After flying 9,357 miles from LAX and traveling for nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles (IAD) – I had arrived at Dubai International Airport (DXB) the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever.
Beginning a two year contract as a full time Lecturer in the College of Business Administration at Jumeira University, I awaited a brave new world of professional development and personal growth. One quick month later, I have experienced that and more.
Below are three of my initial impressions — aka “teachable moments” — from my first month in Dubai. Each is a different degree of the same spectrum of educational adventure and I am grateful for the knowledge gained through each experience:
Having worked as an adjunct instructor since 2007 I became accustomed to a “lone wolf” style of working and, to some degree, living. One of the first changes — aside from the obvious fact that I am thousands of miles from my former home in another country — is I am now a full-time faculty member, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. I am fortunate to have exceptional colleagues and students who, from day one, have enriched my experience ten fold. There is a wonderful sense of community and camaraderie here and it is both motivating and reassuring. I am looking forward to creating a community of practice and making the most of this exceptional opportunity.
Finding reliable WiFi has been a challenge everywhere including at my apartment, where I had to wait an additional 10 days for service due to an issue with the fiber cable and, subsequently, the server box in my apartment. This complicated matters, including my ability to speak with my sons via Skype over WiFi. Fortunately, my building management and my Internet provider — du — worked with me to resolve the issue even with an important Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, impeding their progress. I am happy to report that I am now writing this fully connected at my apartment. Ironically, my connectivity issues started even before I arrived in Dubai when neither of the two flights I took had WiFi on-board. Having previously been continuously connected, this was a challenging adjustment; one that forced me to find creative, constructive, and somewhat costly alternatives. The lesson here was one of persistence mixed with patience and politeness.
Coming from Los Angeles (where nobody walks), I was accustomed to driving everywhere. But, when I arrived in Dubai I had $300 in my pocket, two large suitcases, one carry-on, and a messenger bag with my laptop; I was without personal transportation. Initially, and now occasionally, I depended on the kindness of strangers or colleagues. I even had an exceptional experience with a total stranger named “Ali Boots” who graciously drove me to my university after getting an important housing document called an Ejari. Now I am taking taxis or the Dubai Metro light rail system. While individual taxi rides are only between AED 30 and 50 ($8.17 to $13.61), these costs can quickly add up, as can the time spent waiting for scheduled taxis or trying to find an available option. For the most part this has been a seamless process, but it has taught me to plan more efficiently, travel lightly, and be flexible — it’s also forced me to more carefully budget my cash flow.
This is a small sampling of my observations. During my next two years in Dubai I will share “tips and quips” as time and subject matter permit. If ever there was an opportunity to learn continuously and live generatively this is certainly it!