I come from a very close-knit family. We always spend the holidays together, and have the best of times together. This year I would be missing Thanksgiving with my family, but didn’t want to miss out on the feelings of togetherness. I decided to host our first annual Ross Friendsgiving. I invited my coworkers, much of my village here in the UAE, and new friends to come over to celebrate. We had a potluck style dinner, and got to exchange cultural traditions by way of food. My South African coworkers brought over traditional South African and Indian cuisine. I tried Samp and Beans and Indian Curry. It was amazing! My South African friends enjoyed collard greens, banana pudding, and cornbread dressing for the very first time, and they are hooked! Cultural immersion and exchange is a beautiful thing.
The learning curve has been huge moving to the UAE. I had to adjust and acclimate to many things including the extreme heat, the Arabic language, the Islamic culture, and even the day-to-day happenings in the UAE. Certain things that used to be foreign to me are now my new normal. Here are twenty things that I have gotten used to/that have become my new normal are:
1. Starting the work week on Sunday and ending the week on Thursday
2. Being able to order EVERYTHING using an app because EVERYONE delivers
3. Knowing the prime time to call home with the 9/10 hour time difference
4. Semi knowing what is being said on the intercom at work though I know very little Arabic
5. Experiencing the absolute best customer service from most businesses here
6. Realizing that I will likely not die while riding through the roundabouts though it seems I might
7. Realizing that time is relative and if it happens at the appointed time, great, if not, all will be well
8. Hearing my name pronounced correctly 95% of the time
9. Being able to function in a great deal of dysfunction, and living to tell the story
10. Hearing ‘Miss Nia’ 5,090,034 times per day
11. Having to go to the mall to do everything including grocery shopping, paying bills, etc.
12. Hearing the National Call to Prayer five times per day
13. Seeing my life flash before me every time I ride in a car
14. Knowing every single day what the weather will be without looking at the weather app (It will be hot, LOL)
15. Not seeing mailmen, not receiving mail, or having an actual address
16. Covering my arms and wearing skirts/dressing 99% of the time to work
17. Speaking in an English that is so broken that it’s probably not even English to others who don’t understand English
18. Learning (kind of) how to talk to multiple students at one time without missing a beat with any of them
19. Being called ‘Madam’, ‘Ma’am NiaShanta’, and ‘Miss’ by everyone
20. Being able to call on my service people to do everything for me including my laundry, cleaning my flat, pumping the gas, and just about everything else I don’t want to do
There are countless other things that I’ve gotten used to here, but these are the most notable.
Many people have experienced unexpected loss while living abroad. I’ve heard of people losing pets, close friends, and even family members during their time away from home. I had no idea that I would be joining that number.
WhatsApp, a means for communicating with family and friends from home, had two notifications on my phone when I woke up on Monday. My mom and my brother had both messaged me that one of my cousins had been murdered in a senseless act of violence in Oklahoma. I got the message as I was getting ready for work. Needless to say, I was devastated by the news, and alerted my department head that I would need the day off from work. Though I was saddened by his death, I was even more saddened by the manner in which he left this, the limitless potential that he had yet to reach, and the family that he would never get the chance to see again or the family that he would never get the chance to start. I was further saddened that I would get the chance to see him again (on this side) or say my final goodbye with my family. That was a tough day, and I’m still saddened by it.
So, Kendall, this post is for you. Know that we miss you, but we are each so blessed to have shared time on this earth with you.