Ahhh, the international language…technology

13 Sep

September 13, 20

(Subtitle;Looking at the work through a child’s eyes.)

Musical choices for your reading pleasure, Tim Chaisson “The Healing”, Michael Franti “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like), and Grover Washington Jr. w/ Bill Withers “Just the Two of Us”

Sorry to my hopelessly romantic friends (of which many of you are), and to my audiophile friends, neither love nor music is the international language any more. No, TECHNOLOGY is.

Today, I had my “official health screening” and obtained my UAE ID (picture ID will be posted when I get it—yeah, think your driver’s license is bad, just wait, I have you beat!).

Originally, our group of educators were shuttled to a special place for our health screening; fingerprints, eye scan, blood and urine test, physician’s exam, and chest X-ray. However, after waiting an hour and a half, I learned my new Arabic phrase…SYSTEM DOWN. Guess how you say it in Arabic…go ahead (no google translate allowed). OK, time’s up. In Arabic it’s, “System Down”. In fact in the other 12 languages present in the waiting room, it’s also “System Down”. Once the official said that, the collective, multicultural groan made it obvious that we all got it.

(One quick digression, after memorizing both posters in the waiting room it occurred to me the blond model in the inset picture of the policy poster examining the vial of blood was Katherine Heigel. Yes, it’s a screen capture from Grey’s Anatomy—too funny.)

So, from there we were shuttled to the Abu Dhabi Identity Authority, where apparently everyone else across the world goes for the same tests. Upon escaping from the 90 degree 8:30am heat, we were put in queues, male and female—everything is separated. More later. I received my number (521). Upon entering the males only waiting room, I saw they were serving number 351…uh, yeah, 351. The task is to have an exam, get blood taken, and have a chest x-ray. Imagine how long that might take.

Luckily, we only waited about an hour. Here’s why. After checking in once my number was called with a woman totally covered except for her eyes, I was escorted behind the frosted glass. (Crazy, we had to exchange money and she was VERY careful not to make any skin to skin or eye contact while doing business. Not surprising. Then, after the check-in, she small-talked me for a second and giggled at me. I was very confused. I think she was making fun of my discomfort.)

Once behind the glass, there were a dozen teeny tiny offices; 6 with physicians and 6 with vampires, kidding, blood taker-guys. Outside each door the security guys had us stacked 3 deep and were running a very efficient process. No doors on any of the offices. My Physician was a roly poly, very kind Egyptian from Florida, yes, Tallahassee, Florida. A hillbilly Egyptian. Cool. He said “Indeee-annna, huh?” I confirmed, he told me about himself, made about 30 rapid fire clicks on his computer and I was finished. I never even sat down; no questions, no tongue depresser, no turn your head and cough awkwardness. Nice!

Next, to the bloodletter. This guy has three private messages going on his facebook on his computer and is taking my blood with one hand; alcohol swipe, load the needle, pull the plunge, cap the vial, label the vial, label my paperwork…all with one hand while talking to me about my name and why I was there, and IM-ing a facebook friend. Think you multi-task? This guy is your idol! He sees about 200 people a day. That’s all he does.

Then on to x-ray. We are stuffed, in groups of three, into phone booth size changing rooms and told to take our shirts off. Mind you, some of the people there are just arriving via plane, boat, bus, or across the desert car trek. Needless to say, that changing room needs more ventilation. You know how when you go into a gas station that serves Chesterfried chicken, you smell like it for a few hours. Yeah, like that.

One by one we are lead into one of three x-ray rooms. You hand over your health card, and the radiologist stands you in front of the machine so it is snug under your nose. SO many people have been through here that the paint and plastic protective coating on the machine has been worn away. I’m no germophobe, but I was NOT touching it. This poor guy does over 200 x-rays a day and he looks well. So, hit the tanning bed ladies, the human body is amazing!

At this point it’s about 1pm and none of us have eaten; and the urine test is up next, but we’re WAY behind schedule because “SYSTEM DOWN”, still. So, we’re waiting on the shuttle…about 22 of us, midday sun, and the AC is trying, but it isn’t happening.

Funny how strangers bond when forced together. At first, in the early waiting room the men and women were separated by an aisle. The female side was very chatty and warm. They all seemed to know each other and were talking away. The male side; quite different. Cold, quiet, physical boundaries, sighs of contempt that seemed to say, “If I were in charge, this would be fixed”, and God forbid, any male makes eye contact with another. Once trapped on the bus together, we almost all bonded. Small talk, but be proud of us men, we actually spoke to each other. No grunting, speaking…big boys play nice.

What is that? How are men and women so different that a group of female strangers from across the world can engage in conversation, yet the same demographic of males sits in cold silence. When I finally spoke to the two men in front of me (“May I borrow that pen, please?”), they both looked at me like I broke the “Never look down at the next urinal” rule. They were pleasant, but totally thrown off guard. They looked at each other, fully comprehended what I said, then looked at one another as if to say, “You talk to the crazy guy, not me.” Eventually, I got the pen. Rather than bore you with voluminous rumination, I’ll let you contemplate.

We are all here, together, not apart. We all want the same when you break it down. We all want to feel loved and to love. Why do we let so much get in our way? You’ve seen the free hugs videos on YouTube. Why do they touch us so much? Why must kindness be featured, rather than a regular player? Be open. Ask yourself. Be the change. Love.


A couple of quick things before I go…on my night time walk under the desert moon and hot, wet, wool blanket of air, I realized that not too long ago this was a desert…sand, lots of sand. This pic brought that home…



There are many of these reminders. A VERY optimistic landscaper setting watering lines in the fine sand. That’s the desert creeping under the city. The mega-city built on top of a desert. Anything is possible, and yes, that’s a Subway sign in the middle of that blue sign. Strangely, and right on par with Subway’s marketing plan, the store lets off that exact same sickly, doughy smell that you all know.

Also on my walk, I noticed the park benches are closer together here. Facing each other, not facing a landscape or space, each other. In fact, if you sit on one, you could almost put your feet on the other—if you’re of average height. I’d like to think they are placed that way to foster discussion. I wanted to take a picture for you, but they were all full. Tonight is Thursday, the last day of the work week, and the benches are full of men with coffee and cigarettes wrapped in passionate conversation. About what? I have NO idea. Also interesting is that between one end of the benches is a large ashtray. This could be a more practical reason for their close proximity, but I’m writing here, and I prefer the romantic notion of people communicating and not being afraid to speak within another’s space. Quite different from the waiting room experience.

Disclaimer. The next time you see a baby, watch her eyes. They are so hyper-focused on everything that she can focus on nothing. Everything is new, everything is amazing. Wonder rules the rationale. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m new here and while certain things are universal; everything is different, and fascinating. So, I am reserving some observations and qualifying others. I am yet a visitor, and soon will be a resident.

Good night, I hear the 4:30am call to prayer. Wow, lost track of time. Glad tomorrow is the weekend.




9 Responses to “Ahhh, the international language…technology”

  1. Heather September 13, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    So…..will you be starting a “Free Hugs” campaign next Thursday near one of those benches?

  2. Candace Bretl September 13, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    Darn, I love this. I feel like we are in your pocket!!

  3. Michael McKinnon September 13, 2013 at 2:08 am #

    This is going to be required reading for me as long as you continue to do it, Lee. You’re a great person and a great writer. Much luck on this adventure, my friend.

  4. Donna Barenie September 13, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    Thanks so much for all the updates, you really make it feel real….your quite the writer……I havent ever followed something like this pretty cool……

  5. Joe Buck September 13, 2013 at 3:30 am #


  6. AFW September 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    I love me some Izzie Stevens! Enjoy your weekend.

  7. Mary Stark September 16, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Wow what a time. New adventures, new everything. What will you be doing? Teaching??? Principal??? The processing is like a factory….. All parts go through it and they all survive…….

  8. Milt Dabagia October 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    Every blog is a new adventure for us.

    • ldabagia October 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      I hope you’re enjoying them. Thanks for the support. Lee

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