Why am I here?
Sometimes people ask me why I came to the UAE, but more often, I ask myself,
WHY AM I HERE?
First, I came here because I wanted to experience Arab culture on its own turf. I wanted to see the real life of Arabs. Why? Well, for one, I went to Egypt when I was 9 years old and I experienced an infusion of energy that filled my little body. It was exciting, confusing, and most of all, very different from what I knew. It’s that difference that attracts me, and I suppose that is because of an insatiable curiosity. I always want to know more about people and their lives.
Anyway, from that first experience in Egypt, I always had a longing to be in the midst of that energy again. It was a lingering sensation, one that often could not be articulated in words, but rather a pulling at the heart strings.
And then, at university, first when I was a graduate student, and then later when I was a teacher at the same university, I had friends, colleagues, and then students from the Arab world. Again, the differences in our lives were fascinating to me, mostly because over and over I have discovered that when you go into the differences full force, you discover the wonder of humanity and the harmony of our differences.
It’s absolutely beautiful.
In particular, my Saudi students welcomed me into their lives and graciously made themselves at home in my life. I felt all barriers vanish in their presence, and that void of separation is symbolic of my overall philosophy of humanity: that our borders are arbitrary, our beliefs, languages, and behaviors merely the result of the collective understandings of our communities, and that in the beginning and the end – the Alpha and Omega – we are of the same source, same energy force, same biological components experiencing the same emotions.
And so, when the timing was right and the opportunity presented itself, I came to the United Arab Emirates. I came to see what I could discover and experience. I knew it would be difficult, and though I didn’t know exactly what that meant, it didn’t matter: I came with an open heart and an open mind. I was a willing participant in the unknown that lie ahead of me. I think of this as my universal, or spiritual, goals. And I still stand by that premise.
In practical terms, I came here to participate in the Ministry of Education’s mission to Westernize the educational system:
1) to teach the local teachers the techniques and strategies of teaching that are common in Western education;
2) to implement new policies and standards;
3) to implement creative and challenging lessons;
4) to bring new world concepts to the students, infusing them with critical thinking skills, and;
5) to develop myself professionally.
I came here to make friends with local Emiratis and to learn more about their language, culture, and their lives. I came here to share fully of myself. And in these goals, I have asked myself daily: WHY AM I HERE?
The challenges have been a series of impenetrable stone walls. When I am not seen, or heard, I find it unbelievable, time and again, and then I test it, and find out that it’s true: they do not see me. They do not know me. They do not receive anything that I came to offer.
Yes, that is terribly frustrating. And I struggle with my place in this world.
But I am here to endure this challenge.
Though I do not yet know why, or how, or even what it is that I am learning, I am certain that the endurance is a universal, or spiritual lesson for me. I accept that. In general, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to experience, even the difficulties, because I know that in time (it could be years; the amount of time is irrelevant), I will understand what it is I have learned.
In the meantime, I can tell you that there are many tangible reasons why I am here. I have found opportunities to grow in ways I didn’t expect:
- I have two yoga teacher’s certifications.
- I am now certified as an “advanced” pranic healer and will complete the courses to be a certified Arhatic yogi by the end of this year. (Arhatic is “the synthesis of [all] yoga, recognized as the “highest level”.)
- I am learning Punjabi, no longer Arabic, a change that is in harmony with aligning myself with those universal, or spiritual goals.
I have also met people who I can clearly see are soul-energizers. They are people who I was born to find in this world.
- My driver
- The local Indian community
- My new Irish friend, Rose-Marie
I have completed other training courses and self-study projects for my personal and professional development that are outside of my work:
- Lightyear Leadership (levels 1 and 2)
- Work with a personal and career coach
- An online problem-solving course
And this time and place has offered me opportunities to grow, establish, and complete creative projects:
- To begin a new business venture for ESL students online
- To experiment with fashion by working with local tailors to create my own designs
- The completion and publish my book about Japan: The Naked Gaijin
For all of these accomplishments, I am deeply grateful. I know that this has been the time and place to do these things, and to meet these particular people.
The answer to the question, “Why are you in the UAE?” is not a simple, logical explanation, but rather, a winding road, like a scavenger hunt, revealing one hint, one solved mystery, one tiny morsel at a time, all leading me to exactly wherever I am to be next.
So, why am I here? Minute by minute, I do not know how to answer that question. But if I return to the universal, or spiritual goals, the answer is simple: because I am supposed to be here.
No matter how hot the high sun, or how dry the river’s bed, I am, after all, “A River in the Desert”.