This is our corner “café”. The place we frequent on a regular basis to get the stuff we forgot and the groceries that didn’t quite make it to the end of the week.   I’m usually in there for eggs – how come we eat so many of those? And emergency baking stuff. Lincoln goes almost every day for one avocado and a packet of biltong! He’s a simple man. Ok let me rephrase that. His tastes are not complicated.

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We’ve been doing this for 8 years. Going to the Little Spinneys down the road.   For many years we’ve nodded greetings to the same sweet faces filling the banana baskets, behind the counters and at the till. And for too many years we’ve known them only by appearance and nothing else. Shamefully, not even all their names.

Why I wonder? Because you cant know until you ask.

And so I did.

IMG_8592Meet Rosie, (Filipino) the store manager. She wears a ring on her married finger although she was very quick to point out that she’s not married and doesn’t even have a boyfriend. We both lamented the why? She’s classy and cute and obviously a good leader as her colleagues respect for her is tangible.   She enjoys her job and has worked her way from cashier to manager in six years. She tells me she’s very lucky and she’s very happy despite 11 hour a day shifts and living with nine other people in a bachelor flat. That’s ONE room with one bathroom people! There are five bunk beds lined up against the wall and zero privacy.   She helps her grandparents, parents and brother in the Philippines and has already managed to carry the building costs for one house for them in the city and is busy building the second in the family village for her grandparents. Working is better for her in Dubai as she does not have to pay the 12% tax required at home.

Outlook:  “Money is not my priority – happiness is and you can make happy anywhere.”

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Meet Genalyn (Philippines) who’s been in Dubai for five years. She’s super efficient at the till, shy, single and supports her mother, father and three sisters back home and has educated two of the sisters. I remember sharing the joy of count down days before her last holiday home – her anticipation so tangible. She’d stored her leave for a long while in order to spend a decent amount of time with her family. She works so she can get a permanent house for her parents who are getting older.

Outlook: “We all have to help each other.”

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Meet Anusha (Sri Lanka) who has an engaging smile and ready I’m so-glad-you’re-here greeting at any time of the day. She works the deli and certainly knows one cheese from another.   She’s been in Dubai for three years and has a husband who teaches in China. I asked her why she isn’t in China too. “There is no way for me to earn money there, I am not allowed to work” she replied. Her two children are in the Philippines living with her mother and she sees them every two years. Despite the cost they call every other day. She loves to inspire women and girls to greater things.

Outlook: “You make your own life and you need to contribute to the world. We are not alone.”

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Meet Melissa (Philippines) She’s the baker and the one I silently shout at every time I walk into the shop. The smell of freshly baked bread and cookies – oh.my.goodness, the abstinence required. She giggles when I ask her how she resists and she tells me she does taste otherwise how can she advise the customers. She’s been in Dubai for 8 years and as such can go home every year for a month. It’s a privilege for staff staying with the company for more than five years. She has no children but sends money home to her parents and 15 nieces and nephews. Her husband works in the oil and gas industry in Qatar and comes to Dubai every three months for one week.

Outlook: “Money here not good but better than in the Philippians so I try my best.”

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Meet Bosco (India) the Produce Manager. His rows of fruit and veg are as neatly lined up and as orderly as his perfect appearance. He’s been in Dubai for 9 years and is fortunate enough to have his wife and 9-year-old daughter with him. His wife works for a construction company and his daughter was born and is going to school here.

Outlook: “There are too many people in India and the money is not good. I do better here and I’m very happy in my job.”

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Meet Aldren (Philippines) the merchandiser in fruit and veg. Aldren hardly looks old enough to be out of school, but maybe that’s because the older I get the younger everyone else seems!   He’s fresh-faced and enthusiastically says, “Yes mamm” in every sentence. He’s been in Dubai for only four months and this is his first month working for Spinneys.   He lives with 15 other people in one apartment, 5 people to a room with only two bathrooms but says its fine, as most of his roommates are cousins. He hasn’t had any money to send home yet but will probably help his sister and her one-year-old baby when he does.

Outlook: “I don’t want to spend my money on parties and drink. I want to be wise and save money so I can go back to the Philippines in about five years and have my own small business – a small shop just like this. “

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Meet Jyothi (Indian) who has been in Dubai for nine years. His wife lives in India with their two boys. Jyothi pushes, carries and stacks. He goes home every two years for two months and although our conversation was limited by language I know by his wide and welcoming smile that customer service is high on his list.

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Meet Alison Buck (South African) been in Dubai for 8 years. Lives with her husband and has eldest son and daughter-in-law just down the road and the other son temporarily in Australia. She allowed herself a moment to interact with these precious souls who wear their hard and harsh with so much dignity and not an inkling of self-pity. She left the shop an emotional wreck, not for them but for herself – because of them.

I have so much to learn.

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