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Treasure Hunting!

I'm a treasure hunter. Which means--as I imagine is the case for 99.9% of treasure hunters--failure more often than feeling the shovel hit the gold-filled chest.

But I do strike gold occasionally! Once in Denver, I was trolling garage sales and arrived right as a vintage Fender amp was being lugged onto a driveway. $40 for a 2k gem. Another time, I found a stack of high-end name-brand pants, dress shirts, and even shoes all my exact size in a single pile at a local thrift store. Clearly a one-owner situation. My size doppelgänger. I suspected I was wearing a dead man's clothing, but I made peace with this.

While I don't typically land big scores, I have found many small treasures in thrift stores and garage sales: a rare Dire Straits vinyl, an original framed print of a white horse by a well-known Berkley photographer, a well-loved classical guitar, and enough kids' clothing to get my rugrats through years of hard play.

I've also made some bad investments! The lava lamp that leaked onto my carpet, clothing with stains I hadn't noticed or that ended up fitting far worse than my original estimate, and gifts for others that went over like led zeppelins (a wood carved mushroom that ended up resembling a penis, something I didn't consider until it had been given). But this doesn't stop me.

Just recently, I was tipped off to a huge second-hand goods warehouse in Ajman (40- min from Dubai). The drive over was...harrowing. At one point I nearly smashed an insane laborer who'd dashed across the street in front of us frogger style.

Upon arrival, we stepped out of the car and were met by a foul odor (we had to tell Arya to stop plugging her nose!) and heaps of ruble. In addition, I was glad I'd already gotten cash out of an ATM because theirs looked like it had suffered through a mugging.

The next hour we sifted through various beat up furniture and household items, which were loosely organized in tipping piles. No price tags of course. Barter zone extreme.

At one point I thought I'd found the real score zone--a small room strewn with cool tapestries and loungy pillows--but then I realized I'd actually stumbled into a living space for the shop's reupholster guy. Bummer.

In the end, we found a few cool things for the house, my favorite being a box with Arabic writing and an official stamp reading, "From The Office of His Highness, Crowned Prince of Dubai" We also got the opportunity to eat ridiculously cheap shawarmas across the street while we waited for the shop owners to pray.

Despite the heated haggling, ultimately were treated with kindness in this unique cultural nexus. My favorite moment was when Cheri picked out a gaudy, gold-framed picture of an Arabic symbol right as we were about leave; she wanted the frame for the bathroom (she's going for a crazy "maximalist" look). I asked the sweaty shop guy, who looked to be Pakistani based on his clothing, what the symbol meant. He looked at me puzzled.

Wiping sweat from my own eyes, I repeated the question using simpler English. He still looked baffled. I tried one more time, and comprehension appeared in his eyes. Smiling, He placed a hand over his heart and said "God."

Two weeks later, I realized I don't like a rug I'd bought there. But, there’s a one million percent no return policy. Guess I'll have to go back for more hunting.

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