• The first few weeks when you are doing everything for the first time and have to keep asking questions about the simplest things, things you haven’t thought about doing for years. Like: how do you dial a phone? How do you get a phone? How do you get minutes? Where is the milk in the store and how much does it really cost and how do you pay for it? How do you run the washing machine? How do you use the internet? Do you shake someone’s hand in a meeting? What do you wear to a meeting? What do you do in the meeting when the coffee boy comes by and takes your order but you can’t understand what he’s offering? Where do I live and how do I direct the taxi driver there? What water can you drink? Where can you buy it? Expending effort to find out how to do just about every freakin’ thing is exhausting.
• Being 11 hours and half the world away from the people you are used to picking up the phone and calling on a whim.
• Looking so different than 98% of the rest of the population. Being stared at or, worse, completely ignored by everyone around you.
• Having a “conversation” with someone who seems to be speaking your language but only catching about one-fourth of what the words are.
• Having health issues and having to discuss personal matters to a complete stranger in earshot of a bunch of other strangers about things like what are Tucks and why you need them and being so desperate for relief that any remaining pride you might have left goes out the window.
• Stifling your normal cheery nature when passing folks on the street because they look terrified that you might speak to them.
• Having someone physically recoil from you when you accidently bump them on a very crowded elevator. Realizing you are repulsive.
• Being stuck on a very crowded, unairconditioned elevator with someone on it who has no sense of how “ripe” they smell.
• Being stuck inside an office or car or mall for all but a cumulative total of maybe five minutes per 24 hour period because the heat and humidity in unairconditioned places is just intolerable.
• Getting trapped at a red light beside a playboy in a Ferrari who thinks he is hot stuff and delights that you are blushing and perplexed and trying to ignore him when he blows you a kiss and revs his engine and transforms you into an awkward, ridiculous thirteen year old klutz.
• Going to a hotel pub at 3:55 and being pointed to a sign that says “New Dubai Law: No liquor sold on any premises between 4 and 6 PM” but the people who send you there with the free vouchers while they get your room ready have no clue and the “bouncer” won’t look at his friggin’ watch to admit that it’s 3:55 and not 4:00 yet while you look inside at the party and the dancing and the REALLY BIG GLASSES OF FROSTY BEER that are calling your name because you haven’t had a cold alcoholic beverage for over three weeks despite being stuck in temperatures never ever going below 100-degrees.
• After (finally) talking yourself into said bar and getting one of those really delicious cold frosty beers and thinking you are maybe being flirted with by the nearly 7’ tall handsome man who makes you feel petite and special just standing next to him realize he is not interested at all but the group of French jockeys (yes, puny little horse riders) who make you feel gigantic and obese are quite happy to flirt and touch your sweaty back and go back to their hotel where you could no doubt feel adored, in a huge way. Realizing there is no more cold beer to be had because now it is after 4 PM and you are stuck with the jockeys who have had enough beer to not care that you are huge, but you still do.
• Living across the street from a mosque that broadcasts the call to prayer five times a day, the earliest starting before 4:30 AM, loud enough for men living within five blocks to hear it. Feeling guilty that you should be annoyed by this sound because you told yourself when you arrived that you would use the call to prayer as a reminder to get close to your Father who art in Heaven but this isn’t working.
• Having flatmate issues which is a flashback to college apartment drama: a heck of an adjustment after getting used to living alone for many years quite happily in your own little place.
• Putting good flatmate on a plane to visit home for a few weeks and realizing yourself that it will be a very long time before you get to make the same trip yourself.
• Realizing that it’s harder for many of your friends back home to find time to keep in touch with you than you had hoped.
• Reading your list of difficult things and thinking you sound like a whining, desperate loser who needs to just buck it up and kick your own azz and get over it and be grateful for this incredible opportunity to experience life in a different part of the world and gain a whole new appreciation for the things you have left behind and get to look forward to returning to some day.
3 hours ago