Attending a Qatari Wedding

On this night, they were just women having a good time and it was a reminder that we are all human regardless of race, religion, culture or socio-economical status.

For many expats in Qatar, the Qataris are a mystery. They tend to stay to themselves, identities covered and hidden and with that comes perceptions of who they are and what they are like. Most relationships with them are business, so of course I said “YES” when I was invited to a Henna Party/wedding event by a Qatari business associate. I was super excited to receive my invitation to get a glimpse into their world. One of the reasons I left the U.S. was to engross myself in other cultures and this presented a great opportunity.

The person that invited me also invited me to her parents house to pick out a Jalabiya, after I asked for suggestions about where to purchase one. A Jalabiya is an Arab garment, sometimes worn under an abaya and the fancy ones are worn to celebratory occasions like a wedding. Her mother was very welcoming and brought out many Jalabiyas for me and my friend to try on and choose from. She even gave us jewelry to wear with the outfits. Before we left the house, we enjoyed sweets, tea and coffee. They were very hospitable to us.

There were a few things I understood about a Qatari wedding prior to attending. It is different than a traditional American wedding as the bride and groom have two separate events. The groom usually celebrates in a tent in the sand (traditional) and the women celebrate in a hall. Also guest do not bring gifts to the wedding. It is similar to an American wedding as there is lots of music and food.

This wedding was at the Ritz Carlton and our phones (cameras) were confiscated before we went in. Taking pictures is not allowed at these ceremonies and we planned to respect the culture to the fullest as guest. Of course, there were several people who chose to ignore this rule. The ceremonies were to start at 7:30, Britney and I arrived around 8:00. Most people did not start showing up until around 8:30. We chose a table not in the front but not in the back either. Seats were not assigned. At every seating there was a gift of oud and a Arabian Mubakhar to burn it on. Oud comes from the wood of the tropical agar tree and the wood chips are burned as an incense. Oud can also be used as an oil and a perfume.

The women were dressed to the nines. Most women attendees wore some form of Arabic traditional garments, some Indian, some Moroccan, all beautiful. (I really wished I had purchased that Indian Saree from Sri Lanka. I would have fitted right in) The rainbow was definitely represented this night, because there were many colors worn. Makeup was flawless and Britney and I felt a little out of place because we didn’t have a professional makeup artist beat our faces before coming. For once there were no shaylas and I was able to see the faces that are usually covered and hidden. I was able to watch them let their hair down. On this night, they were just women having a good time and it was a reminder that we are all human regardless of race, religion, culture or socio-economical status.

There was a live female singer, whose voice sang Arabic songs the whole night. Arabic music never sounded so good to me. The music was loud but I enjoyed it. Women took the stage in the middle of the hall and danced to the music, while others went up to them and threw money at them and over them. They was making it rain up in there. The money was collected and I was told the money goes to charity. I’ve never seen that at an American wedding. Since I’m never getting married again, because that would mean a divorce from Darryl, then the next wedding I help plan will include this Arabic tradition. They dance different than Americans. It was just like subtle limb swinging and hips swaying, very sexy. I also heard that it is at these weddings that mothers and grandmothers look for potential wives for their single sons. I would assume that several of the women that chose to dance are looking to be seen as well. There was no tossing of a bouquet, there was this instead.

Food kept appearing at our table, most of it Britney (vegetarian) and I (vegan) could not enjoy but we did have some tabouleh, hummus, olives, vegetable rice and some sweets. Gifts also kept arriving at our tables. Makeup mirrors and chapstick rolled in tulle, mascara and nail polish on a silver tray. We went empty handed but left with a bag of feminine goodies.

Leaving the wedding with my bag of goodies
Gifts for the Guest

When the bride arrived, she didn’t wear a white gown, she wore an Arabic garment and a long veil. She was beautiful. She walked to the stage, then back to front and stood for a long time as the photographer and videographer took many shots. I don’t know if I could have stood still for that long time in those heals. Family members eventually made their way to the stage to congratulate her.

Britney and I left around 11:30 and the party was still going strong. I don’t know if the groom arrived to the ceremonies later as we had left but I had read online that this is what happens. The groom and his party arrive towards the end of the wedding, women cover back up as the men arrive and then the men leave again and the groom retrieves his wife.

Britney and I didn’t talk to anyone besides the family that we knew, probably because we don’t understand the language and probably because we are outsiders but we never felt uncomfortable. We thought we were going to get henna tattoos because it was a henna party but I guess it wasn’t that type of henna party. Nevertheless we really enjoyed this experience and can’t wait to get another invite.

Update: I got invited to another wedding, but this one is an Indian Arabic wedding and from what I’ve been told they sure know how to turn it up and at this henna party, you get your tatts.

Until next time…

From Lemons to Lemonade

So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

Lemons

You may remember reading this from my last post, “Only a portion of our school has been approved by the powers that be, so we will all be uncomfortable for a little while longer as we will be squished in.” Well, still only a portion of our new school is usable so the uncomfortability still exist with no clear end in sight. My classroom is still not ‘my’ or ‘mine and my students’ classroom as it is still being shared by all others subjects. This is a headache because I am OCD about certain aspects of my classroom and everyone else is not, so others don’t hold the same high cleanliness or organization expectations as me. And even though we all use the space, I am the homeroom teacher and the classroom environment lands on me. Sharing a classroom is annoying as hell.

The class sizes have increased this year as they work to fill the school and of course that means primary classes have more students than any other grades. P.E. and Music are my students only specials this year, versus last year when they had 4 specials including IT and Art, versus the year before when they also had library. So who do you think is responsible for these things now? My contact hours have increased drastically partly due to not filling these positions after the staff made a mad exodus at the end of last school year and the year before and partly because of people complaining about not having enough teaching time. Now I teach no less than 3 whole class periods a day and have 3 other duties including arrival, soft start, and dismissal. On the last day of the week, I have contact for 5 straight hours, which is way too much for me let along 6 year olds, on top of dismissal duty. This includes: arrival, soft start, 4 straight periods of teaching, lunch, finally a break then dismissal. This may seem like a typical teaching day in America, my past, but I’ll admit, I got spoiled here. In the past I only had to teach whole class 1 hour a day and 2 small groups for 2 additional hours with arrival and dismissal duty and the occasional lunch duty. Sadly, the grand ole days when the work was so easy and light are gone.

Prices here continue to rise. The prices of flights are ridiculous making it hard to travel reasonably or to have visitors. My sons want to come visit during the winter break but it’s just not affordable. I really wish the blockade would end. Qatar is making strides toward self-sufficiency but things have definitely changed and there’s been no news lately of any end in sight.

Two weeks ago I was not in a good space. My new motto: Ride the waves, don’t make them, was not going well. I was in a very negative mood and I didn’t like it. I wanted to throw in the towel but then I remembered I have goals to achieve and I can’t throw in the towel yet.

Lemonade

This was a very low point for me and I could not stay there. So I picked myself up and re-evaluated my situation without comparing it to anything or anyone else because comparing doesn’t help you see the whole picture.

I really like my students this year, so far. Some of them are really low, which means I will see so much progress. Only a few have shown me behavior problems and the behaviors are minor ones. The students seem eager to learn. The working environment is not the best so when I’m there, I don’t think of work, I focus on teaching and that’s something I love doing. So instead of saying, I’m going to work I say, I’m going to teach! This mindset shift makes the work day enjoyable.

At the end of those low two weeks, a friend of mine hosted a vision board party. I didn’t know much about what a vision board was until another friend filled me in and I did some research. I decided to go to this party and I was so glad I did. Oh, let me tell you what a vision board is in case you were like me and don’t know. Huffingtonpost.com defines a vision board as a sacred space that displays what you want and how you want to feel. Click here to read more about it. Here is a picture of mine…

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It isn’t finished but it is a work in process. I left space for me to continue to think and add more. I can’t tell you how empowering it felt to be around other women with goals and were making the first steps to putting their plans into place, women who were really thinking about being better and doing better and how fortunate I felt when so many women were looking for what I already have, a good husband and a house. The energy and the vibe in that room started my upward spiral.

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I have decided to make this year all about SELF-CARE! I joined a gym and have a personal trainer. I have surrounded myself with inspirational, uplifting and encouraging quotes. I have scheduled a full body massage once a month. My trip to Thailand to a wellness and detox retreat is paid in full and less than 4 weeks away. I smile because it makes others smile back, it’s easier than explaining what’s bothering me to people who may or may not have a genuine interest and because smiling feels good. I dry brush, exfoliate and surround myself with my favorite aromatherapies. I vent and then I let it go or I try to turn the negatives into positives. I’ve learned that I have some personal things to work on. For example: I tend to be judgmental of others but honestly, if they are happy, what business is it of mine. So, I’ve decided to work on Kennesha. I’m choosing to be happy because it’s a state of mind and because I am truly grateful for all I have.

If I didn’t have some goals laid out that I’m intent on achieving, I would leave this place and go where the wind blows next. For now, the wind stands still and so do I. But while I’m here, I plan on becoming a better person, setting goals, staying quiet about them, crushing the shit out of them and clapping for my damn self. And in the meantime, I choose to be happy because it’s good for my health.

I’d love to hear from you…

If you’ve taught overseas: Did you ever have a low point, and if so what was it and how did you overcome it?

For all my readers: What do you do for self-care?

The Start of Year 3- Teaching Abroad

I’m back and this is how I greeted my honey!!

It was my first time flying 12.5 hours straight alone, but I arrived safely back in Qatar on August 1, giving myself enough time to readjust to the time change, and dry weather and to spend some much needed quality time with honey before I start back to work on August 12.  I also need time to adjust to my new accommodation.  Over the summer, Honey moved us again.  This time to a even smaller apartment near the beach, closer to school and a whole lot cheaper.

This is the start of year 3 of my journey of teaching overseas and year 8 in the classroom.  Last year was rough at work so I came up with a motto for this year: Don’t make waves, ride them!  My team and I agreed to start anew which is great and one member in particular even apologized for their behavior last year.  This is a great way to start the year.  Honestly though, I just want to teach and be left alone and that’s why I turned down the opportunity to be Grade Team Lead again.  Let the newbies do it.  Been there done that, I’m good.  With a new school year comes new teachers and new challenges.

This year we are starting at our brand new school and with that comes it’s own set of obstacles.  Administration set the tone for the school year telling us all to be flexible.  Since our school is still not completely ready to welcome students, their start date got pushed back a week so far.

This is what the staff meeting looked like after the announcement.  Of course, we teachers still must go but that’s fine.  Only a portion of our school has been approved by the powers that be, so we will all be uncomfortable for a little while longer as we will be squished in.  I think all of the adjustments that we will go through will make the school year go faster, I’m hoping.

I’m optimistic about this New School Year!

 

 

What Summer Breaks Are Like for an Expat Teacher- Part 1

**Written June 25, 2018**

It’s been exactly 30 days since my summer vacation began and I’ve been living out of  suitcases ever since.  It started with my first solo trip, to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Copenhagen is just about a halfway point between Qatar and the U.S.A., so it was a good stop over point for this girl who didn’t want to fly 12.5 hours straight alone.  Click here to read all the details about my trip.  I spent 4 days 5 days there.  It was supposed to be 4 days but due to flying a budget airline and a day long delay for a flight out of Copenhagen, it turned into 5 days.

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I’m staying with my sista/girlfriend Michele while I’m in Philly, which is about a total of 3 weeks in all, a few days here, a few days there, a week here, a week there, in between my travels and trips.

A few days after I arrived, my oldest son graduated from high school.  This was the whole point of leaving a week before the official end of the school year.   I can’t believe I am a mother of a high school graduate.   He will be going on to attend my Alma Mater, Temple University in Philly to start our legacy.  Words can’t express how proud of him I am and blessed I feel that we’ve made it this far.

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Proud Mother

 

Three days after my son’s graduation, I took him on a 8 day cruise along with my niece whom graduated college.  We cruised on the Carnival Horizon cruise line.  It’s a new ship to sail from New York.  We sailed to Turks and Caicos were supposed to sail to Turks and Caicos but due to an unfortunate event missed that port of call.  However, we did stop in San Juan and the Dominican Republic. D.R. which is where I zip lined for the first time and absolutely loved it.  D.R. is also where we had the most fun.  We spent several days at sea where I gained many pounds from eating and sitting around being lazy and it was glorious.  LOL!  Read about our fun on the water and to find out how I got my scary ass on that zip line and more by clicking here.

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Three days after we returned from the cruise, my sistas and I flew to New Orleans.  I spent 4 days further enjoying food but also doing a lot of walking.  New Orleans is an interesting city, full of history and culture.  Here is where you can experience New Orleans through my eyes..

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I will spend the next 7 days relaxing, visiting, shopping and enjoying Philly before the boys and I go on to our next vacation spots.  I’m enjoying my summer so far but missing my husband and the comforts of home.

See when you teach overseas and summer comes, there is so much to do.  You try to cram so much into two months, visiting friends and family, doing the things you don’t get to do in your new home, traveling, relaxing and unwinding.  You also spend a lot of time being uncomfortable because your new country becomes home and some things and people change while others remain the same in your native country and you start to wonder where exactly you fit.  The more time I spend overseas, the less I feel connected to my home country.  I’m starting to understand how some people have difficulty with repatriation.  Check back later for Part 2 of, What Summer Breaks are Like for an Expat Teacher.

What has your experience been when you travel to your native city after teaching overseas for a few years?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment.