It has been 5 months since my arrival. The thing that I find hardest to process is the fact that it has ONLY been 5 months. It feels like a lifetime! I think this is good...
I remember fondly that Sunday morning in August when Naazir collected me at the airport at about 01.30. As I walked into the thick humidity of Dubai I panicked for a while as I nervously clutched my water bottle, trying to moisten my dry, thirsty throat. I was tired, excited, uncertain, nervous - all in one! As the bus droaned on and on toward to Al Ain, I was mesmerised by the monotony of the landscape that I could see. Little did I know that I would fall in love with this land and with its people.
Arriving in Al Ain at the compound where I now live, I was ready to collapse on my bed and sleep for a week. I had only 3 days before departure to sort out my life and all that I needed to do before I could leave. I was exhausted, drained and yet inexpressibly excited.
About 4 hours after arrival, the bus arrived to take me and some of the other teachers to school. My first glimpse of the sand dunes around Al Ain made me somber. I realised that I was in another world altogether. Frantically I tried to spot camels and beared Arab men who rode on them. None! I was disappointed...
Then came the school thing. I couldn't quite sort out what was going on there on the first day or six. I couldn't see a school! Walking into the desert-brown Military building wasn't exactly the most exciting thing I had done in my most illustrious life, but I couldn't turn back. I was worried that some arcane organisation had already followed me to school, just to check up on me and prove true all my prejudices about Arabs and Muslims. I was not happy to discover that, evidently, I was not important enough. In fact, I was rather puzzled by the fact that all the Arab men I had met were, actually, friendly and seemingly happy. I just knew that they were hiding something.
As I oozed into school life over the next weeks and months, I became well-acquainted with the vicissitudes of living in a foreign country, with students whose language I neither understood nor recognised. But, I was happy to discover that the language of the heart is universal. Ah, those halcyon days of traffic, crime and racial discrimination in South Africa were finally blasted to smithereens in the hot, hot, hot desert sun! Temperatures brooded around 50-55 degrees celsius. I remember walking to the school canteen from the Grade 9 school, feeling as though I were evaporating into the hot tar under my feet. I came to entrust my life to air conditioners. Alhamdulillah for them!
Al Ain must be the most awesome place on this planet. It is here that I finally surrendered to the light of Allah in the religion that He had given to humankind. It was here in Masjid Hamooda that I made my first sajdah in worship of the Most Benificent, the Most Merciful. It was here in Al Ain that I reconnected with my purpose, and where I dived into my one true passion again - teaching.
So, today a student told me that he had read my blog in the past and earlier this week he wondered aloud why I hadn't added any new tidbits to it. "I'm just too lazy," I said, and I cringed with shame! Well - he knows who he is, and he will be reading these idle words with a dictionary. And he probably won't begin to realise how blessed and happy I am to have students like him.
For many years in the past, the 31st of January was auspicious to me as it was my "patron feast day", named after "Saint John Bosco", the patron and father of young people. How I wish this sincere man could know the joy and peace of turning one's back on the idolatry of Christian polytheism, and embracing the simple truth of Islam as revealed to humankind by Allah through our beloved Prophet and Teacher Mohammad (sallalahu alehi wasallam). But he can't, so I shall proclaim again today with every fibre that is within me, and with utmost regret for my sin: ASHADU AN LAA ILLAHA ILLAH ALLAH, WAHDAHU LASHARIKA LAH; WASHADU ANA MOHAMMAD ABDUHU WA RASULLUHU!