June 21, 2010

Wild and Dangerous Kids

Living abroad is challenging as it is without the almost never-mentioned danger- wild kids. These kids can create all sorts of problems, some lethal, and make your life miserable.

In some countries kids are above reproach. It is simply not the custom to discipline them. Hence, the may go wild when the see someone who looks foreign or dresses foreign. And they can cause you embarrassment, ruin your mood for the day or even create a dangerous situation with which you may not be able to deal properly.

In Asia, kids sometimes taunt white people (and other foreigners) with horrible words. At the last KKK or Black Panthers meeting they would not use racial epithets of such variety. But since these are usually not uttered in English, I guess there is no one to call and complain.

The worst thing of all is that often such Asian kids will often be accompanied by their parents who will be looking at them with endearing smiles as they are taking the piss out of you and laughing at you all the way. And these parents will do nothing to restrain the kids.

Many kids are so spoiled; they sit in the middle of the road as your car approaches and do nothing to move away. Their parents probably never taught them anything about safety. Hey, these are kids; they don’t know any better’.

In some other countries, kids will throw stones at you while shouting racial abuse (which is not in English) or other objects such as tree branches or anything their hand can find at the moment. Sometimes, such kids could be those of the neighbors down the street. If you go and complain to the neighbors, they will probably deny it; and a visit to the local authorities will produce a tolerant smile on the face of such important figures. “These are just kids! What can we do?” In the meantime, they are getting ready for another attack when they see you. A stone at your car or at you personally, while you walk, can cause serious injury. And there is little you can do. Except move.

When abroad, especially in places where cultures and races are very different from yours and you cannot blend in, please exercise extreme caution with local kids. If there is a place where lots of children live, try not to move in there. Better yet, if you can live in a big expatriate compound, that would be even better. Just make sure there are not that many wild kids there, either. In some countries, kids will make Dennis the Menace look quite tame by comparison.


One of the most frustrating things about living like a skittering bird of unpredictable passage is the fact that some of your experiences cannot be applied as warnings to too many people. OK, you have made a mistake by making an assumption that something was going to be a certain way, and it turned out to be different, but what you have done is not something that that many people are bound to do if where you went is not the prime tourist destination.

One of such mistakes was to board a dhow in Dubai for a so-called “creek cruise”. The Dubai Creek is sort of an artificial canal that runs around the business part of town. These are beautiful Arab boats- two story ones- double-deckers if you wish, that would be a welcome relief from the Middle Eastern heat if one would take a nice cruise at night in them. I especially liked the upper deck from the outside look of it - very wide, with wooden banisters. I could see myself and my mom, who was with me, walking around the deck at night, marveling at the skyscrapers in the distance and inhaling sweet breezes coming from the desert.

However, after paying the ticket and boarding the ship, we have found out that we could not go onto the upper deck as it was prohibited by the Dubai Port Authority. We then had to content ourselves with sitting at crowded tables while people were eating buffets inside of a sterile, air-conditioned interior. The lights inside were so bright that we could hardly see what was happening on the outside because of the glare. And we could not get off, and had to withstand the ordeal for the whole of 2.5 hours that we were aboard. The music was blaring so loud that we had to ask the waiters to turn it down twice. And they were playing “Killing Me Softly” over and over, as well as many other very obsolete British and American oldies from the 1970ies. Some Arab experience you’ve got there! We went around the downtown area as many as ten times without ever taking any other route. It was basically a closed- in, crowded marry-go-round that made us feel very claustrophobic as we could not stop it and get off.

This is what one means when one says that Assumption is the Mother of All Screw-Ups. Just because you can take such a tour in many other places in the Arab World, Egypt in particular, and enjoy walking on the upper deck and breathing in the river aromas, does not mean that you can take a tour like that in Dubai.

However, it looked like the other passengers were very excited and happy to have the buffet onboard and, probably that is what they all came for to begin with. Screw the breezes!

OK, so what’s the conclusion and the lesson derived from it? It is basically, if and when you go to Dubai, and decide to take a creek cruise to enjoy fresh air, go in a small, open boat with only one deck, not the double-decker dhows. If you opt for the latter, you will end up imprisoned with a huge crowd of buffet- hungry passengers who could not give a hoot in the Hades for romantic whiffs of the desert on the upper deck.

Dubai- bound anyone? I hope so. I hate to think that we have suffered in vain and cannot warn other people now.


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