Emergency Bonding Night

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mustafa, concerned of Edmar's condition, sped through the highway at 11:30PM. What should've been a five-minute drive to the hospital took forever because he kept missing the exit and we had to go all the way back and try Mustafa's sense of direction again. He blazed past speeding cars while Khalid, Ehab and I mentally wrote our last will and testament at the back seat. Finally, our novice driver got the turn right and I've never been so relieved to see the blinking lights of an ambulance parked outside the Emergency entrance of the hospital. We arrived safe albeit shaken.

Tonight was indeed the most unlikely of nights. Five guys—working and living in one office complex—who never really got along together, found themselves cramped and sweating in a car just so they can save Edmar, who was exaggerating a case of high fever (straight men can be the biggest babies).

We all got out of the car and marched slowly towards the Emergency hall. It was a busy night for the hospital. We went past several ambulances with medics unloading stretchers and bodies in temporary life support, and past teens with their loud mouths and car-accident injuries. We were all amazed with what we were seeing while Edmar made baby steps behind us. Before we entered the hall, Mustafa stopped Edmar and told him discreetly, "Rashid, you have to act sick, don't look too normal," and like a good actor on cue, Edmar trembled as we watched a guy, bleeding on a wheelchair, roll by us.

Mustafa accompanied Edmar in the waiting area. And we waited. For two hours. The rest of us waited at the lounge where we entertained ourselves with the different people that came in and out of the automatic sliding doors. At one point, out of either boredom or stupidity, Khalid asked whether the sliding doors are magnetic.

I was busy counting morbidly obese Qataris (who were probably getting insulin shots in the middle of the night) limping their way to the Emergency room when Edmar called on my mobile. "Pare, tagal dumating ng doctor. Pahingi naman ng tubig o."

After asking for directions from a Pinoy nurse who was trying to disguise his Ilonggo with awkward Tagalog, I made my way through the long empty hallways of Hamad Hospital in search for bottled water. On the way back, I thought about the public hospitals back in the Philippines. I missed buying from the street vendors because they always set up their stalls at the most convenient spots and these were never more than a few steps from the main entrance. I missed having to walk through hospital hallways and see patients instead of emptiness because then you could have casual conversation along the way like: "Lola, how is your TB?" or "Pare, did you get that gunshot wound from a riot or a stake-out?" or "hey, can I write my name on your cast?". I also missed the nurses who were always ready to give their diagnosis thus the cue for the doctor gets shorter and shorter.

I finally got back to the waiting area but I didn't see Edmar so I just gave the water to Mustafa then I went out to join Ehab and Khalid who found a nice spot on the freshly spat-upon grass. I handed them drinks and Khalid said something like: "The Sudanese…and the Egyptians (turning to Ehab) are the best doctors in the Middle East." I saw a Pakistani nearby raise his eyebrows. I wanted to throw my candidates in the hat but I could only think of one person: Manny Pacquiao. I couldn't possibly win the payabangan contest. Khalid's men save lives; my guy beats the crap out of Latinos so Khalid's doctors can practice their profession.

Ehab, who looks like a young Sylvester Stallone, was sweating like Rocky. The night was so humid. He revealed that he is a Jackie Chan fan and can't get enough of Rush Hour. He almost drooled on his tie as he enumerated reasons why he adores the action star.

We talked about films for a while and I asked Ehab if there are any good Egyptian comedy films he could recommend. They both delighted themselves in telling me a couple of jokes from a movie of a famous comedian Adel Imam, probably the Mid Eastern Mr. Bean since their jokes included a reenactment of a scene concerning Adel in a zoo, a lion, and an unlocked lion cage.

They both laughed at their own jokes while I laughed at them. I was going to tell them green funnies when Mustafa and Edmar got out of the Emergency room and joined us. Ten patients in two hours with only one doctor.

In no time we're at the back seat again but this time not as quiet as we were when we first arrived. Ehab boldly said that Mustafa is a careless driver. Khalid agreed. Ehab said that everyone else thinks so too. "Why do Qataris drive so fast?" Khalid asked. "Maybe they can't wait to go to heaven," I answered. They all laughed except for Edmar who's officially suffering from tonsillitis.

I guess I finally found out what kind of jokes tickled the Muslim mind.

But the biggest joke of the night was from Qatar. Because for an extremely rich country, it doesn't give a flying f#@$ about the health care department. Much like the Philippines but at least we get to have hallway parties in our hospitals.

We arrived at around 1:30 AM. Edmar felt guilty for bothering us but we all agreed that it's mafe mushkala. After getting inside the building, we disappeared into our own separate rooms. Bonding night is over.OUT



>> Saturday, July 28, 2007

Six bottles of beer ago, I was shaving and pre-partying with an XL can of beer while listening to Robbie Williams proclaim he's the world's most handsome man. Pre-partying with Rob is highly recommended because his ego is contagious. Five bottles of beer ago, I was waiting in a long line of party goers to Qatar's worst club (but the only one I've been to anyway) Qube--at least the guys behind this bar know that Q is followed with a U...most of the time. Four bottles of beer ago, I was moving from one dark corner of the club to another, trying to get the feel of the place but mostly bumping into sweaty bodies. Three bottles of beer ago, a smile popped up on my face and stayed there. Two bottles of beer ago, my world turned, gravity lost its hold and rays of green laser light beamed for me and only for me and I felt each ray as it touched my skin. One beer ago, I was dancing but mostly bumping my sweaty body into people who have just arrived. Now, I am the universe, and I go to random guys and whisper to their ears magic words that will never be known (the way Brian Kinney must've done to patrons of Babylon), and they smile and we hug and dance and I proclaim 'I am tipsy', as only a drunk guy would admit to.

I went to Qube alone last Thursday and got slightly wasted. I may or may not have gone home with someone. I couldn't remember. But I did remember smiling, all through the night, and that's what's important. The place was crappy but paradise was just a few beers away. After almost a month of harder work, pay-off, no matter how cheap, was necessary.

There is joy when the only thing you think about as you go to bed is the flaming aftertaste of alcohol and you swear never to do it again as the room starts spinning and you fall asleep. I can't wait to go back and be numb again. OUT


Firewalled Friends

>> Friday, July 27, 2007

I remember some time ago when I was in Boracay, the topic of working there came up. "Wouldn't it be nice to work in Boracay?" was the thought that went around the group and for a while, I thought about the endless summer on the majestic beach, the glorious sunset each day, and thousands of people from different countries that you will meet. And then, I felt sad. Sure you'll meet a lot of people, but you are bound to go through the feeling of being left behind over and over again as tourists come and go and go and go. Everyone is moving. Nothing is permanent. Friendships are offered, accepted, but never kept. From that time on, I felt the sadness of the locals and those working on the island and how they must guard themselves not to be too involved with the tourists. Any friendship they can offer comes with an imaginary firewall thus, no one gets burned. Here in Qatar, the expat life is quite the same.

I'm the kind of person who is not quick to join groups or organizations overseas. For example, yesterday, I was invited to join an org for Ilonggos. I politely smiled but I doubt if I'll ever attend a meeting. A common dialect is simply not enough reason to group yourselves together. I still believe that one good friend is better than a dozen so-so friends.

Aside from my foster family and officemates here, I only have five friends, some good, some so-so. I've tried my best to further develop my friendships with the so-so friends but it's stuck. I'd like to think that I'm a fairly nice guy to hang around with and some people still answer my messages so I'm thinking that they still like me. But I can never get them to be good friends--the kind you can spend comfortable silence with, or someone who will finish your food for you when you're full, or you can be bitchy with when you need a punching bag, or sing and have him sing the backup vocals, or someone you can laugh with at the corniest of jokes, someone you can use, abuse and love.

Not in Qatar. Here, people stay for only one reason: to work. Without the oil, nobody would ever dare come here. And since most people here are foreigners, you would be apt to keep things temporary. Portable radios, DVD players and laptop computers. Inexpensive furniture, disposable wares, mid-priced cars. Lots of acquaintances, a dozen shallow friendships, and very few good friends. The less attached you are, the less hurt you'll be when people leave. And in this place, they do leave.

I can be unfeeling when I want to; heart hard as stone. I've had my own share of heartaches and it taught me how to build firewalls in an instant. But I don't want to quit. If I meet a friend worth keeping, I keep it. A lot of my friends (from around the globe) can attest to that. Distance is not a factor, time is not a factor. What counts is the love that you put in. And no matter how far apart, or how long you haven't seen each other, you are confident that the friendship has remained strong.

"[There are] no good friends, no bad friends; only people you want to be with.
People who build their houses in your heart." -from "IT" by Stephen King
I have my lumber, nails and hammer. I'll be building my house in your heart, but first, we'll have to do something about that firewall. Now where's that wrecking ball?OUT


Wasted Orange

>> Saturday, July 21, 2007

I found this a few months ago, but it is only now that it seems ripe for posting in this blog.

© Alana Yuen @ Wicked Little Town


Signs of Impending Depression

>> Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I find myself in the toilet, crouching to wash my hair with the same hosing device used to disintegrate fecal residue on hairy assholes. I spray my hair, careful not to let the nozzle interact with my head as I am sure that a mere millisecond of contact is enough for unworldly organisms to set residence on my scalp and claim my entire head for whatever planet they come from (Uranus is one that comes to mind). I bow to the toilet seat and memorize the stains on the white ceramic and I know that today, the brownish, nutty protrusion on the bottom left side of the bowl is a temporary stain and it is my nature to compulsively spray on it until it comes off, then I can enjoy my Herbal Essences shampoo and wonder if it'll smell as good if used in an upright position.

My morning shower takes about 20 minutes. It takes 30 minutes on days when I find it amusing to sit on the bowl and ponder on whether I should take a shower or not. Interestingly, taking a shower always wins. Dressing up takes around 15 minutes. It takes 30 minutes on days when I find it amusing to sit on my bed and ponder on whether I should wear my socks already or wait for my feet to dry. Interestingly, waiting for my feet to dry always wins. Since I have learned to ignore both the ear-bleeding noise of the construction site next door and the useless murmur of the alarm clock, and I've been having amusing times on the toilet bowl and on my bed, plus the fact that the tie takes me about 5 minutes, I find myself at the office at 8:45 AM instead of the usual 8:00.

I stare at the computer screen, and for some reason, no matter how hard I flex my psychic abilities, it wouldn't work on its own. So I turn it on manually and try communicating with it again using my omnipotent brain. Nothing. So I proceed with the usual password entry and listen to the following standard Windows greeting that somehow echoes in my mind as "Hahaaaaaaaaay". In my head I hear a commotion--voices in panic, wanting to get out and be set free. I gather enough strength to tell each nagging voice to behave and cooperate with me for the rest of the day, promising them that if they do, they will get treats from the grocers nearby.

The time between 8:45AM to 1PM is a blur since I switch to auto-pilot mode and do my daily routine. After which, I go back to my bedroom and have a light snack while intentionally letting crumbs fall off from whatever processed carcinogen-laden food I have to the floor so that the cute light-gray mouse, that has specifically chosen my room to recreate Disneyland, will get cancer. The mouse shows up, I scare it away and I take a nap.

When I wake up, I freshen up quickly and go to lunch. The desert heat has effectively eliminated my restaurant choices and I settle for what's available beside our building. I order my food and sit at the same table. I try communicating with my meal, instructing it not to participate in any reverse osmosis organized by the revolting Gastric Union that might ensue in the next few minutes. I survive the coup attempt at lunch and proceed to the grocers to fulfill my promises to the voices in my head.

One of the voices picks a liter of juice, another picks a sweet treat, another voice picks a wafer. Curiously, the voice with the wafer also buys mobile phone load. I find out later that the load is put to waste as text messages, that were sent out, rarely got replies.

I spend the rest of the night in front of the computer alternating between work and personal stuff. For each email for my boss, I refresh my blog in the hopes that a new message or comment will surface. I count the time difference and reason that most people I know would be sleeping at the time but five minutes later I refresh again, positive that at least one might be awake. No one.

I go up to my room at midnight, have a light snack again and read a chapter or two from a book which I try to stretch the reading until the end of the month when I can afford to buy another one. Then, I switch off the light and put on Mandalay, the same CD I listen to every night to lull me to sleep because it is soothing as it is depressing. Just when "Missing You" reaches its chorus, I feel like crying. Then I hear a faint rustling. I focus my attention to this rustling sound and confirm that it's the mouse.

I fall asleep while thinking of strategies on how to gid rid of the mouse. Tomorrow, I will trap that mouse and torture it the same way it has tortured me. Tomorrow, I will grab it by its tail and laugh at it and smash it until I see its cute eyes comically dangling on its tiny nerves. Then, tomorrow, I will flush its remains down the toilet bowl, and should there be bits sticking on the ceramic, I will compulsively spray on it until it comes off clean because it is my nature.


Tied Up and Smothered with Blood and Gore

>> Sunday, July 8, 2007

The lights went out at 9AM. I took a couple of candles from my room, brought it down to my office, lit one up for my boss and the other one I put on my table. By elevenish, we pushed through with the weekly meeting even though it was dim enough to lose Khalid in the dark. From last week's nine attendees our office staff count reached 17. Men in ties. Yes, including me.

By noon, I called up Johana, a self-confessed fag hag, for lunch and coffee. And finally, at the mall, after the blackout at the office, after the surprise population explosion, after a heavy meal at the Filipino restaurant, after a cup of mint mocha, and after engaging in heavy flirtation (bordering into sexual harassment, really) with a Lebanese working in a perfume shop, I went out of the mall, found a van, and got myself sucked.

Bloodsucked, that is. The Red Crescent (it figures why they don't use Red Cross in a Muslim country) was holding a blood donation drive. I have always wanted to donate blood but never had the chance to do so back home. I dragged Johana to the Red Crescent van and convinced her to do it with me. No, not sex but the bloodletting. Good intentions aside, I had hoped that they can classify my blood because I don't know what my blood type is. Unfortunately, they can't do it in their van. I went ahead with the donation anyway and watched as my blood flowed through the narrow tube and slowly filled the blood bag. Somehow I found this relaxing if not mildly erotic.

The next day, I thought I'd mellow down from the halloween motif--orange tie on black shirt--and grabbed an earthy color from the new set of clothes that hung from my disposable cabinet. When my boss saw me, he congratulated me again for finally looking like an executive. I smiled and told him that I'm glad I put a smile on his face, otherwise my 500-riyal shopping spree would have been put to waste. Already, I had supplied the proper tone to my new look--smartass.

It turned out I had every right to be grumpy. The accountant slash registrar slash cashier left the office for a month-long vacation and I was given two out of three of his tasks. They would have given me the registrar job as well if my Arabic was good. Thank God for small miracles.

The task at hand is daunting. The accountant was so old school that he did everything in scribbles on manually-lined graphing paper. I told the boss right away that I'm not up for the job. It's ironic that I hired an accountant to do all the gory stuff for my biz back in Davao while I'm here doing accounting for somebody else's biz.

The effects of multi-tasking are glaring. For one, I haven't attended to my blogging ritual. I also felt a bit of stress. It might be the tie. It might be the bloodletting hangover. It might be the horror of facing numbers. I'm celebrating an early halloween and they're not giving any candies.OUT


Put a Cam in Our Office and We'll Head to the Emmys

>> Sunday, July 1, 2007

Khalid's idea of private talk is speaking to another person alone in a room and in a thousand decibels. "YOU KNOW, THESE EGYPTIANS ARE REALLY BAD!", Khalid said as soon as he settled in his seat inside my office. After his first sentence, I closed the door so nobody can hear us talk although it was really an act of hope.

For almost an hour, we sat there talking in the dark as Khalid had abruptly interrupted my nightly Youtube session with his nightly rant. I thought of suggesting to him about starting his own blog, but I figured he'd have a hard time spelling "www".

Khalid is the King of randomness. Anybody who has said in his profile that he's the kind of person who can talk about anything under the sun can talk to Khalid. He talks so randomly but strings it together in one breath that you start to erase your caffeine high speculation and confirm your schizophrenia diagnosis on him.

For your consideration, dear members of the Jury, presenting exhibit A: a section of the transcript of our conversation:

K: I hate these people, they are not good, they
are bad. You know, my brother-in-law called me this afternoon and they told him
that I was not around. But I was and they did not tell me.

J: Maybe
they didn't see you around and couldn't leave their desk to find you.

K: But they know that I am around because I went with them to pray to the
mosque. They are bad. I don't trust them. But I met with my brother-in-law
because I need to buy things for my parents. Me, I don't think I will marry
soon. Because women, they are the devil. I cannot be left alone with a woman in
a room because I will do something to her. It is the nature of man. And if you
don't do anything to a woman, she will think you are not a man. But my sister is
going to Sudan for a vacation, I'm going to send my parents something special.
Because you know, parents, they are second to Allah. If you disrespect your
parents, you go to hell. If you disrespect your mother, you go to hell. You
know, the mother, you cannot call her by her name, you have to call her mother.
If you call her by her name, you go to hell. This is because she cared for you
for nine months and after you were born, she fed you with her breasts. For two
years you sucked her breasts. Because a mother's breast is better than any
scientific formula because it is from nature, it's natural. And so, it has to be
for two years. But after two years you have to stop sucking your mom's breast.
This act is called...in English it's called....I can't remember it...

I wanted to suggest "perversion" but because the conversation was
starting to sound wrong and I had become uneasy, I tried to change the subject
back to Mustafa.

J: So, do you still talk to him?

K: These
Egyptians, they are all like that. They are bad. Don't you think?

J: Actually, I think that a person can be good or bad regardless of race.
If a Filipino stole from you, I wouldn't want you to assume that all Filipinos
are thieves. If a Sudanese did a bad thing to me, I'm sure you wouldn't want me
to generalize that all you people are like that. So, I think that race doesn't
play a part as to why he is bad.

K: Yes, I know what you mean.
You are kind, and sincere but you are a romantic. The thing is, it's in their
blood. Ok, goodnight, I have to evacuate.

Khalid left the room hurriedly but by 'evacuate', he really meant "to defecate". Hitting two birds with one shit, as it seems.

The next day (yesterday), we had our first organizational meeting. For the first time since I started work here seven months ago, we found all nine staff members cramped in my boss' office. I was excited since I suggested this bit of exercise. Unfortunately, they weren't going to speak in English just for my sake. I was outnumbered. So I pretended to understand anyway until it was my time to speak.

"I'm just happy that we have this meeting. And I'll be looking forward to this once a week so we can have a chance to air our suggestions and concerns. My only request is that each person should have his own office stationary set, from staplers to notepads. It's essential to make work faster by not running off to another desk just to get punched," I said and noted the nods and smiles everwhere. "That's all," I added feeling proud of myself.

Mustafa spoke last. And although I don't understand Arabic, I got the gist of his little speech. The mere mention of "New Horizon", our rival training center, meant that he was broadcasting his big plans for the future. I almost cursed myself for coming up with that stupid office stationary set request.

I said almost. As I looked around, none of the staff was smiling or nodding his head. I got the people's vote for most adorable officemate, yipee! And right then and there, I decided that in future meetings, I'll give any big idea directly to the boss--to whom it will matter most anyway--and air suggestions that will benefit the team on staff meetings.

Today, our accounts guy told me to get the office stuff from the nextdoor bookshop. Without looking away from the computer monitor, I asked him "now?" And he confirmed. So I told him "ok". Two hours later I'm still online. I guess everything's back to normal and running smoothly.OUT




Abre Los Ojos

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Thirtysomething educator who holds the secret to the meaning of life. =P

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