It was a big day. It was election day for the Abu Dhabi PTA. Yes, six months prior I had spent months in political leadership courses and had recently thrown my name into the race for Arizona State House of Representatives but then the Smokers House fell apart and with it went my residency requirement and then everything went to pot super quickly. Funny how life changes sometimes with the blink of an eye because six months later I found myself in the Middle East, in the UAE, in an American school, running for the PTA’s volunteer coordinator. Weird.
Yes, I know. As Americans, when we say PTA the first thing that comes to mind is Jeannie C. Riley and the Harper Valley hypocrites. But instead, I found myself in a room packed with extraordinarily qualified people displaced from their home countries with absolutely nothing to occupy their time so they wanted to shove all of their energies into the PTA. There where lawyers, MBAs, teachers, life coaches, fungi shui specialist, doctors, nurses, architects, and yes — a few of them were wearing their dresses way too high. Some of them spoke several languages besides English, some of them spoke no English at all. There were the corporate types, the indulgent housewife types, the absolutely clueless types, the gym moms, the soccer moms, and then me, a disqualified political candidate and social change advocate — and damn it, I was going to win this freaking election!
I found out shortly before the election that I was running against an incumbent — the absolutely worst scenerio for me. Here we were, most of us in the UAE for the first time, feeling completely and utterly lost, and I was running against someone who had the answers to the questions on the minds of everyone in the room. Such as, where do I find Charmin toilet paper? A gas station? And Miracle Whip? I prepared a strategy which usually works for me. In a pinch crack a joke. Yes, absolutely, this is what I will do. And then it dawned on me. How exactly do I amuse a Korean? I’ve never gotten the punchline to a Korean joke — have you?
I looked around the room while the candidates prepared to introduce themselves. The chairwoman was speaking. She was a super thin South African lady around mid-30’s. She had a tattoo around her arm which gave me the impression that she liked to drink cocktails. She also wore clothes that look a little like a European Grateful Dead follower. Although, her accent was very no-nonsense. It was kind of something left over from the British rule infused with a German precision. She spoke distinctly, no-nonsense, but with perfect mannerism. She made me a little nervous, because as an American my manners are sometimes terrible. Next, she introduced the marketing and design executive. At first, I was surprised that the Abu Dhabi police hadn’t arrested this woman already. Her shoulders were showing. Her cleavage was showing. And she was wearing heels that almost doubled her height. She looked like a Lebanese Kardashian. Every move was a pose as though the paparazzi were following her. Her hair shined. Her make-up was flawless. And I was getting the feeling that it must be tattooed on. She moved with an air as though the PTA is a throne and she is the heir. I thought to myself, I don’t know if I like her. The jury was definitely still out on this one.
The first candidate announced was an Italian lady. She spoke 5 or 6 different languages and had a super nice demeanor. I liked her. Who else can speak that many languages? I voted for her. The next candidate was a Liberian who was raised in the USA. She was super cute and poised. Had adorable little braids in her hair and cute shoes and earrings. She had my vote too. And then there was me. What the hell do I say? Crack a joke? No. Nobody will get it. I’m thinking, tell them I went to school in Boston. I’ve heard all foreigners know Boston. Tell them I moved from the desert so they’ll know I don’t crack under the heat. Tell them I need this crazy little job because without it I will go stir crazy and drive my family nuts with my hyperactive mind. I will stress my husband out and his work will suffer and he will be fired and we will have to move back to the States and I’ll have to ship my dogs and my furniture back across the Pacific Ocean and that costs a lot of money and I will be stuck in front of a computer trying to amuse myself and I will gain an enormous amount of weight and I will need to join the Biggest Loser. No, first I will need to start the Biggest Loser Middle East series and then I can join. Okay, just say it. Just spit it out. Say something. Say anything. Half the people here have no idea what the hell you are saying anyway. Just say something!
Hello, my name is Gina. I moved here from the USA two months ago with my husband and our little boy who is in third grade. In the States, I created a non-profit that uses incentives and social media to encourage the use of strong thinking skills in the college population. I have a Masters from the University of Massachusetts Boston in Critical and Creative Thinking. I also teach social change, innovation and entrepreneurship in adult workshops. I am a social media junkie so as volunteer coordinator you cannot hide from me. I will Google you, I will Tweet you, I will Facebook you, I will Link-You-In. When the school needs volunteers, I promise you that somehow, some way, I will find you. And although I was half serious when I said this, they LAUGHED! Somehow I managed to make the Koreans and all the other people from all the other corners of the world who probably only understood half of what I just said LAUGH!
Whew! So glad that is over. But unfortunately, I lost the election to the incumbent by two votes.