My husband and I were very young when we first came to live in the Middle East, back to back embassy assignments, first in Tunisia, and then in Jordan. Before those assignments, we had spent two years learning about the culture, and my husband spoke Arabic and I spoke French. It didn’t matter. We were still woefully ignorant. (And we are still learning!)
People would call us, asking for favors, especially visas and getting their kids into U.S. colleges. We would look at each other in astonishment. How could they think their kids could get into college without passing the tests? How did they think their cousin could get into pilot training when there were other, better qualified candidates? And we learned, that with the right connections, exceptions are made.
We got smarter. We were travelling back in Germany, and wanted to stay in military lodging, but all the rooms were taken. We decided to go get something to eat, and at dinner, I said to my husband “let’s try doing it the Arab way.” He looked at me and said “Whaaaaaattt?”
“Take your orders that say we are with the embassy and on special leave” I told him. “Tell them we just got in, and just need a place for tonight.”
“But they don’t have any rooms!” Adventure Man protested.
“They always hold rooms back for special circumstances, for pilots, for emergencies,” I countered. “Make us special.”
We finished dinner, and felt better with our blood sugars back up. Adventure Man became his charming persona, and we went back to the hotel. He was inside for a bare two minutes, and came back out grinning, and holding a key.
We have learned an important lesson. Yes, there are policies. Yes, there are rules. Yes, there are the way things are done, customs, traditions, inviolable.
But there are also exceptions, and they are based on personal relationships.
Our insurance company told us they would no longer insure our Florida house, too much risk exposure in Florida. We went to a lot of trouble to try to meet a guideline that would allow us to be an exception – to no avail. Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with one person who was persistently pleasant in telling me it was not possible. I told her that telling me what a great customer I was, and how they valued our loyalty didn’t ring true when they would abandon us after all our years of being good customers. I didn’t blame her, personally, but neither was I buying all this pleasant stuff, when the bottom line was money, not loyalty.
I hung up the phone with a huge pit in my stomach – this cloud, this worry has hung over my head all summer, and now my worst fears had come true and I would have to seek new, less reliable, insurance. But I decided to put it off until tomorrow, no point trying to do something when you feel really depressed.
Late last night, we were in those early hours of dead-drooling sleep, the phone rang, and it was the insurance representative calling us back. Four hours after our phone call, the phone call which had been “the final answer” she was calling me back to say she had found a way, and our policy was being re-instated.
Thanks be to God! The Arab way worked, even though I wasn’t consciously using the Arab way, probably my thinly veiled anger and frustration and bottom line TERROR had gotten through to her. I thought it was over, but God was working behind the scenes, and a miracle happened.
We are still learning; we still have a lot to learn, and living in this culture helps us continue learning a new tools, additional strategies, for our tool box.
OgleEarth, one of the best blogs in the blogosphere dedicated to Google Earth, reports a new beta version of GoogleEarth is now available for download with one incredible difference – it also has views of the heavens, a layer called GoogleSky.
I have a hard time believing Google provides so much to so many – FREE. GoogleSky is awesome.
Here is where you can download the new GoogleEarth (and sky!)