Sunday, October 9, 2016

Diplo Dog

You may remember Shanti the Diplo Dog from her unintended journey to Baghdad. Our sweet skittish girl has now gotten more stamps on her passport than many Americans and she takes the transition surprisingly well for a dog that was rescued with her litter mates out of a field in central Ohio. It took a lot of time, patience and cheese on our part to convince her that people were ok.

Now however, she like the rest of our family, represents every time we leave the house. It's commonly known in the Foreign Service that not just officers but all of us are representing our country when we are at Post.

In Shanti's case she also represents her species.

You see this is our second post and our second predominately Muslim country. This is important information because Muslim tradition leads people to be wary of dogs. Any dog. I once watched some Indonesians freak out over a yellow lab, possibly the gentlest dog known to humans.

I did some very quick research to help explain this and you might be shocked to know that there is division about why dogs are not acceptable. It seems to boil down to the fact that their saliva is ritually unclean, but then it is also argued that so are many other things.
Tradition also makes it acceptable to have working dogs (I'll insert here that I learned at the Jordan Museum that dogs were first domesticated here).
It also seems that the Qur'aan tells us that all animals should be treated with kindness and there are at least two stories of dogs being honored. One story has to do the the Cave of Sleepers, not far from Amman and the dog who guarded them while they slept.

However the most preposterous reason in my mind is that that Angels will not enter a house where a dog resides. Perhaps they don't want the competition.

All of this boils down to tradition and the fact that, unlike most Americans, they were not raised with the idea of dogs being the good and loving animals that they are and instead they are scary and maybe unclean.

So when we are out walking and see someone, usually children, who show an interest in her we make a point to stop. Our sweet dog, who hates having her back end touched, patiently waits while they creep nervously closer and slowly reach out to pat her on the....butt. Once I can convince them the front end isn't dangerous they will happily stroke her on the head,

Shanti, who's name means peace in Sanskrit, and I hope that we have done our part to win the hearts and minds for her species and America.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

my little bubble

A friend of mine recently posted an interesting article titled "I lived in Korea for 5 years. Here's what happened when I came home to Nebraska."  Its an interesting reflection from someone who has lived the expat life for five years and if you would like to read it you can find it here:

The thing that struck me the most about this wasn't the part about moving from a big city back to a small town or the difference in eating or even the way peoples eyes glaze over and they want to make their one week trip to Cancun somehow the same as you immersion into and adapting to another culture. Though all of these are true.

The part that really struck me was the discussion about sound. More importantly to me, the way I have learned to tune out sound when I am in a country and don't speak the language.

Before I go any further let me say that I have made attempts. In Indonesia I dutifully signed up for language class but I was surrounded by people who spoke English so my Bahasa Indonesia deteriorated to the "polite words" and telling the taxi driver how to get to my house.
I'm also currently taking Arabic. A task I find a bit daunting but am willing to at least get some basics down.

Here's the thing though. Even if I master the ability to have a basic conversation in Arabic, I will never fully understand everything that goes on around me. As a consequence I find I tune out if I can't understand what I'm hearing.

I've been recently pondering the pros and cons of this. On one hand I generally go blissfully about my business. I've been told that Jordanian men can sometime harass women on the street, much like major cities in the U.S. I find that this hasn't happened. Maybe because I'm such an old lady or maybe it is happening and I just don't realise. I'm pondering the danger of this but I do know that I am aware enough to be alert to danger around me but not so much that conversations catch my interest. I move about in my happy little bubble.

Until I land in an English speaking country. The cacophony of words. Suddenly I am immersed in everyones business. The first thing I notice as I get off the plane is the that suddenly I understand everything going on around me. And America, its true, we are loud! Everyone speaks at such a high volume. I have a tip for you. Nothing you are saying is private. All of this really hit home this year on our first Home Leave for the State Dept.

So when people ask me what it is like to live somewhere where I don't speak the language. My first thought is to be grateful for all the people who speak English as their second language and my second thought is how peaceful it is to live in my little bubble.

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