Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Learning about National Day

On Friday, the UAE will celebrate 40 years as a country.  I'm not used to measuring a country's age in decades, and it is interesting to see how a younger nation celebrates its country's union.  The flag colors are everywhere, on clothing, jewelry, colored lights, and even on cars. Yes, cars are decorated to show the love people feel for their nation - and not like you're thinking... In the US, we decorate cars for sporting events, weddings, and yes, some holidays - including Independence Day, but I have never seen it to the extent I have over here.  I wonder if this is what my country looked like in its younger days, festooned with red, white and blue everywhere.

Because 40 years is a decade birthday, the number 40 is everywhere and there have been more celebrations leading up to the date than in other years.  Today, I took part in the final celebration for this occasion at school, where we boarded buses (after a special assembly), took a ride around to the far side of town, and then walked back to the school as part of a big procession. Flags were waved, cars were resplendent, noise makers were everywhere, and confetti floated in the wind. It was quite an experience, and then we were told that on Friday, the celebration in Abu Dhabi will take our breath away... Guess we'll need to make a trip to the capital city to take part in this celebration.

Because National Day falls immediately after the Islamic New Year, we are getting tomorrow off. I think we might go to Dubai to see the Da Vinci exhibit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving and the holidays as an ex-pat

Thanksgiving in front
of a map of the world
Belle's 2011
hand turkey
I love the holiday season - the stretch leading up to New Year's is one of my favorites in the whole world. At home, I would start playing Christmas music on November 1.  Yeah, you are feeling really sad that you don't live with me right now... I can tell. And I start baking... By Thanksgiving weekend, we'd have several pounds of fudge in the freezer, and I'd be hauling Christmas decorations up from the basement. The feast for Thanksgiving would be the start of the excitement because now, everyone would be okay with Christmas music, the Grinch (the old cartoon one) could be put on repeat in the DVD player - because I wore out the VHS, and we'd all troop off after the Christmas parade (and early Black Friday shopping) to get our Frasier fir so it would be decorated by the end of the weekend. 

Living overseas in a Muslim country means we had to change all these traditions. For one, I didn't bring all my Christmas cd's, our ornaments are packed in storage, there is no room in our freezer for pounds of fudge, and our family is all back in the states.  Plus, finding a Frasier fur is impossible. So, we are making some new traditions this year.... Because there was no snow on Halloween, I didn't feel compelled to put on Christmas music. And, with family thousands of miles away, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our UAE friends at a potluck.  We purchased our first artificial tree - which we decorated with new ornaments while watching the Grinch on repeat (there are some things you can not live without).  We've been spoiled by all the lights for National Day on December 2nd - it is the UAE's 40th birthday - so driving around town is lovely with lit palm trees and roundabouts, but it will be a hard stretch when the lights go away after the holiday.

On the dhow dinner cruise
Since the last post, we've been keeping busy. We went to Dubai for a dinner cruise on a dhow.  It was really beautiful because of all the National Day lights. Some buildings had the UAE flag, red, green, black and white, in lights down the entire length of their buildings, while other buildings had the national colors and intricate designs. The water sparkled with the lights and made the night time skyline of Dubai especially beautiful.  We are learning that we'll need a better camera to really capture all the images we are seeing... or you all will have to come visit to see it in person. ;)

Then we visited the Green Mubazzarah for an evening and found the hot springs... which were as warm as bathwater - maybe hotter. Belle played on one of the many playgrounds, and then we checked out another camel, a pony, and a horse available to rent for rides. There was also a horse drawn carriage carrying people around. We took a cruise down the "toboggan" for 5 dhs a car, and tried to find the lake. It was much larger than we expected, and will go back soon for a longer trip - perhaps even during the day, now that the weather is nice. 

Belle tried out rugby last week at the Rugby Club and Rob's going to try it out tomorrow after Belle's practice.  And rumor has it, there won't be school on Thursday, in recognition of the UAE turning 40 and the Islamic new year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Staycations and other adventures

As most people know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and happily, this appears to be recognized worldwide.  Belle and I participated in one of the several walks/runs being hosted throughout Al Ain, and even signed a poster - in memory of Rob's gram, Joanne, who went through two bouts with breast cancer.  She taught me how to crochet during her second battle, and I was able to really spend some quality time with a woman whose time ended much too soon to ever meet Belle.  Personally, I think they would have gotten along like a house on fire.  (Weird idiom)
After taking our long walk for breast cancer through the desert heat, we cooled down by taking Belle ice skating at the mall.  Yeah, life is like that...
In Abu Dhabi, we started school on September 11th, well, technically September 4th for me, and our first break was for the holiday, Eid Al Adha.  This is one of two Eid holidays (the first one followed Ramadan - Eid al Fitr).  This Eid recognizes the story of Abraham and Isaac, when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, and at the last moment, Abraham is able to exchange this sacrifice for a lamb caught in the bushes.  Whereas the first Eid is a celebration of completing the difficulties of Ramadan, this Eid is more about having faith in God and then being redeemed by this trust in God- but also a reminder that God may ask us to sacrifice and we need to be prepared when called upon (although rarely in Biblical texts does he require the sacrifice of our children, after all, He made that sacrifice for us).  Living in a Muslim country makes me think more about my own faith, especially as I learned more about this holiday, and the Hajj (religious pilgrimage to Mecca) which is supposed to take place prior to the Eid.  It is really interesting, and I encourage y'all to look into it if you want.  Okay, religion lesson over...

During our school holiday, we took a day trip to Dubai and did some skiing.  It was wonderful! Yeah, I know you are all wondering about us, ice skating and skiing in the desert. You can take us out of New Hampshire, but...  Ski Dubai was a lot of fun - we spent two hours on the trails - mostly sticking to one side because of our intrepid straight line skier, Belle.  It is located in the Mall of the Emirates and right inside the ski area are two ATMS that dispense gold bars - of course you have to have enough money to withdraw them, and I'm not quite sure what you'd do with one - but the idea itself is really cool.

On Friday, Mallory and I went to see Britney Spears in concert, and it was hilarious. I think her pop star days are waning. It didn't seem to bother too many people in the crowd that she only lip synched part of the time, and the rest of the time looked bored, or that she sat more than she "danced." I think it might have been her scantily clad costumes that kept the audience entranced, and the amount of skin and tight clothes that were being shown by the on-lookers was quite shocking after spending three months in a conservative country.

Now, we are back at school, in the final stretch before our big vacation in December... almost three weeks off.  Rob has all his paperwork done and is an officially licensed driver and resident of the UAE now.  It only took almost two months, and two trips to Abu Dhabi for translation services. This Friday, we are off to Dubai again for a dhow dinner cruise, and I hope some quality beach time.  The girls at school are starting to show up in sweaters and coats and I'm looking forward to the beach, but honestly, this November is the warmest one I've ever been through.