Stranger in ‘paradise’-A A +A
Thursday, January 3, 2013
IT'S two months now since I got to this city in the United Arab Emirates – a city located in an emirate of the same name. Dubai is just one of UAE’s seven emirates. Located southeast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, I realized I am in a far away part of the world. The Pacific Ocean and China Sea are just the familiar bodies of water that border the places I have been to.
It took an 11-hour flight from Manila to Dubai with a brief stopover in Hong Kong. At the Dubai International Airport, thousands of different nationalities, mostly Filipinos and Indians, queued at immigration booths labeled “Passport Control”.
Though there were more than 10 booths available to check on our documents and subject us to an iris scan, I had to endure 65 long minutes with a backpack that weighs more or less 7 kilos.
While waiting for my turn amidst a “nasal smorgasbord,” I was preoccupied with the thought of what awaits me outside the airport. Will I be fetched by an Arabic- speaking local clad in “Kandura” and holding a paper that bears my name. Or will it be the Filipina staff who I was chatting with for a few weeks, orienting me of how to go about with my trip. My Globe number’s roaming has not been activated yet hence, it was impossible for me to be contacted.
A fellow Pinay named Irene, who was behind me tinkering with her cell phone, was kind enough to lend her phone so I can send a text. The unit is an old model with faded keypad markings but served its purpose. I can’t help but wonder why she didn’t get herself a new cellphone when she probably had saved money after serving a year’s contract in Dubai, and electronic gadgets are far cheaper in this city.
Three weeks is not enough for me to say that I am amazed by this city, which has been one of the most preferred working destinations of Filipinos.
I have heard so much of Dubai. A neighbor back home in Davao City sold a family property to pay for a plane ticket and tourist visa to try her luck here. She found a contractual job but went home empty-handed in less than a year. She hasn’t recovered until now from a debt-laden state.
There are many others in Dubai with similar story like my neighbor’s.
Dubai has attracted world attention because of the many innovative large construction projects and sports events.
The city has become symbolic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, such as the Burj Khalifa that is the tallest structure in the world, and other development projects including man-made islands, hotels and some of the largest shopping malls in the region. It has emerged as a cosmopolitan metropolis that has grown to become a global city and a business and cultural hub of the Middle East.
What brought me here is a long story, different from my neighbor’s, of course!
The odd feeling in a strange land still lingers even after almost a month. It’s not just because I’m away from my loved ones and friends but, it’s also about adjustment. Adjustment is a daunting task.
Moving overseas to a culture that you know almost nothing about is like taking a giant leap into the unknown. It requires more than just physical preparations.
Aside from normal adjustments associated with moving -- setting up my things, finding new friends, familiarizing myself with the new geography and climate – there are a host of other changes. I am intrigued and repelled by new sights, sounds, smells and ways of thinking and living. Changes in cultural identity, social position and etiquette all take time getting used to.
I am 4,151.93 nautical miles away from my comfort zone – my home, my Davao, my country and uncertain how my journey is going to be.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 04, 2013.