I ran into a new neighbor and his wife in hallway as they were returning from shopping trip. After a brief conversation in 90 degree hallway, he gifted me with the sweetest mango I had ever tasted. That gift was a reminder that it is not really about where but about who. I have questioned others who came before me to this place in the UAE desert town of Ras Al Khaimah about why they chose to come here and why they stay. The consistent answer is the community of people. A few days ago, I would have said the community of expats, but it is so much bigger than that. It’s the Indian “gate guy” who does not speak English but is helpful in so many ways. It’s the Arab “cell phone” guy who added to my education in Middle Eastern culture by explaining why Arabs would take advantage of a “no return” policy. It’s the bus driver and the tour guide. The community is so broad and the longer I stay here, the larger my community will become.
My old community of friends and family are like comfort food for the soul, and I miss them mightily. But, now I have an incredible opportunity to expand my circle of friends and extended family. Now, my community will be enriched by new relationships, and my understanding of the world will change in more ways than I can even imagine.
Most recently the Ugly American in me came out as I complained about why the Indian taxi drivers smell. One of my colleagues who spent the last seventeen years in Japan patiently explained that it could be cultural or it could be as simple as not having money to buy deodorant. The very next day, I experienced a day of shopping in the heat and realized that I too needed a shower. In other words, anyone who works in the UAE summer heat (110 degrees in the shade) is going to smell.
The next time I meet a taxi driver; I will give him a mango and make a new friend.