As of December 30, 2008, I am a legal resident of Dubai, UAE.
When Della Van Heyst invited me to a conference in Bahrain in 2007, I decided to go because I had never really been to the Middle East and realized that I needed to understand the region better if I one of my goals was to be a global citizen. The meeting was interesting and only reinforced my view that I was completely ignorant about the Middle East and Muslim culture. After Bahrain, Jay took me to Dubai where he was about to relocate to and introduced me to some people including his friend Balall.
My work at Creative Commons includes supporting the spread of Creative Commons globally. We have had success in Asia, Latin America, North America, Australia/New Zealand and Europe. While we have met some great people and are moving forward in the Middle East and Africa, these two regions continued to be difficult for us. Last year, we appointed Donatella Della Ratta as the Creative Commons person in the Middle East and Donatella along with my small (but increasing) number of Muslim friends have tried to coach me and navigate my understanding of the region.
However, I soon decided that trying to learn about the Muslim world remotely wasn't going to work. At the risk of making vast racial stereotypes, I felt that I understood most of the major cultures in the world, but the Muslim culture was one that I simply couldn't "grok" well.
As with most of my important decisions in life, I decided to jump in feet first based on my intuition and spend much more time in the region by moving my home base to Dubai. After considering various ideas, I decided that Dubai was a fairly safe, liberal and convenient location from where I could operate. While it is wildly different in many ways than anywhere else I've been, basic infrastructure such as medical facilities, airline travel and banking seemed to work and there appeared to be a critical mass of friends who could help me assimilate. Also, as part of my mission to fill in my gaping blind spots, Dubai seemed to make Africa a bit closer as well.
As someone who doesn't spend "the majority" of my time in any place except in airplanes, "moving to Dubai" basically means setting up a residence and shipping most of my "stuff" here. My main business is investing in early stage consumer Internet companies all over the world and my main non-profit work is Creative Commons, which are both global. I intend to spend my "spare" time here (except maybe in the hot summers) working on my academic work and learning Arabic. Keio University is trying to develop relationships here and in the region and I'll do my best to support these efforts as well.
While there are some very interesting people in Dubai and I'm slowly meeting many of them, I think that a great deal of my work in the region will be in other Arab countries and Africa. Dubai will be sort of my hub and I will explore from here.
Mizuka's mother and our extended family in Chiba will hold down the fort in Japan and Mizuka will probably spit her time between Japan and Dubai. I will continue to spend a fairly large chunk of my time in Japan, US and Europe.
Finally, I want to thank Jay, Renu, Ballal and Nazia all of their help in my ongoing transition to Dubai. I also want to thank Ambassador Hatano and Maria for providing me with a lot of context and support in connecting with the academic community here.
There are still many things in the air and I haven't really "turned off" any commitments that I have elsewhere so I don't expect my behavior our profile to change too drastically to the casual observer, but I can already feel some interesting changes as I start calling Dubai my home.
Note: I realize that I use Muslim an Middle East interchangeably and that there are many other faiths in the region. However, I spent my life growing up most non-Muslim faiths so the Muslim part makes up the biggest chunk of my ignorance.