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The Dubai Dream

"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living." - Anais Nin

I was chatting with YG online one morning when I first arrived (actually it was about two weeks ago, but it feels like much longer...).

How is dubai
U like?
7:15 PM me: i do...but it's a little too western...i'll probably only stay 3 years
too much air conditioning
YG: Word
7:16 PM me: but i like. it's like living in new york 120 years ago
YG: Lol
me: you know, while they were buildin[g] everything and people just kept coming and coming
and there was probably always construction

Dubai does remind me of a growing New York, and the reason people come reminds me of the former American Dream. I say former because the American Dream does not seem as likely as it once did. Coining the term first in 1931 (according to the Library of Congress), James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America states:

"The American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

It is for the same reason, "a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position," that many people come to Dubai. The Dream, be it that relic of America or the current Dubai Dream, is founded upon the principles of wealth and social order based on one's abilities and work ethic.

And that is one of the things I love most about Dubai: the work ethic.

Aside from the nationals, people who come to Dubai come to work (unless they are wives or children); therefore they have a purpose. Approximately 80 percent of the population in the United Arab Emirates is composed of expatriates, and there are two legitimate (possibly three) ways to receive residency here: either work, or be the parent, spouse or child of someone who does. Apparently, one may also obtain a residency visa if he or she purchases a condo hotel(?). But otherwise, the majority of the people come to this oasis in the desert to work hard, save money, and provide for their families.

Oddly, the dreams are inextricably linked: some people come to Dubai to achieve the American Dream. I did. There's a twisted irony to some of this. I speak with people who have been here for twenty or thirty years, be they from India, Pakistan or Somalia, and they speak of their time here and then proudly conclude that because of this, they were able to send their child to university in America. I empathize. I left America because I was not able to achieve the dream there - not as teacher and not without massive debt. Although, I dare say this phenomenon of massive debt has served to perpetuate the financial debacle in the States, and while I sympathize with those directly and indirectly affected, I am humbled by the fact that I did not contribute by building my life with money I did not actually have.

So, I came to Dubai to achieve the American Dream; others do as well. Yet, not all come to achieve the American Dream, but instead the Dubai Dream, an entity all unto itself. The Dubai Dream is unique to the people of this hemisphere. While people in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and Jamaica continue to make their way to America to achieve the dream, people from Ethiopia, Somalia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh make their way to Dubai, and the city has a dream of its own.

It is due to this dream that a diabolical work ethic exists here and I am grateful for it. Things actually get done here, and give or take the occasional human folly, usually on time. Furniture deliveries are made on the day they are scheduled. I have had several deliveries after five o'clock, and one as late as one o' clock in the morning.

"Are you working this late because it's Thursday? Because of the weekend?" I asked the men as they put my dining room table together.

"No, no," one of the men replied. "Every day work until one or two in the morning. It is always."

At first I was surprised, but I quickly recovered calculating that with 35,000 people moving to the U.A.E each month, there is a great deal of furniture to deliver.

The delivery men will call continuously, so that they can deliver the item you purchased on the day they promised. Although I myself never purchased anything for delivery prior to coming to the U.A.E, my experience in trying to get other business completed on the day it needed to be done in the States was not so successful. Perhaps that was unique to the Southeast; admittedly it is the only place I lived as an adult and I found it frustrating as an Indiana/Ohio girl - with that Midwestern work ethic.

At school, the support and maintenance staff work just as hard. They arrive early in the morning, before I do, and leave late in the evening - many of them long after I do. The school is always in order as a result. The bathrooms are clean and there is always toilet paper, soap and paper towels. Every evening after I leave my classroom, the staff clean it, from the floors to the chalkboard. Every evening. If I request a file cabinet or a ladder, someone brings me one, and it occurs on the same day. In my time teaching in the States, there were only a few maintenance staff who were so consistent, and they themselves were immigrants. If they were absent, the substitution often came not nearly as close.

The professionals work hard and the laborers work hard here. Since most expatriates come here to work, the expectation is that they will do so and do it well. The people who work here, be they in construction or domestic work, teachers, sales people, financial investors, security guards, restroom attendants, and so forth, take pride in their work.

As an empath, being here in this amalgamation of world citizens has been a continual heartfelt awakening. Most interactions I have with the people here, from the workers to my students, reaffirm my faith in human beings. Their desire to please others, their graciousness, their honesty, their presence, provokes within me a daily awakening to the better side of humanity. That is the beauty of emigration. Those with the desire to work hard and improve their circumstances, exhibit the gall and the courage to do so simply by taking the initiative to move to a location where their dreams are possible.

Although I saw this desire in the immigrants at home in North Carolina, the States have a failed model for dealing with this reality, thus the effect is not as endearing. The American Dream is currently stymied by an ineffective immigration policy that breeds crime, resentment and a growing underclass. Here, the government has a vision for the Dubai Dream; and although it too is imperfect, it is shared, regulated and uninhibited.

It is the middle of the day, with a temperature of approximately 37 degrees Celsius. Outside my window, the men are constructing another complex. They will not stop until well after dark. They are very busy - building a dream.


Seabee said…
People say that Dubai has no culture, but I've always believed the heart of its culture is work. Dubai is all about trading, of commerce, of working.

Dealing, trading was the reason the city was created and it's been the dominant factor since the beginning. The long hours, productive hours too by and large, have been a way of life since the beginning. Everyone who comes here, illegals included, comes to work, so we all fit nicely into the culture.
Lbug said…
The work ethic in Dubai is a million miles away from that in the west. Even in America the immigrants see that achieving their dream is not as possible as it once was, because it is no longer a 'new' country - the status quo is well established and it takes more to break into it.
Nicole said…
I admire that work ethic. I have a very strong work ethic and a lot of times I am questioned negatively by people for working so hard. Or punished at my job with limititation and stipulations that try to hinder my desire to work more.
Nybor11 said…
Hey hon-just catching up on your blog! I hope to visit you in the old New York soon!! *muah*

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