‘‘Twas the day before PD…”

I was really going to write a cute little vignette to the tune of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” but my brain is not feeling creative-y. Could be because jetlag has become a semi-permanent fixture in my life, as of late, or it could be some other totally unrelated reason. Nevertheless, today is the day before teachers report back to school for the academic year. The students won’t report until September 2, 2018. (Cues Ren and Stimpy’s “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.”

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m not excited to begin another school year. I just wish I had a few more works of summer to soak up. We literally had six (6) of summer vacation. Six. Weeks. Of. Summer. Vacation. My shortest summer break in the history of my tenure as a teacher. I did make the most of it, though, by returning to the good ole U S of A. I didn’t take very many photos at home, and for good reason: I’m beginning to become one of those people who enjoys the moment and smells the roses instead of capturing every moment via photo or social media post.

I spent most (if not all) of my days in America sporting sleeveless dresses, shorts and tank top shirts (since I can’t typically wear them here in the Middle East), sleeping in most days, spending time with close friends and family, and going wherever the wind blew me. I had several scheduled lunch and dinner dates, but many days I could be found lain across an air mattress in my mom’s living room, atop my granny’s couch, or under the down comforter in my hotel room seemingly without a care in the world. This was how I spent many a days in America, and it was so well needed.

On this eve of another school year, as I prepare to be professionally developed, I am truly proud of myself. My first 6 months teaching abroad last year were rough; so rough that I wasn’t sure if I would make it through the second half of the year, but I did, and for that I choose to rejoice. Rejoice that I’m no longer the new kid on the block. Rejoice that though many struggles and storms arose, I overcame them. Rejoice in the fact that though crazy at times, I love my life in the Middle East (and the decision to move abroad is in the top five best decisions I’ve made in my life thus far).

So, though I could use at least another week (or two or three 😜) of vacation, I’m gonna walk with my head held high and my arms and legs covered into PD tomorrow like a boss.

Until Next Time,

NR.

Ramadan, Eid, and Everything In Between

Hey all! Things have been a little busy, so I apologize for the delay in getting this post out. With Jonathan’s recent hospitalization(s), Ramadan, Eid, and final exams, I’ve been one busy mamacita. So, allow me to recap the last month or so. Disclaimer: long post. 😏

May 17th began the holy month for Muslims: Ramadan. Ramadan is a 30-day period of fasting for Muslims to commemorate when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. It is a very sacred period for Muslims, and consists of them fasting from sunrise to sunset. Additionally, they are to abstain from impure thoughts and behaviors including sex, smoking, and spirits. Everyone (including non-Muslims) are not permitted to eat or drink in public (including chewing gum), and the country pretty much shuts down until Iftar (breaking of fast) at sunset. Most businesses work on a modified schedule during this time, and school hours are also shortened, as most students usually stay home with their families to fast.

Note: special accommodations are made for those who are pregnant, ill, or elderly. As someone who frequently fasts, I thought fasting during Ramadan would be no problem. Lies I told myself! It’s all fun and games until it’s 115 degrees (not a hyperbole) outside, and you can’t drink water in public. Talking about Le Struggle! Fortunately for me, most restaurants and most schools provide a space for non-Muslims to eat and drink out of sight of others. Y’all should’ve seen my coworkers and I in that room eating and drinking. 🤣However, on many days, Jonathan and I decided (or at least attempted) to fast most of the day, and broke fast with the rest of the country at sunset. Iftar meals are literally like Thanksgiving for 30 days straight. I had the opportunity to enjoy Iftar with my UAE Framily, and it was an amazing experience.

As Ramadan was coming to a close, Jonathan and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. He and my desert sisters planned an amazing boat ride and dinner in Dubai. It was beautiful, and the food was to die for.

After Ramadan ends, the party really begins. Eid-Al-Fitr is a three-day (although Saudi Arabia extended theirs 🙂) celebration to mark the ending of the holy month. Think of Christmas meets New Years Eve meets Fourth of July. Gifts are given, new clothes and perfumes are worn, and school and most businesses are closed. 2018 in the UAE has been declared the Year of Zayed, which marks what would have been the 100th birthday of UAE’s founder, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His son, the acting president, Sheikh Khalifa, decided that ALL government employees needed a little extra something to celebrate Eid. So, he decided to give us a hefty salary bonus, just in time for Eid!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to partake in any of the festivities, as Jonathan was hospitalized again. But we’re still enjoying that bonus. 😏

Things are pretty much back to normal around here. We can eat and drink in public again, school is back in session (though the girls are finished, and only have to come sporadically for exams), and Jonathan is out of the hospital. Alhamdullah (Praise God). Now the countdown to the longest school year in history officially ending and our trek to the US of A is on.

Until next time ✌🏽

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…