Ramadan in the UAE… Fasting as a non-Muslim

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16 July, 2015

Today is the last day of fasting for Ramadan. I said I would fast for the whole month, and here we are, 30 days later, and it is now drawing to a close. I will miss it – something I never expected to say when I began.

The night before Ramadan, I realized what I was getting myself into, and needless to say it’s a bit daunting. Thirty days of fasting were ahead of me, with no food and no water from sun up to sun down. While I’m not a Muslim, there is something about taking part in this universally spiritual movement. Here in the UAE, the country slows down, and while a little sleepy at times, it is filled with cheer and an atmosphere of camaraderie. There is something special about Ramadan, the spirit of kindness is tangible and the hunger around you is filled through acts of giving and benevolence.

The first day is always the hardest and you find yourself internally smacking yourself, asking why anyone would do this to themselves. I had also personally decided to wear my abayyas to work for the entire month- partly to be respectful, modest and a part of the local culture, and partly because I do actually enjoy wearing it.

It was a multifaceted challenge to break my normal routines on every level – but then it gets easier, and dare I say it, enlightening.

Lesson 1: Breaking Habits and Finding Clarity

Over the month, I was confronted with the habits that I had – the general routine of my day no longer consisted of trudging through the day between caffeine fixes, and it no longer consisted of early to bed and early to rise. My nights were longer, and with even less sleep than usual, I had to realign my focus from where my next source of caffeine would be from or what I would eat for lunch. During the day, I found myself with more time to breathe, to reflect, and to look inward. I found a sense of clarity, calmness, peace, and a sense of strength that I had forgotten that I had. This month has taught me a lot about myself. It taught me about willpower, patience, and kindness. A prime example of one my daily lessons from challenge includes the drive home after a long day’s work. Driving when you’re tired, thirsty, hungry, and hot will definitely help you reflect on the importance of kindness, patience, and not running anyone over. 😉

Lesson 2: Charity and Humility

Ramadan is a time that serves as a reminder that we are all in this together. It is a time to give back to charity and to help and support those who are less fortunate. It is humbling to know that after work I can drive home and break my fast with as much water as I want and prepare a meal that not only nourishes me but befits the whimsy of my taste buds -but what about others? While I only had to limit myself for 30 days, there are people all over the world who suffer without water and food for even longer…and there is no guarantee that come sunset, they will have food to replenish and nourish their God given bodies.

Lesson 3: New Routines and Community

Another lesson that Ramadan gifted me was in the form of being open to new routines. The night is alive during Ramadan. I found myself going out to the malls at 10 pm or for runs at an even later time. It was a fun experience to be out at the park (even in the sweltering heat) with a group of my multinational neighbors also out for a stroll at midnight. I was invited to a friend’s home in a neighboring emirate to break my fast one weekend night and they were so welcoming and hospitable, they fed and treated me as if I was one of their family. And this morning, although I went by myself, I didn’t feel alone while I waited in the salon (for TWO HOURS) to get the henna painted on my hands to celebrate Eid (the end of Ramadan). The salon was brimming with local ladies who were hoping to do the same as I, and the spirit of cheer and kindness was palpable. Normally I wouldn’t even fathom waiting for two hours, but I really enjoyed myself this morning. After a month of new adventures and challenges where I found my entire routine during the normal year confronted, I am reminded of the resilience of human nature, and of our ability to change, to grow, and of course to love.

Lesson 4: Peace Reigns

I am reinvigorated in the fact that peace truly abounds here in the UAE and around the world for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In my experience, the spirit of the Islam that I have witnessed here in the UAE is exemplary of what the religion should be. In Arabic, the word “Islam” means submission or surrender and is derived from the root word “salam” which invokes meanings of peace and safety.

Ramadan in the UAE is truly a beautiful experience. Would I encourage others to fast during Ramadan? Definitely. Maybe not for the whole month, but even if for one or two days, put yourself in someone else’s position and experience what those around you are doing and feeling. For non-Muslims it can, and will, change your perceptions completely.

As the days come to an end, I am happier, I am stronger, and I am more at peace with myself and with the world around me. I only had to give up food and water, but in return I got everything.

Happy blessed Eid to each and every one of you.

The Beginning of the End

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Lost LoveThe last post was really hard to write- and even harder to recover from. Having finally tapped into my creative conscious and gained the strength to be vulnerable to you, my dear readers, I find that after finally opening up a little bit about this breakup that I have become stuck again…. I was going to save some of these ramblings for later posts, but it’s honestly probably better to just rip off the band aid and address the relationship as what it was, and what it is – which is over.

He’s moved on and has since married and begun his new life. I am happy for him and excited for what his future holds, he deserves the best in everything.

After a relationship like the one we had, I had to learn how to reclaim my mind, my heart, and my soul. It’s not like I wasn’t myself, or an independent being during our relationship, but these three avenues of the self had become inextricably woven into the fabric that was our relationship. My mind was the first to accept what had happened. I profoundly loved him, but ultimately, I knew we wouldn’t end up together…as this was something that had been plaguing my mind from the beginning.

My heart took a significant beating. I became numb, pessimistic, and even hateful towards the opposite sex. It was like a constant roller coaster of ok, I’m strong. I’ll be fine and will get through this to the stereotypical girl covered in tissues, watching the Notebook, and eating a tub of ice cream. (Ah, yes… the finer moments in life.)

My soul was the last to disconnect, and this process took much longer than I had thought it had. Almost a year after the breakup and having no communication with M, I had opened my eyes again to the prospect of dating… but the poor fellows didn’t really stand a chance. I would run at the first opportunity, not truly being ready to love again. But it wasn’t until after a series of uncanny circumstances, the connection that I had long bottled-up was finally able to tear away. 

One such circumstance was on the morning of January 4, 2014….

“I just dreamt of you. It was as if I was awake and regardless of the fact that I was in a strange house, I was the Anna I am today, single, heart broken, and mourning you. I turn as someone touches my arm, and I see that you are there, standing next to me.

You tell me you want to talk to me. You have something important to tell me. There are people in the room so we leave to find somewhere more private. We keep searching, searching, and finally after much effort we find a room that is nearly empty. We sit down, look into each other’s eyes…

And my alarm wakes me up. Fuck. What were you going to tell me?!

It’s a Saturday, and I was so angry at myself for having not turned off my alarm! Unable to fall back asleep, I turn my lap top on and start pounding out my thoughts in an attempt to clear my mind. The above excerpt is from these thoughts, and after writing them, I was drawing the heart doodle that is at the beginning of this post when my phone begins to buzz. It’s a message from my friend in the States.

“Anna,” she says. “Are you awake? How are you?”
I’m fine… I reply.
“Listen, I know this might be weird. But M just messaged me.”

My heart stops.

What?
“Yeah, it’s really strange. I haven’t talked to him in years. Do you want me to say anything to him?”

This friend of mine had been with me throughout my tumultuous journey with M and she was very aware of all the things I had wished to say to him, but couldn’t. Their conversation consisted of the formalities that you go through when conversing with someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time. Finally, she brought me up. His response was exactly what I expected- actually sweeter than what I expected, but anticipated nonetheless.

*Note* To all you guys that are reading this… yes, girls do talk and share this kind of information… especially if you’re an ex! Please don’t judge 🙂

He hadn’t said anything of much substance to her, perhaps he wanted to, but didn’t after she asked him about me. The reason I wonder this, is because later that day, my friend messages me again.

“Anna?”
Yes, my love.

At this point, I’m nervous. Every time she uses my name I have learned I should brace myself.

“M was tagged in his brother’s status today. He’s engaged.”

And that was the beginning of the end. I could palpably feel my soul ripping into pieces. Feelings of hurt and brokenness that I had suppressed welled up within me and were released through my tears that night.

To make matters even more ridiculous, a few months later, an image of M all dressed up for his wedding appears on my Instagram feed. WTF, I think. How did this get here? I don’t follow ANYONE who would post this.

Like an idiot, I realize I was following a female Saudi artist that shared his last name because I liked her art. I thought that maybe someday I’d like to interview this woman for my book. Welp, turns out she’s the cousin who married him… so… now I know, even though I didn’t want to. Fabulous.

The Breakup

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It rained that night.

The first time I ever saw rain in the UAE was the night I dropped M off at airport for the last time. As I lay in my bed, heavy as stone with a bleeding heart, broken and raw, I sought refuge in the idea that the desert skies were mourning with me.

This man had been my heart for three years. He had taught me how to excel and to dream for great things. He had helped me realize my abilities and guided me to improve my self-confidence and character. Even in our parting moments he did this for me. I can never repay him for what he has taught me.

He had come to visit me over a school holiday, and instead of it being a vacation filled with love and nourishment, it was a dark nightmare where I was confronted with all my downfalls as a lonely human being.

Having gone through a few rough patches since my arrival to the UAE, I guess the breakup was inevitable. But it still took a long time to forgive myself for what had happened.

In all honesty, it was inevitable from the beginning, dating a Saudi man. M had been genuine enough to be open and honest about his circumstances from the beginning, telling me about his cultural obligations upon returning home. Nevertheless, over time, our hearts slowly began to beat for each other.

From the beginning I told myself it would be o.k, I could stay detached and just enjoy the moment. After all, that’s what college is for, right?

As time marched on, I quickly proved myself wrong. I’m not someone that can stay detached. My darn heart just won’t let me, there is too much love in there… and once I find someone, that’s it, that’s the end of me. I’m committed and totally and completely theirs.

Over the years we learned a lot about each other. We studied together, we traveled together, and we grew together. But relationships are hard and you make mistakes – after all we are only human. Even if you travel half the world over to be closer to them, sometimes the distance can still kill you from the inside out and it’s never enough.

At the end of each chaotic day filled with ridiculousness at the school, coming home alone to a tiny, disgusting apartment and with him as my only contact via text just wasn’t good for my psyche. I needed friends and I needed more from M than he was able to give, even being just a kingdom away.

Thank God I had two weeks off from school when it happened. I had spent the first week with him, and I had the next week to do my best to recover before facing the the next onslaught of psychological torture from sixth graders.

My darling Egyptian friend from school learned of what happened, only because I was supposed to attend a wedding with her and of course canceled. The thought of seeing someone else happy in love would have just dug every knife deeper into my soul. The next day she dragged me out of my apartment and scooped me up and over to her place where I ate for the first time in days. I thought I was going to die from the pain inside me, but she saved my life by adding some warmth back into the stone that had replaced my heart.

Over the week I decided to join the Sharjah Ladies Club,  a women-only environment with a pool, beach, gym, athletic center, and archery and gun ranges. I immediately felt at home there, and I really enjoyed being in a ladies-only environment. I wish more places in the States were like this.

Getting back to my love of yoga, I started taking classes there and practicing again.  It was just what I needed. There is something about yoga. It lets your soul stretch through each muscle and tendon, and it just helps you let go.

I ended up crying right there on my mat in the ending meditation sequence of my first class. Thank God the lights were off or else I really would have looked like a crazy woman.

After some time at the ladies club, however,  I got the sense that I wasn’t the only one broken there, there were a lot of sad women with broken hearts. Is this really what growing up is like? I don’t want it.

For that entire week, I cried more than I breathed. I’d never felt such pain before, and even after school resumed, I spent most of my free time just bawling my eyes out. I mourned the loss of my love, the situation I had found myself in and I began questioning my goals in life. And as always, I found myself always falling short, never being good enough.

The Battle

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In the list of ‘Emirati Basic Phrases’ provided by the app on my phone, I interestingly found that the terms I ended up finding the most useful for my sixth-grade boys were in the ‘military interrogation’ section. Being able to say stop, don’t move, get up, turn around, be quiet, raise your hands, and form a line were seriously helpful.

Every day, before walking to their classroom I would give myself a pep talk. You love these kids, you are here to show them that education is the real power. You are here to show them that learning can be fun. You are patient, strong, and here to represent your country.

It was like a game of roulette, and it all depended on how well the teacher before me had controlled them. The time of day also mattered: if it was in the morning, these little whipper snappers were easier to whip into shape and there was time to shove some knowledge into their developing brains. If it was an afternoon class, or after lunch…May God have mercy on their souls.

Flashing back to the last day of classes before the beginning of the second term exams I shudder. Due to the lack of students attending the school, the school administration thought it would be a great idea to change their schedule around and merge the two sixth-grade classes. The boys, as usual, began to punch each other and harass anyone in their proximity, and now there were more students to bully. Hooray! The quiet ones were either trying to pay attention, despite the WWIII that was going on around them, or playing on their cell phones.

Not forgetting the advice I had received from their favorite teacher, Control the Sheikh and you control them all, that day I took the step from ‘trying to be his friend’ to becoming his enemy. The Mini Sheikh was sitting on his phone, regardless of promising to put it away many times-  he did not. Stomping up to him frustrated at his lack of respect, I swiped the phone from him. Oh crap.

The classroom soon escalated into a whooping animal den. Mini Sheikh comes to try to take his phone back and I stay firm and tell him he will get it after class. He uses his extremely overweight body to shove me towards my bag (where the phone was) and I start to get pissed.

“Don’t you dare touch me,” I growl.

He realizes that this was extremely inappropriate, especially considering the culture he lives in, and sits down. In Arabic, he tells another student to come sit up near my bag and try to take it from me, and immediately the kid decides he wants to sit in the front row. Sixth graders are smart, but not THAT smart.

A few minutes later, another student, who had brandished his fake gun earlier gave it to Mr. Mini Sheikh, who promptly came up to the front of the class, pointed the gun straight at my head and there were a few moments of dead quiet (ahhhh for once… oh wait.. there is a plastic gun pointed at my head). After some time of considering whether he should do it or not, he shot it.

This of course got the kids all excited, hooray! How fun for them! How fun for me.

As other students tell him in Arabic to slap me, I see the thought go through his mind. I tell him “Try it. Just try it. See what happens.” As always, they were amazed I understood them. By know they should have learned that they should never, ever, underestimate me.

It took everything I had in me in not to burst out crying in front of these kids. How on earth did it get to this point where these 11 and 12 year-old kids feel it’s acceptable to challenge and disrespect authority? Seeing as to how I was their 8th teacher within the teaching school year, I know it was a game to them to see how long I would last.

Well, my little darlings, you haven’t messed with an American girl yet.

And please don’t get me wrong, I highly doubt this is how it is in all of the school across the UAE, this just happened to be my experience in this one particular school. Lucky me.

After leaving the class, I had a meeting with the principal and a few staff members in the principal’s office. Walking with my head held high, I make it to the office and plop down into a chair. The events from the earlier class must have shown on my face, because one of the teachers asked me if I was o.k.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reply.

Shit, shit, I think, don’t cry. Don’t you dare cry.

Yeah… I cried. I started crying like a little baby. The terrible thing about finally crying is that you don’t just cry about what happened. You cry about how alone you feel, how shitty your apartment is, and how you’re being treated like crap from little hooligans. I only admitted to what had happened in class, but just add the fact that I had this lovely outburst in front of my superiors, we can chalk this up to the best day of my life, clearly.

Soon after I had described what happened, they call Mini Sheikh down to the secretary’s office and they rip him a new one. I can hear him sputtering and crying outside the door, asking to see me. I refused at first, but eventually went out to see him. He was bawling his eyes out, without the encouragement of his entourage he was no longer Mr. Tough Guy.

He cried about how sorry he was, he cried about how he will never do it again, he cried about how much he wants to keep me as his teacher, and he kissed my forehead. Afterwards, I couldn’t help but notice how open-mouthed and stunned my superiors were over the fact that Mini Sheikh kissed the teacher’s forehead. It’s a big sign of respect in this culture, and afterwards I was starting to get treated better by not only the students, but also the teachers and staff.

Apparently, control the sheikh, and you control more than the classroom. Well… for a week at least until they have something else to gossip about.

Thrown to the wolves

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You’re too sweet, they’ll eat you alive. You’ll need to toughen up more if you’re going to make it here.

Welcome to my new school. The above advice was the resounding sentiment I would receive often from my office mates. My demeanor and personality were a perfect fit for my fifth-grade girls (my little darling angels), but I did have to put on a different front when teaching my sixth-grade boys. Because this was an Islamic school, boys and girls were separated to different wings of the school starting from grade five.

I shared an office with three Egyptian ladies and a Jordanian, all of whom I had come to love ever-so dearly. These women were spunky, hilarious, dramatic, and extremely warm-hearted. Being the introvert that I am, it took me a little while to get out of my shell, but they encouraged me and were very friendly from the beginning. After returning from teaching my sixth-grade boys, most probably looking disheveled and as if a bomb had gone off in my hair, they would fill me up with regular advice on how to handle these little balls of destructive energy.

The sixth-grade boys… the most notorious class in the entire school, and they were mine. It was only February, and since the school year had started five months ago, they had already seen seven teachers before me. SEVEN. These teachers had come, and gone, literally running away. They left the school, they left the country, they fled as far as they could. Smart chaps.

Promises. That’s all it ever was, and the apartment was only the beginning of falsehoods I was promised upon being hired. Since you’re new to teaching, we’ll have you shadow the teacher for two weeks before you take over the classroom.

BAM. First day of work, I’m teaching classes. No books, no introduction to their course material or where they were in the syllabus. As it turns out, some of these poor little fellows managed to make it to through the whole English system at this school (starting at grade one) without being able to deliver basic introductory phrases or know what a ‘pencil’ was. I quickly learned that at this school, money talks, and bad grades just… don’t exist.

These kids ruled the school, and they knew it. Coming from influential families, many students literally had life handed to them on a silver platter, and no one dare challenge the son of a sheikh or whoever their parents may be. Although the school had a ‘zero tolerance policy’ for the use of electronics in class, fighting, or cheating, all three were prevalent and the staff was powerless to stop any of it. We all walked on eggshells, so as to not to incur the wrath of a student’s father.

Forgive me if I sound a little harsh, and please know that this in no way describes the entire educational system of the UAE or other schools in Sharjah– this was just  the way this particular ‘school’ was run. This ‘school’ was run unlike any educational institution I had ever known. It was a business, and nothing more.

At this school, I was a pawn. I was the bait to lure prospective students and families that wanted to study English with “the American.” After being hired from the school, I found a few forums of previous Americans and westerners that had worked for the school stating the same thing. Their advice was to run. Oops. I don’t know if it was my dedication to teach these kids something, or my sheer will to prove everyone wrong, but I stayed. I knew I could do this. I wouldn’t be frightened off by the incessantly changing schedules and requirements, the intimidating 11-year-olds infused with Red Bull and chocolate, or the conniving staff members.

Report card season, however, was a shock to my system as it was unacceptable to give these little royals a bad grade.

“No, no, you can’t give them a zero.”
But he didn’t take the test, he just wrote his name and put smiley faces for his answers.

“Then you need to let him retake the test.”
I scheduled two make-up tests with him.

“Was he there those days?
Yes, and he was in class for the entire two weeks leading up to the original exam and was present for each review session.

“Well then, give him a 70 then.”
But he’s failed everything else, his highest grade in the class is a 45.

“He’s a (insert prestigious family name here here). You just can’t fail him.”

Grades dominate. But that’s all they are. A shell of accomplishments that do not reflect that your little Khalid only learned how to make rockets out of water bottles and play Angry Birds on his iPad.


This school was breaking me down. My mom, who had visited me for a few days between her goodwill travels to various third world countries, had told me each day that upon returning home from work, it was as if I had returned from a battle ground. My mind, spirit, and body were depleted from fighting and dealing with a system that didn’t value education. The system I was living in went against everything within me as an educator, it was unfair to these students who actually wanted to learn, and a joke to the teachers who actually wanted to help these kids and make a difference.

The Apartment

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So we finally make it to the hotel, where I was supposed to stay until my accommodations were ready. It was a pretty nice hotel and the bed was fabulous. The school surprisingly paid for a large hotel room so that my parents could stay with me. Ok , I thought, this is going to be really nice.

As promised to me a thousand times over, I was to be given accommodation by the school in addition to my monthly salary. It wasn’t in my contract and I raised a bit of a hubbub about it, but I was assured time and time again that this was standard and that I would be taken care of.

Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. We’ll take care of you.

A couple weeks after my parents left, the day came for me to move from the hotel to the apartment. The Finance Manager and P.E. Teacher come to help me schlepp my things to the new place. I couldn’t wait! The principal had talked about an apartment by the corniche (waterfront), where I would have a view of the water, live somewhere I could walk to things, and just be fabulous. After taking some obscure streets and driving through a parking lot that required some serious navigational skills (because by ‘parking lot’ I mean a big pile of dirt with serious bumps and lumps that could destroy an unsuspecting driver’s car) we arrived. There was no water, just dirt and dusty buildings as far as the eyes could see.

Well, it wasn’t the caliber of living that I had gotten used to in Abu Dhabi, not even close. Honestly it was o.k at first, and slightly charming in its own, teeny tiny way. It was a furnished studio, complete with a pink wardrobe with flowers that was suitable for a toddler, and a bed that was as soft as the softest of rocks. I’m one of those people who likes to kind of run and just plop into bed… well… this bed helped break me of that habit, and I had a few bruises from the process.

The kitchen, just a few feet away from my lovely bed had a stove cook top, which I was thankful for. But it did take some getting used to, as I have always been used to having a spacious kitchen with all the tools I need to cook, and this was about all I had to work with. It also took some getting used to when my AC, located directly above my stove top, would leak (which turned into a daily occurrence regardless of how often it was fixed) and it would be such a nice surprise to have that freezing cold water drip on my head as I cooked. I developed some serious acrobatic cooking skills in that apartment.

Regardless of how ridiculous it was. I was content, it was my own place. I was living on my own in the UAE. It was like my very own bachelor pad, complete with a bright pink wardrobe and cockroaches.

And it was truly mine… because I did end up paying for it every month because the school stopped paying after the first month, surprise surprise.

Onward, march!

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My poor parents. My dad and my step-mom had scheduled their vacation to come see me during the exact time that I was transitioning from my first job in Abu Dhabi to my new job in Sharjah… so they got to see me in all my glory.

I don’t know if I plan things this way, or if this is just my luck, but my last day of work coincided with my last day of living in the villa, and the first day of moving to my new place in Sharjah. So, true to form, I am frantically running around the villa like a nut bag trying to finish packing, finish last-minute details for an upcoming event for the devil company and deal with delivery men that hardly spoke English. To this day, I still feel guilty for being too busy to be the proper host I should have been for my daddy and step-mom. They seemed to be o.k. with it, even though they didn’t get to see all they wanted to see. I still remember, during the chaos of the last day, I couldn’t find my dad anywhere. After searching for a few minutes, I come to find him outside swimming in the ocean. And I use the term ‘swimming’ loosely, as he was just floating in the ocean like a starfish. (The water here is so salty, anyone can float.. it’s magical!)

It was at this moment that I realized just how utterly thankful I was to have my daddy and step-mom here. I mean, I was already thankful, but this was one of those BAM moments where your heart just kind of swells up with love. I needed their support more than I had allowed myself to realize. Even though I was constantly surrounded by people for work, I was increasingly feeling more lonely and misunderstood by the day. It was so good to be around the people I can just be with, and not have to care about how I am coming off.

By the afternoon, both my car and theirs were packed to the ceilings with the surprising amount of things I had accumulated in the past six months, and we made the trek to Sharjah. Lovely, dirty, dusty, Sharjah – my cultural oasis of conservative, abayya-clad women and more strict social norms.

I should have known what I was in for, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the experience of working in a local school. I had already gotten a taste of doing business in the Arabic world, but I had been working for an American company. I had gotten my feet wet, and I was about to plunge right in.

My first job after college… hello UAE!

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Initially coming out here, I was hired to work for an American consultancy specializing in defense based out of my hometown in Colorado. A position related to anything American military was never an ideal option for me, but it gave me the opportunity to come to the UAE and make my goals of coming to the Gulf a reality.

Greeted at the airport by my American and Australian colleagues, I was overwhelmed, excited, and HOT! The heat and humidity were, and still are (especially in the summer months), like walking into an oven. Blech. From Dubai, we drove to the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, where I was to live and work in the company villa.

The villa…oh the villa. It was so beautiful. It was huge and luxurious, true to the Emirati lifestyle. Complete with Versace furniture and ornate fixtures, the beautiful pool in my backyard (where they had monthly wine and cheese parties) was complemented with a private beach a few footsteps away. Even in this beautiful place, however, I felt like a bird trapped in her cage.

backyard.villa villa.pool

I quickly realized that the company was not a perfect fit for me. Seventy-hour work weeks ensconced in this villa with the CEO and CFO sounds like an excellent professional opportunity (which it was), but as an introvert, the expectations to perform at the drop of a hat, day or night, was a nightmare. I was surrounded by only Americans, and my ability to get immersed in the culture was slim. I learned a lot, and I grew professionally, but it was hard. I was able to do a lot of fun things and I enjoyed the beauty and serenity of Abu Dhabi, but I’ll save some of these experiences for another post. When I think about the emirate of Abu Dhabi, my heart beats, when I think about working for this company, my heart squishes itself. lol. The only thing that got me through it, was the support I had from my parents back home (thank GOD for Skype) and M….

After faux-pas-ing my introverted self into actually getting fired (yikes! Yes, fired) from this job six months later, I quickly found a new job as a teacher a couple emirates over, in Sharjah. For those of you that don’t know, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of seven emirates, which operate like states, and Abu Dhabi is the capital. Sharjah is a more conservative and quiet emirate, where alcohol and even shisha (hookah) is illegal. I was so excited for the change and for the move, as I had been incessantly been trying to find teaching jobs in the Gulf before coming to the UAE. Now I was finally going to be able to live a more cultural and less expat-centered lifestyle. In the UAE you can live just as normally as you would in the states, and never interact with the local culture. This is exactly what I didn’t want, and my new journey would be able to foster the khaleejia within me.

Englishabic… A Mini Glossary

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As some of you may have already seen from my photo album and statuses on Facebook, I am speaking Englishabic here in the UAE. What is Englishabic you say? Well, to me it’s a beautiful attempted fusion of English and Arabic. And yes…  this is subjective as to how ‘beautiful’ it may actually be, lol. While it oftentimes confuses people (either because they can only think in one language at a time or because it doesn’t seem like I can make up my mind), I embrace this talent of mine to be able to switch between Arabic and English in one conversation, or even sentence.

So, to avoid some of the confusion my English speaking readers may have, I have compiled a mini glossary of Arabic terms for you. I will be updating it accordingly. 🙂

enshallah – God willing, this is usually used when talking about the future or things that haven’t happened yet. Unfortunately some people have ruined this term and they use it when they don’t want to say ‘no’.

ilHamdulillah – Thanks to God, praise God

khaleejia – a woman that is from an Arabic country in the gulf, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, or Qatar. Khaleeji is the masculine form of this word.
Note: As you can tell from my desire to be here in the gulf, there is a part of me that identifies with the culture, language, and experience of being here. It has become a part of my identity, hence the title, americankhaleejia.

yallah – perhaps one of my most favorite words. It means let’s go or hurry up

And so it begins…

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. -Anais Nin

Well, this is a bit past due.

I’ve been living in the UAE for the past two years now. Having worked in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, I am now spreading my wings in Dubai. When I first came, I had a lot of mixed reactions from friends and family members, some have been impressed that I wanted to continue pursuing my passion of the Arabic language, of which I had already dedicated 4 years of formal study in college to, and others have thought I was just downright crazy for coming out here alone.

Another reason that brought me here, and of which I haven’t been quite too honest about with people until recently… was love. The relationship has since ended, and a year-and-a-half later, I am only now able to truly open up about it. I’m not ashamed of it, it was a beautiful thing regardless of the immense heartbreak that followed. It is because of this relationship that I am growing into the woman I am today, and it has changed me more as a person than perhaps my decision to fly 12,000 miles away from everything and everyone I know and love.

I have since been blessed with a wonderful network of friends that have helped support me while living here as a single woman. I wouldn’t have been able to survive without them. It has been a challenging past two years, but beautiful ones, and I am thankful for every day regardless of the obvious ups and downs people go through in life – especially when living in a culture different from your own.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, my readers, and I do hope you enjoy the journey with me as I continue to discover the beauties of being an American woman in a Gulf country.

I am the #americankhaleejia, and this is my story.