You sit down to watch a video, eat a few chocolate biscuits, and drink a nice cold glass of chocolate milk after an intense workout, not realizing that your night is about to be ruined. You raise the glass to your lips in unbridled anticipation, having been thinking of this moment since your near fatigue-driven collapse on the football pitch earlier that evening. But the moment the creamy white liquid touches your tongue you know something’s wrong.Fresh Laban

What’s wrong? Well, in my haste to buy supplies for my chocolate concoction on the way home, I forgot to actually READ the label. So because I assumed that white means milk, I got my just desserts. Instead of purchasing milk I had mistakenly grabbed a bottle of Laban.

Laban, or Lban, is basically buttermilk. It is typically found in many shops in the Middle East. Laban is used primarily for making yogurt but can be drank straight. It has many health benefits. All of which, however, I Similarities?did not care about when I sat down with my refreshing chocolate “milk”.

So the next time I decide to make homemade yogurt or a Lebanese-type milk dish I know exactly what to buy. But on that night, at that table, at that moment, all I really cared about was that what I was drinking was NOT MILK…

  Not pleased.

And we were not happy about that.


Professional Access

It takes years, sometimes decades of training to reach the levels advanced enough to compete on the main stage at Zayed Sports Stadium in Sports City, Abu Dhabi… it took me 3 weeks.

Ok. Let’s start over. Because at this point you’re probably thinking, Dylan, weren’t you an amazing soccer player in the states? And wasn’t it only natural that you get the recognition you most certainly deserve upon entering that talent-desert UAE? And you’re half right. It is true that I am an amazing – and humble – footballer, as they call it here and everywhere else in the world. The misconception though is that because the UAE is not Europe or South America that the level of play is not as high. To be honest though, I don’t know, they might all be rubbish here. No clue. But this is not an exposé on Arabian Soccer and it’s credibility. Another time maybe.

This is a story of a man who took a chance and ended up having the opportunity to train, practice, and play at Abu Dhabi’s premier soccer stadium. The man? Dylan McShain. The place? United Arab Emirates. The sport? Gaelic Football. Wait, what?

You read right. GAELIC football.

I know you’re confused but stick with me. One of the first steps I took in coming to Abu Dhabi was to try and get connected with different groups and organizations I knew would be a bit o’ fun. So obviously, I looked into the Irish Society of Abu Dhabi. Look into it if you ever stop over. Good stuff aside, one night a few weeks ago I got an email notifying me of a local football club that was beginning its training sessions. Only caveat was that it was Gaelic Football.

Again, I know what you’re thinking. ‘You’re Irish Dylan. You and you’re 8 brothers and sisters must have had regular matches in the backyard of your stone cottage estate in Northern Philadelphia.’ And again, you’re half right. There were a lot of us, but no, Gaelic Football was left to the Emerald Isle and the far corners and shadows of Irish Philadelphia. Other than a few games here and there as a youth I knew nothing. But I went anyway.

Zayed Stadium 2 Night Outside Copy 1

I took a 30-minute taxi to get where I needed to go with barely a direction to give Asaan, my driver. When I told him Zayed Sports City, where a lot of athletics and such take place, he took me to the stadium. I thought, this can’t be right. This is the main stadium. But sure enough, I was in the right place. I knew this because I began to see gaggles of Irishmen walking through the grand arches to the main pitch.
Instantly, thoughts of brogues and limericks and every other Irish stereotype flew through my mind. How could I fit in and make this less awkward?

Answer was… I couldn’t. At least not yet.

One of the primary reasons I stood out a wee bit was that of the 50 odd gents that showed up for that first practice, I was the only American. What made matters even more awkward was when the newbies had to go around and say their name and where they were from. Want to know who plays Gaelic Football? People FROM Ireland. There was one fella from Toronto but every other person in the stadium that night was born and raised on that beautiful green island.

zayed stadium at nightAt the end of the day it was well worth it. Nothing spells male bonding like embarrassing yourself in an athletic setting. On top of that I learned a lot through that initial ordeal.

First, Gaelic football is a very fun game.

Second, playing Gaelic football in 95-degree temperatures turns your sky blue shirt into an onyx navy.

And finally, when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, even if you’re already outside your comfort – ahem, Abu Dhabi – then you are opening yourself up to an amazing allotment of wondrous opportunities.

Heck, you might even get to play in a professional stadium… with real Irishmen.


Every now and then I’m just going to drop a bomb/barrage of photos on you all. BAM!!!

...immediately after walking out into the heat.

…immediately after walking out into the heat.From Burj al Marina

Where I will be staying in a few months...NOT.

Where I will be staying in a few months…NOT.

On top of AD ROARRR!!!!

I got my 100 dirhams worth.

I got my 100 dirhams worth.

Pinky Out

Pinky Out

Stop laughing at me shoes.

Stop laughing at me shoes.

And this was on the way TO dinner.

And this was on the way TO dinner.

Sushi Boat




Each flag represents a student who attends the school.

Each flag represents a student who attends the school.

There exists such a place…

On a sunny day in the light-hearted streets of Abu Dhabi you would not know this place exists. You go about your daily business as usual. Dropping off your pants to be hemmed at your Emirati tailor Freddy’s. Buying your dainties and perishables at Splash retail outlet. Driving around and around on different roundabouts because you don’t know how to exit. Haggling down that ridiculous 100 dirham bowl because it has a small chip in it and you think you can get it for 60. And all the while, you unknowingly pass by a dark store that should not be. A store like this should not technically be around in a “dry” country. But alas… it be.

Before we begin, let me state, that to protect the parties involved, we shall label this a fictional story. The following details may or may not have happened. And the individual accounts may or may not be true. But despite the obscurity of the situation, the place that we speak of remains alive and well and completely factual. And so…
There was a man, let us call him the Libationee, in need of some Spirit. He knew not where to turn for such a refreshment due to his predicament of location, but he had heard tales. Tales of dark holes and cubbies in his desert oasis that offered such refreshments of spirit. So with courage and wonder he went off in search of such a place not knowing where his journey would lead.


He questioned everyone, near and slightly farther than near, and received vague responses and general directions. Until he came across a fellow traveler who had just recently been Spirited away. She spoke of lefts and rights and lefts again until Mr.

Libationee was fully confused. Befuddled he was, yet his drive to find this nook had not been thwarted. Directions given, the experienced feminine traveler left him with one word – African. So, with his faithful sidekick and driver he went in search.

Left, right, left, left again… were they going in circles? All while looking for that one word that would signify their path was true – African. Like a whisper on the wind. Circles were most definitely what they were going in. Through parking lots and back streets. Through alleyways and sidewalk wide roads until it seemed hopeless. And still, no African in sight. Nor would there ever be.

They continued in that pace for what seemed like hours. In reality, it was about 3-4 minutes. The directions were actually quite good. But not finely crafted directions would help them at this stage. The needed instinct. The needed faith in themselves and their own gut feeling. So, provoked by that gut feeling, the Libationee knew he was close.

“Stop! We’re here!” he yelled to his female driver.

Who already being a bit on edge because of the shady nature of their environment, slammed on the breaks in the middle of the small street. There in front of the Spirit-seekers was a dwelling dark as night, despite it being midday. The mysterious windows were not marked by the word African as had been mentioned, but instead read two letters – A & E. Round and round the shadowed building the Libationee crept, leaving his companions behind, until he finally reached the opening of the cave. He quietly cracked the vaulted, but unlocked, doors and slowly stepped in. And what did he find in that dark, black, stone, window-less cavern that screamed of illegality, mischief, and despair???

Den of Darkness

Den of Darkness

Two Indian men having a conversation about a local cricket team and a young Filipino shopkeeper standing peacefully in the corner. Hmmm… that’s anti-climactic. No guns or whistles or bells warning that a non-liicensed American traveler had entered the premises?     Oh.       Sad face.

But this story would have intrigue because then came the dilemma. While it was not illegal for the Libationee to enter and be in such an establishment as the one he was currently residing in, it would be illegal for him to transport such cargo out of the store in this Royal Emir of Abu Dhabi… so he had to be fast.

He grabbed his black bag of spirits and moved quickly, though not quick enough to draw attention, to the place he had left his companions. But upon arriving at that location his heart dropped in his chest and his pulse quickened, for they were not there. They were gone.

Standing on a public street corner with a dark black plastic bag full of illegal substances, “Where could they be?”, he asked himself. Again, it seemed like days in that hot sun when he saw from a distance his sidekick Pancho from Porto. Pancho waved him over as though knowing the Libationee needed an escape route. They fled together to the steaming comforts of a nearby parked car. Lucky for them, it was their car. The driver had wantonly decided to make a quest of her own in a local cosmetics shop. And although I am sure her quest was just, I doubt one could be arrested for transporting nail polish remover. “Quick march!” he said. And off they flew to safety.

As the three companions sped away to safety and spirited anticipations, the Libationee reflected to himself on his journey and how he went from thinking there was a place such as that to knowing… there exists such a place.

The Alchemist

“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” the boy asked…

“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

A week or so before coming to Abu Dhabi, a close a friend of mine, let’s call him J, gave me a book. He may or may not have realized how fitting that book was to my upcoming journey. Either way, being given a story of a young boy who leaves everything he knows in search of adventure could just be a coincidence. Good books are fun like that. Coincidences.

A story about a Personal Legend.

A story about a Personal Legend.

But upon reading what the young boy does to find his adventurous treasure, I saw it was much more than coincidence. This shepherd travels through Spain into Morocco, eventually crossing the desert with a caravan of individuals he’s only just met. With the sole guidance of a few stones in his pocket and an acute awareness of the omens around him, he goes in search of his own Personal Legend – “what you have always wanted to accomplish when you are not afraid to dream.”

There was a point in the boy’s story where he meets a man that forces him to take the final steps. To realize the path ahead would not be simple or easy, but exponentially worthwhile. This man was an alchemist, a man of wisdom and knowledge. The alchemist provided guidance and truth at a time of transition and uncertainty.

Forced to pay attention to the omens in my own life, I began to see more than plain old happenstance, I began to see perfection. Perfection in the cogs and wheels of this world. Perfection in my journey. Perfection through a close friend’s simple gift. For some it would have been just that… a simple gift. A book. But I am glad I was given the insight to see that this story was no accident. And that the relationships that have formed in my life have deeper purpose and meaning.

I’m blessed to have such friends that would be the omens in my own Personal Legend, the alchemists illuminating the desert trail ahead. My friends and family know how much space they hold in my heart, and I wish you the same fortune, because…

“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it. Good-bye,” the alchemist said.

“Good-bye,” said the boy…

…for now.

Fruity Substitution

What happens when you limit the sale and consumption of alcohol in an entire country? Many things. Crazy things. Mostly expected – a decrease in Segway accidents and a drop in alcohol related spoutal abuse (i.e. that’s where you drink directly from the kitchen spout the morning after because of your massive headache). But here’s an outcome you would have never expected…

delicious fruit drinks.Delicious... and regrettably good for you.

Have you ever had a watermelon, pine nut, and artichoke fruit cocktail? Neither have I, scary. But if I wanted one I could get one very easily. Every restaurant, café, and quirky little kiosk I pass by have these crazy concoctions. We thought we Americans were versed in exotic juices because we’ve drank Pomegranate Pear from Nantucket Nectars Juice Company? Not.

They got some serious juicing going on here in the UAE. I had to try one, so I ordered an Avocado Cocktail today and despite my best inclinations at an ‘I’m-grossed-out’ face, it was actually quite decent. Chunky, but decent.

Alcohol Restriction End Result:

People like to drink interesting things. So when you take away the alcohol, you’re left with a trail of destruction resulting in millions of casualties… Discarded rinds and pits EVERYWHERE!!!

Unnatural Beauty

Abu Dhabi Golf Club Main Building

Abu Dhabi Golf Club Main Building

Abu Dhabi is a beautiful city. It’s Grand Mosques, Arabian influence, and breathtaking feats of engineering and architecture all combine to create a place different than anything you could imagine. And it has most certainly stemmed from a vivid and wondrous imagination. But this beauty I speak of did not come about in a “natural” way. It was sculpted and carved and built from the minds of men and women who dared to dream big.

Maybe that’s why the UAE is home to some of the tallest buildings in the world, because it has allowed individuals freedom to dream up unimaginable creations. Maybe that’s also why in a recent conversation with some Abu Newbies, not one of them considered this city beautiful. We come from regions of the world that are lush and green with copious amounts of history. Arriving in a four decade old metropolis situated on a desert oasis may stun our aesthetic sensors.

I remember traveling around Europe back in 2009 and looking at thousand-year-old castles and thinking, “Man. I thought Philadelphia was old.” Philadelphia hasn’t even awkwardly asked a girl to the prom compared to Rome and Greece. Heck, Philadelphia’s voice is still changing. Abu Dhabi on the other hand is technically still in the crib. But it is aging at a ‘Jack’-like rate – Robin Williams movie, check it out.

There is a high-rise building across from my apartment of which I have been documenting the construction. I’d be amazed if it wasn’t fully constructed by Christmas… and it currently has no windows or walls. There is a sense of catch-up here. Having been overshadowed by its northern brother Dubai for so long it seems as though it is only recently that this city has spreads its falconian wings.

So however mechanical and unnatural these wings may be they are still beautiful in flight. Who knows what dreams may come for the city of Abu Dhabi, in the meantime, it sure is fun watching it fly.