A funny thing happened yesterday. They have a habit of happening to me… But it made me think - I’ve been settling in here, but I don’t feel settled.
I was asked by a waiter in the restaurant ‘Are you alone?’. I said yes, and sighed slightly. I’m sure he caught me, but tbh, I don’t really care. The point is that an innocent question made me all at once feel very, very isolated from everything I know.
This, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. I’m not on the phone to my boss saying “Get me the fuck out of here, I hate this 5 star hotel, increased salary and per diem!”. What it promoted in my head was a chance to take stock of where I am and everything that’s happened in the 7 days since I arrived here, somewhat confused by the airport and tired. (The meal, btw, was all you can eat food, but a Western style buffet. Roast potatoes and buttered veg. Those little fried balls of risotto, Arancini and more. For the first time in my life, I got excited for plain brocolli and cauliflower!)
I’ve only been a minority once in my life. That time was on a bus in Cincinnati, and I felt silly thinking it at the time. A short, white, somewhat ginger guy from scotland - I don’t see many people that don’t look like me, and I’m never outnumbered by those folks. To be here, in the UAE, where over 40% of the population is ‘South Asian’, and 6% of the population isn’t Arabian or Asian is completely alien. Add to that the fact that everyone I work with is either Indian or South American, and you have a completely new situation for me. Not only does no one else come from the same place or share heritage and appearance with me, no one else has English as a first language.
It’s an incredibly limiting feeling having conversations go on around you in two language that you can’t even begin to comprehend. I fill the time by imagining what they’re talking about. It’s mind bendingly difficult having to translate Indian English or South American English into the language I speak, at the same time or on the fly. What usually happens is that I ask for a repeat of what was said, and then half way through that I ‘get it’ and can form a proper reply. That’s just embarrasing. I’m supposed to know this language! You can understand my accent perfectly well!
While it’s new, it’s difficult and at times embarassing, I think I’ll come out the whole thing a stronger/better/nicer person. It’s excellent to get an appreciation of others' culture and lifestyle, and being completely removed from your own is possibly the best way to manage that.
Apart from the language barrier, work’s going well. Gentlemen’s lunchtime curry club is still happening and it’s great, even though I know literally nothing that’s being said or ordered. The project out here is progressing, and I’m trying my best be good at the “lessons learned from previous subprojects” part of my scope, which also directly coincides with “Hibby forcing himself to take a structured, organised approach to things”. I forget too much shit that I don’t think I will.
I met LuLu’s hypermarkets this week too. It has everything. Literally everything. Insanely big. Irn Bru and Red Kola included. Happy me!
We’ve got a few days off next week, I’ve not been told yet when, but I’m keen for it. I’m going to jump up to Dubai for a day, maybe two, and have a look at the Burj Khalifa. Tallest building in the world. Can’t wait - Dubai is always somewhere I’ve wanted to see and experience.
I’m going to explore more here, too. I’ll take the camera out and photograph things so I can remember them. I hear there’s a mall somewhere with a full-height aquarium. Insane. There’s also a Ferarri themed theme park with the world’s fastest roller coaster at Yas Island. Plus, I’m 100% keen to do a desert safari on a Friday off sometime soon, once I’ve stocked up on factor 50+. I’ve never seen a proper desert, let alone set foot in one. Gotta do it while I’m here!
Nice one. Hx