“You’ll know when it’s time to leave.”
Last August 2021, my career as an English lecturer at a state university in Oman officially ended. It also closed a chapter of my life as an OFW for 11 years. Three years in Libya and eight years in Oman.
GRATEFUL. That’s the word that best describes how I feel about my overseas career. My job as an OFW enabled me to turn my life around, financially speaking. Just before I left for Libya, I was broke. Miserably broke. There was a stretch of about seven months when I had to work seven days a week. I was teaching in two different colleges during weekdays, and I was conducting IELTS review on Saturdays and Sundays. I was exhausted all the time, yet the money was never enough. When I became an OFW, I recovered. No, I did not get rich. But I was able to pay my debts and reclaim my dignity. Yes, I will say it. There is NO dignity and peace of mind in an empty pocket.
GRATEFUL. I grew professionally as an educator. New teaching-learning set ups. New curricula. New culture, tradition and beliefs. Adjustment was hard, no doubt about that. But it was an immense learning experience for me. That period of 11 years teaching English to Arab Muslims was a period of experimenting with new techniques, and resetting my mind about how teaching should be done. I could not cling to previous methods and principles which were not applicable to the new educational setting. Anyway, I tried to deliver the goods to the best of my ability. Of course, I had my shortcomings—but I did my best in and out of the classroom. I did my best, whether it was peace time or war time.
GRATEFUL. My interaction with people from different countries confirmed what I have always believed about human nature. Kindness does not belong to just one race or religion. Omanis, Libyans, Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Iranians, Yemenis, Japanese, Americans, British, Canadians, South Africans, Filipinos. I was shown kindness by people from these countries. Muslims, Catholics, INCs, born-again Christians, Mormons, Protestants, atheists and heretics. I received kindness from all of them. Yes, including the last two. I am grateful for all the gentle words, even if I didn’t understand some of them. I am grateful for every act of kindness: giving me a lift home, fixing my computer, offering me a cup of Karak tea, delivering authentic shawarma to my door step, and so many things.
Working as an OFW was a rough road that I had to tread for 11 years. There were tradeoffs, but that’s part of the deal. Overall, it was a rewarding experience. Maraming salamat.