As I move into my eighth week living here in Kuwait, I’ve fallen into a pretty normal (and very streamlined) morning routine.
I wake up to either: A) the call to prayer, or B) my alarm – which follows shortly after the call to prayer at the moment at 4:20am. If I’m feeling well-rested or particularly energized, I’ll get up right away. If I’m not, I snooze for ten valuable more minutes and get out of bed at 4:30am.
From there I drag my feet into the kitchen and make some coffee. I eat breakfast, then change into my work clothes, put on some makeup, and gather last minute or miscellaneous things together before I head out the door for the first bus that takes us to school.
The morning commute is hectic at first, but then peaceful.
As we leave our apartment complex, we face the daily congestion of Mahboula commuters all trying to merge onto the highway at the same time.
The air is filled with a cacophony of car horns that ‘supposedly’ help to move traffic along at a less-glacial pace. Sometimes we wait patiently in the backed up traffic until we’re able to merge onto the main road, but other times, and in a more Kuwaiti fashion, our bus driver creates his own unique and somewhat questionable path to gets us on the road to school quicker.
Once we leave Mahboula and move onto the Abdul Aziz Bin Abdulrahman Al Saud highway to get to school, the ride (at least to me) becomes peaceful. The ride becomes filled with conversations between colleagues that vary from talking about school, to plans for the weekend, to future travel endeavours.
If I’m not chatting with colleagues, I’ll glance out the window and observe fellow commuters; people who range from men driving BMWs or Porches in their disdashas, to large busses filled with men on their way to construction sites.
This has become my pretty ‘normal’ morning routine.
Other days, such as today – I wake up and think, holy sh*t… I’m actually living in the Middle East. This is real, and I’m living it right now.
And there’s never really any particular happenings that instigate this reaction, but it comes nonetheless, and is reinforced when I look out my window to a scenery filled with different shades of brown and a cloudless, hazy blue sky.
My theory as to why I have these revelations from time to time is that they come up after cross-cultural musings.
When I’m immersed in my new normal, there isn’t much that seems different anymore. Or at least shockingly different. But this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. And so begins a rather cross-cultural weekend in which I am keenly aware that this is indeed, my first rodeo: my first Canadian holiday overseas in a series of many.
If we rewind my life back about a year ago to September of 2015, I was sitting in a class in Teacher’s College, called Educators Abroad. After the first day of this class, I knew it was going to be my favourite course of my B.Ed. My instructors began the class by telling us their most interesting and fascinating stories about teaching abroad. I was hooked.
One particular thing I remember from the early days of this class was something my TA said about the international teaching community. As students voiced their concerns and worries about possibly entering into this new kind of lifestyle, she said this:
“The international community is so truly kind. Maybe it’s because everyone is displaced or away from their own ‘home’, but the international teaching staff has such a strong sense of community and resilience. You will all be just fine.”
And as I reflect on these words, I realize how true they really are.
From day one, everyone I have met has been so welcoming and kind. And this did not peter out by the time school started, but has continually grown and developed.
This beautiful community of educators has started to become my home away from home. From the cheerful (yes, actually cheerful) morning greetings on the daily 5:15am bus, to the long-winded venting sessions over a cup of tea, that are sometimes necessary after a tough class or an exhausting day – my new community has helped me adjust to a new lifestyle.
Today, in celebration of the holiday, we’re having a Thanksgiving potluck. Our tables will be filled with delicious dishes, ranging from turkey and pumpkin pie, to some special Southern dishes from our American friends. I am so excited.
And while this Thanksgiving won’t have quite the same… uniqueness that can only truly come from spending it with the quirks and traditions that make up your own special family celebrations (for my family members who understand the reference of ‘pink dessert’, I’ll leave that here); this one will still be spent with a community of truly kind and caring individuals.
So as I gather my ingredients together to make a pumpkin pie for later today, I am thankful for my first rodeo, and my Kuwait community, who I get to spend it with.