Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Long Way from Home

Day 15: What the tourists never see in my town that they are really missing out on...

We get one 'Get Out of Jail Free Card' so I used it for yesterday.  My day was overwhelmingly ordinary but extraordinarily busy.  I literally did not have a minute to write.  But I'm back and ready today.

This one might be short and sweet.  It's been a wonderful and exhausting weekend.  Our BFF 'L' came over from Kuwait.  She came a little bit to hang out and go on a friend date to see a Michael Buble impersonator, who was amazingly good, but mostly she came to paint.  The girl loves to paint. Tonight, as I write this, I am staring at a purple wall where once there was grey/blue and there is a faint smell of paint in the air.  It's wonderful and I feel even more at home in my home than I did yesterday.

So, on to the prompt.  If you come to Bahrain, something you might miss as a tourist that you really shouldn't is... the people.  Bahrainis are so unbelievably kind and friendly.  They are welcoming and inviting, warm and delightful.  They'll take you home for a cup of tea to meet their family as soon as they'll tell you the history of their country or recite the Quran, just because you asked.

I think that, unfortunately, many Westerners have a very skewed view of the Muslim man and woman.  Outside of our prejudices and what the media (and the extremists) have led us to believe, the burka and thobe can be intimidating.  There's something foreign and almost uninviting about men and women in traditional dress, especially the fully or almost-fully covered women. We don't really get it.    We think it means something else.  We steer clear.

Uh... maybe I won't buy one (women have to cover in the Grand Mosque)
Our BFF 'L' went to a cultural talk in Kuwait led by a young Muslim woman.  She was, humorously, discussing her decision to 'cover,' because it was her decision.  One of the main reasons she covers is, according to her, because 'after a night of partying, you want to make a quick run to McDonald's.  What's easier?  Getting dressed and fixed up so that no one knows you were out, or throwing this thing on?'

I like her style.  She sounds like my kind of woman... perhaps I should go buy a burka...

Not all Bahrainis cover, men or women.  I have been lucky enough to get to know a few parents at our school and it has helped to demystify the thobe and burka.  I hardly see them anymore.  I like that my kids don't really react one way or another.  It lets me sit back and truly enjoy the kindness of the country, having gotten over my own... fears?  No, misunderstandings.  That's a better word.

As a tourist, you will actually not encounter many Bahrainis.  They are not the workers in their country, though more so than in Kuwait.  You would be hard-pressed to find a Bahraini in a service position of any kind- these jobs are occupied by Sri Lankans, Filipinos, Bangledeshians and Indians.  The Bahrainis own things and then they employ people to run the places they own.

If you're planning a visit, I'm not even really sure how to suggest you go about meeting a Bahraini.  But if you have the chance, you should.  

2 comments:

  1. This is interesting because I was just thinking about you and the places you've lived wondering if you're able to get to know many locals. So interesting that none of the Bahraini's work in service positions. Also, I'm very guilty of having snap judgement when I see women who are covered. Good reminder that my pre-conceived notions come mostly from the media and I should give second thought.

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  2. It is hard sometimes to meet the locals- China was easiest as they're everywhere. But in the Middle East and Guate, the locals I come in contact with are usually parents and I don't feel like they're necessarily representative of the culture (ESPECIALLY Guatemala). It depends on how willing you are to make friends outside of your circle. I'm still working on it...

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