Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Arrivals and Departures

Dubai and Basra, 25 April 2014

Image © Jennifer R. Pournelle 2014. Rice souk. Al Ras, Dubai, UAE.

Wandering the alleys of the rice souk in the post-dawn hour Friday morning, imagine my double-take on turning a corner and seeing this signage. "Carolina Gold" rice, the crop that made Charleston, South Carolina the wealthiest city in America in the 18th century, is making a comeback, but as far afield as Dubai? A quarter-hour spent peering through the immaculate wholesaler's windows revealed an astonishing array of basmati and aromatic rices, but no "Carolin." A bit of online sleuthing later, I discovered that the Carolin displayed here is a brand of vegetable oil-based margarine marketed by Ngo Chew Hong Edible Oil Pte Ltd of Singapore. It seems that the British love of buttered Carolina rice became associated with the color, and the rest is, well, marketing.

     Meanwhile, the rest of the team landed in Basra, and endured the usual merry-go-round of passport control without me. It seems that a government-issued visa affixed into a passport is as yet not enough to get one through the gate. Phone calls must be made, numbers must be checked, and, of course, somebody must appear on the opposite side of the immigration stand with a letter of sponsorship and assurances that these are, yes, the people who were invited and expected in the first place. At present, the entirety of immigration control still depends on 3-ring binders full of hand-carried bits of paper, and is utterly geared to processing the revolving door of 200,000 contract workers that rotate through the oil and construction sectors annually. A handful of academics flapping about unsupervised is a head-scratching conundrum that takes an hour to resolve. Note that: an hour. It used to take a day. Or two. Or three. Things improve every trip. #cmarsh

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