Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The strain of being a Resident

Misplaced forms, expired visas, a little red tape and some curious experiences later, I’m finally a resident of the United Arab Emirates. I have an identity card, which oddly enough classifies me as a Press Editor. I see their point. Copy Head sounds more like a directive than a designation.

As a Resident, I can now officially:

Get a cell phone connection
Open a bank account
Rent an apartment
Take a loan
Get a driving license
Wear a long-suffering expression while complaining about the traffic, heat and soaring price of real estate.

Coming back to the curious experience mentioned above. One of the pre-requisites for acquiring a Resident visa is the medical test. I was dropped off at the clinic nearest to our office, by the affable driver who told me, “First x-ray, then blood, then finish.”

Simple enough, I thought. I headed to the X-ray section and was handed an innocuous looking form at the Reception. My eyes flew open. I blinked a few times and shook my head just in case I had misread the questions.

Q2: I am not pregnant because:

a) I am single or widowed
b) I am on contraceptives
c) I am staying away from my husband
d) Others (specify)

Now, I understand it’s not advisable to undergo an X-ray when pregnant. (In fact, there were a few posters around which cautioned pregnant women about X-rays.) But did I have to give explicit reasons as to why I didn’t fall in that category?

I was still recovering from that bout of bizarreness, when I handed the form to the man at Reception. He glanced at the form and leveled me with a look that said, ‘Are-you-sure?’

Are pregnant women thronging the X-ray clinics around here? Is this some weird sort of protest which authorities feel compelled to curb? Was I exuding the soft glow of motherhood??

I stepped into the changing room in the X-ray section and another protruding belly poster sounded a warning.

I was beginning to get nervous.


The blood test went off much better. The guard escorted me ahead of the long line of sun-browned labourers, into an open room where a couple of male technicians were at work, labeling blood samples. For some reason, I assumed there would be female staff in attendance as well. I was beginning to feel a tad uncomfortable with the overwhelming male presence, all of them conversing in Arabic.

I was directed to a seat, and one of them asked me to hold out my hand, as he readied the syringe. I quickly averted my eyes from the needle. The technician noted my sudden head movement and assumed I was trying to get a better look at his nametag.

<“Syria,” he said, even before I thought of asking.

I nodded politely.

“Have you ever been to Syria?”

I said.

“Anyone from your family has been to Syria?”

I shook my head.

“So I am the first Syrian you’ve met?” he asked delightedly.

No, I said, my colleague is Syrian.

“Aww… I wanted to be the first,” he said, pulling a face.

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Why am I not the first?” he persisted.

Huh. Was this Tricky Questions Day?? Or was this part of the Residence Visa eligibility test?

“First or second doesn’t make a difference. Syrians are nice people,” I muttered, in a cheesy attempt at diplomacy.

I’d passed the ‘test’ with flying colours judging from his expression.


I wonder what’s in store for me next week. I’m signing up for the driving license...

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