Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Oprah Winfrey

Well, how do I start this? must admit, I am a great fan of Oprah, what she did is amazing, I am refering to how she built her brand and grew a company from nothing, she conquered the world of chat shows, and made her image worth billions of dollars, and at the end of the 25 years she became the richest woman in America. A friend of mine never missed a show for Oprah, I did miss many of course, as I don't have the time to watch TV. However, I had to watch the last show, and saw how her viewers and audience's tears, why? Because she made a difference, she wasn't playing on anybody's emotions, she was uncovering hidden issues and forbidden situations.

Last week there was an article about Oprah in one of our local papers (http://gulfnews.com/arts-entertainment/celebrity/is-oprah-ignorant-of-the-middle-east-1.812300). I read the article few times, and took the cutting before the newspaper became a paper bag! The idea of accusing a woman of not knowing the middle eastern countries is something that is very sarcastic, more than that, it is ironic, as we the middle eastern do not know our culture, nor do we respect any human being in this world. It doesn't matter if we follow a religion that asks each and every one of us to be forgiving to one's neighbour, and helpful to his/her fellow human beings, but we do not do any of this, we think that we know it all, but in reality we are ignorant of our slightest feelings, and think of no one but in ourselves. So asking Oprah who helped millions of people in USA to know what we are, who we are, our culture and customs and traditions, and to know where we bring our money from, and where we spend it, how our social system is composed, and if at all we have a class system? How our rich people live, and how we deal with the poor people is a far cry aimed mainly to ourselves.

We have a saying in arabic "when the camel falls many claim his death", I think this saying is very relevant here, as those that has nothing to say are all gathering now to put a dark side to Oprah. I liked her Questions to Zain Alsabah, in actual fact I still remember the giggles of Zain and Oprah when they were talking about the wealth and the designer bags. Of course if she had interviewed a poor person from the streets of Baghdad, the discussion would have been completely different. So what was discussed is a rich culture that some of us do encounter, the poor culture seems to be a shame in the middle east, for that reason we do not attempt to remove even though most of our Islamic teaching emphasise on removing poverty and better distribution of wealth. Hence, I feel that making Oprah opologise for something that we ourselves ignore is not warranted, I think she only did it so she doesn't lose out on the millions that she will make from MBC.

What we need in the middle east is a good talk show like Oprah's, where we disclose similar subjects or more as we do have many diseases that no other country has, but they are all undercover.

Maybe I should teach Oprah arabic, and let her live in one of the arab world countries to see for herself that the cord that she struck with the Americans is not so different to the one she will strike with us the Arabs. We live similar circumstances, and we have similar diseases, our rich are the same as their rich, and our poor are not worse off than their poor. We have it all baby, the drugs, alcohol, prostitution, White slaves, miscarriages, men with affairs, corruptions, conspiracy theories, bad medical treatments, conglomerates making their billions even though they provide consumers with substandard products or services. I am naming a few of our social factors. I will not dig more until Oprah learns Arabic.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Do you sometimes have the feeling that you have accomplished nothing for a whole week? The week before lt I attended so many courses to the extent that I felt I had gone back to university days. Very imaginative of Knowlege Village (KV) of course, they asked every training company that is based in it to provide a course for the partner, this was run over three days, I cannot say that the rooms were full, not every one takes advantage of this opportunity, unfortunate of course as the amount of learning and networking that happens during these courses or meetings, is unbelievable. Anyway, the one that I liked was titled "The Customer is the King" which is true, without the customer all businesses will fail, imagine a world of companies with no buyers? They will not survive in any shape or form, hence, we must find the customers, and once we did so, keep them, and have them return for more goods or services. Of course, not sure if you all had noticed this, in our world we the customers do not mean anything. I can count the number of times I have been mistreated, cheated upon, shouted upon, money robbed, bought clothes made from bad materials, attended hospitals that created in me more deceases than cures, went to dentists that pulled good tooth out of my mouth without having a Conscience, banks that stole my money in fraudulent products, auditors that have no idea how to audit, etc etc

I am not saying here that I am a classic case of dumbness? I am just saying that all of us have been subjected to bad consumerism. Every company in this world, apart from a few, is trying to lure us into buying, you cannot even watch a movie without having it preludes with umpteen advertisements. It is fine to advertise, and fine to spend money on that, theres no problem with that what so ever, but it is not fine to pollute the magazines, newspapers, fliers, TV, radio, cinema houses, roads, and everything that these companies can pit their hands on with adverts. What we want is selective advertising, in the time that we choose to see them, we press a button to see them. Also what we need is a fulfilment of a promise, can the companies spend less on advertising and more on after sale service? Or pay back to the customer if there is repeat business rather than continuously dragging new customers to buy. I myself wouldn't mind getting back some money from Etisalat, rather than them spending trillions on re-branding exercise, Or working on keeping me as a client rather than pushing me to find an alternative?? Like DU for example.

Anyway, this was one of the courses. The second course we attended was so funny, it is sort of a continuation of the first one, it's about advertising and how the folks are using neuromarketing to reach into the old brain of us the suckers to compel us into buying. Apparently nowadays most companies use gadgets to check if we really like the product, or we were just kidding and answering the surveys without thinking? Imagine that a company does their adverts on the basis of left and right brain? For example if you put the photo on the left and the writing on the right, people will see the photo better than vice versa. Science is very strange really.

The last event was called SME builder. KV brings in mentors for every part of the business (finance, marketing, HR, sales, advertising, customer service, etc), I chose two tables only, finance and sales. I liked the second one but not the first one. The finance guy was a director of a group of angel investors, telling us all the tricks of how to attain finance. He said to me that I will never get approved for finance (surprise, surprise) as my existing business doesn't make money (oh did I mention that we do not make money, however we sustained ourselves since 2003), and the second person talked in such a nice manner, to the extent that I felt like becoming a sales person. Here is his list:

1. Sales people have too much ego. They need to have client relationship (empathy) 
2. We must have a balance between ego and empathy. Just increasing numbers is not good. 
3. Sell the benefits not the feature. 
4. Listen more than talk.
5. Customer is the king, but the company is the emperor
6. Sell business partnerships.
7. Put yourself in your clients shoes

Basically , no matter how much money a company spends on advertising, or customer service, the sales person is the catalyst, so he must be ethical.

At the end of the day, I won a resort stay for two including dinner. My kids and I are going soon.

Men of the UAE

Is this a weird title? I guess so, but if you were at the exhibition today and had listened to Amna talking about why she thought of doing this project your amazement will vanish, apparently there are very few articles written about UAE men, in actual fact I did a google search after the exhibition, she is absolutely correct, no one writes about men? Women are the focal point of most media coverage. Have we forgotten about our men? They are our fathers, brothers, school friends, work colleagues, husbands and sons. They are the reason we learn to do stuff for, as they fail to do chores that are relating to housekeeping, they can do cooking but do not know how to clean the kitchen behind themselves, they can garden but fail to hide the equipment afterwards. They never know how to saw buttons, or mend socks, they never learn to switch the lights behind them, or flush the toilette. Of course some men do this and are clean freak, but those are the exceptions.

Why do I always digress! Amna did a fantastic job, the photographs were brilliant, and the writing underneath each one was vivid, of course she forgot to mention the names, or shall I say she purposely omitted to mention the names of those that were photographed, because she didn't want bias in liking or hating the photo or the description, which is true, I would stare at the photo of the crown prince of Omm Alqaiwin rather than the guy holding to the boat. I am sure she will post her pictures on the blog, so watch this space.

She talked in such a nice and charismatic tone, to my surprise of course, as to me she is still the child and the intern who worked for me for a week when she was in her last year of school. I am waiting for her to be the youngest UAE ambassador so I can brag to everybody, that she is the result of my mentoring!

I asked her two questions, the first one was the reason for not putting the names of those men,In case one of the gorgeous girls that attended the packed room (which was as usual having the men on one side and the women on the other) decided that she wants to marry one of them? And the second one if she is going to do the same exhibition in Portugal where she will spend two months interning at the UAE Embassy, I am sure that will be a hit with the Purtugese girls! To both, she didn't reply, but giggled instead.

The pink berry ice cream my dear friend Effa invited me to after the show was refreshing, thanks Effa, that was a good finale to a most productive day.

I love my Saturdays. I hope to have tons of Saturday's, and that most of them are spent either in meeting friends, going to art exhibitions, or just chilling at home with the kids.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Is it a question of standards or just a way to kill the aspirations of the elite

I rarely spend time with friends, most of the days and weeks I am either at work, or at home working as well. My job occupies 80% of my time, I never thought of changing myself or reducing the working hours. Unfortunately I love what I do, and my students are all very nice, they provide me with energy, the team I work with are also very nice, they all see the imaginary projector placed on my head, and the 60000 thoughts per second that goes inside my brain.

It is amazing how fast I can think, and more amazing how fast I can forget what I thought about, so the team now quickly record my thoughts if they feel that it is of value. For example last week I had the parents of two students of ours, we were discussing how pathetic the middle east is in terms of providing opportunities for students in the medical field in terms of specialisations, internships, and examinations. Both parents are doctors themselves, one is a favourite of mine, as he is a plastic surgeon(the thought of repairing my face and body did cross my mind guys, I don't want to lie about it), so I asked him and her where they did their specialisations? They said that in their country they can specialise, as all the universities there are attached to hospitals. On passing I asked them if the university over there will accept international students? The plastic surgeon said maybe? Why? I said that if it is possible we will place students there? He said in his language to my main counsellor who speaks that language that he will go and check but he wouldn't like it if after he paves the way we forget about the project. The counselor told him something which enforced my feeling that the team knows me by now very well. She told him in that language that Ms Suad gives us the tip of the iceberg and we follow up, so he shouldn't worry. I felt such a relief that god had sent me angels to capture my thoughts and convert them to real things. Thank you god.

Anyway, that is not the subject of discussion today. I was saying that I never spend time with family and friends; this weekend proved to me that I must do this often. So on Friday I had a close friend with me the whole day, we had lunch, watched a movie on TV, discussed current affairs, counseled each other, then in the evening went to the mall, watched another Movie, ate popcorn and maltesers, had our barbican, I.e. Complete indulgence.

On Saturday, I got to know this woman who is wonderful, we struck a cord instantly, she is a dentist, mezotherapist, sculpturist, artist, writer and journalist. The type that you can set with for hours without being bored, she can talk to you about anything and every thing, a walking encyclopaedia! A true treasure. Her daughter is the same, a lawyer and researcher, after the first hour of breakfast I wanted to meet all her family. This morning I met her husband at breakfast, and both were like the yin-yan; Perfect match. He is a heart surgeon, then a minister of health, followed by a minister of education, an ambassador, a writer, journalist analyser, heads many educational boards, and at the same time a good husband and a lover. The way he looks at her when she talks, and vice verse was brilliant. Then we talked more and had lunch together. Pity they are leaving today, my cultural dose is not complete yet, I rarely get enough cultural doses.

Anyway, during the discussion, I finally figured it out. The difference between the west and us? Okay, I will spell the beans. The west establishes standards; we do not! Every minister that comes has on one feet a rubber that deletes what the previous person had established, and on the other feet a stamp. And so it goes. That is why you find road constructions going on for years, you get it?

I explained to them that for example if an epidemic happens in a factory in the west, a new team can come in, and straight away can start production and will produce similar results to the previous team. Why? Because the standards are clearly placed and marked for every nail, nut and bolt. Even in service industry, a new team can takeover straight away, as the job can be replicated. Why do you think it is possible to franchise the likes of McDonalds and Starbucks and we cannot franchise anything? Because of the standards.

So our discussions today lead me to say to our previous minister of education, who by the way did a fantastic system for Bahrain schools at the time, to the extent that the students who graduated in his time were the best of the breed. Of course once he left, the ministry reverted to the old system, and parents started to move their kids to private schools. I told him that if he had made it a standard, and marketed it in the same way the Cambridge examinations or the International bachaloria is done, his system would have given wondrous results for Bahrain.

We also discussed why the elite Arabs do not receive recognition similar to the western people. For example Clinton comes to the middle east conferences and earns 200000 dollars for an hour talk. My friend the ex minister does his TV shows for free? Why? We are under valued.

The second revaluation is, we need to have a PR company that markets our ELITE ARABS.

What say you darling bloggers? Shall we establish this company?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Maids, Housekeepers or Slaves?

My Friday mornings are interesting, I wake up at the time that I wake up, no strings attached, no alarms, and I may or may not have anything to do. I read the paper if it is delivered, if it doesn’t, I just do chores that are pending forever. Kids will be sleeping still (not kids any more, to me they are no matter how old they are), husband goes to the office, or is travelling, and I have my breakfast on the kitchen table, talking to my housekeeper. She is an interesting person from Indonesia, speaks perfect Arabic except for the colours, to her green is blue and blue is green, no matter how many times I correct her, and prove it to her in dictionaries, she thinks that I am making fun of her. Anyway, today the discussion was about her experiences as a worker in other houses and what happened to her and her friends the other housekeepers at airports and maids agencies offices both in her home country and when she arrives. Apparently the first thing they do is to check her belongings, tear out every picture that she was carrying, any address books, and take away her money, face creams, eyeliners, and perfumes. They also hit her on the face, and beat her if she utters a word. Not to forget that they charge her the earth, so she literally works for free for the first six months to repay the loans that she had taken in order to work overseas.
A different story happens when she arrives at her employer’s homes, the first thing is the room she is placed in, no windows, and no AC, no TV, no bathroom, just three walls and a door: some give her a mattress and some do not. The father of the house will try his luck with her, as he ( in most houses that she had worked in) is not satisfied with the wife only, she says that in one of the houses the father of the house was young, well younger than her, so when he was trying to hit on her, she told him that she is older than him, and that she had done an operation to close off the area (cunning woman) and that was the only way she was spared. Her friends (the other housekeepers) were not able to escape this ordeal, so they endured it, as if we brought them to satisfy our every need, and that too by paying them such a low salary.

She says that at the agencies in country, the owners enjoy hitting the maids, so they put them in a room, and test their self endurance, and if they pass the test, then only they are delivered to the houses. So she was slapped on the face, and beaten on the back with sticks and sometimes tortured by tearing her only son’s photograph in front of her. She says that she has no memory of the son, what a life?

The reason I am writing this is to awake every sense that we may have, to see if the people that keep our homes, and cook our food are well looked after. At the end of the day, they can hold a grudge and do something to us in retaliation, dont you think? Also have we brought them as white slaves? We merely have them so every one of us continue to work and fulfil that need that we have, or pursue the careers that we aspire to, so they are the catalysts, not the victims. We also need to look after the husbands, as he may feel a sexual need that only the maid can satisfy??? I am too old, dont look at me, look at yourselves, the young ones, and work on your relationships; but if your man is a womaniser find out early by putting a camera in the maids room or in every room, test him and try to be as nice as possible so he doesn’t look elsewhere, make him feel that you are the only one in this world that is worth the sex, not the housemaid, not the girl that he will bring to the house (this is another story that she told me, apparently the father of the previous family sends the wife to her parents house for the day, and brings other girls to the house, he tells her to prepare food and shuts her mouth!) of course this is a difficult thing to do, but you must do it young girl, or better still do not bring a maid to the house, do the work yourself, and insist that he helps, that actual y may reduce his sexual desires to the lowest level that it only requires one woman to play with, and hopefully that woman is you.

Women empowerment is something that we all must work on, and that doesn’t stop at friends, sisters, colleagues, it should also extend to workers and house staff. We must give every woman the respect the she deserves, and reject the idea that a certain woman is not worth it. Women are worth it as they are the mums of future presidents, kings and sheikhs, they must be taught well, treated well, fed well and above all they must be respected.

I am sure you know what my next project is? Start a housekeeper agency.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Is it my luck?

You know when the king dreamt of the seven thin cows, and seven dried ears of wheat? Joseph explained the dream to him simply; he said that you will have seven years of drought, followed by seven years of extreme poverty. I am not going to say that I am in the first seven years or the second seven years, it will be sufficient to say that I have been hit with bad luck, for a while now.  From trouble at home, to trouble at work, to problems with banks, to drop in property prices, to problems with the family, to unsuccessful ventures, to problems with cars, to troubles with parts of my body, of course I mustn't forget the continuous case of flat tyers;  however what happened tonight tops it all.  

We had an overall strange day, filled with meetings, the accountants were there as we are almost at the end of our financial year, we finally bought that  urgently needed printer, so the technician didn't let us do any work, as he was installing the software on all the laptops, students coming and going, phones didn't stop as it seems that the 35 dirhams advert is working, we had more people in those 500 square foot than usual.  Then we left to go to the graduation of my nephew; it was nice, but very noisy, the kids this year didn't leave a whistle or a Horn in the shops, they bought the lot plus all the party crackers.  The hall must have had over 10000 people, and everyone was noisy including the mums and dads.  Of course it is a cause for celebration, kids finishing school is a relief, firstly no more late nights and homework, and no more drop me at my mate's house to study, or what shall I wear at the prom? I certainly celebrated when my kids finished school and buzzed off to universities, made sure that they go as faraway as possible just to have the peace and quite that is mostly needed for my work.

Sorry, digressing as usual, anyway, after the graduation we went to my sister's house to have dinner there, picked up a cake on the way of course, and had dinner before she arrives with the boys, and forgot to call her husband, who started screaming at us because we ate without him, we laughed it off of course and continued to eat.  Then she came and told us all off for doing this, as she must have been bashed by him for letting us eat without him being at the head of the table, loves his stomach this guy!!  I felt tired after a long day so I told the kids that I am going home and that they should not forget to bring my laptop and the house keeper.  When I approached the house, I can hear a water fall? Did Juju leave the television on? He does that at times, I thought to myself, the key didn't open the door, so I pushed the garage door up, and entered from the kitchen door slipped and fill in the dark, I felt that all my cloths were wet, and I can hear the water coming from upstairs, it reminds me of Jumanji, not sure if you had seen that movie, it is a nice one.  Anyway, I forgot about my back pain, run upstairs, found that the water was coming from my room, oh my god, it was few inches above the ground, so I run to the bathroom and found out that the tap was broken, and the thousands of litters was splashing everywhere. I closed off the tap, and in my head was swearing at those who worked on my toilettes for their bad workmanship!! I also removed the cover of the drainage to let the water seep in, in between I called the kids to run home to help clear the swimming pools inside the whole house. My rugs (hundreds of them, I love rugs and collect them instead of jewellery)where all soaking wet, and the cupboards where also wet inside. Anyway, the four of us worked hard at it, and almost cleaned the place. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.

I forgot to mention that since last Wednesday I have been itching like hell from some allergy, at the same time I am taking allergy tablets and creams, which didn't help, so all in all, it was a jolly time. All we need now is Marry Poppins to sing for us.  

So, what to do you think? Do I have a course of evil eye? Or simply it's a repeat of what the king had dreamt.  Which phase am I at?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Banks, banks and banks

Not sure whose idea it is to establish banks, or who would have given them the upper hand in ruling our lives. Every stone I turn has one problem or the other with banks, I certainly have used banks since I was 16 (39 years) and have nothing good to say about them. I had written in so many places about the deficiencies of our banks, and their greed. But it seems it is not enough to just do that, something crucial need to be done.

Let me start of what is annoying me today. I had purchased few Mashreq Millionaire certificates about 10 years ago for my children, husband and myself, signed for all of them, and paid for them myself, at that point no one said to me that they have to sign for them or anything about Sharia law??!!. A year later my house was broken into, all the jewellery, certificates, shares, watches, expensive pens, Persian carpets, my handbag that had all of my belongings of credit cards, licenses and house and office keys and last but not least my heart too. It took me six months later to organise myself, hadn’t forgotten about that incident to date of course, as I didn’t only have my own jewellery, I had some that was given to me by my mum for my daughters. My family gave me a piece of jewellery each to compensate me, but of course nothing would as I had the collection of when I started to work, and some items had sentimental value like my wedding set that was given to me by my father.
Anyway, I went to the same bank and told them that the certificates were stolen, so they charged me 25 dirhams each, and issued new ones; Nothing too extravagant so far. Last week I wanted to cash them as didn’t feel that having that sort of money in the bank doing nothing, earning nothing and of course none of us were made millionaires by having them. I am not sure either if anyone else is even being made a millionaire? Don’t know if this scam is being audited to find out if it’s true or just one of those things?
The crunch of the story, they refused to cash the certificates, saying the family have to sign a paper each. So I got everyone to sign, took it back to them, then they said, after having me in there for over an hour, that I need their ID’s, so got the ID’s and went back, then they said that it is not possible, as Sharia law doesn’t allow the mother to cash the children’s certificates, they all have to come themselves to take their money? I said ‘excuse me? Where was the law when I bought these damn things? And why wasn’t I told right from the start that I have to spend on tickets to bring the kids here to sign to receive their 1000 dirhams each? The ticket is over 7000 dirhams? So rather than making me a millionaire, they want me to be deeper than deep. I dont know whether I wanted to cry or laugh, as the whole thing was funny. You take someone’s money, use it and abuse it, charge the person for putting his/her money in the bank, and then decide that you are a Sharia law compliant? Also this bank is not even an Islamic bank, of course dont get me started about the Islamic banks, and how they earn their money? I can write a thesis on that front. Of course, I told them off, and said where was Sharia law is when I bought these certificates? And why isn’t this written at the back of the certificates? Or why didn’t they tell me when I bought them that the owner had to cash them?

The manager looked at me in a funny way, and went inside, then after like 15 minutes came back and asked me to go to the cashier to receive the cash. That of course took another 15 minutes, and you are not talking about huge amounts of money here, it’s a 1000 dirhams certificate? I had the feeling that the hands of the cashier was trembling, as if I was going to extract hair from his nose.

Got my money, and tomorrow I am off to another bank to get those mutuals too. I will tell you all about it later.

I must mention a strange thing that happened yesterday, I had a visitor with me from overseas, the door of the office was open, a person enters and hands me a card of a bank! And says that they will give me advantageous benefits? I said sure, leave your card and I will send you an email to talk. When the person left, my visitor was utterly surprised that a British bank goes to the offices these days? Something is surely not right? I will stop here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Morning Walk

I havent been doing any form of serious exercise for a while, but last week and while replying to some surveys (now I only respond to those that will provide me with airmiles, or some sort of rewards)it asked about the number of hours spent on exercise per week, so absent mindedly 2 hours were put there. You cannot believe how ashamed of myself after I hit the submit button, as I do not like to tell anything but the truth in those surveys, I decided to resume my exercise as a punishment for not telling the truth.

So day before yesterday,I took my BB, my water, some money, and myself and went for a brisk walk around the parks in my community; that day was the first day of our third year since we moved to this neighborhood, so it is a good omen I guess. The weather was still cool, the irrigation was on to water the extensive lawns, the dogs were being exercised as well, and the birds of various varieties were churping; I must tell you,even though I hate walking, the trip through the parks was very enjoyable.

The walk, in actual fact, was enjoyable, maybe because it was early morning, and maybe the weather was not humid as is the case in Dubai, also not seeing many people around was a bonus, as I am not a morning person, if you know me well you will not talk to me in the morning as my voice resembles a damaged water pump, and my smile which is always evident is not so friendly at that time of the day. Also chasing after the annoying hoopue almost killed me, as the grounds were wet and I almost slipped; He is so cute though digging the sand for his lost kingdom ( as the story goes)

Also seeing the dog walkers, and how disgusted they look in that early hour was not a good sight, some of the housemaids must be thinking that they could be dreaming rather than walking the dog. One dog owner put a mask like thingy around his dog's mouth, to me that was a huge punishment, I asked him what it is for, he said that the dog likes to eat the rubbish from the grounds, that is why he covers his mouth.

the most astonishing sight was the people who were playing tennis, who can win that early in the day? not sure if that was on their mind though while playing, maybe it was just anothr form of punishment exercise; I wonder how many people lied while answering their survey!

Half way through the walk I ended up in our community mall, had my coffee, and walked back hurriedly to shower, change and take the ride with my husband as my car is out of order.

See you again tomorrow with an update on our community