Been busy and tired from endless socialising and getting involved in pointless discussions about God on Facebook. Normally, i would not get involved. But, this particular discussion amused me when an old uni friend made a comment that he suffers, living in Prague, where, according to the recent poll, 90% are atheists. 'I am so sorry!' This girl replied. 'It must be awfully difficult for you to live in a society so immoral and empty of any values!' That, of course, was a kind of comment that I just could not walk past in silence.
I honestly don't care that a few of my intelligent, lovely friends have religion. I sigh deep inside, and wish i could understand them. But it does not bother me that i can't. I hope it does not bother them, either. We also get told, endlessly, that we have to respect the religious beliefs of the others. But what about the lack of beliefs? How come some people think it is appropriate to insult the non-beliefs of others?
I tried to explain to this girl that, out of hundreds of people i have net in my life, my grandmother, an atheist all her life, was one of the purest, kindest, most generous types. Somehow, the discussion went from ignorant to moronic when one other girl commented that the very fact we even discuss God proves he exists.
No further comment.
But, if you happen to still be reading this, and not thinking to yourself "oh, for crying out loud, not the god discussion again!"...this is not what i wanted to talk about tonight.
I wanted to share an interesting local experience with you.
Recently, I have noticed that i am slowly loosing this uncomfortable feeling i used to get whenever i saw a woman completely covered up. I guess, i used to think that i could not make any contact with her. To me, not being able to see her face meant that i could not really tell what she is thinking. Is she smiling? Is she smirking? Is she thinking my jeans are way too tight? It is difficult to talk to someone whose facial expression is not participating in the conversation. But, having lived in a country where a lot of women do cover up for -holy crap!- almost a year now; i think I am a lot more at ease with it all.
So, about two weeks ago, during a visit to a local heart hospital (where i have decided to take my visiting mother to check out some irregular heartbeat problem), i noticed that one of the receptionists had the most unbelievable eyes.
Now, it is still quite difficult for me to tell whether an Arabic woman i am looking at is a Qatari or from some other county nearby. 'Just watch', one more experienced friend told me. 'The Qatari women, they walk differently. They float so gracefully, even on those heels, that there is no mistake.' They also seem to do something with their hair that stands really high up in some sort of a bun at the back of the head, which lifts the abaya and looks a lot more feminine, somehow.
The woman with stunning eyes had all the attributes applicable for a local lady. Her hair was raised in a big bun high up. Her heels when she got up to get some papers from anther desk were incredibly high and her body language exuded confidence. She was clearly also in charge, it was in the way she held up her mobile phone and in the way she gave brisk orders to the other two young Arabic receptionists. I was not talking to her, but kept glancing at her face, completely mesmerised by her eyes. Perhaps it was the shock of seeing such light, almost the shade of the Gulf sea water, colour, or the size if them, or the heavy eye make up around them that caught my attention. I was wondering to myself if the rest of her was this pretty, or just her eyes. Finally, unable to help myself, i spoke to her.
Not knowing whether she would think I was rude, or accept the unexpected compliment, and not being able to judge from her facial expression, I had to just trust my instinct and go for it anyway.
'Excuse me', I said to her, 'I just have to tell you...You have amazing eyes! They are just too pretty!'
And as I spoke to her about her stunning eyes, they wrinkled. She was laughing along with me, embarrassed, but clearly pleased. Those pretty eyes, the only part of her body that I could see, were happy and they were smiling. 'Thank you' she said. the girls on each side of her also giggled and we parted at that.
We needed to go back for one test in a few days, and also to try and book a stress test. 'You should try and get an early appointment' ( my mother's visa, already extended once, was running out soon) the doctor told us, 'but, to be honest, the waiting lists are way too long. You probably won't get it in time before your flight.'
As we approached the reception desk, my mother spoke to the girls again. Please, she said, any chance I could get a stress test before I have to leave the country? No, they said. Nothing. Not until mid-December. 'Oh, well...' my mother sighed. 'That's okay. Thanks so much for trying anyway'.
And then, as she started to walk away, she heard the one with the beautiful eyes shout out 'Wait a second! Come back here!'
She picked up the phone and spoke urgently into it. Then she made a few quick notes in the computer.
'Here', she said, her eyes smiling again, and she added my mother into the queue for the next morning.
Now, there is a good lesson to learn for someone like me. Firstly, compliments- when genuine!- work miracles. Secondly, human factor and personal contact like this work in Doha. This sort of thing would never happen in either of my other homes- the UK or Azerbaijan. In the UK, complimenting a receptionist about her eyes would get me nowhere. The rules remain the rules, whatever you say. In Azerbaijan, only bribes would help to go around the rules. But here, everything is possible if someone simply liked you.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
I have been thinking a lot about religion recently. Again.
What I was thinking is just how much I wished I could believe he ( she? it?) existed. Because, there are times in our lives when we really want to ask someone for help.
My friend's child is seriously, critically ill. And as I saw her message on my phone, as the few written words formed into a scary reality, I mentally begged someone, something for this child to get better. It is something you just do automatically, don't you. Beg someone. Please, I thought, please...Let him get better! But whom was I asking? If he, she, it...did exist, would he not have allowed this to happen in the first place? And if she/he/it decided to allow for this to happen...would he change his mind only because a few of her friends ( including the ones who always slagged him off until now) prayed and asked him to?
And so I have been thinking about religious people, and tragic or stressful moments in life; such as death, diseases, tsunamis and whatever else. Every time, I wonder... How much easier would it be for me, if I really thought something existed out there, somewhere?
A few days ago I almost emailed this one woman who left a comment on a Facebook posting of the New Zealand triplets who died in the Villagio fire in Doha a few months ago. The parents are obviously finding their faith helpful in dealing with the unthinkable loss of their toddlers. They are clearly people with God, which is...well, great for them, I guess. But this particular comment from one of their readers pissed me off. The Weekes put up a photo of a little pretty Chinese ( I think) girl, who also died that day. It was an awfully sad posting. On that day, it was, would have been, the girl's birthday. And the couple mentioned just how cute she was, and how her parents must miss her.
Most of the people commented by saying things along the religious lines, such as blessings and prayers, which of course, were understandable. Whatever works for them to make them feel better, right? But this particular woman left the comment in which she sounded excited. 'Wow, she said. Birthday with Jesus! How much fun is that?'
I felt physically sick reading this. Fun?? In what world does this woman think that having a dead child is fun? It made me want to write to her and ask, did she honestly believe that this enthusiastic comment would make the parents feel any better?
It made me want to ask her if she ever lost someone she loved, a pet...a parent.. a friend...let alone a child. How much fun would she think they were having with Jesus on their birthdays?
Husband dismissed my problems with the morons on the Internet. He explained that there are many crazy people out there and sadly, they all have access to the Internet these days. Fine. I get it.
But really, my personal issue with this comment goes beyond that. It is exactly this bizarre attitude that I strongly object to when it comes to religion.
Let me give you a good example. In Doha- just like in Baku, by the way, it is quite common to see small children jump up and down the seats in the car. In the front, in the back...in the middle moving between the back and the front...whatever you can think of. I even saw a child sitting on his bicycle inside the car! Now, as a parent and as a driver in Doha, (and you will never understand what I mean unless you tried to drive- and survive on the roads of Doha) I simply don't get how anyone could risk their children's lives like this. It does not make sense to me.
However, if you are a religious person living your life with a fatalistic approach...Then it is simply not your problem, is it. The child will survive if God wants him to. If the parent is driving like an idiot or some other idiot might cause an accident...well, it is God's idea of what should have happened. And nothing (I guess, including seat belts) would change that outcome.
I mean, what a great way to live! Nothing is your fault! You are not responsible for anything that happens! Everything is God's will. Perfect. In fact, I suspect the whole Villagio fire is nobody's fault either. God wanted 13 children to perish that day. So it happened. And now the little Chinese girl can have her birthday with Jesus! How much fun is that??? Right?
Also, the same approach works when you want to do something a bit naughty. Not a problem. A friend was telling us a story of their maid getting caught in action when she was having a bit of fun with their driver. A very religious driver from Syria. With a religious maid from Shri-Lanka. Caught in action, the driver lowered his eyes as he tried to explain the unfortunate situation to the owner of the house. Look, sir...he said. The demon was sitting on my shoulder.
See? Not the driver's fault! He was not a cheating bastard whose wife and children were waiting for him back home in Syria, no, no no... His penis would have stayed safely tucked into his pants; but, sadly, the demon sat on his shoulder and told him to stick it into the maid. Simple!
As I said...Sometimes, I wonder what it must feel like...to have this outlook on life. To see sad things as 'meant to be'. To see everything as someone else's responsibility, someone else's will. And in a way, i wish I could look at a picture of that little girl, and see not a tragically wasted life in a stupid accident that should and could have easily been prevented...but God's will. And what it must be like, to sincerely believe she is out there, having a piece of cake with Jesus? Yes, sometimes I wish I could.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
I, in all honesty, don't know how I can stand Facebook these days. But, the truth is, I am hugely addicted. My excuse is that, without any doubt, it is a useful tool for people like me, living far away from home(s). And the more countries you leave behind, the more friends are out there somewhere, and there simply is no time in our lives to send regular emails, let alone call each other. But I still like to know what they are all up to.
And, despite quite a few very irritating things about it, Facebook never really annoyed me too much, until recently, when some very bizarre things started happening, for which i can't think of any logical explanation. Besides endless pictures of (frigging) cats that I simply can't stand any longer, the one particular thing that really bugs me these days is this fake heart-breaking story. For instance, the one about a man asking for a divorce and then realizing he still loved his wife. Sadly the wife dies, and the mistress slaps him across the face, first having checked his forehead for signs of fever. (please refer to the extract below...)
I mean, come on, people! For goodness sake!
Do you know how many people left comments under this incredibly badly written made-up piece of crap? Thousands! It is so obviously fake it makes me laugh, but people actually cried. I guess, I should not be too surprised. People, in their majority, are depressingly, unbearably, hopelessly stupid. But what interests me here, is who comes up with this sort of crap and most importantly...why? To generate spam? To collect likes and shares? But for what? There is no money in it, surely, and no fame either as there never is the original name under such a confession.
There are some other popular ones floating about...Like the Russian letter about a baby being born on an aeroplane, being delivered by an unemployed young woman. (Not sure what her employment status has to do with the price of fish. )
What I wonder about though, is whether these made-up heartbreaking stories, clearly aimed at getting an emotional reaction, could eventually cause a major compassion fatigue, turning most of us into cold monsters, completely and utterly indifferent to the real life pain and suffering. I hope I am still able to tell the difference between a real situation and made-up crap like the above...But, sometimes, I ask myself..what if it me who is too cynical to spare a tear for this story of a poor cheating bastard and his dying wife? What if all the 2,000+ commentators who cried and felt for this situation are not actually stupid but just very kind and compassionate?
I am only kidding.
Of course I never asked myself that, because, come on!!! These people are stupid. While they are sitting on their fat arses in front of their laptops, leaving emotional comments under a post generated by some other unknown moron, their elderly neighbour might be alone in his lat, with no family or friends to visit him. Their mother is probably waiting for a phone call, or their real life friend might be depressed, needing someone to talk to. But they sit there crying for something that clearly, never happened. Because, it is easier this way, isn't it? This is something they can get emotional about for a split second, before moving on to a cute picture of a cat with a silly caption, and, voila!
life is all great again. No effort required, no proper emotional involvement. Yet, they feel good about themselves, for as far as they are concerned, they are kind. And compassionate.