“Please Do Not Touch”

“Thank you.”

These signs could be found all over our hotel rooms, in between moves, when my sister and I were playing a very creative (not to mention expansive) game of barbies. Yes, barbies. In a hotel room. But let me start from the beginning to explain this somewhat odd behavior.

These photos are unfortunately not the actual hotel photos, but they are the contemporary and creative work of my brother, Rawi Fayad. Expect more barbie posts simply to showcase his talent.

My sister and I are 2.5 years apart and we loved barbies. Obviously, as we grew older we played with them less and less, but they were still a measure of childhood comfort when we found ourselves in a new and foreign place. A lot of the moves we did usually required shipping our household items by boat, which meant that we would arrive in the new country before all of our things. This in turn meant that we would be staying in a hotel for a couple of weeks at least or a couple of months at most. We would be in a totally foreign country, starting in a new school, without even the comfort and familiarity of home. So our wonderful parents always tried to ease this difficulty by allowing us to select certain items to send by express freight (along with clothes and other necessary items) so that they would arrive earlier, while we were still at the hotel. The barbies were always part of that express shipment.

As we got older, the barbies became less of a game for us, but more of a symbol of comfort, of home, of having each other as friends during these tough times. We didn’t play with them as much anymore, and yet we still created an extensive and elaborate domain for them in our hotel room. Every available space was used to create bedrooms, living rooms, pool areas…We used hand towels, vases, flowers – everything that could be used to create their spaces was used. Hence the signs. We knew that housekeeping would clean everything up if we didn’t explicitly ask them not to. So we politely asked them not to. Poor housekeeping – we must have made things so complicated for them, even though we truly didn’t realize it at that time. They kindly left our crazy creations where they were, and we appreciated that so much more than words can say.

Yes, our barbies are in varying catastrophic states. They have had limbs broken, heads popping off, they’ve been held together by tape, had their hair cut (this was never a successful endeavor), travelled the world, and made two little girls very happy, time and time again.

The time spent in hotels was often trying because it was either upon arriving somewhere unknown or when leaving a place that was home. Memories stick from certain hotels, and for some reason I have a lot from the hotel we stayed in when we first moved to the Philippines. Those barbie memories are from there, but there are other things that immediately trigger thoughts of that hotel. When we stayed there, the movie of the month on HBO was Maverick with Mel Gibson, which meant they played the movie several times a day. I’ve always loved that movie, and since then, whenever I see it I have a clear picture in my mind of the hotel room. The same goes for The Fugees’ song ‘Killing Me Softly’ – it must have come out around that time so MTV played it over and over… It’s amazing the little things that trigger memories. And it’s astounding how much the little things matter – having something constant on TV was soothing in a way; at least we knew what to expect when everything around us was a whirlwind. And having our barbies with us was a source of comfort in the upheaval.

We had to make the hotel our temporary home and the barbies helped do that, as odd and childish as that may sound. It helped to have those few familiar items around us and to play with them as if we were home. They entertained us, but most importantly, they comforted us.

So, please, do not touch. Thank you.

Despite the obvious wear and tear (and lack of hairdresser appointments), these barbies were loved very, very much. The proof: we still have them.

5 thoughts on ““Please Do Not Touch”

  1. Thanks for this Dounia, it brought back some great memories of my own! When we moved to Egypt we lived for about 3 months at the Mena House hotel. In retrospect I realise how incredible this was- right at the foot of the pyramids, and a fabulous pool- and even at the time we thought it was pretty great. To this day I LOVE hotels since my childhood experiences of them were generally so positive- I think staff tend to be very nice to little kids they see over extended periods of time, and we were in pretty plush conditions! In Spain we stayed maybe a month at another great one where the barman always made me terrific vanilla milkshakes. Sadly I doubt we’ll be able to give our kids the expat life I so enjoyed as a child- I’ve looked at the Mena House prices and they’re high!!!!
    Hope your summer is tapering off nicely- ASP has started very peacefully but I’m sure that won’t last!


    1. I’m glad it could bring back memories! 🙂 I’m sure all TCKs have stories and thoughts from the time spent in hotels – considering how much time we spent in them, it’s normal they bring back all kinds of memories! And I agree that we were quite lucky, as they were usually very nice conditions and it’s true that the staff members were generally very kind to us. They often had little gestures to make us feel more welcome, or to make us laugh…We have some very fond memories because they did their best to help us feel a little more at home when we were somewhere so foreign. We had one kitchen staff member who would make our school lunches and asked what we liked to make us our favorite sandwiches and always put in a nice treat for us. We definitely have a lot of memories from hotels…

      Thanks for your comment, as always, and good luck with the new school year!


  2. Great post, what little girl didn’t like Barbie?? I can understand how it must have been a comfort … the Barbie world was safe and uncomplicated, or anything you wanted it to be. Well written and I love the photos! Thanks for sharing the memory, and I’m anxiously awaiting the future posts that show more of your brother’s talent …. !


    1. Thanks, Paige! 🙂 The barbies represented home and comfort to us because they were there no matter where we were. They were a constant and they were always something we shared, even when we started having different interests. And like you said, what little girl didn’t like Barbie?? 🙂


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