Friends in foreign lands

Meet a teen who lives outside of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Meet a teen who lives outside of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

August 26, 2008|By ELIZA SCHMIDT / Pulse Correspondent

If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to live somewhere else, you will today.

I interviewed my pen pal, Shiv Subramanyam, 14, who lives on the other side of the world.

I met Shiv though my mom and his mom. They met through Mothering Magazine, after my mom responded to an ad placed by Shiv's mom for a pen pal. When our moms met, Shiv was 18 months old, I was still residing in my mom's womb.

Shiv was born in Mysore, India, and currently lives in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Sharjah is the third largest city in the U.A.E., and borders Dubai, which is the largest city.

The official language of the U.A.E. is Arabic (although Shiv doesn't know any), but his native language is Kannada (an official language of India). He also knows French and English.


Sometimes I talk to Shiv though instant messaging, and once every two years or so I get to see him in person. This interview was conducted by e-mail.

What's Dubai famous for?

Big buildings, mostly, it's the first thing that comes to mind. And a sailboat-shaped hotel (the Burj al Arab Hotel).

What's your favorite thing about living in Dubai?

Well, I actually live in Sharjah, which is an outskirt area of Dubai, but I love a lot of things, comfortable winters, charm, the fact that the place is a melting pot, the list goes on!

What's your least favorite thing about living in Dubai?

The heat.

I know your family travels a lot. What are some of the places you've been to, which were your favorites and why?

I've been to a lot of places, Greece, Cyprus, Germany, Mauritius and Singapore are the main ones that stand out for me. These ones are special to me because I had a wonderful time in all those places. I am certainly grateful for it because I'm happy to know how life works around the world. It's truly a gift that I could experience all these different cultures.

What's your family like?

My family's awesome. I live with my parents in a Sharjah apartment, and my cat who we named Maroo. I'm happy to be in the family I'm in. My dad owns a business - they make the gel under buffets. I think its called buffet-heating gel or something like that. My mom helps out in the business.

Do you practice any religion?

I was raised in a Hindu household but I consider myself Buddhist so I have the best of both worlds. I love to respect all other religions as well - I think they all have a truth in them.

What do you usually do with your friends?

I usually chill with my friends in malls and places like that or the poo. We get pizza, burgers, Chinese food, you name it. (You get every kind of thinkable food here!) We also bike places a lot. When I have burgers out with my friends, I order veggie burgers because I'm vegetarian. My family is, also, and I'm really against cruelty to animals. I just can't eat something that has been killed for my food - it just doesn't feel right.

How many days a week do you go to school and how many hours do you spend at school every day?

I go to school five days a week, like most people, and I'm in school from 7:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

How long is your summer vacation? How many holidays do you have during the school year? What are they?

My summer vacation is about two months long, and I get a winter break, which is about two weeks long and it covers both Christmas and New Year. Then there's a year-end break for about three weeks. The end of the school year is around March 1.

I also get breaks for National Day and religious holidays here and other things like that. National Day is the day the UAE was formed when different kingdoms agreed to become one nation and that's on Dec. 2.

The Ramadan holiday starts in the last days of September this year. The month of Ramadan is a celebration in which Muslims fast. I'm not Muslim so I don't fast, but I usually have to eat indoors during the daytime because it's illegal to eat outdoors during Ramadan here.

At school it's OK for non-Muslim kids to eat, but we get sent to a different room to eat. Muslim kids (older than) 12 to 13 have to fast, but (younger than) that they don't have to fast. In some places kids start at 7 to 9 (years old). For Muslims, it's honorable to fast.

What are the subjects that you are studying at school this year?

The usual, math, science (physics, chemistry and biology), social studies, English, French and Arabic. I'm also studying computers and Indian history, which is fascinating.

What subject do you like the most?

I love computer, history and science the most. I find those fascinating.

What subject do you dislike the most? Why?

I hate civics, it's boring! And I'm not too fond of maths.

What do you usually carry in your school bag?

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