Living situations differ from profession to profession over here, and as such there is no clear cut route to as how to deal
with it. In most cases your employer will provide you with accommodation, or at least provide financial assistance. In other cases your take-home wages at the end of the month are inclusive of a rent allowance. Teachers are the most common breed of expatriate here in the UAE, and the general rule of thumb is that they are given an apartment and then X amount allowance for furniture and appliances. In my case I was to flat share with two colleagues that I knew from home and all the basics were provided.
Upon opening the large wooden paneled front door for the first time – which seemed to have been designed to accommodate a modest sized Bison – I was greeted by some cream walls, and a red tiled floor. The living room was the best furnished, with a TV, a corner piece sofa, a chair and a coffee table. I began to explore the rest of this massive apartment and soon noticed a pattern; cream walls and red floor tiles in every room.
This dynamic of cream walls and red floor tiles was matched with very high ceilings measuring some 4 metres. As a result this carpet-less, curtain-less structure allowed for a soulless echo to resonate after even the slightest of noises. It was the kind of echo you hear in an empty house, and that’s exactly what it felt like.
The final door that I stumbled across was to be the entrance to my room. Inside there were two brown steel frame glass doors on each side, both leading to separate outdoor…areas? It is fair to assume that over the course of the last 10 years more men are likely to have walked on the surface of Mars than they have on either of these two…areas? The bed was in the middle, complete with sheets, and there was a dresser… with some draws. From the stratosphere level ceiling there were two light bulbs hanging; one of which was working. The concrete walls were painted in a chic cream emulsion; you could see the brush strokes. A keen eye could also spot where the poly-filler trowel had once been used. Under my feet, a glossy, red tiled floor beamed my reflection back up to me, apparently I was home.
After a spot of TV and a brief chit-chat with my new living chums – and the KFC long since devoured – it was time for bed. After the lengthy stroll back down the corridor and counting the rooms again just to make sure I hadn’t missed any, I closed my door and opened my suitcase. After taking out a pair of sleeping shorts and a book I peeled back the fresh linen and climbed into my new bed. The mattress was hard. The pillows didn’t feel right. I turned the air conditioner on – located directly above me – and tried to have a quick read before sleepy time. Whilst the incessant drone of the air conditioner sounded I looked around at the empty room and felt slightly sorry for myself. I missed my blue painted room back home, with my pictures on my walls and my useless crap that so cluttered the place. This was my new room; sparse, empty and totally void of character.
The first morning was a disorientating one. A moment of sheer panic ensued at 5:30am; the Fajr prayer call. I had never heard the mosques calling before and quite literally had no idea what was going on at first. It could have been the rapture for all I knew. It soon passed and I was able to get back to sleep for about an hour. Still with my eyes closed I felt a warmth on my face, I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t, I thought I had lost my sight. All I could see was white. The protagonist turned out to be the Sun, beaming blindingly on my face. The absence of curtains meant that I was sure to catch a tan in the mornings. A return to sleep was pointless, not to mention impossible. So, I put on my clothes for the day and headed down the cream corridor with the red floor tiles for breakfast.
How was I going to make this feel like home?