Caution: Pork Related

Ahead lies a room of destiny... and ruin.

Ahead lies a room of destiny… and ruin.

One of the biggest shocks that I as a westerner has faced in my first days in the UAE has not been the culture, or multi-natioaln attitudes, or even the temperature as mentioned in a previous post ‘Selah’, no, none of these compares. The biggest shock was when I ordered a pepperoni pizza.

I opened the box and I did NOT find the salty, delicious, thinly sliced meat product of which I have grown so fond of these past 27 years. What I found was an abomination. A plague of men (and women). What I found should be banned by any God. On the pizza, melted into the cheesy folds, were cut up beef hot dogs. GROSS!!!

Ok, hot dogs aren’t necessarily vomit inducing, they’re quite delicious… in certain contexts. On a toasted bun with spicy brown mustard. Diced up in some finely crafted mac n’ cheese. Even enfolded in a hearty bowl of pasta. But in this scenario… gross.

In many Arab countries, due to the predominance of certain religions, Pork products are extremely hard to come by. While not strictly speaking illegal, you will not find anything that has even touched pork – sorry SPAM lovers. Outrageous – for me. Where will I get my weekly allotment of sausage and bacon? Ham, loin, shoulder, all gone? Baby Back Ribs Come Back!


But I digress. This is not a rant of incredulity but one of discovery and joy. For I have found a swine solution to my pork predicament. There exists a magical room in a enchanted food store called Waitrose located here in Abu Dhabi. In this room I found life-sustaining nutrients that will make this whole transition a bit smoother. So even though this store is mere minutes from my homestead… I stocked up.

5 packs of bacon, 2 kilos of salami, 3 kilos of ham, 6 cheddar sausages, a 10-pack of hot dogs, and 8 slices of Prosciutto are currently and pleasantly resting in my freezer. Ahhhhh. The world is at balance… for I once again have a Pork Belly.



Rough Life


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What an amazingly crazy week it has been. This is literally the first time I’ve been able to sit down and take a moment to reflect, and to put it all down on “paper”. There is something about putting ideas and thoughts into tangible beings that eases the mind. And so I begin by saying this is my first official post being written IN Abu Dhabi.   

 Huzzah for me!    Huzzah for you!        HUZZAHHHH!!!

With this being my first post and it coming at a time of momentary rest, it was fitting that I just listened to a sermon from Pastor Brad Leach of CityLife Church – yay internet webcasts! – that focused on ‘Finding your Physical Rhythm’. The message touched on the beauty of work, the enjoyment of work, and most importantly, the need for rest and reflection. Do you see how that fits with this being my first moment of rest? Do you see? If not, return to the top and read again. I’ll wait…

OK. Patronizations aside, it truly has been a remarkable week and I’m thankful I have a second to look back. Let’s start at the moment I stepped out of the airport… It’s HOT!!! No, that doesn’t describe the temperature here. Hot was my trip to Miami last summer. It’s not hot. Ok, it’s…  well… is there a word that encompasses how one would feel if you stepped into a sauna, that was in a vikram hot yoga studio, that was thrown into a clothes dryer full of sand? Is there a word for that? No? Well… it’s very hot. And we got here at night!

Though, I’m glad we arrived at night. Apart from avoiding the more fiery part of the day, we also got to drive through Abu Dhabi at night, which was beautiful. The dark skies, the man-made structures, the illuminated Grand Mosques, it was all breath-taking. Then again, after 14 hours of being cramped in the middle seat of an at-capacity airbus where I was basically sitting in the fetal position, it was nice to be taking any deep breaths at all.


Upon reaching my school appointed apartment I was able to finally relax into the idea that I will be living in this world for at least 2 more years. Wow. It finally hit me. This city is my new home. I have worked, and enjoyed my work, in Philly for the last 4 years and that chapter has been inked, published, and closed. Philadelphia is now privy to my family and friends back home’s individual dreams… but not mine. My work is here now. I have spent the summer reflecting on the beauty of my creations from the previous years in the ‘city of brotherly love’, but now it is time to roll up my sleeves – literally, have I told you it’s hot? – and get to work creating in this city.

But before that process fully commences, I am glad that I have a moment to breathe and take in the fact that God has given me a truly amazing opportunity. I have a chance to get my hands gritty with sand and venture forth with a disciplined mind, a renewed soul, and a clean heart in a new land. An historical and ancient land. A biblical land.

Selah is a word found in the Hebrew Bible that means to pause and listen. It is usually used in reference to a musical interlude or break. This word, repeatedly used in Psalms, teaches us two things: 1) To stop and reflect, and 2) that the life we live is a song. As I add members to my own orchestra in this desert oasis I long to make this sonata one of beauty, cadence, and harmonious rhythm. A song filled with Selah, where I can gaze around and appreciate the wondrous gifts I have been given.



In approximately an hour and a half I will board this iron bird. 14 hours later I will step out its beak to a desert oasis. Last night my dreams were varied and vibrant, as one would expect considering the changes the subconscious is ascending upon. The dream themes – that’s fun to say – were of new worlds and unexplored territories and fear and doubt and excitement and underwater roller-coasters…no joke. There was even an underwater roller-coaster helmet that looked like a seal’s head mixed with 2 miniature cylindrical oxygen tanks. But aside from the details, it was all about the unknown. Things I know nothing about.

One thing my mom and dad know very little about is the Middle East. But despite that fact, they have been so supportive of my drastic life changes. One of the ways they show that support is through questions. The comical part is that their questions are phrased as if I’m a native Emirati. And as much as I’ve read about it these last few months, apparently I was NOT born in the Persian Gulf. One has only to listen to my butchered attempts at Arabic to know that. But despite the fact that I can answer maybe 10% of their questions, they’ve given me serious incite into why I question things so incessantly.

It is interesting to think about how I had to fly to Chicago, an hour behind Philly, before I flew to Abu Dhabi, eight hours ahead. Because as I have spent time over these last few years getting to know my family more deeply, especially my parents, I realize that taking a step back in time will allow me to take giant leaps forward. And that gracious strength of my past will afford me the powerful courage in the future. However dauntingly uncertain the unknown of worlds to come may appear, I look forward to cracking open that iron bird and sitting comfortably in its bowels… At least for 14 hours, then I’m getting off the plane.

My Chariot Awaits

Middle East Bound and Down… 19 to go.

It is exactly 19 days until I board an airplane and fly near halfway around the world to Abu Dhabi, a bustling cultural and architectural “mecca” in the Middle East. This blog will be where I keep track of my voyage… a voyage that may last longer than a 3-hour tour.


Dylan “Freckled Irishman” McShain