What an easy trip. In contrast to the four flights in four days fiasco to Botswana, I took a single direct flight from Orlando to Dubai, and that was it. The downside, however, was that despite my meticulous attempts to reduce jet lag, it rather flattened me for the entire first week. COVID precautions introduced me to the wonders of on demand shopping. I ordered from a Thai grocer via WhatsApp and a Chinese “Hypermarket” through their own proprietary app. Between the two grocers I had access to an astounding variety, and even ground pork in the Muslim Emirate. Our apartments at the Mercure boasted gas stoves in the small kitchens. I bought a wok, cutting board, chef’s knives, the full array of sauces, and even stink beans and a mortar and pestle. I donated all of these goods (purchased with the TGS settling in stipend) to the Mercure staff afterwards. Finally able to properly cook on term, I invited my coworkers regularly for my standard dinners.
My thorough ingredient hoard proved a prudent investment in the weeks to come. A large percentage of our incoming students tested positive for COVID-19 at the airport. According to our WDMP (Widespread Disease Management Protocol), we were all obliged, as close contacts to these cases, to quarantine for an entire week, moving all of our work online. The Mercure provided a massive breakfast every morning, which had the added benefit of providing me with lots of tupperware for prep and food storage. My refrigerator was faulty, however, so food spoiled quite quickly. At any rate, I quite enjoyed the quarantine period. I filled my time outside of work with Starcraft, Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Arcane, cooking, and chats with Qianqian.
We’d scrapped the module Amethyst and I planned in Mexico for Dubai due to few students choosing it as a first choice, much to my disappointment. This exemplified our school’s propensity to give students far too much control. How can you ask students (or anyone) to appraise something they don’t know? Unsurprisingly, many students mentioned afterwards that it would have been an excellent module and regretted their folly. We split our students into the two other module groups – Robotics and Cryptocurrency. Amethyst and I were joined on to the Robotics module. We designed an initial day at the Expo, which I’ll write about in a separate post, but for now I’ll add the relevant robotics images here.
Unfortunately, many of the excursions we had hoped to arrange fell through due to terrible communication practices in Dubai (ghosting), such as a visit to a Halal slaughterhouse, the automated police unit, and Fly Dubai. Most of our sessions therefore occurred in the Middlesex University robotics classroom we’d rented, where did a series of challenges with the team we’d hired, CR8. They used Lego MindStorm for a sumo wrestling competition, then tried to design Mars rover inspired robot in honor of the UAE’s nascent space program.
Our module did include one day of excursions, at least. We went to the Robo Café in Festival City, which was quite a slow experience. The three robot arm preparers and roomba-like servers clearly had some glitches and needed a lot of maintenance – slower and more expensive than humans, but interesting at least. We went to the Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre afterwards, which was only tangentially related to our module. The extremely passionate guide and his boss, the founder, captivated our students, regardless.