In my preparation towards my journey to Australia I’ve worried a lot. Do I have the right visa? Will I get through border security without getting fined for prohibited food? Will I have enough money? These questions were a couple of the thousands of questions that raged through my mind every night before the big departure. Yet for every question there is an answer. Yes, my student visa was approved. Yes, if you will follow the rules of immigration and declare all your food you can enter Australia. Yes, my scholarship will be enough, but I also will have to get a job.
One of the smaller questions was: will my English be sufficient enough? My English wasn’t that bad and was definitely not soaked with Dutch words and – that horrible – accent. In high school English was one of my classes where learning came natural to me and I could easily follow the study tempo. My readings for my own studies were already in (academic) English. So I only would have needed someone who could read through my written essays and assignments. But the counseling-lady from JCU already ensured me that they offer this service to Non-English-speaking students. So I easily muffled this question away during the worrying rages in my head.
When the big departure came, there was still a small opening for a “chicken out”-moment. But I said to myself: “No, Stand Your Ground. I am going do this, and I am going to do this well”. (Just for your information: this sounds very confident but if I gave myself a reason to panic, I would have panicked big time.) The journey went well and on the flight I already met two lovely girls, whom I hang out with during the delay in Dubai. We had a delay of 24 hours, so there was plenty of time to check out the city. Lately, Dubai has been a trending in several lists of popular vacation destinations. So my expectation raised to tremendous heights, but also thanks to the movie Sex and the City 2. Which is of course an unrealistic view of the Arab world, so I was bound to be disappointed.
We began our adventure in the Dubai Mall, located in the middle of multiple skyscrapers. The mall was huge, modern and trendy, the perfect representation of my image of Dubai. Not only did the mall satisfy my expectation, but also all the other famous highlights such as the Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab and the QE2. Nevertheless the more the day came to an end and the more we explored this Arabic cosmopolitan the less we saw modern architecture, less fancy cars and less people in expensive business-suites. Instead we saw multiple people sitting on the ground while drinking tea, groups of guys playing cricket in the sand of a building excavation and a lot of tiny shops packed on each other just like a bazaar. I guess this city wasn’t as modern and flashy as we in the West are led to believe.
But while I was lying in my hotel room, I started to let all the impressions sink in. The images that I had seen that day began to mix with my previous expectations of this weird city; my understanding of Dubai began to shift. In my adventure in one of the most dazzling cities I saw two broad images throughout this city. One depicting an opulent and futuristic Eden for the Western people which made me really excited to explore this city, but on the contrary it was the other image that made me fall in love with this wonderful city. It was an image that uses men that give up their place for you whenever you enter a public space, friendly and proud people that want to guide you to the right direction and a lovely smile with a flawless English accent, to color this intriguing city. Dubai has every right to call itself a cosmopolitan that has grown steadily to become a global city and a business and cultural hub of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. Not just because it modern and classy attitude but because it still maintained their cultural heritage, their pride and the hospitality in their service, buildings but most of all in their people.
After more than 50 hours after departure the moment came that I would touch Australian soil. I was so excited and also very tired, but hey I had just finished a journey of 48 hours so I was allowed to. “G’day, how you going? Passport, please” were the first words I heard. I put the emphasis on heard, because understand didn’t fit this context. The thick North Queensland accent is the stereotypically Australian accent you hear in Hollywood movies but is also harder to understand without subtitles. My feelings towards the Aussie way of speaking can be described best by using an anecdote. My (Australian) friend introduced me to another Australian.
“This is Ruth-Eva. She’s Dutch and she has some troubles with understanding English.”
“Excuse me?! Don’t bash my English. I can understand and speak English. It’s just that the Australian speak a lazy and shorten way of English, and therefore not really speak normal English!”
And I rest my case. As for the customs officer, my questioning face triggered the friendly lady to repeat her sentence slowly and with just one look in my passport and on her screen I was entering my new home country for the next 6 months.