Universal Language

Over the course of the last three weeks, a few work friends and I have made it our thing to have schwarma and labneh for dinner on Friday nights.  The first time we did it, we called and the place delivered it to the front gate where we went and met them.  Last week we went to the airport and picked up the food on the way back.  This week, we went with the sole purpose of getting dinner (to include an amazing fresh fruit drink).

Last week when we went, it was our first time going to the place.  We had no idea what to expect or even if we had gone to the right spot.  Add on top of that I had to pee really badly (I have a teeny bladder) and there was not a single women’s restroom in site.

The experience was interesting to say the least.  The food shop we needed to get to wasn’t easily visible because it is located behind a gas station.  In addition to that, there are not a lot of women around that area.  In fact, last Friday when we went I did not see one single woman.  That was a little intimidating.  Plus I had to pee so bad.  Needing to pee without being able to isn’t a fun experience.  When I say I had to pee, I mean I was about to pee my pants.  Without going into all those details, we found the two places we needed, got what we wanted and were eventually on our way back to base.  And I didn’t pee myself.  Winning.

Tonight’s experience was much more pleasant.  First of all, I didn’t have to pee.  At least not as bad as last week.  This time, we actually knew exactly where we wanted to go to get the stuff we wanted.  Even though it was only our second time at the gas station/food/miscellaneous shops area, it was much more familiar than the second time.

A girl I work with and I went into the juice shop to order the drinks we wanted while the two guys we were with went to order the food for all of us.  After I ordered and paid for my drinks, I went back outside.  The juice shop was really small and there were three other people besides my friend and I and that made it crowded.

When I went outside, I saw an SUV sitting there with two women in the front seats wearing abayas.  If you don’t know what an abaya is, Google-image it.  All I could see were their eyes.  We made eye contact and in my true nature, I smiled.  You can almost never go wrong with a smile.  The woman in the driver’s seat smiled back.  Although I could not see her mouth, I knew she was smiling because her eyes crinkled up in the beautiful way your eyes do when you smile at someone.  After that exchange, the one in the passenger seat said, “excuse me” and motioned for me to come to the car.  So I did.  We talked a little bit, as best we could, given the fact that I speak English and they speak Arabic.  They spoke a small amount of English whereas I spoke absolutely no Arabic. Shameful.  We had a quick, broken conversation and I went on about my business.

After my friends and I finished getting our drinks and dinner, we left and made our way back to base.  Since then, I have been thinking about that smile that those ladies and I exchanged.  I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, but our smiles were our universal language.  I hate that I could not have a proper conversation with them because the only thing I know in Arabic is thank you, or shukraan.  But I smiled at them, they smiled at me, and that was our mutual sign that we were friendly.  A smile goes a long way, you know.  Smiles are welcoming and inviting and regardless of what language anyone speaks.

The one thing that we have in common with others, regardless of our race, culture, ethnic background, or language, is our smile.  A smile is a beautiful thing.  Use it.  You never know when someone may reciprocate and return the smile to you, opening up possibilities of communication, even if broken.

Labneh                                                    Schwarma

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