We lost power one day, just in our room. We called the desk. Shortly, the power came back on. A young man knocked at the door and asked, “The power is on?”
Gary said, “Yes, thank you.”
The young man said. “There was a tripping.”
I poke fun at the language barriers but in all honesty, I have tremendous respect for these workers. They have learned another language and they can communicate. I still only know a few words in Arabic. I have a college degree. Some of the workers here speak several languages but have no formal education.
They come here from India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal. The whole family works for years to save money to send their children to this country to work. They stand in line for work visas from the crack of dawn till nightfall for their turn just to apply. And when the workers reach this country, they earn up to $60 a week, $40 of which they send back home to their families.
They work hard, sometimes all day, seven days a week. So hard in fact the Omani government is cracking down on employers to strictly enforce their labor laws. My husband teased one young woman from Nepal about how she was always working. After the third time she said, “But sir, it’s our job to serve the guests, so we must be here when they are here, no?”
She’s only been here for six months and it is the first time out of her country. I asked her if it was hard to come and she shrugged in a very grown up way, but smiled slightly and said, “I am missing my mama.” Needless to say, my husband and I have adopted her.
Still, the workers are happy to be here, for the opportunity to travel and help their families. Everywhere we go, we are greeted with a smiling face, “Hello, ma’am, sir. How is your day?” I know they want to keep their job. I also know they are truly interested. They stop and listen.
One young man asked where I was from. When I told him California, he said, “I’m from Bangladesh,” with such pride I was momentarily speechless. All I could think to say was, “We are both a long way from home aren’t we?” He smiled happily because his future is bright.
Most of the workers are glad to be here and we are glad they are. We often tip extra just because of their smiling faces and friendliness. I told my husband it’s going to be hard to go home where customer service often means I am privileged to pay for their service.
I’m not so naïve as to think Oman doesn’t have problems. It’s easy to abuse foreign workers when the system most usually looks the other way. I would have to be blind not to see the heavy hand of poverty all around me. But I refuse to dwell on the negativity. Simply because the Omani’s choose not to. They are a country of hope. They are proud to have rediscovered they’re rich heritage. They are ready to embrace the future…but not without the tenets of their faith firmly in place. It’s an exciting time to be here. They are a nation on the brink…ready to explode onto the international playing field. But more importantly, they have become a land of opportunity for the downtrodden of other nations.
I can’t help but feel that once upon a time, this was how it felt to be in America…before we became jaded, cynical and guilty over our wealth. Mostly I wonder what it will take to become a nation of hope once again.