A year ago, I was hesitant to leave home to start anew in a country I have never been before. Let alone, be far away from my family for the first time in 25 years. I had mixed emotions because I knew once I set foot in Dubai, everything will change. I had to mature and live by myself. I admit I was scared. New people, new environment, new culture. But it was what I needed to grow.
I remembered well the moment that I had to check-in for my flight and the family had to send me off. I was holding back the tears because I did not want them to see me at my weakest. All I can think of that moment was I’m doing it not only for myself but for them as well. It sounds like a typical Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) scene you see in the movies but it was the painful truth. Choosing this path meant to be missing out on some major events and milestones back home. It is the sacrifice OFWs like me need to endure.
Now that I am a resident here for over a year, I can’t help but go back to the first time I landed to Dubai. From architecture to transportation, everything was indeed different – upgraded, advanced. The only words I uttered to myself were “THIS IS NOW HOME”. I stayed with my aunt for a few months while looking for work and man, it was not easy. The first challenge I had faced was finding a job that pays a good salary. I attended plenty of walk-in interviews before I accepted my current job. It was scorching hot during that time ’cause it was summer season and my savior was the metro/train. I submitted countless applications and CVs but it was difficult for my case since I did not have any Dubai or GCC work experience. I never gave up and found work in less than 2 months. One thing I learned from this experience is that persistence with prayer works all the time.
Moving forward, I can proudly say that I have adjusted to the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Dubai although it is still a learning process. I used to spend 3 hours a day for travel to and from work but I found a place to live near my office so it was reduced to a 20-minute walk. I work 5 days a week with 2 off days, Friday & Saturday. During my work week, it is a routine. I wake up, prepare for work then do my tasks, pack my bags, go home, prepare my dinner and lunch for the following day, do laundry (twice a week), sleep then repeat. There are times though that I skip cooking and just go to the mall and eat fast food. For my off days, I either spend it at home resting, doing chores and watching Netflix or go somewhere. I usually go to my aunt’s house for my weekly dose of good BBQ or again, go to the mall to shop, run errands & maybe watch the latest movie. This routine I have is way different from what I had back home. I do everything myself now and this progress makes me feel like a responsible adult.
One of the major accomplishments I had was being able to practice cooking. Most people don’t know this, but I majored in Hospitality and Tourism Management and my course had 2 years of culinary subjects. I never thought I would apply what I learned since my mum and granny had always cooked for me and my previous job was more inclined to events. If you have been a follower of my Instagram stories, you have an idea what dishes I have cooked so far. Living here in Dubai has forced me to practice and I am thankful for it. Cooking is one of the things I enjoy now and it brings out the creative side of me.
There are also times that homesickness hits me. This is the one thing that expats who left their families cannot avoid and the only way to ease it is a simple video or phone call. But even though I am far away, I am still lucky to have a very supportive family here who are constantly taking care of me while teaching me how to be independent. They taught me how to survive life and gave me advices. They make Dubai feel like home.
So, what is it like to be 365 days away from home? It is a roller coaster ride. I have my ups and downs. Starting over in a place you barely knew is a challenge but it is a risk I am willing to take if I had to choose again. I do not regret going here because it made me realize that there is still a better version of me – a person who is more responsible and matured. Only a year has passed and yet major changes have happened. I wonder what’s in store for me in the coming years.