Memoir Part 2: Jesus, WOW, and Ajman

With a look of despair, Jesus looked down at me from his big wooden cross that was

Abu Dhabi Rosary School Sisters

mounted on the wall next to the principal’s office at the Rosary School in Abu Dhabi. That was my first encounter with Christianity.  My parents, wanting to give me a better education, enlisted me for Kindergarten in 1980, into a catholic school that was known for its rigorous education.  The headmaster was a Lebanese nun, so my parents–being Lebanese themselves–got along really well with her.  I don’t recall anything afterwards except bleeding from my ear.

Oh, you want to know about that?! Ok, so at this point, this will turn PG-13, so if you have any children around, stop reading aloud (it would actually be weird if you are doing so!). Here is the story: I did something wrong.  I wrote the letter WOW in Arabic from bottom up (Yes! We do have a letter WOW in Arabic, and we also have a letter YAA!!!!, but you will never learn these cool letters because they come after the letters KKHAAA and TDHAAAD and GHghayn so you will probably give up early on in the Arabic alphabet before you get to them).  Apparently, there was an international agreement that I missed  that resolved to

Rosary School in the 80’s

write  the WOW from top to bottom. I was called to the blackboard. I think that was the first public performance in my life.  After I finished writing the WOW, the teacher stared at me in anger! She fumed! I couldn’t understand why.  It is the first letter of my name, so I was sure I wrote the right letter.  –  She came up to me and snatched my ear with her fingers, pulled, twisted, and squeezed with the all the might that the Lord Jesus Christ has bestowed upon her.  Her fingernail went into my flesh and I bled.  Well, now I write my WOW from top to bottom, so well done Sister!  My father actually came to school and all I remember is his stance at the door with his black suit and his manly full moustache next to the headmaster, while the teacher apologized to me in front of the class.  I don’t know which experience was more traumatizing to me: the public ear-pinching or the public apology of my teacher who will continue to teach me for the rest of the year in humiliation!

As a branch manager of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, a newly expanding government bank in a newly formed country (1973 was the formation of the United Arab Emirates), my father had to move a lot, accepting promotions and managing new branches.

In 1981, we moved.


Sand and beach … that is what fills my early childhood memories in a place called Ajman.  Amidst  that canvas of sand and salty beach under the scorching sun, I can barely recall other memories. They are all happy images of playing on the beach between the sand and the sun. I went to the Ajman Model Elementary School in first grade.  I recall nothing from the school, except my box of pencils and instruments that had the Arab World map on it.


You see, we were raised with the notion that all  of the Arab World was one world which we were the citizens of. We have been submerged into concepts of Pan-Arabism and Islamic identity from childhood, and this was the way in which we perceived the world.  This ideal happy vision of one Arab world, with no borders,  intertwined itself like a vines over our innocence.  Both chattered together once we were at an age that required a passport.

Wait, I have a memory that I think I should not skip: of when I broke the idols and shouted “Allahu Akbar”.  Here is the story.

You Are Never Neutral

“I believe that you should not belong to anything in life. Be free and don’t be labled.”, she said to me.

But does she know that there is no such place as unbelonging.  There is no such thing as labelless, because the moment you consider yourself labelless, you have labelled yourself as such.

Your silence is a vote.

Your inactivity is a passive action that emboldens and empowers those with activity.

Your disinvolvement is a blank check to those who are involved to change the world, on your behalf, without your knowledge or authorization.

I am sorry to tell you, that your uninvolvement and silence are very damaging action!  As Paulo Freire says it:

If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral.


My phone says the temperature in Paradise currently is 42 degrees fahrenheit.

It is referring to Las Vegas.

What do we perceive as Paradise?

Is it the abundance of what fullfills our animal desires of food and opportunities of reproduction… yes … sex?

Is it the perfect weather and its freeing aspect, and its illusion of freedom, having more outdoor options?

Whatever it is, it seems to be dreamier and more fun that the place where we live, and at the same time, less real!

What is it in our insecure essence that always seek something less real and more imaginary?  Our frontal lob just doesn’t cease of creating ideal potentials, that are not achievable.  But I can see how this is a naturally selected tendency, since our ancestors who dreamed optimistically and ran enthusiastically after a better life of abundance, at least got something, hence had better chances of survival.

Our dreaming seems to be a factor in our survival and thriving.  Without dreaming, we ceaze to move forward.

The catch is to be conscious of when you are dreaming and distringuish it from planning.  Dream with no limits, but plan with brisk cold realism.

Dream that your business will be a multi-million dollar company, but understand that your chance of success if 18% for first time enterpreneurs, and 20% for those who tired and failed before.

There is a similar statistic for every aspect of ourlife.  We approach everything with optimism and dream like attitude… with faith … but also with planning that keeps in mind that a chance of failure is inevitable and no suprises there.

Welcome to Paradise…. to the Dream Land!