The Ground floor is the 1st floor, and the 2nd floor is the 3rd floor.*

24 Sep

Music: Ben Harper “In the Lord’s Arms”, The Roots feat Dice Raw “Lighthouse”, Franti & Spearhead “Feelin’ Free”, Beastie Boys “Namaste”, ZZ Top “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, A Perfect Circle “The Noose”, Taking Back Sunday “New American Classic”, Miles Davis “Flamenco Sketches”, Smashing Pumpkins “Mayonnaise”, The Shins “New Slang”, Cody ChestnuTT “Til I Met Thee” 

You know the old saying about you how you never know how many friends you have until your funeral? You ever heard that one? Me neither, I think I just made it up (Poetic License. Google it!). No funerals this week, but I did have a birthday—the means to an end, I suppose. As I posted on Facebook, I was preparing for a pretty lonely and ordinary day; which I though would suit me fine. Then an interesting series of events occurred. Facebook started blowing up…wait…here’s my post…

Lee Dabagia Jr.

4 hours ago near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Ok, to be quite honest, I was quite down yesterday. I’m in a new place (um, 7312.8 miles from home), I know no one, and it was my birthday. I spent the day at work (which is SO cray to the cray!), then came home (hotel) and ate a huge bowl (um, paper bowl) of veggie ramen type stuff…not, a common birthday meal (especially when in a fancy hotel). Settling in with Season 4 of Breaking Bad…the birthday wishes from FB started rolling in…crap, I’m seriously about to cry right now. THEN, the hotel sends me a gourmet-freakin’ chocolate cake. I post that and even more wishes roll in. I am pretty choosy, as you might understand, about whom I “friend” with on here. The last year hasn’t been my easiest and for those who believed in me, I am deeply touched. As one friend said to me last October, “..Lee, God brings you to it, so He (She, It, They, if you wish) can get you through it…” This last year has taught me so many things, I am grateful to you, my friends, and the Universe, for my good fortune. All of your wishes helped fill a serious void yesterday. I will ride this wave for a while if you don’t mind. Thank you, my friends, my family, my strength. “And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make”. It does pay off. Send out your love, give it to the world, you will get it back when you need it most…like I did, yesterday.  — feeling loved.


Ugh, I’m welling up again…yeesh! THEN, yes, there’s more Ginsu lovers, THAT post blew up and still is as I write. So much love being sent my way from all over the globe; and some from new acquaintances here in The Dhabi! (No one calls it that, but I’m thinking about branding…The Dhabi! I like it!)

Anyway, I can’t take any more crying over my tea, so I just ordered a bottle of Scotch…kidding.

Honestly, I am so blessed by all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Truthfully, my heart has been pretty low and hole-y for a while, and you did much work to raise me up and get me close to whole—y.

We are loved. Everyday, in ways we may not consider, and may take for granted. Share your love. Please.

Back to Food! So, you saw my cake! Here was my birthday dinner!


Scary right? Even scarier…did you know there’s a folding fork at the bottom of those noodle bowls? I didn’t! I gagged when my mini-hotel spoon found something rigid under the scalding water. Then I saw jagged points sticking out from within the noodles. What could it be? Trash from the Tsunami? Is Ramen made near nuclear plants in Japan? Is it a bird skull? Cat bones? Hey, I’m alone, I have some time to wander…and wonder. To my utter amazement and NO recollection from college, it’s a folding fork, partially sagging from melting in the water, but functional…genius! Those Singapore-ians…(Malaysians, probably, right? It’s a Republic…not important).

So, here’s me after my first day of work with the kids


A little frazzled, and sweaty…did I mention it’s hot…and, yeah, the hair…sweat out the gel, dry, pull it out, sweat, and dry again…Yeah, that’s how you achieve “the look”. Hot for ONE-FOUR! You’ll want it! (Oh, and the nose…here, not so big! Love my Arab peoples!)

Wait, before I go on, check this out.


It’s a translator…They hand them out at meetings for Admin, though you better know English here, or it’s tough to get around.

Wanna see my office? Sure you do!


Here are some pics of Al Bawadi Model School…all boys (920 or so), grades 1-6. To say recess is loud and totally unsafe is to say the first moonwalk was cool, but no big deal. (Not the Michael Jackson kind, the Louie Armstrong kind—I know it’s Neil, just checking your level of reading commitment).

More pics


That’s the playground. Notice no swing set, slide, jungle gym, anything? Yeah, me too. This school is what they consider an inner city school here. When I tell people where I work, they touch their hearts and bow to me. They say they’ll pray for me…I’ve heard that before, and I never buy it. Kids are kids. They want to succeed, they want to be happy, they want to be loved, and they want to be a part of something they can be proud of…not too much to ask, I say.

Here’s some hallway shots.




They look pretty clean because there is a crack staff of about 20 custodians that clean up after these boys like mothers. At morning break, the courtyard and halls look like that film of Woodstock after the rain. These boys throw EVERYTHING on the ground. Don’t doubt me to yourself! I hear you. Yes, everything…wrappers, food, juice, milk, water bottles…everything.


Yeah, I don’t get this either. South Park is not allowed here, so I’m not sure why Mr. and Mrs. Hankey get a mural…wait, I think they’re bees, yeah bees…eating soup…Still…what?

So some of you are asking, “Why are you there?…Um, you’re not on vacation?…Who’s Abdul Bobby?…What’s Sati babi?…Is that a real place?” Actually, just the first one. This is why we’re here…


Actually, that’s not oil seeping out of the wall, but it was like that once. That’s why we’re here. The oil will dry up and the leaders of the country want an educated population to capitalize on the wealth and make this place prosper for generations to come. Guess how you do that? Go ahead…I’ll wait. How does a nation guarantee a livelihood and prosperous future? You know what it does? We did it in the 1850s…invest in your youth, invest in schools.

The UAE knew that western educators spend a lot of time and money researching and implementing best practices, so they hire them to come here to teach. During my final interview I asked the panel what the state of schools is like now. They said, “…imagine the United States methodology in the 50s; that’s where we’re at…” Sounds ok, if you have kids from the ’50s sitting in front of you, respecting you, school, authority, and the like. However, that’s not here. Emiratis make up only 15% of the work force here—the rest don’t have to work, and certainly wouldn’t stoop to teach (PLEASE get the sarcasm there).

Praising hard work and middle class values means nothing to these kids. They are just like our kids. Electronic overdose, quick money is cool money, short attention span, little respect for authority (South Park fans can say it here), and they’re bored. However, they are so damn cute in their kandoras; they all look like Toto from Cinema Paradiso…WHAT!? You’ve never seen it? See it, NOW! A beautiful film.

Anyway, that’s why we’re here. This country has boomed so quickly, and they’re very proud of it. Not too proud to ask for help, though. Pretty smart, I think. They want their kids to be engineers, entrepreneurs, educators, and an fourth e word that’s cool.

So, I’ve had a FULL few days of Principalling…tomorrow we cram on the School Improvement Plan per the evaluation from an accreditation team that visited last year. No sweat, I’ve been through it a few times before. Only this one reads from right to left, and I haven’t the slightest idea what it says. No problem…what’s best for kids…always the question.

Speaking of slight differences…here’s a couple.



That’s Mall Fast food…tabouleh, mixed kebabs with eggplant, onion, and tomato, and a Kiwi/Apple jiuce smoothy kinda thing. About 11 dollars.

and another one to kill that appetite



Yes, that’s acceptable attire at a Principals meeting here. My clunky monsters, and his sandal -less feet.

That’s all for now.

Again, I am deeply touched by all of the comments and wishes I’ve received over the last few days. I’ve always believed that if you give of yourself freely and lovingly it will come back to you. During some dark days, I started to doubt that. This week you all returned that love to me tenfold. I am not alone, but it took this time alone to understand that…how about we close with a poem? Shall we? Take a deep breath (DO IT! NOW!)…in through the nose, and blow out…a poem, called “Loneliness”, by…me..

Loneliness is a teacher,

And a Judge.

A hard-boiled detective,

Who’s holding a grudge.

He sees you in the mirror

And offers no clues;

He gives you hidden truths,

And ALL the bad news.

If you look away

To try and avoid the pain;

He stubbornly insists

That to resist is in vain.

And when you look into his eyes

To search the inward sea

Waves of thought will pound you;

Face them now, to be free.

You see, Loneliness likes your fear,

And the reluctance in your face.

So stare back defiant,

And please grant yourself grace.

Loneliness is a teacher

Of the toughest kind;

He stands you in front of your self,

And says, “Take charge of your mind!”

Thanks for reading me…love,


*Title–good advice for not getting lost in a city-size mall


8 Responses to “The Ground floor is the 1st floor, and the 2nd floor is the 3rd floor.*”

  1. Dawn Dabagia Wood September 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    love the poem – gonna print it out.

  2. Jodi September 25, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Love this,,, Always remember, no matter where you go, or how far away you are, you will always have friends and family who love you,,,

  3. Milt Dabagia September 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    You have touched all of us.

  4. Dana Dabagia September 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    Beautiful poem, Lee. And the day to day info is fascinating. Take good care! So proud of you.

  5. Candace Bretl September 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Lee, my friend. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I am sending you birthday wishes for the best next year ever. May the doors that open for you far outnumber those that have closed.
    Your friend

  6. Chrissie Kostyk September 26, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    I love it! And I love what you are doing. You have an amazing heart!

  7. Nicole September 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    I love reading your posts. They take me to a far away land for sure. It all sounds interesting to say the least. Getting out of the country sounds more and more appealing all the time! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: