Thursday, September 25, 2008

Local Encounter...Part 1

The last two weeks have flown by. This week is fortunately short because its Eid! Yeah! (This means Ramadan finishes and no more fasting and time off). We usually have to wait for the moon to show itself so the Imams can call it - I think we're waiting for the new moon. However, the government announced today that Tuesday is also off - we were expecting only Wed and Thurs. Now, I won't complain about extra days off, but its always nice to know in advance so you can make your travel plans accordingly.

Anyway, last week we had some locals over to our home. This was our first time to do this. I make it sound like a big deal, but considering how infrequently this happens, I think it kind of is. As I mentioned before the locals here account for less than 20% of the population, so if you interact with them, its often only at work, which is really unfortunate. So how did this come about...

Back in the early months of summer this year, a girl who used to work for Sarper invited us over to her father's home one Friday afternoon for dinner. Friday is a big family day for locals - and many people in general, because its the Christian equivalent to Sunday. So religious locals would go to the mosque I assume and then come together to be with family.

We had a lovely time. They were so nice and welcoming - as Arabs are - and it was just a really lovely afternoon. Erin had a great time. Its good he was a small baby - maybe 3-4 months at the time - because he couldn't keep his mouth closed when we were sitting in their majlis -a large sitting room where guests and visitors are received. It was a very large room and very Arabic and colorful in decoration. Of course for a room that large, you need a big chandelier. Erin was in awe of it all as our house is not that colorful and we don't have such a large light hanging from the ceiling. His mouth was open the whole time as he was mesmirized by it!

Everyone in their family came. It was like Thanksgiving, only they do it every Friday. We had a nice visit in the majlis and then it was time for lunch. So, think of Thanksgiving dinner, but maybe 3 times the variety and portions of food. And it was all sooo good. Everyone in the family insisted to hold Erin so we could eat. And they just kept kept feeding us! For sure we enjoyed every bit of it, but it was a lot of food. And just when we thought we were done and then some, we went back to the majlis for dessert...several kinds of dessert. Again delicious. The family wasn't eating near as much as we were because they had us try everything! And you don't want to refuse their hospitality and excellent cuisine, so you eat!

And they were so generous. Of course we took a gift to their home when we visited which is standard custom in a lot of countries. However, they gave us gifts back! We know it is their custom to give gifts, but really I felt almost embarassed because they were really nice gifts. I was totally humbled for lack of a better word.

Discussions were very interesting and we learned a lot about the culture and history of Dubai. As I was still on maternity leave, we were discussing when I would go back to work. All of the women in this family are working, well educated - all doctors. Their father, also a very well educated man, said he understood my personal choice to go back to work, but he asked me a very interesting question....As a society, do I really think its beneficial that the woman works outside the home. I kind of felt the room go quiet at that moment as everyone seemed to be waiting for my pressure!

He gave his wife as an example - she has a wonderful family, is happy, secure. She is not working and has everything that most people who work are striving to achieve one day- comfort and the freedom to enjoy life as she pleases. In his words, she lives like a queen - which is probably true. So considering that, is it really beneficial for her and other women like her to work or will their be a breakdown in society if that becomes the norm. At some level I could agree with him. There are many people who work because we have to - we weren't born into wealth. And in addition to support, it is fulfilling if you do something you enjoy. I know I've read some articles in the past about the demise of society due to more women working outside the home. Is it not true? - I mean if parents in the US are more involved in their kids lives would we have fewer problems with our youth? Maybe? Its all very philosophical.

I am told I have the ability to be very diplomatic when put in certain I imagine I went into that mode in this case. At some level, I do agree with him. However, I felt that maybe his daughters did not exactly agree by their responses. And for them it might mean more to them to work than it does for my American generation, so its something I might be taking for granted. There are no issues about women's freedom here. Local women here are really finding their own way - they are very successful and a great role model for others. There is no doubt that this man is proud of his daughters' accomplishments, but there is the flip side that why must we work so hard if we don't have to...I ask myself this question often!

For example, we have friends who live on an island in the Agean Sea off the coast of Turkey. They have a company that sells promotional products to a certain sector of companies in Turkey. They could easily grow their business and make a lot more. "But why?" they ask. They are happy, have enough to live on and only have to come to Istanbul for work a few times a year. They have set the business up to run itself for the most part and spend the rest of their time making wine and olive oil. Pretty nice, eh? And if I think of what my ideal would be, this wouldn't be too far off. Something where I could work and be professionally fulfilled, but still have time to enjoy what I like to do. While I believe most of us do enjoy life, we are always trying to find more free time...

There is no real easy way to wrap this up. I know that I do like to work and am grateful I do - I like my job, my independence that brings, the mental stimulation and fulfillment that goes along with it. I don't think its any different than the same reasons this man's daughters work.

While I constantly proof read my posts and strive for clarity and good writing, I will leave you with that for now as its getting very late and I need to get some sleep before my morning baby wake up call! I've gotta go to work tomorrow!!!

Hopefully I can get to part 2 of this story before we head out for vacation at the end of the week!

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