Leaving on a Jet Plane…

“Travel opens our minds to different cultures, philosophies, and world views. Travel opens our hearts to the people of foreign lands and their different traditions and creeds. Travel dissolves the stains of prejudice that infect our hearts and societies. Money spent on travel is money well spent on an education that you will never receive from a book or in a classroom.” Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life
I find it surreal, even weird that I am here in Dubai, The Middle East, on 9/11. In fact, I will not post my newsletter with this blog until tomorrow out of respect for the lives lost that tragic day. I sat at my computer this morning and wept over the paradox between the immense pain and suffering we all felt, more so the families who lost loved ones, and the holy day celebrated by the Islamic people. My current situation is juxtaposed: I respect the customs of the country in which I am traveling by wearing appropriate clothing and not consuming alcoholic beverages on their holy day, and at the same time mourn the loss our great country endured this day seventeen years ago.
However, with all that said, I must share my experiences and how they have altered my thinking. I was given all kinds of advice about how to dress and behave on my journey.  I was told to have eyes in the back of my head (I am from Boston, duh!), do not consume alcohol, have your shoulders or knees exposed, etc. I was told Americans, especially women, are not welcome, liked or respected. My experience has been very different from my expectations. I walked off the airplane ready to explain why I was visiting, worried about the contents of my luggage which had nothing but clothes and work materials and getting arrested for nothing.

I was never asked a question. I was never looked at twice, or even in the eye, for that matter. I was never asked to open my luggage. My driver was gracious, took care of my bags and opened the car door. The hotel is amazing and the staff is lovely. My room is cleaned in minutes after putting the sign on the door. I can tell you, this does not happen in the US. The coffee is amazing, and I am in hummus heaven. I even sat at the bar Sunday night, ate dinner and enjoyed a couple of vodkas.

What I loved most was spending yesterday evening with the conference managers from EventsOcean. The group was comprised of four fantastic people from India: Naushad Hussain Mazumder, Director, Tanya Mazumder, Public Relations, Rahul Debroy, Business Development Manager, Sridhar Akual, Graphics TeamLead. They taught me so much about life in India and the east. We discussed the origins of languages, customs, religious garb and a little politics. We visited the world’s largest mall with an aquarium, the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa (I thought they were saying Wiz Khalifa) and dined in an Indian restaurant. They explained to me how they had trouble getting out of their country and had to explain to customs their business here in Dubai. When I told them I had no trouble at all, the response was, “of course, you are a States Citizen. You have rights and agreements made between the countries.”

 

We ended the evening at an Indian restaurant where my companions told the host I was from The States. During dinner that was served family style, I tried to serve myself, and they stopped me. The host of the restaurant came to the table and served me my food. He walked away and did not serve anybody else. I felt weird about that. I was raised to treat the garbage man or the mailman the same as the Queen of England.  Everybody deserves to be treated equally.
I struggled with what to bring for clothing. I left all my pretty, shoulder-less blouses at home. Since I’ve been here, have seen religious garb where only the eyes can be seen, short shorts, tank tops, jeans and everything in between. I am happy to respect the customs and wear modest clothing. For me, it is the right thing to do. Presidents and First Ladies do the same when visiting foreign lands. It  is not beneath or above me to do the same. So when in Rome…
Tomorrow we will visit the beach, ride a camel and experience a desert safari. I am happy the plan to enjoy these sights are not today. I look forward to sharing all of those experiences as well as the reason I am here, to speak to The Global Nursing Conference on Rare Diseases/Disorders with all of you next time.
Today I remember, I think even more so than if I were at home, the lives lost, a nation united and strengthened, and the forever heartache of September 11, 2001.
Tell me what’s going on in your life. I want to hear from you.
Wishing you love, balance and peace!
Amore & Baci,
Just Steph