The myth that expatriate existence in the UAE is like being in a transit lounge gets exploded when you finally decide to go home. The experience is both emotionally harrowing and gratifying. Transitory is the adjective that has for long defined expatriate life in the UAE, and by extension, the Middle East. Ever since oil was struck in the region and foreign workforce came here in droves, expatriates have been telling themselves that the move isnt permanent. Many of their children have now got jobs here or got married or both and set up homes. The first batch came here to lead a 'suitcase existence till their contracts ran out. Every dirham spent was mentally converted into the currency of their home country. Decades later, though currency conversion may no longer be second nature, that they will have to leave one day is a constant thought - even an aspiration. It was this thought that prompted me to pack up and leave. When Dubai got a distinction of sorts of having the worlds largest number of cranes and it became a city forever in the process of being built, the longing for greener and cooler climes grew stronger. Travelling four hours a day from Sharjah to Dubai and back made taking a break seemed an exciting possibility. Its time we set up a base back homeGod knows when we may have to leave became the mantra that buzzed in my mind. And when the mind is making secret plans to quit, the body gets the hint and begins to spring aches and pains to nudge the mind to take the final plunge. And once the mind was made up, the letter of resignation seemed the most wonderful thing Id ever written. It even had shock value. The bewildered Why? from colleagues in itself was worth quitting the job for. No one quits during recession was a good myth to explode. Once the resignation was given, all I had to do was wind up and leave. After all, I had come here with only a couple of suitcases. But 23 years later, the contents of the suitcases had multiplied and spread all over the place. Without my knowledge, the ephemeral existence in the Gulf had taken long and deep roots - both emotional and material. First thing was to make an endless 'to do lists: cancel the tenancy contract, the phone connection and credit cards. Close bank accounts. Inform the water and electricity agency. Shop around for cargo companies. Call friends and contacts to say goodbye. The last one was the most difficult: No, I havent been sacked. Yes, Ive quit. No I dont care about the six-month ban. Yes, I want to take a break. No, Im not looking for another job here.... Then came the daunting task of weeding out the unwanted to take only the relevant. There were piles of paper enough to bury me alive - old bills, letters and greeting cards, warranty cards and user manuals of gadgets that had long been replaced, newspaper clippings from the pre-Google era.... I had to plough through them to retain birth and degree certificates, my daughters first alphabet book, her first drawing... Yes, they had all happened here. And why had I bought so much of crockery and cutlery? What were dozens of table napkins doing at the back of the kitchen cabinet, when I dont have friends snooty enough to warrant their use? And why had I collected so many plastic bags and cartons over the years? Oh, it was to take back home when I left. And when it was, indeed, time to leave, they were too dust-laden to be used. Then began the shopping spree - buying new sheets, comforters, microwave oven, despite warnings from cousins: Dont bring anything. You get everything here. Finally, when everything was sorted out and the cargo people packed over two decades of my life in the UAE into cartons, I felt physically and emotionally drained. Several nostalgic trips back and forth in time had taken their toll. But they had made me laugh and cry at the same time. As I sat in the airport lounge, I shuddered and smiled at the prospect of rewinding the entire process - opening the cartons and setting up a new home and growing new roots in my own country. Khaleej Times