I’ve got myself one of those comfy leather chairs like you used to have. I’m leaning back in it now. Feet up on the ottoman. I just wish you were sitting on it instead of me. I’d be on the couch to your left and I’d make you laugh like a hyena with some of my tales about life in Abu Dhabi.
Every day serves up equal parts perplexity and wonder. If only you could see me walking around Khalifa University — where I am one of very few Westerners, and where everyone else is dressed traditionally. I stick out like a sore thumb. A big white pink thumb on an otherwise elegant hand of long brown fingers. Sometimes I imagine you looking down from heaven and you see me walking around the campus quad with my Emirati counterparts.
“Gal,” you shout out. “You look ridiculous!”
You’d really like my office mates. One is from Palestine/Virginia. Another is from Syria. Another is an Indian who was born here. Four others are Emirati–three of whom are raucous women. One is from Cape Breton and, ironically, she seems the most unlike me.
People talk very frankly and openly about race and ethnicity here. For some reason, the effect (in our office at least) is humanizing instead of stereotyping. We don’t pretend we are all cut from the same cloth. But we all work very hard, and we laugh outright throughout the day at all the funny things the come our way. There’s a lot of good-natured yelling in Arabic, and this how I’m learning the language.
There’s a big white board calendar in the office, and we know which day of the week it is because one of us puts a magnetic troll on it. The troll feels very symbolic. Of what I don’t know. But I see myself in him.
On a short run yesterday — yes, my pink self runs through the deserted streets of our desert island — I uncovered more improbable yet seemingly meaningful images.
There’s a sign near here stating the directions for City of Lights — East, North and South. I guess there is no City of Lights West. Moreover, there appears to be no working lights in the City of Lights as it is still under construction. Worse yet, is what I don’t see: any kind of port-o-lets in the vicinity of any construction site. I hope City of Lights West debuts soon. Maybe it’s the one that will light up the whole town, like a string of Christmas lights that needs one tiny new bulb.
Dad, you always used to tell me that “pride comes before a fall.” Well, the phrase once again proved true. After I came home from organizing the big conference a week or so ago, I was so proud of myself. I remembered your favorite axiom just as I walked into my bedroom and slipped on the carpet from India and crashed my left leg and right elbow into the bed and floor.
Two days ago, Allan went to a store and bought five trash cans. This seemed odd. I told him so. Well, turns it out was a damn good thing we had five because David got a stomach bug and needed three of them. Another went towards catching a leak in the bathroom ceiling. And the fifth is for actual trash.
David’s flu really scared us. I wished I could have called you for help. I thought we might have to take him to the emergency room, and that seemed even scarier. How would I communicate with the doctors? Instead, Allan went to an all-night clinic and spoke with the doctor about David’s symptoms. They handed over some medicines I’d never heard of and I was afraid of them. But guess what? They worked very well. I think you’d appreciate the quick-acting docs here and the ease in which the ill can get help.
I found a show on TV called, “An Idiot Abroad,” about an English man who is sent by his more savvy friends to see the Great Wonders of the World. This guy, turns out, isn’t such an idiot. He’s more like a savant. He asks questions like, “Where are the port-o-lets for the workers.” At the end of each episode, he learns a few things and teaches us even more.
I can see you sitting in this leather recliner watching that show. You’d laugh mightily about the situations this guy gets into.
Instead, it’s me in this chair. And I’m getting into situations like him.
Your ole sweet gal