Back in the (Camel) saddle again, or You can never go home again, or Lessons from Freshman English

6 Jan

Abu Dhabi Blog!

Playlist–Michael Franti & Spearhead-Time to Go Home, Taking Back Sunday-A Decade Under the Influence, Rage Against the Machine-Bulls on Parade, 30 Seconds to Mars-The Fantasy, Billy Joel-Get It Right the First Time, Coheed & Cambria-The Hound (Of Blood and Rank), Tool-Faaip De Oaid, Rush-Limelight, Deftones-Knife, The Smiths-What Difference Does It Make?, Killswitch Engage-Break the Silence, Gary Clark Jr.-Don’t Owe You A Thang, Clutch-Unto the Breach, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell-You’re all I Need Tonight, Dave Matthews solo-Rhyme & Reason, The Police-Spirits in the Material World, Rage Against the Machine, Know Your Enemy, Buddy Guy-Stone Crazy, Michael Franti & Spearhead-Love Invincible, The The-Kingdom of Rain, Bad Brains-Babylon, Cloakroom-Breaking, Red Hot Chili Peppers-Brendan’s Death Song, Michael Franti & Spearhead-I know I’m Not Alone

Pretty cool. Look at the First and last song. Luck? Nope, something bigger. Enjoy!

1–Ummm, Hi. Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m back in the Dhabi after an interesting 3 weeks in the city of my birth. (Yo! MC! Mad love for the 219!) Actually this installment is more about home (and the concept of homes—oh and luck, and love, and loss, and the 5 stories ever written, and maybe some pics of me at work, if you’re really good) than it is about life in the Dhabi…because, really, life here is like life anywhere…anywhere that people break out down ski jackets and huge Irish sweaters, and ask you if “you’re ok in the cold” when it’s 61 degrees out. (Yeah, no kidding. Had that conversation about 15 times today…I’m thinking about you, and praying for you enduring the blizzard around Lake Michigan. Truthfully, I kinda miss it….easy to say, right? There is no “wind chill” here…more like “breezy intemperateness”.) As cliché as it all sounds, life anywhere is relative. My hometown is buried under snow and reeling from freezing temperatures, but it’s not  beyond a typical winter. My current home is experiencing unseasonable lows that my hometown people call Spring. Both peoples are cold, despite a 70 degree difference.

My lovely hometown

This is the ice pack and sand glaciers that form every winter on Lake Michigan--a short walk from my house.

This is the ice pack and sand glaciers that form every winter on Lake Michigan–a short walk from my house.

Actually it drizzled here today…SHUT THE STREETS DOWN! Kidding. Rain– maTarrr Say it…go ahead maTarrrrrrrr….rolling r’s are fun!

2–So, where to begin? I took some philosophy courses as a barefoot goatee-d Chris Cornell wannabe in college, and I once wrote a paper on Heraclitus and the Doctrine of Flux; a partial title for the work he did. In a really compact underdeveloped pistachio shell the idea is that everything is always changing, perceived or not, it is changing…thus, so are we. Often mis-attributed to ‘Clitus (yeah, we’re tight), is this quote, “man can never stand in the same river twice”. (Go ahead my mad-googlers, check away, but know that this river will change once you leave….and so will you, my friends, so will you.) Really, the quote is a rearrangement of what he said, but contextually accurate in terms of his meaning. The MacGuffin here (Hitchcock fans, you feel me) is the Heraclitus quote is kind of an entre to a quote I’ve always had a hard time with: “You can’t go home again” or “you can never go home again”. (The first is a Thomas Wolfe novel—read it.) Cheap Summary—in the novel, George Webber is turned away by his hometown (not gonna give away why) and (kinda) travels world and eventually rediscovers his love for his home. Honestly, there’s not too much of a parallel here, but it’s a good book.

The interesting thing for me is I get to do here what I did at home. The situation isn’t that different. When I tell people where I work, they get the spoiled milk smell face on…then shake their heads as if to say, “awww, I’m sorry.”

The reality, just like it was at home, is we have a talented group of teachers who have been told over and over that their school and their kids just won’t ever become something big. I totally disagree. Totally. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am thankful for the lesson that taught me I could do this. I am thankful for the lesson that let me see this as a change I needed. I am thankful for the lesson that made me step out of the river and re-enter, anew.

Look at these teachers work! Love it!

Rubrics are fun in every language!

Rubrics are fun in every language!



Khaled and I--doin' the interpreter dance!

Khaled and I–doin’ the interpreter dance!



Mr. Mohammed and I laying the smack down on the terror of Al Bawadi--Grade 6.

Mr. Mohammed and I laying the smack down on the terror of Al Bawadi–Grade 6.

A & A--I smell Oud!

A & A–I smell Oud!



So, these are my colleagues. This is my new home. I feel blessed to have two homes, and all the trimmings that go with the concept of “home”. I am also blessed to have stepped in many rivers and been changed by them all…ok, all this talk of flowing and rivers…who needs a break? I’ll be right back.

3—Ok, much better! Ya see, I never really agreed with the quote. I love my hometown. It is a great place to live, and there are great people there. Sure, people get down on it and say really negative things hiding behind fake names and monikers in the newspaper’s online comment section (really, N-D? Require authentication, at least), but Michigan City is truly beautiful and there is opportunity for the creative and the positive. So, I always thought, “…why can’t I go home if I leave?…things will be the same, I’ll find the same people in the same places, and we all will be comfortable, and…well, home…” While all of this is true, it took this life changing experience of moving to the Dhabi for me to really “get” it.

Yes, I went home. Yes, it was really nice…but it’s not the home that you can’t return to, it’s the you that isn’t returning home. Make sense?

All rivers continue to flow…your hometown, your new hometown, and most of all, you. You return home with the knowledge of how things are and you find comfort in your accurate perceptions. However, while your eyes see the same things your brain has added new sets of experiences and thus, the sorting, comparing, and re-filing begins. The simplest thing, like a trip to the grocery store (the exact same grocery store you rode to bouncing around without a car seat or seat belt in the sofa size back seat while you played catch) becomes a new learning experience. Suddenly, you hear yourself… “oh yeah, I forgot about that” (15 types of peanut butter) or “THIS is the tea section? (compared to the tea aisles). Everything is now tainted, or enhanced, depending on your outlook, by the time you spent away…flowing.

4–So, on to luck…in which I no longer believe. I now prefer grateful to lucky. “I am grateful” attributes to a sender, as a gift. Maybe the gift is a result of the work you’ve done; or maybe you believe the gift is from a power higher/larger/more incomprehensible than you. Or maybe the gift is a result of both. Did you see Nick Wallenda walk across the Grand Canyon? You tube, my friends, youtube.

“I am lucky” occurs in a vacuum…and NOTHING occurs in a vacuum (this, I’m not smart enough to prove as the absence of a thing cannot prove the existence of another; but stay with me, please). You see, if you continue to attribute good fortune to luck, then you begin to believe you are a lucky person and you just deserve good things happening to you. Actually, you do deserve good things, but some of us might even get to the point of thinking good things will happen always—without something causing it. Let me warn you, my dear friends….bad idea. I was there. It just ain’t true. Bad things do happen (to anyone)…and there’s always a reason. (There’s a simplistic colloquial phrase for this, but it escapes me.) The hidden side effect of believing you are a “lucky” person is that you don’t attribute the positive things to who you are, and what you’ve done. You float along without belief…no belief in the value of you, and no belief in something greater than you…a very dangerous position, indeed. Dangerous, and lonely.

In grad school, I once had a “Community and the School” class. The whole semester hinged on a group project. Well, I lived over 3 hours and a time zone away from my group. We had to trust the others to do a great job on their portion….yeah right, right? Well, we had no time to rehearse the presentation and I was the anchor. I remember the frustration of watching my group bore the rest of the class. I was upset and frantic, and had to do something! Needless to say I hammed it up and they backed me up in the summary. When it was over, I thought, “well, that was a waste of time, that would never happen in the real world…” and I was happy to get the grade and get out. Of course, I have needed that exact experience more than a few times since. I wasn’t lucky or unlucky to have endured that; it was a gift. I am grateful, not lucky, to have had that experience.

Perception…60 degrees or -10…both cold, for different people… MC or the UAE, schools are shaped by community…hometown or current home, life is for living, not visiting, embrace it… “wax on wax off…paint the fence”, lucky lessons? I think not, Daniel-san. (Miyagi do Karate!)

5–One of my good friends reminds me of this Shakespearean quote all the time, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” And Hamlet, he would know. (If you don’t know the story, go ahead watch the Mel Gibson one, I won’t tell) All things that happen are lessons…opportunities to learn. Our obstacle, of course, is us. When our life is disrupted with…well, life. We have a choice. Do we search for blame and anger and revenge, or do we search for the meaning of it. “Why me?” really isn’t a bad question. It’s the way you answer it that determines your growth. If you always step in camel poop (gotta stay topical), it’s not because you’re doomed or constantly being punished, it might be a lesson to pay more attention to the steps you’re taking.

(picture of camel poop omitted…you get it, right?)

If things are going well and you’re asking “why me”, then look at what you can learn from it. I was in a serious “why me” situation and it brought me here. I had to fight myself to accept that I still had a lot to learn about me, and that I wasn’t lucky or unlucky, but I was fortunate. Believe me, I still struggle with it, daily. I am 7700 miles from my daughters, and my heart is in repair. Imagine the anxiety and panic and fear and doom if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow…that might start to explain the void I feel in missing my daughters. Though what I do with those thoughts are up to me. Think about it, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…” Thinking is not the evil, our choice of thoughts is the evil. Go back to the camel poop. Try this you camel poop stepper-inners (oh, you get it, stop being a snob), “…hey this poop on my sandal is a good reminder to watch where I tread; not everything is clean and comfortable and good for me.” Yes, I’ve moved the example to a metaphor, I KNOW you saw it coming.

Sorry, if I wasn’t as humorous as you’d like. One reader told me I am getting too serious, and not as fun. This is me; it’s where I am right now, today. It’s been a strange month since we last shared…extreme ups and downs, and less resolve than I had hoped. Hugs are hard to find when you’re new in town, but all of this is a lesson in itself. (Cool side note; watching the Arab men around my school greet each other on the first day back was very touching, and genuine.)

Also cool is the practice of touching your heart after shaking hands and greeting. I love that! Try it. Touch your heart after you say hello or shake someone’s hand. It will change the greeting for you. Please, try it.

Life has given me many opportunities to absorb lessons I took for granted; suddenly it’s all coming together. Lucky? No, the seeming chaos of the universe organizes our lives and if we flow with it rather than stand and fight the current, then going home again isn’t so tough. In fact, with the right Mindset (read Carol Dweck, beeteedubs) going home (hometown or current home) again is like returning anew.

By the way…aren’t you wondering about the numbers? I’ve never done that before. Yes? You are? Really? Ok, here it is. There are only 5 stories ever written. They are:

  1. Man vs Nature
  2. Man vs. Society
  3. Man vs. Self
  4. Man vs. Supernatural
  5. Man vs Man

Go back…they correspond.

I have always been inspired by the story of the Phoenix. (Geez, that too? Go ahead, google it) I could never understand why it stuck in my head. Why did I need to know it? Why did it occupy so many dreams throughout my life? Luck or coincidence? No way, something way, way effin’ bigger. This Christmas, my dad called me The Phoenix in a card. It is the single greatest thing he has ever said to me. I love you, Dad.

Ugh! I thought I could hold it together for one darn blog!

Peace and Love and Thanks and Happy New Year,



11 Responses to “Back in the (Camel) saddle again, or You can never go home again, or Lessons from Freshman English”

  1. Robin January 6, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    *Puts feet up*. Ahhhhhhh.

  2. Debbie January 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    hope you enjoyed your time in MC!

  3. HuskEric January 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    Always enjoy reading your posts… I’ve experienced these emotions…I’ve returned to the US temporarily to get my masters in Ed, then is out into “the real world” again. Be careful sir, too much time away and you may find yourself changed past the point of returning happily to your hometown (minus your family of course). That realization hit me during my tenuous readjustment to the States. For me, it’s a sad beauty. I am now a nomad…and that was never my intention. But good or bad, freedom or lack of “roots”, explorer or lonely…we can’t fight reality. Perception….oh perception….such a dangerous thing to be messed with!

    • ldabagia January 17, 2014 at 6:35 am #

      Eric, thank you for reading and engaging. I really appreciate your input. Nomads discover worlds known and unknown…a good thing.

  4. Dawn Dabagia Wood January 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Great Blog Lee – you are the Phoenix!

  5. janicejensencom January 7, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    Great and enjoyable blog, welcome back to the sand pit 🙂

  6. steph January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    I wish I had these insights before I went home to guide me through three week of family, fun and torture. Great insights and blog. Keep it up; we all need a spiritual reminder and leader 🙂

  7. Khaled January 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    I’ve learned much for you Mr. Lee. I’m happy that you like my dancing 🙂

  8. Milt Dabagia January 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Loved seeing you nephew.

  9. Laura LaLone January 17, 2014 at 12:11 am #


    I have no idea how I stumbled upon your BLOG. (Actually I do. I was trying to find out about oil painting classes in Long Beach, because life has my foot in a pile of doo doo right now (health stuff) and I need something new to try to stimulate my creativity and frankly keep my mind off of pain.) I’m happy to see you are well and moving forward, making a difference – leaving your mark! Love reading your stories and seeing your photos. Super cool. From one parent to another, hang in there bud. We are never really apart, it’s all just an illusion. Although it hurts like hell sometimes. My son Ryan was in Spain for a month over Christmas, and then pretty much went straight back to Purdue so I got just a morsel of what you must be feeling. Hang in there.

    • ldabagia January 17, 2014 at 6:50 am #

      Laura! SO glad to hear from you! Love the painting idea. Thank you for engaging. I’m with you.

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: