It’s Tuesday! And the first Tuesday of every month this year I will publish a Top Ten list of some sort. Let’s see how this goes …
Being away from home, especially when traveling solo and especially for long periods of time, provides an awesome opportunity to learn new things. Mind you, most are things you could have learned at home too, but sometimes it takes a new environment or a new experience for a lesson to really hit home. Here are a few that have found their way into my consciousness since I came to the UAE.
1. Language doesn’t have to be a barrier.
The UAE is officially an Arabic-speaking country, with English commonly used as the language of business. With roughly 80% of the population being expats from some other country, you can hear dozens of languages being spoken, including every accent and dialect of English imaginable. Knowing how long it took me to become even somewhat functional in the French language, I have so much admiration for people who have perfected or are learning English (which is a VERY difficult language to learn), and true respect for everyone who has ever packed up and moved to a place where their mother tongue is not commonly spoken.
This lesson has also taught me more about the power of music; the amount of people worldwide who know the lyrics to an iconic song by The Eagles or Bob Marley, even if they speak very little English, is mind-boggling.
2. You can miss someone even as you’re talking to or seeing them.
This one surprised me a bit — the last time I spent any significant amount of time away from home was in 2008, and I didn’t have Skype but I was physically close enough for about 10 of my family members to come visit me midway through the trip. I figured homesickness would be an obstacle during this Dubai gig, especially during the holidays, but sometimes it goes deeper than “I wish I could hear this person’s voice” and “I wish I could show them what I did today” … Sometimes, even as you’re looking at their face and hearing their voice and commenting on one another’s Facebook pictures, all you’re thinking is “I wish I could give this person a hug. Right now.”
Don’t get me wrong, Skype is awesome! But there really is something magical about being able to share the same physical space as a friend or family member. Makes me think I should plan some kind of big party when I get back to the T.Dot =)
3. Remain grateful.
Now is a good time for this reminder — there will always be something to complain about, and there will always be something to be grateful for. Focus on the latter (unless you want more things to complain about; then focus on those instead and watch them multiply.) Much more here than at home, I wake up and am immediately reminded that it’s a better use of my energy to focus on the many amazing things about my life, right now and in general, than the things that aren’t exactly to my liking. Especially when you don’t have to look too far to find someone who would gladly trade their troubles for yours (I blogged a bit about this here, at Christmastime).
In fact, it’s interesting to list some things that really stressed you out at one time in your life, now that you’ve reached a vantage point where you can see how unimportant those things really were. I had to stay in a hotel overnight in Montreal once on my way home from Haïti because the plane left Port-au-Prince too late to catch my connecting flight, and when I got there they wouldn’t let me use my dinner voucher … oh, boo hoo! It’s almost embarrassing now to remember how much I groaned and complained about that.
4. Go ahead, try a new dish.
Most of us love food, but lots of us are scared to eat something we’ve never eaten before, or something we find difficult to pronounce, or something we don’t know the name of at all. There are things on offer here that I don’t want and may never eat (like mussels … ew), but I’m proud to say I did start sampling new things right away. Like ful medames (pictured), and malva pudding, and millefeuille, and these little pastries with ground-up pistachio and sugar and cinnamon that are heavenly once I pick out the raisins with my fork.
You never know when you’ll get a chance again, so take a lot of chances.
5. Go ahead, try a new drink.
Whoa! Some people get really, really attached to their favourite cocktail or brand of beer. While I am not the worst example of this, I have always been a hardcore piña colada girl (just ask the bar staff in the lounge where I sing, they tease me about it weekly). And yet, the other day I was cajoled into trying something called a mint splash, a milky minty green cocktail that reminds me of the Shrek McFlurry at McDonald’s awhile back. Love it!
I also tried the newest drink offered by KFC in mall food courts out there: a mojito that has no liquor and tastes like a hybrid of Sprite a 7-Up with real mint leaves in the cup. Weird? Yes. And I didn’t really like it. But at least I tried it =)
6. It is acceptable, even admirable, to take a nap every day.
Back at home, my attitude toward naps was back and forth between “Naps are awesome and I totally deserve one today” and “Napping?! Who has time for that?!” But when I got here, jet lag kicked my butt and a nap a day became my new normal (sometimes 2; 9 hours ahead is no joke!).
Besides, my main job here is to sing; just my luck, when I’m tired, you can hear it in my voice. Plus 6 nights of the week my shows wrap up around 12:30, with me often being too keyed up to go to sleep until 2am, and sleeping in would mean missing breakfast — so naps are imperative, no matter how much the more seasoned musicians tease me! Your schedule may not be as funny as this, but for real, if you aren’t making time to rest once in a while, you are doing a disservice to you and everyone involved with you or your work.
7. Establish a routine.
While we’re talking about daily naps, we might as well discuss other good dailies. I say aim for at least 3 things that you do every single day, without exception, which are helpful to you. 3 of mine are praying, doing my simple floor exercises, and writing something.
There have been times when my list of dailies exceeded 12 activities, and feeling like you’re your own drill sergeant can be kind of miserable sometimes, so I eased up a bit. But when you start with 3, it takes less time than you think to get into the routine of doing those 3 things every single day. Then you can start to add in more. Whatever your goal is, I am willing to bet that the people who have achieved it already did so by focusing on their daily activities, no matter how mundane it seemed at the time. Routine is important.
8. Dash it away once in awhile.
Because breaking from the routine is important too! That’s why there are vacations and PA days; veering away from the routine, for some needed rest or for something spontaneous and fun, is also necessary.
Being in a situation where I get one day off per week, I’ve been making the most of each day off. I laze around at the beach. Or I catch up on chores. Or I shop and sightsee and attempt to get into Tyrese Gibson’s birthday party and get home after 5am. (Yeah, that was a really good day off, lol!)
9. Whatever you wish, believe or have been told your area of work is, your primary business is connecting with people.
Honestly. Can you give massages better than anyone else in the world? No one will call you their favourite masseuse if you do so with a scowl or with dirty hands. Likewise, if your architect designed a gorgeous house but it was different from what you’d commissioned them to do, you might not be too happy about it.
All skills are important in pretty much every field of work, and that includes communication and other social skills; and I’m starting to realize how little of that was taught in school. When you throw language differences into the mix, it becomes even more important to connect and communicate with people.
10. Learn about yourself.
Have you noticed how many people seem to pride themselves on knowing a lot about someone else? Sometimes the someone else is a person who they will never even meet. For example, it worries me when a parent knows who all the celebrities are dating and marrying and divorcing this year, but is unaware of what’s going on in their own home. I really recommend taking the time to learn or rediscover things about yourself, whether you ever feel the need to share those discoveries with someone else or not. Here’s one thing I found about me: I am happy when people come together and sad when people separate. (Deep down I always knew that, but again, being here helps crystallize a few things.)
So there you have it! My first Top Ten Things blog of 2014. I’d love your feedback, either here or at www.facebook.com/chattrisse or www.twitter.com/chattrisse or even www.youtube.com/seechattrisse … And to be added to my mailing list, please send an email to email@example.com with MAILING LIST in the subject line. Bye for now!