Repatriation

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.
my son's class

my son’s class in Dubai

  • 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.

Laborers napping in a shady patch of trees

Laborers napping in a shady patch of trees

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.
  • The tax free salary
  • 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?

bread Dubai

I miss you pineapple guy!

I miss you, pineapple guy!

  • 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
  • Mint lemonades
  • The overall sense of adventure of living abroad.

Don’t miss:

  • 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.
  • Traffic tickets that are sent via text message well after the alleged infraction
  • 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.

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  • 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 away travel. 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!

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About Lynda

Longhorns and Camels is a blog about exploring Dubai from the perspective of an expat from Texas. It features stories about living in Dubai including descriptions of local culture and popular activities in the region. It also includes photography of the UAE and other countries abroad. It has been recommended by several well-known guides for expatriates: InterNations, ExpatWoman and Expat Focus.
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40 Responses to Repatriation

  1. littlecity says:

    Have you moved back to your ‘old’ house?

    I ask because I was listening to the Two Fat Expats podcast on repatriation last week (http://www.twofatexpats.com/?p=165) where they talked about how it both eased the return for some families, but also heightened a feeling of not having been away, if that makes any sense…

    Anyway, fascinating post with some very astute observations. Glad to hear you’re settling back in ok!

    • Lynda says:

      Hi there! Thanks for linking to that podcast – always interesting to hear other people’s experiences. We did keep a house in TX, but it was never accessible to us b/c it was rented out. Then we didn’t end up moving back into it b/c we’ve now outgrown it (now we have one more kid), so I could relate to the woman who said she always feels like she’s on vacation when she visits home since she’s staying with family. (That was our experience too.) I had heard lots of horror stories about repatriating so was prepared for the worst, but have been pleasantly surprised. Any idea how long you guys will stay in Qatar?

      • littlecity says:

        We also sold up, so we’re in the same boat when it comes to feeling like you’re on holiday back home. Glad the repatriation has gone well overall, though; mabrook!

        As for us…isn’t that the $64m question!

      • Lynda says:

        Ha! Yes – It was the same for us – we had no idea how long we’d be there, but everyone always asked, and then one day we suddenly had to leave within a few weeks. Hopefully you guys will be given a bit more notice! πŸ™‚

      • littlecity says:

        We’ve heard many versions of a similar story… fingers crossed we can buck the trend!

  2. Good for me to hear… We see moving back in June. Pretty sad right now.

    • Lynda says:

      Oh wow! Really? That seemed to come up quickly! I know how you feel… once you’re given the walking papers, it’s pretty sad, even if you are ready to go. Have you finished your Dubai bucket list? I’m sure your family is thrilled by the news though!

  3. Diana says:

    Awwww….what a great list of things missed, things not missed…..kinda made ME a little emotional….ha, ha, ha…after a ….what …5 day visit?!?!? 4 day maybe?!?! See?? I am queen nostalgia! Just like Daddy! Speaking of which…that last photo is fab!

  4. Abby Blanton says:

    I can 100% relate to pretty much all of those sentiments! Even though were not quite back in the states yet, there is so much about Dubai that I miss while being in Australia. Though I dont think Ill miss the grocery stores!! πŸ™‚

    • Lynda says:

      Ha ha! I know, trust me, I never thought I’d feel that way either! Still wouldn’t trade theirs for ours though, but there are little things that I appreciate now. πŸ™‚ Do you have a time frame set up yet for heading back to the US? Will be interesting to hear your perspective since you guys have jumped around a lot.

  5. I feel the same way when people ask me if we enjoyed living in Dubai. There’s a lot that I miss but just as much that I don’t πŸ™‚ We haven’t repatriated to Canada just yet as we’re enjoying life in Thailand so the second part of the list will have to wait for me. Love the photos of the Texas sky! No wonder you’re happy to be back!

    • Lynda says:

      Exactly! Any thoughts on when you’ll go back to Canada? You’ve lived in some really warm places so I’d imagine the weather will be an adjustment? I really need to get up there to visit! I can’t believe I’ve never been!

  6. Dalia H. Linssen says:

    This was a lovely post!! So enjoyed the list of perks to being in TX. Had no idea that you could not get English muffins! Not sure we could survive. And, your parents wedding picture is so sweet. It continues to bring so much joy. Happy happy anniversary to them! They truly are inspirational and convey humbly the kind of magic in love that we all revere. xoox, Dalia

    • Lynda says:

      I don’t mind the Middle Eastern breakfast but I often craved my old stand-bys. You can find some of that stuff I listed – I’m sure there’s an English muffin somewhere in Dubai πŸ˜‰ but that sort of thing usually just ends up being weird there (by my definition, anyway.) Such a sweet note about my parents – they will love that!! πŸ™‚

  7. Amy says:

    love the post and miss you so much Lynda. Life in Dubai can only be fun when you have good friends to surround yourself with. So happy to hear you are all well:-)

    • Lynda says:

      Miss you guys too! So true about the importance of friends in Dubai. The boys keep asking when we are going to visit Dubai and all of their friends. Sigh!

  8. Public napping! I have never seen it before. Thanks for sharing your experience in Dubai πŸ™‚

    • Lynda says:

      Isn’t that strange? It’s like an on-the-spot siesta! πŸ™‚ I felt a little guilty taking their photo b/c it seems a little intrusive, but on the other hand, they ARE in public (or my backyard) after all πŸ™‚

  9. sneufeld says:

    Oh, I wanted to mention one thing I really appreciate at home: American-style laundry machines. I mean, really.

    • sneufeld says:

      That might be one of the top things.

      • Lynda says:

        YES!!!!! I can’t believe I didn’t think to include that! I think I”ll add it now. πŸ™‚ When my sis was in town from Italy, I had to point ours out to her – I knew she’d appreciate it b/c they have the same issues there. The new ones without the agitator thing in the middle seem gigantic! I feel like I can go for a swim in there! And don’t get me started on the wonders of having a dryer. I did break down and finally buy one in Dubai though.

      • sneufeld says:

        You could get one in Dubai? Well, we always had an apartment so there wasn’t room. It came with an all-in-one, doesn’t-really-wash-or-dry-machine.

  10. sneufeld says:

    Nothing like a steaming-hot pile of soaking wet laundry fresh off the “drying cycle,” so hot that you burn yourself trying to hang it all up before it (bakes in the wet wrinkles) to dry on a rack in the guest room (because there’s sand on the balcony) only to become moldy because your a/c doesn’t have a dehumidifier and the house relative humidity is off-the-charts high. EWWW. This is making me even happier to be home.

    • Lynda says:

      Yes, yes, yes!! That was a real surprise – steaming, burn-your-fingers laundry that is somehow not dry! I had the combo washer and dryer too (learned quickly that the dryer aspect was a waste of time), but then bought a real dryer after a couple of years. I actually bought it used from another expat but I know not many people have them there.

  11. Mama says:

    I have enjoyed reading about all your experiences in Dubai and the places you traveled. Dubai is an amazing city and feel lucky that you and Henry made it possible for your father and I to visit.
    We were so excited to be with you, Henry and the boys when Angelina was born.
    We missed all of you so much and so happy your back home in Texas.I loved all your photos, especially the ones of our big Texas sky.
    Daddy and I were so touched and emotional by sweet your words. We are so lucky and blessed and very proud to have five beautiful daughters and to thank all of you for making our anniversary so special. Our love to each one of you…Daddy and Mama

  12. Mitzie Mee says:

    We’re spoiled down here. I just went back to Denmark for a few weeks and caught myself waiting for somebody to pack my stuff:) Regarding those busses with laborers, it’s heart breaking and something I hope I never learn to get used to. I’ve promised myself that the day I can watch one drive by without crying a little inside, I’ve been here for too long.

    • Lynda says:

      It’s easy to be spoiled in Dubai, that is for sure. That is why I prefaced all those Dubai “luxuries” with the “being spoiled” part at the beginning because I know how silly it must sound to someone who has never lived there. Such an articulate way of saying how it feels to see those buses. I felt the same. I know we’ve never met – but I don’t think you are the type to get used to it. πŸ˜‰ And the fact that we talk about being spoiled in the same breath as those buses pretty much encapsulates why my gut response to the “Don’t you miss Dubai” question is no.

  13. Escenzo says:

    Isn’t that MOE?

    The best part of Dubai for me is a tax free economy and those safe late night walks anywhere you want.

    • Lynda says:

      Great points! Those are definitely things I miss too. Yes – that’s Carrefour in Mall of the Emirates. Thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  14. I have never been to Dubai, but it seems to be a great place. I can understand that you might miss it. But being back with the family must be fantastic.

    • Lynda says:

      It’s a fabulous place to visit – lots to do. In my opinion, though, living there beyond two years begins to wear on you. And yes – being closer to family is wonderful!

  15. Lynda, What a marvelous wrap up of your time in Dubai – so heartfelt. It really reminded me of the list I made when we left Khartoum, Sudan to return to the States. I knew that I would definitely miss the incredible kindness of the people, hearing the call to prayers, and the unpredictable goats! πŸ™‚ But I didn’t realize that I would keep saying β€œinshallah” and waiting for the next haboob (sand storm). Thanks so much sharing this. Welcome home! All the best, Terri

    • Lynda says:

      Thanks so much Terri. The goats – ha ha! They aren’t around much in Dubai but are definitely roaming freely in large numbers in other parts of the UAE. So true – “inshallah” is still a useful expression – even in TX. Some things just stick with you. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Lynda

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