Monday, June 20, 2016

Interviewing Myself: Stalkers, My Mustache, and Chinese Proverbs

I just wanted to unpack my experience over the last 5 and a half months a wee further, and I thought it would be kind of funny/lame for me to formulate some questions to answer for myself. Could be a fun way to remember what it felt like to be me, right now, having lived on the other side of the world for half a year, barely out of high school. Before uni, before whatever comes next in life.

Try and ignore the cringey factor of this post, it's all down hill from here.

Don't blame me, you clicked the link.

What have been your highlights of living in Bahrain?
I've really enjoyed the time to grow into myself a bit, away from my parents and siblings. It has made me appreciate them a whole lot more, and also given me the opportunity to learn to stand on my own two feet. Gawd I'm exhausting all the idioms in the first answer. 
It's been really nice spending time getting to know my aunt, uncle and cousins a lot better over here. I've appreciated being able to experience what education looks like from the teacher's perspective. I have worked under a brilliant teacher and learned so much from them.
While it was still cool enough (the current summer heat brings dangerous jellyfish season), I loved being able to walk right into my backyard beach and take a dip. It's just one of those human things, to float in the sea and contemplate life.
Meeting and mixing with colleagues with a range of different personalities, cultures, and backgrounds has been really eye-opening. I have learned so much, and encourages me to travel more, to see these places described to me. That is, when you get used to the accents... (Americans laughed at me because they heard "dick" when I said "deck")

What have been your lowlights?
Sometimes, out of nowhere, the homesickness hits so hard. The strength of it almost makes me want to jump on a plane there and then. The culture is different, the people are different. I can't just go to the kitchen and find mum or dad to ask about a problem or tell them how my day was. The feelings of homesickness are intense, but fleeting. The next day I'm usually back to my normal, chirpy self. 
I've also realised how much I used for granted independent transport. It makes me feel more dependent having to rely on a driver to take me places, as the public transport options here are poor.

I crave my old social life. I've met new people and I go out and have fun, sure. But it doesn't quite fill that need where my good friends would. Nothing beats acting like an idiot with friends your own age. Adults talk about their kids, and money, work, and they don't have that same energy or silliness to them. #noh8 

Funniest moment with the kids?
On the bus trip home from a school trip, the kid I was sitting next to was staring intently at me for a while. He then asked "Are you a girl or a boy?" I responded that I was a girl, and why would he ask? "Because boys have mustaches." I cracked up so much, but jeez, children's honesty.... Roasted by a five year old. I'm comfortable embracing my upper lip hair.

What have you learnt?
I've learned how to better mix with people vastly different from myself, be it age, cultural background, or religious affiliation. I think I've also undone some of the unconscious racism I learned back home. Don't get me wrong, New Zealand is richly diverse and multicultural, but I do think there are some unspoken social rules that people generally mix with those who look and act similarly to themselves. Maybe that's just a high school thing, I don't know. Either way, I feel much more comfortable relating to people of different cultures and ethnicities, and it has made me understand that we're all just people, and we all have things in common - even if it takes a bit of digging to realise those commonalities sometimes. To be honest I still find certain people intimidating, but usually because of their status or behaviour, rather than their appearance or ideologies.

I've learnt how to be be alone without being lonely. I think it's pretty important to spend time getting to know yourself, so to speak. You will spend all of your life with you, after all, and you're the only one in your life who you were born with, and will die with. Did that even make sense? I sound like I'm speaking in Chinese proverbs now. I feel so spiritually in tune.

I've also seen first-hand how white washed it is here. Not only have I talked to beautiful women who yearn for having lighter skin and European-looking faces, to the point where they buy lotions and avoid the sun etc etc because they dread getting darker - I've also seen blatant racism and classism. White privilege takes on a whole new meaning when you can get off scot-free for something that would land an Indian or Pakistani in prison. It infuriates me how many darker skinned immigrants get treated like the scum of the earth, and have all the entry jobs and live on next to nothing, while the lighter skinned live like kings. It feels so wrong. 

That got real heavy real quick, but it needs to be said.

Biggest culture shock moment?
The month of Ramadan has been a bit of a learning curve. I was out at a mall and completely forgot about the no eating in public rule, and stuffed some food in my mouth. As soon as I realised I made sure no one had seen... I could have been in big trouble for sure.

I've also had numerous experiences where I've been hit on or approached, which have been at the very least quite uncomfortable and sometimes even threatening. Today while browsing a clothes store, a shop worker was following me around the store. At first he was just behaving like an awkward personal shopper; he'd bring me clothes to try on that he thought I would like. Then struck up a conversation with me that I had trouble following due to his broken English and thick Arabic accent. Then he asked me for my Facebook, which I politely declined. The man persisted, "Whatsapp?" I just said no and walked away, because what else do you do? I found that more funny than anything else. Guess even re-closeted lesbians can pull...25 year old Egyptian shop assistants?

In a similar vein, a few weeks ago a man was straight up stalking me in a different mall (why is it always the mall) and I just zig-zagged around, trying to lose him. The fact that there were people around was to my advantage. As I was leaving, he got so close I could feel his breath and he whispered in my ear "I've been waiting for you." I get so frustrated that one sentence can induce so much fear in me, but I don't really have control over my body's response. So of course I found some safe-looking people, and explained what had happened. They were really sweet, and offered to flank me, and let me call with their phone (my cell plan is spastic). Crisis averted!

Jeez that was a long one - took me two days to write. Hope it's a fascinating read for ya. It will probably be my last blog from Bahrain, as I start my OE off in London this Friday!!! YUS.

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