S finally decided what he wanted to do for his birthday: a day at an indoor amusement park at one of the local malls. Not your idea of fun? Not mine either, really. But I've felt guilty over how bored the kids are here and thought this might cheer them up a bit, particularly the birthday boy himself who, when agreeing to go there (after all other suggestions were rejected), responded with an overwhelming, "(looooong sigh)Sure. I guess." My heart just warms with the memory.
He did end up enjoying himself. We even caught him smiling a few times, and I'm submitting the photograph as Exhibit A should he turn against me in the future and realize that no, he didn't really have such a great time after all. The rest of the kids had fun as well, so "Yay," the day was a success.
In spite of:
(1) Obnoxiously pushy children. We went back in the evening, after the little guy's nap, to get in a few more rides, really get our tickets' worth out of the day. The place was packed by then. I forgot Doha comes alive at night, as accustomed to the city is, I imagine, to sweltering heat that keeps them inside until the sun sets. But, oh, when that sun sets, the beings that emerge! I had to go on rides with my youngest two because if I hadn't, they would have been trampled over in the line! Even with me there, kids were trying to push past us. One boy, probably about 8 years old, tapped me on the arm and said, "Excuse me. I want to go up there." I said, "To the front of the line? Do you have a brother or sister you need to be with." He said, "No. I just want to go up there."
(2) Obnoxiously spoiled children. I was watching E and I on one of the rides, a kiddie ride, probably best for kids ages 2-6. As it was going around, the guy running the ride gestured to a boy, probably about 9, to sit down. The boy stuck his tongue out at the employee, and not playfully. He had a nasty look of hate on his face that was downright disturbing on a child that age. And what did the employee do? Nothing? He's learned he has "a place" here. And that "place" is to stand right where you are and pretend it's okay to have some brat demean you like that. I looked more closely at the other children on the ride, and several began to imitate this other kid, standing up and just grinning away at the man when he told them to have a seat.
(3) Litter. Okay, so Doha isn't a fantastically beautiful sort of place. As I've said before, unless you're driving along the oceanside and can see the water, the scenery is construction, palaces, and more construction. Let me amend that list and add litter. It's everywhere and here's why: servants empty the trash. To actually put an empty bottle or wrapper or bag into a trashcan would be to lower yourself to the level of your servants. Think I'm kidding? During lunch yesterday, we were in the food court and I passed a group of preteens finishing their lunch. They got up, leaving their trays and garbage on the table. Fine. At least it wasn't the ground. But then one of them finished a boxed juice as he was walking away and dropped the empty container on the floor, literally a foot away from a trashcan. When I'm out shopping or at the zoo or in a park, there are NO trashcans to be found. None. Why? Because the vast majority (I don't want to say all) of people wouldn't use them anyway.
Now, just in case you think I'm being negative about this society as a whole, I want to add this:
My culture is as incomprehensible to any number of other cultures as theirs may be to mine. I know that. I'm an American: I don't dress up when I go out. I'm loud. I'm not nearly as hospitable as they are. I make more social faux pas than I'm even aware of. And let's not bother getting into the politics. And would my in-spite-of list be even longer if I were to visit certain privileged cities in the States? Absolutely. Because in Malibu or Beverly Hills, you would have to add in foul language, alcohol, drug use, lots of sex, std's, and countless other moms' nightmares.
So I'll take a little pushiness and tongue-sticking-outing. And as for the litter? I'm just a visitor. If the people who live here don't care about making a difference, then I suppose I can either kick the juice box out of my way as I walk by, or pick it up myself.