Today is my five-year Dubaiversary.
Yes, for better or worse, I landed in the sandpit exactly five years ago today, on June 1st 2008. At just after midnight, followed by a 2-hour taxi ride to my hotel (as I was soon to learn would be the norm, naturally the taxi driver had no clue where anything in Dubai was located), shortly followed by work, as I was expected to show my jet-lagged face in the office at 9am on June 1, which I was late to because there was not-a-one taxi to be found (as I was soon to learn would be the norm, naturally there was an inadequate taxi-to-person ratio in Dubai).
I left work early that day, citing a 16-hour journey only hours before from 8 time zones away. I was given a map to the Spinney’s (a grocery store chain) nearest my hotel, so that I could stock up on some food and get myself sorted out. Oh, I got the food, including butter, which melted on the way home in the humid 100+ degree weather. Now according to the map, this Spinney’s was only a block or two away from the hotel, and yet I could not find my way back. I tried and I tried and I tried but I could find no hotel. I also could find no taxi to take me back to my hotel. So I wandered the streets of Bur Dubai with a bag of melted butter and I cried. And I decided that I hated this place. I hated it and I was going to get on the next plane home.
I don’t normally give up that quickly, and it didn’t take me long tell myself to pull it all back together, and get over my melted butter. I never found the hotel myself that day, but eventually did find a taxi driver who could make sense of the map I had and drive me back. I was tired and confused and jet-lagged and I knew it was wreaking havoc on my senses and emotions. I would not leave Dubai on the next plane home. Also, despite the melted butter, I really do like hot weather and wasn’t keen to go back to Pennsylvania and await the inevitable coming of winter.
Sometime later that week I realized that the reason I was unable to find my hotel from the Spinney’s was not due to my inability to figure out directions (although this is still true), but because the taxi driver who took me from work to the Spinney’s, took me to the wrong Spinney’s. As I was soon to learn would be the norm, naturally you can’t assume your taxi driver is taking you to the correct location.
So, five years on, how do I feel about Dubai? I don’t hate it anymore. I don’t particularly love it though, either. I adore its location on this globe. I am frustrated to tears by its red-tape. I appreciate being able to take advantage of its opportunities. I could complain about Dubai, but in truth, a lot of good has come out of it. Apparently enough that it outweighs the bad and keeps me here. I live a lifestyle that I really can’t cry about and the traveling opportunities make all the difference.
I miss walking down city streets lined with cafes and bars and quirky shops. I miss divey underground nightclubs with dance music that’s not David Guetta and Tiesto (seriously, it is an endless rotation of these guys at the nightclubs here). I miss normality. I miss useful public transportation. I miss Primanti’s sammiches.
On the flip-side, I don’t miss cold weather, like at all. Under 70 degrees? No thanks. I don’t miss taxes, oh man, endless taxes being taken out of my paycheck. I don’t miss my meager 10-14 days vacation time. I don’t miss travelling abroad being so difficult and expensive. I don’t miss all of the unhealthy American food habits (excluding: Primanti’s) and media getting shoved down my throat. And I definitely don’t miss the lack of good Indian curry.
Dubai is also an incredibly safe place to live, which obviously, is nice. By far, the safest place I have ever been – and probably ever will be – in my life (well, crime-wise, anyway; the roads can be a deadly free-for-all). On the one hand, that’s great! On the other hand, once you get used to it, you find yourself (at least, I do) acting a bit careless and naive back in the real world, America or wherever that’s not Dubai. I find, and others point out, that I may be a bit careless with my purse or locking doors, for instance. Oops.
Eventually, I’ll leave this place. Don’t know for where, though. Hong Kong has caught my eye, big time. Seoul? Wouldn’t say no. Europe would be great at some point, but not in this economy™. I don’t have a great interest to move back to America (see reasons above) but I could maybe see myself living in Manhattan or Aspen (snowboard trumps cold weather) for a bit. Australia sounds lovely, but that one-year non-renewable work visa is an inconvenient bummer. South America – Brazil? Argentina? Peru? – sounds like it could be a party, yes?
I just don’t know, really. So here I’ll stay, planning travel between traveling, and indulging in curries and cheese manakeesh.
ETA: I just realized that this is the longest I’ve ever lived in a place since growing up in the Pittsburgh area!