Monthly Archives: December 2013

Segregation – Again

I spent my childhood in a segregated town in Texas. It was the late 1950s and early 1960s, and civil rights had not yet taken root in our small north central town. As I recall, all of the Black people lived on one side of the railroad tracks, roughly in the center was downtown, and all of the Whites lived on the other side of downtown.

On our side of town, we had everything we needed. We had our own doctor, dentist, lawyer, drugstore (with freshly made ice cream), and even a movie theater. We had our own schools, and our own school teachers, all of whom also lived in the same community. We had a variety of Christian denominations and churches, and almost everyone went somewhere on Sunday mornings. The carnival would come at least once a year, maybe more, and a good time would be had by all.

I rarely saw White people. I would see them when we went clothes shopping at J.C. Penney, or toy shopping at Kress, or when friends of my parents or grandparents would visit. I had no idea that racism existed. I had no idea that I would someday realize that there were those who were convinced that I was “different” or even “lesser” than others in my world. I, and all of the children in my community, were insulated and protected from the larger world of racism, bigotry and prejudice.
However, because of the segregation, I grew up believing that I had no limitations. I was free to do or be whomever or whatever I wanted to be. I was supported, encouraged and held to a high standard of learning. The world was mine.

Later, I decided to attend an all-women’s college. There was diversity in nationalities, races and ages, but not in gender, at least not among the undergraduate students. We were supported, encouraged, and urged to take on leadership roles. We were told that we were smart, talented, and inventive. The world was ours.

I often wonder if it’s the same for those women living in Saudi Arabia; a world partially but strongly defined by the separation and segregation of the sexes.

Do women obtain a deep certainty of who they are? Do they have unshakeable confidence in themselves and their abilities? Are they lifted up by the segregation? Do they walk in the world knowing that they can be successful?

My female students are like any other group of young women. Some are extremely bright, some are ambitious, and some are talkative and gregarious. Others are more introverted, shy and hesitant about speaking. Some are married, some are single. All of them seem to have a strong sense of themselves and of their world. Do they believe that the world belongs to them? I would like to think so.

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A Coffee Shop with separate entrances for “Family” (women and children) and “Singles” (men)

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There is no Christmas in Saudi Arabia

There are no Christmas lights, no Black Friday sales, and no Christmas music blasting in the malls.

I don’t see images of Santa Claus, the Virgin Mary, or any of Santa’s elves busily making toys for good little children.

The radio isn’t playing endless Christmas songs, and I suddenly have an urge to hear Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.”

There are no Christmas tree lots selling the pine-scented trees, some flocked with spray snow, and most without.

The shoppers aren’t desperately seeking Christmas gifts that some may, or may not, want for Christmas.

There are no Salvation Army Santa Clauses ringing for money outside of stores.

But, somehow, the Christmas spirit is here.

The westerners are all wishing each other Merry Christmas. We check in with each other to see if our families are doing well and are celebrating the holiday season. We miss the family closeness of Christmas.

Sometimes, on the shuttle ride home, one of the teachers will break out singing “Jingle Bells.”

The many workers from the Philippines at the school smile warmly and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

One teacher surreptitiously drew a Christmas tree, with decorations and gifts underneath, and tacked it on the wall above the printer in the teacher’s room. No one dares take it down.

The hypermarkets and supermarkets sell poinsettia plants for those who would like just a touch of Christmas.

Maybe there is a Christmas in Saudi Arabia. A Christmas of spirit, of hope, and of heartfelt sincerity.

Christmas is here. I wish everyone a wonderful and loving Christmas holiday.

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At the Bahrain Airport

I Fell In Love

The first time I tasted it, it was strong, and had an unfamiliar tart flavor.  But, a student offered me some Mahmoul* with the Arabic coffee, and I was in love.  Arabic coffee has a milky look, and is made with special Arabic coffee beans, cardamom and saffron.  The coffee is then served in very small cups.  I have had three or four cups at one sitting.  It is very strong – stronger than any espresso I’ve ever had, and you never, ever add sugar or any kind of sweetener; however, you always serve the coffee with dates, Mahmoul, or any variety of sweets you choose.

The coffee is prepared in a regular teapot/coffeepot and then transferred into a special coffee server.  I’ve tried to make it, but I think I added a bit too much cardamom.  But, that won’t stop me from trying again.  Arabic coffee is well worth the effort.

*Mahmoul is a round cake-like cookie, about 2 inches in diameter, and filled with crushed dates.

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An Arabic Coffee Setting

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About 6 varieties of dates

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A cup of Arabic Coffee