26 September 2010

مرحبا / Ah-lan was ah-lan! / Hello!

Merhaba! (Welcome!)

In two weeks, my mate and I will set out on a grand, exotic adventure. After traveling for twenty-four years all over the United States, we are heading overseas to the Arabian Peninsula for work in the United Arab Emirates. Accustomed to traveling abroad, but never having lived abroad, we both welcome all the challenges that this new setting and culture will surely bring.

They say that culture shock comes in stages. I experienced an abbreviated version on a four month stint backpacking through India. We could be in the UAE anywhere from four months to two years, so I am going to try to prepare myself for these four distinct phases:

1. Honeymoon Phase = "God, I just love this place! Who cares if they don't sell alcohol?"

2. Negotiation Phase  = "Okay, God. If I pray 5 times a day with everyone else, will you PLEASE just let me have one little glass of wine?"

3. Adjustment Phase  = "Pomegranite juice isn't so bad with a meal..."

4. Mastery Phase  = "Wine? Who needs it? And look how skinny my butt is getting!"

All whining aside, the only place to imbibe spirits is in the big hotels, so we will occasionally be able to indulge, but the days of having a nice bottle of wine with a homecooked meal is temporarily over.

And how to dress? Hoo wee, the challenges there! The UAE is a moderate Islamic nation that follows Sharia Law, but the population is heavily ex-pat (Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, etc.), so not everyone dresses accordingly. I am going for the cultural experience, and want to blend as much as a Westerner possibly can. But boy, do I look funny in a full Hijab! I've been trying out scarves, to no avail! Hah! Yeah! Pun intended!!! Seriously, I look forward to shopping when I get there, hoping for help from the local women. That will be the way to go.

And finally, I would like to make a note that we are stopping in Amsterdam for two full days on the way there. Wow. Talk about a study in contrast! From decadence to decency! The results of that experience should make for an interesting blog post. So until then...

Ma' Salaama!