It had been a long flight and I was tired but didn’t want to sleep hungry, so I hopped into the restaurant of the hotel where I was staying for a quick bite.
She caught my attention the moment she entered the restaurant where I had gone to dine with a group of friends. Our dinner was over long ago but I was still hanging around enjoying my espresso when she walked in and sat by herself. There was something strikingly different about her that made me, a shy Australian in Perth, walk towards her to strike up a conversation. “Good evening, I said, May I join you?” Her spontaneous, “Sure“, raised my spirits as I sat down opposite Maria, my future wife.
I am Maria from Bulgaria. After graduation, I had ventured out and joined Emirates Airlines as an air-hostess. At that time Emirates was a fledgling airline setting new standards in the aviation industry with its exemplary customer service and advanced aircrafts. I was selected after a tough and thorough process and even before I had logged in my first mile, I was sure that I was about to commence an adventurous life. A girl from a small town in Bulgaria, who had never left the limits of her town, was soon flying across continents and sending back post-cards that her mother framed in her living room for all to see.
I am Domenic Zaffino, Italian descent but Australian by birth. I began my career as a freelancer in Media & Broadcasting covering cricket and several other sports chiefly Tennis and Golf. I have worked behind the scenes putting together the logistics and production of sports broadcasting. At the same time, I was also running a side-business in trading of construction material. I was enjoying my work but found the travel tiring and was eager to get anchored. My job as a freelance executive would repeatedly bring me to South Asia, and though I had an option to settle down in Singapore, I chose Dubai as my base. Dubai was Maria’s base and also closer to European countries that I visited frequently for my construction material side-business.
A casual conversation with an attractive girl that began in a restaurant blossomed into a mature relationship over many layovers in Perth and my business trips to Dubai.
Our love story began in 2004 in Perth and it was only after 9 years that we tied the knot in Perth, in front of family and friends. Each time she came over we spent time together, and when I visited Dubai she took me around town. Her interest in meeting me as often as possible made her sign up for flights to Perth and as our friendship grew, she got to know me and my family better.
His family is just like my family back in Bulgaria. We are very attached to our parents and relatives and hold our family very close to our hearts. Like the Italians, we spend a lot of time with our siblings and cousins, and food is as much central in our lives’ as it is in Domenic’s family. Sofia and Perth are 20 hours apart by flight and still we share the same culture and values. Every time I visited his parents, I felt so much at ease like coming to a second home.
I love to cook, and Domenic has grown up enjoying good food. My favourite dish is Moussaka and Domenic loves Lasagne. If you look carefully, they appear almost the same except that we use potatoes and Italians pasta sheets. We do add a little cinnamon and nut-meg but both the dishes taste incredibly great. We were just like this, a little different but largely with shared values. We spent as much time together as possible and enjoyed each other’s company. I knew that we had a strong case to bind together in matrimony.
Maria is a perfectionist with an eye for the details. She is also very punctual and respectful. She has the values that I revere. I had a few girlfriends but never a serious relationship and I found myself growing closer to her because we shared similar values and could resolve differences quickly.
In 2010, almost 7 years after I first saw Maria, we were on a holiday in Bali when I popped the question. “Will you marry me?” I asked and need not have waited for an answer as she flung herself in my arms.
It took us almost 20 months to work out the logistics to get her family and mine to convene in Australia for our wedding. It was to be a big fat Italian wedding.
In 2012, we tied the knot and my mother’s dream to travel to Australia came true. In our kitchen in Bulgaria my mom has pinned a post-card from Australia sent many years ago by some cousin who visited there. My mom, since then, had a wish to travel as a tourist to Australia, but never in her wildest dreams would she have heard her daughter’s wedding bells ringing in Australia.
I continued working with Emirates after marriage and was now attending elite customers in the First Class cabin who ranged from royalty to self-made billionaires. Domenic joined as a working partner in a furniture retail shop owned by a few Australian friends and introduced an Australian franchise for repairing leather. He gave up his broadcasting work and learned altogether a new trade to build up a future here.
Dubai is a modern city with creature comforts. It also has an abundance of opportunities to earn a livelihood. It is well connected to enjoy short or long travel trips. Back home we have the family to help with kids and events, and here we have easy access to hired help. In 2008 I was selected to serve in a private airline and worked there till 2014. I quit work when I was pregnant with my first child Natalia. My second daughter Francesca came to us in 2017, and just before she was due, we felt it was time to move to a larger space.
We had lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Al Barsha and it had served us well, but now with the second child on the way we wanted to have more space and a garden for the kids to play. We bought a 3-bedroom villa in Springs and asked our partner company E-Movers to move our home. Like they do for others, our move was a No Mess No Stress affair. It took just a day for their professional team to pack, move, unpack and get our new place ready to sleep in our own bed.
In the corner of our living room in Springs is a ‘Drinks Trolley’, a silent souvenir of Maria’s career and testimony of the hard work she is today. In the foyer is a Louis XV console, a replica that reflects my taste and often makes Maria chuckle. Our two children play in the backyard while their maid fusses over them. Maria is at the stove perfecting her Moussaka, and when she sees me struggling with the drill machine to hang the painting we bought at the art auction, she says, Don’t be a stubborn monkey Domenic, call the handyman service at E-Movers.
Disclaimer: The stories are a work of fiction based on facts. Identies and details may have been altered to suit the narrative.