Minutes: I spent fifteen hours in the sky, so as you can imagine, I would be happy setting foot on the ground ANYWHERE. Maybe that's an exaggeration. Entering the UAE is such a pleasant surprise though. Signage is clear and you walk alongside other languages and cultures trying to navigate the same path to fresh air and loved ones waiting. In the Dubai airport, you are greeted by locals willing to help guide you through passport control and answer any questions. Safety and a thorough check is priority. Even your carry-on bags go through a security belt as you leave the airport, and just so you're aware: when you're returning to the U.S., it's best to get to the Dubai airport early, because traffic can make your head explode.
You may also have to use the restroom...normal airport thing to do, right? What's not normal? A stall that consists of a hole in the ground. And you might spend ten minutes trying to figure out how that's gonna work when you're wearing your standard airplane attire of leggings and a tunic. Luckily, if you give up the idea of stripping completely and look into another stall, there's probably a fully functioning toilet. Insert the "hallelujahs!"
You stand in several lines - passport control, standard security, a separate gate security and a thorough pat down right before you get on the plane. It's really stream-lined and reassuring especially when you don't know much about this part of the world except the negativity you see on the news. Everyone I encountered took their job very seriously and made me feel extremely safe.
Back to landing here though and the whole point of the the first five minutes thing: make sure to grab cash. All taxis take cash and even though you may think they drive a little crazy, you will survive and be happy with the fact you spent very little money getting to where you need to go. Remember to tip them! 10 to 20 dirhams won't kill ya, it's about three to five bucks.
Days: No sleep. All cry. Seriously, I cried the first five days. I tried to keep it to myself, but Jon always knew. One little sniffle on the pillow gave it away, damnit.
It is an adjustment. Your body is off by so many hours. It's warm weather when all you want is to wear your scarf and boots. The groceries are different. Why is everyone drying their clothes outside? There are no Paneras. The BIGGEST realization is that your family and friends are asleep until it hits about 4 or 5pm. Wake up, guys! I want to talk to you about how hot, how bored and how sad I am! Did I really just quit my job? Wake up and listen to me whiiiiiiiiine. I never did that in those five days. Maybe once. It does get better, but homesickness at any age is a real deal. More on my coping mechanisms a bit later and how my better half helps me out to this day.
Weeks: Big things happened! Jon and I traveled to the Seychelles one week in and it happened to be our first beach vacation. And guess what? He asked me to marry him in a very sweet proposal over the Indian Ocean. "This isn't real!" was what came out of my mouth. And then I blacked out.
Seriously, I'm glad he got it on video because my soul left my body for a solid minute and I forgot how to use words. For instance the word, "yes." I'm still pinching myself not only because I get to spend my life with him, but because he asked me when I least expected it on an island off the coast of freaking AFRICA.
His family arrived to Dubai a couple weeks in for a Thanksgiving extravaganza (and an engagement celebration!) and having familiar faces here certainly helped with the fact I was missing my first holiday away from my parents and brother. We explored the UAE together, ate great food, interacted with a couple camels and shortly after they traveled back home to San Francisco, we found ourselves a little home sweet home in central Abu Dhabi.