This town (this country, and so many others in the Middle East and the West, too) is filled with them. People from somewhere else, a very poor somewhere else, working their tails off six days a week to send cash home to their families. In all but one case - Madelin, who befriended me after frequent trips to the Costa coffee near my hotel where she worked - every one I've encountered has kids back home. Madelin works just as hard of course, and I am sure she sends a ton of money back home to her family.
I have often wondered about this diaspora, particularly when it comes to the Philippines, where there is an entire generation of kids back at home, being raised by grandparents, that get to see their mom or their dad, if they are lucky, once a year.
Ramona Ruiz wrote nicely about this in The National today. I always think about it when I get grumpy about life here; when it's hot or confusing or seems not fair. Usually when I get really stressed in Abu Dhabi, when I am feeling sorry for myself and lonely and wondering what I am doing here, I head to a local nail salon, where I get a pedicure and a neck massage for 80 dirhams. And relax while the girl rubbing the tension out of my neck and the one dotting the polish on my toes, both of them usually giggling about something, have kids growing up thousands of miles away.
I always tip them large and leave wondering how this could have happened. And wonder how it is possible they cheered me up.
They keep coming, and coming. I noticed a fire the other day while covering something else and started talking to people on the ground. Some people were trapped on the upper floors of the extremely dodgy apartment building in question. It was the third fire there since last fall (the owner said he had no idea how many people lived in his building, as "one person rents it and 30 people move in") and the mostly Filipino tenants were upset and worn out. I talked to one guy, worried about his sister, who had just moved here one week earlier. When I phoned him back later to check on her, yes, he said, she had been rescued. But did I know of any restaurant work? She a years of experience and could do almost any job.
Crappity crap crap, I thought as I hung up, wishing I was back in Ottawa where I could have made half a dozen calls.
Today I thought to myself that one thing I will be glad not to see when I move somewhere else are wealthy-looking families trailed by their Filipino nannies. Even that thought I feel bad writing, because I have good close friends who have nannies, and that's because they have to in the absence of a day care system. It's just, you know, thinking that the nannies are chasing after other people's kids all day, wondering - but probably never saying - just how much they miss their own back home.
It's not fair. Not here or anywhere else. After a year here, it's about all I feel like I know for sure sometimes.