Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Middle Eastern Halloween

When I lived in Bahrain, Halloween came and went without much notice. Well, I don't know what it is...maybe the bigger international community, maybe the Halloween cupcake my TA, Olga, gave me on Thursday, but this weekend has felt like Halloween, through and through.

That night, one of the secondary teachers organized a party at the sailing club. I arrived, fashionably late...I went to check out the belly dancer at the Hilton, but she was dancing at their party instead, but the walk there and back kind of helped me get over my experience from last week...dressed as - drumroll, please - a belly dancer.
Yes, I've been a belly dancer for Halloween before. Also, since I actually AM a belly dancer, it's doesn't really fit American criteria for a Halloween costumes (British Halloween costumes, I've been informed, are supposed to be scary. Which I guess means it's okay to dress like a witch even if you are one). I'm lazy. Get over it.
So anyways, I showed up late and left early, and in between had a pretty good time. It was fabulous doing the Time Warp in my belly dance gear, and I do kind of like the sailing club, even if it's not the most comfortable place to spend an evening. I was still up when the rest of the crew got in, and I ended up over at Melissa's for a while.
Which ended up being another late night...also known as, not so conducive to the whole church thing. And I wasn't really into the whole potluck thing here in the Sharjah ward. Don't get me wrong, Mormon friends...I love a potluck as much as anyone, especially when it gives me the chance to show off my mad cooking skills in front of the single men, but the Sharjah ward is too big and our building a bad configuration to allow it, but for reasons that I'll leave out of this, they seem to be a major thing here in the Bahrain Manama stake (formerly the Arabian Peninsula stake). I walked Kellie to get a taxi, ate two bites of caramel apple, and proceeded to sit and wait, bored, for 45 minutes to go home.

I had good intentions to take a nap, but got a call first from Melissa, who wanted to go into Dubai that night, and then from one of the belly dancers over here, Sabriye, who knows RAK a bit and Dubai a lot and let me pick her brain. Actually, it was a big week for belly dance. I shot an email to Lydia, who I'd like to start taking lessons with once I get wheels, and got a nice response from her, and the Hilton has apparently hired a dancer now. Oh, and I'm planning to do some shopping for costume bits over Eid in Dubai, and taking in some of the area dancers, who seem to rotate between restaurants, which makes them hard to keep track of. But such is life.

Well, I didn't go into Dubai. At the last minute (partly for reasons I will only fess up to if you ask), I decided I just didn't want to go. I wanted to go to Asiana for dinner (where I randomly met five Korean men out to dinner and got to use my dozen or so Korean words, although I turned down their offer of a drink), and picked up a few groceries at Carrefour. Today turned out to be a really good one. It didn't start on the best note because skype kept dicking me around, but me and Melissa randomly decided to go looking for what passes for forts around RAK. We saw the one by Saqr Park and the one in Nakheel, and went looking for a third, but got distracted by a beach (where we picked up some really nice shells for the costume I'd like to make if I ever finish all the other costumes I'm working on) and a rather lovely sand dune that we climbed barefoot and took pictures on and watched the sunset. Back in RAK I put together the little bookshelf I bought to house my projector, and ordered pizza for me, Paul, Tony, and Melissa, and FINALLY watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show on my wall, which, let me tell you, was pretty freaking awesome! Not bad for a Halloween in a land so far from both its pagan and Catholic roots!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Birth of Home Entertainment

Have I ever told you about my great plan? I don't think I have. When I accepted my mom's generous gift of her "gun" (the laptop she splurged out on when my Dad bought himself a new gun last year), complete with cd/dvd burner, I decided that the days of big clunky televisions were at an end. Also, because RAKESS doesn't provide them for teachers, so I didn't want to spend money on something that I was just going to end up leaving behind. No, I was going to be advanced in one aspect for once and think about getting a projector, about setting up a home theater, and this plan was confirmed when I got to my apartment and saw my beautiful, tall, blank wall. On Saturday, I went to the GITex Expo (chingus: think of Yongsan or Techno Mart, but put it all on one level and clean it up a little. Also, no ahjjusshis) in Dubai with Poonam (whose idea it was - she needed a laptop), Melissa, and Rakesh. I was really going because I wanted to spend time with Poonam, but I figured as long as I was there, I should see what I could do about a projector. And so I went ahead and seized the day, because the projector came with speakers and a 500GB hard drive, a carrying case, and - ooooohh! - a portable screen.

Yeah, seriously, what am I supposed to do with THAT??? But all in all it was a good deal, and let me tell you, watching movies on it ROCKS. My current plan for my next soiree is a bit of a potluck party on Halloween and we'll all watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Classic.
What else did I do this weekend? Stayed up WAY too late on Thursday night (or woke up way too early Friday morn) - but karaoke was on the table, so I went for it, and it was great. Friday morning saw me on my way to church with Tamsin and her son (Rick stayed home to take care of their daughter), and in spite of the fact that my lungs were a little tarry from the previous night's atmosphere and I was very tired, it was probably the most spiritual I've felt in a long time; I was actually happy to be there. Here I am, finally about able to get myself a license and car and the freedom to attend church in Dubai, and I'm thinking that I might just stay in Sharjah. As long as I don't end up with the kind of calling I have to be there for EVERY Friday (which would give me the chance to visit Dubai every once in a while and make contact with the singles there), I think I could live with it. And I'd feel guilty abandoning my friend Kellie there, now that she's been called as the youth Sunday school teacher. So yeah.

On the way home Melissa called in a panic trying to locate her camera. In answering her questions in the car I had to implicate myself a bit more than I would have wanted to in front of Tamsin and John. I told them on the way in that I was really tired from being up too late the night before, but I didn't want to go into the gory details. Mind you, I didn't actually do anything wrong. But there is this thing Mormons talk about every little once in a while called the appearance of evil. Oh, and people have a tendency to justify. See, even though you and I know I didn't do anything wrong, the kid doesn't know that, and I don't want him using my bad behavior to justify his own. Heck, even if he did, he might think, "Well, if Ms. Becky (Sister Becky? I don't know what these guys should call me) can go out with her friends and happily coexist with their choices, then so can I." Except Ms. Becky's had a lot of practice at politely declining and fairly supportive friends who've never pressured her to join in, and I don't know many high schoolers that mature.

When she started to recount her escapades of the night before I hurried her off the phone...not only did I know I was going to be hearing about them the remainder of the night, but there was no way either of them needed to overhear any of that, not to mention I was only five minutes from home. When I got there the two of us decided to call off our outing to Dubai that night (because her crush changed his mind about coming, because I'd only slept two hours the night before, and because we haven't really seen much of Poonam lately, due to the fact that she's a workaholic, and there was just no WAY I was going to be able to go along for GITex if we were out late the night before. I felt really at peace about the decision to call off a night of what passes for debauchery in my world for a friend.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life...

...and I'm feeeeeeling good.


Okay, so acclimating is one thing. Thanks to the slow death of Arabian summer, I've pretty much nailed that one. Acculturation, on the other hand...well, it's another thing entirely. Let's put that in the "Things to work on" category.

How about swearing? Shall I talk about swearing? I never used to swear. Chalk it up to the influence of Satan, because before I went to Korea, I never said so much as hell, and now I freely drop F-bombs. Or I did before I got to RAK. Then I stopped swearing for about a month, and finally picked it up again when I got to Singapore - where I figured there were enough foreigners that they could get over it. I've tried to keep it on the down low since returning, but what can I say? Friday found me on a road trip across and down to Fujairah, in a car with three Brits and an Aussie, and I may have remembered all the different colors that words can come in, and used them out. Swearing just has an expressive quality that you just don't get from regular talking. And it was not a big deal...until we sat down at a little restaurant in Fujairah, and when the server brought me my order - hommos and bread, and a LOT more of it than I was expecting - I said, and I quote, "Holy shit!" Then I realized to whom I was talking and clapped my hands over my mouth. The non-westerner in question did not get pissy with me - my expression of horror may have smoothed over my transgression - but I've had it happen in the past. Oops.

Then last night, as I was walking to the salon to chop my hair off - which I've been thinking about for a long time, I was going to wait until I got to Paris but I got bored and stupid on the same night so I went to the mom&pop - madam&maid??? - salon down the street, but that's a story I will tell in a minute. Anyways, as I was going to St. Ives, I met a bunch of snot-nosed boys playing in the street on their bikes (bikes doesn't quite rhyme with Ives, but it's close enough). I like kids, right? I mean, I'm a teacher, I guess it could go both ways, but I do like children. Well, one of them rode up towards me and blew me a kiss. Yeah, yeah, whatever kid. In 15 years I will be creeped out by the fact that you are STILL doing this, but whatever. I kept walking. Then another boy rode up and made a big SMMMMACK! and said, "I love you." Okay, sure. I walked past the main group of boys, and these first two boys rode up behind me and one said something which included the words, excuse my French, "Fuckyou." And that's when I stopped and gave them the evil eye. I tried to remain calm, because the other route gets you nowhere fast, and said, "Excuse me?" As the first boy began to backpedal, the other one shot off another "fuckyou, " and I told him, "That is very bad manners." Mind you, these guys didn't know much English besides the aforementioned phrase. Boy One said, "No, no, like my mother, like my sister," and I said, "Would you say these words to your sister?" at which point they decided to leave me alone.

Until I left the salon with 14 inches less hair. I was feeling pretty vulnerable anyway, what with having lopped off most of what I consider to be my best physical attribute into what is definitely a skinny girl's haircut (and I am not yet a - sort of - skinny girl again), only to walk past these same boys, still loitering in the street, and to have them - in addition to a new chorus of "fuckyou"s (despite Boy One's protests) - squawk over my haircut and tell me that it's not good.
Acculturation point number two: hair.
Now I've had short hair before and it's even been roughly this short before. But that was in America, where girls are free to get pixie cuts. Here long hair is beautiful, and short hair...well, let's just say that my students were upset with me. Bless their hearts. Some of them were sweet enough to not say anything. Others were honest enough to tell me they didn't like it. Ben, who is Swiss and goes to church with me told me he liked it - but his mother and elder sister both have hair shorter than mine. I guess I don't have any more in depth a commentary than that - I just found the mix of reactions interesting, and telling.

Other interesting things about the weekend - driving down to Fujairah. In a car with four other people. Good times. Here's to the fishbowl.