Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bearing fruit.

I was in the center today. . .

I should first of all clarify that "The Center" is the service center where I'm currently supervising, and not a secret terroristical lab.

. . . and one of the staff called out to me "Ustath !" . . .

Ustath for you non arab muslims does not mean just islamic teacher, it just means teacher, or in this case it's like saying sir, or Mr Alkhateeb.

. . . so I say 'what's up Nima ? (not her real name), and she tells me what had happened earlier in the day when I went out of the center for a meeting. A customer had come in and for some reason (I'm betting the hot weather and the retarded arab procederal system) he descided to take out his frustration on her. He picked on little things, he questioned endlessly and complained needlessly. She told me this story because she had not fought back with this guy -though she was known to fight with customers- and she did exactly what I would have wanted her to do, which was to help him and direct him to the reception which she couldn't do any more for him.

This incident would have taken a very different course prior to Last week when I had to put up with some shit from a customer just to make a point to the staff about customer service.
So when Nima told me this story I was very happy that these girls . . .

The staff is made up of 18 girls and 3 guys were actually learning

. . . are actually learning from my example, prior to today I thought that when I spoke to them to explained differnet concepts etc... that they weren't really listening. Today though was a good day, a customer received a semblance of proper customer service when he was being an asshole.

yay !

Remembering Oz

During my final year at uni, I sort of developed a routine for my friday morning breakfast.

Because I had to be at uni in the morning, I used to stop by a small chinese shop right next to uni, having already picked my copy of The Age, The Herald Sun, and The Australian (or the israelian according to a freind of mine), I order 2 eggs, sunny side up, and a tea.
I spend about 40 minutes there eating my eggs and reading my three newspapers in a very quiet restaurant, it was a real pleasure.

Now ofcourse living here in Dubai, I don't have the privilidge of this pleasure any more, I do however live with my wife, so I'm not complaining, just remeniscing alhumdulillah.

classic text and eternal sentiment

From The Merchant of Venice.

"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."
—Act III, scene I

Swap "jew" with "Muslim" and it becomes terrorism and attempts to change the west's way of life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Today something very not nice happened to me.

An asshole customer said some nasty racist things to me, and beacuse I was the supervisor I couldn't yell at him or scream or even say something calmly and meanly.

Usually I make a point of telling my staff to respect all customers no matter where they're from, I try to be fair to everyone. which lands me in hot water sometimes because sometimes people clearly think they deserve better treatment than the rest of the people.

Some of them are owners of companies or frequent customers, and that's fair enough because it's not racism or bigotry.

This local guy though was just looking for a fight, I'm trying to help him by giving him options, and he's treating me like I'm a fuckin slave of his trying to steal his money. So I left him coz I felt that any further conversation with him would not be constructive.

Then he speaks to the receptionist of the center about how rude I am, and he looks at me and says "go back to iraq, you deserve everything Saddam did you to"

Now to be honest, in my 15 years of living in NZ and Australia, I've never ever run into open cruel racist talk like this in my life, I was so socked I just stood there looking at him. I didn't feel rage as I felt saddness. you know sometimes a person can say something and inadvertantly hit a button, that guy really cut me.

I read a book a long time ago by Bruce Courtney called Tandia, about a girl (called Tandia) who was half indian, half african, and who was living in south africa. she was not sure of her identity, of what she should call herself, untill she gets raped by a afrikaan army officer who hatefully calls her "kaafir" (a derogatory term for africans in south africa).

I remembered this because as I mentioned previously in my blog, I may be born in iraq, I may speak arabic with an iraqi accent, but I don't really feel iraqi, I don't know what I feel, I have my western identity, I have my arabic culture, I have my islamic background. but where do I belong really ?
This guy's words hit my like daggers as he told me what I was, an iraqi who deserved what saddam did to him.

I didn't say anything then because I tell my staff that the customer is always right, that even if they customer gets angry, they should smile and not yell back. so as a matter of principle, plus the fact that I didn't want to get down to that guy's level, I didn't say anything, and it hurt more to be silent.

Afterwards all my staff came over and were very supportive, don't worry sir he's a nobody, don't mind what he said, it made me feel better but still, I really wanted to do something humiliating and hurtfull to him, like squeezing his balls untill his eyes watered.

Anyways, in my blog, my space, my oyster, I can talk back to him.....

I was going to say something very rude, but I realised it was not worth it. whatever I would say, I would disrepsect myself.

So, الله يجازيك

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The wisdom of the father.

Even though I spent almost exactly half my life outside iraq, it was the latter half and so the more relevant one. So even when in this country (UAE) I speak the iraqi dialect and so am treated as an iraqi (which is pretty sweet coz most arabs love iraqis). I don't feel it so much. Mostly because after the first gulf war, I (hopefully not just me) felt very dissilussioned with nationalism and the arabian dream, more so when we moved to NZ and then Australia and I started subscribing to a more logical type of *ism that is Islam.

I remember in the first years in NZ, my brother and I faced many problems of fitting in, probelms of bullies (me), no friends, language barriers etc... made us a bit standoffish about what I shall term 'white people', this coupled with our previous propaganda saturated education in iraq about how arabs the best and the west is more or less shit.

My dad used to talk to us about the differences between the east and west, about how people in the west are more direct, more genuine, how arabs generally carry double standards. I used to argue so much with him on these points, along with my brother we thought dad's arguements were due to his illusion of the greatness of the west.
At the time we were in our teens and illogically opposed to our dad's ideas and theoroes. alhumdulillah for his patience and love for us.

For some reason we didn't seem remember that our dad had spent some 45 years in Iraq, he had joined in 2 wars and lived through like 5 or 6 wars and two revolutions, that as a doctor in Iraq, New Zealand and Australia he's had exposure to alot more sections of the community in all those countries.

Coming here and working with these people on lower levels (the service center) and higher levels (expensive marketing projects) it's amazing how on the ball my dad was, I must acknowledge this is not a perfectly accurate fact for ALL people. , but subhanallah the respect and appreciation for systems and rules in australia is so clearly contrasted here by the almost absolute lack of repsect, and unconcious resistance to following or respecting any regulation. I've noticed that alot of people here just WANT, without regards for anyone or anything else.
I've also noticed that no one here keeps thier word, it's so wierd but there are so many promises and so many boastings of achievements, and yet when you come down to business, people are such bums ! no regards for deadlines or promises ! in the begining it can be frustrating but then you just count those instabilities into the realities and contingencies of project development.

so what can I say ? dad you were right, I'm just glad I realised that while my dad is still alive.

Monday, April 07, 2008


I yelled at a guy two days ago.

I was at the helpdesk and this guy was having problems with his governmenal application form, and whatever I did, we could not find out what the problem was, so I suggested he go to the ministry again to ask about it, because this problem was obviously not from our side. He started complaining about how he'd been going back and forth all day (literally, from 9am to 1pm) and that he'll make us print it again no matter what.


He walked away, I sat down, instantly I felt so bad, I'm becoming a product of my environment, where I thought of the prioroty of the customer just a few days ago, I was yelling at customers now. I was not a happy chappie that day.

Yesterday I saw him again, he had to come to our service center because we have exclusive service right to Ajman. I saw him, and with him I saw a chance of redeeming myself, of being able to sleep better at night, so I went to him, shook his hand and hugged him, and apologised.

You would not believe how happy he became for being given respect, he apologised for his impatience with his, and I told him that it should be me who apologises, I gave him a complaint card and told him to write a complaint about me and that I woudl't hold it against it because it was his right. Alhumdulillah he didn't :)

SO ! yesterday I learned a lesson. Don't opress people just because you have a position of power, your conciousness, and more imporantly Allah will not forget it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The arab façade

Let me just say that I'm very excited to be able to spell façade correctly.

Well I'm now here in this great ocean of contradictions called the Emirates. The new Hong Kong, the new Singapore, the new indian subcontinent, the new pan arab state, the new everything you want it to be, if you have the money.

and I've started my job, officially on my work visa I don't know what my job title is, and I couldn't say that I'm only and strictly a service center supervisor, that title is so limited while what I do is so varied.

Today though I'd just like to talk about my ever expanding experience as a supervisor. I was excited about this job because it meant I'd have a contribution (however minute it might be) in setting down a set of rules, a system, and following through with it, in an environment where there is little regard for the process, for the system, for the principle of following the system or applying the rules.

I may be a bit biased in this issue, because I despise this concept of the all great arab that is respected out of fear, where acting on anger is respected, where racism is normal and where the law of natural selection finds home. It's funny because it was the arabian prophet Mohammad (pbuh) who very clearly instructed people that this way of thinking and acting is wrong and that resepct for other people and more importantly for oneself is what we should be doing.

Moving on.

So far it's been two weeks. Some days I must admit I come home tired and feeling down because of the 500 or so people who I have to patiently convince of the importance of the system (patiently, I'm not very patient). Most other days alhumdulillah people actually see the light ! I get comments like "it's so much better now with the system in place" that make me so happy I celebrate by buying a Dr pepper.

So what is the system ? it's really quite simple; you come in, head for the front desk, wait your turn for less than a minute, speak to the front desk person to determine what you need, get a little piece of paper that tells you your number in the queue, and chill out to wait for your turn !

simple ? not for arabs ! (to be fair it's also confusing for indians, pakistanis, bangladeshis, iranians etc...)

There are three types of people in this case.

1- The local: The local knows no laws, he OWNS the country, and the people, and the institutions, and the air you breath ! he walks straight through and sits in front of the typist, throws his paperwork on her desk and from the cool stare of his $5000 sunglasses tells her "finish this up I'm busy".

Now imagine trying to convince this guy to take a ticket ! and (horror of horrors) wait with the indians ! ! ! WTF are you kidding me dog !

2- The arab (palestine, syria, iraq) : Also, some sort of genetic aversion to queues; he SEES the queue, and it's EMPTY, and yet he still walks around it to walk to the front desk. I ask them sometimes "you see the queue, why did you walk around it ? is it not clear that it's a queue ? do you need us to post an indian next to it to tell you that it's a queue ?"

This man is eternally angry at the world. He comes in expecting a fight, so he gets a ticket, and if his waiting time is 10 minutes or an hour, he will argue, and veins WILL pop on his bald head and threaten a melt down. Usually after that orgasm of rage they sit down and wait thier turn, so it's all good.

3- the indian subcontinental: I try to be fair with these people beacuse their being in the emirates means they're getting a shit deal. but it's hard to be fair when the guy lies in your face, and does everything in his (or her ! this is an equal opportunity blog) way to break the system. Sadly they were the ones who usually have to wait the most because as I mentioned before, they're bottom of the food chain. This is something I find hard to accept because in Australia I have alot of very good subcontinental friends. Here though it seems every one is comfortable with their stereotype.

ofcourse not ALL locals, arabs and subcontinentals are like this, there is a large number of people who respect the system, who wait without complaining, who understand reason when you present it to them. This is the usually the case though, out of 500 people, if I get ten who are trouble makers, the system suffers.

this center has been open for two years, so me coming in and changing the culture in a few weeks is quite an ambition task, but inshallah I'll be able to do it. and the management offers strong support so alhumdulillah I'm appreciative of that.

Everytime I come to work, I remember going to VicRoads in Australia, and I remember no matter how many people are waiting, there is such an air of control and civility, and I think to myself, why can't we achieve that here ? what do aussies have that arabs don't ?

I'll leave that for another blog entry.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ze update vun !

it's 230 am, a woke up to a mosquito flying close to my head, a bit slowly having drank a litre of my blood, so I pifpaffed my room and now I'm waiting for that damn insect to die. I'm also watching an interview with Moqtada alSadr.

So what else has been happening ? I haven't updated in a long time, especially not about the most important thing, or the most significant change in my life, that is living in the east, the middle east, the UAE; probably the best available model of a modern arab country today, an equally positive and negative point, but I'll get to that later.

A very dear friend of mine took the time and effort to call all the way from Austrlia to see how I was doing, and explaining to him how I WAS doing and WHAT I was doing, I was surprised and amazed at the nature of work and life here, the change had been gradual for me so it had not hit me ( so to speak ) untill I actually spoke about it. so I thought I'd start blogging my experiences and observations while in this facinating country (I'm in love with the word 'facinating' it makes me feel so sophisticated and open minded, but I digress).

For now though, I'm just going to watch a bit more of this facinating character, Moqtada alSadr, his accent is so strong !