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The 9th

by Roberta
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Non exiguum temporis habemus sed multum perdidimus

Two days ago marked the end of the first six months in Dubai. If someone asked me to sum it all up in one word, apart from the clichéd exhilarating, mind-blowing, exciting and so on and so forth, I would have to say crazy. It was crazy on many levels, not just because I saw more countries in four months flying than I’ve seen in 24 years. Not just because I’ve seen a ridiculous number of sights that I would have probably only ever seen on National Geographic. It was crazy because the very idea that I’ve left everything to pursue a flighty dream was a risk I consciously took. It was crazy because I’ve come to realise that the classroom will never be able to contain all the lessons one could learn from travelling, and being a teacher that makes me a little sad. It was crazy because I have made friendships in less than half a year which I know will endure forever. And it was crazy because I felt I was tested beyond anything I’ve endured before moving here. Have I emerged stronger after these six months? Only time will tell.

What I do know for a fact is that I have grown. Although I have always denied ever being spoilt, when I moved here and had to plan what to cook so I could do  grocery shopping accordingly, had to do my own laundry if I wanted clean socks, had to wash the floor and the bed sheets and a million other things, I realised I had been living an incredibly spoilt life. And at 24 years of age, this realisation hits you like a rock. On an island where so many people still live with and depend on their parents till a very mature age, I took everything for granted. Six months have changed my views radically. At first I would cook the basic dishes, the ones I already knew how to cook. Pasta with this and that. Noodles with this and that. Frozen food thrown in the oven. A lot of bread. Slowly I started realising that if I didn’t want to fall sick, I was going to have to change that. If I wanted to be in shape, I was gong to have to cut down on the food I was choosing to eat. So I did what I always do when I am in doubt. I bought a book. I am now relishing the moment when I have to cook. I look at recipes, jot down the ingredients, shop and experiment. I write my own comments on sticky notes on the book itself or when I eat out and take a fancy to my dish, I write down the ingredients in the hope that I will be courageous enough to try it out on my own. A couple of burnt potatoes and failed attempts at ingredient-swapping later, I can confidently say I will not starve for the rest of my life and that I can cook without the fear of ultimately making someone sick. When my jacket lost a button I stared in dismay. It was the one thing I had been dreading for a long time but staring at it would not get it fixed. I took out a travel-sized sewing kit, rolled up my sleeves and after some minutes of swearing and getting it wrong, the button was back where it belonged. It was upside down .. it read setarimE instead of Emirates but I honestly couldn’t care less. I was too proud. When I decided it was time to take up training again, I surfed the net, finally finding a venue I liked, talked to the manager and negotiated a reasonable price, I knew I had started to take independence on a whole new level. This is the beauty of living alone; you only have your own limitations to battle against. If you decide you don’t have any, well, you don’t.

Dubai has also thought me to treasure each and every moment. When the time you spend with your closest friends is fleeting because you might not see them for the next couple of weeks, everything feels better. When you are given a new destination and you step down and look around for the first time, you tread slowly and carefully because you know you might never set foot on the that land again. Every experience, every person you meet, every second spent in laughter is precious because you know you might never live that experience again. You know that the possibility of ever seeing that person again is equal to almost none. And without a single doubt, Dubai has made me fall in love with my country, my family, my friends all over again. It is astounding how six months managed all this but it did. In reality, what are six months? If I didn’t have so many memories to fill them up, I could swear that I had just joined last week. When the hours you have to work involve getting up at 11pm, going to sleep at noon, changing time zones every second day, time flies. Literally. And all I can do to keep up is jot down everything on 4 different calendars, flipping over the months, only realising it’s been six months because of the commemorative graduation ceremony we have taking place. Six months. Bloody hell.

They say time is the best teacher. I agree. Time, travel and being forced to live outside your comfort zone, away from the people you’ve grown up with, and having to deal with yourself, your moods, your challenges. Those have been the wisest and most humble teachers I have ever had and will probably ever have. I still believe they can teach me more about the world and myself and my wings are still there. Yes it has been crazy. But crazy is good. There will come a day when I will be bored but recalling these moments will bring the smile back to my face. A friend of mine has just tattooed the words in the header, Non exiguum temporis habemus sed multum perdidimus. It is a famous quote by Seneca which goes along the lines of, We don’t have little time. But we do waste most of it. Touché Liana. I’m doing my very best not to.

And so, I believe, should you.

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