I’ve been back

I’ve been back in Abu Dhabi for… three weeks now, I guess? (I could look at a calendar, but that would ruin my flow.) My America trip was a big success. Smashing, really. But it was also extremely exhausting. On so many levels.

Two weeks before I left Abu Dhabi, bae decided to divorce me for the third and final time. (Under sharia, we cannot ever get remarried now. Well, actually we could, with penalty. The penalty being that first I’d have to marry and have sex with another man, then get divorced again, then we could remarry… he told me to read the Quran after he divorced me. I think he wanted me to find some loophole to get around that whole thing. I did start reading it, but I have yet to find the loophole.) As a result, I spent most of my socializing time in America catching people up on the last two years of our torrid marriage and divorces. I spent my alone time mostly crying.

It was good for me though. Because I am now thinking that I’ll move back to the States after this school year. So, I spent a lot of my time trying to reimagine my future and see what would work and how do-able it would be to reassimilate. And it’s do-able, maybe. I still have plenty of friends in NYC, plus I’d be a much shorter plane ride away from my other friends, so they might actually come visit me. (Americans don’t leave the country, I tell myself, to assuage my sadness that roughly zero people have visited me out here. Then they tell me about their Eurotrips and I’m like, oh I see how it is.)

I will definitely have to reassimilate though. America really is this little bubble of self-obsession, which is hard to deal with when you’ve lived outside the bubble for eight years. But I’ll get used to it again. I totally fell right back into watching horribly staged reality TV shows and pretending trips to museums are cultural. It’s still extremely jarring that everyone has an American accent, but I’d get used to it. And in a few months, I’d be just like everybody else. Except I’d have this juicy past that I’d dole out in little drips to potential suitors and new friends. “Ah yes, my exhusband used to wear that perfume.” “Ah yes, I loved the doner when I was living in North Cyprus.” “Ah yes, I’ve heard of Dubai, spent many a brunch there, once upon a time…”

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World Cup Season

In America, the summer after graduate school when I was underemployed and there was a freeze on new teaching hires in NYC, the 2010 World Cup happened. Growing up I had never really been around people who cared for the sport, but that year I cared. My roommates were also very into it. And we were all underemployed, so we had far too much time to sit around watching football all day. We printed out the schedule and hung it on our fridge and had a million inside jokes about teams and players. We didn’t have an A/C for much of that hot, hot summer, so we lived off of popsicles and football. And it was amazing.

There are only three games left in this World Cup, (or four if you count the third place game) and I would hardly say that I’ve watched all the matches, and I definitely can only name like three players (who wouldn’t learn the name of the fantastic flopping Neymar?), but I have so enjoyed it once again. The other day bae and I were watching Russia lose to Croatia and it was so fun to just cheer and pretend we care and see these strangers who’ve trained all their lives play so nicely for our entertainment.

And it’s such a lovely excuse to get together. For more than one game, I’ve gathered with people I rarely see anymore, and yeah we enjoyed seeing the game, but it was also fun to see each other. As we get older, sometimes we need excuses to get together. Because we’re all in our lives and our routines and unless there’s an important event, sometimes it’s easy for people to just flake on the plans or for nobody to initiate a plan or for the plans to only actually be realized once a month. It’s easier to just hide in our lives and continue our routines and pretend we’re going to the gym or we need to do laundry, but we’re really just going to go home and order food and binge-watch something that’s not even that interesting.

So I encourage you to make a plan with your friends to watch one of these last few games! You might not care at all about the teams (all my teams are gone – possibly because they were chosen entirely for their underdog qualities) but watch the first ten minutes of the match and then decide who you like more. Pretend you’re a die-hard fan. Joke with your friends about the players and their foibles. Talk about who’s the cutest. Mock the die-hard fans who’re in the bar with you all. And revel in the fact that all around the world, countless other groups of friends are doing the same thing.

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Outsider

I’ve started planning my trip back to America for the summer. New York City and it’s surrounding areas (two weeks), Chicagoland (less than a week), and New Mexico (solely to see my bfffff) form the current itinerary bones. But I was reticent to finalize all the plans because I’m honestly just wary about it all. I haven’t been home in two years. And America, well…. there are no words for it’s nonsense these days.

And I have to go alone. Bae has wisely decided to spend the time here trying to make money, rather than following along with me and spending a ton of money. And while I get that it’s the only logical choice, it makes me curl my lip like a moody toddler denied her favorite ice cream. I don’t want to be there alone, gawked at by everyone, having to explain the rest of the world to naive Americans, (who would never deign to come visit me, but still resent that I haven’t been back in two years/expect me to move mountains to fit them into my itinerary while they change literally nothing about their routines.) I loved the idea of carting him around and being like, “And for today’s show and tell, a real live Muslim Arab!” And they would all marvel at his beard and his English-speaking and his niceness and his normalness and how nice he smells because of all the perfumes.

Oh well, perhaps next summer he can come with me. And maybe by then I’ll learn some more Arabic and we can gossip about people in front of them. And they will all tilt their heads in wonder at who I have become. And then I will write a book about it. And it will enjoy minimal success because I have zero online following and books are dead, hurrah!

(One of the things I am actually looking forward to about going back to America is the shopping. I’m going to buy a whole new wardrobe and I’m going to bring back enough fake food to last a month and oh the boooooooks! My list of books to buy is going to require me to check a bag on the way back. I never check a bag anymore! But I’ve already started online shopping and shipping things to my mom’s house, haha.)

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Summertime countdown initiated

One of the most common responses that teachers get when we complain about our low wages is “yeah, but you get paid summers off, so….” And if I’m perfectly honest… it is pretty awesome. We still deserve more money. Or easier jobs. But paid vacations are the holy grail we count down to.

At this point in the school year, the kids are off the walls. I had my last class of the year on Wednesday (we are currently enjoying a four day weekend for Eid – the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan) and the last period of the day, we were trying to review and oh. my. god…. there was this one kid who literally could not sit in his seat. (I teach grade 6, so that’s not normal.) Like he couldn’t make it two minutes. Constantly up and messing around and killing me, slowly, slowly, slowly.

But khallas, the teaching is done! We have three more weeks of work (for finals and then planning/administrative whatever) And then freedom! For two whole months! The official countdown is so very much on!

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Ramadan Kareem

I don’t know why I blanked on what exactly Ramadan kareem meant today. It means generous Ramadan, which I should have known. I briefly thought it meant blessed Ramdan, which is stupid because that’s Ramadan mubarak, which I also should have known! Do know. Somewhere in my mind… I even had a student named Karim (and I’ve had a Mubarak!) and we discussed what it meant and ugh, the way Arabic meanings just fly in and out of my brain is very frustrating.

Anyways, so Ramadan kareem was the standard greeting today, the first day of Ramadan. I do love that the theme of the month is about generosity. In money, in food, in kindness, in everything. And work/school hours get reduced. Which is good because more or less all the students fast, which makes them tired or irritable. This will actually be my first year teaching the full month of Ramadan. Previously it fell during finals or summer, so I never got a full month of full teaching days. (Ramadan moves a few weeks each year because the Muslim calendar is not the Gregorian calendar.)

You see the generosity in different ways. Before Ramadan there’s this Halloween-esque holiday in the UAE called Hag al Laila, (it has different names in other Gulf countries,) where kids go around to doors and people give them treats. They sing some song about how if people give to them, God will give to them. I’d actually never heard of that pre-Ramadan tradition before, but this year a few local students gave all their teachers and classmates a bag of sweets for the holiday, reminding us about the generosity of Ramadan. Then the day before Ramadan, there’s always students going around giving out dates to everyone. And then throughout the month, Muslims invite you to iftars and donate food to others and share food with other families and places like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque host huge iftars for anyone who wants.

I went to iftar at the in-laws this evening. Iftar is the meal after sundown to break the fast. To be honest, it was mostly like any other dinner there for me. For everyone else, who’d been fasting since suhoor (the meal before sunrise), it was probably like the best thing ever. His family is always lovely and generous and trying to get me to eat everything, so this dinner was just that same old thing, but for more of a reason, perhaps.

My husband always looks forward to Ramadan, and I was like, what? Why would you look forward to a month of fasting? But if you look beyond the pain of fasting, it’s quite lovely in its meaning. (Which is obviously more than just generosity, but that part’s the one I noticed today.) Ramadan kareem!

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