This weekend while completing my ritual pre-jog bowl of oatmeal with a healthy dose of New York Times on the side, I came across an editorial that caused me to stop and think…
Sitting down with friends and family today, there will be thanks for the steady currents, flowing out of the past, that have brought us to this table… But it’s worth raising a glass (or suspending a forkful for those of you who’ve gotten ahead of the toast) to be thankful for the unexpected, for all the ways that life interrupts and renews itself without warning…
It will never cease to surprise how the condition of being human means we cannot foretell with any accuracy what next Thanksgiving will bring. We can hope and imagine, and we can fear. But when next Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll have to take account again, as we do today, of how the unexpected has shaped our lives…
Isn’t that the truth! To think I now live in a city that as a little girl I had no idea existed!
Back to Thanksgiving… Thursday evening, while dining on turkey amongst friends from Syria, Palestine, Egypt, South Africa and Virginia, I told the table that I was thankful for my health, fantastic husband, family and friends. But, having read the aforementioned editorial, I would like to add an addendum…
A Toast To 2009—Whose Unexpectedness has brought so many delights, challenges and wonders!
1) I am thankful that I can read.
Recently, upon arrival to Oman via Air Arabia, I was asked to fill out a standard entry/exit form before passing through customs. While filling in the details I felt a tug at my purse, which immediately cause me to turn and grab hold of my bag. Staring at me was not a pickpocket, nor a little kid, but a 39-year-old laborer from Hyderabad that spoke not a lick of English or Arabic. Wondering what he wanted, I said “Yes?” upon which he thrust his passport and entry/exit form into my hand with a look of “I don’t know what they want from me, but please help me get through customs”. His look was that of desperation and I was reminded of my arrival 6 years before to Japan where I too knew not a lick of the local language. Happy to help, I opened his passport, filled out his form, smiled and pointed him to the right counter.
Not being able to read is like missing one of the vital senses. To Mrs. Cooper and Mrs. Kinney—my kindergarten and first grade teachers—Thank you for teaching me how to read. The skill has come in handy!
2) I am thankful that I am free to dream, do and be.
To come from a place that says that if you dream and work hard, regardless of social circumstance, you can do and become just about anything is very empowering. Or in my case (as a petite female), anything except for a Giants quarterback!
Minor details aside, I remember that before coming to Dubai my friends and family asked questions like—Are you going to have to wear an abaya? Will they let you drive? How are women treated in the work force? What about your freedom? Well, to make a long answer short my responses are no, yes, very well and fine thank you. What I have learned is that freedom comes in many forms… While in NYC I may have the freedom to vote, it is difficult to walk down the street free from whistles, catcalls, requests for money, the sight of daily crimes… Here most expats will tell you they love Dubai because they feel so free—free from violence, from the worry of making ends meet (Although recent news may start to change this. Inshallah, I hope not.), free from whistles, catcalls, cold weather, etc. Freedom to and freedom from… both are vital freedoms!
More on freedom to… I recently attended TEDxDubai and was surrounded by a room full of Dubai’s most motivated people. The energy was palpable and the dream-o-meter on high. Surrounded by women covered in black—whispers of excitement, plans to do great deeds and general happiness permeated the air.
Despite what the papers say about the current economic situation… people still come to Dubai for the freedom to dream, do and be and for the freedom from certain things “at home” as well. In the land of palm shaped islands, indoor ski slopes and tall towers, the built environment is a testament to the imagination and will power of its people. This is an amazing place indeed!
3) I am thankful for the unexpected.
What would life be like without the unexpected goat that walks in front of your car, the endless visits to the “male side” of the local courts to get stamps for a business license, the surprising lack of canned pumpkin for certain North American holidays, the tiny fish that brush my ankles in the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf, the friends made via visits to a hidden warehouse in Al Quoz, the newfound ability to run in 100 degree heat (something I never would have been able to do in New York), the vicarious excitement experienced via random quotes and announcements of weddings and now children on Facebook (seems like the world has decided to breed in this year we call 2009), the joy experienced while driving through the desert to Zig Zigler as he explains what life was like growing up as an aspiring businessman in America’s Deep South, the beautiful sounds of Syrian hip hop at a recent concert…
To health, happiness and unexpectedness in 2010 and beyond!
P.S. Happy Post Thanksgiving and Eid Mubarak!