My Dubai Experience
In the wake of his wife’s unexpected loss of employment, Billy became the sole breadwinner of the family. As his minimum wage job was not sufficient to meet all of his needs, he decided to pursue greener pastures in Dubai. After a rough start, things gradually improved, only to be brought to a screeching halt by a lockdown. This is the first article of a three-part series on Billy’s experience in the Gulf State.
Billy, a family man with four children, worked together with his wife (a teacher) on building their future together by sharing responsibilities. From his welding job, he was building a house for them to move into and stop renting. He covered the daily home expenses while his wife had the responsibility of educating the children. This was because they had the benefit of having a fifty percent discount on their school fees at the school she was teaching. All seemed well until the school she was teaching at got closed due to an unfortunate fire outbreak.
This meant the loss of her job and a change of school for their children where they now had to pay full school fees. He was now the sole breadwinner as his wife had become a stay-at-home mother. The building project was put on hold so he could afford to sustain the family until his wife finds another job, but it was still heavy on him. There were occasions when he found it difficult to provide a proper meal, especially when he had few or no welding deals. It got to the point where the children began to notice their financial struggles, which affected their performance.
For him, it made him feel like less of a man for failing to provide adequately for his family. On top of all that, they came to discover that they were expecting when his wife started getting sick. Coming at such a problematic time, it was something they hadn’t planned for because they were certain of the birth control method they were using. There were already struggling with four kids so how much more was it going to be with five? That’s when he decided to go to Dubai to earn more money.
However, he didn’t have the money to cover the travel costs in his present condition. He tried to borrow money from friends and family, but none of them was able to help, and he was already in debt to some of them. His only option was to sell their dream house to fund the trip. He also left some money for his expectant wife to sustain them for two months. Luckily, his travel plans turned out as expected and in one month, he was able to travel. He did not know anyone or anywhere in the newly arrived city but he was determined and knew that he would somehow make it; after all, he had already experienced something similar before when he relocated from his village in western Uganda to Kampala in his teenage years.
My Indian host
On arrival at the airport in Dubai, he was overwhelmed. Everyone knew where they were heading except him. He planned to start asking people at the airport for directions on where he could rent a place to stay and how to get there. However, he was overcome by a wave of fear and was unable to stop anyone for assistance. When he finally put himself together, he approached someone who seemed not to be familiar with English at all; he kept on shaking his head to mean “no” and smiling the whole time he was being talked to. Billy’s shot was clearly the wrong one.
He stopped another man, Shahid, from India, who seemed to understand his question, though he did not comprehend his explanation at all. He only perceived that this man was willing to help from his facial expressions and his attempts to make him understand. The man was speaking English but it was extremely broken. All he picked from the conversation was “you new…me bed space…” which he took to mean that the man was offering him shelter, so he kept on saying “yes” to whatever he said. When they left the airport, he kept on looking through the car windows to see how he could get back if things go wrong, but almost all the streets looked alike. At this point, he was at the mercy of the stranger for he had no idea where he was heading. Despite his current predicament, he couldn’t help but appreciate the city’s beauty, one he wishes his beloved Uganda possessed.
On arrival, he was asked to pay for the taxi, but unfortunately, he only had Ugandan currency. Shahid complained but urged him to pay back after exchanging his money for Dirhams. At the apartment’s bed space, he met thirty more Indians residing there. It was a three-bedroom apartment with five bunk beds in each, with a bed accommodating two people. Shahid showed him the bed he was to sleep on and said, “This, 500.” Billy was shocked to see a small bed of about three by four inches, in a room of ten people, costing Ugshs.500,000 (140 dollars) yet it was the cheapest.
Back home, this would have afforded him a very nice-looking apartment. That aside, he assumed that a kind person had picked him up and offered to shelter him at his home for free. Well, nothing is free in Dubai; that’s the first lesson he learnt there. So for the time being, he had no choice but to accept the offer. Luckily his housemates, who used to call him “African brother,” were very kind. They did everything they could to make him feel at home and explained Dubai’s job-searching process. Sometimes they would share their delicious biriyani chicken and other Indian cuisines, which were often spicy. Communication was his biggest challenge because he had not yet mastered the Asian way of speaking English. Therefore, at times he would use sign language with some of them, but generally, he was doing well.
Unlike most Africans who hustle for long periods before they find jobs in the UAE, he was lucky enough to get a job during his first month. It was at a construction company as a welder, which was in line with the work he was doing back home. His plan to improve his family’s living standard and save money appeared to be on course when a lockdown was declared. As a result, most companies started laying off workers. Worse still, his wife had just given birth to their fifth child and needed more care, which meant more money was required.
In the second article, he reveals his tribulations, predicament, and how he weathered the storm.
I feel each step of the story ,,, great hand you got there