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Crossing Borders: An American Woman in the Middle East by Judith Caesar

By Judith Caesar

In the course of the Nineteen Eighties, Judith Caesar taught literature in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Her aptly titled e-book deals one woman's view of numerous political powder kegs that did not make entrance web page information and of the conflict among Western and heart japanese customs. An open-minded nature and interest in regards to the position of girls in cultures that appear wildly restrictive to many Westerners is helping Caesar deconstruct stereotypes on each side of the border. the yankee tv convey Dallas, she notes, now in perpetual rerun in lots of international locations, has develop into a gold mine of incorrect information on Western ladies. Likewise, our squeamishness approximately prepared marriage belies the various inside of tale shared by way of her scholars. One plans to land "a solid mood guy" via asking a suitor's sister to bare his precise temperament. And if he does not have a sister? "Then do not marry him," comes the quick answer. "He hasn't ever realized approximately women."

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Married to an Englishman who stayed in London, she supported the family with her teaching job in Riyadh and took care of their two-year-old daughter. She seemed to spend most of her time complainingabout the students, about Saudi Arabia, about American foreign policy, about everything except what she seemed to me to have cause to complain about, her husband. Now, at the end of the school year, she claimed that the Israelis were about to invade Lebanon and that she needed a stopover in Beirut so that she could take her elderly mother back to England with her.

If we've heard that Americans are ignorant, shallow materialists, or that Arabs are hostile, violent misogynists, we use that to explain the behavior we don't understand. We are so used to connecting understanding the world around us to being fully functional adults that when we are suddenly confronted with a world we don't understand, we tend to latch onto the easiest explanation available. The alternative is to feel stupid and helpless. There in Saudi Arabia, not knowing the language, not being able to read the street signs (or even the numbers on the apartment doors), not knowing how to work the stove or dispose of the garbage at first, and, later, totally missing social signals, I certainly felt stupid and helpless, and I hated it.

This response persisted until the Saudi student who lived across the street from me offered me a regular ride to work in her chauffeur-driven car. She swept down the stairs of her apartment building, a blur of black, and the driver jumped out of the car to open the door for her. She kept up a running conversation with him as we drove to school, sometimes laughing, sometimes scolding. She even had him stop at the newsstand every morning and pick up a newspaper for each of us. ) She was one of the most self-possessedand self-confidentyoung women I had encountered anywhere.

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