Abu Dhabi Blog: Friends, Global Citizens, Countrymen, lend me your ears, uh, eyes.

20 Oct

Playlist—Colin Hay, “I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you”, Ben Harper “Beloved One”, Tab Benoit’s “The Killing Floor”, John Mayer “Gravity”, Beastie Boys “C.A.S”, The Roots “Stomp”, Miles Davis “Blue in Green”, Coheed & Cambria “Feathers”, Soulfly “Prophecy”, Cody ChesnuTT “Til I Met Thee”, Foo Fighters “Everlong (Acoustic)”, Foo Fighters “Word Forward”, John Mayer “Who You Love”

Well, it’s been a while since we last blogged together. Yes, I missed you, as well. Much has happened since we last spoke. Thus, I’ll be separating this blog into parts. How many? I don’t know, yet. I’ve not planned that far in advance; a sign that I’m learning the culture here. I’ll finish this when I finish this. Insha’allah.

I have blog notes for days…see, I’m thinking of you all the time? Are you thinking of me? No? That’s ok, we must live our lives first, then give and glean from the relationships and experiences of others to gain and grow a whole life. (Alliteration is cool, insert Beavis and Butthead laugh.)

This last year, has been a lesson in that for sure. I am returning to a wholeness, and almost everything is in place. Formerly, I believed that doing for others was the way to become whole. While I still love to serve, it comes from a better place now. Just giving and letting go of that gift once it’s given, feels so much better. Giving freely also helps with forgiveness.

Well, enough of that soul discovery schtuff, on to the present…

Prior to the the Eid break we had a celebration at school. Eid al Adha is the Major Festival, it is also known as the the Greater Eid, or the Festival of the Sacrifice (all translations I tried to get through my very limited Arabic). Basically, it commemorates the end of the Hajj, with the worshipers arriving at the Mosque in Mecca. They circle the Kaaba seven times (Google it).

Here are the students participating in the ritual…


Guess what the gentlemen in the picture teach…go ahead, guess. Incorrect, they teach sewing and cooking…Just kidding, yes, they teach P.E. And yes, they are two of the largest guys here. (Make your own Sasquatch joke—no wonder I can’t find shoes, and XXL is like a Large here.). In addition to celebrating the end of the Hajj (note the gigantic tray of chocolate—there’s a coffee table under there, two guys delivered this, a gift from a parent, and yes, that won’t be forgotten—wink wink), Eid al Adha marks the sacrifice Ibrahim (Abraham, depending on what side of the camel trail you’re on) was willing to offer to Allah. Allah requested Ibrahim sacrifice his first son, Ismael, to Him. (Don’t confuse your tales—not the whale hunter…hmmm, wail..whale? Interesting.) When Ibrahim complied willingly as an expression of love to his god, Allah spared the child, and a lamb was offered up instead. Pretty cool turn of events…unless your a sheep, of course. I wonder if they text their brothers in holiday suffering, the turkeys, in Canada and the US, “Yo, ur nxt, bro! Bah bah…” (Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians…eh!) Anyway, the celebration is huge and families that can afford it order a full sheep, cut it into thirds, give a third to a neighbor, a third to the poor, and keep the other third. Apparently, it’s also the time to go crazy and shop. The prices at the mall plummet for a week. I bought a tailored Pierre Cardin suit, regularly $490, for $130 (shirt and tie included). I’d show a pic, but I’ve just explained a holiday about humility and giving, the pic seems a bit vain, plus its a navy suit, who hasn’t seen one of those?

Here’s something culturally interesting…


A women’s section and a men’s section of the parent visitors.  Of course, that’s only interesting to us. Normal, and expected here. We lost our bus and hall monitors from last year, and they were replaced with women. Women are not allowed in the school to work (though we have three awesome female western 1st grade teachers), so we have no hall monitors…so, the halls, and the playground, and the bathrooms, and the hiding places…all dangerous, and dirty. More pics, please!

MS safe 1

(Sorry, gotta play it safe.) That boy, everyday, smile, shake of the hand, and the cutest darn, “Good Morning, Mudeer Leeeee!” Makes my day. Funny what we look forward to. The idea that a 7 year-old can contribute to the state of mind of an adult with one phrase or gesture is a testament to the power of human relationships, and what educators do everyday. There is joy available everyday, my friends. Take a minute to appreciate it…think about it now. Find your joy…I don’t mind waiting…one thing, one joy. Feel it.

Ok, you back? Great. It’s good to see you smile. Don’t fight it, I saw that…so did the world.  The next pic is Hallway Futbol.

Hallway soccer safe

Usually, they play with a water bottle or some other piece of garbage. Today, they had a ball—a half-flattened and torn ball our kids would throw away, but a ball nevertheless. I brought them 3 mini balls to play with one day; I have one left. There are two mini-balls in Baniyas with Mr. Lee all over them. Oh, well.

The next picture represents the bane of my existence.


Remember these? If you do, you probably remember pull tabs on beer, uh, soda cans. We call them click-clack balls, a weapon, dangerous, and forbidden at school—like suspended/expelled forbidden. Here, they’re called Thtick-Thtagga, toys, fun, and “mine, Mr., mine!” Well, we take them away…everyday, and they keep coming back. I suggested small punishments for bringing them since they are also forbidden at school, here. That fell through. So, I was keeping a collection, but then I saw a supervisor’s collection, and it occurred to me, why? Little triumphs are great, but don’t make little battles into wars. It’s just not worth it.

The next pic is “the Polite Cousins”, not their names (I won’t be publishing names), but how best to describe them.

cousins safe

(I do wish I could show you the kindness in their eyes, but I’m not sure their consent is good enough, and I’m not taking any chances. ) Great kids…LOTS of cousins here, LOTS…I mean, there are a lot of cousins in this school, this small country town. Did I mention Bawadi roughly translates to countryside? Cousins, lots of them. It seems most of the kids are related.  Is this thing on? Am I getting through here?

The last in this series is The Custodians.


No , not a kooky sitcom about a group of custodians who moonlight as under-the-radar detectives solving crimes that soil the world (but, not a bad idea—hey, where IS Tony Shalhoub? He needs work.) These guys spend their days waiting to pick up after our students, who, as I said before, throw EVERYTHING on the ground. They deserve a hug.

Some local flavor…


Yes, this is a good driver here–note, he’s not really on the ground, but stopped.  A bad one would have 3 wheels on the curb after cutting the line at the gas station by driving over the curb and around me. Well played, Hassan, Well played.

The next is funny because it happens all over the world…


…misspelled signs. I think you can see the spelling error. Maybe they got the sign for cheap. Basically, it’s a dollar store….a  3.67 dirham store? (A dirham is worth $.27)

The next I’ve been encountering in many places on my walkabouts.


These not so camouflaged “Rat Rock” traps appear quite frequently. They are quite large, as well. Unfortunately, the warnings are in English. No touch, kids, no touch. Tell boys not to play with rocks, try it. (Also, people think you’re strange when you take a picture of these.) Anyway, I think we’re safe, until the rats learn to read. I spent 4 hours in Ikea when a friend saw one inside, not sure if it was Emirati os Swedish, though.

The next is a sidewalk on Al Reem Island where I’ll probably live…


…some day. The whole island is under construction, as just 10 years ago it was water. The picture is unique because the workers leave everything out…shovels, construction hats, scarves, everything, There doesn’t seem to be much theft here. A colleague left her Kindle on the plane, and when she went back to get it, saw a warehouse full of things left on the plane and at the airport. Of course, I walked around the island for about an hour and only saw one person walking on the street…so, one person running with bricks, a shovel, and a hardhat is going to look suspicious.

The next is my contribution to “bad dad jokes”…


…no that is not to signal slow canoess, it’s the word “Slow” in Arabic…and, no, the sign doesn’t work.

Speaking of Al Reem and where I might live some day. I walked there from the hotel one hot, humid, wet wool blanket of a night. Did I mention it can get hot here?  First, my hotel, then Gate Towers (where I thought I was living), then Sun and Sky Tower (where I might be living)…


I love the architecture here. Remember when you built crazy structures with Legos when you were young and some older sibling or other dream-crusher told you the building wouldn’t ever work. Well, they were wrong. Those buildings are here. The last is the view of the Corniche from the bridge to Al Reem.


There’s no sidewalk on the bridge because you’re not supposed to walk it, so I had to act fast.

This next building is proof that your Lego dreams can come true (for children of the 50’s think Erector set, for children of the 40’s think Lincoln Logs on steroids)..


This is the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC, of course—I’d go into all the AD-acronyms, but who has time for that?). The pointy building is the US Embassy, and the other substantial buildings in the foreground are the Embassies of Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. All a stone’s throw from each other…did I say that? Lame.

A few more random pics before I go…

The first is the helpful grocery basket from the Hypermarket.


As you know sarcasm doesn’t translate well into the written word…although Shaw and Heller could do it (geniuses). This cart is responsible for ankle bruises on everyone over 5’9”. It’s just long enough to be helpful and just short enough to really irritate you. Everyone grabs one. That is, everyone that isn’t pushing a “trolley” (shopping cart) that has 4 turning wheels but will not go straight. This means, the Hypermarket is full of sideways rolling trolleys, skidding loaded pull carts, wandering short newbies, and the every-man-for- himself demolition derby philosophy. Did I mention I feel large here? Then why so many, “Oh Sawree, sir, so sawree!” What? You didn’t see me? Of course they see the giant SUVs flying up their backs at 99 mphs bouncing like a drunk Tigger on roller skates…but, not the quiet, unassuming guy in headphones behind them. (Winnie the Pooh fans, you feel me, I know!)

The next is my favorite.


So, you can’t put your foot on the wall, but you can smoke and throw your cigarette on the ground. Or sell your womanly wares in front of the mall…yes, they have them here, too. What you think WE invented that? Read an ancient text..

The last is sunsets. Ok, maybe these are my favorites


I pray I never tire of them. So far, I haven’t. Also, knowing that beauty occurs everyday, somewhere, for all of us is unifying. Etihad, Arabic for unity.

Again, I am amazed by what I’m learning. I did not put this life in place. There is no way I thought I’d be here one year ago.  A place of brightness, of warmth, of service, of compassion, of joy, of learning, of growth, of change. This is not a result of my work. This is a gift, and the result of some higher power, which I fully accept. I would have never admitted or considered that a year ago. I was wrong. I believe I needed this to understand, to see, to be open, to grow. You see, I’ve learned that if I make myself the higher power, then I have nowhere to turn for help…and everyone, EVERYONE, no matter how smart you think you are, needs help at one time or another. The last weekend of Eid, I went on an overnight desert safari with colleagues and new friends. I can’t begin to explain the impact of that experience. The conversation, the education, the bonding, I will never forget. (If you are reading this, my friends, I am humbled, and I am touched by your experience, your acceptance, and your love of life. Thank you for teaching me.)

WHEW! Sorry, one does get sappy and lumpy-throated from time to time. The Safari will be a post on its own. I’m still processing. Here’s a teaser pic of some dune-bashing…SO much fun…and our camp, and ok, ok, already…a camel.


Oh yeah…one more picture…I feel dumb taking socks to the dry cleaner, so I discovered this in my room.


It’s a sock cleaner…cool, huh! Wanna argue about that? Then why are my socks so clean?

You know how after a tough time in life some people say, “…but, I wouldn’t change a thing…” I don’t know if I’m there, yet. I do know that my heart is in repair and I owe that to you my friends and family from home, and to you my new friends here. I truly am blessed to have met the people I’ve met over the last year, and to have seen and learned so much. I would have never have picked this path; rather, it picked me, and I am grateful to have you with me. I hope the wonder never ceases.

Sincerely, with love and admiration,


P.S. Doc Golightly, thanks for that advice 25 years ago. I am returning to not letting the books get in the way of my learning.


15 Responses to “Abu Dhabi Blog: Friends, Global Citizens, Countrymen, lend me your ears, uh, eyes.”

  1. Robin Surber October 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Wow! Amazing pics! And your journey is so intriguing! (And to prove I am getting old and losing my mind, yes I did google intriguing to be sure I spelled it right haha) Here’s what touched me the most…so simple, yet not really recognized ‘I’ve learned that if I make myself the higher power, then I have nowhere to turn for help…’ Very nicely said. Thank you for sharing!

    • ldabagia October 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      Thank you, Robin. I appreciate your contribution.

  2. Carolyn Rogers October 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Saying I really enjoyed reading your blog does not do justice to how much I enjoyed it, very thought provoking it was especially about the learning to give and let go. I too am over in the UAE teaching, just new just like you. You know what I loved the most about this blog, just when I was thinking very seriously about some things you wrote about I saw your sock washing machine and laughed out loud!!

    • ldabagia October 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it, Carolyn. Are you on the ADEC 12/13 FB page? Jump in…the more the merrier-er-er…

      • Carolyn Rogers October 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

        I sure am that is where I found your blog!

  3. Ronwynn Jones October 20, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    wow…Lee, I remember when my daughter was at the Michigan City High School and I really dreaded talking to anyone on that staff….and then came you…you were very kind, compassionate and you had a SOLUTION!!!…so Michigan City’s loss is Abu Dhabi’s gain, for sure….

    • ldabagia October 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      Ronwynn, Ronwynn…are you magical? You always know what to say. Sending a huge hug for you. Thank you.

  4. Charyl October 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Heading west toward home through Ohio reading your blog. Yes, I did stop and observe joy as you suggested when we pulled up to the toll road Starbucks and remembered the golden light of this perfect autumn day. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes we don’t choose the path – it chooses us. Love the picture of you, the desert, and the camel. Eager for your next blog!

    • ldabagia October 21, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Miss you, Charl. Glad we had moments of joy together. Gotta remember to find them everyday…easier said than done, unless you have the right tools. I think we do.

  5. Donna S. Barenie October 21, 2013 at 2:19 am #

    Lee, I am so glad things are going good for you, Hey Harry from saturday morning asked me about you and where you were…..I told him and he said he would love to get your blogs, i didnt give out your email he gave me his so im am enclosing it Harry Geltz ( the old man remember) HGELTZ@comcast.net.
    Have a great day or evening which ever it is………Donna B

  6. Milt Dabagia October 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Lee, the latest blog is even more interesting and makes me want to visit even more (if that is possible). You are looking great andyour aunt and I are thrilled.

    Uncle Milt

  7. Dad October 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I am pleased and proud the learning experience, personally and professionally, continues for you.

    With Love—Dad

  8. Mary Elizabeth Dabagia Krause October 28, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    My Cousin Lee!

    I’m so glad my dad sent me to your blog! I had no idea you were A) such an entertaining writer, B) such a good speller, punctuationizer and grammarian (which restores my faith in educators, since my children have brought home newsletters from the public schools that have appalling mistakes in them), C) having SUCH an amazing experience over there, and D) a fellow Breaking Bad Fan… Have you finished them all?

    With tremendous love and respect,
    I’ll look forward to all future posts.


  9. Dianne Lindenmeyer October 28, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    Enjoying your blog and reflections. Yes we have a plan and God laughs. Glad that we only get one day at a time. If we knew what tomorrow would bring we would waste today- either anxious and afraid of tomorrow or excited for tomorrow. We only get today. Make it count. God speed on your journey as you travel your life path.

  10. BR November 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    You don’t know me from a hole in the wall, as they say, but I am glued to your blog. I taught in Middle Eastern Schools for 12 years and did LOTS of traveling around the area. But that was years ago and I miss it–a LOT. Point is, it is SO good to read about your experiences without nasty negativity but with a realistic view of the annoyances and an open mind. Being here in Indiana is the truly different culture… So keep it up!! And, shukkran!

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