One simple thought that I cannot move past: I'm here. The very idea befuddles me. There is a distinct surreality to this place, for which I have many partial explanations. The first I shall mention is the one that strikes me most emphatically: there is a resplendent and dichotomous juxtaposition to this land. Though brimming with history and very much affixed to its foundational roots, this country is also taking landmark strides into modernity, trendsetting while preserving tradition. A nation of 200+ nationalities, this is by far the most eclectic place I have encountered. In Dubai's bid to host the 2020 World Expo (which it has since been awarded), the city displays its unique designation as the crossroads of Eastern civilization meeting Western civilization. But perhaps even that analogy does not do this cultural and commercial oasis justice. As I stride through some of the many enormous malls here, I feel that I could meet anyone -- of any nationality, nobility, or creed, including the ruler Sheikhs themselves (they have been known to walk and chat with citizens in public, sometimes even unguarded) -- and the wonder of sheer possibility enthralls me.
Thus far it's been fairly deserted (accidental pun, I swear). Only the exchange students and new freshman are here for now. I apparently have a roommate, but he's not around yet. The dorms are surprisingly prison-like; by that, I only mean -- affectionately -- the white floors and walls, as well as the fact that I live in a building called IJ Block. I might nickname the place Shawshank. The amenities (A/C, hot water, WiFi, and plumbing) are perfectly acceptable, especially considering I intend to spend very little time in my room for any reason other than sleep, cooking, and showering. Besides, the real architectural action is happening around the academic buildings, which lie at the nucleic center of a surprisingly vast campus. We have a health building, massive library, student center (complete with restaurants and mini-supermarkets), indoor sports complex, and many tennis courts and football pitches. I can't describe it all, but you should believe me when I assure you that it causes me to pinch myself each time I walk across campus, believing this experience to be a bit too dreamy for reality. The design enthusiast in me is aroused, as are my alternate sport, culinary, and lingual enthusiast personalities.