Although I’m familiar with Dubai (I had lived in the city for exactly five months only 7 months ago)
… the street names eluded me and the never-ending construction created chaos for not only me but the nationals too. I kept circling the area, knowing that I was in the right location. The Google GPS Maps on my Blackberry clearly marked the British Embassy, well within range of my blinking blue navidot. How reliant I had become on that wonderful program… It had served me well in many countries. I would simply enter my location and then search for directions to my desired destination… and presto! Before I knew it, I was instructing taxi drivers on the best and most direct routes in places that I had never even been before.
Gotta love satellite technology!
However, Google Maps was useless in Dubai since the roads were subject to day-by-day closures and changes. A route that was open hours earlier would now be closed due to paving or landscape crews hastily pasting the final touches onto the city that glitters with gilt and glamour. I was getting frustrated and wanted to get this un-pleasantry over with as quickly as possible. I knew that embassies were only open in the mornings and since it was Thursday and the “holy day” followed, it would have to wait until the following Sunday if I didn’t make it in time. Translation… I was doomed since it was likely to be busy and backed up too. After circling unsuccessfully for almost an hour I finally arrived at my destination. I sat in the car for a moment composing myself as I dug my cell phone, blackberry and netbook from my bag. All items that were banned from entry to the building. Then I dug a handful of coins from the console and studied the ticket machine trying to determine the appropriate purchase in order to avoid getting a ticket… tick, tick, tick… I was procrastinating truth be known.
I placed a 2 hour voucher on the dash and scurried across the roadway to the consular gate. I was instructed to go to the next gate, (as my luck would have it, when provided with a choice of 2 gates I have greater than a 50% chance of selecting the wrong one, this case was no exception) where I explained briefly my business as I handed over my passport. I registered the intensity of the detector at the gate since I had no metal on my person (with the exception of under-wire in my bra) but I set off the beeper which sang madly as I passed through. The female guard waved her magic wand over my frame but did not grope or sweep her hands over my body as I had experienced in many airports in Asia and Europe. (I think Frankfort is where I have experienced the most aggressive fondling to date)
After having my near empty bag reviewed,
(why I even bothered to carry it was not clear other than the comfort of its familiarity since I had nothing left of value except the single key to Hassan’s car and my business card holder with ID and cards) I went inside as instructed and was relieved to see that only 5 people where waiting before me. I took a ticket from the que machine then read the instructions which did not appear to include my reason for visiting. I went back out to the security gate and questioned the entry guard again. “I’m here to speak with someone about my personal safety. I do not need a passport or visa.” I spoke emphatically and clearly as if she spoke no English… Why didn’t she understand my dilemma and direct me to the correct building? I was certain that I should be speaking with someone at the gate that I had originally approached before being re-routed. “No” she stated back in a firm but clear tone. Mimicking my speech. “This is the correct place. Go inside, take a number, and someone will speak with you here.” I headed back inside although I still felt certain I was in the wrong place. I did not want to be here in the first place and was only going on the advise of my lawyer and a good friend who were both concerned for my well-being. They were right, but it didn’t make the situation any easier.
I sat on the front row of benches and surveyed the simple room which seemed to be a temporary facility that was never made permanent. An AV cart held an outdated CRT (cube style) television that was tuned to CNN. The program was broadcasting the inaugural ceremony of the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who was being re-elected to his second term in office. The volume was too low for me to hear the coverage so I watched as lips mumbled meaninglessly and read the ticker tape commentary that scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Hilary Clinton sat in the front row alongside the other distinguished guests from over 45 countries. Apparently he, Karzai, was pledging to get “tough on corruption” since his country was ranked as the second most corrupt country in the world. Which was number one I wondered? Pakistan came to mind immediately, followed by Nigeria and Iraq. How about Greece, Kenya and Myanmar (formerly Burma). According to CNN the leader is Somalia. I had heard earlier on BBC One Radio, during my frustrating morning drive, that a woman who was accused of adulatory was stoned to death that morning. Accused by who? Too late for a trial I suppose since they had already stoned her! I guess I wasn’t doing too badly, at least I was alive and lucky to be so.
The intrusive DING of the number system signals my attention to the LED display
that says I am to proceed to counter #3. I enter the Plexiglas booth and hastily thrust my passport at the attendant and attempt to convey my reason for attending. After a few short sentences she explains that I will need to speak directly with one of the consulate staff and asked me to return to the front row where I should wait for someone to call my name. She asks if it is alright for her to take my passport. “Why not?” It seems a strange question given that technically the document belongs to them. I return to my bench and hope that I get a kind person who will not judge me or be condescending regarding my situation.
The ticker tape again announces the corruption that runs rampant in Afghanistan and my attention is drawn back to the guessing game of who the #1 offender might be. How about Ecuador whose government turned a blind eye while Texaco dumped massive quantities of toxic waste in the jungles and waterways resulting in the pollution to all sources of drinking water and creating a nation of cancer stricken and disease ridden populous. I am further motivated to make a documentary that will help to create positive change somewhere in this world… the topics are endless, the causes many… I favor subjects that deal with women and children. Protection and defense of the innocent, how can I come to the aid of those who need the most assistance. Which topic will be most easily funded. How does Michael Moore choose his subjects? I am torn between my own story and that of going a safer, more comfortable route. It’s so much easier to reveal the hardships and mishaps of others than to strip yourself bare to the world. The rawness of my ordeal comes flooding back. Shit! I thought I had this under control. I am strong! I can do this! Shit… hold it together now…
“Miss Richards…” I hear my name called quietly and turn to see a gentle smiling woman in her 50’s who beckons me toward an interview room. My relief must show since she immediately apologizes that the rooms are not very “comforting” and perhaps I would prefer to sit in the alcove. I agree and we sit side by side on a padded bench. She flips open her pad and poises her lead pencil over the page, “Okay, take your time and tell me what happened. I’ll just take some notes if you don’t mind.”
Then the unexpected happens,
my throat tightens, my eyes begin to fill… I tip my head back slightly and shake it off… I apologize and attempt to smile at her but I am not able to contain the emotions. “I’m sorry… it’s just all coming back again…”
She lowers her pad and smiles gently again, she seems so kind and allows me to ride the wave toward a more stable moment when I can regain my voice. I am shocked at the pain I have once again endured and the intensity of the emotions that I thought were long forgotten. I begin to tell her in point form and in a very clinical manner (much like a reporter or police officer would relate the details of a crime) the general history of my heartbreaking whirlwind romance that ended in disaster. I remove the Malaysian police report from an envelop in my lap and carefully and slowly unfold it. I read the case number, birth date and passport number aloud then show her the paper to confirm the digits explaining that I am dyslexic and often transpose numbers. She checks the accuracy, makes a correction then we embark on a nice conversation about my creativity and how I have overcome the adversity of a disability.
She explains that someone will likely contact me for further interviews and that she has checked the database to ensure all the details have been entered. I’m relieved that it is over until she instructs me to contact the Canadian Embassy and Dubai Police to inform them of the same details.