Middle eastern culture is all about relationships, not work or deadlines. If you had an appointment but an old friend stopped in to visit, then you would not tell your friend to come back another time – you would make him some tea and some food and enjoy his company. Then when he decides on his own to leave (though you insist he stay) you can go about your appointment, though this may be several hours later. So it’s a good thing I don’t have a great deal of appointments or events to manage right now. Rather I have spent a lot of time in the international cafe meeting local people and getting to know what life in North Africa is like. One thing I realised is that I can easily sit in the cafe and go about reading a book or having a drink and within moments someone will start a conversation with me, which is fantastic since I love to meet local people but I’m such an introvert! Among the many wonderful people I met this week was a captain in the Navy! Wow.
Another special opportunity I had was to be a part of ‘Open Ship Day’ where we have cultural exhibits from all different parts of the world. The first stand I was placed at was the European stand where many of the cultural items were from Germany and Holland – such as clogs, windmills and hats – and a Swiss horn. I think with my Dutch and English heritage I can pass off as European long enough to start a conversation with someone and say ‘actually, I’m from Australia’ which in many cases was more interesting!
I also got to be on the Sub-Saharan African stand (now I can’t pull that one off but I have been there) and the deck and engine stand with all the big ship tools. It was really fun showing people a little bit of life in other countries and on a ship and that somehow in all this diversity we still have harmony and love.