Sunday, 1 June 2008

DIARY OF AN INTERN: DAY 1

It started at 5am. Not really. My sleep habits have been whack for centuries, it seems, so I was really blinking and tossing in the dark from 3am. Christ. There are approximately 160km between Abu Dhabi and Dubai(my destination, headquarters of Viva Magazine), and so that is the distance I travelled today, and then some.

I jumped on the first running Emirates Express of the morning at 6:20am, bopped to Peter Bjorn and John and the likes during the 2 hour bus-ride, while everyone else slumbered. This really surprised me because of my usual need to sleep through 5/8's of my day, everyday, without fail. Well, today, that wasn't happening for a second. Here I am at 10pm writing this out with renewed fervour.

With my usual sleeping habits in mind, the original plan was to refuel several times per day on Red Bull, like a gas guzzling SUV. But I was too late to browse the bus station's mini mart before we set off, so the cup of Vanilla Black Tea was all I had in my system on the way to Dubai; and it worked wonders for my consciousness. I stress. Here I am. Still. I mean, I remembered from the two tourist trap coffee plantation tours I did in Costa Rica that tea has more caffeine than soda and coffee, but I didn't expect to turn my back on energy drinks and Starbucks after one day!

Anyway, when we got to a place called Al Karama, I jumped off, head turning every which way in search of my next bus, although thighs quaking from my rupturing bladder as well(and here my problem lies. I am one of those folks who needs to go to the bathroom half an hour after drinking half a cup of anything. Worst habit for someone lost in the scalding delapidated and dirty backroads of a foreign country, where every shop-keeper either doesn't know what 'washroom/bathroom/toilet' means or is shocked at the audacity of a woman to approach Arab men in such a crazily candid manner about her bladder. 'Bloody Westerners...').

Look. It was serious. And the clock was ticking. Still hadn't found the correct bus stop, still hadn't relieved myself, still waddled around wearing head to toe black under a full-on desert sun (how do they do it? And covered even more so?). Finally, a shady Lebanese restaurant with a friendly man (and the type who wasn't over-friendly in that sleazy Arab way. No offense.) I spent a fortune of my time left to get to the office in that bathroom, not only enjoying a lighter pelvic area, but also tidying up, prettying up and deciding whether to give this man some money for his kindness because I wasn't about to buy his very un-delectable items behind their glass casings. I decided, even though the bathroom was putrid and leaked (but had soap and toilet paper, thank Allah) that I would give him some change. He was absolutely shocked and said 'no no no, ma'am. You go. No need.' Great. I must've said 'Shukran' five times, even as I was out the door.

At the correct bus stop now, I discovered the small perks of being a female member of an Emirati society. In the distance, about 12 of us watched with furrowed sweating brows as the 44 bus rippled its way towards us in all the unseen heat devouring us. When it squeaked to a stop and hummed two cars away in light traffic, there was jostling. We had been melting a full 30 minutes for this bus. So definitely jostling, or else wait an hour for the next and faint. An indian man offered me his sweaty armpits as he tried to stink his way to the front. Screeeech. Hissssss. Bus. Doors swing open, threatening to flatten any outstretched limb, and the driver eyeballs us in our imaginary sidewalk sardine tin.

"Get back! Ladies first!" If only the rest of the world worked this way with their queues, OH what blissful lives women could lead. I guess it's to make up for all the other stories we hear about women out here (oops! foul mouth). There were also stickers on the windows of the first 5 rows or so that read 'Reserved For Ladies Only', then plexiglass, then several more rows of men with their heads out in the aisle. Needless to say, once the women jostled past, hiding smirks, tucking their colourful sari fabrics and bejeweled black burka skirts under their happy bums, half the men waiting to get on outside were given the cold shoulder (or bus door, I should say).
"No more room. SORRY!" chuckled the bus driver, revving up and speeding off. A few stops away, he was a little more generous, letting a few newcomers stand in the aisle.

"Ganda! Ganda! Ganda!" he shouted, gesturing for them to squeeze themselves, and their many scents, back to the men's section.

Two Filipina women at the front giggled into their Chinese fans.
"Hehe, Ganda. Beautiful." ('ganda' means beautiful in tagalog)

That kind of chaotic cosmopolitan togetherness really gets me all the time. I smiled with them.

Anyway, I got to the office at 9:45am, 45 minutes too late; not that anyone noticed because Claire Turrell, Editor in Chief of Viva Magazine, and my main source of correspondance, was not in today, had been sick for roughly a week now and hadn'f informed anyone of my arrival.

"We thought you were coming in May!"
"Yes, well, that was the original plan. But I got stuck in London doing this and that and arranged for June instead with Claire. So...here I am?"
"Well, we haven't actually planned anything. Hmmm...what can we give you to do?"

Not much. The June issue of Viva came out today, meaning a slow office day was expected until things started heating up later on in the month to get July's sassed up and sorted. All I did was call up a few companies to query the prices of some of their beauty products, conspire some letters to the editor on the last issue, seeing as not many readers felt the need to comment on Kate Hudson being on the cover or how much they enjoyed or abhorred so and so article on so and so page. "Dear Viva, it was SUCH a pleasure to read up on the debate on whether women should take back a cheating lover. I was surprised to find that some women out there still have that level of perseverance, patience and pathetic-ness to give the lying bastard wanker a second chance. I for one..." Yes.

And then I was set up with a temporary log in account in which I typed up such letters, as well as a list of past 'Careers' Features in their archives for the new writer so she could make sure she wasn't regurgitating anything recently written. Then much banter, gasps and sighs about the tragedy of the 'Sex and the City' movie not gracing our shores, and explaining to the new writer/resident that single women who got pregnant in the Gulf are immediately deported, and what each of us would do in such a situation. Half the team agreed that they would get hitched with the sole male member of Viva staff.

Then, for about 3 hours, while licking the side of my lip to re-confirm that there was no leftover hummus from lunch lying there, and twirling my office chair while reading some Amy Tan, one of the girls turned to me and said I should probably just leave early today and start full-force tomorrow. So 'tis the plan. And now that I'm waking at ungodly hours, working 9-6, braving scorching weather conditions in fashionable office garb while getting glamorously lost in an ever-growing, ever-ambitious city, and travelling roughly 6 hours a day, I have a curfew. And that would be now. So, 'til Day 2, Salaam!

1 comment:

siddartha said...

What the FUCK?!!? Sex and the City isn't going to UAE??? Ugh! At least Lebanon appreciates the good shit! I don't think many folks in Syria know much about SATC.

By the way, to ask for the bathroom is "Wayn al Hamam?" lol

And I can testify that the culture and customs of the Gulf is really annoying when you're a woman. I see you realized Arabs from outside the Gulf are different.