Welcome to the North my Friend...

My departure from Aden involved fighting yet again with Yemenia airways...I really do hate them. However, this time I had my Yemeni friend Aziza who has friends at the airport along with my Sudanese friend Magdy. Magdy is amazing in that he is probably the most generous person I have met in my life. After the woman bitched about how I was way over my weight limit, Magdy took one of my bags saying he would bring it to me in Sana'a next week.

My flight from Aden to Sana'a should have been 45 minutes. However, I had the grand opportunity to fly from Aden to Mukalla, Mukalla Sana'a, thereby making the flight 2 hours travel time. It was a strange flight...they were transporting all these patients from hospitals in Sana'a, so a lot of the seats were folded down to allow the patients to lie in them...a makeshift hospital. I really can't describe it, but it was odd.

After realizing I was surrounded by invalids, I chose to change my seat and found myself next to a student of mine from MALI Aden. He insisited that his family escort me to my new home in Sana'a...considering my boss was not able to send me anyone to greet me at the airport, I accepted.

The student, named Ala'a, and his family then began to give me juice and food...anything they had on them. When we landed, Ala'a told me to sit while he collected my bags, not allowing me to help in any way. The mother discovered I had not eaten lunch and became very upset, telling me that it was necessary to feed me. We met Ala'a's uncle, a man named Waleed wearing the traditional Yemeni white dress and sporting an impressive dagger, complete with a red head scarf. Waleed runs a tourist agency here in Sana'a, and I must say he is gorgeous.

They took me to their car, told me I had to sit in the passenger seat so I would be comforatable, and then they proceeded to load my luggage into the car. I laughed when I got into the car, because there was a huge stack of qat leaves wrapped and waiting to be chewed...actually Waleed had already begun to chew. This was a preview of what my night would be like.

After taking me to my new home and carrying all my things, Waleed and and Ala'a took me for dinner and then bought my favorite kind of sheesha and we went to a place chosen by Waleed to sit and chew qat and smoke sheesha.

Waleed had his laptop with him and he proceeded to show me loads of photos from all over Yemen and then his machine gun collection. I complimented him on his choice for a screen saver which is a semi-automatic rifle. I am living in the north now where it's more of a 'Wild West' kind of feeling. Everyone is tribal and packing heat.

We sat for hours, smoking, chewing, talking and then we watched Pirates of the Carribean. Somehow watching Johnny Depp playing a pirate while sitting in a tent full of men with daggers smoking sheesha and chewing qat seemed quite surreal, yet completely ordinary at the same time.

Oh and most importantly...the weather is amazing. This is the first time in four months I have not been hot. I think I will like it here.

From North to South...Sana'a or Bust

Until 1994, Yemen was a divided country, North and South Yemen. The Yemen of the North is traditionally more conservative, whereas the South is known as 'Liberal' (remember this is in Yemeni terms) and was communist for several years. The port of Aden, where I live, was a former British colony. In the past, the South was much more lax...women did not wear abeya and the thought of veiling oneself did not cross anyone's minds. People of the north still think of Adeni women as being 'loose' because some refuse to veil their faces.

Following a civil war and the unification of the countryin 1994, the south has dramatically changed and Yemen as we know it is now united as the Arab Republic of Yemen. Influence from the North has brought with it cultural traditions unfamiliar to the South. And like so many other countries in the world, the South hates the North...the North hates the South. Southerners refer to the traditional northern men from the villages wearing long white dresses, large belts and jambeyaas (the daggers) as being Dahabashee (Dahbasha for plural)--a term coming from some TV show in the past that made fun of the northerners. The main character was called Dahabashee.

As a result, when I informed my friends and students of Aden that I would be moving north to Sana'a they were upset with my decision...telling me how much better Aden is. I told them that unless they could supply me with an air conditioned abeya I will most likely become a big black puddle.

Yesterday was my last day of teaching at MALI Aden. To my surprise, the majority of my students came bearing gifts and letters telling me how much they would miss me. Some even asked if I would have an online course so that I could teach them from Sana'a. It was really cute, especially when I was trying to escape the school and even more students came running after me to say goodbye...apparently they had waited for a few hours until I finished my last class so that they could say their farewells and give me more gifts.

Really nice...I just hope the students are the same in Sana'a! I've been told that they have a check-in desk where students carrying guns and qat have to leave them on hold until they finish their class. Should make for an interesting experience.

Sweat Insomnia

As if I thought sweating in the shower was bad enough, I have found something worse. Sweating at night while trying to sleep.

Yemen is a poor country. More than half the population lives off of $2 a day. As a result they have a series of financial issues, one being not a large enough power grid to supply people with the electricity they need to run their air conditioning in the steamed air they live in. The result? Power cuts.

I have been used to having my water cut, I even have a routine worked out so that I can always shower while there being enough pressure. However, there is no routine revolving around power cuts...they come on the whim and strike when you least expect it. While working, while eating, and the worst is while you are sleeping.

It is not humanly possible to sleep in 90+(37)degree heat and over 90% humidity. For the last few nights I have woken drenched in sweat because my power has been cut, the result is a very unrested English teacher who lashes out at her students.

For all of you living in hot places complaining of the heat...if you can read this and have the luxury of full access to air conditioning I suggest you think twice before complaining. I watch the Yemeni people suffer from the corruption and lack of education of their government...joking about how the new Minister of Power had promised no more power cuts only to find themselves with no electricity for over a week's time. And they laugh, shrug it off and say it's God's Will. I used to be amazed at the faith and devotion that people have towards their faith...and I'm starting to see that when you have a load of crap dumped on you on a daily basis, this can sometimes be the only escape and explanation as to why their life is so unfair. And for many, it does not seem fair.

However, I have the luxury and ability to change my current situation and will be transferred to Sana'a which boasts year round moderate weather with no humidity.

Al hum d'allah!

Sweating in the Shower

When I lived in Washington, DC, I used to complain of the heat and humidity. I said it was soooo bad. I obviously had never experienced an Aden summer before.

I am currently seeking refuge under a semi-functioning air conditioner. It is 40 degrees (over 100 degrees farenheit) and the air is heavy with humidity. I can not move or do anything without sweating. Even at night I walk through an outdoor sauna. I sweat while I walk, I sweat while I teach, I sweat while I speak, hell--I sweat while doing nothing! I never thought it was a possible, but I actually sweat while showering here.

I had mentioned the lack of hot water here in a previous blog. Let me rephrase this. There is now a lack of cold water. Everything here is HOT. I really would like a cold shower, but alas it's not possible. Usually my water is cut at night...and if there is some it is super low pressure, but hey it's something to wash the massive amount of sweat this environment creates.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel as I will be moving to the capital of Sana'a in two weeks time to escape this heat of the southern Aden. Sana'a is located in the mountains and has a year round mild climate...can't wait.

Until then, I will remain locked in the air conditioned fortress of my apartment.