Monday, February 27, 2012


As those of you who visit my FAQ site know, my schedule no longer allows me to do school visits, with the exception of the occasional chat with kids at Title 1 schools.  But when the American School of Dubai contacted my publishers to see if I'd be amenable to drop by, the opportunity was too great to pass up.

Firstly, Jack Gantos had a great time there.  Secondly, while much of my favorite travels have happened in the Middle East, I'd yet to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula.  Thirdly, I wanted to go sledding (and this winter Mass. is no place for that). Fourthly, I could bring the family. Fifthly, it was the dead of winter (I've been in the Sahara desert in the middle of summer--not so fun).

The place was a surreal mix of old and very new, spiritual and materialistic, recognizable and completely weird... The perfect eccentric mix for me.  Add to that lovely hosts, insanely enthusiastic kids (they dressed up as my characters, made Amanda & Her Alligator Thinking Caps, wore word bubbles, & had great questions) and you've got one strangely awesome trip.

My days were a crazy mix of kids and tourism.

I'm still jet-lagged, so hopefully this small photo-slice will give a the feel for the place.

(click to enlarge images) 

Costume Day!
The Dubai Ski in the middle of a mall! Later, the family went sledding & riding the ski lift.  It's a bunch of people in shorts watching a bunch of people in snow-suits watching a bunch of people in shorts watching a bunch of people in snow-suits.  I loved it.
The high-school kids made these amazing wooden cut-outs of Elephant, Piggie, & Pigeon.

Alcohol is only sold in specific shops to licensed buyers. Similarly, any and all pork products in the supermarket are sold in specific pork-only rooms.  Which leads to some disturbing discoveries in terms of pork-content.
Wear a word bubble day was cool!

A boat-bus to cross the creek in the traditional old town. The old town creek area was lovely, filled with souks populated by Indians, Filipinos, Iranians, Afghanistanies, Arabs, and Europeans. Great spices to be had.
Story time with the young ones.
The traditional architecture helps capture the wind to cool down the hot days.  Sometimes, it also looks like a great cartoon face.

The older kids saw my rough drawings & worked on animation exercises.

I have always loved the desert
What a great thinking cap!

One day we snuck onto the camel race track to watch the practice runs. Camel racing used to be done by very young children, a tradition that was dangerous morally suspect.  Now, they are raced by little robots (note the orange one on the back of the camel on the left) operated by remote control (the camel on the right is just for pacing during practice).  I've been interested in this for many years, so it was a thrill to see it in person.
Pigeon in Arabic.

Also a big fan of birds of prey.  These falcon are darker than the ones in my area.  Traditionally, they would be caught in the fall for hunting, then released in the spring, which means the desert folk would have to capture a falcon every year to get their hunting (and protein) for the winter.  Note the huge eyes.

More adorable scamps. Note the huge eyes.

Zowie! What a week.
Thanks ASD and to the people of Dubai, welcoming & nice one and all!