Postcard from... Dubai


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The Independent Online


The young woman serving  coffee says she is from the Philippines. More specifically from the island of Leyte.

“It’s a wonderful place,” she explains, “but there are so many storms and typhoons.”

Just last month a huge storm destroyed her family home. Her family was unhurt, she eventually learned, but for an entire week she had no way to make contact with them and did not know if they were alive or dead.

The mind flashes back.  A month earlier, in the aftermath of the massive Typhoon Haiyan, standing outside a partly destroyed church on Samar – the island next to Leyte – a woman called Rosemary Bernando Aristoso had revealed to a reporter that two of her daughters, both working in the Gulf, had been trying to get through for days.

The lines had been down and it had been almost a week before they could get a message to them that everyone had survived.

Eventually her brother had gone to the largely undamaged town of Cebu and called them from there.

There are more than two million people from the Philippines working overseas. Huge numbers are in the Gulf.

The young woman serving  the coffee says she has been in Dubai a year. After another 12 months, as part of her contract, she will be given a ticket to fly home and visit her relatives.

“I like it here,” she says, watching the countless travellers pouring through the airport and hopping on to a plane as easily as a bird takes flight.

“But I do miss my family.”