My former principal liked to tease me about being from Colfax. Having grown up in the DC area, he thought my upbringing was, for lack of a better word, amusing. Whenever I did anything that could even be faintly traced back to my Eastern Washington roots, he'd have to comment. His usual quip was, "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl."
Despite acting annoyed and displeased, I kind of became the resident country bumpkin. In this new setting, however, I doubt anyone would peg me as a hick. Here, I lock my doors. I've been stuck in an hour long traffic jam. I take taxis and worry less about hitting deer and more about being hit. (I've been on the sidewalk right outside my house and have watched 2 accidents happen in front of my eyes. Yikes!) Instead of shopping at Excel or the Grange, I shop at the mall. When I want to go out to eat, I have more options than just Eddy's or Sol Vallarta. As was customary, I stopped, smiled, and made small talk with each person I passed on the main street in Colfax. In Abu Dhabi, it's practically the opposite: DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. If I don't say so myself, I'm doing a decent job of blending into this urban scene. I think I could probably pass for a city slicker any day. Well, almost any day.
A few weeks ago, for example, I happened to be walking to the grocery from Jill's hotel when I spotted one little unpopulated patch of land. It wasn't really much of a 'wide open space' -- just the quiet, palm lined median of 7th street -- but that's all it took. Boom. Off went the shoes. Off went the socks. Out came the bare feet. Then, those bare feet kind of started jumping and running and shamelessly liking the grass below them. Never mind that I was in a public place. Never mind that people were staring and horns were honking. Never mind that if I'd been seen by the wrong people, I might have been instantly ostracized from 80% of the Western expat social circles in this shiny and synthetic city. In that moment, I didn't really care. It was a warm day, the sun was shining, the grass was green, and in my imagination, I was back in Eastern Washington enjoying a nearly perfect slice of Colfaxian summer. Mmmm.
I must confess that sometimes, this debonair, faux-dhabian persona is too hard for me to maintain. And do I really want to do so? Honestly?
I should probably give Mr. H a little more credit. He might have actually known what he was talking about . . .