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Sara Al Mheiri: Split in two
July 04, 2014
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I can barely breathe yet I have to keep pushing forward. I can just about hear the incessant chatter of tweens who are sort of patiently waiting for me. God, this is so embarrassing. When did I become so old? These rocks are just getting steeper and smaller. If I fall, how many rocks would I hit before I got knocked out? Someone is calling my name, I slowly look up with the sweat dripping down my face. It’s a hand. I grab onto it and it pulls me up with one motion. Less than a second later I am standing up, taking a long deep breath and gazing upon the beauty underneath me. All around me are thick, luscious trees that go beyond the mountains and cracked in between them is a tiny winding road. You can just about make out the little truck driving along, cranking up the country music. Where am I?

Just two days ago, I was driving along Sheikh Zayed Road, cursing out the traffic and reckless drivers. It was burning hot to the point where I would need sunscreen just to walk from my car to the front door. Well for everyone else. I live in Boston, a place where you only get the most minute ray of sunshine that lasts for half a millisecond throughout the entire year. So coming back to Dubai, I look like a walking ghost which is why I milk every ray I can soak up. I digress.

The main point is it was the same temperature as the sun. And instead of complaining about the trek up a mountain, I was moaning about the distance from TopShop to the cinema at Dubai Mall. I mean, you could host a marathon and a half in one section of the mall alone. Yet here I am, only a mere two days later trekking up this ginormous mountain with my American college friends. It was as though I hadn’t spent the past two months in Dubai.

Yet, I did and for the past couple of days, I felt like I was in the weirdest dream ever. Especially when I was unpacking and sand poured out of my shoes. My old life was intruding on my new one. My mother tongue (Arabic) had gotten stronger after being restrained for so long in America and now refused to go back. It took me a couple of hours to tame her before I could utter a complete sentence without an Arabic word or accent slipping in. I had to hold back the custom of kissing everyone on the cheeks as a way of greeting, especially when it came to their grandparents.

I couldn’t kiss them on their head, it’s okay in Dubai but not here. I will just be labelled as the weirdo who can’t come back to their friend’s house. So I held back my puckered lips and politely greeted them with a handshake instead. When I left my apartment, I had to get used to the fact that I no longer had my own car but had to wait patiently for the next bus or subway to come by.

I didn’t realise two months away would make such a prominent difference in my life, especially after living in the US for two years and coming back to Dubai for the holidays. But it did. Although, I used to have two separate lives, it was as though I was schizophrenic yet I had complete control. But now, Sara and (Sara) have now merged into one and it has given me an entirely new perspective on life. My life has been turned upside down and I am glad it did. Whoever disagrees with sending your kids abroad, you need to open your mind and realise the potential that they could have.

I am no longer just the local, or the Arab with the British accent. But instead, I’m the Arab, Indian, Hispanic, British, American girl. No one can tell where I am from due to not my facial features but the way I act and dress. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of my country but at the same time, I love how I have the ability to slip in and out of every group with such ease.

Greek myth said that the human is split in two and you spend your entire life searching for the other half of you. Your soulmate. So maybe I already found mine.... Just kidding, I still want to have a boyfriend but now he’ll be dating one girl instead of two. 



Sara Al Mheiri is a young Emirati woman who is currently living in Boston, USA, where she is specialising in media studies with a focus on women's studies. Sara is the ultimate nomad who flits between countries observing new societies and their culture.

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