Good morning my beauties! I hope all is well with everything and everyone wherever you are. For those of you who have joined me in my /our now blome ( blog +home= blome remember), it is great to have you here. Take several seats and get comfy. Our life lesson is in session!
Today is 17 January 2019 and it’s now 11:38 am. When I woke up, I saw soft raindrops kissing my outside window. The apartment felt a bit chilly and I had to put on one of my hoodies before I sat down to have my breakfast.Oats with sliced banana and a cup of coffee with milk. I don’t have any winter gear other than a melton jacket and one thick hoodie. I usually wear both whenever I go to Bogotá, as it is the capital of Colombia known for its cold, grey and cloudy weather.
Some friends who live there have had to adjust with the climate. They are from the (Caribbean) coast, so they are used to heat. Now, they have become used to the cold. They have managed to adapt with time, patience and awareness of their new surroundings.
The city where I have been living for the past year and 9 months, has one of the best climates I have ever experienced. Depending on which part of the country you are in, you will either experience year round winter type weather, year round scorching summers or year round spring type weather with rain and frequent thunder,or year round autumn. So there IS is reason for every season and most people who grow up in tropical climates get to experience that first hand. Can you imagine experiencing 20 year long winters or summers in a row? I must be a totally different way of living, I think.
In South Africa we grow up with all four seasons, so we always have to buy appropriate attire, we change our meals according the season, our sleeping and eating habits get affected. We always gain a bit of winter weight then run around like headless chickens trying to get our summer bodies in order, so if we think about it, we live year by year in 3 month seasonal increments, looped. So we at least know what to expect and how to prepare for the next seasons.
Well, when you go abroad for an extended period of time, your winter is not another nation’s winter. You thresh hold might be above or below what you thought your body and spirit could handle. But the weather will teach you many many things about yourself. Holistically speaking. It will teach you about your health,your attitude and your mindset too.
In 2012, I left South Africa in late September, to travel to Saudi Arabia for a year contract. I knew very little about taking planes and boarding gates or being in transit or time zones or baggage allowance etc. Luckily I have a very special and dear friend, who has been working for our local airlines for many years.She has always been giving me some tips and would tell me to show her my boarding passes and itineraries ahead of time, so that she could keep track of my flights and keep the rest of my loved ones back home up to date as she was on the ground while I was in the air. During this first international flight, I was very anxious and panicky from JHB ( Johannesburg, South Africa ) already. I started in CPT (Cape Town, South Africa) , which is where I took the first flight from.
” Oe lus ek nou vir n Spur breakfast by die lughawe, julle.”
I mean, fuck, I was going to Saudi Arabia, as a non-Muslim, single female. I had to talk myself into it the whole way. My flights were paid for by the company, so that was at least none of my concern, but I missed my last connection and had to overnight in Doha, Qatar. Another hopeful South African, was on my flight too. We saw each other throughout the long haul and finally started talking to each other as both of us were now stranded and not arriving on time as our sponsors expected us to.
She was a married Muslim, fully covered up with an abaya ( black attire worn over normal clothing to cover a women’s body while in the public eye) and hijab/niqab (covering of hair and face,with only eyes showing) and the only visible feature I will always remember were her piercing green kajal – highlighted eyes. Her eyes became my eyes as I was now stepping into a Muslim culture and she could be my guide.
So, we lost our last connecting flights and had to spend the night in a hotel in Doha, Qatar. The airlines sorted everything, all we had to do was go to the assigned hotel and spend the night there to get our final flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the following day. In Doha, Qatar, I was wearing a pair of jeans and a hoodie, since I was coming from our rainy Spring weather.
As soon as we got outside, the air smacked me with heavy – breathing heat. It was 51 degrees Celsius. 51.degrees.Celsius. I thought to myself , is this what I will be dealing with for the next year? I have to brace myself and mentally prepare myself in order to enter a new environment now.
So,Let’s take STEP 4 with our micro steps of acclimatization and acculturation, as they go hand in hand. they are twins.
- We need to realize that our environment is new. Our environment will not adapt to us ( as much as we often think or assume it will, it won’t) we must adapt to our environment. Even though we might have a frame of reference of what the climate and culture might be like, we still need to understand that the same thing will feel different to us at first. Embrace this, don’t reject it.
- Acclimatizing means that we have to get used to our outside environment. The weather, the fluctuating temperatures and how our bodies react will influence our inner environments too. If we are not used to heat and we are constantly sweating, with our clothes sticking to us, we might feel less confident or less productive. If previously we never drank a lot of water, to help us stay hydrated, we will unfortunately suffer from headaches, lethargy, heat rashes or migraines. We might confuse this with it being the downside country or city that we are in and that this is now a bad experience, but it is actually just our systems adapting to a new environment. I know this now, as I used to constantly complain that I was feeling uncomfy and even mentally strained. I did not know how to listen to my body properly back then, so I always felt sick. Now, I know it was mere guidelines to adapt and adjust my eating, working and sleeping habits.
- Acculturation is more complex. Coming from a christian upbringing, what I knew about Islam was limited. One half of my family are Muslim, so I have many cousins, aunts and uncles who are Muslim. I also have a few close friends who are practicing Muslims. I knew about the fasting and Ramadan and Mecca and I knew that they do not permit the consumption of alcohol nor consumption of pork. Everything else was new to me. I have always respected others’ religions, so all I had to do now, was observe, adapt and accept my new environment, not as my own, but as a part of something new.
- You can not, I repeat, you can not impose your ideas onto others. Always be aware of the fact that you are a guest. You have been granted permission to be in another nation. It is not your business to play hero or captain save a sister where you are. You are not here to complete a humanitarian mission. Take this opportunity to do your job as best as you can, represent your country as best as you can and live as best as you can. There were many older women in my compound who wanted to force their religious beliefs and practices onto others. Not only was it dangerous, but it was extremely disrespectful. Something that they seemed to have left behind in their home countries. Just be aware of this micro step. Use it wisely. If you can’t accept this unwritten rule. It would be best for you to go elsewhere or back home. Real talk.
- If you are left handed like me, you might be a little bit challenged. The left hand in Muslim culture is considered your dirty hand. The one you use to wipe yourself with when you go to the loo. You should not eat with your left hand. Especially in public. They take note of body language and gestures in a different way as the west. Read up about it, ask questions about it, even if you are in the UK or Europe right now, a high five back home, might not be a high five somewhere else.
- Take your time. It took me a good six months to get used to and accept my new environment. From the house and room that I was living in, to their wet rooms, (a typical layout of a bathroom where the shower and toilet is in one area with no door or shower curtain separating it) to the Adhan ( call to prayer sung by an assign person from the mosque, before every prayer), to their ablution ( a ritual of cleansing before the Salah ), to their Salah (every prayer assigned at a specific time of the day) to the Dua ( prayers in Arabic, they recite for specific purposes)
- Enjoy this experience of growth fully. You are able to experience what most people will never dare to do. Learn from others cultures, incorporate it in into your belief system if it serves you well. Embrace some ideologies if you realize it adds to your overall experience. This is what being an expat and world traveler is truly about. I took a page from the Saudi culture’s book of being more kind and giving to complete strangers. Not because I wanted to gain something, because I realized, I have more to give and that I will never be empty handed or without.
Good luck with your STEP FOUR: Acculturation and acclimatization. You might have to go shopping for some necessary clothing items but you will be more comfy and more confident in the end. Keep glowing my exquisite beings.
With Love and Light
* Muslim friends and family please correct me, if I have made any errors or mistakes in explaining the basics. It has been years since I have been in that frame of mind. Much respect and peace be upon you.
To all my Muslim friends and family, thank you for teaching me about your practices, beliefs, rituals and ways of life. Islam has shown me how you are able to devote yourselves to daily cleansing, a month long fast to show and challenge yourselves spiritually and how food is a celebration not just a meal.
“As-salāmu ʿalaykum ”
A SPECIAL mention to Ally (and Nur) who is a true angel and a wonderful being with a soft-spoken spirit. Thanks for being in my life. Love you lots,as you always say.