Day 8: “I will never get used to…”
If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to make a list. This morning, between making pancakes with the Ladybug and getting the girls ready to go to the animal park- since it was such a nice day and the Rugby Star needed to get some work done- I quickly checked the prompt. And then, in a very hoighty-toighty expat way, I thought, “Harumph. There is nothing that I can’t get used to. I am an expat. I have lived in five countries with five very different cultures. I laugh in the face of cultural differences. Ha! Double ha!”
And then I went to the animal park. Here begins my list:
1. I will never get used to strangers wanting to take photos of my kids. Normally, I don’t mind. Most of the time, someone asks me if they can take a picture of one of the girls. This happens in the grocery store, at the park, walking down the street. It’s weird but, they’re always women or girls and really, what are they going to do with a picture of a little kid they don’t know? Today, however, a woman pointed her camera at the Ladybug and clicked her tongue and made kissing noises to get her attention, as though she were one of the animals. Um. No.
2. Fully-covered woman still startle me a bit. And when I say fully, I mean fully– not even their eyes are showing. It’s unnerving to have no social constructs on which to base an interaction. Is she looking at me? Is she smiling? Who knows? Once, at the doctor’s office, I came out and started looking for the RS and Ladybug. A fully-covered woman slowly raised her arm and pointed down the hall. It was very Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come…
3. A pelican had flown out of its’ habitat. A large group of children ran towards it, yelling, kicking and screaming. The pelican was clearly terrified. Not one adult tried to get them to stop. I secretly wanted the pelican to bite someone. Hard.
4. Personal space and general politeness- ugh. I’ve mentioned it before with regards to China and to Bahrain but children pushed by me to see exhibits, as did their parents. No one, except my kids, rather passively-aggressively had they been mimicking me, said, “Excuse me.” One kid pushed me as I was holding the Sprout and carrying a camera and diaper bag, into her father who was coming around the other side of me and they both looked at me like I was the crazy one for standing there in that exact spot at that exact moment. Well, excuse me. I wanted to see the raccoons, too (hehe- wildlife park).
These things are annoying, yes. And I will never get used to them. But the truth is, they’re not shocking anymore. If I’m going to really sit and think of the ONE thing I will truly never get used to in Bahrain, or in many countries that I’ve lived or visited, it would be the driving. I have seen some unbelievable accidents in Bahrain and Kuwait. I’ve heard the driving is similar in the UAE and many other Arab countries. Let me paint you a picture:
You’re driving at 100km an hour (that’s around 60mph for you ‘Mericans). That’s the speed limit, so that’s what you drive. Sometimes you edge towards 120km (75mph) but there’s this super-annoying ‘dinging’ sound that your car makes whenever you get to 120 or above. And really, 100-120 is fast enough. Then, in your rearview mirror, you see a car barreling towards you, going easily 160 (100mph). He starts flashing his lights at you, demanding that you move out of his way- clearly wherever he needs to be is much more important than where you need to be… see how fast he’s driving? There is a certain panic that rises in your chest when this starts happening- it’s so aggressive and feels very personal. Oh, I’m not driving fast enough for you? If you can, you move over. If you can’t, he will almost inevitably weave in and out of traffic like a real-life, deadly game of Frogger or, hell, he’ll just drive in the emergency lane, kicking up rocks and dirt, just so as to not have to slow down.
As he passes, eighty percent of the time, you’ll notice one-to-eight children piled into the car- not a one in a car seat or using a seatbelt. The youngest, a tiny baby, is usually sitting in the front seat in the mother’s lap. She’s not wearing a seatbelt. There’s one standing in between the seats and several bouncing around in the rest of the vehicle.
And the driver is probably on the phone.
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Every time I see this, I want to throw up. I want to throw up because he could hit me and hurt or kill one of my kids. He could hit me and more than likely kill several of his children. He could hit someone else or something and, chances are, his kids aren’t going to make it out alive.
In shallah means ‘God willing.’ If God wants you to make it to your destination, it does not matter what you do or don’t do- you will make it or you won’t. It is unbelievably hard to argue with that, especially being a person of faith. However… I’m going take every precaution I can to ensure I arrive alive. And if that means driving like my dad (waaay slower driver than anyone’s grandma) in the slow lane, then that’s what I’ll be doing, flashing headlights be damned.