Living abroad: the hushed-up downside
Rita Atuhaire concludes her three-part series on life in Dubai with a look at the social life of most foreigners living there, particularly Africans. Furthermore, she highlights the current unfortunate situation in which the United Arab Emirates has banned the issuance of visas to certain nationals, as well as its social and economic consequences.
I am not a motivational speaker but if I was given a microphone right now, I would say “you can’t have it all and no one has it all.” Even those who seem to have their dream lives have some parts of their lives that they complain about not having. Relocating from a country like Uganda to one with a better economy like the UAE, where you will earn a higher salary compared to the former, there are a few things that you will miss out on. For instance, you will not see beautiful drops of rain for almost a year, and you can also forget about fresh Ugandan foods.
You will also have to live with temperatures that may reach highs of between 35-50 degrees in the summer. But it is worth the sacrifice if it improves your well-being. My biggest challenge has been failing to have real connections with people. I had never felt the distance from home until recently when I fell sick. I did not have anyone to take me to the hospital or cook me something to eat. I was in my bed with broken joints, severe migraines and a swollen throat. To get help, I had to send a message to a few friends informing them that I was ill.
No human connection
Of course, they empathised and were willing to help, but with their strict work schedules, they couldn’t come and check on me, which I understood; no one wants to lose their job. This is in stark contrast to back home where informing only one person would result in all my friends showing up wanting to nurse me. This is without including my mother or my churchmates. Back home, the relationships you make are genuine and your people regard your challenges as theirs. This isn’t easy to see here where everything is on a budget and things are scheduled.
The human connection here is rarely deep, yet being far from home would mean sharing similar challenges and having a common cause to bond. I used to think that I was the unlucky one until I discussed the matter with a group of my workmates. According to one of the participants, it is difficult to find a committed love partner here due to mistrust. This is because they are afraid that they will lose focus on what brought them here. Almost everyone agreed with his statement. There is a lot that makes humanity complete that we sacrifice when we choose to take up this new life.
The shift in life might make you more focused on the hustle and change your perspective on life. If you are not careful, when you get back home your people can identify the characteristics of a robot in you. So many people have shared their stories with me and were unable to explain how the transition came about. They also can’t explain how they got the courage to become who they are right now. There are times when you are forced to grow cat claws or learn to climb a rocky wall because you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
A few weeks ago, the UAE banned the issuance of visas to fourteen African countries, including Uganda (my country of origin). I agree with the decision taken which, I believe, also served to protect the poor Ugandans who sell all their property to get money to come here with the hope of finding employment and improving their lives, but instead end up disappointed. When they get here, they realise that it’s not that easy to find a job yet the cost of living is unimaginably expensive. Other countries were banned due to poor behaviour by a group of their citizens. I understand that these measures were taken to protect the standards of the country.
The visa ban
I just feel sorry for the Africans who already had jobs and were working. They were waiting for their bosses to process their employment visas only to be informed that they couldn’t continue to work. Besides the Nigerian lady I mentioned in the second episode of this story, I know of four other Ugandans. It is easy for someone who is not in their situation to advise them to just give up and go home. These people, however, have reasons for leaving home, which are still the same reasons why they cannot go back. Some of them are single parents who are the sole breadwinners for their dependents.
Others took substantial loans to fund their travels and repay them after they get employed. I am deeply saddened by the plight of this young man at my workplace. His visa is only two weeks from expiration, and the poor thing is still holding on to every bit of hope left. He keeps asking me, “Ritah, do you think there is a possibility of the government revising the proposed visa restrictions within two weeks?” We are praying for a miracle to happen. My worry is, how far will the desperation of these young people push them?
If non-documented young people are not offered jobs or legitimate visas, will it help to clean and improve the standards of the city? Or, will it make things more chaotic by piling up undocumented young people who might have to do unlicensed business and other illegal activities to survive? This is even though the UAE would greatly benefit from their skills and expertise. Most of these youth are graduates and highly skilled people whose poor economies back home couldn’t afford to employ them. Wouldn’t it be a better strategy to stop those coming in and allow those already in to have access to legal employment and a legal means of living? But what do I know? The UAE is now my second home. I want the very best for this country so forgive me if I am being a bit sceptical.
PAUL LUKYAMUZI ssekikubo19.01.2023
A great story to read