I can think of hundreds – no, thousands – of other ways I’d rather spend a day in Doha than going to the Medical Commission building for the medical exam, the most dreaded step toward getting a residence permit in Qatar. But since it’s compulsory, I found myself standing in front of the Medical Commission at the ungodly hour of 8 am, holding my passport and a hundred Qatari riyals, armed with the vague instructions given to me by the company’s PRO in charge of assisting us through the whole process. Unfortunately, there are men and women’s entrances, and he couldn’t come in with me.

His instructions earlier had been: “You enter this door, ok? You go in, then left, then after that, right to that window there, then you go in there…” he leaned his face against his cupped hand resting on the glass (it’s the kind of glass you need to press your face against, to see what’s going on inside) “…over there…” (I tried to peer through the glass, but by then he had stopped pointing and I had no idea where “there” was) “…then to that room back there to have your blood taken, then after, you go to Room 4, I think, for the xray. Then come back here when you’re done. Okay?”

“Got it,” I lied.

Once inside, I tried to follow his instructions.

“You go in, then left” : I turned left and entered a door, where an Arab woman asked me for my passport, and registered me. I think.

“Then after that, right to that window, there” : In this window I was asked for a hundred Qatari riyals and again for my passport. The woman behind the window then held up a digital camera, then shouted at me to keep still, even though I wasn’t moving. She took my picture right through the glass (and I still wonder how the photo turned out, since I was standing against the light.) Then she tapped something into her computer, to register me. I think.

“Then you go in there, over there” : Another Arab woman behind the counter motioned for me to come over, and she grabbed my passport, again tapped something into her computer, asked me to verify my name.

“To that room back there to have your blood taken” : The nurse snapped on a pair of plastic gloves, brandished the fattest needle I had ever seen in my life, and jabbed it into my arm without sympathy. (it’s been one week, and I still have a bruise).

“You go to Room 4 for the xray”: In charge of Room 4 was a thin, tiny Arab woman with a mouthful of gold teeth, screeching in Arabic and English to all the women cramped inside the tiny room. The air was heavy with distress and desperation. It was like lining up for food rations during a war.

“You! Remove shirt, put hospital gown on, there in room, yalla, yalla!” the woman with gold teeth kept shouting to everyone who entered the room, pushing them into the changing room, which was already filled with half-naked women who shrieked each time she opened the door, exposing them to the public.

She saw me hovering by the door, frozen in terror, then approached me. Up close, her gold tooth glinted as it caught the light. She was grinning.

“YOU!” she screeched suddenly, so loud that I couldn’t help but wince. “You no need to put hospital gown because of white shirt! White shirt ok!” Then, to my horror, she reached over and pulled at my bra strap, then let it go. It snapped painfully back to place. “You just remove bra and do it now, yalla, yalla, YALLA!”

Goddamn it, I thought, gritting my teeth, thinking of all the other places I’d rather be than with this bra-snapping, gold-toothed, yalla-screeching woman.

After my xray I stumbled out of the building, where the company PRO was waiting for me.

“Good, there was no problem?”

“No,” I lied, relieved it was over.

“Good. Now we need to go to another office to have your blood taken.”

“Can’t they just take the blood I gave them in there?” I asked. “They took a vial of it.”

“No,” said the PRO, laughing heartily as if I had cracked a joke, even though I was dead serious. “It will just be a tiny prick on your finger, to find out what your blood type is. Don’t you want to know what your blood type is?”

“Yes,” I lied, and thought about all the things I’d rather be doing than having my blood taken for the second time in two hours.

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