Downtown Atlanta

A Saudi Arabian in Atlanta

This is part of my month-long Road Trip! HackerChick style

One of the things we’re excited about on our trip is getting to meet people from different places who view the world in a totally different way.

Of course, we’ve been thinking Southerners (confederate flags, rodeos, great big southern baptist churches, you get the idea)…

So… we’re at a pedestrian unfriendly crosswalk in Atlanta where we’ve just watched the street light cycle twice with no walk signal to be seen. We start to cross when a guy behind us kindly calls out “no wait, I just pressed the walk button.” I immediately go into auto-pilot, “that’s a weird thing to say, what are you the crossing guard?” must-ignore-other-people–who-say-weird-things mode. But, he sounded so polite so I call out “tried that, didn’t work” over my shoulder as we’re sprinting across the road.

And that’s the end of that story. Right? But, there he is, joining us in our sprint across the road with this giddy excitement that makes us laugh. And, pretty much immediately, we find ourselves walking along with him and his friend, completely absorbed in conversation with, who we soon discovered, was a 26-year old kid from Saudi Arabia, spending his first day ever in the US.

Pure wide eyed innocence. As Brian put it…

He had this air of excitement that was noticeable right away in a very genuine, child-like innocent way. Nevermind our country’s complicated relations, if I was in another country for the first time, speaking a language that (as he later told us) I hadn’t had much practice speaking conversationally, I’d be apprehensive. I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone at all until I’d gotten a feel for the locals, much less strike up a full on conversation. I’d be self conscious of what they might think of me or how I’d be perceived. But you could tell that he wasn’t at all. It was his first day here (on a year long trip!) and he was getting out there and striking up a conversation with people he’d just met at a crosswalk as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

No apprehensions. No animosity towards the US. No expectation of any animosity towards him despite all that’s going on in the world. Just pure fascination and an open-minded excitement to take in everything our country has to offer.

He had us stop at a statue of some long lost mayor of Atlanta that none of us had ever heard of (Brian had to actually Google to figure out who he was) so that we could take pictures of him and his friend in front of it. And then he was off to the top of the Westin. He couldn’t wait to be a part of everything.

Brian explained…

We were equally fascinated with each other’s culture and I quickly realized that I have more bones to pick with my country than this 26 year old kid from the Middle East does.

America used to be considered a place of wonder. But that became lost in the US’s oil-hungry, quick-to-go-to-war culture. Our media tells us we’re bad. Their media tells them we’re bad. But the real story is in the streets. It was so surprising and inspiring to meet someone who was the complete opposite of what I’d expect. Someone from the land of oil who still believes in our wonder.


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