'Home is a sense of belonging'
SARAH MCKEVITTmoved to Dubai with her family two years ago, but it was a holiday experience in Thailand that made her reassess her sense of home
SOMETIMES WE are touched by unexpected events. Far from home, this can heighten your sense of vulnerability, but can also help you assess what really matters.
Two years ago, my husband, who works in the petroleum industry, was offered a posting in Dubai. It was an opportunity for him and good timing for our two girls, then aged nine and three.
We had both returned to Ireland from Britain in the mid-1990s and spent the “good years” in career jobs in oil companies. We considered ourselves lucky to have married, bought a house and started our family in Ireland while many of our contemporaries, trained as geologists, still worked abroad.
So it was with some trepidation that we left again, knowing that this time the return route could be less straightforward. We rented our house and flew to the Middle East in the summer of 2010.
Dubai was exciting, challenging and often exhausting. The large ex-pat population presented us with many new beliefs and cultures, beyond the Islamic and local Emirati traditions we had expected. Everyone had come from somewhere else, making it easier to fit in.
While dining last year in a Thai restaurant, we reminisced about our pre-children backpacking days in Bangkok 20 years ago, and resolved to revisit Thailand. It’s a relatively short journey from Dubai, and would be a good place to relax as a family.
A few months later we were in Patong on the island of Phuket. One night the streets filled with people, many barefoot, running. “Why are all those people going up the hill?” we asked. The look in the eyes of the woman who paused to answer our question will always remain. “Tsunami!” she breathed. In Thailand, it’s a word loaded with fear, following the devastating tsunami of 2004.
Quickly, we packed our car to capacity with people and drove to a clearing on a hill. People assembled, mostly tourists, as news of the tsunami alert streamed in, along with texts, phone calls and emails from across the world. A wave was expected to make landfall on Phuket at about 6pm.
From Sligo, my friend Suzanne texted updates from the US Geological Survey website. The earthquake, like the 2004 one, had occurred off Sumatra in Indonesia. But fault movement this time was strike-slip, not vertical thrust, and so was less likely to cause a large displacement of water.