Arrested! Or, Lost in the Hypermarket, or These are a few of my favorite Thinks, or, A SIGN WOULD BE NICE!

30 Sep

Music, The Clash “Lost in the Supermarket”, Radiohead “Paranoid Android”, Michael Franti & Spearhead “Oh My God”, John Mayer “In Repair”, Tool “Lipan Conjuring”, Coldplay “Don’t Panic”, Colin Hay “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”, The Roots “Proceed”, Michael Frnati & Spearhead “Pray for Grace”, The Roots “The Lighthouse”, A Perfect Circle “The Stranger”, Julie Andrews “These are a few of my favorite things” (Kidding, you know I don’t do show tunes).

Hi! I’m back! I’ve been very busy. Our School Improvement Plan has to be reformatted, edited, and a new Vision must be written…like you care…I’ve been busy. However, I’m here now, so, let’s talk.

My plan was to highlight the ordinary things we take for granted, and note how they’re different here, in The Dhabi! (Remember, when “The Dhabi” goes international and you hear that little shrimp Ryan Seacrest say it, you’ll know, you heard it here, first! The Dhabi! Yeah!–oh, by the way, Seacrest’s radio show plays on local radio here; some things are inescapable…death, taxes, and Ryan Seacrest!)

In my expose’ on the ordinary things in Abu Dhabi (meaning Many Gazelles—of which I haven’t seen one!), you will learn some strange things…so please enjoy.

The idea was to make the Abu Dhabi (the capital) an oasis, while making the roadways and neighborhoods blend with nature. So you have bridges on super highways like this.


Beautiful work, right? No doubt done by the ten thousand busloads of non-Emiratis that block my way to school every morning. Let’s just say, certain groups of people should now be allowed to drive. If you’ve ever driven in Michigan, you get me. They’re all here. Highways are lined in 4 lanes, but drive in 6. Most cars have scrapes on the sides.

Here’s what I see every morning


Sorry for the blur, I was shaking with excitement that traffic was clear. (Check the reflection on the hood of my bad ass whip, THE LANCER!)


This is my school! Cool, huh? More like a compound. All the schools are surrounded by 12-18 foot walls…not a bad idea, really. Also, just inside that gate is the security guard post. Once inside, I seek out the elixir of all educators…coffee. However, it’s a bit different here! Here’s how I get it, every morning, without a word, perfectly mixed, and with a smile.


Yes, coffee, tea, water, juice…He’s kinda shy, so I had to trick him.

Here’s some of the boys…


the little one in the distance to the right of frame with his head cocked is like Uncle Hector from Breaking Bad; he doesn’t say much, but when his bell rings, there’s trouble. They can wear those kandooras to school or each class is color-coded, as well. By the way, “Baniyas” the town where I work, is loosely translated to “countryside”, so the fact that these boys still have shoes on is a minor miracle…thank you very much! Wanna see a country-style home here? I don’t know why I ask, of course you do.



Ummm, yeah! Those are modest country houses. If you work for the Army or Police, you get a house and a car. If you graduate from high school, you get a stipend of about $100,000 to build a house. If your family has money—which, it does—you finance another half a mill to build a palace. However, the money, like the oil, won’t last forever…which is why we’re here.

How about more kids? Here’s tabor (tuh-boor, roll that r! Do it!), kinda like Reveille. We meet every morning and the whole school assembles for some half-hearted exercising, the singing of the national anthem, and prayer…did I mention it’s like 90 degrees at 7:30am?


Notice, picture taken from the shade…as if it matters… “Mistah Lee, why you so wet?” Read the note to self, that sarcasm and wit are not really appreciated here… “I’m kinda hot, Shokran.” Wow, that pic is bad…maybe it’s the heat. Did I mention…

Here’s a sign of the struggle we face. Tell me what’s wrong with this assignment?


Um, yeah..this 5th grader is hunched on the ground, booted from class, in utter brain clench…NO idea what to do. Let’s remember he’s an English learner. It’s hard to make out, but the words to find at the bottom are in lower case, the words in puzzle…all caps. Kid is totally lost. Once we worked through that, Ali Hassan Omar Ahmed Rababa Alsayed was really happy. (Not his real name, but close—almost everyone in the family is honored in a name here.)


So, I punch out…yes, EVERYONE punches in/out…and, after a day of that, here’s me.


Frazzled…so, back to normal things not so normal…an outlet


individual switch for each one. Cool! 220, lick it, I dare you!

Ping Pong, we have….


Ping Pong Premier League Championship with Ping Pong Arena and spectators…I’ve never’s at the mall…

Homework…I have lots of it


My home office, 31st floor, by the pool…Just so you don’t think it’s all fun and games, I found the only self serve laundromat in a city of 1.7 million….


Actually, you put your clothes in and he’s so busy, he doesn’t wait for you if you should happen into the nearby Sheraton for a beer to put you stuff in the dryer. Did I mention he’s the only one? Why? The Emiratis do dry cleaning, or pick up and delivery, and everyone else does their own.

Speaking of the Sheraton, Happy hour.


EIGHT hours…really? Is that necessary?

Here’s a bank waiting room. Not different, except that when they need to deliver mail, they call your mobile, and then come find you…seriously…creepy.


So, the customer service guy let me keep this pic, but warned me strongly against another.

Here’s the house of a lucky young lady who’s getting married…she didn’t pick him, daddy did, so the party is huge…


There are no birthday celebrations for Emiratis, due to religious beliefs, so the wedding is rather stellar. I have two daughters…let’s go with birthdays. (Of which, my baby turns 16 this Thursday. To say it’s not hard to see and hug her is an understatement for which there is no superlative and I have nothing clever. I just love her so much…so, so much. Happy Birthday, my beautiful, brilliant girl! I love you everyday, with every breath, forever!)

Ok…gimme a second to recover.

So, fountains! There are many of them…here’s one


Gas station…except they’re all full service, and gas is about $2.10 a gallon, which would explain why the V8 Four wheel drives here rule the road….and the supercars.


Ever pump gas in full pants, shirt, and hat in 106 degree weather, and hope you get tipped? Stay in school kids, study hard.

Oh, guess what!? I found shoes!


Not funny. Guess who found guys to play basketball with and has no shoes for it? Yeah, me! Back to the Gepetto to get some shoes made, I guess.

So, the supermarket…the LULU HYPERMARKET! If ever there was a name for what this place is, HYPERMARKET is perfect. It is NEVER slow. Some people in an extreme hurry, some just wandering around in the air conditioning. Whole families of short people stopping right in front of you to gaze at candy bar displays. “They’re candy bars! Walk!”…kidding, you know me…never a word.

So, I started snapping pictures to show you how this place makes Walmart, no Sam’s Club/Costco (whatev!), look like a 7/11…and suddenly while jamming out and nodding my head to the music, I get tapped on the shoulder by a security guard.

“Uh, sorry, was I singing?”




“Ummmm, I don’t understand.”

“No pictures here!”, then he points to the huge sign above my head. A sign I’ve walked under a dozen times since I’ve been here. No pictures in the super-, uh, hypermarket. It turns out the ones I got were lame anyway. It’s huge, just believe it. It’s a hypermarket.

Here are the scissors in the school section


(10-inch blades…$9.53) Pray that the kid who buys these breaks his wrist hoisting them into his backpack in the morning, or maybe the nanny will…sorry, educator humor can be dark.

One cool thing at the hypermarket is the live pasta guy—so much better than dead pasta guy! He makes it to order right in front of you. So, I did four miles on the treadmill and tortured my hamstrings with kettle bell squats, so I thought I’d ruin it all with this…


Fed me for two days,….for $6, hey, it’s veggie? Nice!

From the “Oh, a sign would be nice” category. There’s a beautiful health club here. Weights, cardio, sauna, steam, jacuzzi, etc. However, it would be NICE to post that the sauna and steam room preferred dress is shorts…yeah, learned that the embarrassing way. No pic, ’nuff said.

Now, for the visually stimulated…hotel “Arabic appetizer plate”


And, of course, for the slow of wit…hey, it’s an Equal Opportunity Blog!


Doin’ Z.A. Butt! (You know you just sang that song in your head…and yes, “sang” is correct as there is no helping verb—you people, yeesh!)

So, I posted a quote on Facebook earlier in the week, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”. Change? We need it. Growth, it’s the same thing. If we act as if we know everything, we can never change and grow. If I had acted the master about this opportunity and not trusted the universe to take care of me, I would have never done it. The old Lee would have said it was a bad idea and spent a lot of time trying to convince you why I was right. I wasn’t. It took me a long time to learn that there is no valuable experience in life that doesn’t require a little fear and discomfort. I’ve had plenty of both since embarking on this journey, but it pales in comparison to the growth I am experiencing. Today, I sat in a room full of Arabic educators looking to me to help fix their issues when they don’t believe they can be fixed. I was comfortable in saying, “I don’t have that answer, yet. I only know that we’ll try and we’ll learn from that. If it works, we move on. If not, we try again.” Their response; a scattered, thoughtful chorus, “Insha’Allah!”…then, silence. Translation… “God willing.” Isn’t that the way? I am touched. Everyday.

I love and miss you,


❤ TMD, my child.


10 Responses to “Arrested! Or, Lost in the Hypermarket, or These are a few of my favorite Thinks, or, A SIGN WOULD BE NICE!”

  1. Blayn brother September 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Hay I’m coming home on the 4 can I buy your baby some flowers do anything for you. As I sit with my mom in the hospital wiping her forehead with a cool wash rag thinking you know how many hours my mother took care of me in the crazzy times in mylife I do believe that we all have purpose that we all can make things happen and do know it is never easy For you have made my day brother lee stay focused love the lancer send me stories often xx o yea

  2. Dad September 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Lee—Your wisdom, especially as it applies to The Middle East, is growing with each experience. I was cautioned when I was taking pictures in Saudi Arabia that cameras were not allowed for security purposes. They think all
    westerners are “CIA” agents.

  3. audra raye October 1, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    Hah! Ten-Thousand bus loads of people to work. It seems that way, huh? P.S. that pasta looks amazing!

  4. Cathy Cook October 1, 2013 at 2:22 am #

    Fun read….. Enjoy the Pictures….Knew you were going to get increasingly Busy…. Breathe and stay in the Moment.

  5. Sarah Beth October 3, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Miss you tons! Awesome to read growth, discovery, & forward movement.

  6. rza...rza October 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Lee, thanks for the laughs……and smattering of wisdom! Just when you think you cannot do something, is usually when you realize that our preconceived notions of strength are misguided. But, for god’s sake, where are the pics of the endless “Bacon Fields” I have heard so much about? Too soon???….Yes, ‘Merica, WAY TOO SOON!!!

  7. Yahoo! Inc. October 7, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    Ok so what’s with all the bright Skechers?


    • Chris Arndt October 7, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Thanks for the fun and informative blog, Lee! Take care over there!

  8. Stephanie Dege October 14, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    Been reading this today since we just hooked up on Facebook. Enjoy reading about your new adventure- but the Michigan driver comment made me shake my head!! :). I’m an excellent driver!! (Rain Man quote totally intended!)

    • ldabagia October 14, 2013 at 7:48 am #

      Yeah, but only in the driveway, in the driveway. Hi Steph! You get points for a purple car! Kiss Larry for me.

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