Glistens and gold

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I keep walking in on the maid.

It’s such a first world problem, such a Dubai first world problem, that it horrifies me and amuses me in the same breath.

Today it was over the lunch hour. I nipped across the street to my apartment, stepped inside, and there she was.

“Good afternoon ma’am.” It’s always ma’am here. The women in the grocery store. The man opening the door. Ma’am. Or sometimes, in emails, ‘honey’.

“Hello. I’m sorry.” I was in her way, standing in the kitchen, making things dirty again. I turned on music so she wouldn’t hear me rustle.

I’m still learning to be comfortable with it all: with the maid, with the glistening, glossy, overwhelming wealth of Dubai.

Part of me worries I’ll forget how strange it all is.

Part of me wonders if I ever will.

The other day a taxi driver started talking to me. They often do, asking about my marriage status (wed, for convenience), or where I’m from. This one though, he told me about his life.

“I only make Dhs 1,400,” he explained after a while. That’s £225. “My wife, she’s pregnant back home. Second child.” He seemed proud. “But children are expensive.” His dream was to move to Canada. In Canada, you can become anything.

“In America, I would be thought a terrorist. My first name? Mohammad. My second? Islam. Mohammad Islam.” He chuckled, tapped a hand on his steering wheel, and grinned back at me.

When I left the cab, I tipped him and rushed away, embarrassed that it was too much and his pride would be hurt, worried it wasn’t enough and I would offend.

And still, and still, I keep walking in on the maid.

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