Today I had a Mango

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. mango2I 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. showerIn 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.

3 thoughts on “Today I had a Mango

  1. Hello Aleta and Clay,
    I have read your blog and enjoyed each posting. I drove around the other day and thought – hmmmm- Aleta and Clay are not here -at the gym, in the neighborhood – let alone the EAST COAST. I know we didn’t see one another often but there is still a void.

    Your postings provide a peek into your new experiences and your relationship. I am happy for you both that you are having this adventure – together -which is what I regret most in my life. I may say – “I want to take a cruise or go to Africa” – then need to go down a list of who could go with me if I choose not to go alone. No fun!
    Anyway, it’s been rainy in VA. and last night in the 60s at night and 80s during the day. Last month I was in Arizona and identify with the 100+ degree temps – but freezing in the hotel. Ahh America – we can use energy for creature comforts.

    Should your travels take you to Jeddah, the presdient of my association’s Overseas affiliate, David Allen (The British International School of Jeddah) is a wonderful Scottish fellow who could certainly share his knowledge of the country with you having been there for several years. David is the university guidance counselor and his email is

    Keep writing and hang in there!

    Joyce Smith

    • I understand the experience of missing someone even though you don’t see them often. In fact, my brother didn’t want me to go but I reminded him that I only see him 2 – 3 times a year. Somehow it’s not about the frequency, but its the “knowing” that someone is there is when you want to see them.

      We’ll be back next summer for a visit or to stay.

      Stay tuned 🙂

  2. How many people have told you how much they loved Michael Jackson? Or has anyone asked Clay to do the moon walk? Perhaps they assume you know the Jacksons personally. Or am I living in the Dark Ages and folks no longer made these sort of remarks?

    As in Egypt, are the vendors yelling out “my cousin, my color”?
    Why do I get the feeling that the UAEers are super cool? And oh by the way, what do UAEers call themselver?

    And oh, what are you teaching? Are you required to cover your head while in class?

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