Attempts to Middle East

When I first got my facebook account back in 2011, I “liked” pretty much every page that I found and browsed. From time to time, I’ve forgotten about that page, but the rolling feed jumping out of what I liked before remind me of my for-once interest in them, such as from “Northwestern University in Qatar”.

Indeed, Northwestern University has a campus in Doha, Qatar, and is one of its global journalism centres, with a focus on war correspondence. Growing up, I’ve been passionate about writing (sometimes nonsense), and was aiming to undertake a pathway in journalism and eventually got my name on the coverage of all major publishings. War correspondence — it just sounded like an exotic dream. The endless desert, investigative stories, and stepping into some of the world’s most dangerous areas were all appealing to me, although I didn’t even picture how dangerous that would be. I thought about myself taking my big camera, following the soldiers on board or on truck, and snapping pictures that worth thousand words and caught rapport globally. War, was horrible, but I would be acting like a hero, helping heroes, do heroic things.

And that was my first attempt looking at moving to Middle East. In 2012, I wrote some personal statements, prepared all my clips possible as writing samples, and got everything ready to apply to the school. And then I withdrew, after figuring out that I had a deeper passion for Europe, and yeah I wasn’t sure if I were ready for uncertainty. It might not be true that I would be exposed to dangerous people in the streets of Doha, but I just didn’t know.

And I chose not to risk.

End of 2016. I broke up, encountered bottleneck at work, and was extremely unsatisfied with life at all. 3.5 years in Germany didn’t do me any blessing on navigating my life easier until I hard-cracked the language with super intensive mode for 3 months. And the winter was just too cold to handle. Believe it or no — it was a reason to leave.

An internship placement to Dubai caught my eyes when I was hunting for the next destination to move to. Dubai. Skyscrapers. Summer all year round. And “business”. That sounded intriguing. Then what else?

Yes, I no longer thought about my war correspondent dreams, but this big idea of moving to Dubai for a year sort of shocked me. The placement was with a Chinese company, and no Arabic was needed to survive in Dubai. The pay was not bad, and the weather seemed perfect, and hot. No, I didn’t drink petrol — but I knew the people were really rich. It was diverse, multi-dimensional, people clustering just like anywhere else. Most expats were there only for work and would not stay. The strong local protection makes it extremely hard for non-sponsored foreigners to stay. And the culture? Hmmm.

Dubai was a stopping over option I very frequently used when I was still living in Europe. Whenever possible, I would be stopping over at Dubai, even just for 2 hours, circling around the airport with women covered all in black, and travelers from all around the world looking at this cultural diversity just as surprised as me. Dubai seemed to be a perfect stop-over, but not a destination.

When I was thinking about making the move, I was looking for a place to settle down post-Germany. Dubai was an attempting, new, and bold idea.I thought I was open-minded enough, but failed on my feet for not thinking it through. It would have in any case be a life-changing experience, but I really wasn’t ready to take the risk.

Oh, and I actually didn’t get the offer for that placement.

I stayed for half a year in Europe in early 2019, before making the final big move to Australia. With very limited holidays in mind, I still haven’t given up hope on a trip to Istanbul in Turkey or Casablanca in Morocco.

Turkey, Morocco, one passing through Asia and Europe, and another one lays in the continent of Africa. But both have the “Middle East” type of culture, aka “Arabic” (I might understand it wrong culturally here, please correct me). This has been a blind spot through out my life, and i wasn’t making an effort enough to know more about it. Some things about a certain city, certain country, was once appealing to me. Later on, as the sparkle faded away, I dropped the enthusiasm. As to travel, at some point yes; as to move there, I choose probably to stay in a “comfort zone” — and which is ok.

Now it’s a month into locking down. I’m staying at home, looking at pictures, and thinking about how much things I still haven’t done. And things I think I will do at some point but never get to them. I like Turkish food, show empathy towards Hijab, and am holding up to see the Khalifa in real life when I have money. My attempts to go to Middle East never succeeded, but they were all real thoughts that got drained when life happened.

I was a bit afraid, and I still somehow am due to not knowing too much about the region aside from the media. There won’t be any attempts to visit or move there soon for me, but I’m putting the pieces together.

Culture is quite a fascinating thing. And travels shouldn’t stop. And dreams shall shine on.

28.04.2020 @sydney



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Yingzhao Zhu

Yingzhao Zhu

Early Years Teacher | Freelance Bilingual Marketer.