Friday, April 13, 2007

Seeing People, Not Nations

"Now this is where you should've had the camera," my husband said when he picked me up at the Abu Dhabi Ladies Club the other night. It was 10 p.m., the end of an international bazaar/fundraiser for special-needs children in the area. I'd been volunteering at the United States table.

I looked around the large room with its multi-level, white marble floors, high ceiling and glass-lined, curving stairs. It was a colorful a scene: there were numerous flags draped over the upstairs railing and ladies on the ground floor in bright cottons from South Africa, black abayas from the U.A.E., and brilliant silk saris from India, to name a few.

At the countries' individual tables, the diversity continued. Azerbaijanis displayed rugs of rich reds and browns, Italians offered expensive, hand-made lace shawls and modern art, and Jordanians presented skin-care products from the Dead Sea, among others.

At the U.S. table, myself and two other Americans were selling t-shirts, pens, mugs and the like with the U.S. Embassy logo on them. (Local Emirati children who stopped by were most interested in our few Mickey Mouse trinkets.) Beside us were ladies from Eritrea. We were in business attire; they wore floor-length, gauze-cotton dresses and head coverings and some wore elaborate jewelry.

With my husband's comment about the camera, I realized I've gotten so used to the variety of cultures in Abu Dhabi that I've begun to not notice it. I've made friends with many of the women present. I've stopped seeing the countries and started only seeing the people.

Near closing time, an Emirati (in national dress) stopped by our table, introduced himself, and asked how long each of us had been in the U.A.E. He welcomed us to his country. He'd gone to college in Washington state and loved his time in the U. S. He wished us well. I hope I'm as friendly to visitors when I return to live in New Hampshire.

It was a nice evening.


Bill said...

Well, Frances, I subscribed to your RSS feed. So now I guess I have to learn what that means. I also cut and pasted your 3 blog entries so far and circulated them to my far flung family. I love your graceful writing style and I hope you keep it up. I'm looking forward to reading more about your lives there in the Emirates, including your exotic flowers. I'll be doing some planting here over the next few weeks and I hope I enjoy the same success with my mid-Atlantic hydrangas.

Eileen said...

Dear Francoise ~

Your writing and portrayal of life there is wonderfully done ~ thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us. I look forward to reading more, and sharing with my family. Love, love, love ~ from cousin Eileen in the Arizona desert, where the bougainvillea is blooming, too!

Linda Tomlinson said...

Hey there Frances ~ I am so glad to have found your blog! I tried posting before, not sure if you received my comment or not and I would hate repeating myself but I am going to - just in case it didn't take! Your writing is wonderful - I feel like I am there experiencing everything with you - AND I wish I were! Understand you'll be back in NH soon and I can't wait to see you and the family. We need to get together and catch up! Keep up your fabulous journal and I will see you soon - big hugs to everyone for me.