What's in a Gesture?


Dubai, Terminal 2. Early in the Morning... Very early in the morning.
I present my passport at the immigration counter. The immigration officer does not speak much of English, and for a couple of minutes flips the pages of my passport over from the left to the right, and back again, and again, and again. He attentively reads all the different visas, and mumbles to himself. He looks up, as to check where his supervisor is, does not see him, and goes back to flipping the pages.

Me: "Excuse me, anything wrong?
Him: He answers with the (gesture): the fingers folded together, pointing upwards, and slowly moving his hand up and down.
I often go to Italy, and that (gesture) means as much as "what the ^^%%** are you talking about?" or "What the ^^%%** do you want?". So I get upset, right? I mean, it is rather rude. I raise my voice a pitch.
Me: "Excuse me, I am asking you if there is anything wrong with my passport?"
Him: (Gesture) again. He mumbles something in Arabic, which I do not understand, and continues to flip through the pages.

Me: "Now hold on a second. Why are you doing this (i mimic him)? Hey? A bit of respect would do, ok?"
I raise not only the pitch but also the volume of my voice.
Him: yet (gesture) again, but now moving his arm up and down in a very articulate way. He says something in Arabic, which I do not understand. The immigration staff at the other counters look at us and laugh.
Me: "OK, this is enough, I want to speak to your supervisor. You can not do this (gesture)(gesture)(gesture) at me. You know damned well what I am talking about."
I look around for a senior officer. One comes speeding at us from the office behind a one-way mirrored window.
Super: "What is the matter, sir?"
Me: "I am not sure, but your friend here clearly does not know what to do with my passport! And on top of that, he is rude. "
Super to the officer: "Rakakatakatak" (something fast in Arabic)
Officer to super: "Laaaaaaaa". And he shakes his head.

Hey, I understand that, it means 'No!'
Me to the super: "How can he say no? He is rude, he just stands there and goes (gesture) (gesture)(gesture) all the time.
The supervisor smiles, takes my passport, and asks me to follow him.

Super: "So he did like this (gesture), hey ?"
Me: "Yeah, but that is really rude. That guy insults me!"
Super (smiles): "Sir. Over here, this (gesture) means 'Please Wait' "

This was the first Arabic gesture I learned. The hard way.



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4 comments:

Alejandro 22 May, 2007 17:03  

It is wonderful to see so many people corcerned with the many socio-economic problems all over the World.
I too am a brother of arms and have recently volunteered my services to a Non-profit organization whose mission is to offer hope to the many thousands of children in Central America forced out of schools and into the workforce in order to provide for their families. CACEP or (http://wwww.cacep.net)We are trying to break this vicious cycle by providing education and choices for the many underaged children that provide cheap labor to all the different arena's in the third World countries especially Central America.
Thank you so much...
I beleive toghether we can make a difference.

Sincerely
Alejandro Rodriguez
SEO
CACEP

White van man 01 July, 2007 16:23  

Its great to see when people make an ass of themselves they are able to look at the situation afterwards and realise that maybe they were wrong. I can fully appreciate your story as a similar thing happened to me in Tunisia. Just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me when I found out I had made a fool of myself. I did apologies however.

Water Damage 18 November, 2008 14:07  

I guess it would have seemed pretty dumb to just give him the same gesture back,considering what he was telling you. I mean that is how we sometimes do it in America!

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