Like all Christian holidays, Easter is just a day like any other here in the ME. Since it always falls on a Sunday, it is always a working day (the work week runs Sunday to Thursday here, with Fridays, and for some of us, Saturdays, off).
For this reason, we have taken to celebrating the holiday on the Saturday prior to Easter. With a young child, we want her to experience the wonder of the day, so we've explained that the Easter Bunny comes a day early here so that he can have time to deliver chocolate and eggs all around the world (because apparently 24 hours is no longer enough with the World population growing by about 1.1 %* per year).
So how do we do Easter here? Much like we would in Canada. I wake up at 6:30 and realize that I've put off buying the chocolates about as much as I can. Say a short prayer that kiddo will enjoy 12 hours of sleep; she went to bed at 10:00 p.m. - that should buy me enough time to make it to the store and lay out the requisite chocolate bunny poop/egg trail leading down the stairs to the magic chest that always reveals a magical hollow chocolate bunny.
8:30 a.m.: Chocolate poop laid out, chocolate bunny purged and duly hollow, duty done, I set to work on the ham, lamb, mashed potato eggs and sweet potato carrots.
Smilin' Vic ends up having to go upstairs to wake up kiddo at 10:15. Even at age 7, she is still thrilled to see the magical poop trail. It is proof that the Easter Bunny exists.
She follows it down the stairs, and enjoys a breakfast of French Canadian crepes and Easter chocolate. It doesn't get much better.
We then discuss the true meaning of Easter, with me slightly taming the goriness of the crucifixion, yet trying to impart to her the teachings of my forefathers. We talk about Jesus, and how he wanted to help everyone. How he tried to take the blame for everyone. And how he got a second chance because he was helpful. (Simplified version I know, but this is the only way I can get it through to this expat child who simply thinks Jesus is a guy we talk to every night and who hangs out with Grandmaman because she's seen him in a picture on Grandmaman's living room wall.)
Smilin' Vic then takes kiddo away for the day to visit a local farm with some Qatari friends. She gets to pet goats, ride a donkey and an Arabian horse, hold little birds, run with the oryx, feed fluffy chickens and camels, and chase doves. Much like you might do at a petting zoo in the spring in Canada.
I stayed home and cooked to my heart's content. Had a snooze on the couch. Watched an amazing movie called "The Way" about a father's quest to finish his deceased son's journey along the Camino del Santiago (The Way of St. James). Got inspired. Showed Smilin' Vic the movie trailer on YouTube (see trailer below). We've decided we're going to walk the +/- 800 km Camino del Santiago when kiddo heads off to university and we're in the throes of Empty Nest Syndrome. We shook on it. Solemn Easter Promise.
As is the case for every Christian celebration in the ME, we invited someone over to join us for dinner. We rarely have our 'social' friends over on these occasions. We usually try to invite someone Christian who might not have anywhere else to go on a 'special' day. Sometimes it's the maintenance or security or gym staff from our compound. Sometimes it's a Nepali or Indian contract worker from work. Sometimes it's an Asian hairdresser who I've grown close to.
This year, we had only our maid and her niece, who's recently arrived from the Philippines and is working for a family for whom our maid used to do part-time work.
It's always a blessing. It's nice for me to be able to serve the people who help me every single day. To send them away without getting them to do a single bit of work. To serve them, clear their dishes, ask them if they'd like coffee or tea or anything else.
But my maid and her niece instinctively got up to do the dishes. It took Smilin' Vic to sit them back down, get them to enjoy, get them to relax. It went against their nature. But we finally managed to get them to relax around the table.
We had a few belly laughs. We saw a few tears. My maid's niece is only 28. She has left a 2-yr-old and an 8 yr-old back in the Philippines. She spent five months sleeping on a wooden cot, no mattress, in the agency in Manila, away from her family, waiting to come to Qatar. She arrived here to find that her husband had left her for another woman. She did all this for her kids. So that she can secure their future. She misses them so. She misses them SO. Unfathomable agony. We tried to make her laugh. We let her shed a few tears.
We tried not to feel guilty that our life in the ME allows us Easter dinner with our family. We tried not to feel guilty that our life in the ME allows us LIFE with our family. We tried not to feel guilty that our life in the ME is our life. We tried not to feel guilty that sometimes we rue our life in the ME. But in the words of Daniel, in "The Way": "We don't choose a life Dad, we LIVE one."
These religious celebrations are my moments of redemption ... my attempt to repay those who have been so good to me. I don't fool myself; a few days in the year don't make up for a year of servitude and sacrifice. But they help bring clarity. I get to enjoy just being home with friends. I get to enjoy getting to know the people who mean the world to me. I get to enjoy an extended family in a country where I have no family. I get to enjoy these beautiful people who have sacrificed so much more than me to earn so much less than me. I get to enjoy.
I get to enjoy. I get to serve. I get to hear others laugh. I get to LISTEN. I get to EMPATHIZE.
And in the end, I get to feel GUILTY. And a bit of guilt is good. It feeds the soul; makes ones realize all that one should be grateful for.
Canadians are not a society borne of class. (Other than if you're from Toronto, Mouahahahahahaha!). We just don't work that way.
When you move to a foreign country where class is a factor, where class is a barrier, you have a really hard time. But then we get these precious moments, where we get to sit around a table and just be who we are, and just enjoy who we are. We get these precious moments where we realize more than ever that class is crap, class is a trap. We get these precious moments where we realize that Easter is Easter, hope is hope, sadness is sadness, joy is joy.
We get these precious moments where we realize that being a mom is being a mom. Here in the ME, in Canada, in the Philippines, in India, wherever. Being a Mom is Being a Mom. Having hope is having hope. Being with friends is being with friends.
Knowing that we are going to be ok. Here in the ME, in Canada, in the Philippines, in India, wherever. Because we are all here for a reason. To earn more, to share more, to give more, to know more, to learn more, to live more, to grow more. None of us came here to remain the same. We are all here for Easter, for a resurrection of sorts, to rise again. We are all here to rise again.
Happy Easter to you and to yours. May you rise to the occasion you invite yourself to. May you sit, and laugh, and cry and shout; may you seek the greatest moment in your life and strive to rise beyond it, strive to rise again. May we all rise again, higher than we'd dreamed, to heights that know no bounds. No matter what we choose, may we all LIVE. Happy Easter.
*According to my daily very likely erroneous Wikipedia reference.