Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Entering Stage 2

Abu Dhabi Playlist: Do you realize? - The Flaming Lips, Nothin' on you -B.O.B., You and Me - The Wannadies

Today marks the 73rd day I've been on assignment in the Middle East. My assignment is currently for 6 months with the potential to extend an additional 6 months. Time is definitely flying by.

The routine has definitely set in. Get woken up by room service. Head to work in my little cherry red A4 around 7:00am. Chug away on the computer at my desk. Plug in the IPod to tune out the office noise. Wrap myself in a shawl or sports jacket around Noon when the air conditioning really kicks in. Crack jokes with Jose the coffee assistant. Meetings and teleconferences in the afternoon. Secretly hope no one needs a ride back to the hotel. Blast the A/C and Radio 1. Run an errand or two if the mood strikes me. Head to the hotel lounge around 7pm for "evening presentation" of appetizers which I now call my dinner or hitting up one of my favorite restaurants. Shoot the breeze with colleague over a glass of house Shiraz. Watch whatever show I can find not dubbed in Arabic. Go to sleep, wake up and do it again.

Ramadan has coincided with a period of what I would consider heightened frustration for me. This is commonly called Stage 2 of Culture Shock. I am very familiar with this stage. It happened when I was in France. It happened in Brazil. Heck it even happened when I moved to Connecticut. According to the all knowing internet, I should be doing the following:

. Find the behavior of the people unusual and unpredictable
. Begin to dislike the culture and react negatively to the behavior
. Feel anxious
. Start to withdraw
. Begin to criticize, mock or show animosity to the people

For me, this has translated into an increase of frustration with colleagues management’s styles, strong desire to meet people outside of work, increased distrust in others, more activities on my own, and an increase in planning vacations far far away from Abu Dhabi. What Ramadan has given me is a tool to manage this period that doesn't involve a number of enjoyable sins. (Wine and cocktails, going out on the town, fancy dinners, shopping for more shoes stuff I don't need, fabulous vacations, you name it.)

Some this stage is rooted in not feeling you are in a place you can be yourself. Without having a network of people you can trust and be yourself, it can be somewhat of lonely experience. I find I get angry much more quickly with people I normally would not. My faith that I would form close bonds with people here has diminished. I am using Ramadan as a reason to accept people as they are a little more graciously and not be as concerned with my own desires.

One of the benefits of Ramadan is the break in routine. On day 6 of sticking to it as purely as I can, I've decided to adjust the rules of the fast for myself. The goals are still the same. Practice disipline. Get rid of negative thoughts. Recognize my weakness and try to be better person.

My new Ramadan Rules:
1. Liquid fasting through the day (Including water and Juice.)  This is so I can start working out without fear of falling on the treadmill.
2. Modest dinner in the evening
3. No unnecessary shopping(including vacations and shoes)
4. Minimal Alchool. Only consume twice a week max.
5. Only 2 coffees a day
6. Maintain morning schedule (5am Gasp!)

I've noticed people who are introverts typically don't have as much trouble with these restrictions. They are happy to have an excuse to shut down for a month say no to dinner and I night out. I, however, crave social interaction and usually say yes to any gathering. In addition because I haven't particpated in office politics, I hang out with sereval groups of at different times.

My challenge for the rest of Ramadan is to continue to live a more conservative lifestyle, focus on doing the little things that are good for me, my family, and everyone else, and not let the micromanagement and personality conflicts get to me. Ramadan ends on September 12th. (24 days to go).

Anyone want to try it with me? .....Anyone? ..... Bueller?

Inspiring Story of the day: During my Arabic class this week, my instructor was giving me an explaination of what she believed Ramadan to be. She explained many people took the holiday out of context, taking advantage of the Iftar (breaking of the fast) parties and smoking shisha all night. This is what she told me.
"Ramadan is a time for modesty. You should feel what it like to be poor. Many people forget that. Everyday during Ramadan, my mother spends most of the day cooking a huge meal. She then gives the meal to the poor and our family eats a small meal of sandwhichs or soup. I keep begging her to stop now because she is older but she won't."

Coolest picture of the week:

UAE is making huge strides in the Aerospace industry.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I didn't fast with you while you were doing Ramadan, but I did fast for a month in the summer of 2006, so... I support you in spirit! (Although late :x)