Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy Eid

This is a very brief post..
I just want to wish you all a very Happy and Peaceful Eid.. May it bring you and your families happiness, prosperity, and good health...

Picture by SB: Autumn Scene

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Christmas get-away.. the forbidden destination

I am the only non-Christian amongst the Senior Staff in our Department.. Ever since I took up my current post, I have always volunteered to do Christmas Day, thus allowing my colleagues to enjoy the festivities with their families.. I am delighted to say that this has always been met with appreciation from my colleagues, who would, in turn, try to ensure that I get time off during our festive seasons..
Our Clinical Director (whom I call 'the Clinical Dictator'... to his face, I hasten to add!!..) is, in fact, a very shrewd and wily man.. he is an enlightened and forward-thinking boss, who defends our corner very vociferously.. A few years ago, he came up with the ingenious idea that, because of our numbers, we can afford to have one of us off for two weeks around Christmas and New Year, an idea that went down very well with the Senior Staff.. So, we drew our names out of a hat (actually it was a standard NHS biodegradable bowl!..), to determine the order by which we will have our turn..
Last year, it was my turn.. but a quick calculation told me that it would be more logical for me to have the two weeks off THIS year .. After all, this year, Eid Al-Adha coincides with New Year's Eve.. It did not take a great deal of convincing to get the person next in line to have his two weeks off a year in advance!!..
So, for the first time in six years, I am off for Christmas.. and for the first time for as long as I can remember, I am actually off for BOTH Christmas AND New Year!!!..
To make the most of this opportunity, we decided to go away for the two weeks.. all of us... myself, my wife, and our three kids.. The difficulty is determining where to go!..
Our first thought was to go home.. After all, what is nicer than spending Eid with family and friends back home?.. However, if I go in December, I will not be able to go in the Summer.. as I am only allowed to visit the Country (MY OWN Country..) once every twelve months.. and even that is such a prohebitively complicated matter!.. It literally takes several months of palnning and uncertainty.. I have to get a special permission from the 'AlQyadeh AlQawmieh', through the Embassy.. There is no guarrantee that I will get it in time, and if I apply too early, the permit might expire before I am actually planning to go!.. (the permit is only valid for a limited period, and you cannot specify when!..).. Why??.. Because I have not done my Military Service (I am nearly fifty!..).. Why on Earth does a citizen of a Country have to get permission to visit his homeland??.. How can stopping me visiting my beloved City serve 'the Cause'??.. There is no doubt in my mind that this is yet another ploy to disenfranchise ex-pats like me, and make us feel that we do not belong.. Well, it won't work.. not for this ex-pat!!..
Nevertheless, sadly, this option is now ruled out, as much as I would have loved to go home for Eid.. I have not seen Eid in Damascus for over 21 years.. My children experienced Eid al-Fitr over there a few years ago when it coincided with the Christmas Holidays, but I was unable to go at the time..
We spent a few days trying to explore other possibilities.. Options from India to Andalusia, from Vienna to Dubai.. from Morocco to Stockholme.. are all being considered, but no firm decisions made as yet.. Sadly, the one place missing from this list is the place I would most love to go to...
(Picture by SB: A water lily in my pond)