It’s been forever and I’m thrilled to feel my fingers banging away at my keyboard. Tons of stuff to talk about, but I’ll split it into a few posts.
Leaving Belgium was a totally bittersweet experience. It’s essentially the only job I’ve had since finishing my training, and it occupied the vast majority of my adult life. On the other hand, it was me who decided to become an expat again.
Saying goodbye was deliciously moving, sad and hopeful at the same time. My co-workers were fantastic and lovely and heartbreakingly nice with me as I got ready to leave. I’ll never forget any of them, and of course I’m looking forward to seeing them and the hospital again.
As any of you who follow me on Facebook have seen, I’m completely enchanted with Abu Dhabi. I’ve been here for six weeks now, and am nowhere near coming down off my cloud.
Leaving aside the weather, the sun (feels like a reunion with a long lost friend), and the sea, what makes this place magic is the people.
On an average morning, from waking up until getting to the OR, I interact with people of at least five to ten different nationalities and cultures. And everyone is full of respect, usually smiling, and displaying an openness that is completely new for me. I’ve thought long and hard about the origins of this, and while I’m not sure I have AN answer, what I came up with surprised me. A lot.
Of course there’s the weather, and how it buoys the spirit. Of course there’s the pay – remember that most people, regardless of their job or station in life, are usually earning more than they would had they been home rather than here (Please don’t assail me with the horror stories. I know they exist, but I’m here and you’re not.) But there’s more.
For me, the explanation of the incredible vibe here is . . . Islam. Yep, that’s what I said. Islam.
You see, Islam is more than what we think of as a “religion”. It’s more than just a set of rules and practices and going to Masjid (the Mosque). Islam is about how to live. From waking up in the morning to waking up the next morning. (Sound familiar to any Orthodox Jews reading me?) The respect and openness that pervade and permeate life here are, for me, proof that this is not just talk. It is the essence of life here. I suspect that the number of devout people here is only slightly higher than in the west. But the principles really reach far into the fabric of day to day life here. And it is wonderful.
One sees it in little ways, constantly. “Inch’allah” – if it pleases God. Used after EVERY evocation of a future event. See you tomorrow, inch’allah. I’m having curtains installed tomorrow, inch’allah. What a lovely way to constantly remind ourselves that much as we’d like to think so, we dont really control what happens to us. Or “al hamdillulah” – thank God. Of course, we use that too, all the time, but here it’s deeper, more heartfelt. And used every time anything good is evoked. So much so that when you’re asked – how are you?, you can simply answer “hamdilullah”. There are other expressions, all of them delicious and almost moving. It’s constant, and it’s refreshing, and I’m sure it’s part of what makes this place so wonderful.
I’m ordinarily a seriously grumpy guy, and I find myself in conversation, sometimes deep conversation, with the most unexpected people. Taxi drivers for example, or the salesman where I rewarded myself with a briefcase (full disclosure, Longchamp, brown, beautiful). Malek is his name. A Syrian (right there you think, holy crap, is your family ok? And you realise it doesnt matter what side they’re on, what matters is the drama behind that). Malek is an archeologist, and we both wound up teared up at the tragedy of the richness of his country being torn apart. Or the staff in the hotel I stayed at until my apartment was ready. They’re all like cousins now. I stop back regularly just to catch up. THAT IS JUST NOT THE ME I WAS.
I’m not going to talk about my job now, for reasons that will become clear in the next weeks. Suffice to say that men are men, with their jealousies, insecurities, and pettinesses. So I’ve a bit of a bump in this marvelously smooth road laid out in front of me. Still less than anything Malek has confronted. More on this later.
I’m thrilled to be writing again. Thrilled with my new life. And blessed to have so many fascinating, curious intelligent people willing to read my words.
Next post imminently.