February 27, 2013

A taste of Arabs, through YouTube

Here are two YouTube videos that I find highly entertaining now that I live here. They mock some stereotypical things that Arabs do. Although both of them are made by American-Arabs, they definitely apply to many people here too. Enjoy!

The first one is about Arab Hand Gestures. Sabrina sent me this through email and the first gesture I did when I read the title was the "shway shway" one with the pinched fingers. It means "relax, wait" and I see it constantly! I used to think it was rude because a lot of time it's used similarly to a person putting up a finger in your face to tell you to wait one moment. But it's not meant to be rude, it's just meant to tell you to chill out or slow down or wait. And now I do it all the time, so....

This one was shown to me by my boyfriend. The part where the guy is playing video games and he's like "I'm on my way, I'm stuck in traffic" is the moment when I was like, yes, this is you. Also the bit where he says "I want her to smell me in Palestine." My boyfriend wears at least two colognes at a time and when he puts each one on, he sprays it at least twenty times. And the whole "Do you eat pork?" and the "astaghfirullah" is totally on point. Astaghfirullah means something along the lines of "May God forgive me" and is said when someone does something truly heinous. And eating pork is the one thing that is, for whatever reason, non-negotiable and worthy of horrifying people, even if some of the other rules have been bent. 

February 20, 2013

Experience difference

It constantly amazes me what a difference there is between my experience and the experiences of people I meet here. One person I know, for example, likes to insist that he's going to have me deported. Because he's an Emirati and has power in this country he thinks it'd be easy. But when he first informed me of his Emirati status, with all sorts of entitlement, I just laughed. "I'm American," I reminded him. And I meant it in a million of my own entitled ways. (My citizenship is more valuable worldwide. It's very hard to deport an American. And even if somehow he managed the feat, he'd be deporting me back to America, the land that people dream about.)

He didn't get it though, and I muttered to myself, "You know nothing of the world."

But really I meant that he knows nothing of my world. Because my experiences growing up were nothing like his. I never would have made an obnoxious comment about deporting someone, but that's because I had no concept of deportation until at least high school. This guy has possibly witnessed many deportations, former nannies or co-workers. At the very least, he's heard about it as a possibility for someone. Because it is always a possibility for the majority of the population here.

My boyfriend also constantly shows me how differently he grew up from how I grew up. This weekend, for example, there were roses. And I put a petal in my mouth, as if I was going to eat it. And he encouraged me to do so. And in a halfhearted attempt to convince myself to do it, I rambled about how some people do eat them in salads. But then I wavered because I wasn't actually sure about rose salads. So I said that I definitely knew people ate dandelions...

And then I paused and stated flatly, "You don't even know what dandelions are."

He's never seen snow either. As someone who grew up seeing feet of snow pile up at times, that is insane to me. On the other hand, I'd never heard a call to prayer before I lived here. And that's probably just as insane to him.


February 17, 2013

When education is a business

This past weekend I met a large group of teachers through a friend, which lead to typical sharing of teacher stories. And one teacher was complaining about the changes to her school in the past few years. Originally, she loved the school and thought that it had great programs and goals. But lately it has become increasingly apparent that the school is for-profit and money has become it's number one goal, rather than education. The new principal, for example, refers to students and parents as "clients."

If you've ever worked retail (or been a self-entitled/unsatisfied customer,) you know that the client is always right. But the problem with applying that principle to education is that the client is rarely right. Education is full of being wrong, then being told that you're wrong so that you can fix it. But if I can't tell you that you're wrong, how are you going to become educated?

Many children have learned to take advantage of this system. Worst case scenario, a child knows that he cannot be kicked out of school (since his parents pay for it) and he also knows that he cannot be failed (since that would displease the parents.) So no matter how much trouble he causes and how little work he completes, he will always get a passing grade. And his parents are one of two types. One type just doesn't care about the education of their children. The other type spoils the child mercilessly and thinks he can do no wrong; clearly its the teacher's fault that he is misbehaving and not getting better grades. In either case, the child doesn't suffer for his mistakes, and gets to keep coming back to school and moving up the grades with his friends. It is entirely possible for the child to learn absolutely nothing, with zero consequences.

And nobody wins when that's the system.

February 08, 2013

Secret lover

Roughly (slash exactly) two months ago I sent a text message to my exboyfriend that read, "I think we should secretly get back together." His response was, "Are you drunk?" But I was not drunk, and we did secretly get back together. We got back together because love or whatever. And we did it secretly because our break up had been a mess in the worst possible way. A lot of people have very negative opinions of him because of that mess. So I did not want to deal with anyone else weighing in on the reunion until it was clear that it was really going to stick.

It seems like an odd concept, to secretly date someone. But I so preferred it. I didn't have to hang out with his friends and try to impress them. Or pretend that I like the annoying ones. I didn't have to invite him to everything that I did. My friends didn't have to pretend to like him, and I didn't have to listen to their unwanted opinions. I never had to answer questions like, "Where's your boyfriend?" I could have conversations about things besides my love life (because I was pretending I just didn't have one.) And I still got all of the perks of having a boyfriend.

Now that it's clear that it's going to stick, I'm supposed to tell people about it. (He is not a fan of the secretive bit. His best friend has known about it the whole time, contrary to my explicit instructions not to tell even him.) A few of my friends have been informed, briefly, about our renewed relationship. But I am dreading the way full publicity will change my life outside of him. My conversations with people are going to be about him too often, and if my life was a movie, it'd suddenly fail the Bechdel test. And people will always wonder about my other half, even if only briefly. I will be considered part of a whole, rather than whole by myself.

It was nice to have the private aspects of a relationship without the public aspects. And if I had an alcoholic beverage in my hand, I would raise a toast to the glory that it was. To secret relationships!

February 04, 2013

Values

This weekend I went on a yacht for a little party. At one point, one of the fellow boat goers asked, "How many time have you been on a yacht for a party?" I thought about it for a moment, then raised two fingers. Then remembered another time, and put up a third finger. The guy looked at me with surprise. He made a comment about how he wasn't as awesome as I am, so his answer would have been zero. Apparently he had meant the question to be rhetorical.

The entire time everyone kept going on about how awesome it was that we were on a boat for this party. I'm sure someone sang the "I'm on a boat" song. It was like this monumental moment of glory for some of them. But in all honesty, I have no clue why on earth everyone seems to value this nautical experience so much. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to be on boats. But we live on an island and they're pretty common, so... get over it?

I'm totally becoming one of those people who's jaded to things that other people find noteworthy and exciting. But at the same time, there are things that I lack that others don't even think twice about. To me, a party on a yacht isn't a big deal anymore. To you, having an oven and your own bathroom might be no big deal anymore. But I would totally trade a yacht party for my own bathroom and an oven.