It’s the final countdown…
well, until we go on summer break that is. ONE MORE WEEK OF WORK. Woo hoo! Not that work has been hard these past few weeks, but still we are all ready to end this thing and begin our summer travels. Thursday night my neighbors and I threw an Independence Day hallway party. Basically, we cleared out our kitchens, made up whatever stuff we could with it, pulled our tables into the hallway, and celebrated with our friends. So, in one shot we took care of Canada Day, 4th of July, and End of School Year. A good time was had by all.
some party pics … love our munchie spread in the hallway. The hallway got a little crowded, but that’s okay because we had different things going on in each of our apartments. I was too busy socializing to take pics of all the fun going on in our living rooms (um, this is pretty much all I took— must remember to capture more next time around!), and I’m so pleased that all of our circles of friends really seemed to enjoy each other. A big thank you to everyone who came and gave me another night to remember. I love the people I meet here.
I think my last end-of-year celebration (there have been quite a few of them these past few weeks) is Tuesday, and then it’s all about closing down the apartment for the summer and packing for vacation.
As for Ramadan, I’m surprised how easy it was for me to adapt to it. During the month of Ramadan everything slows down because Muslims are fasting, but it picks right back up again at night. Basically, from around 4 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. there is no drinking (including water), eating (including chewing gum), cursing, immoral behavior of any sort in public (or private for that matter if you’re Muslim). It’s a time of charity, reflection, and connecting with God by realizing what it’s like to not have what we’re used to having when we want. Of course there’s a lot more to it, but this is just my quick summary. What we westerners need to remember is it’s a sacred, spiritual time for the people who’ve invited us to live and work in their communities. At night it’s also a festive time to celebrate the joys of living — which,of course, includes lots of food and family. I was touched to have one of my students call to invite me to her family’s Iftar (the dinner where fast is broken) Thursday night. I couldn’t go because of our little hallway shin dig.
The country does not shut down like I expected. People still work (although at reduced or altered hours), and modifications are made for those of us who aren’t fasting. Some restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are open during the day. In Al Ain some restaurants will deliver food during certain pre-Iftar hours. There might be some that are open, but I don’t know of them, and that’s okay because I’m good with waiting until Iftar. I’m allowed to eat and drink in my apartment, or even in the English room at work (although I try to reserve it for home).
While there is no loud music, the lounges I like to frequent open at night, and, most surprising of all, our special Spinneys is still open for business during daylight hours — just in case anyone needs a pick-me-up.
There’s also Iftar restaurant specials everywhere that range from a burger with soup and salad to extravagant spreads. We’ve tried quite a few already.
A wide variety of teas and juices are offered during Iftar buffets. A popular one is Jallab, date juice infused with rose water and pine nuts. It tastes like you have a garden in your mouth (without bugs, dirt and fertilizer). There’s also this syrupy thing that’s sold by the caseload in supermarkets. Freshly-squeezed watermelon juice is my favorite though (and that you can get any time of the year). my plate of Arabic goodness doesn’t look appetizing, but everything on there (fish, beef, chicken, rice, veggies) was delicious. I will go through garlic paste and curry withdrawal this summer.
While I don’t understand why our work year is so long, I do appreciate this time I have to relax with my friends and colleagues while learning more about UAE culture. I’m also getting really excited about my upcoming vacation, which begins in just 5 days — holy insert word of choice (it’s Ramadan people). Shannan and I have booked our last night at a hotel in Dubai, where we plan on swimming, eating and shishaing until (okay there will be sleep too) boarding our early morning flight to Prague. Europe here we come! And oh my goodness it’s almost officially the end of my first year here!