An Exercise in Perception

Entry #1 of an occasional journal of thoughts, experiences and perceptions during a trip from New York, through Doha to Dubai and then on to Australia.

The next week will be an interesting exercise in perception. I am heading to Doha for two days, and then Dubai for five. (OK, and after that, Australia for 3  weeks, but let’s not brag.) Although I have spent a lot of time in the Middle East in the past, this will be the first occasion that I have been there as a woman. You could argue that neither city is particularly Arabic (Dubai in particular)–or at least they are rather more Westernized than many other cities around the Gulf–but still I will be in a place where women are viewed, treated, and accepted differently. So how will I be perceived in these places, and will I see them in a different way to how I did before?

So over the next week or two or three, I will be keeping a mini journal which I will be posting here and also on Facebook; to gauge my own opinions of how I feel, along with any unexpected events or strange revelations. Differing notions of acceptance for me and those around me.

Day #1… Leaving New York

Departing this city is one that I always herald with mixed emotions. I often feel a need to leave every few months, if only to escape the craziness of it—and yet that same craziness draws me back. The extra incentive to leave at this time of year is also the weather. February in New York City is the month that most natives dislike the most. We hibernate, bitch about the weather, and wait for spring to arrive. In fact, this year to date has been incredibly mild (with the exception of the second biggest snowstorm ever) and the first week of February looks to continue that trend—not that I could have predicted that when I booked this flight last summer.

All New Yorkers love New York—that is part of the prerequisite of being who we are—and although those born here might argue that birthright is the sole qualification to be titled a New Yorker, I still feel that that is who I am; an immigrant, yes, but we all are.

So taking a shabby car-service taxi from my apartment to JFK, struggling through lines of traffic, and looking out at the frankly nondescript journey from Astoria to the airport, I could see both sides of the coin. Yes, I was ready to leave, yet I knew the inescapable (and often undefinable) fact was that I still love this city. The remnants of dirty snow on the sidewalks, trees that looked frankly depressing having shed their leaves, and the potholes in the road that made the oversprung town car bounce, still didn’t make me want to refute my self-proclaimed citizenship of this city. Even so, it will be rather nice to be in a swimsuit by the pool in a day or two…