Tuesday, June 23, 2009

So this is culture shock

It didn't happen with a bang, a snap, or anything much of notice at all... but it happened. Somehow, between here and there, I've started to experience a bit of culture shock.

I walk down the street angry at the absence of females. I find myself marching ahead as though convinced that if I go long enough, cross that next corner and creep over that next bridge, I will find just a gaggle of girls my age. They'll be chatting casually and I will somehow find a way to introduce myself. Hello, Danae from America. Nice to meet you.

I walked an hour on Sunday. After working all day in the office, I was so desperate to move my legs that I couldn't even wait ten minutes for Kathleen to finish up. I texted her as the Doha heat caught me and I moved outside: I'm sorry, I said. I just have to get out. Go swim without me. 

But I didn't see any women.

People stare. That's bothering me too. People stare all the time. And by people, I mean men. And by stare, I mean they follow me aggressively with their eyes, studying me in a manner I just can't understand. Sexual? Surprised? Malicious? Genuinely interested? I don't know. I'm starting to feel like I never will.

So this is culture shock. I drove by Subway today on my way back from an interview and found myself craving a big ol' 'merican sandwich- only I don't like Subway. Or big ol' American sandwiches. I'm not consciously homesick, but somewhere my mind is registering that this place of sun and sand is very, very far from home.

Yet! Yet I want to say, yet again and again, that I'm so grateful to be here. In the pic above, I'm helping photograph recipes I wrote and prepared alongside Kath and Bryce. 

I know without a doubt that were Cambridge not around the corner, I would stay in a heartbeat. I love my job. I love the people I work with, and the kindness of the many individuals I meet. I love the excitement of Doha, the ocean, the food (my god... the food...) 

To amuse myself, I've compiled a list of lil Doha things that are just different:
  • People don't use napkins here. There are tissues. At nice restaurants, in the middle of tables, there are boxes of tissues. Makes me think of boogies. 
  • Only one day off, and that's Friday. Six day work week!
  • Books are impossible to find. When you do, they're horribly expensive
  • Several times a day, all radios tune in to Prayer Call, and Mosques have their own Prayer Calls. It's really amazing, driving down the street hearing all these different voices
  • I haven't seen a single pack of mustard
  • I found ketchup!
  • Everyone drinks carrot juice. Everywhere.
  • Everyone also drinks Nescafe. As in, insta-coffee. My tongue is sad.
  • Work days go 6-1, 4-7pm. Except for us journalists. We just go straight. 
  • Every bathroom has a lil bide, or a thing to wash yourself in a very intimate way after doing that one thing.

Well, there are more lil nuances that have happened but I can't quite remember. Tonight Kath and I are going to yoga (I finally succumbed to the QR 50, or $14 price tag) and then meeting up with some other expats at a cafe tonight. 

Life is amazing. The culture shock will wear off, and I'll be better for it. It was time this westward young woman broke out of her shell. 

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