Thanks to kind nurses & good doctors in Dubai...Cultural understanding program
DUBAI - Well, that wasn't so much fun.
Had a bit of an accident Sunday in Dubai and had to get help from a doctor. The good folks at The Address Dubai Marina got someone to help, but I had to spend several hours in emergency at The American Hospital not quite knowing what was happening. Not fun at home. Definitely not fun in another country so far away. But all my tests were negative, and I ended up spending only about two and-a-half days at the hospital.
Still, it was enough to give me time to think a little bit, and read a little bit, and watch some news and read some newspaper columns I wouldn't ordinarily get a chance to read. I think there's a bit of a lesson in there somewhere, but first I'll backtrack a bit to Sunday, which I had thought would be my last full day in Dubai.
My tour guide from Arabian Adventures, the excellent Ms. Mirella, took to the Jumeirah Mosque for a program called Open Doors, Open Minds; put on by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. They had a couple of British women who are Islamic talking about the way they dress and how they feel about it and, of course, what they think about the evil media. I didn't get into that, although I can see their point, but it was fascinating to listen to them talk about Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet and how their robes reflect Bedouin traditions and how they might be wearing sleek yoga pants or a nice blouse underneath when they hit the Louis Vuitton shop at the Mall of the Emirates and why women pray separately from men (so they don't have strange guys rubbing up against them in shoulder-to-shoulder prayers and so guys can concentrate on the Almighty and not on the nicely-scented woman next to them). I can't say I agree with everything, especially the multiple wives, but who am I to judge? The women who led the tour of the mosque certainly didn't seem oppressed by their dress or their culture. As for the current troubles in the world, for sure Islam has its extremists. But what religion doesn't? What culture doesn't?
After the mosque, I had a lunch put on the Sheikh Mohammed Centre, where an entertaining local fellow talked to a bunch of Australian army guys over a free lunch the centre provided. Again, it was very thought-provoking, and I give the centre full marks for trying to bridge a centuries-old gap that simply has to be erased - or at least dimmed - if there's ever going to be any improvement in this world.
Less than 24 hours later I was sitting in my large room at the American Hospital and looking across the street at a Papa John's pizza joint. I almost fired up my Blackberry and posted a tweet about how silly it was to be in Dubai and see these North American chains, and I was going to be a little snarky, which isn't hard for me. But then I read a column in The National, a good newspaper in Abu Dhabi, in which columnist Rob McKenzie talked about how esterners prize irreverence and folks in Asia and the Middle East, for the most part, value respect. There's a fascinating story there, and McKenzie's story really made me think for a bit. I put down my Blackberry and thought for a while about the values of respect and tradition and how we in the west sometimes are so quick with the quips that we, meaning I, forget about more important values, or values just as important. It didn't hurt that I was a reading a great crime thriller called Good People, in which a couple of middle class Chicago folks who are desperate to have a baby get caught up in a remarkable series of criminal events. It sounds trite, but in the end they truly discover that the things that matter are leading a good life and enjoying your family. Like McKenzie, I'm sure I'll get back into my snarky, irreverent ways. And that's fine. But there has to be a balance in life, as the Chinese like to say. I hope I don't lose mine.
With that in mind, I want to thank the hotel staff again at The Address Dubai Marina Hotel, the Dubai tourism people and Arabian Adventures folks and Emirates Airlines for changing my flight. Also, thanks to the ambulance drivers, the emergency staff (this is like an Oscar speech, I know, but bear with me), the doctors at the American Hospital and my nurses, especially Katie and Katherine, who let an old guy talk on and on about nothing and who (especially Katherine) realized what I also needed was some needling of the non-medical kind. A little irreverence toward the patient, if you like. Now, there we are again. I noticed, and pardon me if I'm getting into cliche or stereotyping territory here, that the Asian and South Asian and Middle Eastern staff at the hospital were fairly quiet and respectful towards me. Katie, from near Birmingham (England, not Alabama) was more chatty, and Katherine, an Irish girl who hails from Wicklow near Dublin, responded well to my gentle barbs and gave them back to me a little; making me feel more at home. I like to have someone bring me my red jello and tea and consomme as much as the next hospital patient, but I also don't want to be fussed over too much and I want to get my own blankets and open my own curtains and move my own stuff around and be independent and get a little verbal jousting going. Thank God, whatever his or her name might be, for Nurse Katherine on that front.
And thank God for my family back at home. My daughter cheered me up with Blackberry messages, while my wife was a rock, offering wonderful advice and tender words and giving the doctor in Dubai you know what and making damned sure I was well looked after. (Of course, she's also Irish so you'd expect a pretty good package). I promised long ago not to get her involved in my stories, but I think she might forgive me this time when I say how much I love her and what an incredible wife and mother she is. I don't usually buy such things, but a couple years ago I bought her a little inscription that says, "When I count my blessings, I count you twice." After this incident, I think that needs a significant geometric adjustment.
Anyway, I'm recuperating nicely at the Mina A'Salam hotel/resort on the shores of the gulf (see photo at right), and it's wonderful to see the water. I went for a short swim Wednesday night and rode a very small body-surfing wave and simply screamed with joy underwater when it was over. I went for breakfast today and had fresh baguettes and juice and porridge and jam and I got to choose what I wanted and eat when I wanted and sit outside where I wanted in the morning warmth and watch the sun light up the beach and the lagoon, and I can't remember the last time such small things made such an impression on me. I smiled all the way back to my room.
It's almost Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and I have so much to be thankful for. More than I can imagine. I'll take Friday off to fly home, so no blogging again until next week. In the meantime, here's to a little more peace and understanding in the world, to a nice balance of irreverence and respect/tradition, and to a wonderful Thanksgiving for everyone.