Friday, September 13, 2013

Belly Up

The Middle East is a study in contradictions.

Many women are covered to the hilt in black, their faces and forms obscured from anyone who falls outside of the family unit.

Modesty is a way of life in this culture, so it is a bit jarring when you get a chance to see an Arabian belly dancer.

A few months ago I mentioned our exciting desert safari through the dunes outside of Dubai. After our trek in the armored truck, we made our way to an Arab oasis for a rustic Middle Eastern barbecue.

Our hosts invited us to the compound for savory grilled kababs, camel rides, and other entertainment typical of the arid locale.

The camel ride was fun, but the dismount left a bit to be desired.

When the camel wrangler tells you to hold on to the harness, you hold on to the harness. I didn't think about it ahead of time, but apparently camels have to kneel to let its passengers dismount.

We held on and didn't fall off, but I cannot guarantee I dismounted with grace.

After our delicious dinner of grilled meats, couscous salads, and a variety of savory vegetables and freshly sliced fruits, we were treated to two performances, the first involving a whirling dervish.

This dance is a form of meditation that can be found in many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. It is mesmerizing. Just a few minutes in to the dance, I thought the performer was going to draw me into his trance.

The dancer wore layers and layers of colorful skirts that would spin as he revolved around the dance platform. As he danced, the performer would peel off his skirts, layer by layer, and twirl them in the air above.

The performance led to an unexpected and very lively light show of sorts.

After the whirling dervish, the audience was treated to a performance by a traditional Arabian belly dancer.

I could only hope to have a few of these moves.

There are several companies in Dubai that offer these desert safari and barbeque packages. We enjoyed the services of Desert Safari Dubai.

Should you embark on your own Arabian adventure, may I suggest wearing pants and comfortable walking shoes! A skirt would not do well on the camel ride, and stilettos would not do well in the dunes.

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Thursday, September 05, 2013

You Got to Have Friends

Life seems like a test sometimes.

Let's put aside religion and philosophy for a moment; let's table the heavy stuff and only think about this existence.

I know. It's a simplification of sorts - only thinking about our time on this big, blue and green marble for a minute, and not considering what comes next. For now, let's only explore this moment. This 70-to-100-year instance.

Life. It's pretty damn hard.

It was good when I was young, and I know that in itself was a gift. While other people elsewhere were dealing with abuse and loss and genocide in the world all over, I was worried about Laffy Taffy. That was what I wanted at the swim club, and it was an outright heartbreak when my mom wouldn't give me any money to buy candy at the pool snack shack.

My childhood was good.

But age has a way of a revealing depth and perspective. I got my first taste of reality in my 20s; I learned that hard times come and, while we may sometimes rely on the support of loved ones, it's with our own volition that we discover how to survive the hard times.

All these years later, not much has changed.

I have loved ones who have buried children, severed ties with dear relations. Friends who have tragically lost partners and those who have weathered shocking and very public heartbreaks. I've seen relationships end and people fall at the mercy of public and social scrutiny.

We're all the same, really.

Each of us is trying to get by with what we have. Each of us is trying to find some meaning to this existence and a few people with whom we can share the journey.

Like I said. Life is pretty damn hard.

When these hardships happen - when we suffer trials and tribulations, moments of self doubt and moments of bitter challenge - it is a blessing and a curse of reveal. People unveil who they really are. Friends display their truest selves in the hardest moments. Acquaintances forsake a long connection. But others join us to walk along and offer love and encouragement.

It's unfortunate that we have the opportunity to discover our relations' truest selves when we fall on hard times. The phone calls that aren't accepted. The invitations that are never extended. The parties that intend to exclude.

It's easy to forget the rough stuff.

During our best of times, it's simple to ignore life's hardest challenges. We grow complacent and comfortable with being, and we avoid murky entanglements that would force us to feel, sticky encounters that would require depth.

Job loss. Divorce. Grief. Failure. There are so many reasons why the living wounded walk among us. And yet, during life's high times, we all seem to forget we're sharing a collective experience.

As a PR professional, I know moments of crisis are not an if, but a when.

And it's in those darkest personal moments, the hardest times of challenge, when we discover our truest friends.

Friends are the ones who stand by us, include us, love us and accept us.

It's easy to cast judgment. It's easy to draw lines in the sand and separate ourselves from challenge or drama or complication.

It's hard to be loyal.

It's hard to be a friend.

But it is sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone.

Try as we might, we cannot survive this experience, this life, without others. No matter how strong we may be, we each need some support or camaraderie.

We each need a friend. Maybe a few of 'em.

I'm so grateful for mine.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.