“Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” — The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Four years ago today — on September 8, 2014 — I stepped off a United Airlines 777 at Dubai International Airport (DXB) and took the first step on my journey as an expat in the United Arab Emirates. The 1,461 days since have been filled with exponential personal development as I have continuously challenged myself to be a better version of me. Not every lesson has been successful; some took several tries to get right and others are still a work in progress.

Nevertheless, I am progressing personally and learning to reframe a challenging situation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have plans to improve my present state, but it means I work towards achieving them while embracing the “art of possibility.”

Being in Dubai has also allowed me to develop professionally in ways that would not have been possible in the United States. After teaching marketing and management classes for the past three years in the College of Business Administration at the American University in the Emirates, the start of this academic year marks my shift into the College of Education. I will now teach five sections of the following three courses:

  • HAP 200, Happiness Studies
  • INV 300,  Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • TOL 200, Tolerance and Diversity

In related news, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education selected me as one of 30 educators from a pool of more than 400 applicants to join “Cohort 3” of the “UAE Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program.” The program provides curriculum, programs, and networks to equip the next generation of UAE leaders with an innovation and entrepreneurship mindset to ensure the country’s ongoing economic achievement (this is directly linked to the INV 300,  Innovation and Entrepreneurship course I am now teaching).  It also included an educational visit to Stanford University this past July 10 to 13, 2018 for specialized training in design thinking, the conceptual foundation of the initiative.

Unfortunately, while being overseas opens opportunities that were not possible for me in the United States, it minimizes the time I can spend with my two amazing sons, Jacob and Max. Despite being far from my sons physically, they are always close to my heart. It is my sincere hope that one day I can make amends for my physical absence in their lives. For now, I make enthusiastic efforts to participate in their lives virtually while maximizing the moments we can share physically.

Overall, I remain grateful for my expat experiences in Dubai. I also look forward to the future with optimism and excitement, despite not being fully clear about what it has in store for me.

If you want to learn more about my expat adventure, I suggest the following posts:

Welcome to Dubai.”

Waiting to depart LAX on Sunday, September 7, 2014.
Waiting in the United Airlines terminal to depart LAX the morning of Sunday, September 7, 2014.

After flying 9,357 miles from LAX and traveling for nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles (IAD) — I had arrived at Dubai International Airport (DXB) the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga  arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever.

Beginning a two year contract as a full time Lecturer in the College of Business Administration at Jumeira University, I awaited a brave new world of professional development  and personal growth. One quick month later, I have experienced that and more.

Below are three of my initial  impressions — aka “teachable moments” — from my first month in Dubai. Each is a different degree of the same spectrum of educational adventure and I am grateful for the knowledge gained through each experience:

Community

Having worked as an adjunct instructor since 2007 I became accustomed to a “lone wolf” style of working and, to some degree, living. One of the first changes — aside from the obvious fact that I am thousands of miles from my former home in another country — is I am now a full-time faculty member, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. I am fortunate to have exceptional colleagues and students who, from  day one, have enriched my experience ten fold. There is a wonderful sense of community and camaraderie here and it is both motivating and reassuring. I am looking forward to creating a community of practice and making the most of this exceptional opportunity.

Connectivity

Finding reliable WiFi has been a challenge everywhere including at my apartment, where I had to wait an additional 10 days for service due to an issue with the fiber cable and, subsequently, the server box in my apartment.  This complicated  matters, including my ability to speak with my sons via Skype over WiFi. Fortunately, my building management and my Internet provider — du — worked with me to resolve the issue even with an important Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, impeding their progress. I am happy to report that I am now writing this fully connected at my apartment. Ironically, my connectivity issues started even before I arrived in Dubai when neither of the two flights I took had WiFi on-board. Having previously been continuously connected, this was a challenging adjustment; one that forced me to find creative, constructive, and somewhat costly alternatives. The lesson here was one of persistence mixed with patience and politeness.

Mobility

Coming from Los Angeles (where nobody walks), I was accustomed to driving everywhere. But, when I arrived in Dubai I had $300 in my pocket, two large suitcases, one carry-on, and a messenger bag with my laptop; I was without personal transportation. Initially, and now occasionally, I depended on the kindness of strangers or colleagues. I even had an exceptional experience with a total stranger named “Ali Boots” who graciously drove me to my university after getting an important housing document called an Ejari. Now I am taking taxis or the Dubai Metro light rail system. While individual taxi rides are only between AED 30 and 50 ($8.17 to $13.61), these costs can quickly add up, as can the time spent waiting for scheduled taxis or trying to find an available option. For the most part this has been a seamless process, but it has taught me to plan more efficiently, travel lightly, and be flexible — it’s also forced me to more carefully budget my cash flow.

Me in front of Jumeira University in Dubai, UAE.
Me in front of Jumeira University in Dubai, UAE.

This is a small sampling of my observations. During my next two years in Dubai I will share “tips and quips” as time and subject matter permit. If ever there was an opportunity to learn continuously and live generatively this is certainly it!