Letting Go of America: Week 1 in Dubai

It’s been five days since I arrived in Dubai. I had a tough plane ride, which involved a crying a baby during the complete 12-hour-flight. It’s 109 degrees. My sleeping pattern is completely messed up due to jet lag; nevertheless, I feel like I’m in paradise, which is for me a complete change of scenery that’s peaceful where I have the ability to spoil myself as much as possible. It also means having the ability to sleep in, however long I please, not worry about deadlines and work, and eat food I don’t often have, back home in New York. It’s the little things that mean a lot. Dubai is the perfect place for a vacation: cheap and affordable—because I’m staying with family, with beautiful sights and buildings. The humidity is also doing my skin wonders—if I may add.

When I told people I’m spending the summer here, they replied with: “Oh, I didn’t know you were so rich,” Or, “You got it good like that.” Perhaps Dubai comes across as a mainly wealthy city to the outside world. In my opinion, everything here is extravagant, including the movie theaters. There is a lot of glitter and glamour that surrounds the name and the city. However, regardless of all the pomp and circumstance and of what many may think, there is a middle class. Not everyone here owns a Ferrari.

So far, I’ve made sure to keep up my daily workout routine and I’ve hit the gym every morning. With all the food I’m engulfing myself with, comes the responsibility of making sure I can still fit in the few clothes I brought with me. I’m enjoying time spent with close family members and had a nice day at the Souk Al Bahar, near the Dubai Mall, which is a beautiful sight.

Remember when I said that I’m going to completely immerse myself in the culture, instead of just completely vacation and explore. Well, it’s harder than I made it out to be. Instead of immerse—I think “experience” would be a better word. The Islamic culture is unique and beautiful and it takes a lot of poise for people to carry out their beliefs and practices. I want to experience everything and see what it has to offer. I am American of Indian origin. I want to learn, respect, and do things from my Indian heritage. I also want to learn about other cultures. I didn’t think it would be so hard, however.

I have an aunt who loves me to the core. From day 1 she’s wanted to “turn America off” (meaning my twitter, phone, laptop that connects me to anything New York…which isn’t really working considering I’m on it right now). She wants me to appreciate and fall in love with my Indian heritage completely.  I do love the food, the clothes, etcetera. If you’re confused, Dubai is not in India. It’s in the Middle East, but I’m staying with my family. Dubai has a large Indian population. I love the Indian culture, but there’s a certain boundary I realized that I feel; like, I can’t really immerse myself in it the way I hoped and my aunt hoped. I can sit through it and give it a try but If I’m not feeling it, chances are I’ll fall asleep.

First night In Dubai I agreed to watch a Hindi soap opera with her. I found this rather difficult to get through considering I didn’t understand the humor and the actors were talking way to fast, not to mention it was filmed in the 80’s, so it was lagging. I kept it up though and laughed when everyone else did. I like Bollywood films, but I’m very picky. A lot of them, well 99.9% of them from what I’ve seen, involve singing and dancing. I can find this cheesy at times, but it’s a completely difficult culture and cinema so I respect it. I learned, though, regardless of my gene pool, If I have grown up watching shows like “One Tree Hill”, “Friday Night Lights,” and (don’t judge me for admitting this one) “Gossip Girl,” I’m going to find it hard to take a liking to something completely different, like I wanted. I can’t force it. I’ve grown up and have had different cultural values. Since I’m more used to the American culture, it makes more sense to me and I’m more comfortable with it. I was hoping to ‘Indianize’ myself, but I don’t know how it’s possible when for the past 16 years I’ve been an American . I still want to try to an extent though, but I know I can’t completely let go of the ‘American’ in me, and I have no intention to. My uncle says that as I get older my roots will catch up to me. If it happens, I’ll be okay with it. I don’t think there’s any harm in it. I remember fondly how much at home I felt in Kashmir, learning about my heritage. Hopefully, I can feel that way again, completely.

Otherwise, in the coming weeks I’m hoping to go on a safari ride, greet a few camels, swim with dolphins, and eat a lot more food. I’ll be off to India in a week.  Stay tuned for more.

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