I set foot in Dubai in September 2013. I was your typical OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) filled with dreams and high hopes of making it in another country, yet the excitement was mingled heavily with fear of the unknown. I was a 25-year-old woman traveling alone for the first time, to try and make a living in a land full of strangers. The moment I stepped out of the airport, humid air came blowing on my face, as if welcoming me into a nice warm (and slightly wet) hug.
Dubai is a city and emirate in the UAE that has earned its title as “The Las Vegas of the Middle East”. The city is always packed with tourists and residents alike, as it is famous for ultramodern architecture, luxury shopping and quite an ecstatic nightlife. It is home to Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world; and to over three million people of approximately 200 different nationalities.
I still remember the first time I looked up at Burj Khalifa, one week after moving in. She had these random twinkling lights around her. I was standing amongst a huge crowd, waiting for the dancing fountain show to start. Somehow as I stood out there feeling so small and insignificant to the world, her magnificence inspired a sense of calm within me. I will never forget how I started to sing under my breath: "Shine bright like a diamond..." (Thank you, RiRi!)
It took me a while to get to know the city, but I’m happy to have made the effort. Dubai, above all her glitz and glamour, had me sitting on top of a sand dune and allowing the stillness wrap around my mind, body and soul. I started to appreciate the cloudless sky that served as a canvas to the beautiful hues that the sunset paints. She taught me an important lesson: that we can all steer ourselves across directions – in the desert, in the water (whether artificial or not) and in life.
Six years later, so many things have changed in the city. New structures and attractions keep popping up here and there. While some may describe her as “superficial and over the top”, I still find myself falling in love with #MyDubai every single day and I know there’s more to her than meets the eye - I’ve only barely touched her surface. Dubai is filled with surprises and so many beautiful things you wish you could have; at the same time, part of its charm is that it makes you believe you can actually have them. I guess my most favorite part are the people whom I’ve met and connected with over the past years. With such a diverse mix in a relatively average-sized city, she provides great opportunity to get to know people from different backgrounds and culture and bolster my knowledge in a rainbow of aspects.
Dubai can mean so many things to so many different people; but to me she is “inspiration” because she pushed me to dream big. She is “positivity” because she made me realize those dreams and turn them into reality. She is “change” because I know deep within that I am not the same person I am today as compared to who I was six years back.
So, I would like to thank you my Dubai… for so many things. For giving me a safe and secure home where I never have to worry about getting robbed whenever I carelessly stick my phone or wallet in my back pocket. Thank you for giving me a multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual society so I may continuously grow as a global citizen with values of respect, tolerance and diversity. Thanks to you, I feel most secure even with sand beneath my feet, knowing that the mark I leave behind will always be completely up to me.
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