Exposure

I love my job.

I get to come in contacted with people from ALL over the world. I’ve met people from Greece, India, Egypt, Russia, and everywhere in between.

Recently I met a couple from, where I assume was, Saudi Arabia. They came into our storefront, the husband wearing jeans and a nice t-shirt, the wife donning a black Niqab, fully covering all but her eyes. Before really speaking, I tried to feel out the situation and vibe. My only experience with anyone from Saudi Arabia was in the US and in passing. They were very standoffish and reserved there, but I feel it was with good reason. There, anyone who looks like they’re from the Middle East are heavily discriminated against. Canada is a different story. Here, this couple was pleasant and friendly. Maybe they hadn’t been subjected to the same hatred, or maybe they didn’t carry that burden with them if they had been.

For the services they needed, they asked if it would be okay to lock the door. This is not uncommon for some clients, so I naturally obliged. The husband blocked the glass from any potential pass-byers as his wife slowly began to remove her headdress. I felt oddly honored to be a part of this moment. I don’t know much about the culture, but I do know that modesty is extremely important to them. There’s a weird sort of platonic intimacy in a moment like that.

We exchanged some small talk, laughing and enjoying the exchange. I asked if it would be okay if I asked a few questions, hopeful to not sound rude, but explaining that I was genuinely curious. They said of course. It was a perfect learning opportunity for me, and they seemed happy to answer my curiosities. I did wonder if the woman felt perhaps vulnerable or exposed removing her headdress in public, albeit that I closed the office for them, but I didn’t dare to ask because I felt it was a little too personal in a way. I was, however, able to get an answer to a question I’ve always been curious about…

“In the summer, is it overly warm to wear such garments?!” The woman kindly smiled and let out a small chuckle. I know I probably sounded like a typical dumb American, but I’ve always wondered. She explained that even though she also wears a full outfit underneath, the fabric is very breathable and not uncomfortable at all. She also noted that it provides religious and spiritual comfort as well. My curiosities were finally satisfied.

Canada is amazing. The US likes to try to have this reputation of being a melting pot of different cultures, but it’s still a truly racist country. I know there is racism everywhere, but at least here it’s not so blatant and wide spread. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to so many walks of life and to learn so much about others.

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