This photo is the first photo taken of me post-Doha. For all who are reading this, my husband and I have been living in Doha, Qatar for the last year. And we have just recently returned to the states where I have accepted a job teaching at a college in Northern Wisconsin.
As the days begin to spread out between our current lives and our life in Doha I have had the chance to reflect on my experiences there. The reason that we took the job was mainly because of the money, and it appeared to be a great opportunity for my husband and we thought well, we can do anything for a year. And we were rightbut what we didn’t know at the time is what we would have to sacrifice for that year.
Now looking back I am just grateful that we made it out in tact and still married. Something happens when you are immersed in a culture whose values are so far removed from your own. I am not referring to the difference between Islamic beliefs and my own because I actually found the ritual and sacredness that Islam possesses comforting and have influenced many of my own beliefs and actions. What I am referring to is the inherent change that often takes place within cultures that posses vast amounts of wealth and how it can change the relationships people have with each other.
Growing up my family was fairly poor, when Christmas or birthdays came around the gifts given were more often then not things that were needed not wanted. And as an adult I have continued this sense of frugality. Buying things that I want is rare and take more stock in the relationships that I share then the things I posses. And it was this exact way of existence that made life in Qatar so challenging. The average person that I was around saw more value in what could be bought then in the way they treated each other and those around them. I suppose in a lot of ways this is now the way of the world but in reality I had never been so directly involved in this type of reality. Or maybe I had but all the muscle and skin prevented me from seeing the bare bones of the reality in which I lived.
But in Qatar I couldn’t deny it and I didn’t want to either. I didn’t know how to healthily exist within a culture where myself and those around me had so much but the people working construction, serving coffee, or cleaning bathrooms had so little. I had never witnessed a culture where its workers would walk out into traffic to purposefully be killed because the insurance would provide their families back home with more money then they ever could. I didn’t know how to live with this reality and then work and walk alongside people who talked about the perks of flying business class and where they would travel next. I didn’t know how to do it.
So it ate at me, slowly, and the isolation did too because I separated myself from them, my coworkers and found myself moving towards building relationships with the security guards and the cleaners. Because I knew them, their struggle seemed more familiar to me then the fantasy reality of others. But how much of a relationship can you build with someone when they are shipped into town to work and shipped out immediately after? Where they spend their nights sleeping in un-air conditioned apartments where they sleep eight to fourteen people to a room. I shared as much love and kindness as I could as I came in to work, as I walked in the halls, these are the relationships that sustained me, these are the relationships that made life bearable. And for this I am so grateful because without their presence in my life I think I could have lost a sense of my humanity.
I understand now that they only thing that kept me going there were these abandon people, who literally lived like ghosts. Seen but not heard. So this is for them. This huge exhale, this bounty of gratefulness in my heart is for them. This is my way of saying, I SEE YOU. I see your beautiful hearts beating. I see you out there doing your best to survive. I see your struggle. I SEE YOU. So to your sweet lights I say Jai, Victory to that light.
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