Saturday, June 9, 2012

Emirati Wedding Experience

It has been a while since I have updated and written.. and I know I say this every time I blog..

Many things have happened (good, bad, and fun....) and life has gotten a bit busy to blog all of the goings on! More blogs should follow soon!

Three weeks ago all of the English teachers moved out of the villas and into brand new beautiful apartments... we are waiting for our curtains to be put up (we don't have a drill) so pictures will be posted when that happens.. Insh'allah.

Here is the LATEST story:

Last night one of my roommates, Heidi, and I had the pleasure of attending an Emirati wedding. )Last weekend we spent 8 hours in the mall in Abu Dhabi dress shopping... we had to look amazing!)
 The secretary at Heidi's school was getting married!

Friday 8 June 2012:
  Heidi and I decided we needed to get better color for the wedding so we went to the beach. We planned on staying for a few hours, but 6-7 hours later we were peeling ourselves off the chairs. When we got home we realized that all of our sunscreen applications were in vain because we were burnt! We started to get ready around 6pm..(thanks to the Coronas) and we needed to be at the wedding at 8 and it was over an hour away... little did we realize that it would take so long to do the hair and make-up an event like this requires!!! How soon we forget what it is like to get ready for a black-tie function! We ended up leaving around 8.... and got there around 9:30...
The Emirati Wedding:
The men and women celebrate separately. The celebration is held at a wedding hall which has 2 sides... We were driving up to the building and I told Heidi to pull in to the entrance and then we saw the sea of white- men in kandooras!  NOT the ladies side!! We saw black (women in abayas) and ran to the other side before getting ourselves into trouble!! Cell phones had to be left at the entrance and we had to be patted down to make sure we were not hiding any cameras or phones... Absolutely NO photography!
We did not know what to expect, but we knew it would be over the top because we are used to the Emirati style... The hall was huge and there were tables piled with food.. their was silver fabric draped along the ceiling.. the first bride was sitting on the stage (we were late so we missed her walking in...) there were enormous crystal frames with silver Arabic designs in the middle and crystal lamps and balls lit up around the stage.... (so very "My Sweet Sixteen") The bride was in an amazing dress ..... There were women in dresses that the Real Housewives of New Jersey would KILL for!!! The hair and make-up was Jersey Shore meets Toddlers and Tiaras...
Heidi and I stuck out like sore thumbs- we were wearing abayas over our dresses, but we were not veiled, we did not have sheilas covering our hair, and we are white and blonde...
The bride Heidi knew came and she was stunning, but she had an extremely hard time walking! Her dress was mermaid style and very formfitting! We went on stage (without abayas) to say hello and Mabrook (Congrats in Arabic)... of course I tripped walking up the stairs while alllllll eyes were on us.... the poor girl could barely breathe.. her dress was so tight and her make-up was so heavy and her hair weighed probably 42lbs... She was so happy to see Heidi and meet me .... even though it was hard for her to say it!!

We sat back down(eyes still on us) and as we were watching the 3rd bride walk in and all the ladies continue to dance, each table received an enormous plate with one or two lamb shoulders and legs on a bed of rice... normal... the ladies at the table behind us had aluminum foil and took the whole lamb, wrapped it up, and put it in their giant purse!! They then proceeded to take the fruit from their table (and 3 other tables) and put it in a shopping bag ... Heidi and I were speechless! .. normal again...!!
As the ceremony was winding down, ladies came around with finger desserts, then dates, Arabic coffee, unappetizing pancakes, and perfume in a large crystal decanter (Heidi and I had to watch the other ladies to know what to do with the perfume- spread it all over their abayas and sheilas on their heads...)
We were one of the last groups of ladies to leave...! ..

At the car we had audience of the Pakistani truck drivers eating and drinking tea sitting on the sidewalk.. across from the smelly dumpster.. and the car was so foggy because it was extremely humid out... it took us 15 kilometers and driving with the windows down then up then down and the defrost blasting to get 85% visibility..
3/4 of the way home the gas light went on, but we were close to home ... and then missed the exit and ended up in the next town over on the most undesirable road in the Emirate... we were hoping and praying and then barely breathing scared we were going to run out of gas... we made it to the gas station on fumes and both of us let out the breath we were holding.....

So now we know things needed for our next weeding experience: Pink or Red Lipstick, Henna on our arms, hands, and feet, a "Bump- It" or 2 for our hair, and plenty of gas!

We made it home after a night of new experiences, laughs, and embarrassing and scary moments!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Surprise Visit Home

      I knew that this holiday season was not going to be the same... and not just because I am living 8000 miles away, but because one of the most important family members was not going to be there. When I first arrived, I decided that I would not go home for Christmas because I thought it would be too hard to bear without my Nani- she was the one who brought the family together and who made Christmas so special. But after a few months here I realized that thinking that way was so selfish of me- I have many other wonderful, loving people in my family...

      A few weeks before Thanksgiving I booked my flight home, then of course I called the next best place, Balance Spa, for a MUCH needed massage! I told NO ONE of my purchase, which was so hard because I was so excited! Thanksgiving I skyped with my family while they were having dinner (I was so close to tears..) and I fought the urge to spill it.... My best friend Sarah knew so I could be sure she could get time off work..

      In the beginning of December I decided to tell my little sister Julia my plans- we were skyping and mom was in the other room so she was jumping up and down and doing silent cheers! We kept this secret between us up until the moment I came home! I was so proud of her!!!!

     I had the plan all set- Sarah was going to pick me up at Logan Airport in Boston noon time Christmas day and bring me to my house.. So I flew out of Abu Dhabi at 2:45am Dec 23 and landed in London 7 hours later.. 7am London time.. and then I got to thinking.. "How am I flying in on Christmas Day if its only the 24th and Boston is 5 hours behind London?"... "Am I flying all the way around the world?" I panicked, called a friend to check my email and turns out I read the itinerary wrong-- I am flying in TODAY!!! And there won't be anyone at the airport in Boston for me....
    I met a wonderful woman and her daughter on the plane and talked to them the whole way- her daughter was 4 and we colored and talked to her stuffed bear ... In Boston I used her skype to call Sarah and tell her how her smart friend read the itinerary wrong and that I was here NOW!!! She sent her boyfriend to get me! I called Julia and told her what happened - she couldn't believe it either.. and said they were doing errands and she would call me when they got home. So Vic and I went to the Chinese Restaurant/Bar where Sarah works and she had Crab Rangoons and an ice cold Bud Light waiting for me! We were sitting in the front of the restaurant talking when who walks in? My MOTHER! Her face went white and she started crying! She couldn't believe I was sitting right there.. Then my father walked in and he started crying and Julia was behind them laughing... Not exactly the family reunion I pictured, but it was priceless.. and what better place to have a family reunion like that than at the Jade East!(in the lobby!)

    After that I surprised my aunt at work- she was on the phone in the pharmacy and when I walked up she screamed and threw the phone down! Thank goodness it was only her husband on the other end and not a patient or a doctor!!  I saw my other sister Kasey later that night and she started screaming and crying! It was such a heartfelt and tearful return! It meant so much that everyone was so happy to see me!

   Christmas and the week after was filled with surprising more family members and seeing all my friends I left behind... I am truly blessed to have so many loving and caring people in my life!!
               Thank you to all who made my trip home that much more exciting and meaningful!!!!

                                                 Merry Christmas!

                                              Dad, Jules, and Ivy!

Mom and Dad
Me and my girls

Sisters, James and Collin


My lovely Nana!



NDA bests!

Mom Dad and Kasey

Balance Spa Ladies!




Best Friend in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!

Sisters and Cousins!

FInally a Home!

   I apologize that it has taken about 3 months for an update. Life is going in about 27 directions... I will try bring you up to date on all that has happened since!

   The long wait for a villa (house) is over!! After 4 months of living in 3 hotels, my roommate and I were given a set of keys to a villa in Ruwais (the town we work in). We were so so excited to finally be out of the hotel and into a home of our own! When we unlocked and opened the door we were met with a house in a state of disrepair with trash and dirt EVERYWHERE! Instead of waiting for Ruwais ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) to come clean it, we bought all the essentials and cleaned ourselves- with the help of 3 extraordinary women. Within 2 1/2 weeks the house was cleaned and furnished! We moved in in the middle of December.

     Being a homeowner (I use that term loosely! its free) in the middle of the western region in Abu Dhabi made me realize how much I took for granted back home! I can't just hop in the car and go to The Home Depot for my fix-it needs or to Wal-Mart for detergent and toilet paper! And the supermarkets are interesting... we have 3 small markets that sell your basic necessities.. but rarely things I'm looking for.. and everything is in metric so following a recipe here involves a lot of converting!!!

    I am so thankful that we are in a villa and that it is so close to my school (5-7min walk). I am also thankful for the other teachers here that have become friends and a great support system!

Louisa and I are slowly but surely making this house a home- special thanks to everyone who sent pictures and cards!!!

Our Kitchen

                                                                       My Bathroom
                                                                         Master Bathroom

                                                                   The Front Doorway
                                                             (that is a concrete slab that fell)

                                                Cleaning the FILTHY cabinets and drawers

                                                              Our Living/Dining Room


                                                                      My Bedroom!

                                                                Our Clean Kitchen!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ultimate UAE Experience

   I know it has been a while since the last post and I apologize. It gets crazy here!!

This past weekend I had the ultimate UAE experience since being here. This weekend was the Gayathi Beautiful Camel Festival. The town of Gayathi is in the Western Region and is known for its labor camps and desert filled with camel farms. It is not uncommon for many students to be absent due to selling of their camels.. which can sell for up to 6 million dirhams which is about 2million dollars...

Emiratis come from all over the country to showcase their camels. They dress their camels up in sparkly shawls and necklaces and drapings.

A group of friends and I showed up on Friday evening around 430pm only to find that the show was done for the day. Disappointed and ready to go home, an Emirati gentleman named Mohammed came over to us and invited us into a tent behind the bleachers to have tea. We met the head of the media and many pictures were taken. We were then told to get into SUVs and we were taken out into the desert beyond the stadium and to a family's tent. We were welcomed with open arms and smiling children! We were invited for coffee, tea and dates and conversation. They were thrilled to have Westerners be a part of such an important aspect of their heritage. We were then brought to see their camels and got to take pictures and interact with them. The men were so hospitable and welcoming it was amazing! Even the children were excited to see us and show off their English skills!

The next day, Saturday, we returned to the festival to witness the actual showing of the beautiful camels. When we arrived our friend Mohammed found us and brought us into the main ring in front of the audience. We got to walk around, meet many of the camel owners, and see the camels all dressed up up close and personal!! It was amazing! No other spectators are allowed in the gates!! We were told that they allowed Westerners because they want us to learn and experience their culture and traditions that are so important to them. We were the only Westerners and the only women!!!

This was an amazing experience both days. Words will not be able to describe the weekend!! Pictures help a little bit!

My name in Arabic: شانون

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Holy Moly I'm Really in the Desert!!

So I know most of you are thinking that "Duh Shannon, obviously you are in the desert.... " but its really hard to believe!!!

I am still living in the hotel so my view from my bedroom is always the beautiful beach and the clear blue waters of the Arabian Gulf... but on the other side.. not so much....

Here are some pictures of what surrounds us... and what we drive through everyday...