Work, eat, play, meet the Lama!

20 Sep

September 18 & 19, 2013


Music–Mastodon “Oblivion”, 30 Seconds to Mars “Hunter”, The Mars Volta “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt”, Rush “Working Man”, Tacking Back Sunday “Little Devotional”, Michael Franti & Spearhead “Let It Go”

Hi! Welcome back. I’ve had two busy days and I feel like we’ve been apart forever. I’m in a bit of a rush, so I might be light on the style and heavy on pictures. Last time I talked about the hotel I’m living in. Here is a common site around the hotel…


Again, I spoke with my supervisor and she told me to get comfortable. Here’s a cool thing about the reform going on here. My supervisor, and about 6 others were the OG’s brought in here 6 years ago to help the Emirati people establish a world class educational system. So, her Visa ID number is under 100, meaning she was one of the first people to be hired and accepted into the culture to help them along. My visa number is around 406,000. Yes, that’s the kind of growth the UAE has experienced in the last SIX years. About 25,000 of those ID numbers are educators…and we are treated very graciously and afforded discounts on almost everything. When I went to HQ to meet with my boss, she told me she’d get me coffee and disappeared for a few seconds. I felt guilty, thinking, “…did I really just ask MY boss to get me coffee?…oh, well, I guess I deserve that…” Then, a guy in a server-type uniform shows up to take my order. Yes, they have a beverage service at HQ sponsored by the government. This is what arrived…


We met for about three hours and I got the crash course…my head was spinning and I was starving, so I took a cab to yet another mega mall for a light snack and some reading…


Yeah, that’s some FUUUUNNNN reading. Not surprising, the policies here are very similar to ours except for a few things. The culture here is of a private and very respectful nature. You are encouraged to keep ALL of your personal business to yourself. Don’t ask about family, about vacations, about sick Aunt Mildred, or anything of a personal nature. Yes, gossip exists, and from what I can tell it became a problem as the Westerners started arriving. So, we are repeatedly told, mind your business, and only yours. There is a Facebook page for teachers over here and one guy went on a rage about his position. About a day later, the post and all of the comments disappeared, and a polite reminder was circulated. People here are very polite. Manners are extremely important, and raging in an open forum is disrespectful and not too brave. That’s my perception of the perception. Make sense?

Anyway, after a long day of reading policy, talking curriculum, and learning customs and decorum it was time to eat. Enter Alhan Restaurant! Lebanese food, customs, and nightlife. Amazing…here was our dinner that night…


Needless to say, the food was excellent. (No worries, dad, your and Sito’s kibbeh nayeh is better—one hint though..sauteed pine nuts on top! Yum!). For the uninitiated, yes, that’s raw meat! SO good. The fatiyah was in thin bred rather than rolled dough. The plate to the right is lamb and chicken.  Two of us ate all that, plus hummus and a raw veggie tray and homemade black citrus tea and coffee for about $60. Remember, there’s no alcohol served here so more room for food! (That’s right, no alcohol. If you go to the tourist and hotel restaurants you can get alcohol, but you’ll pay for it! Scotch on the rocks, about $11, and it’s a weak pour, and it’s very smoky and the food is…blah)

The next day I spent finishing my medicals. That was rough on the ego. I’m in good health, and everything went fine until the exam. The doctor (Egyptian or Jordanian, I believe) was very polite and very thorough. She asked many questions from behind her partially veiled face, including this dagger.

“Sir, can you explain to me why you are almost obese?”

“…ummmm, what?”

“Obese, Mr. Lee, you are almost obese. You are. You exercise 3-4 times a week, yet your numbers say you are obese.”

“Did you say obese?” (In my head, “Ouch, lady, can you say it just one more time?”)

“Yes, you are a large man.”

Now, here’s where patience and understanding can save your ass. This woman was about two feet shorter than me and about the same weight, if not heavier. Breathe, Lee, breathe. This place has no love for smart-asses or quick wit.

“Everything looks really good, but you are almost obese. Can you tell me why? Would you say it is because you are more muscular than most?” Now, she just had my shirt off and probed me. Discomfort was setting in… “…yes, I am muscular…” I muttered. “I have big legs…”

“Ok, Mr. Lee. Very good. You do not look like a Principal. That is a good thing. Just keep showing that smile, and the kids will love you.” That was strange.

I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how I’m going to commute to work. Rental cars are expensive, and I still haven’t figured it out. For dinner, another principal and I ate in his room. You know those roasted chickens you get at the grocery store? They have those here, as well…in about 7 flavors…for about $4. So, we split that with some fresh cucumber, and an olive salad (You know how olives at home say “from the Middle East”?  The olives here don’t have to say “from here”, because they are–cool!). Total dinner cost for two grown men (one, who is apparently obese), about $8—all fresh. I can dig that.

Dessert! Now that’s a different story…wanna see? Yes, you do!


All of that with coffee, tea, lively conversation and about 4 hours of live entertainment, and varying degrees of talent at the dabke (google it) for about $60. Very cool…


There’s the entertainment and a slight glimpse of the melting pot that is this society. Although, I’m not sure melting pot is the right term. All cultures mix here, but are encouraged to hold on to their identities. Acclimation is not required. Respect for differences is. I like that. I’d give more pics of people, but again, they are private and I can’t be the pic snapping, light flashing guy.

Two more treats before I go…


If you know me you know I don’t eat candy, but I couldn’t pass it up. In fact, I wanted to show you the actual candy bar, but it would have never lasted in the 20 second walk outside (choco-soup—did I mention it’s hot?), and it was REALLY good! It’s a white Twix, use your imagination.

Also, I have the distinct honor of meeting this guy..



Yes, the Lama, big hitter, the Lama. I went to tip him and he said, “No tip, but on your death bed…” You better know the rest! If you don’t, Shame on you! See Caddyshack NOW! (The behemoth on the left is me…after very little sleep and too much double apple shisha.  I tried to drop it out, but hey, it’s honest. By the way, that’s about the size ratio to every service person I meet here.)

Off to secure a vehicle and look for permanent housing. Enjoy your day, my friends. Thank you for your support on the blog, it makes me feel a bit closer to home. Honestly, I do miss home, but the present is here, and to not focus on what’s in front of us is a betrayal of our life’s journey.

Have a wonderful day!




16 Responses to “Work, eat, play, meet the Lama!”

  1. Heather September 20, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    What an amazing experience. I can’t wait to hear about and see what you rental car will be!!!

  2. Mary Zarantonello September 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Great writing Lee!!! By the way, you are not “obese”…:) Can’t wait to keep hear from you next!!

  3. Candace Bretl September 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Hey Big Dude! We miss you already! I’m starting our round of travels. Tennessee to Panama City Florida and back to Tennessee. We will both miss The meeting this Sunday at Amelia’s house. I’m going to try to write A share based on the readings. And of course you’re welcome to do that also. Then we won’t miss you quite so much.

  4. Jodi September 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Love the blogs Lee, It makes us feel like were on the journey along with you, keep them coming,,, Obese? She must be nuts, lol

  5. afw September 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    There you are, smiling! Amazing looking food. I like how the kibbeh nayeh meat looked bite-ready. I’m sure it was gooooood, as Zander likes to say. You’re right about the present. It’s a gift, and it’s in your lap. Keep smiling, you’re good at it! And yes, those kids will LOVE your attitude and charm. Keep writing, Lee!!

  6. constretta September 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Great writing of course. Looking forward to more. Just do you. 🙂

    • ldabagia September 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      Constretta! I love it. Thanks, Beck!

  7. Bob September 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Hi Lee,
    You just never know who is creeping on your blog. I have really enjoyed reading it…feels like I am there, minus the hot, wet, wool blanket of heat 🙂
    Keep ’em coming.
    Bob DeRuntz (CHS)

    • ldabagia September 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      Bob! Great to hear from you! I miss the CHS family. Thanks for reading. I assume you’re still teaching US History, but if I can supply any info for you, let me know! Thanks, again.

  8. Ronwynn Jones September 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    yes, that is right….stay in the moment….all we really have anyway…focus on the positive and it will become bigger and bigger and bigger!!

  9. Barb Freely September 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Sounds like you are the one gaining massive amounts of new learning! It is fun to live vicariously through you in this adventure.

  10. rza...rza September 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Hey, man….it all sounds great, but I would not make it through college basketball season. Gotta have my BIG MONDAY!!!

    • ldabagia September 21, 2013 at 11:59 am #

      Yeah, I have to figure that one out. Nine hours ahead is going to be rough.

  11. Milt Dabagia September 21, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Every day is a new adventure. Your aunt and I really enjoy your blogs and look forward to each of them.

  12. John Barack September 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Lee, great blog! Enjoying reading about the customs and your obesity~LOL!!!! My Dad would have really enjoyed to hear what education is like in the UAE.

  13. Sheila September 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Obese? Oh my gosh, I guess it really is about perception. (threw my scale out after reading your blog.) Your adventures make for a great late afternoon read at my desk. They’re wondering why I laugh out loud. Save them, turn them into a book one day. I would buy that. 🙂

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