How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alzheimer's Sucks, and I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

My dear husband keeps me updated on my dad's condition back in Georgia. It's not good. Dad continues to deteriorate almost day by day. He can longer hold his head up for any length of time, and most of the time he keeps his eyes shut. I read where Alzheimer's patients will do that as a way of shutting out visual stimuli that they can no longer process. Dad doesn't eat much and his weight has plummeted.  He might weigh 125 pounds. To put that into perspective, he weighed 186 in April of this year.  I know because he stepped on the scale at my house and I weighed him. Nowadays, Dad either stays in bed or the Geri chair at the V.A hospital, as he is no longer mobile on his own accord.

My daughter took her three week son, Cash, to "meet" my dad at the V.A hospital last week. Not once did my dad look at the baby. My daughter said dad's eyes were closed and when she begged him to look at her, he cracked his eyes open the merest of slits, smiled, and then shut his eyes tightly again. My daughter held Cash to my dad's chest and let my father feel his great-grandson baby against his body. Dad will be seventy years old Monday. Everything stolen way too early from my dad. All he worked for. All he planned for. He never got a chance to enjoy any of it. I'm angry about it all and don't quite know who to be angry at.

So, so difficult to be so far from home when something of this magnitude is happening to one of the most important people in your life. But, it was my choice to come to the UAE. No one else's but mine. I knew it would be hard. I never thought it would be this hard.

My dad is human. He has made mistakes, like all of us. I don't try to shift him to any godlike status because that would be taking his humanness away. My dad taught me how to fight, how to succeed, how to fall, how to get back up. And in the entire wide world I could not have asked for a father who could have come even close to loving me the way he did. I would give up years of my own life to have just one last conversation with him. Just one.

Meanwhile the beat goes on in the UAE. Syria is still rife with violence. Israel bombed Gaza yesterday. My friends and family back home worry about me because they read the news and I am in the Middle East, but all of that is taking place about 1500 miles from where I sit and doesn't effect my normal living and working life. The UAE continues to be a place where the unexpected is the norm though. It is simply accepted and one quickly grows used to practically doing every else's job, and not just in one's own workplace.  The daily customer service industries like the banks, the internet company, the education council- any sector where Emiratisation is prevalent- is rife with inconsistencies. The definition of Emiratisation from Wikipedia:

.."initiative by the government of the United Arab Emirates to employ its citizens in a meaningful and efficient manner in the public and private sectors".
"While the program has been in place for more than a decade and results can be seen in the public sector, the private sector is still lagging behind with citizens only representing 0.34% of the private sector workforce".

The lack of a Western work ethic amongst the National UEA citizenry is something I don't understand or can relate to, and it would be almost laughable, if it weren't so tragic. They are trying to operate in Western dominated and developed industries with Middle Eastern styled "Inshallah" way of doing business, and never the twain shall meet.   Thanks to the influx of redistributed oil wealth in the past 40 years, most of the Nationals have never had to work a day in their lives, and as we are stumbling into the 21st Century and the oil reserves are being acknowledged as not lasting forever, the UAE government is attempting to just about bribe their citizens into employment. The Nationals are accustomed to having expats do everything for them: pumping their gas, raising their children, cooking their meals, washing their cars, serving them in restaurants, waiting on them in stores, and managing their Emirati owned businesses (they provide the capital, an expat provides the skill and sweat).  

The sectors that the government is trying to steer the Emiratis towards in employment are insurance and banking, and these are the very sectors that are providing issues and problems for the Western expats.  These institutions can train the Emirati employees to supply basic banking customer service and services for  insurance claims, if they do not fall too far outside the realms of the ordinary, average services. But hit the Emiratis with an issue that requires a bit more initiative, hours to solve, skill,  knowledge, and persistence and it all blows up.  They will just walk away from the challenge, say "Inshallah" and put it behind them. But the problem doesn't go away. It just gets shunted to another employee who isn't Emirati and that employee has to unravel the tangled strings left behind. And forget about getting any problem resolved over the phone. If an issue arises it is best to GO to the service providers' offices, which means a lot of extra commuting after work. Thankfully, businesses stay open until very late due to the desert culture's internal clock.  So I can clear up any banking issues ( of which there have been several) at 7 p.m and I can pay my internet bill in person at 7:30 p.m.

My favorite times in this country continue to be when I close the classroom door and it's just me and my students, learning together.  My girls are teaching me so much about their culture and themselves, and like teens everywhere they are accepting and love anyone who is willing to invest time in them and show they really care. And, like teens everywhere, they can spot insincerity a mile off.  It's a good thing I don't have to fake my interest and feelings for them. I'd wouldn't last a week. My feelings toward the adults may be full of internal questionings and conflict, but it rarely crosses over to my girls.. I just see teen girls who are delightfully funny, inquisitive, and eager.

Today was Islamic New Year's Day, so we had the day off from work. We had a wonderful program at school yesterday to "celebrate" the Nwe Year. One of the Arabic teachers who speaks English (she may even be Emirati) stood beside me during the program and patiently translated the skit that the children had organized. It told the story of the Prophet Mohammed and his flight from Mecca to Medina, and his eventual return to Medina. I was able to follow along a little because I have researched the life of Mohammed and I guess it was apparent to the Arabic teacher that I had exerted some effort to educate myself about her religion.  As the Arabic teacher was relating the events, she was suddenly overcome with emotion and a tear spilled from her eye. I was startled and then deeply humbled that I was afforded a peek into her heart.  I recognized the deep and sincere love she holds for her God and religion. It was a revealing moment not only about her, but myself.  Her lone tear was a testimony to her faith.

What is Friendship, Really?
Today I was able to spend the entire afternoon with two friends. We visited the Hili archeological dig park and the Al Ain National Museum.  I am thankful for these two friends. In normal circumstances we might not have chosen one another, but I am finding that friends of necessity can become friends of the heart. They tolerate my incessant talking and random conversation shifts, my forays and diatribes about world events, the sometimes sudden mood changes I experience due to the grief and uncertainty over my dad, my dark humor that makes it damn near impossible for me to not poke fun at almost anything and everything, and my Arthur days when I can't make it another step and have to bow out of previously arranged plans. It's a wonder they even take the time to be with me, but they do, and for that I am indebted. 

And because these two friends are not from the United States, I am starting to see a reflection of how my country is viewed by others. Some of these reflections I agree with, some I don't, and some I know is just due to my friends not knowing much about America's history, as I don't know much about the histories of  their countries (I am making an effort to rectify this deficiency). Americans are prideful and boastful and vocal and brash, or as I insist on describing it: we can be "American Assholes". And damn proud of our assholishness, I might add because when we bring out the American Asshole it's simply due to our inherent inability to tolerate half truths, a job half done, or a complete and utter disregard for the rights of other human beings. Americans are always insisting that life be "fair", even when it is apparent that it never will be. That is all the framers of the Constitution wanted: fair.  However, the definition of fair is evolving and the United States is going through some growing pains. 

But I digress. Interestingly, my two new friends provide epiphany moments that otherwise might never have occurred in my brain. For example, today one of them made a rather profound statement that started the wheels spinning and I was suddenly rocked with the knowledge that my perception of the Emiratis as a rude and entitled acting people may just be that they are actually insecure and threatened by their status as an unrepresented population in their own country (around 20%) . They resent the fact that their young nation is overrun with so many foreigners, but they have developed a need for the workforce and thus are unable to sever the ties that hold them to us.  That resentment and insecurity comes across as rudeness and a superiority attitude. I am learning bit by bit.

My new friends provide other viewpoints that enable me to ponder certain issues and questions in a totally different slant and light. They make me think. They push my envelope of comfort. They are astute. They make me laugh. They even piss me off a times (and I know I probably do the same to them, hell, I know I do). They can relate to what I am experiencing on a day to day basis and they can also relate to my angry outbursts towards seemingly illogical behaviors (i.e not "Western").  They know in every core of their cells what it feels like to be the stranger in a strange land. 

I am also fortunate to be working with an English teacher from California who I admire and respect in every way. She is around my oldest son's age (29), and I have started to feel very protective towards her.  She is smart, beautiful, possesses an insight beyond her years, is hardworking, patient, and a balm to me on days when I am feeling surrounded by an ocean of  uncertainty. Again, a friendship born of necessity and situation, but one that is adding positively to who I am and increasing the size of my heart.
 I have become all sappy and meandering. My bed calls. I have two more days off from work.  I can rest knowing that I totally rocked my first evaluation Thursday and that my girls have conquered their fear and ignorance of English prepositions.

And I can revel in  the knowledge that encased safely in my refrigerator is a package of REAL American hot dogs that I scored at the pork shop. They taste EXACTLY like Ball Park Franks. It's the little things that make me happy these days.

and tomorrow I go to Abu Dhabi for a good old fashioned American football game that my friend's eighteen year old son is playing in.  

To bed, to bed, potato head,...


  1. Teri, when you go to the football game tomorrow, remember in football they have touch downs, not goals or homeruns. - Pirate

  2. Teri, reading maps is not one of your strong points. The distance from your house in Al Ain to the Gaza Strip is 1,389 miles, and to Damascus, Syria is 1,335 miles. And from the center of the roof of your apartment to the center of our home in Cochran is 7,697 miles.

    Luv ya,

  3. football= touchdown. Got it.
    and hey, I was only off by a little under 200 miles. Not bad for a geographically challenged person.
    and I am long way from home.. wow.

    1. Now you say you were only 200 miles off. But that was before when you said you were 15,000 miles away form Gza and Syria. Since then you corrected it.

  4. It's called "revision" love!!!! You were my editor on this one.