Living 7,000 miles away from my family for the last 5 years has always been an interesting experience. I have become accustomed to missing out on weekly family dinners and not having the convenience of my loved ones nearby. My new normal even includes watching my nephews grow up virtually. All, disadvantages of living abroad. Nevertheless, having the option to hop on a flight to spend time with my loved ones makes the pain a little more bearable. But, it’s a privilege. And unfortunately, my privilege has been checked at the door. In a matter of 4 weeks, I stopped imagining going home on holidays to realizing that indefinitely, I can’t go home to see my family because of COVID-19.
WHY EXPATS WERE ASKED TO COME HOME
You are probably well aware that international and domestics flights have slowed down around the world. The call to close borders and stops flights has caused trips to be canceled, plans to be rescheduled and in some cases money to be thrown down the drain. According to state department officials, US citizens abroad were warned that they “should make plans to return to the US while the government is able to help them or be prepared to shelter in place indefinitely.” -CNN
This doesn’t come as a surprise as flights going to America, the country with the most cases of coronavirus has significantly decreased. In the UAE, there are currently no direct flights going to the US when prior to the crisis you could easily book a flight via Emirates or Etihad to take you directly home.
The US government is doing what it can to protect Americans abroad by offering to assist in repatriation efforts before the virus spreads more and “going home” is no longer an option.
WHY I’M NOT GOING HOME
I’m sure you are reading and thinking, “If the government urged you to come home, why aren’t you going?” Simply put, the same reason I moved abroad is the same reason I am staying put. IT’S TOO DANGEROUS.
With the US currently not taking measures that I deem as “good enough” to flatten the curve of the virus, it would be insane if I left the comforts of the place that I call home to travel in a Petree dish and possibly expose myself and my family upon arrival. Not only do I find it incredibly dangerous to my health and others, but the financial blow that I could possibly face also isn’t worth the risk.
Working as a full-time teacher in the UAE means that my bills are paid based on my performance and effort, and although the UAE announced on last week that schools would continue online for the remainder of the year, there is no way to tell if life will return back to normal before the year ends. This would mean that if I fly to the US and the UAE decides not to allow me reentry I could miss out on workdays which means missing out on work pay. And I’m sure you would agree, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Consequently, by choosing to go home I could face the possibility of not being able to return to the UAE indefinitely. And even though the love for my family runs deep and I miss them dearly, my life is abroad. Whether in the UAE or elsewhere. I am a forever expat and I never want to have to return home indefinitely without it being my own choice.
THE GOOD, BAD & THE REALITY
There are positive and negative effects on everything in life and my decision to stay put in Abu Dhabi is no different. Some of the positive effects of staying are, job security, less exposure to infection and I am saving so much money! Who knew that not going to brunch every weekend and traveling ever other month could save so many coins?!
The negative impacts of staying in the UAE are of course that I may run the risk of not seeing my family for another 6 months and that is devastating to me. In the past few weeks, I, along with several friends have experienced death in our families and due to the murkiness of travel, some have missed the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones, viewed funerals virtually or gone home with no idea of return or job security.
Ultimately, the good outweighs the bad and staying put is the most logical option. But it doesn’t take away the pain of knowing the inevitable. While you read and form your own opinions I ask that you not only keep those infected by the virus in your prayers but also pray for the ones who unknowingly have been affected by the outbreak.
Now is a time where we should all come together more than ever to love on, comfort and support one another.
TAKE THE WORLD