Knightdale, NC native, Janae J, has spent the last 11 months living and working in Abu Dhabi as a first grade teacher. As someone who would spend hours watching National Geographic and Anthony Bourdain, she knew that living abroad would one day be in the cards.

When she set out on her search for teaching jobs abroad, she found that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offered two things that were important on her list— a higher salary than her current NC teaching salary and free housing.

“I completely believe in the power of manifestations now that I’m
living a dream I spoke of seven years prior,” Janae told Travel Noire.

Courtesy of Janae J

According to Janae, there are two million expats living in the UAE. While she hasn’t experienced too many instances of prejudice or racism, she does admit that some places in Dubai turn people away if they have darker skin.

“My passport is American therefore the respect and service I get is a lot better than other nationalists such as India, Nigeria, or the Philippines. Unfortunately, it isn’t the same in Dubai. A lot of clubs and restaurants are known for turning away people with darker skin complexions.”

This summer Janae had hopes of traveling back home to see her family during the school break. Unfortunately, the global pandemic prevented this.

“I had every intention of coming home in July,” Janae said. “Every week it
seems like the country is changing policies and requirements with testing. The UAE is a fairly new country that is continuously figuring things out. I personally didn’t want to risk the chance of not being able to come back because of the USA’s high-risk levels. I also have older parents and I definitely do not want to put them at risk. They both urged me to be safe and stay in the UAE.”

She describes the UAE’s lockdown as strict. The entire country shut down just after spring break. Residents were placed on an 8 pm – 6 am curfew, and the government would fine anyone found to be breaking the curfew.

Janae spent the first of three months only going out to exercise. Everything else that she needed, including groceries, she had delivered to her gate. Initially, she enjoyed the isolation, but after three months she started to miss her interactions with other people.

“Finally at the end of month three Dubai began opening up however, Abu Dhabi was not trying to hear any of it. Abu Dhabi shut its borders to Dubai. The shutdown was only supposed to last a week. It turned into thirty-two days.”

The time did allow her to finish her first poetry book that she will release in mid-October.

Courtesy of Janae J

The borders have since opened and many businesses are welcoming customers as long as they submit to temperature checks when entering and wear a mask.

“Since I’ll be spending my summer in the desert, I plan to take advantage of staycations. The country has breathtaking hotels and beaches at reasonable prices. I miss my family and friends a lot. Hopefully, virtual zoom parties will suffice for the moment.”

Overall, Janae feels safe in Abi Dhabi and looks forward to finishing out her 3-year contract. She is enjoying the ride and says that once COVID packs its bags, she plans to head to Tanzania for vacay.

To catch more of Janae’s journey in the UAE, you can follow her on Instagram: @luvjanaej.

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