Friday, December 16, 2011

Celebrating The U.A.E's National Day

Things have been quite busy in the U.A.E. lately with celebrations going on and holidays around the corner.  Things are going well and the past four months have moved quite quickly. I can’t believe that the 2011 year is already coming to an end and that I am getting to be a part of another culture and its experiences.
On December 2nd the U.A.E. celebrated its 40th National day with festivities unimaginable to an expat. The Emirates love their country beyond belief and go all out to show the love that they have for their country. The celebrations had really begun weeks in advance at our school with the children, teacher, and parents.  So the week of National Day, we had events from small festivals, bus trips, and a performance day for the parents. The thing with the U.A.E. is that if parents do not want their children attending school, then “In’Shallah” we will have children.  We had schedules set for the week, which included our performance and the government decided that we should have the Thursday going into the weekend off. Yes…a three day weekend to celebrate the U.A.E’s national day for my first time in the country!!! The announcement of time off of course pushed all of the week’s celebrations to be earlier. So on Wednesday of that week the children we to perform their English song about National day that I had taught them two weeks earlier.
The day of the performance I had a total of ten out of twenty-five children set and ready to perform. Luckily a few of the students who were here and ready to perform were some of the stronger English speakers and the ones who were eager to perform. When it was finally our turn to perform our song for the parents, my students did a stellar job and showed their parents the English that they have learned.  I really wish I had video showing you my student’s performance because they had done so well, but I to stand off on the side of the stage and sing along with my students and guide them. The students did a really great job performing and I was a really proud English teacher.
After the students performed we were back to watching the children whose parents did not take them after the performance. I had about a total of four students who stayed behind with me. I have to say though that I really enjoyed the time, because I got to know some of my students better and I learned how to fix some of the boys dish dashes (the white scarf that the men and little boys wear around their head). It was quite relaxing and enjoyment to learn how to fix their dish dashes and feel like I was really being a part of their culture. It’s as if those students who stayed behind with me, gave me bliss inside my heart.  A few hours later the LT’s were called back into the stage area to help celebrate the Nation’s birthday. We stood on stage, light sparklers, and Arabic teachers sprayed cans of spray snow. Not really a good combination to have fire and a flammable can within meters of one another on stage. Here in the U.A.E. though you learn that things like that are not really paid much attention to and again “In’Shalla” things will be fine.
Later on in the evening after work was done, I made it out to my weekly studies. While in the middle of studies; which is down by the Corniche, the first round of fireworks went off for the Countries celebrations.  We were on about the 14th floor of the building right at a bird’s eye view and out of the crowd. The fireworks had perfect timing and a powerful silence amongst the people while everyone was watching the show in awe.  The show was so impressive that everyone had wondered what the real National day fireworks show was going to look like since this was only the day before the “real” National Day (December 2nd).
The next day; the Country’s real National Day, we spent the day preparing for the day ahead of us and our first National day in the Emirates. We went to our local hypermarket (LuLu’s) and stocked up on spray snow and silly string. This is what the Emirates stock up on and use on their National day. The snow and silly string is used to spray people walking in the streets and cruising around in their cars. It was quite a lot of fun participating with the Emirates. If they covered you with a can of silly string or snow, they would laugh and say they are “Just having a good time” (imagine that being said in their accents, and then give you a full can of spray to use on someone else. There was quite a few times where they walked pass us and would try to spray us first, but I was quick to aim my can at them first and get their Kandoras covered in snow.  It was definitely an event that has become a huge custom to their country. The best way that I heard National day described was that a 12 year old boy must have come up with the idea. You get everyone driving around in their festive decorated cars, spraying people with stuff from cans, and staying out late into the wee hours of the night.
We all hung out down at the Corniche from about three in the afternoon to one in the morning. We saw their parade displayed on the jumbo screen set up for the weekend’s festivities.  They had their show jets make their way down to the Corniche and display a show in the air with the smoke and their technical moves. My favorite is when the two jets make a heart out of smoke in the air for the crowd. These people really do love their country and will show it any way possible. There were a ton of free shows, water fountains in the beach water , and even another fireworks show set up for the evening. Unfortunately the fireworks never happened on the Friday of National Day. We waited and waited many hours for the show, but they never happened. Many people were asking us and others around if we knew when the show was going to start. The schedule said eight at night, but we were already at midnight. So the rumor is that there was too much wind for the show to go on so they had to cancel them for safety reasons. Either way it was a great experience to be a part of and something I will not forget. I’m not too sure if I will partake again in next year’s festivities, but it was great to say that I was a part of their 40th and their traditions.
The celebrations took place about two weeks ago and since then we have had a week of a “normal” schedule and now this past week  the schedule with the students have been quite unusual. Today is the last day until we are off for a three week “Holiday” break.  Since Christmas is not celebrated it feels right now just like any other time of the year. The spirit is not around, there are no parties, gifts are not being exchanged, and the weather outside is not frightful. I am actually sitting in the staffroom with the rest of the LTs counting down the time until we get to go home. Our Principal doesn’t like to let us leave early at any point of time. She actually has the security lock the gates where we cannot drive or walk out of the compound.  The whole week we have had about ten students total gone from each classroom. It’s as if when there is some kind of major holiday or break coming up the parents stop bringing the kids to school. Every day within the week approaching a Holiday/break we have less and less children show up to school. Today….we had no children to show up to school. Our work is all done and there are no children around, but we are stuck inside the gates of the compound. I’m just anxious to get home to start getting ready for my trip to Prague, Vienna, and London.
This coming Sunday I will head out to Prague from Abu Dhabi and spend a few days there. The plan is to take a train ride to Vienna from Prague and spend some time there as well. The train ride is evidently about a four to five ride. I have never been on a train before, so I am excited to ride on one to see the sights that the Czech Republic has to offer. We will stay there for ten days (Christmas Eve and Christmas) then head out to London from Prague and spend a week in London for New Years Eve and New Years. My first time to travel out to Turkey did not work out so much, but I hope this time I can get on a plane and spend my time enjoying the sights, sounds, and travels. With anticipation, I cannot wait to blog about my trip and share with you all my experiences.

Watch this video that I made showing what I saw for U.A.E National Day

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