Ten months ago, when I arrived in the country, my husband and I were hectically running around trying to outfit our new home and generally getting accustomed to a new environ. Now, while preparing to depart, I find myself unwinding everything we put together.
The physical part is insignificant. Have already sold our stuff and am in the process of doing the usual mundane things like shutting off electric, phones, etc. The harder part is leaving newfound friends. In 10 months, we have made as many friends as we have made in our lifetimes, and we have a treasure-trove of friends back home in the States. So, you might ask how did this happen. Normally it takes a lot of time and effort to establish new friendships, and the older we get, the harder it is.
We don’t have small children which are frequently the catalyst for new relationships, and my husband isn’t into sports that might allow him to bond with the guys. The common bond here is being strangers in a foreign land.
Just this evening, one of my new friends was telling a story of a Chinese restaurant owner in the UAE pointing around his restaurant and saying “we Chinese…. they foreigners”. One of the “foreigners” then pointed out to him that anyone here who is not an Emirattee(someone native to the UAE) is a foreigner. It doesn’t matter where anyone is from. What matters is that non-Emirattees are all from somewhere else, so that is what brings us together. We work together. We eat at the same restaurants, and we shop at the same stores. No one has family or friends here, so we become one another’s friends and family.
Sometimes a small community can be a little too close with everyone knowing everyone’s business, but that can also be an upside. It’s nice to know that in case of good times (birthdays) and bad times (illness), there’s always someone there to celebrate with you or to hold your hand.
Selling the stuff is easy. Saying goodbye to friends is really hard.