Thursday, 23 October 2014

Happy Diwali!

Today is Diwali - the Hindu festival of lights. Diwali is an ancient festival that celebrates the victory of good over bad, or light over dark. To celebrate, Indians clean and renovate their homes, decorate them in all sorts of lights (to remember that light always overcomes darkness), they also decorate with beautiful colourful designs. They celebrate by wearing new clothes and eating special sweets.

How do I know all this you ask? Well, approximately 50% of Dubai's population is Indian, so Diwali is very widely celebrated here. Many homes are decorated with lights, the supermarkets are decorated and sell special Indian sweets. This morning I attended a special assembly at the girls school where the Indian teachers wore their beautiful saris is a rainbow of rich colours. They lit tea lights (diyas) and explained to the kids about the significance of Diwali. At the end of the assembly the kids got up and danced to Bollywood music. There was a real feeling of celebration. It was wonderful to see the teachers from all nationalities wearing saris and abayas and dancing together.

Later in the class the kids will share Indian sweets and do Diwali arts and crafts. I truly love how the girls (and I) are learning so much about the richness of other cultures and getting the opportunity to share the celebrations.

At work today, Skip's office will order in an Indian banquet from everyone to share. So, Darbs and I don't miss out, I think we too will have Indian for lunch and buy some sweets to share tonight with everyone.

I know there are many Diwali celebrations around the globe, including a Festival of Lights in Federation Square in Melbourne this weekend, so I hope you get to celebrate too. If nothing else crack out the Bollywood music and have a dance.

Happy Diwali!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Eight is enough

Daydreaming in Italy. 

It's Lil's birthday today. Eight years old! How can that even be possible? And yet, I look at Lil and she is indeed eight years old. She's tall and lanky. She's got all these new teeth. Her face has changed shaped. She laughs a lot. I'm so proud of her.

Seven was a tough year for her learning a lot of life lessons, but I have a good feeling about eight. She has a good group of friends, she's well liked. She was just voted as her class representative on the student council. She loves school and being part of it all.

She still loves to sing and dance and draw. She wants to be "a famous artist, just like Aunty Shell". She tells me, "I want to paint my feelings and share them". She loves to learn about great people in history and is always giving me facts about Rosa Parks, Marie Curie and Queen Victoria.

She still loves spaghetti bolognese more than anything else, except maybe sushi.

She loves to travel and try new food (although she'll never try them at home) - giant sausages and prunes wrapped in bacon in Germany. Different pastas in Italy. Fish dishes in Slovenia. Rice and meat in Oman. She really wants a suitcase all of her own to travel with and gets excited about visiting new places – even if it's only a hour stopover! She has a long list of places she wants to visit.

She misses her family and gets nostalgic about all things Australian. She misses her Australian accent. Although she loves Dubai and loves to show people her adopted home.

She still wakes at the crack of dawn and sleeps in, well, never. No matter how late she's been up the night before. She's definitely a lark.

She's very sweet, very polite. She's very kind yet very dramatic and emotional. She loves to day dream. She can walk for miles without a whinge.

She's our Lil-lil.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Only the lonely

Living in Dubai can be lonely at times. It's such a transient place, with people coming and going all the time, that you have to be 'out' and making new friends constantly. In the two years that we've lived here,  the friends who we've had BBQs with, spent weekends camping with, shared milestones with now live in places like Dublin, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Singapore and Montreal.

It can be exhausting always trying to be 'on', always trying to find like-minded people to connect with and share milestones with. I'm not naturally a person who feels comfortable striking up conversations with strangers. Being shy and, occasionally, socially awkward doesn't make it easy. Also not going to a work place each days, means that you really have to make a big effort to connect with people. Talking to strangers, turning up at groups, smiling at that person and making small talk to find that 'connection'. When you finally do reach out and make that connection, create that friendship and share those milestones, it's likely that they'll soon be packing their bags and you have to start all over again.

That's why it can be very lonely. It's very easy for me some days to only talk to the people who live inside the walls of my home. When those conversations centre around Spiderman, Zelfs and homework, it can make it lonelier. 

While it's nice to have met wonderful people and have Facebook friends all around the world who you can 'drop' in on, it's much nicer to have those friends to chat with at school drop-off, to call when you're completely confused at Mall of the Emirates and to laugh with over the weekend.

Expat life can be incredible, so rich and rewarding. The places you go, the experiences you have and the people you meet. It's unlike anything else. As with anything there has to be a downside and for me, this is it.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Endless oil

Recently, I found myself lying in a room in Karama lit only with dim, bare globe hanging from the ceiling. I was naked except for a towel, Indian muzack of Endless Love being pumped through the vents and my body was dripping with oil. I mean dripping with so much oil that I felt (and probably looked) like a rotisserie chicken. It had been massaged into every part of my body, including my hair.

A friend treated me to a very traditional ayurvedic massage in the Indian part of town. Not one to turn down an experience that I wouldn't normally get to have in Australia, of course I said yes.

We headed to Karama and went through an old shopping centre and up a dark flight of stairs and then through a set of winding corridors. Then through another small door where I was welcomed into the small massage room. After about 45 minutes of pounding and being scalded with oil and hot herb compresses and worrying where that oil and her fingers were going to end up, the lady masseuse left the room and I was left wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

Soon she came back, interrupting my humming to Endless Love, told me to wrap myself in my towel and follow her out of the room. Around through some more winding corridors she opened a door which let out billowing clouds of steam. She pointed me inside the room and shut the door behind me. I shuffled in, unable to see a darn thing until the shape of a person became clear. I hesitantly looked at them until I realised it was my friend and burst out laughing in relief. After a few minutes in the steam, I showered and attempted to wash the copious amounts of oil from my skin and hair.

Feeling strangely relaxed and once again dressed, if not a little oily. We set off for an Indian meal, a feast of prawns and crabs and chicken and lentils washed down with tropical juices.

I'm not sure if I will be heading back in a hurry, but it's just another one of those things to tick off the list.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Can she fix it?

Not so long ago, I had to make a trip to Satwa, a lively area of Dubai filled with fabric shops, electronic shops, Indian and Pakistani restaurants. When you go there you could almost be in India or somewhere other than Dubai. I love going down there, but on this particular day I was on a mission. One of the girls had chewed (?!) through the cord on a pair of headphones and I wanted to find someone to reattach the plug. After a a short walk and a bit of guidance from another shop owner I found myself walking into a shop, filled to the roof of old TVs, stereos, ghettoblasters, old computer boards and all sorts of electronics. I watched in awe as the man behind the counter soldered and snipped and put the plug back onto the headphones in a matter of minutes.

It's funny how sometimes you never really notice parts of your own personality until someone points it out to you. Skip has always chuckled at me and my need to know how things works. If we go to a hotel, I'll need to work out the lights and how the windows open and if something isn't quite as it should be I won't stop fiddling until I work it out. The same goes with new appliances or flatpack furniture. Skip will leave them and know that I won't rest until I've got it plugged in, set up and functioning. I never thought it was particularly unique, but apparently it is.

Recently, we got a new aquarium and the pump/filter started making a strange noise, before I knew it I'd pulled the pump apart and was cleaning it out and trying to work out what was making the strange noise. I fixed it. Of course I did. Then the lid to the aquarium didn't fit properly and instead of taking it back and exchanging it like a normal person, I fiddled and played and melted and shaved until I got that sucker to fit. The pump started making the strange noise again at 2am today and I got up and started to fiddle with it until I made myself just turn the bloody thing off and go back to bed.

Another time, we bought the girls these cheap tablets, after a short while the on/off button on one of them broke. Before long, and much to Skip's horror, I had pulled the thing apart and tried to fix it. I think I may have even muttered the words: "If I had a soldering iron I could fix this properly," much to Skip's mirth. I fixed it though.

I love problem solving and seeing how things work. Like other people can't rest until a mess is cleaned up or the washing put away, I can't rest until I've worked out how something works.

As I watched this electrical repair guy in Satwa, just mesmerised as he worked, I realised that he had my ideal job. In a different time or a different life, I'd be happy as Larry sitting in my own little shop, soldering away, fixing things, solving problems. Making things that people had given up on work again.

If life had taken a few different turns, do have a secret skill (or quirk) that could have set you up in new job or way of life?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Conversations with a three-year-old

Three-year-olds are wilful, they're frustrating, but most of all they are hilarious!
I'm loving having my little three-year-old around at the moment, I never know just quite what he'll say next.

Here are some of the best from recent days:

"Mum, I wee'd in my bed. It was awesome."

"Mum, I jumped like Spiderman off the couch. It was awesome."

"Mum, you look handsome!" (arriving home after a trip to the hairdresser)

"You're eyelids are all sparkly!" he said to a mum at school. "Do you like it?" she asked. "No," he said.

"Mum, I like chocolate. I can have some chocolate?"

"Mum, I like you."

"Mum, I fell off the couch and hit my head. It was awesome!"

When asked what he'd done that day he replied: "I got a hair cut with Dad. Then Dad bought me a Kinder Joy and I got a toy turtle." All well and good, but this actually happened about 6 weeks before.

"Mum, let's get out of here." At almost every occasion. Or every time I need him to do something: "I'm getting out of here."

I put on a Hulk mask at the toy shop the other day and he told me: "Mum, that's Hulk SMASH, not Barbie."

"I hate pasta for dinner. It's stupid. I really love pasta."

"Mum, is it my birthday today? Pleeeeeeeeease, is it my birthday today?"

"Mum, can we have a Ferrari? Or a taxi?"

" I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate sand." A bad thing when you live in the desert.

"Mum, I hate swimming. Can we go for a swim? Swimming is awesome."

"Mum, I want to go on holiday," he said in the car. Me: "Do you want to go to Australia?"
Him: "Don't want to go to 'Straya. I live in Dubai. I wanna go to snow."

Eataly, Cricket, Bunnies and The Farm.

We're about to start another weekend in my part of the world, but I feel like I'm still getting over last weekend. It was a biggie, I admit, five days all up.

We swum a lot and enjoyed being out in the cooler weather (although it's still about 38 or 39 most days). 

A lot of time was spent in the water! 

We stocked up on goodies at Eataly ( an amazing Italian grocery store and restaurant in Dubai Mall, to enjoy over the weekend. Good bread, good balsamic, pesto and other yummies.

The following day, NRL grand final day, meant Aussie friends over for a BBQ to watch the game. After we'd filled ourselves with food and football, we trekked out to the Cricket Stadium to watch Australia take on Pakistan in the T20 match. Oh my goodness, was it hot. About half an hour into the game I thought I might pass out, I'd sweated so much. I renamed the stadium the cauldron of sweat and BO! We made it through the game though, Australia won much to the dismay of the thousands of chanting Pakistani supporters. 

I was amazed at how political the crowd was, they were more about supporting political powers than the cricket team. There was a lot of 'Go Nawaz, Go' being chanted and written on banners and T-Shirts (and I discovered Nawaz wasn't actually one players but the current Pakistani PM). The chanting and cheering continued long after the game finished. So that was a new experience for me and an education into Pakistani politics. I'd been reading in the news about Imran Khan and the riots that had been going in Pakistan, but I was surprised at how much it was being supported at the game. 

The sweaty stadium starts to fill. 
And we're ready for some cricket. A sprinkling of Aussie supporters in a sea of Pakistani supporters. 

C'mon Aussie!

The day after the cricket, we visited another amazing restaurant called The Farm. It's located in the desert dunes, but drive through the gates and you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in a tropical paradise. Tall shady trees, lush grass, babbling water features and ponds. The restaurant is a lovely combination of pavilions and outdoor areas. Skip and I took the girls and really loved just spending some time with them, without the three-year-old torpedo Darbs, who isn't really suited to a leisurely lunch. 

I'm not sure we're in Dubai anymore….

That night we had drinks and shisha on the beach of a resort close to our home with some friends. Feet in the sand, the scent of grape & mint flavoured tobacco in the air will always be Dubai to me. 

The last day was spent running errands, lazy breakfast and, of course, more swimming. 

Not bad, really, not bad at all. 

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