I’ve heard expats here in the UAE complain many times about frustrating conversations where no one understands each other even though everyone is speaking English. I too have had some pretty exasperating experiences, but I’ve always felt grateful I didn’t have to learn Arabic when we moved here. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to study Arabic, but I know that practically speaking, having to conduct day-to-day affairs in Arabic would have made the transition here infinitely more difficult. Luckily, English is widely used instead.
I find myself becoming too comfortable (or some might say lazy and presumptuous) during conversations, not considering that most people to whom I’m speaking likely learned English as a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language. I usually talk like I would to any of my friends or family back home, regardless of who I’m addressing.
When I went to get my hair cut the other day, I was thinking how nice it would be to have my hair all fixed and pretty for when my sister arrived. I always love running away for my rare outings to the hair salon because it’s one of the few things I do without kids in tow. I enjoyed a coffee and noticed that the Burj Khalifa was looking particularly handsome that day, so I snapped a picture with my phone. Life was good.
I’ve been to the same hairdresser, a super nice guy from Morocco, a few times. I sat in the chair and casually mentioned, “I’d like my bangs to be the length of my eyebrows more or less when they are dry. Just follow the general cut you’ve done before.” Well, maybe he heard, “I’d like my bangs to be an inch above my eyebrow, or more but not less, before they are dry. Just don’t follow the general cut you’ve done before.” Maybe he doesn’t know what bangs are since the British version is fringe. Maybe he only heard ‘wuah wuah wuah wuah’ like Charlie Brown’s teacher.
My cheery mood abruptly ended and a twinge of panic set in immediately after the first “snip.” I hoped that somehow my new, seemingly very short wet bangs would miraculously defy the laws of physics and get longer, not shorter when they dried. They didn’t. I can’t explain where the communication broke down. All I know is that after he cut my hair a few months ago I looked like this:
and this is me now:
I was so mortified by my reflection that as soon as I stepped out of the salon, I scrambled for a clip. A clip is apparently no match for my stubbornly short bangs and they quickly escaped its grasp. I sighed with relief when I found my new best friend in my bag, my trusty, cheap plastic headband. We are inseparable these days.
I learned my lesson. I certainly will be showing a picture of my desired cut next time. It also reminded me to stop assuming that everyone can understand me and my southern accent, especially when I get comfortable and slip into ultra speed mode. Maybe I need to slow down.
My foul mood was short-lived though because my sister arrived soon after. It was so nice to have family here visiting. It’s really fun to show people around and refreshing to see the city as new again, but even more satisfying to see my children’s excitement about sharing mundane, daily activities with their aunt. There’s something really special about family experiencing our daily routine when we live so far away from each other. Now when we talk or text, she can visualize where we are – I just love that and so does she! I’m so glad you came Diana! Here are a few highlights from her visit. Some of the pics are very similar to things I’ve posted before, but what can I say, the colors of the souk and the interesting skyscrapers never get old.
* Thanks to the Hedonista for the tip on climbing the (rickety and steep) ladder to the top of the restaurant Bait al Wakeel for that panoramic shot of the creek.
self-portrait Jim Carrey pic via huffingtonpost.co.uk