Saturday, October 28, 2006

Laments

It is Sunday morning - hard to believe only one week of our vacation left. Anyways - that is not what I am wanting to lament about - rather I would like to express the sadness I feel for the millions of workers that are in both Dubai and Qatar to help them build and run their infrastructure.

I know this isn't our typical post filled with adventures, sites and sarcastic comments but I wanted you to know some of the other side we have seen a lot of over here.

Those individuals who are true Emirates and Qataris are quite wealthy. Lee has been telling us that some of them only work for something to do - the government in both countries gives them allowances based upon their family status that allows them to live an extremely affluent lifestyle. This includes exceptions, of course, one being the Beduoin camel herders and if your family doesn't have a high status. And in those cases, particularly the non-camel herders means that they will not perform menial jobs. Different attitude then Canada as we are not ashamed of our 'menial' jobs and we define menial differently then they do. These people seem to view menial as anything that involves them serving someone else, doesnn't keep their robes clean and sparkling, includes working outside, etc.

Anyways, as we all know these jobs are as critical to maintaining a countries infrastructure as the president of an oil and gas company would be. And in UAE/Qatar the importance still exists so they have solved this problem by recruiting from other countries.

(Now what I am about to share is probably on the extreme side so please do not think that I am of the opinion that all employers are inhumane and I also want to preface with the fact that culturally - expectations are different then back home as for some of those individual recruited, they are providing for very large extended families off of what they make here and have been able to keep their villages from falling to ruin.)

These companies will go to India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and others advertising jobs with room and board covered at a rate that will be attractive to the people. In true business form, the more money in the company at the end of the day, the better and without the same sense of human rights, these rates often differ from country to country. For example they know they can pay a Nepalese man less then one from Egypt and so do. They will then fly hundreds of men back to work on various sites - often 60 - 80 hours a week for a one to two year contract. During that time the men work these long hours 7 days straight in debilitating heat counting down the eternity until they are able to return to their families for a month or two before all the money is gone and they have to again return to serve another contract term.

We have seen articles and ads indicating they make around 500 - 800 riyals which would be the equivalent of 175 - 275 cad per month. Of course their meals and lodging are covered (in some cases there are 5 - 8 men sharing a room that Fran and I would have complained about 'cramping' our style and would not have fit all our luggage, shoes, purses and equipment required to tame our hair) but this doesn't leave them with enough spending money to do much. Back home this would be considered an inhumane way to treat the criminals in jail and yet it is normal over here.

Apparently the workers have striked a few times (thank goodness for unions - maybe you have something BC!) to improve living conditions as they are rationed on their water (it is only on for a short time during the day), their food is barely enough to give them the energy to perform their jobs, the ac units are only in their rooms for the two hottest months where the mercury tops out at 40 - 50 degrees celsius (come on - it is still 30 something here now; we would be dying without ac/ no wonder these men smell so incredibly rank.

So needless to say, when you turn any direction and see at least one construction site within a block (often times two or three) and realize that the cleaners, the taxi drivers, the cooks, the servers mostly fall into this category you can imagine that this means the large majority of the population out and about in the evening would be men. You see a huge amount of these individuals hanging out in any larger public space including in the middle of round a bouts, squatting down in circles and chatting with each other. Due to their culture, you almost always see them in groups of at least two and if they are good friends, there is a lot of hugging and hand holding.

Glad to know they have each other but it is no wonder they lear at women. As they are here all alone working hard we are - in truely self-centered western form - flitting about, smelling fresh as a daisy, eating our little street meat as an appetizer before going to the ritz for a fabulous meal that costs more than they make in a month, carrying a tonne of bags holding our purchased items that we certainly do not need. As much as they are a wonderment to myself - I must serve the same sense of wonderment to them!! And here we are leaving a 5 riyal tip after a cab ride (not even $2 in canada!!) and every bit of precious cash is one step closer to their dream of opening their own business or being home long enough to find a job that will keep them with their families. So sad!! And I truly can't point a finger at anyone in particular as many of the decisions I make are no different then those of the employer - just not so blatant.


My heart just grieves for them. I couldn't imagine living like that. And wow - to have your selfishness reflected in such a glaring way - it is like looking in the fun mirrors at amusement parks only these mirrors show you what is truly inside instead of just distorting the real you. But regardless I certainly do not look as I appear!! Makes one think twice when you hold back on that tip or are contemplating another hand bag . . .

2 comments:

Alana said...

It sure does make you stop and think, doesn't it? Reading your post reminds us back home how much we take for granted. Thanks for the reality check!
I hope your last week is as fun filled as it has been so far, and I have saw the pics you've posted- they're great!
Take care,
Alana

Erin said...

ahhh, such a true posting. It's hard to believe we are so "sheltered" from this, or if not sheltered, desensitized!

Knowledge is power, and once you know better you do better. And media portrayal is always questionable.

Hey - are you going to adopt any babies and bring them back? Common' everyone is doing it! *sigh*

www.truthout.org