Yesterday, our visit to the mud flats was great. After hours of lectures the previous day, getting outside was wonderful. The wind was blowing and it wasn’t unbearably hot. The desert surrounded us with a few shrubs, and oil rig, and mirages off in the distance. We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and sunk into the mud. I haven’t felt so childlike in a long time, and it felt great. Though it was mentioned in jest, I think the mud between my toes was therapeutic. All the course 12s tried to convince us to be EAPS because of the amazing field work we would get to do. I’m naturally curious, and walking over 20-year-old tracks form seismic measurement trucks was astounding, but geology isn’t my thing (and I don’t think the rest of EAPS is either).
Today was a little difficult. I think the combination of the heat and the accumulated lack of sleep hit me (and others) harder than was expected. We went to Dubai and first we visited the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, ICBA, where they are developing plants that can grow without fresh water. We got to go into a cold room (a very cold room) where they house the seeds of plants from all around the world and seeds from strains they had bred. Next we went to a greenhouse where they were experimenting with the salinity level of the water and different fertilizers on two plant types. From there we went into the blistering hot sun and saw the 2.5 hectares of planted land that ICBA has.
Being from Vermont (with Lake Champlain), lack of fresh water never hit home for me, but here, where it is a problem, it is really relevant. Drinking bottled water at home (even though I don’t do it) doesn’t seem like a big deal (a waste o money, but that’s besides the point). But here, where I drank it every day and oil is cheaper than water (to produce, but water is subsidized by the government), I became concerned. At least they are addressing the issue by experimenting with these plants to see if they can create agriculture that will grow in this natural environment. The 2012 UTFs (sophomores) seemed to enjoy this part too because of its correlation to last year’s Mission, water quality in the Midwest (of the US).
After ICBA we went to some street-side stalls (where I got a pashmina scarf) and the
Dubai Museum, and then … the BURJ KALIFA. The Burj (no, not you Seth) Kalifa is the tallest building in the world, 800 something meters tall, and opened in January. It already closed because the elevators were malfunctioning…however, it is certainly a feat of architecture. And of engineering too, but its carbon footprint alone is enough to make Masdar a drop in the bucket. While walking through the mall to get to the Buj Kalifa (passing an aquarium, a skate rink, and multiple-floor fountains), that same uneasiness that I had in Abu Dhabi came to me. It’s hard to stomach the grandiosity of each building in Dubai knowing that their construction is only contributing to the global problem we, and Masdar and trying to solve. (Not even solve, we learned last semester that this was way beyond our control alone.) How can I support such development? The conflict between my love for architecture and my love for the environment remains unsettled. I would still give anything to be able o go to the very top of the Burj Kalifa (the highest viewing spot is halfway up).
On a different note, the end of the trip is approaching, encroaching upon us. And it has changed our attitudes—there’s almost a sense of maturity that wasn’t there before. Instead of having young and eager eyes, we have weary ones. There’s still a glimmer in the corner, but we are definitely run down. Last night, as we sat around the dinner tables after an amazing buffet on the beach, I felt like we were older. And after dinner, we sat around a different table, relaxing and talking, more like our parents’ generation than our own. I didn’t want the trip to end, I thought it could go on forever, but now I understand that for it to be what it was, it had to be this short (or this long, it’s all relative). As we head back to the hotel, I am trying to absorb as much as I can of the culture, the people, my attitude, before we leave for all that is (semi-)known.