Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

How it is Meant to Be: Symmetry vs Asymmetry

As I was growing up, I learned asymmetry. I learned rules like “you never put even numbers together, you use three items here and one here” and that you vary items in height. I am guessing it is semi-cultural; there is a lot of Scandinavian influence in my background, and a lot of Japanese influence on the west coast of the USA, where I was raised.

My housekeeper didn’t have my Mom, or my upbringing. I am the boss and she is the housekeeper, right? Shouldn’t I be getting my way?

It’s not like these things are right or wrong, it is a question of style and what seems right to you – and a lot of that is cultural.

When I lived in Africa, my housekeepers would say “it wants to be here” or “it is meant to be there” and at first I laughed, and then somehow the ‘wants to be’ crept into my way of thinking. How can an object WANT to be somewhere? On the other hand, you place it and all of a sudden you know that’s where it ‘wants’ to be.

My current housekeeper likes symmetry. I carefully place objects; she dusts and she puts them where they tell her they want to be. I can tell in a heartbeat when something has been moved; it just doesn’t look right. I can change it back, but it will go back to being symmetrical within a week.

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Most of the time, I just let it go. When you have a housekeeper who really cares about her job – and mine has helped me out many times with good ideas for how something can be done better – I just let it go. If I have people coming over and it really matters to me where things are, I can change it for that one occasion if it is really important to me, otherwise – I just accept that placement is a battle I am not going to win. And I really, really like my current housekeeper, so I will let her be the boss of placement.

What about you? Are you a symmetrical or an asymmetrical?

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September 18, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions | 9 Comments

Eid Confusion

After writing that I don’t get a lot of phone calls, my VOIP started ringing. Four times, it was AdventureMan – we always have a lot to talk about. Once, my Mom, who calls just because she can and because the number we got is her area code, so it is like calling next door, and we all like that. Last, one of my friends in Kuwait – we have discovered we can call VOIP to VOIP. It’s like double the trouble – VOIP phones don’t always have the best connection, sometimes they are echo-y, sometimes one person can hear and the other can’t, sometimes you get other people on the conversation with you – so when you talk VOIP to VOIP, you have double the risk of technical difficulties, but still, an cost-per-phonecall that encourages long conversations (if you can hear and understand one another.)

“Has Eid started in Kuwait?” I asked at one point.

“I don’t thing so,” she replied. “I think it starts like Monday or so.”

It’s confusing to me. I know that Ramadan started four weeks ago tomorrow, so it is likely Eid will be 28 days later, like tonight or tomorrow or Sunday. But Kuwait started the Eid holidays on Friday, the official holidays, so that people will have nine full days of Eid celebration. (two weekends and a five day week). I don’t know if it is the same in Qatar.

It is also confusing as to just who gets the Eid holiday. When I lived in Tunis, lo, these many years ago, the entire country got every celebration. Those of us at the Embassy were doubly blessed; we got all the American holidays AND we got all the Tunisian holidays. So did just about everybody; the country shut down. For at least three days, no restaurants were open, no stores were open – you had to know about this in advance and bring in provisions to last until the Eid celebrations were over.

I wonder, did it used to be that way in Qatar? In Kuwait? That everything shut down, at least for the first day of Eid, and often longer?

In Kuwait and in Qatar, occasionally – like the first day of Eid – the stores will be closed a day – some just half a day. So many workers here are non-Muslim that it makes it possible to keep places open without intruding on someone’s celebration of Eid, in fact, I would think being able to go to restaurants and pick up a few items in the stores enhances the Eid experiences. I know most of my friends in Qatar are leaving town, just as I am getting back, beating feet for Europe, for Africa, for the Maldives, celebrating by traveling.

All the same, I am not sure when exactly Eid is expected to start officially, like according to the lunar calendar. Anyone?

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, Eating Out, Eid, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Qatar, Random Musings, Shopping | 6 Comments