Today was the first day of in country work on our project. We spent the morning discussing it as a team so that we could get all of us back to speed. However, since one component of our project was to investigate local food options, notably in malls, we became mall rats and ventured out to Mall of the Emirates and the largest mall in the world, Dubai Mall. We are quickly becoming experts – investigating Ribs & Rumps, KCal, Mashakeek and all of our old American favorites. Note, after getting back we researched the largest mall in the world, and there are many measures – so it’s not the largest by all measures. The Dubai Mall is also right next door to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 2,700 feet, which compares to the tallest building in America, Freedom Tower at 1,776 feet. They had a great light and water show similar to the Bellagio in Vegas.
One of the interesting things here, from a cultural perspective, is that despite the fact that nearly everyone speaks English, they don’t seem to understand you when you ask a question. A few examples:
1) The local wireless company’s name is Du. In our adventure to find the Du store a couple days ago, as I mentioned, we walked to where the store was located based on their website and it wasn’t there. Instead we found a Hilton, so I went in and asked if they knew where the Du store was. The guy looked at me with a blank stare. So I went on, “Du wireless?” Nothing. “Du mobile phones”? Nothing. “Du SIM cards?” He finally responded, “Duuuuu! Oh yes, Du! Yes, its just on the other side of the street and down a little ways.”
2) Today, in the Wal-Mart equivalent, we were searching for a white board to help facilitate our team meetings. Given how large the store is and how many people they have working there, again, I decided to ask for assistance. Since I figured they wouldn’t understand what a white board was, I decided to ask where markers were, assuming the white boards would be right next to them. So, I asked, “Can you point me to where the markers are?” In return, I received no response and a confused look. She then calls in a friend. I repeat, she’s confused too. I then decided to expand the search, “Crayola’s?” Nothing. “Crayons?” Nothing. In desperation, I went back to “Markers?” Finally, a response! “Markers? Oh yes, markers. Right this way.”
The morale of the story is that I have no idea why, after forcing me to spend minutes trying to search for a better explanation of the item in question they repeat the exact thing I asked for, are able to perfectly articulate the word and seemingly have a perfect answer to where it is. I assume they either enjoy seeing me struggle to figure out how else to explain it, they are shocked that I speak English as they think I am from a non-English speaking European country, or they just need time to process what I am saying. Regardless, it’s been a lot of fun, for those that heard me share stories from Asia or Europe, they know I truly love these types of situations.