Sunday, 13 January 2013

Boys see girls, girls see boys

This week, in a major lapse of concentration due to being over tired and it being half six in the morning, I left for work (and indeed arrived at work without even noticing) without my abaya on. This created an uproar: the women I work with were shocked/amazed/astounded and amused by how I could possibly have managed to do such a thing. As one of my friends put it, I've "been here for a while now so should be used to it." I guess she doesn't understand that it would take a bit more than three months for me to be 'used to' wearing an abaya. Sure, I've become accustomed to it in some ways: I don't trip on it quite as much as I did before, and thanks to a generous friend I am the proud owner of one that does up down the front, which is much more comfortable. It allows me to undo the top button when I'm too hot, or subtly take off my jumper underneath if I feel like I'm gonna die. Which reminds me of another story actually. The other day I was shopping alone in Mothercare and it was seriously boiling, so I decided to do my trick and take off my hoody. Well, it's fair to say it could've gone better. I took one arm out, then the other, then got stuck because the hood was sticking out over the top of my abaya and I couldn't reach to pull the whole thing up over my head. So in the end, after attracting significant attention from the male shop assistants, I had to wiggle and wriggle until I could pull the blasted thing out from underneath me. Needless to say, I left the shop in a hurry after that, much more hot and flustered than I had been at the beginning.
Anyway, on with my 'I forgot my abaya' story. So after giving the women at work great amusement, I then had to brave going to get on a bus to go to a meeting. The schools have these screens at the entrances, to stop men prying I suppose. We were all standing around talking and I happened to look out past the screen to find I was on show for all the world to see, and there were at least two men in parked cars staring at me. Makes you feel like a stripper in one of those 1 euro peepshows in Amsterdam, (minus the payment, dammit!)
After school I had to walk the two minutes home through the back roads. You'd think that a long black skirt, long sleeved black top and headscarf would be enough to ward off unwanted attention, but no such luck. We were actually followed by a car with three young men in it, who whistled and shouted at us for the majority of the way.
My conclusion to this episode is that the rules here are creating men who just simply aren't capable of being around non abaya-clad women, and should, in fact, stay in Saudi Arabia forever.

Another entertaining thing that happened recently was when we all went to a meeting at another school. Actually, I wasn't invited to the meeting as it was going to be conducted in Arabic (well done school, how thoroughly 'international' of you) but I stowed away anyway in a bus full of Arabic women, thus realising first hand a major perk of a burka- blending in.
When we got to our destination the bus driver didn't know where to park, so we drove around a bit in circles. Lee was waiting for me, and so I pointed him out to my colleagues. And, I kid you not, it was like I'd been transported to a fan club tour bus full of teenagers at a One Direction concert or something. There was screaming and screeching and cries of 'very handsome!' gallore.
It would seem, therefore, that just like the men here, the women also can't cope with the excitement. 

Click this link to read about another case of someone using the burka for a great escape. Amazing.


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