Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Last Night I Cried

Yes, I did.  I cried.  Not because I miss home after being there for vacation; and not because I've got a pretty nasty cold/flu virus at the moment (probably from not balancing my fun with rest while on said vacation).  Last night I cried because I got clear on something that I've been grappling with ever since I moved to Riyadh.  Compassion is lacking here.  Kindness is lacking here.  Love is lacking here.  And it is needed oh so badly.

I'm immersed in the Saudi "world" a lot.  I'm out in the city quite a bit and am often amongst the people who live the general Saudi life.  Basically, I deal with the "essence" of Saudi Arabia that exists outside of expatriate compounds very often.  This means that I'm exposed to the many many MANY people who move into Saudi for work (one third of the population of Saudi Arabia are expatriate workers).  Unfortunately, many of these workers come from developing countries or circumstances that cause them to take jobs that pay them sub-standard wages, cause them to live in sub-standard conditions, and have managers who treat them with sub-standard fairness.  Now I, by no means, consider myself an expert on the state of affairs when it comes to the general Saudi workforce.  And I truly believe that there are good situations for many of the people who come to work in Saudi Arabia.  I only know what I've been told and what I've seen.  What I've been told is that things are not great here for a lot of workers who hold passports from countries whose embassies don't have a lot of clout.  What I've seen is this information being supported.  It breaks my heart.  I can't fathom how these workers manage to do the work they do under the conditions they do them.   It tortures me that I can't do something to make things better for them.  I'm disheartened that they don't do something to make working conditions better for themselves.  It frustrates me that I don't understand why this continues.  This is why I cried last night.

Many of these lovely and wonderful people come here to better their circumstances for when they return home.  Unfortunately, what seems to happen is that, through various occurrences involved with working here, they turn into people with hardened hearts.  Just based on my interactions with expat workers in the Saudi service sector, I've experienced okay service for the most part but when the service is poor, oh dear geezus, it's completely miserable.   These people, I'm certain, have hearts of gold and oodles of kindness to give yet they are quick to get defensive and spew anger at me over a simple statement of dissatisfaction.  This, unfortunately, is not what saddens me.  I can go home and reflect and shake off the negativity.  The most bothersome part for me is that I've experienced these people - with their lovely souls hiding behind hardened hearts - throwing anger daggers at each other.  What they need most is to support each other and be kind to each other and, instead, they hurt each other and increase the misery within their already sub-par situations.  My heart breaks when I see this.  This is why I cried last night.

Ah, but don't let me lead you to believe that I'm a saint in the interactions that I have with some of the workers here.  Those interactions that have erupted into anger are not just a result of one party's frustrations.  I have let my irritations transform into anger as well, causing the situations to become  serious messes that leave me exhausted and ashamed.  I know better than to allow anger to come into the mix of negotiation.  I know better than to get angry at all.  To be honest, until moving to Saudi, I don't remember the last time I got legitimately angry (alright, it may have involved a disagreement with an ex-boyfriend... but that was at least half a decade ago).  The point I'm trying to make is that I am often afraid that the hard-heartedness that exists here is drawing me into that negativity.  Just when a person needs compassion and kindness the most, I've gone and spewed my own anger daggers at them.  When I could send smiles toward someone with a grumpy face, I've looked away.  When I could have let a silly misunderstanding go and walked away feeling positive, I nit-picked and negatively expressed my displeasure.  This is why I cried last night.

So what do I do now?  I recognize that I am very very lucky to be from Canada and, like other expatriates in Saudi who come from wealthy European, American, and other westernized countries, I have free time and energy to reflect.  I stop crying and I smile, at myself and at others.  I stop crying and I show kindness, consideration, and compassion.  I stop crying and resolve myself to take deep breaths, shake off irritation, and proceed with patience and an open heart anytime that I feel wronged in the future.  I stop crying and I look at these experiences in Saudi as a lesson in humanity and I thank whatever powers that be for teaching me the importance of compassion.  I stop crying and I love.

In Joy,

This is a TED Talk that speaks a bit of what I'm going to do now.