Friday, April 5, 2013

My Life in America - the Experience

In America…
 
I don't carry toilet paper in my purse.
 
In Doha: I never leave home without it.
 
Most public facilities do not feature that little spray thing - and paper always goes in the bowl, not the trash can.
 
sticker seen on hotel bathroom wall in Greece
are Americans the only country to flush the paper?
 
I don't think too much about covering bare skin - unless I'm cold or naked.  I wear shorts, sweats, skirts, pants, cropped-, long- and no-sleeves, tank tops, jackets, tee shirts.  I dress according to the occasion and what's-in-my-closet.
 
Modesty is just one reason people cover up in Doha; weather is another.
 
I do "look" at people - to discover, appreciate,  wonder.   And I judge: facial expressions, gestures, tics…do I know her? Is he friendly? Are they a threat? Where'd she get that belt?
 
Not "looking" in Doha
 
I talk to strangers of all ages and genders in America.  I ask for directions, offer a compliment, request help…of people I don't know at all.  I have nodding acquaintances too:  men and women whose faces I recognize because they shop at the same time of day I do; gardeners, joggers and dog-walkers outside at the same time as me.
 
In my American neighborhood, Kyuong and I chat as we water and weed.  My yard merges with Sheri's.  A ten year old boy climbs the back fence to retrieve a lost ball.  A teenager waves at me as she giggles into a cell phone sitting cross-legged in her garden.
 
A Doha street: high walls separate and hide homes, people and activity.
 
Kids skateboard, ride bikes, climb trees and play dodge ball and hide-and-seek on my street in America.  They laugh, cry, shout, scream, run, jump, fall down, scrape knees and get dirty.
 
One doesn't often see kids publicly at play in Doha.
 
Teenage girls babysit for money in America.  A nanny sometimes lives-in, but often she's a regular babysitter/mother's helper who goes home at the end of her shift.  Unless she's a he and then he's a "manny." 
 
It seems everyone has a Nanny in Doha
Expats are allowed one Nanny per family
Locals often keep one Nanny per child.
Nannies sit with the kids
when the family eats out.
Nannies push strollers and hold small hands
staying a few steps behind Mom and Dad
during Friday Family outings.
 
In America, I pump my own gas.  I also cook, clean and take out the trash.  I scrub the toilet and bathtub, iron shirts, fill the dishwasher - and empty it too.  Sure, there are full time, live-in maids in America, but no one I know employs one.
 
The Doha maid accompanies her local woman
Everywhere.
She walks a few steps behind her mistress
Often wearing a pajama-like uniform.
She carries bags at the mall
and holds cell phones.
Kind of like a lady-in-waiting
who cooks and cleans and watches the kids too.
 
In America, I wait my turn.  Sometimes I'm after people who aren't even American.  Sometimes I'm last!  Jobs are won based on knowledge, skill and experience, not nationality or gender.  And hospital emergency rooms service patients according to need.
 
Doha hospitals feature a separate Emergency Room just for locals.
 
Also in America…unemployment is high.  Money is tight.  Gas is expensive.  There is death, divorce, cancer, Republicans, Democrats, Obamacare and the Twilight series.
 
Qatar is the richest country in the world
per capita.
She generously provides employment plus housing, transportation and more
to thousands of people
from everywhere
thanks to an abundance of oil and gas.
 
It's not perfect.  But for me…America is home.
 
trees in my front garden: purty
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