Monday, November 1, 2010

i have no idea what time, day, or year it is.

There have been a lot of changes in a short amount of time for us here in Saudi. We've written about a lot of them: religious environment, cultural quirks, etc. But one of the things that's giving me a lot of trouble recently is the change in schedule. You may think that this is a minor issue, but when things get turned around like they are here (in comparison to our normal American style schedule) you get a little lost.

As you may or may not be aware, the work week in Saudi Arabia begins on Saturday and runs to Wednesday. That means that our weekend is Thursday and Friday. Now that sounds simple enough, but think about this. My entire life, I have understood what happens on the weekend sounds roughly like this: sleep in Saturday as late as possible, football in the afternoon, maybe do something that night...wake up Sunday, go to church (most of the time), eat lunch, football/golf (depending on whose house and when...I'm lookin' at you, Dad), and then frantically work on things for school the next day. In Saudi, things don't quite work that way. Everything is pushed to Thursday and Friday. However, one of the things that doesn't change is the football. College football games are still on Saturday and pro football games are still on Sunday and Monday. This means I'm getting football scores and updates on workdays. I hadn't realized it until I got here, but I've been using this as my signal for the weekend for awhile so I'm confused when I'm working and wondering if my fantasy team is doing okay...or if Auburn lost...it's hard. More importantly, I have to wait until Saturday and Sunday to talk to my family or anyone in the US. This is because of my next point...

We are EIGHT hours ahead of Nashville, TN. That means as I type this, it's 7:23 pm on Sunday night in Dammam, but it's 11:23 am in Nashville. So I end up getting the scores, news, and things that are happening in the states the day after. This becomes confusing when say--I don't know--trying to talk to your grandmother on her birthday around 9 pm her time. That means you have to be up at 5 am to talk. Realistically the only time I could talk to my family and friends on skype or gchat would be during their weekend...but my "Monday" and "Tuesday"...Saturday and Sunday...SEE?! I told you it's confusing!

Another thing that you need to be aware of is that there is an Islamic calendar called the Hijri and people follow it. Some follow it so closely that some of my kids don't know in what year they were born off the top of their heads, and you have to specify "yeah, in the Gregorian calendar" when talking about history. Their calendar is based off the fleeing of the Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. This was called the Hijra, so the calendar is called the Hijri, and all of the dates are "after hijra" or A.H. So, 1776 AD was the signing of the Declaration of Independence...but it was only 1189 AH according to the Hijri (Until December 7, we are in the year 1431 AH...in case you were wondering...impress your friends...). As a history teacher I find this particularly interesting, but one more thing to trip my students up as we learn. The good news is this really only applies to the Middle Ages & late antiquity (Ancient Rome). <----yeah I totally just nerded out on you there...sorry, comes with the territory.

Tie this all together with the daily schedule that people keep here in Saudi: We start school absurdly early, so most people (ok, everybody) take a nap in the afternoon. I normally don't like sleeping this much because I would rather be doing something but, stores are pretty much closed until at least 4...so when in Rome... I won't lie, it has been nice. I don't have to tell you how much Amber loves naps. Additionally, the afternoon nap combined with the late start of businesses means everything is open late; at least until 10 pm and most of the restaurants/schwarma places are open 24 hours. This means that a lot plans involve late nights...even on school nights!

All of this leaves me with an incredible sense of chronological vertigo. I call days the wrong names. I sometimes wake up really excited for the Bama game on Saturday and realize that I have to wait until Sunday to find out what happened. In planning to talk to my grandma on her birthday, we needed to be talking to her at 9pm her time...Amber accidentally counted backwards and almost had us planning to talk with Granny and the rest of the family at 1 pm our time...which would have been 5 am their time...not the plan.

It's been crazy to get used to and honestly, I don't think that I am. At least I know when I'm supposed to be at work, but even this afternoon I took an hour long nap and woke up at 5 thinking that I had slept all through the night to the next day. This is actually what ended up prompting this post. Hopefully I'll have my internal clock set correctly soon...erratic does not even come close to describing my sleeping pattern.

Vicariously yours,

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