Yesterday evening, I shared a hotel limo with a Palestinian woman and her 7 year old son, Omar. There were no taxis available at the hotel that night because it was Iftar, when the Muslims break the day long fast, and everyone was busy feasting.
The lady said she and her son were passing thru Dubai from a trip to Palestine, on their way back home to California. She was dressed in an abaya, but her face was not covered, only her hair. Her son was dressed in western clothes, and spoke only English, as far as I could tell. We got to talking in the hotel lobby after she asked me if it was my first time to come to Dubai. I told her I was passing thru as well, and that Dubai is my hub for travel coming from Afghanistan. She couldn’t quite believe that I worked there.
She and her son had an easy, loving banter — Omar was very well behaved, not once did she have to scold or raise her voice at him. He shook my hand graciously when I introduced myself to him and asked his name. He had very beautiful brown eyes, with long, sooty lashes.
I asked them to share the limo with me as we were all going to the mall anyway. The lady was glad to have company and readily accepted. They wanted to see the Aquarium, so I decided to go to Dubai Mall as well. On the drive over the lady would point out landmarks and buildings to her son. At night, the Burj Khalifa was lit up, a silver sword rising from the vast, twinkling desert. Omar said, “It looks awesome, mom!”
As we sped by the traffic-less streets, Omar looked out the window, mouth open at the sights. It gave me a new appreciation for this city that I would pass by so often, seeing it now through this boy’s eyes. It made me miss my sons, made me instantly fond of this dark eyed little boy.
Passing by yet another skyscraper, Omar pointed to it and said, “Mom, I wanna go up there, can I go up there?
His mom laughed and said, “Oh sweetie, you can go wherever you want.” She turned to me and gave me a smile, her dark eyes sparkling. I knew exactly what she meant, and I smiled back.
I’ve been back here only a week and already I feel suffocated. Literally, sometimes by the dust that floats everywhere, and figuratively, by the sameness that characterizes each and every day.
It’s a small, small world that I now live in. In the week that was I got up to speed on work I left at the office, so that’s done. I met the same set of people, just a few new faces. I’ve been to the PX, the gym, the dining halls, the boardwalk. I’ve revisited the bunkers several times, morning and night. And I’m back to wearing the same old clothes, back to eating the under seasoned food, back to talking about mostly the same old stuff.
There is only so much monotony I can take. In attempts to break the sameness of days, I step out from the brown box that is my office and take a short, aimless walk outside. There is the rock-paved ground underfoot, the dust billowing upwards to meet my face. When I raise my eyes to the sky I see the same brown of the horizon and the same hue covers almost every surface, as far as one can see.
Sometimes it feels as though I live in a huge movie set, circa 1940s, setup in a fictional location deep in the belly of the beast that is war. And then I am jolted back to the reality—oh right, I am here—in the midst of a war.
When I arrived here, a place I have never been, the mountains still had snow. Capped in white, they rose like a jagged wall above a horizon that unfolded into rough, monotonous terrain; a land of dust and dryness. Everything seemed beige, brown, gray. It was a world in camouflage, a place that was in perpetual hiding.
It drizzled the afternoon that I arrived; something, they said, that has not happened for weeks. I was walked by Security down a concrete path that connected several rectangular buildings. Every one of them looked exactly the same from the outside. We went into one building, and I was given a room there. A box within a box.
In one of the scant briefings for this gig, I was told to pack for a week, to bring sturdy hiking shoes, the bare minimum of luxuries. I packed just two books. I should have brought more.
I was issued army-style clothes, shoes, a flashlight, a vest, and a helmet. The helmet was a heavy thing. When turned over, it looked like a turtle—all quiet and unmoving—blending right in. Me thinks I should do the same.
Loafer’s paradise, or mocking photo for the intrepid, yet so far luck-challenged jobseeker? These days, for me, that photo is more of a mockery.
It’s now 21 days since I was last gainfully employed. I was just daydreaming yesterday, as I went about my lack of business, that I could get used to this. I mean, I could go on with this kind of life—the waking up with not much purpose to one’s day. The 2PM lunches. The unmindful dawdling over coffee. The slow descent into madness.
But before plunging into all that, here are my current job search stats:
34 applications sent through JobStreet
9 applications sent through JobsDB
12 new applications (no views as yet)
5 applications under consideration
5 applications in process
5 applications kept for reference
5 applications with no updates
2 applications withdrawn (unsuccessful)
1 interview in person, still no call
1 phone interview that did not push through (who does these things, anyway?)
8 applications sent directly to companies through their career sites
3 networking efforts (sending resumes to kind folks who promise to pass them on)
I still hang out at the mall, go to internet places, seek out networking possibilities, obsess over grocery shopping. Right now, the adverts for cheap passage into Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. get more and more attractive as each day passes. How I wish I am financially set up to be able to just drop everything (kids, rent, responsibilities), and travel aimlessly for 6 months. I could do that. I think I can.
I’m back from a vacation in the south of Negros, where I am from. It was hot, humid, and in many many ways, tempestuous. It stands to reason why we usually go away on vacation only once a year.
Getting away from it all can actually remind you why you went away in the first place.