My sister asked me recently, “Don’t you miss Dubai?” My gut response was no, not because I didn’t enjoy my time there or appreciate many aspects of the city, but because I really love being home again. I tried to backtrack and list the things I did miss, but couldn’t think of much. It made me feel a little guilty because overall, Dubai was good to us. Our boys grew from toddlers into boys. Our little girl was born there. We traveled to interesting places, and made friends with some very special people. We lived five minutes from the beach in a nice house in a central part of the city. After I thought about it for a while, aside from the obvious of missing my friends, there are a lot of reasons why I miss Dubai:
- Diversity. Our neighborhood we live in now is also diverse, but much more segregated than Dubai, and even though the school has kids from all over world, it doesn’t measure up to the diversity of their Dubai classrooms.
- Oddities. In Dubai you never know what you might encounter which made mundane errands interesting. One example (of so many) I came across: public napping.
The first time I saw this, I actually stopped the car in a panic thinking something terrible had happened to these guys until I realized they were just napping. (They reminded me of that strange cult who committed mass suicide, all covered with a purple shroud and wearing matching Nikes – not a pleasant thought.)
- 7 Days: Dubai’s free daily newspaper delivered to your doorstep every morning. Not exactly the New York Times of the UAE, it was a guilty pleasure and daily companion to my morning coffee.
- Travel opportunities. Wish we could have squeezed in more trips.
- Gulf Photo Plus. Workshops, photo tours, and other events make this such a cool resource for aspiring (or established) photographers.
- Dr. Kempf. It took a long time to find a decent pediatrician, but finally found a great one. It’s tough to leave good doctors behind.
- Being spoiled by Emirates Airlines. Emirates, thank you for making all those 16 hour flights more bearable. You really know how to pamper us travelers with your free booze, relatively comfy seats, generous baggage allowance, and the attention you give kids (specialized kids meals, a separate snack pack, activity pack and amazing entertainment options on ICE). In fact, ICE, you almost deserve your own entry. The countless movies and TV shows you offer on demand rock! I’m not looking forward to my next flight on an American domestic airline.
- Being spoiled by Dubai’s hotels. Spending time in hotels becomes a normal thing in Dubai since you find yourself eating at their restaurants. They are so beautiful and luxurious. Hotels here seem a bit dirty and substandard in comparison.
- Being spoiled by not having to pump my gas
- The boys’ school for a number of reasons, one of which includes the fact that swimming was part of the curriculum. It’s so nice to not have to worry about taking them to swimming lessons.
- The handy and often used phrase “inshallah”
- The unbelievably nice guys at the liquor store. Franklin and Dixon – you guys were the best! Maybe it’s not a good sign when the liquor store workers know the names of your children, but my kids loved them too.
- Never thought I’d say this – but the grocery stores. They often drove me nuts (super expensive food/products, unreliable supply of things) but now I miss lots of aspects like the diversity of the produce (lemongrass, why can’t you just live next to the fresh herbs like you used to?), the bread selection, and the pineapple guy who used that cool contraption to turn a fresh pineapple into perfectly cut slices of fruit in 5 seconds flat. The bread pic was taken at my local supermarket, the others at Carrefour, which is similar to a Walmart that also has groceries. Why can’t our Walmarts have nuts, olives and spices like that?
- Mosquito free summers
- The opaque, blue sky
- Hearing the call to prayer. The melodic one I’d hear when I was out walking around and the warm breeze danced with the imam’s voice.
- The little video store we used to go to. Remember the days of browsing at Blockbuster? We could do that there!
- Pretty lanterns
- Living 5 minutes from a beach with turquoise water
- The beautiful desert
- Celebrating different holidays like Diwali and Eid
- Having three shopping centers in walking distance that included grocery stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, cafes, pharmacy, toy store, and many other useful shops
- The overall sense of adventure of living abroad.
- Doing math in my head or some type of conversion every time I wanted to cook something, check the weather, buy some shoes or clothes, set the thermostat, figure out what size diaper to buy (back when I was buying diapers), follow a recipe, etc. Yes, we lived there for four years and these things should have come natural to me… but they never did.
- SAND – sand everywhere – the boys were sand magnets and it was constantly in the house, car, socks, shoes, ears and between toes. Blech.
- The fear of inadvertently doing something wrong and being thrown in jail or deported
- The fear of having a car accident with a local
- Hearing the call to prayer (the one from the mosque 2 doors down that woke up my sleeping children countless times. No offence to anyone! I loved hearing it at other times.)
- The weather. There are nice months, but it’s a solid five MONTHS of 100+ temperatures daily with plenty of humidity to go along with it. No thanks.
- 16 hour flights home. I love to travel very much, but with all those hours of flying (especially with small children) I don’t want to see another plane for a long, long time.
- My husband’s crazy travel schedule. 15+ countries (some of which were not the safest) and 2 filled passports later, it’s nice to now have him home all the time.
- Seeing countless buses of laborers with downcast eyes who had misery written all over them.
- the chaotic and stressful school parking lot
Happy to be back to:
- Freedom of speech
- The optimism of the American Dream
- Weekends that are on Saturday and Sunday
- Celebrating American/Christian holidays properly instead of having to go to work/school.
- Cheap pork. Bacon, sausage, pork chops, pork tenderloin, salami: it’s nice to have you back without breaking the bank.
- Seeing lots of “life” in my neighborhood like the little duck families with ducklings waddling around after their mama, or the giant turtle that I just saw in the middle of the street. The kids can finally use their bug collecting set and find more than just ants.
- Oak trees and the beautiful canopy they form over streets
- Buying fall clothes and actually using them on a daily basis, not just for vacation
- Being able to hold hands with my husband in public without feeling like I’m offending someone
- Wearing sundresses and shorts without feeling like I’m offending someone
- Being close to Mexico and New Orleans
- Having countless delicious Mexican, BBQ, and Cajun food restaurants at my fingertips
- Big Texas skies. There are pretty sunsets and sunrises in Dubai, of course. But outside of that, you can count on the sky being 1 of 2 ways: 1) a dark, opaque blue (which is very beautiful but strangely one-dimensional. It always reminded me of the Truman Show … that one day I might drive right into it and discover it was just a wall.) or 2) gray and filled with sand and haze. Since I’ve been back in Houston, I can’t get enough of the sky! Texas is known for having “big skies” but wow, I forgot how spectacular they can be. Sometimes I feel like I’m looking at daytime versions of Van Gogh’s Starry Night or a Magritte painting.
- Gyms that provide a place to drop off your kid while you work out
- Being able to order a glass of wine, beer or margarita pretty much anywhere
- Being able to pick up beer and wine with the rest of my groceries
- Unpredictable weather. 20 degree temperature drops in 1 day.
- Falling asleep to the sound of rain
- Bagels, English muffins, breakfast tacos, decent eggs benedict, Shipley’s doughnuts
- The culture of kindness here. Not always of course, but usually people wave or say hi when they walk by, people hold doors open for you, and often wave thank you if you let them in front of you while driving.
- Feeling settled. As I mentioned, in Dubai I constantly felt the need to
run awaytravel. Of course I still want to go new places, but it’s not eating away at me like it used to. I think someone should give this nesting phase of recent repatriation a name.
- Dependable healthcare
- Sane and orderly driving conditions
- The ease with which my family and I can ride our bikes and play in the neighborhood without having to worry about speeding cars
- US versions of washing machines and dryers (thank you Shannon for reminding me of this one!). I can do the entire family’s weekly laundry in 2-3 loads now whereas before I was literally running the washing machine every single day for hours.
I could continue, but will leave it there for now. Of course the best part of coming back to Texas is being close to family again. On today, my parent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, I feel especially grateful to be back home. Happy anniversary to my amazing parents. They set an example to strive for with their extraordinary integrity, generosity and commitment to each other and each of their five daughters. We all love you very much!