My lessons were scheduled to start at 6.20am ! I wanted to get it over and done with. So I opted for the extensive "one-day-theory" lessons.
"If you are ten minutes late you will be penalised and will have to reschedule the lesson" said the Emirates Driving Company employee, firmly, with her Russian accent.
I made sure I got there way ahead of time. But there was nobody for a while. Three students showed up just on time.
The tutor only arrived at 6.27am, unlocked the door of the "safety hall" and left again, only to be back at 6.34am ..
Talk about penalising students for being late !!
"My name is Ismael". He seemed serious, dressed in the national UAE dress (white colour). He was relatively young. He spoke very clear Arabic.
"Are you with me or are you with your phone"? He asked me.
"I am writing down notes of what you are saying on my phone"
"Mashallah.. you can type so quickly! Mashallah" He laughed, surprised.
Of course I was tweeting !! :)
The Falafel Hallucinations
Ismael was professional and I thought he was quite good at tutoring and getting people's attention. But after the first hour of class about safety and seat belts I urgently needed food. At the cafeteria there was not much appealling food. An Emirati man got a falafel sandwich.
"Give me the same thing please".
My sandwich had fried potatoes (French fries), fried aubergines and fried cauliflower, alongside the fried falafel and the tahina (sesame butter). It was not even 8am !
The night before I had attended the wonderful poetry contest called "Prince of Poets". I had little sleep after that and dreamed of Peru's President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia. So that falafel "dynamite" sandwich only added to the queer sequence of things, which affected my tweeting ! :)
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any strange tweets today after I am done with my heavy falafel sandwich. My IQ feels weird! :)
— Dima Khatib أنا ديمة (@Dima_Khatib) June 13, 2013
Under the falafel-mix influence, I started observing the tutor's white dress, how self-aware he is of the white cover on his head. Every now and then he makes sure it is still in the right place and in the position he wants it to be. As he explained road and driving issues I started wondering about Arab men in "dresses", whether called thob, dishdash, kandoora, ghalabiya or whatever else, in the Gulf but also in Northern Africa, in Sudan, etc. I realised I liked the Mauritanian men's traditional outfit the most, which I had seen the night before at the poetry contest. I also wondered how Gulf Arab men managed to keep their white dresses so spotlessly clean and well ironed! I realised that men in such outfits make me want to stare at them for some reason. So I started staring at the tutor !
Suddenly I realised how used I had gotten to men in trousers that I don't want to stare at them in the same way!
During one of the breaks I went to the women's waiting area. There was a prayer room, bathrooms and a place to sit.
"I passed I passed!" said one young lady to someone on the phone.
Women sitting there were clearly intimidated by the driving test. I remembered how intimidated I was the first time I took a driving test back in 1996. Then I remembered how easily I passed.
I enjoyed engaging with the women. But the disadvantage of being there was all the perfume they kept putting on, all over their neck, body and hair - especially the ones whose hair and full body were covered in black. The perfume would stay behind in the room for a while. I was sneezing and sneezing.
Back in class, the tutor went on and on about priority, yielding, highways. I rememberd the first time I ever saw a highway sign. It was back in 1992 in Germany where I also witnessed cars going at 200 km an hour. When I returned to Syria after that, fascinated, I remember lecturing my family on the road between Damascus and Latakia on how the highway is supposed to be, which of course it was not in Syria!
I couldn't help it. I had to brag about my driving experience! There were about 15 students from different Arab countries. Many were young women. Most, if not all, were first-timers. One lady whose face I did not see because she wore a niqab, seemed intrigued by my stories of driving in so many countries around the world! I could see excitement and anxiety in her eyes. I assured her it was not a big deal and told her she was going to make it for sure! Then one lady said: my friend had a driver's license already from another country and still she failed the road test!
Damn ... Imagine me failing the test ! I need falafel :)
The Male Factor
The last lesson was due to start at 12:55. The tutor only showed up at 1.13pm. That is more than the ten-minute deadline, again! By then I was sleepy and really couldn't hear any more theory about driving! I had learned nothing new yet - although I was paying attention - except may be how to say clutch in classical Arabic القابض .
I was trying to read my novel (by Algerian writer Wasini Al Aaraj). But when Ismael started talking about the maintenance of the car he caught my attention with his BOWER acronym.
It stood for :
It is common for Arab speakers to pronounce the "p" as "b". But Ismael could pronounce the "p" in Petrol correctly, but not in Power, or Bower !
"How do you check the oil in the car before a long trip?" He asked everyone.
All came up with guesses. I said : oh you just ask your (male) neighbour or husband to do it ! I was not mean enough to say: ask your "male guardian"! :P (to understand this reference please read Part I)
I hope Ismael never finds his way to my blog!
My theory lessons were over at 2pm. I was given a date for my theory test in a few days. I was told to study well because if I failed I would have to go through all the lessons again, and not just the ones I took in the extensive course, and I would probably have to pay for them, again!
In a way it felt pleasant to be back at "school" although I did not learn much today. But I liked being on the other side of the classroom. I got a sense of what my students at the American University in Dubai felt while I lectured them. I just hope none of them spent their time staring at my dress !
To be continued ...
Read ---> Part I (Just Pay)
UAE Adventures : Dubai - Abu Dhabi