One of the things I love about getting to know people who are from a completely different background is how it challenges and fills out my limited view of the world around me, or the world depicted on the news, or the world as understood and passed on to me from others.
It’s not likely news to any of you that I love getting to know new people. Where a lot of people find it hard work to go into a situation where they won’t know many people I am usually excited at the prospect. I’m an extrovert. (I do understand and have experienced ‘people fatigue’ more now than ever. That might be because I’m getting older, might be because of a couple of significant burn-outs in my life, might be just understanding my boundaries and limitations better than ever. In other words, growing up.)
So as you might expect, I’m having a hay day here! So far, only the new teachers are at Dave’s school doing orientation. They’ve planned lots of interesting activities, like the Iftar dinner I’ve already shared with you. Getting to know even this small group has been very interesting. There are several Canadians here. One of the new teachers and our neighbour a couple doors down is from Vancouver. Well, he was born in Italy, lived 15 years in Paris where he met his wife who is from Paraguay (born in Puerto Rico). They’ve lived the last 9 years in Paraguay. They have 3 children. Wow. There’s a young girl from Ottawa who was teaching in North Carolina before this. Ok, that’s not so exotic, a little more normal. Oh!…your Dad was a Canadian Diplomat when you were growing up? And you moved every two years to a different place around the world? Hmmm. The property manager here is a really wonderful helpful and extremely bright man who used to work for Nissan in Japan. He’s from England. Well, he’s Pakistani but he was born and raised in the UK.
Here’s why I love to hear their stories. A number of the staff are from Lebanon. I got to talking to our next door neighbour about traffic here in Qatar. I don’t usually shy away from driving in strange places, even with lots of traffic, but I have one thing that always makes me nervous, and that is round-abouts. I’ve only ever been on one and my usually soft spoken, patient friend Duncan (from the UK) tried to guide me through it in an unusually loud voice. I’m not sure who was more afraid, me or him!
In the 40 minute drive from our home in Al Khor to the capital Doha there are at least 5 round-abouts. I find this very intimidating. Add to it that I’m told that only a segment of the population actually follow the rules. This news is terrifying to me.
So our neighbour and I discussed the rules of the round-about as they are more common in Beirut where she grew up. (By the way, she has lived in Montreal and in the UAE, and I’m guessing other places but that’s what I’ve understood of her story so far).
Here’s the eye opening part of this day: She told me that in Beirut, traffic laws are very new. Through her whole life (she’s about my age) there have never been traffic laws and the roads are chaos. Everyone does whatever they want. I was shocked and amazed! What? Why? “For my whole life our country has been at war. Our days were consumed with getting enough water and making sure we had enough food and staying alive. Coming to a complete stop at a stop sign or making sure you’re driving in the right lane at the right speed wearing your seatbelt becomes irrelevant.” Wow – yes, it must! Did I know that Beirut was a tumultuous war torn place? Of course I did. Had I ever looked into anyone’s eyes and heard what their life was like because of it? No.
My world just got bigger. Not to mention my heart.
And we’re just getting started getting to know people. Have I mentioned I’m loving it here? I am.