Arabian Nights, ‘Neath Arabian Moons…
I have been a daydreamer for my entire life. It is an integral part of my personality and trickles into the essence of who I am.
One specific reverie of mine, involves opening the front door on a chilly morning in the middle of July, just like any other (ordinarily) boring day. Except this dawn would hold a bit more than a surprise.
Unsuspecting, I would look down to find that an owl had dropped my acceptance letter, to a certain School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on my doorstep. We don’t really have mailboxes or mail-slots in South Africa, so making a trip to the post-box seemed a bit unrealistic to me for the owl to navigate. Naturally, the letter-bearer would drop it directly in front of my door, or better yet, it would use magic to send my letter down the chimney and land on my desk. There it would perch, draped in green ink, beautifully sealed with crimson and patiently waiting to be torn open and read by my eager eyes.
Now, this exact fantasy has yet to happen. Some people tell me it will never happen, and I blame this on the renovations after the Wizarding War, which resulted in important documents being misplaced. In particular, my name on the list of future muggleborns must have gone missing in the chaos. If I couldn’t have Hogwarts, I dreamed of another seemingly magical institution of education in the UK. Oxford seemed like the perfect alternative.
Conversely, the Universe seems to have had an entirely different plan for my future. I didn’t apply to Oxford University, and I admit that I have never really wanted it enough for it to happen. After all, the Universe seems to have been the one holding the map and I’m just along for the ride, unaware of our final destination. Instead of having scones and tea in Oxford Street or learning Transfiguration and Divination in the Highlands, I was accepted into a British university in Dubai. I quickly had to re-imagine my entire university-student-life-experience from scratch.
When daddy dearest accepted a transfer to the UAE, I didn’t think it would have such an enormous impact on my life. So, another chapter was opened in my story book. My parents elected that I would join my father in Dubai for my tertiary education. I could have left immediately at the end of year eleven, as some universities abroad have a Foundation Program and would accept students who have not yet matriculated. However, I wanted to finish school and there were many reasons for this. I had worked hard to get where I was and I did not want to give up when I was millimeters away from the finish line. My friends were another contributing factor. I formed quite a few close bonds with people who I believe are part of my Soul Family. I couldn’t just leave them. I couldn’t just leave my mom either. I had never been away from her for longer than a few weeks at a time. How would I last six months? South Africa had been home for so long. It encompasses an eternity of memories. Making Soul Friends, and falling in love with Soul Mates, spending time with my Soul Family. I didn’t want to leave it all behind so suddenly. I needed more time. I didn’t want to say goodbye…
In December 2014, I finally flew again after 12 years of living in Gauteng with my feet planted firmly on the ground (literally at least). I only have vague recollections of our flights to and from the U.K. when I was younger and I was excited to have a memorable adventure in the clouds this time around. As it turns out, I enjoy being at the airport (and in the Emirates lounge) more than the actual plane ride. My sister, mother and I traveled together to pay a visit to the sandy lands for two weeks and to apply to universities there. It was all somehow different from what I expected, as things frequently are in my life.
When we arrived at DXB it was supposedly winter there but it was the very definition of boiling hot. I reconsidered my decision to move there for half of my time to study for six months a year. I’m not known for being particularly fond of the heat, so I started to wonder whether or not I could handle it. My friends from home would lovingly tell tales of me hiding under hats, sunscreen and even towels whenever the sun dared to shine too brightly. Another matter was the distinctly otherworldly aromas. Dubai has a range of new and diverse scents that I did not think I would be able to adapt to. It didn’t smell like home.
I wrestled with myself for a while, but eventually I decided to grab onto my original resolution with a steady grip and let the dunes and sandstorms take me where they may. Besides, maybe I would meet a boy with a magical flying carpet there, opposed to a flying broomstick in England. Magic can be found in the most unlikely places. Now, that’s a different story altogether.
We spent the fortnight like proper tourists. This included sightseeing and taking an obscene amount of photographs of every minute detail. Mall of the Emirates was a shock, but we were not prepared for the shear immensity of Dubai Mall. Gobsmacked is an accurate description of our state of minds along with the expressions on our faces. Dubai is a shopaholic’s dream come true, but that is not all it has to offer. The Miracle Gardens are a particular favourite of mine. The combination of the natural beauty with artistic creations was mesmerising. I was dressed a bit florally myself, so I matched the scenery. That’s probably why another tourist asked if they could take a picture with me. My family all had a few giggles after that encounter.
Two weeks flickered by with a large portion of skyscrapers and odd-looking tomatoes making their debut. We were soon back on the southern side of the world to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with our friends and family. It was like we were never gone. Until we remembered we had to go. We kept our tears at bay until the day I had to fly back to Dubai with my dad in January 2015. University life had arrived and I was back to being not ready for it. Saying goodbye to my mom on the airport was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. It was the first obstacle I had to overcome, and more lessons followed suit. A whole new world awaited and I had to venture forth on my own to discover the enchantments and curiosities it was guarding.