Wednesday, October 9, 2013

DAY SIX - Where are you from?

"Good morning, Kathi-mum!" my smiling Starbucks barista greeted me this morning. She is a bundle of delightful energy as she deftly snags my light blueberry muffin from behind the counter and prepares my grande decaf coffee with hot milk. She knows Doug-sir's order by heart. On day one she'd quizzed us with, "Where are you from?", and she volunteered that she was from the Philippines.
This is the normal order of conversation in this country where 80% of the population are expats from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America, in that order.
There is no mistaking the Emirati as they all wear the same traditional dress in public. For men it is a white, ankle-length robe (kandura) with a white or red checkered headdress (ghutra) secured with a black cord (agal). The women wear a dark black robe (abaya) which swishes along the floor and a headscarf (sheyla). In addition some women wear a black veil over their face. Thus, if you're not wearing this traditional garb, you are from Somewhere Else.

Lebanese Mixed Grill: chicken, lamb, & beef with flat bread, hummus, garlic spread & arugula

Our first evening here we walked across the street because we'd spotted a Lebanese restaurant and had heard the food was excellent. Almost before the owner had seated us he asked us where we were from. Clearly this is not a rude question or considered invasive. It's small talk, yes, but my clear impression is that people are genuinely interested.
On Monday when Cathy from the HR Department showed me around town, our driver turned around at a stop light and asked me where I was from. Then he said "I'm from Kerala, India. Have you ever been to India?" I replied, "No" but offered that my daughter had lived there for several months as an exchange student. He wanted to know what cities she had visited.
Yesterday I was invited to the weekly NYUAD Spouses Coffee, which I jumped at because I am eager to connect with the campus community. On this particular morning seven of us took a shuttle bus to the Sun Tower which houses a small mall, including a very swanky little Italian coffee shop. As introductions were made I asked where everybody was from. Two were from Liverpool, England; one was Canadian; and the remainder were American. 

And then today I set off on my own to the Marina Mall. Since my plans to set up our apartment have been stymied until I can actually get into our permanent residence (sigh - it won't be available until the 19th) I decided that instead I would work on acquiring an Abu Dhabi appropriate wardrobe. I had a wonderfully successful shop at this VERY large mall and then took a seat at a Parisian cafe for a bite to eat. The handsome, young waiter took my order and then asked THE Question. "New York" is what I have been replying, but I've learned that answer is not universally understood. I think New Yorkers, myself included, assume everybody has heard of their wonderful city, but I am here to tell you that is not necessarily so. 
After my shop I cabbed it home, and by now I was not surprised when the driver inquired where I was from. He was from Nepal. He said he missed the green of Nepal, and we commiserated about the heat. "It's good you've just arrived," he said, "the weather is getting cooler now". For the record the temperature today is 97, and with the humidity index factored in, the Weatherunderground says it feels like 100. I just smiled and agreed. 

1 comment:

  1. Your readers are looking forward to some outfit posts so we can see the fruits of your mall excursion!