This will hopefully be the first of a few blogs chronicling my trip to Aus and working with the team at Amnesty Australia! It will most likely be one of two as I forget about this and get to a big round up when I get back!
Thought I would start here though, sitting in the fairly nice couches at Auckland International Airport, because it’s not quite 6am yet and I’ve already had quite the morning!
My taxi driver was a very nice man from Somalia. His name was Omar. We chatted, as you do in the awkward close confines of a cab. I marvelled at his long work days (12 hours, 6 days a week!) He politely nodded when I mentioned that mine was a 9-5 job. (It paled in comparison to mention late nights and always on technologies, when he was literally at work 32 hours more than me, that is almost another whole work week in there!)
We hurriedly move on to another area. Perhaps to see if we could find another point of similarity. He asked if I had children, I replied, yes, a Mr 5 and a Mr 2 (yes, their blog links are below) He nodded in appreciation and remarked that “I must be busy”. Yes, I replied, I suppose they do keep me busy, how many do you have. Turns out, in this area too, Omar had me beat. Seven children he said, 4 boys and 3 girls, ranging in age from 4 years to 18 years.
A bit of silence ensued after this, and then I gave it one last go. I remarked that the 18 year old must be gearing up to leave home already. He replied no, in our culture she will only leave when she is married.
More silence ensued.
I thought about this remark. Omar has been in the country for 10 years he said, that means that that young lady had been living in NZ from the time she was 8 till now. (Yep, I managed that math, even at 6am!) It was quite an eye opener. Those of you that know me IRL will know that I’m one of those typical stroppy western feminists. Loud and well aware of what rights I have. I wasn’t always like this. I was also a scared 18 year old about to turn my back on culture. I am Asian, and as my parents pointed out several times in the saga of “moving out”, that wasn’t meant to happen till I was being safely handed over to my husband.
My foggy 18year old brain managed the “What if I’m not getting married” argument. Which incidentally is not an argument, if you don’t get married, that isn’t a problem, you merely live there till you die.
Of course, these days I know all the other arguments, the patriarchal society that leads to such a “culture”, the fact that as a girl you are effectively treated as chattel and that was why this system worked.. back then I merely snuck out when my parents were at work and didn’t return for a few years until there was relative calm.
I’m not sure why I’m waxing philosophical… it might be that it is FAR TOO EARLY TO BE UP! Or it might be that all of Auckland has gone crazy with cultural clash stuff lately…
PS: Omar did share one thing in common with a lot of kiwis. In the final lead up to the airport, a car was being incredibly slow and hesitant. As he overtook, he deliberately stared at the driver and then remarked to me (yes to me!) pfft Asian drivers, I don’t know why they can’t drive, I think it is because they do not drive in their country, they ride bicycles. As I was alone in the car with this rather tall man, I agreed and said, yes, or take the bus.