I’m always very reflective when traveling. I always have been. I have an involuntary reflexive mechanism that seems to require that I use part of my holiday as an opportunity to step outside of my life and look back in, almost as a third party. Am I living the life I want to live? Am I living at a pace I want to live at? Am I missing opportunities that I’ll regret missing? What has changed? What should change? Have I grown? I touched on this in my blog on the way home.
Until you set back down in the place you came from, the changes in you might go unnoticed. It’s led to a lot of reflection on my part about struggle, challenge and growth. I’m thinking they go hand in hand and I’m trying to embrace the struggle as a friend and not treat it as a foe.
Here are some things about Canada that struck me right off the bat. Some moments of reverse culture shock that we encountered.
Honour and I were driving through Port Dalhousie (small beach town) on one of our first mornings back. There were a group of girls about her age walking down the street wearing cutoff shorts and bikini tops. Conversation in the car came to a dead stop. We were both speechless. I finally said, “I forgot…we walk around half naked here. What would your friends think of that sight?” “Mom! I’m shocked and I’ve only been away for 10 months! Do you really want to know what they’d say?”….no. I can guess.
The next thing was elderly people. I didn’t realize until I spotted the first little old lady peering up over her steering wheel that I hadn’t seen that in a year! Not many elderly people drive here in Qatar and I dare say I’ve never seen a grandma driving!
The next elderly person I saw in Canada was struggling alone with her shopping cart in the grocery store and one more carrying her bags to the car.
This is also an unusual sight for us. The elderly, especially the struggling and/or poor elderly, are not seen here and there are a few reasons for this. Since the vast majority of people in this country are expats brought here to do a job…well, the vast majority of the people in this country are in the working age demographic. For the Qatari people (the minority) I suspect that the tight family unit has something to do with why you never see the elderly alone or struggling. Also, housemaids and drivers are very common and their help is very affordable. I’m glad the elderly are not driving here in this aggressive unruly traffic.
There are many things to ponder about so much of what I just described…but I’m just going to drop it in your lap, as it’s been dropped in mine, and let you mull it over. The pros and cons. The just and the unjust. New rules and old rules. What would a perfect world be like to you? What would a better world be like? Prejudices. Classes. Family functions.
(I am not mentioning here the first time I saw a clearly mentally ill person on the street in Canada but I do wonder where they are here in Qatar and how the Qataris deal with that issue. I’ve never seen that here.)
And, on a lighter note, the driving. Oh boy. The first week we were home I made Honour squeal a couple of times while I was driving. “MOM!! I don’t think they do this here! MOM! Too FAST!!” It took a bit to get back into the swing of driving politely and slowly…seriously slowly. In Canada, it seemed to me, even the young men drive like old ladies. Needless to say I’ve had to quickly adjust upon our return….adjust or get hit from behind!
This is one question that I came back with after observing our culture from a bit more of a distance. We think we’re so polite, us Canadians. Our global reputation is ‘so polite!’ But upon reentering and reflecting on our uber-politeness I have been wondering….are we really polite? Or are we a people who are really easily offended and so we’ve become used to walking on eggshells around each other?
Chicken? Or Egg(shells)?