table for three

It's very, very hot here in Dubai (about 100 F/37 C with humidity) , so while I was standing in line tonight at a local burger place, I was fanning myself with the laminated menu. At one point I turned to see a man behind me doing the same. We made eye contact, said "it's quite hot," nodded our heads and smiled and laughed.

With some awkwardness in the air, he filled the silence by asking where I was from. "The US," I said, "California. And you?" "Pakistan. From a city in the east named Lahore."

From here we continued to talk about why I was in Dubai, my travels and studies, and how I've enjoyed my time on the road. He then introduced me to his beautiful wife who was also from Pakistan. After some more small talk and ordering, they both shook my hand and wished me well. 

A few meters away, however, we all found ourselves waiting for a free table together. When one opened, the hostess motioned to them and then me, seemingly confused as to if we wanted to eat together. The man then said "We're together," nodded at me, and then we all went over to the table. 

What should have been a quick 15-minute jaunt by myself turned into an hour-long meal with this wonderful couple. We talked about everything from travel and marriage to the recent Humans of New York series with Pakistani people. The wife was so pleased by Brandon's (HONY) photos because of how well they represented the true culture of the Pakistani people, instead of folks simply creating their ideas of people by watching the news. We talked about how they met, where they went to school, what they studied... He is an engineer and she's a software engineer specifically. Her entire family is made up of software engineers and her two brothers live and work in Seattle, at Facebook and Microsoft respectively. They moved to Dubai a year ago and have been married for over three. They both have never been to the States but hope to go one day. She would love to live in Australia although she doesn't have a reason for it, which makes them both giggle. She has a nose ring, which looks great. She wears a traditional hijab like some of my friends do back in the States. He's very kind and gentle with the way he speaks, and it's so clear that he loves her. He's 29, she's 27, and he told me they got married early in regard to usual Pakistani culture but "we knew it was right," he said with a smile on his face. 

They asked me so many thoughtful questions about my journey so far and what I want to do with my life. At times it felt like I was talking with old friends. After dinner they asked how I was getting home (the friend's house I'm staying at) and I told them the way I had gotten to the beach in the first place: by taxi. Without hesitation he said "Let us take you back." I respectfully said they didn't have to and how kind of a gesture it was, but he pushed back. "Please," he said, "it's right on the way and it's no problem at all." {For context, it's a 25 minute drive from the beach back to my home here. In other words, it was ridiculously kind of them to offer to drive me back.}

As were leaving the restaurant he told me and his wife to wait for a bit. A few minutes later he came back from the counter with two cups filled with ice cream. He handed one to his wife, and the other to me. "Oh my gosh you're way too nice!" I squeaked out. He didn't even respond. His face just simply read that it was nothing at all. Again, so sweet of him/them. 

On the drive back she fed him spoonfuls of her ice cream while he was driving. We talked more about my next destination and things I've learned along the way. When we arrived, they both got out of the car to send me off and I thanked them endlessly for their generosity. The wife then told me, "you're very special, and you're going to be someone great one day. Let's take a picture!" He grabbed his phone, we took a picture together, we hugged again and they drove off. 

~~~

Moments like these make up some of the best memories while traveling. They happen to me more often than I'd expect, and usually with perfect timing. Meeting people from far away places and cultures who you have so much in common with will always give me goosebumps.