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Saturday, December 31, 2005

A story of scrambled stereotypes

Eating fish last night in my local restaurant on Luisa Todi, where the owner often introduces diners to each other and gets cross-table conversations going, I met an Iraqi woman who was in Setúbal to see her two sons aged 8 and 9.

She married her Portuguese husband in London, they had two children quite late (she must be in her 50's now) and he organised for them to move to Portugal. He went on ahead as she closed down their house, sorted the bureacracy and sent on the furniture.

However, when she arrived in Setúbal her husband refused to take her in. He and his extended family kept the children and said that if she carried on sending money, she could visit the children when she liked.

Now she lives in London working hard to send money for them and to pay for her flight and the hotel to visit her children twice a year. She has had some bad experiences with lawyers; the process is not easy as she doesn't speak Portuguese.

She's bitter, it goes without saying. She is angry to be an Arab woman fighting to see her children in a Western country; she was angry at Portuguese men "more Arab than the Arabs".

The resturant owner, a Portuguese man from Lisbon married to a Brazilian, listened caringly and comfortingly all evening, taking on her anger and her sadness.

And then he invited the woman (and me!) to join his New Year family dinner and party tonight.

What's this? Snippets of life unlocking my chains to the computer!

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