Monday, June 27, 2011

a Sir-vice industry

More than half of Qatar's population consists of men from the third worlds who come on 1 to 3 year contracts, earning money to send back to families in the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, and others.

Typical uniforms are of yellow or blue, like the window washers above. Vast armies of men constantly mop and scrub the same areas of buildings over and over, as if their efforts cost little. When you pass them in the hall they step aside deferentially. Most do not know much English, and if you try to speak with them you will most likely get called "sir."

At night, the security guards (also foreign) accompany cleaners to each office, opening office doors and standing watch as cleaners past through with feather dusters and gather up any mugs or glasses to return to the kitchen. The next morning, the middle-aged "tea boy" arrives at 6 a.m. to fire up the coffee and wash the used cups.

He smiles brightly as he carries coffee and cookies to each office, but very soon he runs out of things to do, as there are only a handful of people who actually want his tea or cookies. He returns to his kitchen and tries to stay awake for the rest of the day. It will be a long three years until he sees his family. But if his contract is renewed, it could be hard to justify the cost of a return trip. I wonder, does he feel he has landed a great opportunity? I strongly doubt anyone forced him to come here, with the possible exception of his family, to whom $3000 per year might seem like a lot. Still, it is tempting to think in terms of modern-day slavery.

The plant boy stops by my office about once every two weeks to trim and water my plant. Every parking lot is staffed by a watchman who is responsible to move the gate up to let traffic through. Once I tried walking out the main entrance to my building to go get groceries. The gateman moved the gate up to let me walk though even though there was plenty of space to walk between the gates.


Blogger KTdid said...

Oh, my. This makes me sad. It IS tempting to think of slavery.

7:10 PM  

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