The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Book Review

Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

Column: Pocket Full of Books
An avid reader, Maitha has always dreamt of being a recognized novelist and poet. For the last decade she focused on HR as a career, which has taken her away from her dream, but it’s never too late. Her column Pocket full of Books focuses on book reviews and doesn’t necessarily focus on a specific genre.
Maitha Almuhairi (@Maithani)

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The review of Sherman Alexie’s book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in which he reflects about the experience of being a native American.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book cover, art by Ellen Forney, published by Andersen Press

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book cover, art by Ellen Forney, published by Andersen Press

I have stumbled upon this book and specifically picked it up because it has a foreword by Markus Zusak so I thought, why not? Sherman Alexie seems to have written a novel that looks more like a reflection of his own childhood, an autobiography of some sort. Alexie was born on a reservation in Washington State. He was born Spokane Indian, just like Arnold Spirit Jr. the main character of his novel. Or Junior as he is known on the reservation that’s called the “Rez”. The main character speaks directly to the readers and he also illustrates some of the events that are mentioned in the book. Junior grows up on the reservation being beaten up most of the time because of how he looks and speaks. One day Junior gets frustrated and throws a book that hits his geometry teacher in the face. When Junior gets suspended, the teacher visits him and suggests he leaves the school on the Rez and move to another school because he is a very promising student.

Junior switches to another school and that’s when people on the reservation turn their backs on him because they see him as a traitor and a hypocrite. The people in the new school do not make him feel welcomed and that’s when Junior starts feeling like he lives in two different worlds. One is full of white people who look at him differently, and the other is full of his own people who do not see him as one of them anymore.

The language in the book is very flowy and easy, and maybe that’s because the novel is a combination of written words and drawings. The book is very authentic in terms of the story it portrays. How many of us have thought of looking into the literature that represents the struggles of Native Americans? The novel was very humorous when it needed to be, and brutal and gritty when it was required.

The novel discusses themes of identity, poverty, hopes, tradition and mortality. Arnold’s transfer to another school where people like him do not exist is a journey on its own. He sees himself as two different people every time he has to move between the two locations, the farm school, and the reservation. Poverty as a theme was very raw and memorable. Poverty at the “Rez” is not an individual issue, but one that actually affects the entire community as a whole. Poverty as a theme doesn’t affect Junior as a character, but it was an inspiration for him to fight for a better life. Tradition was a very tangible theme in the novel and the way families tended to stay in one place was one of the proofs provided by Junior throughout the novel. Even though he is only fourteen, [SPOILET ALERT] he had witnessed so many deaths of his loved ones over and over again throughout the novel. The deaths in the novel are either a result of alcoholism or poverty, which paints the novel with an element of darkness, which in my opinion has given the novel a unique flavour of honesty and authenticity.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely yes! There are so many reasons to pick this book up. Some books do not feel like books at all, but they feel like breathing living organisms. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is one of them. It enables its readers to feel heartbreak and happiness simultaneously over and over again. And if this is not enough, the tone, the memorable characters, the themes and the idea of reading something written by a Native American about Native Americans could be a reason on its own! Five stars to one of my favourite books in 2016.

5 Ways Millennials Can Secure Their Future Financially

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

How can millennials secure their future financially in the absence of a suitable pension system for them.

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (Instagram: @planet64)

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (Instagram: @planet64)

With the UAE’s pension system that isn’t open for the non-Emirati population within the UAE, and with the Emirati millennials (and all millennials for that matter) following a lifestyle that can’t fit the pension system, what are the youth in the UAE doing today to secure their tomorrow?

The Emiratis who were born in the 50s and 60s, who worked their whole career in one company, are often caught talking about receiving their pensions or processing the last paperwork to start receiving it into their accounts. The ones born in the 70s often spent their whole career in two or maximum three workplaces, so they’ve struggled a little bit in sorting their pension paperwork when moving between jobs. However, with the millennial (those born post-1980), the case is a little different.

The millennials across different behavioral research are known to have much shorter tenures than their predecessors. In a research done by PayScale -an online salary, benefits and compensation information company in the US- it was found that people born in the 50s and 60s had a tenure average of over 15 years, people born in the 70s had an average tenure of over 5 years, and the millennials had an average tenure of 1.5 to 2 years[i].

Why does the tenure average matter? Because the current UAE pension fund is built so that if you have worked all your career in one company, then the pension fund will easily manage your pension pocket as one easy transaction. Changing jobs between governmental companies is also still relatively easy, as the government is still the main contributor to your pension pocket. But if you start to move into the private sector, the equation changes, as the contribution to your pension pocket is now split between the government, your employer, and yourself, and not all private sector employers contribute, which complicates your pension pocket management in endless ways. Behold, the process even gets more complicated the shorter your tenure is, with additional costs that are often paid by you. What does this result in? The majority of millennials are opting out of the pension to avoid the complicated process and the additional costs that come with it.

But with the UAE’s pension fund being only for Emirati nationals, who were less than 12% of 8.2 million people in 2010[ii], and of which millennials constitute 40% (as is the case with most countries’ population[iii]), this leaves us with more than 90% of the UAE population who are not part of the pension fund. So the question is: in the absence of a suitable pension fund tailored for them, what are those 7.5 million people (the 90%) doing now to secure their future?

As a result of my endeavor to research this topic further, and between some life learnings, here are some of my suggestions of what can millennials do now to secure their future during their retirement age.

  1. Stop spending, start saving!

I think I learned a lot during my late teens and early twenties by watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. And one of the things that really stuck with me was a lesson she learned from her father, to always try to save 30% of her salary. You do that by not spending on lavish items and not spending your time on mindless shopping sprees. Try to buy things that you have thought over and know you need, as opposed to wanting to buy because of potential peer pressure.

  1. High-risk appetite? The stock market, here I come!

I was asking my brother what kind of investments people can go for (he’s our financial guru at home), and he said it has to do with your risk appetite. The younger you are and with fewer responsibilities, the more risks you can afford in your investment, in which case, investing in stocks is an option. But, if you do get into stocks, you need to do your homework, stay updated with the companies you’ve invested in, in what projects they have lined up, the performance of the markets they’re in and so on. That helps you better understand when you should invest more and when you should pull your money out from that company.

  1. Low-risk appetite? Bonds should be your best friend.

Bonds are like a saving account with an interest rate, only you decide ahead of time how long you will not touch that account: 1, 3, 5, 10 years and so on. Being the safest method with guaranteed interest rate, though its main issue is the low-interest rate associated at rarely over 5%.

  1. Real estate for the win.

The older generation has always believed in the value of real estate and believed the value of real estate could never drop. Obviously, the 2007-2009 real estate crisis changed many things, but more than anything, it recalibrated the huge inflation we had in the market pricing. How do you go about a real estate? Your plan should be to mortgage a real estate and rent it out till it pays the mortgage off, then whatever rent you make in the years after paying off that mortgage will be ongoing income for you. Try to go with trusted property developers who meet their plans (in the case of buying something still not ready on the market), and are good in their maintenance contracts. It’s also better to find a trusted real estate management agency in the middle to handle your tenants’ relations and always ensure a high rent rate for your real estate.

  1. Find your investment app.

Being a millennial, obviously, this means there are so many mobile apps to do whatever it is that you need, including investments. There are many applications that allow you to manage a different investment portfolio between stocks and bonds, according to your own monthly budget and risk appetite. I found in InvestorJunkie a list of many investment millennial-friendly apps, and each is thoroughly explained, so you can pick and choose according to your preferences.

Of course, there are many other ways to invest in your future. So whatever you choose, choose it wisely. Don’t waste your youth only to find yourself later with no savings to use for your daily expenses. Plan now to secure your future.


References

[i] http://resources.payscale.com/rs/payscale/images/Whitepaper_MultiGenWorkforce-New.pdf

[ii] http://www.fcsa.gov.ae/ReportPDF/Population%20Estimates%202006%20-%202010.pdf

[iii] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/

The Story Behind Guinness Book of Records

Omar Albeshr (@ASRomar10)

Omar Albeshr (@ASRomar10)

Omar, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, holds a degree in Avionics Engineering, currently works in tourism. He hopes one day he would publish his novels and his poetry book. His column is an exploration with a message, about the origins of words, terms, phrases and the stories behind them.
Omar Albeshr (@ASRomar10)

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What’s the origins of the Guinness Book of Records and what drives people to break records.

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (Instagram: @planet64)

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (Instagram: @planet64)

I have always had a fascination with this reference book since I was a child. It appeased my desire for knowledge and fulfilled my curiosity of wanting to know who the best in every conceivable field was. It had a plethora of accomplishments and tons of superlatives. Nations, people, animals, buildings -those were the heroes of the records. The popular book is now going into its 62nd year of publication, and these days it’s not just a book. It has become a strong franchise, extending to TV shows as well as museums.

It all started at a party in Wexford, Ireland in 1951, where Sir Hugh Beaver, the managing director of The Guinness Brewery, was arguing with the host about the fastest game bird in Europe, and they failed to find an answer in any reference books. Three years later he decided that his company should promote a reference book that can settle pub arguments. With the help of the brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter, they were able to compile a book containing facts and figures. None of them would’ve predicted that the book will become an all-time bestseller and the most reliable source for world records. Not only that, Guinness World Records has become the international authority in verifying, authenticating and cataloguing of world records.

The records themselves vary from the silly or strange to the sublime, but what might seem trivial to you could be a passion for someone else. The longest fingernails, the longest moustache, the person with the most stretchable skin, the most jump ropes done, and the list goes on and on.

Guinness World Records, over the years, has stopped recording or following certain activities, due to the harm it might cause the person attempting to break the record, such as the longest time staying awake, or most time without food. It also won’t get involved in any attempt that might cause harm to animals. Some of the rules also include any attempts that have to do with large amounts of food, since part of the criteria for the success of such an attempt is that all the food must be consumed completely or distributed for consumption.

Due to the fact that Guinness World Records has become such a global brand, they now have regional offices in the US, UK, China, Japan, and UAE. The decision to open a regional office in Dubai, UAE was an easy choice, as the UAE held 147 of the 380 records from the Middle East. (The National 2013)

The Dubai metro, for example, is the longest driverless metro network in the world. Burj Khalifa with its many world records, such as being the tallest building, the tallest man-made structure on land, most floors in a building, etc. In Fujairah in 2010, the world record for the largest Yola dance was broken when 285 participants gathered to perform this traditional Emirati dance. The capital Abu Dhabi is not shy when it comes to record-breaking too. The Grand Hyatt Capital building holds the world record for a structure with the most incline. An angle of 18 degrees, almost five times the inclination of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

So why break the world record? To leave a legacy or be immortalized in a book? If that’s your only reason, you might want to know that most records do not make it to the book. Out of the 40,000 records or so in the Guinness World Record database, only 4000 are published in the books. In an interview with Mr. Ashrita Furman -the holder of the most Guinness World Record titles, when asked why he keeps breaking records, and what keeps him going- said: “This is my way of trying to transcend my limitations by going deep within.”

The book still manages to captivate me with its allure, as with every record, I could only imagine the determination and strong will behind it. Maybe one day, I’d be able to crown my efforts into a world record.

It’s A Cultural Thing

Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

Shof holds a Master’s degree in Marketing and a Bachelor in English literature. Avid reader of classic literature, her preferred type of fiction, along with psychology and marketing. Skilled at drawing, created a comic book, not yet published. Dedicated her Instagram feed to bookish recommendations. Fond of language learning, taught herself Japanese. In her column Thoughts of a Reader she reviews books, writes short stories, and talks Marketing.
Shof Elmoisheer (Instagram: @Bookish2525)

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What’s the importance of understanding the target market’s culture in advertising across cultures, with examples of what worked and what didn’t.

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (Instagram: @planet64)

Artwork by Hamda AlMansoori (Instagram: @planet64)

You live on earth, so it’s only safe to assume that someone somewhere must have tried to sell you something, specifically through advertising. Advertising has become quite hard to avoid as part of our daily lives, now more than ever with the technological advances of today. It’s true that people from all parts of the world are exposed to ads but not in the same way. The culture of a target market is a factor that ought to be taken into consideration when planning an advertising approach or anything related to that.

When marketers target global audiences they must mold their marketing strategy to what is suitable for each culture. Culture, according to Doole and Lowe, encompasses language, religion, aesthetics, law, education, values, and social organizations. All of which has a significant influence on how the consumers would perceive the product or service presented. A sewing machine can be considered as a tool for a hobby in one culture, but elsewhere a means for survival (Doole & Lowe, 2012). So in advertising, the product must be positioned accordingly. Ahead are examples of brands that did their research and brands that didn’t – some were splendid, and some almost ended.

First, Vimto in Ramadan is the most in demand drink in Muslim populated countries in the Middle East. It is a drink made of a combination of berries, positioned in the mind of the consumers to be the drink to break the fast. Advertisements have consistently highlighted the association of Vimto with family gatherings in Ramadan. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the same product is positioned in advertisements as the drink of youth and playfulness. As in one ad, a group of teenagers is seen driving about drinking Vimto and racing off. This is a very telling example of the influence of culture on positioning, even of the same product.

Not doing sufficient research on the target culture can potentially harm the image of the brand. An example of this is the political blunder that Cadbury has committed. The company advertised its “Temptations” chocolate in a provoking manner in India. The ad highlighted the similarity between its new chocolate and Kashmir in the tagline “too good to share” on the map of said region. Kashmir being war-torn caused an uproar against the company that was later met with an apology (Doole & Lowe, 2012).

2009 TV ad of KitKat the limited edition “Sakura KitKat” was launched for the exam season

2009 TV ad of KitKat the limited edition “Sakura KitKat” was launched for the exam season

Now, Kit Kat is a brand that really took full advantage of cultural knowledge. Superstitiousness is a characteristic of the Japanese, especially noticeable in the exam season. This is also when Kit Kat always gains popularity among students due to the good luck the name signifies. Kitto Katto is the Japanese pronunciation of the brand’s name, which sounds like saying Kitto Katsu which means “will surely win” in Japanese. The brand keeps on instilling this association even in its packaging. The packaging is in the shape of a box with a writing space on the back so that students can gift each other encouragements along with an edible form of good luck.

A teeth whitening toothpaste is a product that one would assume has popularity anywhere. However, Pepsodent is a global company that learned the fallacy in that statement the hard way. They advertised their product in East Asia, unaware of the locals’ perspective on the matter of aesthetics. Commonly, these people chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth as it was their idea of attractive (Doole & Lowe, 2012). Evidently, the target market had no need for such a product, and so it ended up collecting dust on the shelves of stores. An outcome that could have been avoided in prior market research.

Understanding the people targeted is essential in achieving marketing objectives. Learning about the culture certainly helps not only to reach people but to avoid offending them. Otherwise, the brand risks marring its image with unwanted associations. Apple and Coca-Cola, for instance, are two of many brands that dominate the global market, indicating that consumers’ needs merged and are the same everywhere. And so one can argue that social and cultural differences are becoming less of a barrier. However, globalization of brands must not be confused with the homogenization of cultures. What works for one country might not for the other, and sufficient research is always necessary to better understand the culture of the target market.


References:

 

Ivy League Pre-Schools

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

Column Name: The Words Within
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.
Bahar Al Awadhi (@bahargpedram)

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School systems are preying on people’s need for acceptance, manipulating them into paying outrageous fees, and placing unnecessary pressure on our children.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

The United Arab Emirates continues to advance and boast the highest of standards in a number of domains, and providing the best education is one of them. The lifestyle and the high standards associated with this have made the majority of the population fall into this divide of either having to pay for the best education, or accepting that they cannot be in that league. With people falling prey to such a mentality, schools are able to take advantage of the situation and charge exorbitant fees. What we used to pay for our university fees is now the cost of sending our children to nursery. Yes, times have changed and prices have inflated, but the time lapse hasn’t been that long for it to have increased so drastically.

Being a good school is no longer only about the education it provides but the image it portrays. Just like with everything else in today’s world of brand names and social media, schools have learned to position themselves to stand apart from others. An example is the ridiculous waiting lists and pressure on parents to get their children enrolled in certain schools. I have heard many stories of parents who register their interest in schools even before their child is born! By creating these personas, schools portray themselves in an “elite” category and those who get in believe they are privileged or of higher worth.

However, it isn’t only the cost of private education that is skyrocketing but also the pressure that we are putting on our children. Gone are the days when children could roam around the playground, get dirt in their shoes, and still grow up to be successful and content with their lives. Today, there is pressure and competition to conform to the highest standards and to excel, even for children who haven’t started school yet. When I was taking tours of Pre-KG schools to enroll my children in, I found it amusing that the staff would boast about the high numbers of their students who have gotten “accepted” into some of the high ranking schools in the country. What is it that a four-year-old needs to do in order to get accepted into KG 1? What are these standards we are setting, and why are these mere toddlers put under such pressure?

Children today have to undergo assessments and interviews to get accepted into a primary school. While I can appreciate that there may be some advantage in detecting if there are any children who may need special assistance or support; yet in most cases, this may not be a fair assessment. I am a mother of three-year-old twins, who both speak at least two languages, and are able to get their message out to us loud and clear. However, these same children are extremely reserved when faced with new individuals and it can take them at least an hour to warm up until they start interacting with them. This is normal behavior in children, but would the assessor deem them to be not ready for school? Or would he/she wait an hour or two to get them comfortable before making a decision of their readiness?

All this pressure to conform and be accepted can cause immense pressure on parents and children, and I believe it can be detrimental to one’s growth and development. As parents, we need to take a step back and not fall into this circle of fitting into a certain idea, and let our children grow at their own pace, and let them take their time trying out different things and finding out their strengths and weaknesses. And yes, a strong school system is necessary to help a child flourish, but we need to remember that the most expensive or popular one isn’t necessarily always the right one.

The Miraculous Effect of Making Duaa on The Day of Arafa

How making my faithful duaa on the holy Day of Arafa has changed my life.

tothepoint_aug_2011

Artwork by Dubai Abulhoul (@DubaiAbulhoul )

Today is the Day of Arafa, one of the holy days in Islam. It falls on the 9th of the Dhu AlHijja, which is the 12th and final month of the lunar Islamic year. The Day of Arafa is the day in which Hajj (pilgrimage) rituals start for Muslims. What many seem to forget though, that even if you’re not performing your Hajj during this day, you can still leverage the power of Duaa (supplication/prayer). As the Prophet has said in a hadeeth (a Prophet’s saying): “The best supplication is the one made on the Day of Arafah.” (Imam at-Tirmithee collected the hadeeth, #3585). And so, I’d like to share with you a personal experience of the Day of Arafah.

My husband and I spent 5 years trying to have another child, going to doctors, taking medicines, tests, and all results showed that nothing was wrong with either of us – just unexplained infertility. At one point, we tried to convince ourselves that we are done with having more kids, and that having our two healthy kids was more than enough. Although, deep down, we really wanted a 3rd.

On the Day of Arafa in 2013, I focused all my strengths towards praying. I was utterly depressed with the unrest in Syria, especially the destruction of my hometown Homs, wondering why anyone would want to bring more children into this world? Nevertheless, I prayed that God would bless us with a joy of another baby. I told God, if it is a girl, I will name her Emmelle, which means “hope” in Arabic. It was my daily reminder to have hope for Syria, hope that there is a better future, that even in the difficulties and tests we go through in life, there is still hope!

As Islam teaches us, when you want something, you pray to God, but you still have to do your homework. “And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah.” (Quran, Al Imran: 159). My husband and I agreed that we would do only one fertility treatment (and no IVF), even though the doctors tried to advise us against it, because the success rate for that approach was very low. Miraculously and with God’s Will, I got pregnant on that one attempt. A few months later, we found out we were having a girl. So I kept my word to God and named her Emmelle: our little hope.

The writer with her 3 kids, including Emmelle

The writer with her 3 kids, including Emmelle

Fast-forward 2 years: Because I believed in the effect of Duaa on this day, I focused all my strengths towards praying on the Day of Arafa of 2014. I had a burning desire and a personal calling that I needed to go visit the house of God and the house of our Prophet, Mecca, and Medina, in the next year. Despite all the challenges that were presented in my way, leaving behind my young kids, pushing aside my doubts, gratefully, my duaa was yet again accepted. I was able to do Ummra (the mini-pilgrimage of Muslims that can be done any time of the year) for the first time this past December, and needless to say, I’m grateful beyond words.

Sometimes we don’t believe in such faithful acts until they happen to us. I know some might still feel skeptical about the effectiveness of Duaa on the Day of Arafa, but while we’re on this Holy day, why not take advantage of it, and aim for it? The importance is to truly believe that God is there to answer you, no questions asked, all He’s asking is that you believe in him, believing in you. As one teacher told me, don’t try to “warm up” in your duaa, just turn your duaa switch “ON” and talk to Him, since He’s been patiently waiting for this conversation, this supplication, this phone call, like an old friend. Who knows, maybe today will be your day to start believing in the power of the Day of Arafa.


Written by Shatha Barbour, BA from the prestigious Northwestern University and an MA in Healthcare Management from the University of Michigan. She is one of the co-founders of the Good Tree Institute.

UAE and Austria: Together in Peace

Mariam Al Hosani (@mariamralhosani)

Mariam Al Hosani (@mariamralhosani)

An inquisitive soul, Mariam has always been fascinated by human beings. With a Bachelor degree in International studies with a specialization in International Affairs, she learned that for there to be order in the world humans need to be reminded of their humanity. In her column “Back to Humanity” Mariam sheds a light on topics she believes we all need to reflect on every once in a while.
Mariam Al Hosani (@mariamralhosani)

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Emirati tourists collaborate with the Austrian community to organize an event celebrating the UAE culture in the village of Bad Hofgastein.

UAE Day in Austria - The cultural dances (picture provided by the author)

UAE Day in Austria – The cultural dances (picture provided by the author)

There is a small village tucked away in the beautiful Austrian mountains, an hour away from the city of Salzburg, called Bad Hofgastein. For the past ten years, this small village has been welcoming families from the UAE that venture out into this part of the mountains and fall in love with it. Throughout the years, more and more Emiratis have made their way down to this breathtaking village. The mayor of the village, Fritz Zettinig, has become a personal friend of many of the repeat visitors, and because of this friendship a productive and inspiring cooperation has emerged.

Together for Peace is the slogan of the event organized by a group of Emirati tourists that are frequent visitors of Bad Hofgastein, in collaboration with the local Austrian authorities. It is called the “UAE Day in Austria” and it takes place because of these enthusiastic Emirati tourists and the local community in an effort to create a peaceful cultural exchange, in a time where it is truly needed.

The event took place for the second time on August 6th, 2016 with a much bigger scale than its first time. This year, the Emirati tourists received support from the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, the Red Crescent, the International Humanitarian city in Dubai, and the Liwa Date festival.

The main square of the village where the event took place was decorated with the UAE and Austrian flags, a photo gallery was organized that illustrated the history of the UAE, and in the traditional tent (Bait Al Sha’ar) the Emirati tourists served traditional food and dates donated by the Liwa festival. A small photo booth with the UAE traditional dress was set up for the Austrians to have some fun with, and close by, Emirati mothers sat down and drew subtle henna patterns on the hands of the excited Austrian women. A bicycle marathon also took place for different age groups and genders. The winners of the races all received brand new mountain bikes and medals to honor their participation.

UAE Day in Austria - The bicycles marathon (picture provided by the author)

UAE Day in Austria – The bicycles marathon (picture provided by the author)

At the end of this eventful day, the representative of the Emirati tourists Mohammed Juma Al Otaiba offered gifts of gratitude to the Austrian police, civil defense, the Austrian Red Cross, and the Bad Hofgastein Department of Tourism who helped make the event possible.

The importance of this event is not simply in the photos taken, the food shared, and the gifts donated, it is in the message it conveys. Being Emirati means most of us have been raised in an environment where we are constantly exposed to people from different countries and cultures. At an early age, we learn to embrace people that have made our country their new homes and also the ones simply passing through. Our local authorities host many events like the Sheikh Zayed Festival, The Qasr AlHosn festival, and The Sharjah Heritage days, to name a few, to introduce our tourists and residents to everything Emirati. They experience our food, our songs, and they learn our history and culture. It’s events and initiatives like these that allow foreigners to feel welcomed in our country, allowing us all to coexist peacefully in the UAE, understanding and accepting one another.

These UAE nationals were inspired by our domestic initiatives and were driven to spread the same message we do on in our country overseas: that it is crucial to understand other cultures and traditions in order to create a peaceful multicultural community. We are in a time of uncertainty, where stereotypes, ridicule, and misconceptions fill our every day lives. We sometimes find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation simply because of the other person’s narrow view of the world. Initiatives that promote cultural understanding and tolerance are how we can resist ignorance and create a more promising future.

Let’s Put Thought Into Practice, Let’s Be Mindful and Grateful

Shamma Aldabal (@ShammaMD)

Shamma Aldabal (@ShammaMD)

Column: 12 Lessons
Shamma holds a Masters Degree in Human Rights and a BA in International Affairs. She currently works as an instructor at Zayed University. Having volunteered with people with disability for more than 10 years, she devotes her career and free time to work closely with vulnerable groups to create a visible impact in society. Having interests in philosophy, human psyche, sociology, and literature her column “12 Lessons” will focus on issues that we face as a part of the trial and error process that is life.
Shamma Aldabal (@ShammaMD)

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In the busy age of consumption, we really need a second to stop and think of what we have rather than what we wish to have.

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

We live in an age of mass production and consumption, where we are driven by our wants and desires. We often find ourselves always wanting something, and as soon as we get that, we want even more.

Most times, we tend to forget what we have at hand because we are too busy thinking about what we could have. This does not only apply to consumer items, but also to relationships, careers, and life experiences. Not to say aspiring for more is bad, but one should rather be grateful for what they do have. Being grateful gives you the power to take control of your own emotions rather than succumbing to events or circumstances. While we go through life thriving for more we get blindsided by a whim of negativity because we feel sad that there are things in this life that we can’t have. This is something I’m sure you hear quite often but how much of it do you really practice?

So what are simple ways a person can practice gratitude? Well for one, we have to be careful about what we think and what we say. We shouldn’t focus on ideas of loss or deprivation but rather on concepts of giving. Your attention should be on your thought process because that’s what creates the product (words in this case). The way you think affects what you say, and in turn, you need to tune your mind in a way to focus on appreciation rather than depreciation. You need to realize above all else that there is good in this world, most of which we have received throughout the years. Maybe not in the present moment but at some point in the past. With that, you appreciate the things you had and you can work towards appreciating what you currently have.

Practicing gratitude makes you forgive easier, it is emotionally liberating, and it strengthens relationships. So I suggest that today you write a thank you letter to someone dear to you, someone whose support and love you’ve often taken for granted. Thank them for being who they are, thank them for listening to you, above all thank them for being an important part of your life.

It wasn’t until the past few days that I personally took that idea into account. I have always been thankful for what I have, but being grateful, truly grateful is a different feeling. Being thankful means you thank someone else for what you have but being grateful means that you are internally happy with what you have, no matter who or what made it happen.

Be grateful for the simple things in life. Be thankful for your safe & warm home, your good friends, your ability to wake up in the morning, your ability to walk on your feet, your siblings, your job, your sense of belonging, your ability to hear music, everything, and anything. Only then will you see the world in a different light.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

– Epicurus

When People Think your Business is a “Hobby”

Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

Column: Musings of An Entrepreneur

Sidiqa is 25 years old and is half-Emirati and half-Pakistani. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace, and Security from the University of Durham in the UK. Sidiqa owns and manages the boutique-café concept store “Spontiphoria” in Wasl Square, Jumeirah.
Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

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When people look at your business that you founded and work hard at as a hobby, how do you respond?

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (twitter: @DanaAlAttar, instagram: @madewithlove.dxb)

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (twitter: @DanaAlAttar, instagram: @madewithlove.dxb)

As I began writing this article, I had a feeling it’s going to end up being more of a rant than an article with insightful thoughts. But after two and a half years into running my business, I thought it’s time I let off some steam. Let’s start with what it is with people who like to call your business a ‘hobby’ and assume it’s something you do ‘for fun’, until you grow up and get a ‘real job’.

I have had one too many experiences with people harbouring the above opinions. Apparently, to many people, a real job is one where you have to be employed somewhere chained to your desk for hours at a time. They see my business as a hobby because when they look at it from the outside: a quirky, fun place that sells cute stationery and yummy cakes; it seems like running the place is equally ‘fun’. Don’t get me wrong; I love my job and the different things I get to experience every day, however, running your own business, in the nitty-gritty sense of the word, is not ‘fun’.

My business isn’t a hobby because I have to deal with a lot of real-life issues while running it. The responsibility of paying the staff salaries each month is a real task, and so is the constant ledger you have running in your head of debits and credits, and payments and revenues. Cheques that are due, renewals and maintenance contracts that need to be updated, and maintaining staff harmony and work ethic are important tasks that can’t necessarily be classified as ‘fun’.

Having the responsibility of making sure that the accounts are in order and trying to strike a balance between working in the business and working on the business are serious matters that need a lot of thought.

The success of a small business ultimately depends on how hard-working the owner is. With office environments and ‘regular’ jobs, things can be more forgiving as there is a collective responsibility, and most often it is not the same person who is brainstorming new product ideas that is responsible for making sure the employees get paid on time.

Whenever I happen to go to events during regular working hours or bump into someone I know during a weekday morning, I am quite often met with the comment that goes something along the lines of, “Oh, I forgot you don’t work, that’s why you can make it!”

I don’t know what the general societal response to business owners are in other countries, but I really do think that the collective mindset here needs to change. I find it ironic that many people harbour the view that running a business is a temporary hobby, although the percentage of people with their own businesses here in the UAE must by far exceed those in other countries. I say this through observation by looking at the relatively small number of Emiratis and then look at the amazing businesses owned by Emiratis (be they big firms or small, home-based craft businesses). In a country that values entrepreneurship, especially women’s entrepreneurship, and small businesses, it is strange that we are still met with the general attitude that what we do is ‘fun’. We must persevere in the pursuit of turning our individual businesses and projects into a success, regardless of the general public opinion and with time, bring about a change in mindset.

Being Second Best

Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

Column: A Moment of Contemplation
Shurooq, an Emarati from Dubai, has been on a journey of self-discovery ever since she shifted career from Science to humanitarian where she found joy. Her interests include traveling and foreign films. Shurooq’s column is influenced by those distinctive moments that give a deeper perspective on life.
Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

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As the world celebrates those who attain first place, society has a knack of making second place winners feel like first place losers. The columnist sheds light on this topic through her experience.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Last April, I came in second in one of the categories under the “Dubai Government Excellence Program” awards. I was over the moon for this milestone achievement in my career. Since the winners’ names were announced in the local papers and media, felicitations hailed on me from far and near. Yet, what staggered me the most were the people who voiced disappointment: “Hard luck this time, hopefully you will get first place next time.”

I was astounded as I thought to myself: Do these people even know what I have achieved?” You see, to be nominated was itself a great honor. But to actually go all the way, competing against the thousands of eligible, highly-competent government employees and to be shortlisted as the top 3 was more than many can dream of. Very few have achieved such a merit.

Conversations and interactions showed me that most people’s understanding of success revolved around being the best at something. To them, success in a race meant attaining first place and everything else was a failure. A quick browse of the Internet resulted in plenty of articles of second place being linked to loss and bitterness. I even found common quotes such as “Nobody remembers those who come in second place” flooding our media. This muddled me even more as I remembered my 3rd place feat in the world championship of public speaking. That journey and experience taught me that we cannot always name the first place winners, who may have won but left no memorable impact. So, why this obsession with first place? Why are second and third places not celebrated equally?

I am aware that people should not be penalized for aiming to reach the top yet I feel this one definition of success should not be so narrow. If I was this ecstatic about my second place win, why did others see it as a loss? Why do many consider anything other than first place a failure? Why is second best not good enough? Why do we have this obsession when more often than not, the difference between first, second and third are very small margins?

It is worrisome that this is becoming a widespread mentality, mainly for fear of it further igniting an ugly future of extreme competitiveness, where future generations will blindly neglect the values and virtues we are trying hard to instill in them. How scary is it if a child grows up to only value being first with no appreciation of anything else?

I do not wish to get into the numerous reasons why many have this mentality, I’d rather simply bring it to your attention. My reiki teacher always reminds me that increased competitiveness leads to decreased happiness in most societies.

At the end of the day, being first is simply a status and it is about time that we acknowledge the triviality of second, third and fourth place. Through this article, I simply hoped to shed some light on the need to develop a healthier perspective on everything that is not first place and create a larger sense of success and achievement. Are we not all winners for trying to achieve our goals regardless of the path we take? Think about it. In the meantime, I shall continue to proudly wear my second place badge.