Blog // Tales from the trail
By Keith & Corallie
Boy Sprout's Perspective:
In case you were wondering how we filled the few years since we lasted posted on the trail, we've squeezed in a wedding (now officially Mr & Mrs Sprout), a couple of jobs and a 3 year stint working in the Middle East.
Going back, it felt strange, but strangely comforting to return to England after our road-trip, the same place but a new us - should I dare to be so romantic. The reality was however, that this left us a little at a loss; me especially looking for a job (with Corallie fortunate enough to have been able to keep hers open whilst away). Devoid of contacts and ideas in Liverpool, I turned to the job centre, whose immediate priority was to plug me into the benefit system before they were permitted to offer me any kind of help. To this day I found the whole system a little bizarre, complex and full of subtleties, and as much a means of controlling benefits as one of finding work.
Work however did finally come along with an offer happily enough, from a family friend and an opportunity for me to go to, and Corallie to return to, Dubai; and so off we went and there we've been!
It had been over 10 years since Corallie had left Dubai and 10 years in Dubai quite possibly equates to a century in most 'normal' places.
For me, whilst I had visited before I never envisaged it as a place I would want to live; dominated by automobiles and defined by its re-definitions (buy your luxury lifestyle here!). Devoid of natural greens and elevation, although more than enough artificial aspects to compensate, where you are as much defined by your career as who you are (what you do was almost routinely the first question you are asked after 'What is your name?').
Job satisfaction, I also learnt, had a large bearing on personal satisfaction, not to mention the all-important 'package' you are on determining where you can afford to live and socialise. Like some strange sort of class system, expats in a given field are paid not only on age and experience, but also by nationality; creating a form of hierarchy - capitalism at its finest (with the locals savvy enough to install themselves at the top).
Everyone knowing their places however, makes it an easy place to live; and with most being on a better deal than their respective home countries, combined with the low taxes (it claims it is tax free - but it isn't!) and an effective, deduction free, lump sum salary each month, makes for a large disposable income - whether you chose to invest, send home or indeed spend in Dubai.
One previously unappreciated aspect was Dubai's proximity to Oman and also the mountains contained within the northern emirates of the UAE itself. The former we didn't fully exploit, however many a weekend in RAK was enjoyed camping, cycling and climbing. The big benefit of the Middle East winter being, sunny days and mild nights being almost guaranteed for the best part of 6 months.
Whilst we'll miss the easy living and diverse population, it's these weekends and the friends we made we'll most fondly remember of Dubai.
Girl Sprout's Perspective
It was a funny sort of thing heading back to Dubai after 12 years away; this time as a married lady and without the family home there, my parents having just retired and moved on. In some ways, their departure was an eye-opener for me - they had lived in Dubai (since 1976) longer than any other place in their entire lives, however, on retirement, the visa goes and therefore, so do you. For a place I called home all my life, this is was really the first time I had to accept that it probably never will be. A nice place to earn a living, to live and settle long-term, but not to settle forever. And after such a long time, where do you go to next? That question, along with the fact that I was now there on my 'husband's sponsorship' and with a visa that said 'Housewife - not permitted to work', needing my husband's permission to get a driving license and a job, it took me quite a while to re-adapt to life in Dubai, feeling a lot put-out by all these new dawnings.
Once I had got over the consternation of the above, it wasn't too difficult to pick where I had left off. It is a very easy place to live. And it's fun. And there's a lot to do. Spurred on by very happily re-connecting with old school friends, my siblings and meeting new, lifelong friends, we tried to balance the 'more in your face' with the 'down to Earth', choosing to spend more of our weekends, in winter at least, in the UAE's natural wonders - the mountains and the desert - instead of at brunch or the glitzy beach clubs.
Although, I would be lying if I said we never participated in the fancy locations, eating delicious food and drinking fancy cocktails, and thoroughly enjoyable those occasions were too. It's part of living in Dubai that should be take advantage of, if you can afford to. We went to world-class sports events, concerts and exhibitions, all of these remarkable events and opportunities a big reminder of how far the country has come in its 43 years. Saying that, our favourite place to hangout was at the sailing club, one of the few remnants of the 'good old days' and full of nostalgia and salty sea air.
One of the things I love about the UAE, is the diversity of people who live there, and live there very nicely together, away from any home-grown prejudices, politics and issues. People can live together peacefully. Maybe that's naive; maybe it's a bad example because people who live in Dubai have been 'vetted' before entering, but, my point is that race and religion almost ceases to matter when you can just get on with earning a living in a safe environment, and in this case with the benefits of being able to partake in the myriad of food and cultural options on offer. It's a place for insight about other cultures and to learn what drives people.
The UAE is quite literally in the centre of the World (physically as well as mentally to some I am sure!) and we took advantage of the central location to travel to new places.
Friends and family came to visit as well, and although I'd like to think it was just to spend time with us, I imagine the draw of a place that boasts the World's tallest, biggest, most expensive, first or some other adjective, was too tempting to resist.
It has been a good 3 years - they certainly went very quickly - which has opened us both up to new opportunities which no doubt will shape what we do next. I am convinced that we will become aware of and miss all the perks of Dubai now that we've left, but our work situations weren't working as we wanted and it was to move on. It was a hard decision, a lot of anxious weeks leading up to it, but once we had made it, it was easy to leave; Dubai doesn't owe us anything (probably something to do with no taxes-income tax anyway) and we don't owe it anything in return, always being kept just at arms' length. And, having returned once, we know that we can return again. Dubai isn't going anywhere and it is not going to hurt us to remind ourselves that there is life outside of it too.
Onwards to the next chapter!
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