I realized that I just celebrated my 11 years of being in UAE this month and I can’t help but to reminisce.

On a visit visa - 11 years ago

I came in April 2005 on a visit visa but that’s without going through stress before even leaving our beloved Philippines. I, together with some friends, were supposed to fly out in March but we were offloaded not by immigration officers but some kind of task force at the airport. It’s a very long story that involves asking help from radio station and going to police camp just to retrieve back our passports. That experience made me re-think of pursuing my dream of working here. It was traumatic and if I had a choice, I really don’t want to try again. But my mom that time, although supportive, was voicing her concern of all the expenses that we incurred and will be wasted. And being the eldest, I don’t know about the other panganays out there, I always feel the obligation to please and follow my parents and I really don’t want to disappoint them.

So on April 27, 2005, more than a month after my initial try, I finally able to pass through that task force and Philippine immigration and landed in Dubai safe and sound. I’ll share with you some anecdotes and experiences that I remember when I was still on a visit visa and very new in Dubai:

  • My first impression: I took a Cathay Pacific flight and had a 2-hour stop over in Hong Kong. It’s my first time to ride a plane so to say that I was excited was an understatement. I landed at night and was seated on a window seat and my first impression of the city was how bright the city lights were even from high up above.

Photo credit to the owner. It was less bright in 2005 but beautiful nonetheless.On a visit visa - 11 years ago

  • Me and my friends initially stayed in a villa in Satwa and was a bed spacer. I came from a big family so living with others is not really an issue. I remember only paying 500 dhs for rent and some extra for DEWA. We contribute 150 dhs (if I remember it right) for food.
  • We would go to nearby computer shop to apply online. There’s no wifi in our villa that time unlike nowadays that even if you’re a bed spacer, your apartment will surely have wifi.
  • And my friend, who was already working here before we came, would print my resumes that saves me money.
  • Aside from applying online, we also experienced doing walk-ins. I don’t even know if non-Filipinos would understand ‘walk-in’. To explain simply, that’s the process of going in and out of office buildings, submitting CVs to those companies willing to accept it. I remember walking along Sheikh Zayed road doing this walk-ins applications.
  • Thankfully, I found a job as a receptionist in a catering company after two weeks since I came (note that I started job hunting from Day 1). It is really something to be thankful for since I can’t imagine doing walk-in applications in summer.
  •  Since I was on a tight budget, we never really ate out. Not even fast food. I remember one time when me and a friend peeked inside a KFC restaurant and realized that their meal is only 10 dhs which we can afford actually. Haha!
  • And I was so amazed that when you order a Mcdo cheese burger meal, it comes with two sandwiches and their large soda was really large. So we will end up sharing this 12dhs-meal between ourselves. Sobrang tipid!
  • I always take bus no. 23 and fare was 1.20 dhs one-way. There was no NOL card then. You will give coins to the driver and he will give you a ticket. Definitely no metro yet.
  • 2005 was the year Mall of the Emirates opened. I remember getting awed by the thought it has ski inside.On a visit visa - 11 years ago
  • There was no JBR yet, no Dubai mall. Etisalat building in Trade Centre area was still on construction.
  • I think it was December when I first experienced Ramadan and I was so scared that I will unconsciously chew gum and being caught by police so I stopped bringing candies and gums in my bag to be sure.
  • And although mobile cameras are only 2mb and has limited storage capacity, it was filled with hundred of pictures of mundane places and things. The nice car parked on the side of the road, the beautiful mosque you saw while doing walk-in applications, the stairs of Madinat Jumeirah, posing in front of posh stores in Dubai.

Those were the days. From being a visit visa holder, I was able to find a job, moved to another position, got married, then changed company, and life has been steadily good since then. When someone asks how long do we intend to stay in Dubai, I now say I don’t know. Maybe another 11 years. It was totally different when I first came when I would say I’ll be in this country for 3-5 years and then move elsewhere. Ha! You really won’t know where life leads you. And I am very vocal how thankful I am to be in this country and getting all opportunities and privileges I don’t think we will get in other countries.

Sure, time will come that we will need to leave but until it happens, let’s try to focus on positive things that Dubai and UAE in general provided us. It’s very easy to complain but let’s practice gratitude. Let’s just enjoy being here. And to all visit visa holders now, welcome to Dubai and UAE!

Have you experienced being a visit visa holder in Dubai? What were your experiences?

Enjoy the weekend guys!

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