Year 1: Semester 1 Week 6

Hey all,

[NYUAD mural]

This week was pretty much a continuation of the things from last week. Lots of work, studying, activities, etc. It got pretty busy in the middle, but calmed down during the weekends.

"The Marketplace" restaurant on campus is a nice study space after closing time
In Foundations of Science, we're studying thermodynamics in chemistry, and in physics we're studying simple harmonic motion, energy quantization, and entropy. It's a lot to take in, but I'm doing my best.  I am very quickly realizing that I have forgotten a lot of high school chemistry, which doesn't help, but I'm trying to fill in the gaps. The assistant professors are really helpful during office hours, which is nice.
The Campus Center has been lit up pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
In Faith in Science Reason in Revelation class, we always have really interesting discussions. Our class this week focused on why the "scientific revolution" occurred in Europe and not in the Middle East, when there were so many medieval Islamic scholars who were well-versed in Aristotelian philosophy and were quite advanced in astronomy and mathematics for their time. We're comparing and contrasting social, religious, political, and institutional factors in the two regions. We're reading this book "Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History" by Ahmad Dallal, and the author uses the word "epistemological" basically every other sentence, haha. 

iFound in the city: quite possibly the best name for an ice cream flavour I've ever seen: "Feisty Rollercoastery Ginger""

Another random thing I did this week was participating in the "neuroscience of language" lab's research study- they were looking for native English speakers to sign up, and I got 110 dirhams for doing it.  I'm pretty interested in neuroscience, so I was curious to see what the study was about. Basically it involved lying in an MRI scanner listening to English words pronounced normally and then with lisps/accents and matching the words to pictures. It was pretty relaxing, haha.

Now that I've been here for almost two months, I thought I'd make a list of some things that are different about Abu Dhabi/ NYUAD vs. California/the U.S., to be continued and in no particular order...
  1. Address System (or lack thereof). Even though it's a really modern city, Abu Dhabi essentially has no zip codes or defined address system. People still navigate by landmarks; you have to describe locations based on the streets/neighborhood and nearest identifiable building. Even the street names have recently been changed and are a bit confusing. They have both a full name (usually named after a person) and a numerical name, but some people are only familiar with one or the other. And the Arabic naming system doesn't help. Funny story... One of the first weeks I was here, we were trying to find a restaurant in the city and we were looking for "Zayed the First" street.  But the problem was that there's also a "Khalifa bin Zayed the First Street", "Sultan bin Zayed the First Street", and "Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street".  Luckily we found where we were going, but we definitely had to ask directions.
  2. Floor numbering. In the U.S., the "ground floor" and the "first floor" are the same thing. Here, the "ground floor/floor zero" is on the bottom, and the "first floor" is actually the second floor above the ground. This was so confusing at first. 
  3. International Food. As can be seen from previous posts, there is so much authentic, delicious food from around the world. The dining hall at school has typical western foods like hamburgers, pasta, pizza, salad, but also curry, hummus, falafel, shawarma, flatbread, etc. At the grocery stores off-campus, we have access to pretty much all of the foods and products you can get in the States. The one thing here that's not nearly as good is the fruit, since most of it is imported, so the quality isn't as good as back home. I was surprised to find out that you can get pork products / non-halal food in Abu Dhabi if you want, but it's in a separate closed-off section of the grocery stores. I haven't really wanted it badly enough to bother with it.
  4. Use of Arabic slang. Even though I don't really use them, people throw around Arabic words like shukran, yalla, marhaba, haram, habibi, inshallah, wasta, etc.
  5. Lack of public water fountains. This is true of most countries other than the U.S., but especially with the heat here, carrying a water bottle is really necessary and there aren't very many public water fountains. Restaurants also sell bottled water instead of bringing a free pitcher of water to your table. 
  6. Transportation- Okay, so the traffic system here is way better than in some other countries, and I could probably get used to driving here (although I don't have access to a car and haven't converted my license to a U.A.E. one, so I haven't tried at all). But still, there are a few things I've seen drivers do that wouldn't work in the U.S. For example, I've seen cars miss their exit on the freeway, and instead of continuing to the next exit and going back around, they will pull over to the shoulder of the road, drive in reverse until they get back to the exit ramp, and then merge into the exit, cutting everyone off.  There are also a lot more roundabouts and a lot fewer four-way stops, and the roundabouts can be a bit of a mess as people merge on and off. It was a bit of an adjustment getting used to taking taxis and shuttle buses everywhere after having a car back in California.
  7. Colours with a "u", metric system, the letter "Z" is called "zed", elevators are “lifts" etc.- While a lot of things are really Americanized, there's definitely an influence of international/British English here, and I hear a mix of both. The other day I found myself saying "let's take the lift" and then realized how weird it sounded coming out of my mouth, haha. I'm slowly starting to get used to the metric system in everyday life... slowly...
  8. Photography laws. It can be illegal/ culturally insensitive to photograph someone without their permission, so if you're a tourist here, it's good to be conscious of whether there are strangers in the background of your photos. Also, it's illegal to photograph certain government buildings.
  9. Really expensive perfume, watches, handbags. There are a lot of really nice shopping malls here, and I think there's a cultural emphasis on displaying an outward image of wealth/status. I mean, we have an amusement park called Ferrari World, the world's tallest building, and the world's largest shopping mall. So even with the traditional clothing as an equalizing factor appearance-wise, things like perfume, makeup, watches, handbags, jewelry, etc. are popular and usually ridiculously expensive.
  10. Traditional dress / somewhat more conservative clothing. To be fair, I come from California, where the general rule seems to be to show as much skin as possible, so pretty much anywhere else seems conservative by comparison. That being said, it's probably not as conservative as most Americans think when they think of the "Middle East". Aside from the U.A.E. traditional dress of kandoras and abayas, people usually wear t-shirts and shorts/jeans, but even in the heat I see a lot more long skirts/pants and long-sleeved tops than I would back home. It's kind of nice to have a variation of cultural clothing on campus, because it means that one certain "style" doesn't really prevail as much. 
Highlights of the Week:

Day off for Islamic New Year
I didn't really do much on this day, but I went to the piano practice rooms, and then tagged along with some friends to this organic food store in the city. We didn't really know exactly where it was, so we walked around for a little while trying to find it, and ended up in Nation Towers where we found both the organic food store and a cafe for lunch. Everything there was pretty pricey, but at least it was an adventure looking around. And they had mangosteens! Mangosteens are my favorite fruit of all time, and I can never find them in the U.S. If you've never had them, to me they taste like a cross between an orange and a kiwi. Here, they are imported from Sri Lanka and they were pretty good! 

The inside of Nation Towers is so pretty :)
Mangosteens! One of the only fruits better than mangoes :)
Interfaith Dialogue
Decided to try this out- it's a student group that meets to talk about religion. Religions represented in the group were Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholic and Protestant Christians, along with some students who are still searching for a religious identity. I think it's a good place to have deep discussions and connect with people on a more personal level than we otherwise would. The meetings are in the Multifaith Room on campus, which is a pretty cool place to pray/meditate/etc. There's a bookshelf inside with the holy books of all the major world religions. 

Engineering Alumni Dinner
Got to talk to some of the Engineering alumni and professors at this dinner. It was fancy as usual. It was nice to get some advice on choosing an engineering field and see where NYUAD could take me after these 4 years.
Appetizers + mineral water
Other Weekend Stuff
This Filipino band called Disco Manila came to perform at our school, and I didn't really go to the concert, but I saw them as I walked by. Also, the girls from my floor made a pretty cool pillow fort in our lounge and had a movie night with ice cream and pizza. I wish I could have stayed longer! Also, thanks to the family who drives me to church for inviting me to lunch/ playing games with their kids. 
Walking past the Disco Manila concert- it looked fun!
Floor lounge fort

Today was pretty uneventful- just catching up on laundry, cleaning, studying, relaxing, preparing for the week ahead. More adventures to come in the next few weeks :)

I ended the evening by celebrating my suitemate's 19th birthday!

Goodnight from Saadiyat island,