January 3, 2010

Thoughts Get in the Way

I get several good blog ideas every day, but rarely when I actually sit down to write.

In the last few hours alone I've thought about young people who live in the UAE, Indian food, the lifestyles of people here who work very hard and where I might like to vacation. I'm sure I've covered Indian food (and have I mentioned how much I like it?? How and I can't imagine tiring of it?? Oh, yeah. I have). And nobody but me cares where I'd like to go on vacation. So that leaves me to dwell on the other two topics.

In a sense, they're related. So let's see where this takes us.

Most people who come here do so for money. For a job. For a better way of life for themselves or their families. The lucky ones, I suppose, get to bring their families with them. They are certainly in the minority. Most of the people who live here are foreigners; about 85 percent. The idea for so many is to leave their small villages to come here and work very hard and live very frugally and send home as much money as they can. It is not an exaggeration to say that entire towns and villages in the subcontinent are supported by those who work in the Gulf.

We run lots of stories about this. How there are more than 300,000 Filipinos here legally, and another 200,000 maybe not-so-legally. Sixty percent of them are skilled or professional workers, 25 percent are in the service sector and 15 percent are household workers. Our taxi driver and our housekeeper are Filipino.

Works from the subcontinent, though, outnumber all the others. And as bad as their jobs may seem to me, with bad pay and worse conditions, these jobs are better than what they can find at home. And this is something I try to keep in mind. I am far from my friends and family, much the same as they are. But I have Paul with me. And we have a small home, but we are not living six to a bedroom, or 24 to an apartment. The weather here is miserable nine months of the year, but we work in an air-conditioned office. We, too, are trying to save our salaries and send money home. But not like some of these workers.

It is not unusual for an immigrant worker to make around 2000-4000 ($544-1088) dirhams a month. And to send home all but 200 dirhams. We plan to stay for maybe 18 months. These workers plan to stay for many years. To stay long enough to put their children -- whom they rarely see -- through school. To feed their families. To build a home for when they must go back; one big enough for several generations. To provide dowries for their sisters. And when you consider that making $500 a month working six (or seven) days a week with one month off every two years is better than what you can do in your home country, you've got to wonder about the conditions in those home countries.

So this is its own land of opportunity. People come here for their own little slice of the economic pie, no matter how small. And we are all the same, but all different. I try to remember this every day, and I don't always succeed. I try to be grateful for this opportunity and for my good fortune.

It's probably not a bad way to start the year.

(To be continued)

1 comment:

AllAbuDhabi.blogspot.com said...

Hello there! I'm a Filipina myself working here in Abu Dhabi. Thank you for the mention. Looks like you're doing good in handling the urban desert. Keep on writing, you're very inspiring.