Last Thursday, one of my Qatari students, Helima (not her real name of course) invited me to her birthday party at her house. It is not often that we teachers are invited to a Qatari home so it is good manners to accept. They usually tend to stay to themselves. BTW, I received the invite on the same day as the party. As I prepared to go, I started to worry, what do you buy a little girl that has everything, it seems. It is no secret that Qatari people are pretty well off. Back in the day, they lived off of Pearl diving and in tents. That was until natural gas was discovered underneath them and then everything changed. (Does this remind you of an old tv show?) Anyway, their government takes pretty good care of them now.
I dialed up a coworker of mine who has been here for a few years and has a lot of experience with the Qatari. She reminded me that Helima is still just a little girl and all girls like girlie things. I stopped in a store and purchased some headbands that would match her school uniforms and some pretty ballies (head barrettes). I also threw in a coloring book that I had in my possession and some rainbow colored pencils. The WhatsApp location that the little girl’s mother sent to me was in a location unfamiliar to me. As I drove to find the residence, it began to get dark. All I could see was brown land and sporadic palace looking homes. This place was in the boonies and nothing was around but a WOQOD petrol station. I called Helima’s parent to get clarity of the location and she said I was close and would resend the location, but of course there was no internet service so I didn’t get the message. In the end, I turned around and found my way home.
By the time I reached home, the parent called me and asked where I was. I could hear the disappointment in her voice and words. Helima was really looking forward to seeing me. I felt terrible. But to be honest, I was so tired. When I saw Helima at school, I apologized and gave her the gift bag. The next day my heart melted. Helima was wearing the headband and one of the ballies I gifted to her. She wore the headband everyday that week. I guess in the end, Qatari, American, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter, we are still people and generally like similar things.
When I go back to American this summer, I plan on purchasing some little American trinkets and toys for my future students as well as some small classroom incentive items. If you plan on teaching overseas, might I suggest doing the same. It will come in handy, when you don’t know what to buy a little girl/boy that has everything or nothing.