Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Random Acts- Reflections Ramadan 7

Yesterday night I had to give a talk for evaluation. It was titled Living the Green Dream. [UAE has one of the largest ecological footprints in the world, and that's very sad, considering it just has under 2 million people]. I did a lot of research, but I didn't keep my audience in mind, and the feedback I received was that there were too many numbers and I should have used visual aids to explain that.
A few years ago in Al Ain I remember the municipality had given a green and red bin to residential houses. We had them as well, but they somehow were never used. I decided to call up the municipality to find out the process of recycling so that I could include it in my speech.
It was a frustrating experience. The person who answered my call didn't speak English. The one he gave the phone to didn't know Recycling is. They gave me another phone number. After a lot of people, the final guy I talk to says.. "We're very busy, I can't explain this on the phone. Come to the health dept on main street".

Of course, as many expats living in UAE know- There's no address system in UAE. You have to go by landmarks.
I debated if I really wanted to walk into a building full of Arabic speakers (most likely no women employees) to get the information I needed. I was really glad I went!
Again, once I got there, they didn't allow me in initially, and after being shuffled between a few offices and hallways, I ended up at the desk of the head of the Waste Management dept. The minute I started talking, he asked, "Are you from Canada?". I had to laugh. [I went to an Arabic school for kindergarten, a British school for grades 1 & 2, and then I was enrolled in an Indian school all the way until the end with of course a British English curriculum and Indian accented teachers, before spending my university years in a Canadian university where every professor spoke their own version of English (and so did my friends), so I can't imagine anyone would guess I have a Canadian accent!]

Turns out, he did his PhD @ Carleton U, Ottawa! Mashallah, he was a very smart person, and he said that they have a 5 year plan to educate people about recycling, but there's no recycling mechanism in effect right now. How sad. We talked for quite some time, and I learnt a lot.

I find doing spontaneous random acts are great eye opening experiences.
Once in Toronto, I was working on a community project, and for that I randomly walked into a community centre for AIDs patients to find out what they do. The centre was on Church St, so obviously their patients were mostly homosexuals. Around that time I remember other brothers and sisters talking about how their parents wouldn't allow them to go to a place like that.
And again, I learnt a lot about their services, the needs of these patients, they ways in which society accepts them, and doesn't, and the unfortunate children who are taught how to live with this deadly disease.

It's great to see community work at the source- from where it starts.
It gives you lots of insight into "behind the scenes" work.
It also motivates you to join in the efforts.
It educates you on the long term vision and planning, and the ups and down behind the work.
It makes you understand the needs and challenges of your community.
And many times, if you get to talk to the right person, you'll learn about how it all starts- With one person.

So choose a random act, not related to anything you've done before, and see what you can learn.

What does this have to do with Ramadan?


Faraz Ahmed said...

Perhaps it was your concern for the environment that made him think you were Canadian plus the fact that you went all the way to the top when no one else would have cared.

By the way, I hope you realize the lofty standards you will have to maintain for the rest of Ramadan if you keep writing like this? :-)

too lazy to sign in said...

You went alone? "Someone in Alain" couldn't make it?

Humairah Irfan said...

Faraz, you mean.. I don't have a Canadian accent? :(
hehe... I actually didn't go all the way to the top, I ended up there because everyone was so confused about what I wanted, and they figured they should get me someone who speaks English. Which is sad because I'm just not making any effort to speak what little Arabic I know..

Yea, my brother was complaing he's doing more work @ home than me.. which is (embarassingly) true. I'm going to make my entries shorter inshallah and perhaps just blog once in 3 days in the last 10 days..

Humairah Irfan said...

too lazy: Like I said, he's busy with classes. So that's why it took so much time for me to decide what to do..

too lazy said...

Ah i see.

too lazy will go recite some Quran before iftar

Faraz Ahmed said...

Hey, you're twisting my words!:-)
I was only offering an alternative explanation because you doubted the simple, most obvious one.

I didn't mean to say that you should stop writing. It's just that if someone writes every day, there tends to creep in forced ideas merely for the sake of having something up. But with you, everyday is something completely different and original. So I was just surprised and amazed.

Humairah Irfan said...

An Arab being able to distinguish different English accents is hard to believe!
Sorry, didn't mean to twist your words.. lol

Inshallah I hope everyday in Ramadan is different.. but I'll keep in mind that I don't force myself and focus on quality rather than quantity.
And I'm looking forward to your posts as well! So don't be ghayab for too long :)