I looked out the window of our very small hotel room. I’ve never really noticed the size of our room until I had to skip over our luggage on the floor and move some chairs aside to get to the windows. The city of Athens was just starting its night, 9:30pm is still considered quite early for the Greeks. The cafe across our building was full of people – some were drinking coffee while some were having their pre-dinner glass of beer. We were going to meet a friend for dinner at 10pm but I couldn’t pass up the chance to look over the crumbling city whose grandeur in Ancient times was lost and forgotten before heading out. While the crisis they’re in is not evidently visible, I know that this place isn’t as rich as the country that I’m currently residing in. So I asked myself, why was I feeling an inexplicable joy now that I’m in Greece?
Is it the euphoria that everyone gets when they’re on a holiday? Is it because I know that I was going to be there only for a short time? I’ve stared out the window long enough that my cellphone started its alarm. I scheduled an alarm at 9:45pm to remind me that we need to get moving if we want to be on time to meet a fellow blogger.
As I walked out the hotel lobby, I saw The Greek Mister drinking his first beer after being alcohol-free for 2 weeks. Alcohol’s been banned from where we came from and I wondered why is it that we crave for something even more when it’s not accessible and when it is, we don’t really crave for it that much? The human mind is a mysterious thing.
I walked towards him, kissed him on the cheeks and gave him a big bear hug. I was fully aware that it was the first time after 8 months that I was able to do this in public. We’re not offending anyone and we’re not breaking the law – we didn’t have to worry about any of those now that we’re in Greece.
We walked towards the restaurant with his arms over my shoulders. A simple gesture and yet, it felt like such a big deal for me at the time because once again, we’re unable to do this from where we came from. I saw people drinking and eating all around us and wondered if it’s already the acceptable time to eat and drink from the city which I flew out of 5 hours ago.
“How long has it been?” I wondered. Why do I feel like a bird caged in for so long and was given a chance to fly out of it for the very first time? It’s been 8 months since I last had a vacation but it felt longer than it actually is. I’ve been counting the days for about a month for this holiday to come and of course, days dragged by so slowly. Now that I’m finally on a holiday, I wanted the world to stop turning even for just a second if that meant having a longer time of being here. Of being free.
It’s not the fault of the place that we’re living in, there’s nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, there is something wrong with us. It’s not like we’re being kept there out of our will, it is us who chose to be there so we just have to suck it up I guess. We’re merely guests of that place and as guests, we have to follow their lifestyle, their rules.
I can’t help but wonder though, if the only thing that makes me happy in that place is the fact that everyday that I wake up I’m one day closer to my next holiday, is it really worth it? Am I really enjoying my life there when all I could think about is when’s the next time I’m flying out? Is it normal? Or am I just plainly unhappy?
I totally understand how you feel. I also came from uae before coming here in Q. There are alot of times that I feel unhappy and wondering if its worth being here. We have several and different reason why we’ve decided to stay, it maybe because of our partner, to help the family back home, for work experience etc. It doesn’t really take that much to feel what you feel and that is absolutely normal. However, in the meantime, what we can do is to keep positive. Learn new hobbies; sport maybe or cooking lessons. Surround yourself with friends, constant communication with family and bonding time with Mr.
Whatever you feel like doing, I hope that you may find the happiness you are missing.
That’s what I’ve been doing, keeping myself busy and seeing the positive in the situation but I guess I should try even harder. 🙂
Thank you for dropping by, I feel relieved that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Always look at the bright side of life, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years and I think I should just continue doing it. :p Thank you!. 🙂
As a former expat, I can recall experiencing some of what you’re feeling. The “honeymoon” of living in a new country is over when we begin to see the things that we don’t like and when they begin to irritate us. It’s a part of adapting to a new home. The next part is acceptance and getting used to it.
When you’ve been raised as a Christian in a Western culture, living in an overwhelmingly different environment is a huge challenge. In the Middle East, all your senses are being constantly bombarded with Muslim culture. Adapting to that long-term is exhausting and stressful. Now you are back in your own Western environment, experiencing a break from that stress. No wonder you feel as you do.
I think cultures are like personalities: You feel more comfortable around some than others. Just as with people, some cultures are easier to deal with than others. You feel more comfortable around people you share things in common with, and so it is with countries, I think. It seems like you have to hang around a person who you don’t have much in common with, 24/7. If you ARE unhappy, who can blame you?
Just my two cents.
Linda, you’ve just explained exactly what I’m feeling these days! I couldn’t have said it better. I’ve always kept an open mind and have always seen the good in everything that I encounter. However at some point, it will get to you and you won’t be able to hide what you’re feeling anymore. It’s slowly creeping up on me. Oh well, I’ll just take it one day at a time and hopefully be able to find a solution about it. 🙂
Thank you Linda, having someone understand you is much more important than having a solution to the problem. Somehow, I’m relieved to know that someone out there understands what I’m feeling. 🙂
I think every city has its own pros and cons … just that we only look at the pros when on holiday! 🙂 Have a fantastic time …
I do think so too. It’s always a different perspective if you a certain place as a tourist and as a local. 🙂
It’s surprising to learn that you feel like a guest in Doha. Does it not feel like home yet?
I can imagine how restrictive living in the Middle East can be and how these little normal things that we do instinctively becomes a luxury when you live there. Sentiments are well appreciated.
Somehow, no it doesn’t feel like home to me and I think I have only myself to blame for that as I kept comparing it to Dubai which has been my home for 7 years before coming here. :-/
I feel that way too living in Dallas. Although there are no restrictions like it is in Q, I just feel so stuck and caged. Perhaps we feel that way about where we live, thinking the other side is always greener.
That’s absolutely right, grass is always greener at the other side of the fence. There’s always something bad everywhere and it’s upto us to see the good side of it. Why do you feel this stuck and caged in Dallas?
I don’t like the weather here and in the summer, you are pretty much stuck indoors because of the heat. I also wish the mountains were accessible but the terrain is way too flat.
Yaiks! So the weather’s exactly like Doha then. I don’t go out that much as well here.
Hang in there, and enjoy your holiday as much as you can, don’t let ‘reality’ and your life back ‘home’ affect this trip! On the other hand, I guess it’s worth having a thought – if you and your Mr. are truly unhappy at where you guys are right now, maybe it is time to… come back here! 🙂 🙂 Then I’ll finally get to meet you 🙂 🙂 🙂
HAHAHAHA! That’s a great thought! I wish we could go back. Trust me, I really do wish for it to happen. 🙂
I got through that trail of thoughts every single day. But then I look back at the people who live back home, and I’m thankful that the position I’m in here allows me to live the lifestyle that they can’t afford to even think about. We are expats, and that situation is never permanent. So just think about it that way. It’s not supposed to be an eternal home. Having something to look forward and being able to actually do it is worth the occasional (too recurring) sad thoughts. Cheer up N. and enjoy your vacation for now 🙂
Thank you Rou’a, I’m somehow relieved that I’m not the only one who feels this way and you’re right, we’re expats and the situation is never permanent. I’ll just continue on seeing the bright side of life. :p
A very well written essay. I don’t know what to say since I don’t know what it is like to live where you are now… but you are doing great. There will be ups and downs wherever we live, right? Your experiences make you stronger. They are meant to be.
That is absolutely true! There is no perfect place, each has its own pros and cons. That’s another thing that I keep in my mind whenever I feel this way.