August 28, 2014
As I continue to write my way through the A to Z Challenge, I find myself staring down the letter “E”. Now the letter “E” seems a harmless, almost benign little letter, doesn’t he? Ahh, but don’t let looks deceive, dear Readers. This is an evil little letter!
How did you like that opening, dear Readers? Kinda dramatic? Well, that’s me, kinda dramatic. And not that it’s a bad thing. However, dramatic behavior is never acceptable in the Middle East when it comes from a woman.
I went to teach in the Middle East under full disclosure…or so I had been told. I believed myself to be well-versed in the ways of the culture and before I left the U.S., I learned through orientation what society expected of me. Thus, I covered up when in public, I was respectful and non-argumentative, I never raised my voice, I didn’t show the bottoms of my feet, I only touched food with my right hand (even though I am left handed), I always politely accepted when offered food and/or coffee, I behaved appropriately in public, I taught the girls that they should listen to their parents, and I never said anything that could even be remotely misinterpreted. I followed all of the dictates that had been mandated at my orientation. Yet, I walked around on eggshells, afraid I would break some unwritten rule.
In the end, it seems that I broke quite a few undisclosed rules. For example, in my post “Things They Never Told Me“, I write about not being accepted because of some real or perceived misstep I had publicly displayed. Then again, it really wasn’t perceived, because as I note in “The Luxury of Freedom“, something as innocent as laughter can even lead down a dicey path. In fact, it did.
Walking on eggshells was never my forte, I’m more the bull in the china shop type. And it’s a darn good thing I know this abut myself, otherwise I would have never had the American Embassy on my speed dial. Believe me, dear Readers, not only did that number come in handy, I was forced to not only use the phone number, but to seek refuge at the embassy, as well. You can read that story here; it reads like Midnight Express, only without the drugs and without the intrigue.
And so, dear Readers, my time in Al Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates drew to a close. I went from walking on eggshells, to walking into the embassy; from flying in on Etihad, to flying out on Emirates. It’s meeting the man of your dreams, then meeting his beautiful wife. It’s ironic. But that, dear Readers, is a story for another letter. Peace, ~v.