Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Life of a Code Switcher

Yesterday during the sociology class lecture I went into a world of class systems. Perhaps these are things that I’ve recognized all my life and have deliberately ignored them for no reason. I grew up in a middle class family where my dad went to work in order to provide for the family and my mom would stay home to take care of my sister and me. Since there are only so many times that you can make something work that would not, by the time I was six-years-old my sister had moved to live with some relatives and I was the only child of a single dad. My dad taught me to work hard in order to overcome my shortcomings compared to the other children in my school. My childhood was not about Barbie dolls and playhouses. It was about learning how to solve 2nd grade mathematics in kindergarten. Everything in life was about one single opportunity: use it, or I could reproduce the class of my parents. With my dad never being home mostly, I became a cultural omnivore. I watched a lot of movies and mimicked the characters during boredom. “Dear Lady, would you like to dance?” an imaginary gentleman would ask to which I would reply “Oh yes, certainly,” and dance around the house. During high school I dated an English boy from church and went to several dances and shows with him. I started socializing with people from different cultures and lifestyles, adapting some cultures as my own and rejecting others. I moved out of home after high school. (Moving out of home is not an ordinary thing for my folks)
Today I can’t place myself in any particular class. Here I am, a senior student of a prestigious University with skills in playing the piano and the guitar, I go for highbrow parties and hang out with friends and colleagues (some Qataris and others of different ethic groups). Last weekend after a gathering with my friends I went to Al-Mourjan restaurant. In this restaurant, it looks bad if each person does not spend at least a 100QR. It's even mentioned in the menu! Since I always make sure that I pay my own bills when I’m dining with men, I had a hitch in the back of my mind when I saw a 250-riyal bill. Although today I’m used to a variant culture, I’m constantly reminded of my beginnings.
I mentioned Al-Mourjan, but I should definitely talk about the little tea stall and restaurant, I go to most days, for brunch. There are no high class folks here. Working class and middle class men (only men), come here for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. This stall-sort of a restaurant has been here for the past 30 years and although the original name of the stall is Al-Salihiya Tea Stall and Restaurant, folks who frequent the place call it “taxi.” This name stands, as 15 years ago several 100s of “orange and white colored” taxis would park in front of this stall before they would start their morning work. Today there are no more taxis waiting here early in the morning. But folks still call this place “Taxi.” As a code switcher, who hang out in prestigious restaurants with folks from different cultures and also in Taxi, with a bunch of Pashtun friends I made along the way, I understand what I learned in class yesterday: “ Differences in cultural consumptions are socially constructed in order to maintain socioeconomic class boundaries among the people.  


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