Before we came here, I was very uneducated about "Arabs" as a whole. I could have seen someone in the U.S. and referred to them as an "Arab" without having any idea from where they actually originated. They could have been Pakistani, Iraqi, Bangladeshi, or even Indian and I would have had very little idea that there was a difference.
It's kind of like when you live in good old Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (or any arbitrary small-town-American-city) and everyone around you is Caucasian. You just say "they're white" and never think anything of it. When you see people walking around in the shops and on the streets, you assume they are your average just-like-me American, and go on about your day.
Talk about a change in perspective in just a few short weeks since we moved here! Last night Stu and I (and Kaden of course!) went shopping at LuLu's, which is just a little grocery store inside of a small mall, across the street and down the block from our house. When we first walked in I noticed an Indian couple and their daughter looking at dresses in the window of a shop. I looked around more and saw a group of Pakistani gentlemen laughing together in a corner. I saw an Emirate man on his Blackberry, walking in a very determined way for the exit.
Then I had to laugh to myself. In just a few weeks I have gone from "Look at all the Arabs", to seeing the melting pot of this city for what it is... and taking each culture for what it's worth. It's fascinating to me how closed-minded we can be when we are stuck inside of our own lives and problems. We don't give the world a chance to teach us something about ourselves.
Now, back to the white-so-you-must-be-American misconception. Again, in Idaho, 9 times out of 10, you're going to be right, they are American. They are just what you thought. Here, when I see other white people, it has become common practice to try and listen to them speak so I can pick out the language and guess where they are from! There ARE no other Americans here. I hear that there ARE some, haha, but the only other ones I've run into have been other "from Stu's job" families.
So, it's exciting in the basic familiarity sense, it is nice to see other "Caucasians" wandering around, but yesterday I hear this blonde guy tell his female companion, "Roight, I need to pick up a proper spoon, since the one I'm using is for shoogah, isn't it?" And they both laugh as she agrees. Cool, this guy is obviously a British import.
Then there was the stunning ("white") girl with light brown eyes that I met on the bus in Qatar waiting for the plane to depart for Abu Dhabi. She smiled at me and I said "hello." She said "Ciao". Qua??? I totally expected her to say "hello" back and to have an American accent. She turned out to be Italian and didn't understand a WORD I was saying in English. I asked her if she was going to Abu Dhabi... she got the Abu Dhabi part of the question, said "Si". Then we sat there and grinned at each other, probably more to ourselves at our complete failure at conversation.
It happens all the time here though. I have seen (heard) a lot of Germans, Brits, obviously, I've heard some Spanish (Spain, not Mexican, heh), Italian... and then you get into the fuzzy side of things where there is a merge between "you look Arab" and "you look white"... such as, the Israelis. They typically are lighter skinned, some have green, or light brown eyes, lighter hair, but they are generally not as well-liked because of where they are from (huh, no idea what THAT'S like, lol). So it's become a game of sorts, "Guess the race and nationality!"
All joking aside, it really has been an invaluable experience already as much as I have learned not only about the other cultures I am surrounded by, but about myself. I've learned a lot about my personality, why it is the way it is, and about the things that are most important to me. On the flip side, I have learned plenty of things that I would have thought would have been very important to me, when in this country and culture, are trivial at best.
It's already been, and I know will continue to be, such an amazing opportunity to learn and grow as a person. Who knows, maybe when we get back to America, I'll finally be able to answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Because, to my knowledge, I've never been able to answer it. Here's hoping! :)
Hot and Sour Soup
2 days ago