Circles Under Her Feet

I’m the American-born daughter of Indian immigrants, and I grew up in small-town outside of Houston. I’ve never quite fit the mold – American or Indian. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to journalism; the entire exercise is to talk to people, get a sense of their stories and who they are, and share them with other people.

I have traveled on my own since my mid-teens, first, in Europe and America, and eventually to many parts of the globe. I started this blog and called it “Parallel Universe” nearly 10 (!!) years ago when I moved from Dallas to Dubai, where I was a freelance foreign correspondent writing for international publications including TIME magazine, The New York Times and Institutional Investor magazine. I had worked for The Dallas Morning News until late 2008, but newspaper cutbacks meant my chances to be sent overseas as a foreign correspondent were slim. So, I decided to make my own way.

Back then, the idea was to write about a place striving for a place among the community of modern societies while also staying true to its traditions and culture. These objectives, as you can imagine, sometimes clashed. I was there for nearly five years. I took my office on the road as much as I wanted: those places included Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, India, Spain, Paris, Hong Kong, Cairo, Tanzania, Kenya, and Thailand.

Parallel Universe has now been rechristened “Postcards from the Bayou” – though the old posts are still here below. I’ve moved back to Houston, my hometown, where I deal with the culture shock of being back in America and grapple with some of the forces shaping both my country and Texas. I see this blog as my little patch of the Web to muse about that, my travels, food and wine, books, and other interests that I have.

Circles Under Her Feet refers to a Gujarati saying that essentially means someone like me, constantly moving with a pretty healthy wanderlust and curiosity for all things in this amazing world of ours. I suppose the English equivalent is, She doesn’t sit still.

Thanks for reading and please stay in touch: angela.shah(at)gmail.com.

There’s no place like home, wherever it is

The UAE, but Dubai especially, is a tricky place to call home. About 85 percent of us who live here are expats — not immigrants — but expats. We live the most temporary of existences. We’re basically here until our employer decides we don’t have a job. If someone loses their job, it’s not, hey, I’ll work in a coffee shop, do some freelancing, while I look for another one. It’s you have one month to sell your stuff and ship the rest because you’re going back to where you come from. A rep from your company will literally meet you at the airport to make sure you get on the plane.

Makes you want to stay a while, huh?

I’m a white-collar bracero here as long as the (Emirati) Man lets me.

After six months of living out of four suitcases, I finally moved into my own place. Rents in Dubai have come down post-economic meltdown and with apartments in Abu Dhabi still scarce and super expensive (think London rents for slumlord accommodations), it made sense to scoot over to Dubai despite the hour-long commute each way. It’s a nice place on the 34th floor with a big kitchen, balcony looking over some of Dubai’s iconic structures, a pool and gym on the top floor.

The development is called Jumierah Lakes Towers, across from the Dubai Marina, if you’re familiar with the city at all. It’s a group of about 25 towers, a Midtown Manhattan sprung up in two years. The buildings are all in some form of half-completion. Our parking garage is still being worked on and you can’t yet drive up the drive to get to the front entrance.

Basically, I’m living in a live construction zone: 24-hour construction permits, dodging concrete trucks when I leave in the morning to get on the highway. From my bedroom window I can watch the laborers scale the next-door skyscraper on rickety risers. Let’s just say they wouldn’t allow this sort of co-existence on Turtle Creek Boulevard. (I’ll post pics soon.)

The suitcases are unpacked, I’ve bought the basics in furniture and the kitchen is stocked. I bought a new car. I’m meeting people, making friends. But it’s weird to have no shared history – well, at least not longer than six months — with anyone here. So what I’m thinking about now is: how to make this home.