Who would have thought that I’d ever live in the Middle East. On a whim back in August 2010, my family and I packed up what we could in 50lb increments and set off for an adventure that has forever changed our lives…for the better. We knew very little of where we would be living, of what our living situation would be like nor of who my employer was to be. But we were ready for an adventure, and that’s what the past two years have given us. Every day is an adventure here, no matter how long you’ve lived here. Figuring out the ins and outs of living here, like getting residency, IDs and drivers licenses, all seem second nature now. We know the rules of the land, we know where to go for various items and services (which usually isn’t as easy as telling someone the name of a place…there’s many roundabouts and landmarks in those directions given) and we feel more and more at home with each passing day.
We have lived in three beautiful homes, we’ve tried two different schools for our children (about to start a third), we’ve purchased a car and we’ve adopted a dog. I’ve even started purchasing more “home” items these days, whereas, in the beginning, I was simply being minimalistic and cheap in our purchases, not knowing how long we’d stay here. We are setting up a home…never thought that would happen. While we long to go home to something familiar at times, or perhaps just to get that one item stuck in our storage unit, it’s hard to leave this place. Somehow, it wraps it’s arms around you and sucks you into its charm and beauty. Life here is pretty easy once you let go of your need to have control. The pace is slower, the food is abundant and cheap, the opportunities abound for travel and in this melting pot of expats, you carve your space and “give in” to this life.
My children have learned more about people on this Earth than I ever thought they could. They have encountered the generosity of strangers wanting to dote on them with gifts and love as well as witnessing the poverty and hard labor that happens in the background. On one street, you can see the two worlds living side by side. They know a life of color…there is no other world to them now. People come in all shapes, sizes and now, color. Where we are from, the population is pretty monotone. Now, when they describe a person or a friend, it’s never the color of their skin…it’s the characteristics that make us that person on the inside…”the really nice one who gave us candy,” “the one in the red shirt,” the man in the white kandora.” My heart jumps with excitement every time I see my children act and think like global citizens. This experience has changed them and their futures forever.
I feel like we’ve done more in two years than we’ve done in the seven years my husband and I have been married. Sure we went to Mexico once a year, and Disneyland once a year, but the other fifty weeks a year we worked, struggling to get by. We passed up on eating out, going to the movies, etc…just to save a buck. We were always home…feeling trapped by the economy. We almost felt that if we went out, spending money was too much of a temptation. Everything was so expensive. Now, we’re fortunate to go camping, duning, stay in luxury hotels, travel to places like Sri Lanka and this summer, Thailand. We go out more, experience life more. I mean, when else would I have ever been able to stay in the tallest building in the world…the Burj Khalifa? Life is tax free here. That’s a big difference when you’re collecting your salary each month. It affords you more wiggle room. And because we’re in an expat haven, there are always amazing travel and hotel deals…like $200RT airfare from Dubai to London, or $300RT from Abu Dhabi to Thailand (which is cheap once you arrive as well!) Of course we still have our tax obligations at home, but overall, the cost of living is just cheaper here. Remember, when you’re hired as an expat, you get great packages from your employer here…including housing, insurance and flights. It’s just part of the deal.
Our two years here has been amazing, forever burned in our hearts. We have loved it so much that I have recently signed on for another two years, but in a different Emirate and with a different company. We have now moved from Al Ain to Umm Al Quwain. We’re in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, yet only 40 minutes from Dubai. Life is even slower here than in Al Ain, the choices for entertainment are more limited, but we’re ready to carve our niche here, as I’m sure there are some diamonds in the rough to discover. So, I welcome you on our next journey for two more years.