Dubai, the Departure Lounge

When we moved to Dubai, I was adamant that we would only do a visa term of 3 years. ‘Why would anyone want to spend more than that in all year round searing, sizzling heat?’ Almost 7 years and 3 ‘visa runs’ later, we can think of nowhere better to call home. On the other hand, I am sure there are plenty of expats who thought they were embarking on a time unlimited adventure, only to be leaving a lot sooner than planned/anticipated/expected/hoped for.

Expats accept Dubai is a transitory place; people come, people go. Some have waved goodbye to many a friend; for others this is virgin territory.

Until this summer, I belonged to the latter of these groups. Like most good things in life, I knew it couldn’t last forever. Now for the first time, I am standing by watching two good friends as they prepare to depart Dubai this summer for pastures new; one for home (although not pastures new exactly, but after 8 years + 2 children later it is in a way) and one for a new adventure in another Middle Eastern country.

The Middle East mover is a friend I met when we were both relatively new to Dubai and our kids were starting out at nursery for the first time. When I cast my mind back almost 7 years, I see me, a mum of 3 kids 2 years and under. I was exhausted, and nervous about the decision DH and I had made to uproot our young family for a country we had never lived in, let alone visited before. Looking to tire out the ‘perpetual motion’ Twins and give them something different to look at, I signed them up for a new nursery that had opened up in the area in which we lived. My friend, N, was in a similar position. N and I unknowingly bonded in the reception area of the nursery as we tried (and failed) to sever the umbilical cord with our first borns. The rest, as they say, is history.

We bonded. Our kids bonded. N’s daughter was my kids’ first real friend in Dubai. To this day, they share a bond. No matter how long they go without seeing each other, they still reunite like best buddies and every playdate is like a party of kids tanked up on fizzy drinks and frosted fairy cakes!

As for N, she became like one of my best friends from home; a sister I never had. That is what made our friendship special. Even though I had only known N for a short period of time, I felt like we connected. Hailing from different countries, we shared similar values with regard to our kids and life in general. I think it is a question of ‘Expat Time’ mixed with a pinch of ‘experience’ and a nub of ‘wisdom’.

As an expat of 20 years (eeek….I so wish that read ‘As a 20 year old expat’!!!) in various countries, I have always felt that making a good friend in each posting was a life lesson and meant to be. My Dubai ‘soul mate’ is someone I can talk to, someone in whom I confide, someone who will tell me the truth, be honest with me, be real with me……and with whom I can be the same. No judgment. No ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. A ‘safe’ place; like home. A recipe for best friends. I will miss her so much. No words necessary. Tears are being shed in private.

S, my ‘school’ friend is heading home. \Home for her is quite different to when she left. She now returns with two amazing boys to a place in which she has never lived; to a country in which her UK passport holding boys have never lived. The ‘Holy Grail’ beckons. It entices. It tempts. Alas the practicalities of Daddy’s job is the decider. I will miss S’ candid views, her enviable Dubai GPS skills and her incisive insight into cultures with which I am not familiar…..

As we say in Ireland…..’May the road rise to meet you and may the sun be always at your back’. An Irish blessing. N and S – you will always be in my heart and my prayers.

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