Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Special Christmas Party

It's Christmas eve morning and a gorgeous 60 degrees outside. I've got the windows wide open to let in the breeze and lovin' every minute of our UAE winter. And before you think of getting jealous, my snow-bound WI family and friends, look back at some of my summer posts and remember only a few months ago we were sweating our 'you-know-whats' off, house bound ourselves and miserable.

Tonight we head to Cape Town, South Africa for a week and thanks to the generous employee benefits of my beloved employer, we will be flying business class - champagne and a flat bed, what could be better? Okay, you can be jealous of that, I guess. I'm fully aware that we are completely spoiled and travel more than any couple should be allowed to ... and that ain't gonna change any time soon, I promise. Let's just say, waiting 9 months to land my job with Etihad was wwweeellll worth it. :)

Speaking of, I had a really interesting experience on Thursday, our last day of work before the holiday. Christmas, by the way, is not an official paid holiday in UAE, but because there are so many Christian ex pats living here, it ends up being quite festive anyway. Most people take the week between Christmas and New Year's off, and all the hotels celebrate the season as you probably saw from my Christmas tree post a couple of days ago. But, I digress.

On Thursday, my co-worker and I were coming back to our desks with the plan of heading to the canteen for lunch and were informed that there was some pizza and cake in one of the classrooms. I was faced with a tough decision ... eat the salad I brought from home or partake of pizza and cake?  Yeah, I went for the pizza. We headed to the classroom and could already hear Christmas music from down the hall. Okay, I guess that makes sense, someone must have organized a bit of a Christmas lunch for Learning & Development teams.

Yeah, someone did ... our recent Emirati graduate class!  Our MUSLIM Emirati graduate class! We were stunned and really really touched. They had the Christmas music going, enough food for the entire Training Academy, a Christmas tree drawn on the whiteboard and even a wrapped present that they put in a lottery for one of us. I was amazed and would never have expected our Emirati friends to throw us a Christmas party. After all, I can't imagine us trying to throw an Eid party. But they did and they were having a blast. I think they loved most the expressions and profuse thanks from all of us. It was really a fun surprise and a truly special gift.

I'll close before I get too sappy, but have to say how much a gesture like that makes you think and appreciate the tolerance we're all shown here in Abu Dhabi (and all of UAE). I know there are many fears and concerns about the Arab world these days, but in our little pocket in UAE, tolerance is alive and well and making a difference.

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for reading!

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