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Culture, Tech

A trip to Dubai – A trip into the future

Dubai is an urban metropolis which sits on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and is was built out of an unchained imagination, without the barriers of usual thinking and limited finances. Dubai is the second largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates and also the biggest city in the country – that’s right; Dubai is both a city and an emirate.

Although there are many traces of human habitation and settlements in the city, which are centuries old, the official founding of Dubai took place in the 19th century, the city continues to change every day, almost like it is still being built today, unlike any other place on Earth. Unlike the other emirates and its constant rival within UAE, Abu Dhabi, this global metropolis has a more Western approach to politics and economics – contrary to what would fly in most Arab nations, more than 30% of the upper level government officials are women. One reason which makes it one of the most open and developed places in the Middle East. Billions of dollars were and are still being spent on building and development in Dubai.

Dubai is a constitutional monarchy, there are no elections and the Al Maktoum family has run it ever since its modern beginnings almost two hundred years ago. The members of the family occupy the most important functions in the state and the emir ruler of Dubai is also the prime minister of UAE. One of the most unbelievable features of the emirate of Dubai is that only 10-15% of the inhabitants are actual nationals, the rest being made up by expats, a grand part of them being foreign workers involved in the many projects sprawling everywhere. Building the city of Dubai is a constant fact, each new project being more impressive and imaginative than the previous. This innovation and lack of boundaries is thanks to a no-limit spending mentality, mostly fed by money that was earned from oil. Now Dubai is depending on tourism and other industries to keep fueling its thriving economy.

With so many foreigners working and living in Dubai, it has become a very international city. Travelers can find some traces of the old Dubai and the authentic Arab heritage, but you’ll have to search for it. Dubai has become world famous for its awe-inspiring skyline, filled by majestic and spectacular buildings, many of them breaching the limits of human limits, with several that were developed exceptionally big or tall, breaking records. One example of the grand scale of things that Dubai is harboring include the Burj Khalifa tower, the biggest building in the world at over 800 meters, without any contenders at this dreadful height, the Burj al-Arab hotel, promoting itself as the only 7 stars hotel in the world, the Palm Islands that appeared in the middle of the ocean, the Dubai Fountain and so many other wonders. It is like Dubai is challenging the entire world and trying to be the best at everything, becoming sort of a dream city, a futuristic tourist destination, almost entirely built in the last few decades, from nothing. Although it is the pinnacle of luxury and high-end tourism, travelers can also find an overwhelming amount of interesting things to see and do in Dubai, including part of the old city that show how life used to be in this modern oasis.

Dubai is a wonderful and inspiring place to visit, even for people who are not impressed by the sky breaching engineering marvels that spring out like mushrooms. Dubai is a testament to the power of the will of mankind, transformed from a city in the desert, to one of the biggest and fastest growing hubs of the world, filled with people from around the world and challenging the boundaries of understanding.


Dubai – A trip into the future.

Adventure, Art, Culture

Koyasan Temple Stay – Rengejoin

The day started off in a panic, we woke up at 7:20am, when we were supposed to be out of the hotel by 7. Danielle and I were ready and out by 7:40, we stopped downstairs to check out, and made coffee as I took a picture of the directions to the airport. It was going to be a long day of travel.

We got on the train, by 8, but didn’t get to the transfer in time to catch the 8:03am train… So we had to wait for the 8:30am. It was a rough start to the day. By the time we got to the airport we were 3 minutes late to check into our flight, they told us our bags wouldn’t make it on the plane with us, and they’d have to change our flight. The fee for that was $52.

We made our new flight, but when we got to Osaka, we knew we were quite a bit behind schedule. The plane didn’t make it as quickly as it should have, and we quickly figured out we’d need to catch a train, to make another transfer. After 6 different modes of transportation (bus, subway, car, train, plane, and tram) we end up in Koyasan. The last mode was a tram up the mountain, which picks you up right where the train drops you off.  It doesn’t seem like more than 1000 people live in Koya (Mount Koya), but, as we discovered, there are over 30 temples located within the small town. We finally get to the information office and they tell us all but 2 of the temples are booked for the night – and that dinner time is upon us (which means we would miss eating if we didn’t get to a temple soon).

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What are children learning in Africa?

Visiting a classroom in the country of Namibia in Southern Africa was certainly an eye opening experience for us. We went in with an open mind  and simply wanted to learn what the children are learning in Africa…

Of course, we learned quickly that it depends on where they are. The children we met were very bright and attentive, all able to communicate to us fully in English. The teacher runs all the classrooms in the school and is a strong woman. She happily showed us the class curriculums for various grades, had us sit in on a class and even let us read the text books.

A few things stayed with us from that visit:

1. These children have already surpassed the knowledge of their parents (whom we also met later on).

2. They are able to communicate in a language their parents do not know.

3. They are taught in a completely different way than we are in America (which is expected), but even the portrayal of information was foreign to us. We’d never heard some of the facts that were presented and a great percentage of their curriculum is based on the various settlers that came through the country, and in turn, slavery (more than a year).

4. There is no technology what so ever. We donated chalk and pencils to the school while we were there.

5. There is no access to the internet at all. Even in the big cities in Namibia (a country with only 2 million people that gained independence in the last 30 years) internet is hard to come by. This means research and external information is hard to access. They only learn what is in the books they are provided.

6. The books they have in the classroom are written and published by the Namibian government. This may be common practice all over the world, but it seemed interesting considering the content.

Now to you, this may all seem like no big deal. So what, African countries in rural areas are behind the times…well no, that’s not really the case at all. Namibia is a young country with a strong infrastructure and lots of money coming in by way of natural resources. There are a ton of settlers (mostly German) developing whole cities that look very westernized and are home to stores much like Wholefoods. The home values in and around Swakopmund (one well known city) exceed that of most American cities – and are comparable to prices found in suburbs of Boston and Chicago.

This next generation will define future developments and their education is imperative.

As we have already emerged into the era of technology and they are well on their way – I wonder when they will gain access to the tools that could really evolve the education system for their upcoming youth.