Pop-Up Storm

There are many types of storms that can arise. Being born and raised in Oklahoma a.k.a. Tornado Alley, I know a thing or two about storms. Us Oklahomans quickly learned which storms to take seriously, and which ones didn’t require much attention. The most dangerous storms, however, are the pop-up storms; those that seemingly come from out of nowhere. Ones that we weren’t expecting and weren’t prepared for. Case in point: the pop-up storm of the last month.

Jonathan began to feel ill towards the end of April. After going into the emergency room at a nearby clinic, the doctors felt that he was more severe than what their facility could handle, so he was transferred to one of the major hospitals here in the area. That impromptu ER visit turned into an emergency surgery, another in-patient procedure, a prolonged hospital stay (24 days to be exact), and a diagnosis that we weren’t expecting–not to mention a long road to recovery. He is experiencing many emotions relating to all that he has endured, and I’m somewhere in the middle of holding it together for him and fighting to hold it together for myself.

One thing (well two things) that I can say:

1. Healthcare here dances figure eights around our so-called healthcare system in America. After all the procedure(s), hospital stay, ER visit, prescriptions, etc. that he has received, we have not paid one silver fil (cents here in the UAE). Did y’all hear what I said? Let me repeat. We have not had to pay anything! Not to mention the fact that all of his future care is also covered at 100%.

2. Being away from family in difficult times is hard, but God always provides. Our UAE family went above and beyond to ensure that we had what we needed. Everyone came to our aide during the last few weeks, and are continuing to do so. Could not have asked for a better Framily.

We are on the other side of this pop-up storm, and I can definitely say that it has made us stronger as a couple and as individuals. I can only hope that there’s a rainbow on the horizon.

Funicu-what?

I’ve always prided myself with having a pretty extensive vocabulary, but Cape Town threw me a curve ball. Our driver Brain (a.k.a. Brian) kept talking about riding some type of shuttle once we arrived at Cape Point—one of the must-see stops— while on our trip. He kept saying that he didn’t really know how to properly pronounce it, but that we’d see it, once we arrived. Climbing the peak would take roughly 2 hours, but riding the contraption would only take about 10 minutes. So, we paid our money, and got in line for the “shuttle.” Check out my colored commentary about the mode of transport.

The Mother City

When my sister-friend Jennifer and I started throwing around the idea of visiting Cape Town, South Africa for Spring Break, I had no idea just how profound of an effect that the trip would have on my life. Visiting Africa had always been on my bucket list of things to do, but I never in my wildest dreams thought that it would actually happen for me. Our itinerary consisted of attending the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, taking in many of the sites that the province had to offer, and sinking our teeth into authentic African cuisine. We loaded up our oversized luggage, and headed to Dubai to catch our flight.

My first impression of Africa was wow! It was nothing like we had been taught in the States. For as long as I could remember, Africa was always portrayed as this destitute place where the citizens were in need of us well-off Americans to send them our pocket change in order to survive. It was presented to us as this third-world country where almost all of its citizens lived in poverty. When we arrived at the airport, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging, and that feeling only heightened as the trip went on.

Everywhere we went, we were greeted with a smile, hug, handshake, and ‘Welcome Home my sisters.’ I cannot explain to you how amazing that felt. As an African American who has lived in a country where I (and my people) are oftentimes viewed as second-class citizens and even a nuisance, it felt good to finally feel that I belonged. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have people staring at my hair and wondering why it was in its natural state; if anything, if you didn’t have natural hair, people stared at you wondering why. I saw people with the same skin tone as me, and the melanin was definitely popping. Beautiful shades of brown ranging from caramel, mocha, and everything in between were in abundance. Could it be that I was finally home?

We went to many of the tourist attractions in the area, but we also made it a point to visit the not-so-glamorous areas where many of the locals lived, also know as townships. Our driver, Brain (think of the American name Brian), made sure that we saw the real Cape Town. One of the most memorable moments there had to be visiting the home of Apartheid survivors. They welcomed us into their home, fed us, and shared their experiences with us. It would be like sitting at the feet of Holocaust survivors or Civil Rights activists. Truly an emotional, but life-changing experience.

Many of the local guys fancied me (sorry Jonathan), and went on and on about how beautiful I was. Not to mention the older guy in the airport who wanted to all but marry me after a few moments of conversing, until I told him I was already married. The locals also kept ranting about how I looked like I was from Johannesburg, and that my family roots were likely there.

At times I found myself overtaken by the beautiful homeland that many of my ancestors had been brutally taken from. I also experienced a deep desire to learn more about the land that was mostly foreign to me. I needed more than the allotted time there to visit.

I’m finding it very hard to articulate just how life-altering this trip was, but hopefully you caught the gist. Needless to say, this will not be the last time that the Mother City sees me. Upon returning, I want to head to Durban and Johannesburg.

I literally took dozens of videos and hundreds of pictures, so I tried to capture some of my favorite moments in the movie below. Enjoy!

Until next time.

When America Invades the UAE

There’s nothing like a subtle reminder of home when you’re not at home. I’ve never been a huge fan of 7/11–I grew up in Oklahoma, where Quiktrip (QT) runs things–but I was super excited to hear that my apartment community was getting a 7/11. I was even more excited to see the sign go up directly across the street from my building. I had no idea that the pandemonium would be so great.

An email went out to the apartment community detailing the opening day. I decided that I would check it out after work. When I walked in, it was like Walmart on Black Friday! No exaggeration. Our entire apartment community, surrounding communities, and those who had never heard of 7/11 flocked to the storefront on opening day. I was impressed to see the setup of the store, how many exported products from America that they had, and just how well thought out the store was. There’s a one-stop shop machine at the front of the store that makes paying local and international bills, as well as sending money home, a breeze. There’s also a laundry service provided by 7/11 for those who need it. Oh, and did I mention that the entire inventory of the store can be delivered to your doorstep? The idea of delivery is not far-fetched as 99% of the businesses here deliver, but I was excited to see that 7/11 had joined the number.

I’ve frequented 7/11 numerous times since their opening, and I’m sure that won’t change any time soon. I do, however, kinda feel like I’m cheating on QT. 😜

In Search Of…

Do you know where your roots lie? Do you know what your name means or where it came from? Can you trace your lineage back to where it all began? For many people, the answers to these questions are no. For many African Americans, there is a huge void that has followed their family from generation to generation. Without going into an extended history lesson of the African Slave Trade, I will say this: not knowing where you came from makes it nearly impossible to know who you are. In recent years, many people have decided to trace their family roots and complete the Ancestry.com DNA tests. That’s on my list of things to do this year, but as of late, I’ve been on this search to really uncover the person that I am and who my Creator designed me to be.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with living in the UAE. Well, I’ll tell you. The Emirati culture is incredibly rich and deeply rooted in the fibers of this country. Everything that is done has a purpose from the names that are chosen for children, to the clothing that is worn by the men and women, and even the festivities that are celebrated. Every single girl in all of my classes can tell me what their name means, why their parents chose that name for them, and how their name fits who they are. It’s fascinating. Very contrary to the names that many people bear solely because their parents had an affinity to a specific alcohol or they were fascinated by a particular car.

Since arriving here, I’ve noticed just how I was cheated by being and growing up in America. I’ve realized how ignorant I have been about things relating to this part of this world, and how I seemingly drank the Kool-aide, as did many of my fellow patriots. Don’t get me wrong; I am a proud American (on most days), but the duality of my being both American and Black have a tendency to clash with one another.

Rambling to be continued…

Balance: The New Way of Life

People oftentimes ask me what life is like living in the UAE. They ask what a typical day is like for me. So, here’s my daily schedule:

5:30 a.m.-Get awakened by the call to prayer; acknowledge the prayer call, and roll back over.

6:00 a.m.-Get awakened by the call to prayer; think about getting out of bed, and roll onto my other side.

6:15-6:30-Seriously consider getting out of bed, possibly get out of bed, and quickly return to bed.

6:35-6:40-Roll my eyes, check the time on my phone, realize that it is truly time to get out of bed.

6:40-7:07-Morning Routine

7:08-7:10-Head to the neighboring building/7-11/the bus stop in front of my building to wait for my carpool buddy

7:15-Leave the apartment community heading to school

7:22-Nearly die in the first roundabout, but somehow make it through to the next 5

7:30-Arrive at school

8:00-3:00-Mold the minds of my darling angels (who are sometimes demons)

3:03-Head to the fingerprint machine with my coworkers, administrators, and other staff to leave for the day

3:06-Wait on the traffic to be accommodating/Debo my way out of the parking lot to begin the trek home

3:20-Arrive at my flat (also known as apartment for us US people, LOL)

3:30-Walk into my flat; think about dinner; cook dinner; order dinner; skip dinner altogether

3:40-Scroll through the guide on my Firestick, and catch up on my favorite shows

3:50-8:00-Watch shows/hang out with friends/catch up with family at home

8:00-10:00-Begin counting sheep

My routine here is very different from the one I kept at home. For starters, I get to come straight home from work. School lets out at 3:00. By 3:10, the parking lot is a ghost town. Even administrators leave. Secondly, I am only 12-15 minutes (depending on traffic) away from my home. No hour long or longer (Lord forbid there be an accident on a Dallas freeway) to get from school to work. I can still make it home within the three o’clock hour, which never in life happened in Dallas. Thirdly, I only have one job here. No after school activities, evening adjunct classes, or anything. I literally have one job, and that one job is more than sufficient financially. I actually have a life that isn’t just work and going home only to repeat the routine the next day.

For those of you who really know me, you know how crazy hectic my life was at home. If my day ended 14 hours after it started, that was a good day. 18-19 hour day (which included teaching at the high school, sitting in traffic to go to my night job, teach a few classes, sit in traffic again to go home, and then finally make it home) was the norm. Here I have a more simpler life. The motto is if it didn’t get done today, Inshallah (If God Wills It), it will happen tomorrow. If not, no problem. The vast majority of people here do not stress over anything. They don’t take work home. When they’re at work, they’re at work. And when they’re at home with their families, they are at home with their families. There is a clear distinction between work life and home life, and the lines hardly (if ever) blur.

I needed this new way of life for my survival. For my sanity. For my well-being. For my peace. I was headed down a road of high blood pressure, continued obesity, and chaos, but thanks be to God that this door to teach overseas opened. Is everyday rosy? Nope. Are there day that I wonder why on earth I took this leap of faith? Yes. But when I think about the life that I am afforded now, and what the alternative of returning home right now would be, I hold my head up, stick my chest out, grit, and bear the bitter with the sweet.

I have something here that I never had before—balance—and I’m not letting it go anytime soon.

Officially Out In These Streets

After nearly six months of hiring drivers, taking taxis, and hitching rides with my friends, I am officially a licensed driver in the UAE. Driving here in the UAE is a totally different ball game, in comparison to driving in the States. The rules of driving here (better yet the lack of rules of driving here) are like playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. For instance, stop signs are merely suggestions. If you want to anger drivers, come to a full stop at a stop sign. You’ll elicit the honks, flashing lights, and vicious stares of other drivers. Secondly, the overabundance of roundabouts (or traffic circles as we call them in many parts of the US) make for very interesting interactions at the intersection. Sure there are actual rules that correlate with the roundabouts, but the only people who seem to follow them are the Expats. If you’re turning right from the roundabout, you should be in the first lane, so that you can exit. If you’re planning on keeping straight, you should be in the second or middle lane, and if you’re planning to make a left turn or U-turn, you should be in the third lane. Simple enough, right? Wrong. Tell me why people who are making U-turns are in the first lane, people who are going straight are in the first lane, and people who are turning left are also in the first lane? See how this can pose a problem? Basically people get in whatever lane they want to get into, and you better be prepared for anything in those roundabouts. Some of them only have two lanes, some three, and some five. Needless to say, sometimes Jesus literally has to take the wheel. But, it does get easier with practice.

I was also fortunate enough to purchase a relatively new used car. I wanted a compact SUV or something similar to what I drove in the States. I had my heart set on a Toyota Rav-4 or a Lexus RX 350, but my pockets didn’t agree. I settled on a 2008 GMC Terrain, that I affectionally call Raine. Raine and I have hit the highway a few times heading to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but she is usually parked during the week, as I carpool with my neighbor to work, and we drive her car. It feels good to not have to ask anyone to take me to the store, or to pick me up from work, but I do miss being chauffeured around like a boss.