So I know it has been a while since I have blogged, but time is really funny here. Even though the days are mostly stress free and laissez faire, time goes by really quickly….at least for me anyway. The work week seems to fly by, AND so does the weekend. I guess that’s a good thing in some ways. It’s hard to believe that in a few days, I will be celebrating my 3 month anniversary here. Yes, it has been 90 days already.
We have two breaks that are quickly approaching. The first is National Day, which is like Independence Day and separate from Flag Day. Flag Day, which was last week, is a celebration of the Inauguration of Sheik Khalifa. National Day is the UAE’s version of Independence Day. This year it falls closely with Martyrs Day, which is a day of remembrance for all those that have given their life to make the UAE great. Because the two are so close, the holidays have been moved together. Yes, holidays and such can be moved to accommodate government schedulesJ As such, we have a short week at school (Sun-Tues) with Wednesday and Thursday off making it a 4 day mini-vacation. Groupon has a UAE version and you will also find amazing travel deals during this time at discounted rates. I am planning something, but I have not yet finalized the plans for the wifey and I.
Here are a few pictures from Flag Day!
So let me take you back to a short few months ago. I was having a conversation with another AVP as we were preparing for this new journey. He was telling me that when we arrived he was going to wear a Kandura to work and I, emphatically, told him that I would be rocking my suits everyday. This was a huge source of stress for me as to which ones I would bring and which ones I would leave until I came back for Christmas. Further supporting my point, during orientation we were told not to wear them as it would be considered offensive. So, I gladly, even though it was 100 degrees plus, wore my suits. But a funny thing happened….
1. I came to the realization that this is a place that I wanted to live and not just work in. For some, they come, get the money, and leave and nothing is wrong with that. But for me, I wanted and considered this to be my new country so I wanted to immerse myself in all that it had to offer.
2. I started to really respect the look of the kandura and how regal the men and even boys looked wearing them. Crisp, white, with never a wrinkle. I really became enamored with the look.
So I began to probe the opinions of those I worked with who were Emiratis. I asked several people, young and old, leaders and teachers, a true cross section to get a true sense on how they viewed expats wearing kanduras. EACH person I asked, with a smile and true genuine spirit said that they welcomed it. That this was a sign that I was accepting of their culture. Even though I had their permission and encouragement, I was still a bit skeptical. This would be quite a change for me and I had a bunch of insecurities like, would they laugh at me, how would I look, would the kids make fun of me. I know, I am damn near 40 and worried about kids pointing and laughing but I was greatly concerned. I decided to take the first step and have some made.
I went to Madinet Zayed Shopping Center, which looks like the first mall ever build many years agoJ Let’s just say it has a real LOCAL feel to it!! I found a shop that allowed me to choose the material, measured me EVERYHWERE, and only charge me $150 dirhams. For those of you following in the US, that is equivalent to $41 usd. I bought two, the undergarments, sandals, three ghutras (head dress) and an Egal (black ring for the head) all for 650 dirhams. Again, that is $177 usd. The shop owner discounted everything greatly! Two days later, I came and picked up my custom made kanduras.
THE DAY OF RECKONING CAME! It happened to be a Tuesday when I picked them up. I had told myself that I would were them the next day. I was SOOOOO nervous. Of course, I tried to talk myself out of it by saying I would just wait until the next week….you know kinda like you do with a dietJ But I MADE myself do it. The next morning, I got up and put it on. Let me tell you how God will calm your fears. When I got to the elevator, there was a local Emirati man with a kandura on. Now mind you, I have NEVER seen a local man in my apartment building. He looked at me and nodded in agreement! I felt really good…..but I still hadn’t made it to school yet!
When I arrived, I both bravely and timidly got out of the car and walked in the front door. The principal (madeira) was standing right there with a group of teachers. He, with a huge grin, started asking me if I was "Mr. Marshall" and he gave me a big whack on the back (which is a good thing). The LOVE was amazing. When I went out for morning assembly I was literally mobbed by students and teachers wanting to either fix my Egal (which was a little crooked) or take pictures. It was so crazy that we could not start the assembly on time. Many teachers came up to me and gave me compliments and one, in particular, made a call to her housemaid, and had lunch delivered to me later on that afternoon.
It felt soooo good and I could sense a change in the atmosphere. I didn’t realize how that one thing could mean so much to them. I have had a number of interactions now where even the locals think that I am Emirati. It is not until I begin to speak that they realize and are surprised that I am not a local. I always have offers from different men (mostly young) to show me how to “hook up” my ghutra.
Well…as I type this, I now own 6 kanduras. 5 white and a beautiful black one all custom made. I anticipate purchasing a few more like grey and blue as you can wear colors during the “winter” months.