Friday, June 29, 2012

Pass the passport: Cindi's Residency 2

His palm is loose, limp, damp - more of a hand-sliding than a hand-shaking.  A polite response to a Western woman's unintentionally rude, unthinking gesture.

"I'm sorry," he says in English.

"I'm sorry," I say in Arabic.  Asifa.  Asifa.

Men and women should not shake hands.  Men and women should not touch.

My instructions were:  go to the Ladies Area at the Medical Clinic.  Call this number.  Wait.

Two male guards ushered me through double glass doors.  Inside - women.  Western, Eastern, European, Arab, Other.  Chatting. Sitting. Waiting. An abaya clad woman nurses a baby - fully exposed, without a hint of embarrassment.  The action is familiar, cross cultural and makes me feel included.

It's just us ladies here.

I am summoned by phone to return outside to meet my male guide. I offer my hand. It is rude.

Abdul is kind, but still wipes his palm on his dishdasha-but-not-a-dishdasha-like robe, looks around.  Mister Bob?

Mister Bob ya'aml.  He is working.

Mashallah.  Whatever God Wills.

Abdul gives me a typewritten document, a credit card - and my passport, surrendered to the process some time before.  Since then, the passport has shown up intermittently in emails, offices, conversation, instructions and now in a stranger's hands.

Abdul points me back through the double glass doors.

Female guards move me through the building. Sit here, go there, take this, give that.  Make a fist, remove your jacket, wear this robe, stand here, lean forward, lean back, move, hold still.  What's your name? Where are you from? Passport, please.

A lady in niqab wants to know:  where do you learn Arabic?  Will you become Muslimah?

I hesitate, not wanting to offend.  I consider saying My Husband Won't Let Me, but instead offer an apologetic smile.  No. Lakin aheb a-loogah al-arabeya.

The skin around her eyes rounds then creases.  A smile?  And the Arabic language loves you, she replies.

Blood work. X-ray.  I drive myself - following Abdul's car - a short distance and a long drive through Doha traffic.

Another building, another reception desk, money changes hands and my passport moves from Abdul to me to clerk to me to Abdul.

A technician squeezes three drops of my freshly drawn blood onto a glass rectangle.  She drips a single spot of chemical something into each red smear.  Waggles the glass forward and back, peeks at the mixture, tosses the slide into the trash.

Khallas.  Done.

Next up in Pass the Passport, Cindi's Residency: Cindi is fingerprinted.

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