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July 01, 2024

Let's Say Yes!

Last year, as my then-9-year-old son, Leopold, and I were prepping for a mom-son ski trip to Keystone, Colorado, I came up with a rule: We would say yes to everything. You see, Leopold is a picky eater—he subsists on chicken nuggets and yoghurt—and can be hesitant to try new things. According to him, it's because he has phobias, including heights, spiders and the dark, though I suspect he just has normal kid-sized jitters. I was hoping to find a way to encourage him without resorting to worn-out adages like “If you don't try it, you'll never know if you like it.” So I borrowed the idea of a Yes Day, something our family has done a handful of times since watching the movie of the same name. Before the trip, Leopold and I agreed we would say yes to everything, including food and experiences—especially new ones. We started saying yes before we even boarded our flight, when we stopped at a breakfast buffet at the airport. For me, that meant I sampled a vegan meatball, while Leopold tried a mouse bite of hash browns he said looked “funny.” Neither of us went back for seconds, but we each rated our respective new foods as “not bad.” The next day, after we got settled at our hotel, I took Leopold to meet his snowboarding instructor. He had taken a few lessons back at home in Connecticut but had never had the opportunity to snowboard on a mountain of this size. My hope was that Leopold would make the most of this opportunity. While he was in snowboarding school, I skied by myself. On the first day, I played it safe and stuck to the long and winding easy green run. On the second day, I thought of Leopold, who, the day before, had kept to our bargain and faced his fear of heights to learn how to ride a chairlift. In the spirit of camaraderie, I challenged myself to ski an intermediate blue run. There was a part that was steeper than I would have liked, but I did my slow, diligent S-turns and I made it down in one piece. Better than in one piece—I was proud of myself for trying something new. Later that afternoon, when Leopold and I were reunited back at the lodge, he asked if we could go in the outdoor hot tub. Mind you, it was a 20-degree day, and the only thing I hate more than being cold is being cold and wet! When I started to demur, Leopold invoked our pact. Yes, it was cold, and yes, I was wet. But it was also invigorating to feel the cold air on my skin, and the warm water of the hot tub felt that much better once we got in. Getting out was a different story, but the experience was a delight as Leopold and I braved it together. We had so much fun saying yes to everything that Leopold and I decided we should get the rest of the family— his dad and sister—on board during our spring break trip to St. Augustine,

THE Beauty Queens OF AL DHAFRA

The fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame suffered from his hump. But here, 180 kilometres from the skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi, a really large growth is considered the height of beauty. And if black, bristly hairs sprout from it--even better. Add puffy, drooping lips, and the ideal of beauty is complete. We are talking about camels here--female camelsIn December 2021, German photographer Caspar Wundrich travelled to the United Arab Emirates to attend the Al Dhafra Festival's camel beauty contest in the Gulf. What sounds bizarre to us is a big thing in the Arab world, because it's all about glamour, honour and a lot of money. A total of `117 crores is up for grabs as the region's uber-wealthy camel owners send their extremely valuable even-toed ungulates to compete on the camel catwalkThe action takes place at the edge of the Rub al Khali, the world's largest sand desert, a two-hour drive southwest of Abu Dhabi. All around there is hectic activity; photographers, TV crews, curious spectators and excited competitorsFrom inside the gates of this huge festival that celebrates Bedouin culture, a very old-fashioned smell wafts out--an aroma of stables and camels. Entry to the competition is strictly guarded. After waiting a while, Wundrich was finally led through the entrance gate--a wire fence covered with hessian--by attentive guards. There he entered a world where modern-day big money and Arab history combine to form an intriguing mixture of old and new cultureHomage is paid here to the Bedouin nomadic way of life as it once was-- before oil, skyscrapers and football clubs. Camel owners sit on golden chairs in the grandstand or in large, luxurious air-conditioned tents, but the most important thing here is the camelFor centuries in the Arab world, a man's wealth was measured by the number of camels he owned. Longdistance trade was practically impossible without the enduring animals. Camels also have an enormous signifi-

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