Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Opposite World

At one time I was doing a Christian weight-loss program (it really worked!) and on the tape I was listening to, the leader was talking about opposite world – how the world we live in operates by different rules than the ones we are supposed to be living by.

In many ways, I find myself in Opposite World now.

In the Gulf, the abaya isn’t something a woman is forced to wear, it is a cover, and a tradition. Women who wear the abaya have mostly chosen to wear it because that’s what is done. It has less to do with religion and more to do with customs.

So in Florida, I am having to rethink how I operate.

After my water aerobics class the other day, one woman was asking what the biggest changes are that I face being back here.

I laughed and told her that I was off to buy cat food, and that it made me laugh that I could go out with wet hair and shorts and a t-shirt, and because it’s Florida, that’s the way to avoid attention, to look like everyone else. If I am wearing a skirt and have my hair fixed, people notice me. The way to fly under the radar is to look like everyone else – I don’t even need to wear makeup. No one is going to notice, no one is going to care. It is very freeing, and at the same time. very weird for me.

When women wear abayas, it is like saying ‘look away’ or look somewhere else; I am modest. If I were to wear an abaya in Pensacola – and, LOL, sometimes I do, like to run out and get my morning paper or to run out and pull in the garbage can late at night – people would look, people would notice. Here, it doesn’t say ‘look away.’

July 3, 2010 - Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola


  1. Intlxpater ;

    here is a remake of a famous Iraqi song about Abaya Woman

    it goes something like this :

    Oh woman wearing the Abaya … your Abaya is so Pretty
    You tanned woman …. you are adorned by sweet traits


    Comment by daggero | July 6, 2010 | Reply

  2. Oh! What fun!

    It brings to mind two things – first, when I was teaching English as another language, I found that singing was a great fun way to help teach vocabulary and usage, and it broke the often boring pattern of classroom teaching. When I listened to this, I could understand some of it. 🙂 But what is the first word? Starts with a ‘d’ sound? I thought the word for women was ‘nesai’a?’

    Second, the spider web abaya and head cover, trimmed in silver! Oh! Oh! Gorgeous! And, if it is the real thing, very hard to find these days. My friends tell me that their old grandmothers still wear the total head cover sometimes, and once, only once, I found one made in a co-op set up in Qatar to help support women with no means of support – they still made them the old fashioned way, by hand, with tiny silk threads, and then pounded silver thread to make patterns, usually diamond shaped, but sometimes circles. I still treasure mine.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 6, 2010 | Reply

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