Children twirl and wiggle in unison, dressed in colorful traditional gowns and headwear. Mothers, decked out in bedazzled abayas, watch on with pride, taking pictures, videos and sharing smiles with their town neighbors. Teachers run around, attempting without much success, to organize an auditorium full of kindergarteners. Administrators talk with parents, pinch the cheeks of brothers and sisters. Women from Sri Lanka and Kerala serve bland cookies and boxes of juice.
If there’s a schedule, I have no idea if we’re following it! It’s been a day full of last minute details, dressing up the performers, and running about aimlessly – chaos! Pure and utter chaos.
Happy UAE National Day, everybody! The country is now officially 39 years old. And you thought America was a young country!
Yet, unlike the adolescent – sometimes infantile – USA, the politically-young UAE has a long cultural history. Camel racing, herbal medicines, international trade connections, shisha custom, tea ceremony, the desert ethos, dance, pearling, fishing, the list goes on and on. Though you won’t find the same kind of collections of historical artifacts that you might in Italy or Japan, the nomadic natives have much to commemorate today.
For our humble celebrations at Al Areej Kindergarten, the kids showcased some of the UAE’s most treasured traditions.
A fashion show
A parade of culture
The other day, I caught myself in the middle of an internal trip out – “I’m teaching kindergarten in the Middle East. What am I doing here?” Well, saving money in the hopes my mother will start talking to me again, actually. But really, for the first time, I was completely enraptured by how HERE I am right now.
There are some funny things about this place sometimes.
The firey temperament of my colleagues. The hotel village community (more on that later). The Arabic men. The unexpected Irish and French contingencies. The nannies who’ve come from countries far and wide.
Best thing about being a woman? You get the front seats on the bus – no matter how many men are lined up, period!
Learning words like schwei schwei – which could mean slowly, nicely, or little by little. ‘Hodrawhat,’ meaning vegetables – and my personal favorite, ‘melfuff!’ Lettuce. And the ever-so unforgettable ‘How much is that?’ in Arabic – ‘cum hardar.’ Say what now?
It’s a mad little world I live in. Where a surprise flat tire turns into an impromptu photoshoot in the desert.
And sunsets send tingles down spines.