Friday, July 16, 2010

Off We go! Colombo Calling!

Goodbye.... Again!
Today we leave Al Ain and the Emirates for Sri Lanka.

It's been great this time around. Too much to write and too much to pack at the same time- Packing wins- I'll try to write a blog later on about the highlights of UAE Adventures part three. Not many low lights this time around and I am glad I came back for a short visit. The Emirates have changed a lot and so have I. I am excited about heading to Sri Lanka, a country I have never been to and truthfully I don't know much about it. I think it will be like India without the visa hassles!

Passport.... Check!
Money ....Check!
Plane ticket.... Check!
Camera ....Check!
Sister.... Check!

Here's to the next adventure!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Teacher, you look very old.” Manal gazes up from her desk with a cheeky face poking out of her black headscarf. “And your skin is not nice. What do you call these?” She pulls the black fabric back and points to the outside temple next to her eye. “Wrinkles? You have too many. Yes, Miss, maybe once you were beautiful. But not anymore.”

I know she’s a cheeky lippy fifteen year old, but no one likes to hear that you’re getting old and losing physical appeal- no one. I sigh and try not to let it bother me. “Let’s see what you look like at thirty-seven.” I mutter under my breath, eyeing the Pepsi, chocolate bar and bag of spicy red potato chips she eats for breakfast in my class every morning.

I’ve had Muslim ladies tell me that Arabic women have better skin that Western women because they keep out of the sun and wear the veil. I tried to point out that bodies do eventually get wrinkled under our clothes in Canada though there are parts of me that never see the sun either. But in their minds, my points are mute, because there is nothing better a women can do than wrap up and stay home, away from the prying eyes of men and the damaging rays of the sun.

Yes, I have wrinkles. True, I’m not as young as I one was, but who is? When it was time to go to bed that night I washed my face and applied a routine layer of night cream to save my skin from the air conditioning I need to allow me to sleep in this country. And then I leaned into the mirror for a good look.

These wrinkles over here, I got by worrying about how I’d pay off my student loan from university. These lines over here came from the pain over losing a great friend in a nasty car accident. These lines were from the pain of my own accident. These lines are from all the times I was faced with making a decision and wasn’t sure I made the right one. These lines came from missing my family at times when I was far, far, away and missing out on Christmases and birthdays of the people I love.

But these lines also came from too much time spend among friends in the sun on sandy beaches. These lines around my mouth began forming in high school when I discovered kissing boys was a great way to pass time. My laugh lines around my eyes are deep, reflecting a life filled with amazing giggles with great people and cherished experiences. Worrying about a student loan meant I received an education that I achieved completely on my own, my first real life goal completed.

Yes, I lost my friend in a car accident but I am grateful to have ever known her in the first place. And my own accident? Well, shit happens. And I’m still healthy. Could have been worse. And worrying about making the right decisions is quite poignant as I sit in a country where women’s choices are rather limited, or made for them by brothers, fathers and husbands who have the full legal right to make decisions for the ‘weaker’ sex. At least my decisions, good or bad, are mine. And missing my family only reiterates I come from a fantastic group of people who miss me when I’m away too.

“Our lines are the road map of our lives,” I was recently told. If God arrived in front of me tomorrow and offered me perfect sleek skin in trade for my experiences, I’d gladly keep every single wrinkle I have. When people say to me, “You are getting older, you know.” I ask in return, “For what exactly? What exactly is this expiry date? And when that moment in time comes, what will happen? Will I spontaneously combust? Cause I know I am nowhere near my expiry date. My life continues to tick at a speed that most people can’t fathom, and I like it that way.

So little Manal, with your pale, olive-coloured fifteen year old skin, you can suck it. Because I wouldn’t trade places with you any day. Lines and all.

But there is an amusing end to this story:

Manal was shocked to find out my real age of thirty seven, which was much older than her own thirty-three year old mother. She thought I was only twenty-five!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Student Art in the UAE

Halfway through this Emirati teenage girls programme! A funny sketch I did during one of my uber-long breaks.

I have learned in the Emirates that it is important to stay on the good side of your students. Often, this is a tough job. But my morning class adores me and therefore it's a pleasure to teach them because I really enjoy them. The afternoon class is a different story, but I'll try to focus on the positive. Rafeea brings me fresh Jasmine flowers she steals from the neighbours bush as she waits for the school bus every morning. At the end of each day I add them to my growing pile on my work computer. Rene says it looks like an Indian funeral took place at my desk! But I like it. There are many more flowers since I took this picture.

So we are officially halfway through the programme here in the UAE and I am officially knackered. Part of it is that we are at school for ten hours a day, (but unfortunately only paid for six) and the girls are pushy and demanding, as usual. No wall flowers here! Any of you who might have the impression that these girls are oppressed little ladies who have no opinion about anything ought to come and spend fifteen minutes in my classroom. I dare you. I will be happy when all of this is over, I admit, though some of the girls are quite sweet.

This will be a short blog. See reason above! I'll put a blog of new pictures up later when I can string two sentences together coherently. But here are some "art highlights" From this week:

The girls did some assignments on countries and nationalities this week. I photographed some of my favourites. They are crazy about football and the "Waving Flag" song, which, is Canadian for those of you who don't know!

This is supposed to be a bull. I don't know why but it makes me laugh every time I see it.

Noodles from Japan. Let's not mention that the noodles were supposed to be from Korea, and the sushi was from Japan. Or that Germany is apparently famous for bananas, a point I tried to argue was wrong, and failed miserably in the faces of passionate young women, who had apparently tried and loved German Bananas.

One of my students drew this for me on the day we discussed wishes. She wishes I could marry Tom Cruise, apparently. I tried to explain scientology to her, which to a beginner speaker or Englsih to conversation was pretty much, "Tom Cruise, Crazy. Religion, very crazy." I think she meant to write "marriage" in the heart at the bottom of the page but instead wrote "Morg." which I like to translate as "Morgue." which would be somehow fitting I think, for a marriage with Tom Cruise.

More later! I'm off to Abu Dhabi in the morning for lebanese food with friends!