few days in Dubai. Lets just say that the contrast between the two places is extreme and in fact London is a damn sight more like Kabul than Dubai is, perhaps that's why it feels more like home here?

Leaving England it was cold and wet, typical early december weather, neither here nor there but not exactly comfortable in any way, drizzly, you know how it is. Arrived in Dubai to a sand storm, wind whipping up a desert frenzy and the skies heavy with what I thought was fog but was actually fine sand particles dangling in the air between the numerous skyscrapers. Usual shit to deal with on arrival at the hotel, I was staying at Media one hotel in Media city and after flying through the night I was pretty keen to get in the shower and then in to bed. The staff were lovely but totally ineffectual, half asleep I managed to have breakfast and visit the gym. Sue was the get up and go gym mistress in tracksuit who greeted me. Not quite sure how many times I could get Ma'am into a single sentence but Sue was doing a pretty good job. Dressed as she was in her matching shiny tracksuit and commanding as she was I was a little scared that she would drop me to the floor and demand sit ups.... I was in no fit state.

I wandered about the hotel in a daze for a few hours before they found me somewhere to go, a pretty room but with no electricity; I couldn't switch down the aircon or dry my hair, but after a massive hot bath at least I was clean and could get into bed for a couple of hours. I fell into one of those deep and confusing dream states, I was having a nightmare, in this one an evil man was killing lots of people, torturing them, dragging them around the town. I was woken by Crispian ringing me, usually I am instantly alert but it took ages to pull myself from the syrup of my awful dream and I could barely speak. It's a strange thing that one can be surrounded by so called luxury - fine linen, soft pillows, a totally controlled environment and yet none of it feels real. There's no earth in dubai, no true oxygen, and the trees are not free, by the roadside I saw that they'd painted the brown trunks green in order that they match the colour of the hedges behind them, I felt sick. I drove around in a taxi, divorced from the concrete environment, knowing all the while that the taxi driver probably resented me as yet another white colonial face, money in my pocket and an attitude to match. Though I don't have an attitude and I am wracked with guilt as I go about my 'luxury' life there.

JJ the security manager from Atlantis was my angel host. I had met JJ last time I was in Dubai; I'd spotted him on his Segway moving around the aquaventure water park and, it seems that he had spotted me too; a rather unglamorous affair with me in a newly purchased pink and yellow child size bikini, wrestling with a large rubber ring whilsts navigating water rapids. I'd sprained my ankle in Kabul a few days before and was guarding it whilst foolishly racing around in a water park. My white bits aglow, I'd watched JJ alight from his segway and light up a fag.
Later when I was leaving the park having parted with all of £50 quid for two photos, there was JJ again in the front entrance. We got chatting and as it turned out we had several people in common and we exchanged details.

This time around JJ was there to host me and celebrate my new job with me - We drank champagne and ate cheese and bread in the hotel. Some people are just good people and I'm sure JJ is one of them. I really wanted to see the dolphins at aquaventure and JJ said that he'd find out when they were running sessions tomorrow. I'd seen the dolphins the last time I was in and was really keen to get in to the water with them and touch them. At just over £100 it seemed like a small price to pay to be able to get so close.

The next morning I had stuff to sort out at the office but by 1300hrs I was whizzing my way to aquaventure in a taxi, slightly late as usual but high in the thought of swimming with hdolphins. JJ was there to meet me at the entrance and we dashed inside, golf carted it to the dolphin area at the end of the beach and thankfully I was there in perfect time! In a short wetsuit and vest, we met Lexi, a ten year old female indo pacific dolphin. Lexi was amazing, and I was really quite speechless to be kissed by a dolphin, to be able to hug and hold her and to dance with her. She pulled me along by her pectoral fins, lying on her back. I make no judgement about whether dolphins in captivity like this are right or wrong. Of all the evils in the world this is not the worst.

So I reviewed my time in Dubai with mixed feelings, there's no getting away from the mix, no matter where you go there will be beautiful elements and terrible suffering. Dubai has the patina of busy commercial enterprise, the streets look clean and expats bustle about between offices. But this a place of segregation, of a class system based on your ethnicity and it is not good. It does not sit well with me from England where we have tried so hard to move forward from that. In this place people are not equal, those who have money can buy those who have not.

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