I’ve been back in Abu Dhabi for three days now. In all honesty, I am extremely happy right this moment. I’ve run into a few fellow teachers and spent lots of time with my teacher best friends, and all of them have expressed some slight unhappiness with being back in Abu Dhabi, at one point or another. They dislike the city or they dread going back to work or they miss their homelands.
But there’s also happiness at seeing each other back for another year. We meet the new teachers and we smile and are polite to them, of course, but the ones who’ve been here for two years or more are different. Many new people will leave within the year, or at the end of the year. Two years is most people’s standard contract and that’s the end of a lot of people’s time in the Middle East. But not the two-plus crowd. We live here. We know Abu Dhabi. And we choose to come back, yet again.
One thing that irks me when people express an unhappiness with their lives here is that it is entirely a choice. We’ve been here long enough that we have the work experience to get a job anywhere else. We could go to China, we could go to Australia, we could go back to our homelands. But we choose to come back, for yet another year of this life. There has to be something about it that we like. And yes, a lot of it is the money aspect. But it’s not just money. It’s never just money.
For me, the third year I came back for love. This year, that love is dead. So what is it for this fourth year?
I don’t know what precisely it is that draws me back. But I feel at home here. On my plane coming over, I was behind two Arab-American mothers and their kids. And this one woman was telling the other woman, “I’m going to Saudi. My husband is already there working, so we’re coming to try it. I know I’ll hate it, but we’ll try it.” And I laughed out loud, (even though I was eavesdropping, haha.) It was just such a Middle East moment. I fully understood what she meant about hating life in Saudi, but that you have to try it, and how it’s normal for families to do those types of arrangements, etc. I wouldn’t have found it amusing three years ago. It would have been sad or depressing, but now it is highly amusing and the truest truth.
I also almost clapped my hands in glee when the safety announcements were all in Arabic. I kept repeating the Arabic word for airplane, every time they said it. It was the only word I recognized (really must learn Arabic this year…) but repeating it gave me such glee. As I told my best friend, “These are my people.” And she laughed. Because I am the least Arabic person ever. But for now, this is my home. And I fully accept and love that right now.