The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind! We’ve had family gatherings in Florida, Georgia, and New York while trying to pack for our year abroad in Yemen. Our time in New York was graced by the visit of my grandma from Jamaica, my older brother and his two daughters from Mauritania, my younger brother from Virginia, and my dad from Florida. We had a four-generation shindig- truly memorable.
Meeting my nieces for the first time was especially a treat. The whole family enjoyed them to pieces! My nieces are incredible! They are compassionate, inquisitive, and can sit still for a long time! Our neighbor is a school principal and she was thoroughly impressed with the length of their attention span at such a young age. Children can find so much amazement in the natural world without the aid of flashing noise-boxes.
The flight to Yemen was fine. A little turbulent at times but they kept us well-hydrated and well-fed (though at odd hours), so no complaints here. The reality of traveling to Yemen entered our consciousness slowly but surely. I kept asking urbndervish “Does it feel real yet?” and he would say “It’s getting there”. So, it’s feeling pretty real now after a few days of catching up on rest and trying to explore the neighborhood. The architecture here is unique to Sana’a (capital of Yemen); however, the roads and shops remind me of Kingston. 😉
So far, the people we’ve encountered are friendly and curious. They ask where we’re from, what brought us to Yemen and the infamous “Kayfa al-Yemen?” which means “How’s Yemen?” For whatever reason, it seems like people stay up fairly late here, at least in our neighborhood. I guess they don’t fear oversleeping because the call to prayer is audible and prompt at about 4:30am every morning. Not only does one mosque give the call but about five mosques do, all at the same time. It starts with one call, then the others chime in, then it ends with one lone call once again. Each is unique in its style and volume. To hear the call to prayer for each of the five daily congregational prayers is an experience that many Muslims in the West daydream about. I feel blessed to experience this.
We really like our apartment; it’s spacious and gorgeous. The brother who rents the apartments is from the UK, so it’s incredibly helpful to be able to communicate with him in English and not have to rely on our limited Arabic. Even though he speaks British English, we understand him quite well. ;P He has really extended himself to make sure we’re getting along alright and finding the things we need. May Allah bless him for being so generous with his time- ameen! We’re still trying to figure out if we should stay here or not because we have more space than we need and are paying more than we initially budgeted. For now, we’ll stay put because the location is ideal. We are about five minutes walking distance from the Arabic school we plan to study and a 15-minute bus ride from the English language institute we plan to work at. Both directors are really kind and helpful. Our Arabic lessons are scheduled to start on Monday and our teaching position is scheduled to start after Ramadan.
We’re expecting Ramadan in about a week and most businesses slow down or shut down during the holy month. Because it’s a season of fasting, most don’t have the energy to do more than the essential. The conserved energy and refined focus helps the traveler on the spiritual path to go inward- reflecting, repenting, and rectifying. Though I don’t feel prepared just yet, I know that my soul is yearning for this time and I pray that we will become better by means of it- ameen!
Alhamdulillah (praise be to God!), so far we’ve had a fine relationship with food. We’ve been sticking to vegetarian meals, bottled water, fresh fruits, and peanuts. 😉 We live in what’s considered the “Ethiopian Quarter” of Sana’a, so there are many Ethiopians in the neighborhood and an Ethiopian restaurant about two blocks away.
Okay, those of you who know us personally know how exciting the following news. Guess what we found at the Shumaila Hari Super Store? Yup, that’s right…soy milk! For all of you who doubted, just thank Malaysia for that one! 😉
The internet is down in our building right now and we haven’t been able to acquire a phone just yet. As soon as we’re “hooked up”, we’ll send you all the digits. For now, we use the internet at a local café for $0.50/hour. (Can’t beat that with a bat!) Thank you all for your patience. We love you all dearly.