Preparing For A New Life

Getting ready to go was a long and involved process. I learned the specialized nursing skills I would need, prepared mentally and spiritually (the core of which was learning to trust God completely), and raised funds for the trip.

There were lots of tasks to do as well; I bought things, got dresses sown, packed everything I would need for the next five years, and shipped it to the place that would become my new home away from home.

Anyone who has ever packed for traveling, even for a short trip, knows how hard it can be. Imagine packing to go to a place where hardly any outsiders have visited before, and you have never traveled, and you’re going for a year or more! Looking back now, I wonder how I managed it all.

Two Big Drums and a Box

I had to buy everything I felt I needed before I left, because there were few places to buy things here at the time. I found out after I got here that there was a Jashanmal's in Dubai, where you could get dry goods, and Spinney’s was the only grocery store. Later, there was Al Nasr novelties.

Those were the main places we used to go to buy things, I mean “Western” things. But it was nothing like it is today of course. Now there are shops and stores and malls galore.

So I had to buy all my clothes and households goods, and have them all shipped.  I got a couple of 45-gallon oil drums to pack stuff in.  Then I bought an ironing board, a great big long one, and I thought ‘how am a going to ship that?’

Well, my dad made me a huge box out of plywood, and everyone teased me saying I was taking my coffin with me, but it was for the ironing board, and I packed stuff around it in that great big box.

I still have the ironing board - I don't remember where I got it, but it was a good one – it’s lasted 35 years. And I still have a five-quart pressure cooker I got back then too.  We needed it to cook the camel meat.

In the end, I had two the 45-gallon oil drums, a smaller drum and the big plywood box, all of which were sent by sea and took nine months to get here.  I shipped it all a little while before I left, and that in itself was a major undertaking: finding out what to ship and where to ship it – we didn't know anything about shipping, it was all a new experience. Thankfully, the mission gave us a shipping address and instructions on what to do.

I arrived here in Al Ain, in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (which wasn’t an emirate at the time, it was a Sheikhdom called the Trucial Oman), in the autumn, and I didn't receive the stuff I shipped until the following summer!

Reality Hits

I said my final goodbyes to everyone at home – friends and family – and had some good “chin wags” and a few good cries. But all in all I was quite brave.  I was going to where God wanted me to go, and so I felt excited about going.

I don’t remember all the details now, but I got on the plane in Regina, after having stayed overnight at our mission office in Moose Jaw - that's where I broke down and started crying. The reality hit me.  I was really leaving Canada and my family and everyone I knew.  I remember a friend massaging my back, telling me everything would be okay, and just letting me cry it out.

But once I got on the plane I was fine. The tears stopped, and I started to look forward to the next phase, all that I had prepared for and waited for throughout my training.

And you know what? I came here to Abu Dhabi, to Al Ain, and I don't remember ever feeling homesick. Not once. Not ever. This became my new home. The people here became part of my family.

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Gertrude's story