In 2009 when I moved to Abu Dhabi I made a promise that I was not going to be one of those expats who move to a country and complain incessantly about it. I promised myself I would make the most of country and whatever it had to offer. I saw my lack of adaptation to London did to me and how it affected my behavior and relationships. I was a man on a mission and the mission:
- To attempt to adapt to my living environment;
- To explore the country and region;
- To learn about and respect my host country.
Abu Dhabi and discovering the good expat life!
Abu Dhabi was the first place I tried to live a positive expat life. I embraced the experience in almost every way I could. It was in Abu Dhabi that I first became an avid (or addicted as Raquel says) shisha smoker. It was through and around my new found affection for shisha that some of my best friendships in the city started. It was how we spent our time; sitting around the table of various cafes smoking the fruit flavoured tobacco and speaking an infinite deal of nothing.
It was here that I went on to travel some more discovering places like Oman, Lebanon, Thailand, Egypt, Sri-Lanka, Turkey, China and Syria. Yes, it can be said that maybe I should have spent more time exploring the UAE, but in my defense I tried, but lack of decent transport minimized the possibility for exploring the Emirates.
Furthermore, it was in Abu Dhabi that I managed to tick off some personal milestones such as attending some fantastic concerts (Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Aerosmith, WOMAD festival); some enlightening if somewhat odd experiences (Shakespeare in Arabic, Flamenco, Cajun Music etc.). These events also made explore some unknown parts of the city and Dubai. Though one thing that I personally felt some regret about, was not attempting to interact more with Emirati culture, which could have only added to my experience.
Abu Dhabi was my first positive expat experience and one which despite some excesses I look back at fondly, if only for the great friendships I made.
Tripoli and discovering the perfect balance between expat and local
In Libya I was exposed to both sides of the expat coin. One the one side I was in a large project where there were a lot more people of my age and where compound living became the norm. I lived on a compound where most of my colleagues and I got along very well and shared in spending some of our weekends exploring some more ‘western’ activities such as poker nights, Playstation and football.
On the flipside I decided that I wanted to go a step further in my expat experience. I wanted to explore the language; I wanted to see more of the country I was living in; and I wanted to interact more with locals in other words make Libyan friends.
Well, I can gladly say that I ticked most of those boxes. I managed to learn more Arabic and most importantly I could start reading and writing Arabic. I didn’t always know what I was writing but I could make out the letters which was useful as most signs in the country were in Arabic.
I also managed to travel extensively in the country visiting most of the sights in the West of the country, including several camping excursions into the Sahara desert including an unforgettable three day stay in the Acacus mountain range in the South of the country.
I also managed to make a good Libyan friend who ended up being my travel buddy in the country and it was through him that I was able to explore the country more than I could on my own.
I was extremely sad when the war started in Libya as I really enjoyed living in the country, however I can say that I have no regrets. I left Libya knowing that I did everything I could to learn, explore and adapt to the country. Despite leaving abruptly, I feel like the experience was complete and actually miss it (see this post).
Beira and discovering regret
Well let me start with the reason for actually writing this post: Regret. Why? Well finally my life has some stability again, however this stability will not be through Mozambique. I will not be returning to the country for now. I will reveal the destination for my new ‘home’ in another post, but what I will say is that I am sad about leaving Mozambique the way I did.
Despite making three trips in the country and region, I never felt was taking advantage of the place and I honestly regret that. There is a feeling of incompleteness about my experience there; like I didn’t do everything I could to enjoy the country and people.
What makes me regret this even more is the fact that I had all the tools to make this an incredible experience. For starters, I spoke the damn language! I had no excuse for not being able to communicate and find out about things! Being able to speak the local language usually opens up so many doors, but in the case of my Beira experience, I never made the effort.
Yes, I admit, I tried. I made three trips while during my seven month stint there, however considering that I had an extra half day to use and abuse for travelling, I should have done so much more.
Of course there were factors which made me less willing to explore, work being the greatest one. Sometimes we had so much work that come the weekend, all I wanted to do was sleep. There was also the fact that I struggled to form friendships there for some reason. It still bewilders me that during seven months in Mozambique I could not manage any real friendship or connections with colleagues.
For some reason I let negativity consume me instead of surging through it and simply fell into a negative cycle where I became more introverted and negative with the passing of my time in the country. I regret this happening, but sometimes, bad experiences are good!
Having now experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of expat life, I feel like I know what will happen if I don’t go all out to experience my host countries, which means I will avoid falling into the same negative cycle I did in Mozambique. Now, onwards to bigger and better things!