Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything more surreal than being out of the country for the 2016 presidential election. I was invited to demo recipes from The Gourmet Kitchen at the Sharjah International Book Fair, just outside of Dubai. The organizers flew me almost halfway across the world to the Middle East, where there was a 9 hour time difference. On November 8th, I was fast asleep before the polls closed, and on the 9th, I was waking up to the election results as my loved ones were trying to stay up a bit longer, watching the unexpected happen. I slept in that morning because just like almost everyone else, I believed the outcome was a no brainer. It never occurred to me when I left for the UAE that things might take a turn for the worse. While I don’t necessarily trust polls, I had faith that everything would work out for the best.

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Samantha wasn’t as confident as me. She woke up at 6am to watch the results trickle in. I got out of bed at 8am and saw her face. “It isn’t good,” she said. The next few hours were brutal. At some point I needed coffee and food, and as I walked toward the breakfast buffet, I realized I was unable to look anyone in the eye. I was surrounded by people who Donald Trump and his upcoming administration would likely view as a national threat, and the guilt I felt was monumental. Regardless of their reasons for voting, half of my country was saying “we don’t care what this means for you.” I couldn’t go into the restaurant. I felt like people were staring at me, even though I realize now that was all in my head. Regardless, I froze. Then I sat on a couch in the lobby with coffee until I could move again.

Our hotel was gorgeous, right on the Sharjah beach front. There’s nowhere I find more zen-like than the beach, and if I had been alone that morning, I probably would have spent the rest of the day (hell, the rest of the trip) staring at the water. But we had flown 15 hours to get to the UAE. In Samantha’s words, “I’m not going to let him ruin this, too.” So we tried to make the best of it and explore our strange and futuristic surroundings. While the wind was knocked out of my sails, I was relieved to have the opportunity to escape for awhile. For brief periods of time I’d forget what was happening back home, and I could pretend everything was normal.

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net
Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net
Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net
Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net
Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Dubai, Sharjah, and a Strange New World - Savory Simple - SavorySimple.net

Then it would hit me like a punch to the gut. It felt like a loved one had died. The countless impacts. Obama’s legacy, civil rights, the Supreme Court. It wasn’t long before we started telling people we were Canadian. We took turns having panic attacks and breakdowns as we checked in with the news, and watched our friends anguishing on social media. Lethargy and resignation set in, as my attempts to enjoy my trip overseas became useless. Pretending to have fun while rapidly cycling through the stages of grief is exhausting after awhile.

On my taxi ride to the Dubai airport, my sweet Pakistani driver kept telling me everything would be ok and to try not to overthink. He asked me questions about whether I thought Hillary would have been a good president (the answer is yes), and what the weather is like in DC. I asked him if he’d ever visited the United States. He said he had always hoped to, but didn’t think he’d be welcome now. I tried to offer equally comforting words, and not to cry.

Poor me on my gorgeous vacation, right? I mostly stayed silent on social media as I tried to pull my thoughts together and find the words to express myself. Eventually I read a few articles and posts that helped me begin to put things into perspective.

Bottom line? As a female and as a (non-practicing) Jewish person, I feel marginalized. But I don’t feel personally threatened at this moment, and I need to always be mindful about the immediate impact this is having on people I care deeply about. Two of my friends have already been harassed.

The best thing we can do right now is call local government representatives to voice our concerns, and to donate (money and/or time) to causes that need support more than ever. Here’s the list I’ve pulled together so far, in no particular order. Do what you can. Consider donating in place of traditional holiday gifts this year. Every little bit helps.

Remember that these organizations will need support for at least 4 years, not just in the immediate future. Did I miss any worthy causes that should be linked above? Please share them in the comments below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • What about the rights of the unborn? I will donate time and money to Catholic Causes and Right to Life organizations. I don’t expect the same tolerance you seek so I will cancel my subscription to your blog.

    • Ok Diane, listen. I hear you, and I understand that you truly believe abortion kills babies. I respect where you are coming from. I hope you read my entire post, because there’s a lot more going on here than that issue alone. That being said, I feel like people rarely want to have a dialogue about this, they just want to yell “my side.” That’s what I’m getting from your comment, since you didn’t actually try to engage with me. What bothers me about the anti-abortion/pro-life argument is that I rarely hear concern about rights after birth. If you are donating your time and money to Catholic organizations, I truly hope you also care about the rights of all living citizens. Because so many people in America right now feel that their lives and their civil rights are in danger. Please try to have empathy for them as well. Love thy neighbor, right? You and I clearly have our differences. I don’t expect to change your mind, and you know you won’t change mine. But I think we can both agree on that. Love thy neighbor.

      • I am new to your blog (having just purchased your terrific book, but your response to Diane (my way or the highway) was right on. You expressed my feelings in a far nicer way than I would have.

  • Well, at least your photos are gorgeous! Really unbelievably sad and scary times right now and I know we’ll need our friends and communities (and vodka) more than ever to get ourselves through this. Hope your body is adjusting back to the US time, Jen, and looking forward to seeing you soon.

  • Still processing over here, too. Wednesday was a surreal day … It must have been so weird for you to be out of the country. I never thought I would feel true grief because of an election, but that’s exactly what it was. Sending hugs!

  • Dubai looks gorgeous. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go to.

    As for the election, definitely historical! It must have been something to watch it over seas

  • I sat in my living room screaming at the TV in hopes it was all a joke. Never more in life did I wish Ashton Kutcher would come out and be all “you’ve been punked!” (Totally unrelated, does that statement make me sound old? It totally dates me.) Even though the election sucked I think your trip looked lovely. I went to Dubai a little over 10 years ago and it was so gorgeous. I didn’t quite love the midday heat BUT everything else was great :)

  • Thank you for writing this post Jennifer. It has almost been 2 weeks and I am still having a hard time processing. You were right saying that we are going back instead of forward.
    I can only imagine how hard it must have been to be so far and to have to see it all unfold while you were there.
    Still, I am glad that you got a chance to go visit a new place and meet new people. These photos looks so good.
    Welcome back!
    PS: We started a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood.

  • So well spoken. I had a similar reaction when I woke up Wednesday morning — I didn’t even realize I was confident until it all came crumbling down. Who the… what the… how?! But there it is. Personally, I’m doing my best to remain hopeful. I’m hopeful that Donald Trump will prove half the country wrong and be a good president. And I’m hopeful that all that fear/hate/mistrust people feel can be healed. I’m not convinced those things will happen easily, but I’m hopeful for them. And I love that you ended this by encouraging people to donate their time/money/energy to organizations that are going to be in (more than normal) need. I think more than anything people are wondering what they can do to help push things in the right direction, and that’s exactly it.

    And, on a lighter note… your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing them, and for being so honest about your feelings and experiences!

  • It has been so weird to follow this whole thing from abroad. It almost felt like watching a Marvel movie, where there’s a squad of guys getting together to take over the country – except this is real. It’s been all the talk here in Europe. I still hope it’s not as bad as everyone expects, but it’s still interesting (and scary) how half a country’s confirmation bias could be taken to such lengths via social media.

    At least the Dubai photos are gorgeous!

  • The world feels like a scary place right now. I would have had similar thoughts as you that morning as you headed down to eat breakfast. Thanks for your courage to share your thoughts, Jennifer. All the love and hope for a brighter future.