After growing up in the US, everything here in the Middle East is new to me, and like a child, I am always in wonderment. Just as small children walk around touching, tasting and asking the what, how, and why questions. So do I.
Yesterday I watched the students at HCT as they celebrated the 38th year of the joining of the independent emirates into the United Arab Emirates. As I viewed the UAE marching bands and military parade, I marveled at being here as a resident which is entirely different from experiencing a country as a tourist. I compared and contrasted their “National Day” to our “Independence Day”, both of which represent the beginning of a new nation. It was interesting to note that they display lights on buildings and along streets for National Day just like we do for Christmas in the US.
I walked through the narrow alleyways of the Bur Dubai Textile Souq (market) with child’s eyes and wondered about all the little shops and shopkeepers. I wondered how they managed to stay in business when there are so many of the same shop. I wondered about their lives in those small, dust covered alleyways where one has to watch their step to keep from falling into a hole. The shopkeepers seem so relaxed. No one hurries. They don’t even call out to sell their wares.
I was dazzled by the colorful fabrics hanging along the storefronts. For a moment, my husband and I just stood on the corner and watched them watching us.
While talking with a fellow expat from Canada via Istanbul, she mentioned that she was amazed at being here, which surprised me. I thought she would be used to these things that are so new to me. I am now getting a glimpse into why expats move from country to country. One never gets used to the constant buffet of new sights, sounds, and experiences.
The world is much more exciting through a child’s eyes.
Till next time
Living in another country that is diametrically opposite my norm is filled with pinch me moments. Walking down the street in Nakheel (Indian part of RAK) felt like being a tourist in another country, but I wasn’t a tourist. This is my home… pinch me. Shopping in Manor Mall while surrounded by women dressed in black abayas and men in white disdashayas also felt like a pinch me.
Another moment occurred just yesterday. My husband and I were reading the paper and I came across the word ‘wadi’. I asked him if he knew what a wadi is and he said no. Later that morning, a friend called to ask if we wanted to go to a wadi… coincidence or weird or dejavu? So off we went to our first wadi which, as it turns out, is a riverbed or ravine. At this time of year, the wadis are dry so the correct term is dry wadi and when it rains they become wet wadis. The funny thing is that instead of looking it up on the Internet (which is down again), we got a real life lesson which will always stick with us.
We trekked through the dry wadi over layers of rocks and up rather steep bounder strewn hills. Occassionally, I was able to stop and look around at the surrounding beauty of the hills, but most of time it was ‘heads down’ to keep from twisting an ankle. I vaguely remember that some time in my distant past, I would have thought this type of rugged hiking was fun, but sitting here today listening to my inflamed knee complain about the trek, I’m not so sure if it’s worth the fun.
On second thought… it was worth it. A swollen knee is a small price to pay for the experience of my first wadi. My first trek. The joy of seeing the beautiful hills. The incredible quiet and spending time with old friends and meeting new friends.
Living is like opening a faucet. We can let it trickle out or open it wide and let it flow with full force. I like the full force method.
One of the secrets to a long term marriage is avoiding secrets. Now, you probably think I mean that we shouldn’t keep secrets, but that’s not quite it. I mean don’t go looking for trouble or you may find it. So, I instinctively know not to go through pants pockets, or look at phone call logs and especially not to look through his email. But this morning I needed travel info for an upcoming trip so I scanned his email and found a punch to the gut.
He had received an email announcing the death of a lifelong and dear friend. I sit here reeling from the news and wonder why he did not tell me. In the world of married folk, we often bring our friends into the marriage and George was “his friend” who became “our friend”. Maybe he didn’t tell me because he is still processing the news. Maybe he thought I would be upset, or maybe he just forgot. In the end the only thing that matters is that we have lost another friend. It matters how I approach the subject with my husband, because if he is grieving, I need to tred lightly and respect his feelings.
It is so easy to intellectualize the whole death and dying thing. It is easy to sit around and talk about how we all have a short time on this earth and how we should appreciate the time we had together, but at the end of the day… we hurt. We miss. We care and we have to grieve. We have to regain our wind after being punched in the gut. Then we can move on.
Loosing friends really sucks.
Kinda beginning to get used to this expat thing as I sit at the Hilton Resort and Spa in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) overlooking the candle-lit salt water pool that overlooks the beach on the Arabian Gulf (ie., Persian Gulf). Mind you this was after taking a 45 minute brisk-walk along a paved beach path as the sun was setting followed by 40 minutes of exercise. The Hilton experience was surreal because it came after a 12 hour work day, but by the time I worked out and showered, the work thing was fading and by the time we completed dinner, work was a vague memory. With our membership, we can do this as often as we want. We may have discovered paradise.
Paradise- You say! You may recall that just two months ago, I was lamenting the heat, grayness, sandiness and general ugliness of RAK. What happened is that Winter is arriving so the weather is now a comfortable 80 degrees, and Ramadan ended so there is much more activity. My husband and I are discovering things that we did not think existed here. Last weekend we went Salsa dancing at the Hilton, line dancing at the City Hotel, and walked along the newly built waterfront followed by dinner with friends at the creek’s edge. Tomorrow we go into Dubai for more Salsa dancing and touristy stuff.
Well, calling it paradise may be a stretch. Large chunks of RAK are still gray, dusty, sandy, and generally unkempt, but it’s beginning to grow on us.
There are all kinds of Ism’s – racism, sexism, ageism, and their presence varies across state and regional boundaries. Having grown up in the United States, I was baptized in the waters of racism against African Americans. When faced with that situation, one can choose to respond in several ways including ignoring, reacting, and avoiding, but the choices made at an early age become embedded in ones psyche for life.
Being the only African American in my elementary school (I’m the chocolate drop in the backrow on the left of the school picture), I chose to ignore the taunts and expectations by excelling. Therefore, as an adult, I literally do not see any of the ism’s and even when they are pointed out… I ignore them as someone else’s problem. If Dr. Phil were to ask “how’s that working for you”, I would say it works very well, because I don’t have to get caught up in someone else’s dysfunction.
At a recent dinner party, I was explaining experiences I am having with my college students in the UAE and found that my experiences were diametrically different from those of the “majority” instructor. With further probing discussion, I was asked by the “majority” faculty member if I thought I was experiencing racism. That question was like having a glass of ice water thrown in my face, because that was the furthest thing from my mind. It literally never occurred to me. (Note the other “majority” faculty members at the dinner party were generally silent on this topic.)
A week later, unprompted by me, a faculty member from India made the statement that the students do not respect him. This again was totally different from the comment of the “majority” faculty member. I don’t want to believe it and two data points from two brown-skin people are not enough to clearly say that racism is at play here, and if it is, what do I do with that information.
I suppose that as long as humans walk this earth, there will be some kind of ism. It seems to be part of humanism.