Sunday, April 24, 2011

Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face. ~Nelson DeMille

Firstly, Happy Easter to all my Christian friends. And to all the others, you're probably going to Hell anyway, so what's the point? Obviously, this last statement was a joke. And if it aggravated/offended you a bit, think about why. Is it because you feel like you're being judged? Then, think about how many times we do this on a daily basis. I'm as guilty as everyone else. There's nothing like living in a different country with an entirely different culture to help wash that ethnocentricity “right out of your hair.”
I grew up in an extremely conservative southern town. Some of you are familiar with this town and while, in retrospect, I place value on some of the qualities it instilled, it did not allow for divergent theories. For instance, I was told in Sunday School one morning,”All Catholics are going to Hell.” This was quite a revelation as my father was baptized into the Catholic faith and this revelation was enough to send me to my knobby, six-year old knees on a nightly basis to pray for his salvation. Later, I converted to Catholicism, which is a perplexing sort of irony. Or, maybe not so much. . .
After 9/11, there was a uniform American pride that swelled through the country. The overwhelming majority seemed to say, “If you were American, then you were cool with me.” This was irrespective of your religion, race, creed, etc. This patriotism has dissipated over the years and there has become a thinly veiled prejudice against our Muslim brothers and sisters. Living in a southern town, with a small Muslim population, I saw people cross the street to avoid walking past a mosque, I’ve heard people mutter under their breath, and in general, exhibit great rudeness to women who wore hijab.
And, I have had several debates with people regarding the tolerance of people who are Muslim. The general stance is that “Christianity preaches love, while Islam preaches hate.” So, I knew this would be an interesting experiment that I would be allowed to live in Abu Dhabi.
So, on one of the “biggest” days in Christianity, I was curious to see how I as a minority would be treated. And, I have to say, not different. Not at all. In fact, I was told by more people who are Muslim, “Happy Easter,” than I was ever told in the States. Our neighbor even baked us a cake. Followed by “Happy Easter,” we were told, “As-Salaam-Aleichem.” Which means basically, “Peace be upon you.” Huh, this is the same greeting we use at every Catholic Mass when we tell our fellow parishioners, “Peace be with you.” And, although it’s not confirmed in the Arab world, the Jewish greeting is incredibly similar with “Shalom Aleichem.” The more I think about how different I was taught we were growing up, the more I realize in my adult life how very similar we are.
And here’s what else I’ve found: Mother Teresa was right, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them. And so was Gandhi, “A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.” And so was the Dalai Lama, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” And finally, the Prophet Mohammed was right, too, “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.”
So, all these people from vastly different backgrounds are all stating basically the same idea. Be decent, be good, be kind. I’ve always been a believer you get out of the universe what you put in.
So, do your part. Be kind, hold a door, give a smile. Look your neighbor in the eye, even when they don’t look like you. To close, Albert Einstein said it best (leave it to a scientist), “Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

Well, you knew it was coming, didn't you? All these blogs and so many nice things, I was bound to snap eventually. A friend said she admired the fact that she hadn't read one word of complaint since we'd been here. Get ready, here it comes. . .
I have never been disappointed moving to Abu Dhabi. It's an excellent opportunity for our family. However, the only time I've had regret has been over Thomas' schooling. He has really struggled getting settled in his new school. Had I realized this would have been such an enormous emotional undertaking, I would have waited until the summer to move. It kills me to hear him say, “I don’t have any friends and everyone hates me.” My poor, sweet boy. He is just so sweet and tenderhearted.
Additionally, we had planned on moving the children to a school much closer to us. Due to some paperwork delays, the positions were filled by the time we arrived in January. Finally, after several inquiries, we were able to get the boys in the same school. There was some concern with Thomas’ attention and he was accepted into the school on probation. He has since proved he is able to do the work and is scheduled to enter second grade for the 2011-2012 school year.
However, after his assessment to the “new” school (Lucas and Helen have already been accepted for next year), his application was declined. They were concerned that he was unable to do the work without one-on-one assistance to help with his focus. This would not have been so unsettling had we not previously met with the administration to discuss his attention and the options available if it became an issue. I was told they were able to suggest testing centers were it required. After all this discussion prior to his assessment, we were simply told, “No.”
I was sent into a spiral of panic. I’ve not had a panic attack in years, but I came close to it last week. After much time to reflect and discuss the matter with a friend, I realized we have the option to appeal. I have reviewed the curriculum for first and second grade, and developmentally he can do the work. Every teacher has told me that while he has some focus issues, he is not a disruption to the class and is a very enjoyable pupil.
I am torn between appealing the school and homeschooling. Having been a special educator, I find it hypocritical to say, “Fairness is not everyone gets equal treatment, fairness is that a student gets what they need in order to be successful learners.” If I am not able to then offer that for my child would be hypocritical.
So, that’s where I am now, folks. Good, bad, and everything in between. I’ll keep you posted. . .

"Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations. Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit." ~Robert Brault

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Taxi Ride to Remember

Well, it's been two weeks since my last post. I'm not sure how time passes so quickly. Although, if I think about it--I'm sure I have at least 4 good reasons.
Those who have traveled overseas (or in any large city), experience a different aspect of life when in a taxi.
A friend writes a weekly blog on personal responsibility and happiness (here’s a shameless plug to Ministry of Happiness’ Facebook page: This week, I was confronted with said responsibility and happiness in your job. As usual, I grocery shop between 1-2 times a week. And since taxis are so inexpensive (and we don’t have a car), it is our preferred mode of transportation for longer trips. I flagged down a taxi and was met by a jovial taxi driver who saluted when I opened the door (yes, he actually saluted). After closing the door, he proceeded to turn up the music (smiling, with wagging eyebrows), and sing to me. I have no idea what the lyrics were in English, only that the cabbie was enjoying himself. As a result, so was I. I’m sure being a taxi driver can be a thankless job. You get 25% of the fare, and whatever you’re given in tips. As with most public service jobs, there are those who choose to go about their days with sullen attitudes and those who make the best of difficult situations and just turn up the music and belt one out "American Idol" style. So, to the guy who drove me to the Khalidyah Mall on Tuesday, thanks for putting me in a better mood than when I got into your cab!