Tonight marks my one year anniversary in the Middle East. Yikes. For what seems like an eternity, the weeks and months have gone by very fast. Faster than I ever would have imagined when I landed in Abu Dhabi, May 20th, 2011. To think I have missed an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family (that’s a lie, I downloaded it religiously every week), Celebrity Apprentice, Chelsea Lately, The Academy Awards, Golden Globes and the Grammy’s, an entire winter season of minus 30 degrees plus a wind chill, driving on ice and fearing the snow bank my car is about to hit nearing by the second, forty flights on WestJet airlines throughout the US and Canada, an invite to the opening of Disney’s Hawaii property and not to mention the countless amounts of wine and rum consumed with my pals (I am proud to say I maintained the momentum in Dubai, however).
Instead, I spent the year responding to phrases like ‘Hello, Ma’amSir, still unsure if they are that confused what sex I am or if they have just been trained that MaamSir is indeed a word used to greet both sexes, “This is not allowed” when attempting to do anything that seems normal later to learn nothing really works outside of the box here, “Insha’Allah” referring to ‘God Willing’… it will happen when and if it happens, and finally “yalla” which means just hurry the H*&l up! My body can actually endure 55 degree heat and 90% humidity and put up with the desperately-seeking-an-appetite or a glass of water without worrying a local will spot me and subsequently have me jailed. Sadly for them, the locals actually endure one entire month of fasting during Ramadan.. Trust me, it’s trying and I am even cheating.
I have had plenty of time to experience the destination, savour the tastes, endure the sounds while adding lines to my face from the consistent look of confusion with every new thing I am exposed to here, I have made every effort to take it all in. Ups and downs, for sure, experiences I never thought imaginable. Some welcomed, some not so much but regardless, experienced!
Something foreign to the Western world is the amount of time one spends in hotels here in Dubai. Every weekend my Facebook shows another luxurious, elaborate and decked out hotel or resort with the backdrop of the architectural playground Dubai has become. From boozy champagne brunches, events, weekend getaways, birthday and going away celebrations, to lounging by the pool every minute the sun shines and the sand stays put. It all sounds out of the ordinary, but is simply the expat life here, regardless of your income. Speaking of income, one cannot imagine the wealth that the deserving and not-so deserving achieve here, the toys they buy, the experiences that roll out of their wallets like water down your back. You can find anything you wish here, usually right in front of you and if not, someone will order it in. I have a ways to go to be in this tax-free bracket, but have been very fortunate to be exposed to it. So looking back, on a year’s worth of blogs, you wouldn’t have expected much of the above to come from my finger tips to your computer screen and I wouldn’t have expected surviving another month here beyond June of last year. But month by month, day by day, either my standards weakened, patience increased or I have been in a comatose rum-influenced state of mind for the past 12 months completely oblivious to the reality around me. Whether I have stepped up to the plate and made this place work for me or not, I am still here and I am thinking my glass is more on the full side than on the half empty. In Canada, we would say if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes… it will change. Dubai, the weather changes from hot to hotter with the occasional sandstorm, but encompasses more change than I ever thought possible. Things happen here at the drop of a pin and likely, if you don’t like something, you wait a few minutes or… you change it. You make it work… for you.
Surrounded by more Brits than live in the UK itself, a plethora of cultures and people from all around the World, I have to say I have met some great people here that have really contributed to getting me through. Dubai is very transient, full of people who are here to make money, take a job leap, work their tails off, all in an effort to get something out this place then move on. But through many of those objectives, you filter through some that are not as selfish and extend a helping hand, shoulder or just simply make for a good beverage partner. I am happy to say that I have been lucky in this department and they, well maybe not so lucky for having signed on to put up with my ups and downs, maybe a few tears, spastic reactions, insensitivities… and frustrations.
So what next? Learning to relax. Learning to stop worrying. Learning to forget the world I am used to and open myself up to new ways of doing things, experiences and challenges. For me, living aboard was a greater challenge than I ever expected. In my circle of friends, people have done this for years, from country to country, picking up languages and intelligence along the way. I am just a Canadian boy who dabbles in travel, enjoys my friends, dinner parties and tries to keep my head afloat and perhaps staying out of trouble… a little.
One can learn quite quickly living abroad how living in one place all your life deprives you from so much more that you never knew existed. That’s kind of a blatantly ridiculously obvious statement, but it’s easier said, than done. So to all you newly discovering ex-pats out there, keep it up. Things do get better if you allow them to. Surround yourself with good people, take risks, chances, make friends but stick up for what you believe in without being closed-minded to allow yourself to think differently. Know that your ways are not always right but that you still have something to contribute. Like and love often no matter where you are in the world, and don’t forget the one’s along the way that have shaped you to who you are now. I’ll not forget the love, support and constant ‘putting up with’ from my family and friends who trusted me to ‘figure it out’. With their help both abroad and right here next to me… the one year finish line has been passed. It feels a little like standing on your own, reflecting back and knowing how integral each and every person, experience and journey has led to here and now. I am happy I stuck it out.
Okay – that’s enuf cheese for one day. I am sure there is a patio somewhere that is calling my name also known as my balcony set outside the massive sliding doors to my amazing hotel room sized apartment, where I will raise my glass over the Arabian sunset …. Celebrating one motha of a year… down! May the rum… never be gone!