Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Preparing for reverse culture shock

A great place to park the car. 

After 2 years in Dubai, there are so many 'Dubai' things that are just normal now, that I rarely even think about.

We're heading home for a holiday in a couple of months and they'll be all these things that I'm suddenly reminded of again. It's likely I'll have reverse culture shock and things that will seem different. Such as:

* A big empty block of land (sand) is not a carpark.

* Bottle shops. I haven't been inside a bottle shop since I was last in Australia almost a year and a half ago.

* Having to get out of my car to put petrol in it.

* Having to park my own car when I go out for dinner.

* The speed limit will be actually what the signs says instead of 20km more.

* When you meet someone new asking  "what do you do?" instead of"where are you from?" or "how long have you been here?"

* When you go out it's not all you can eat and drink.

* Having to pay $3 for a bottle of water instead of 25c.

* Talking to someone on the phone and they'll understand me.

* Going into a shop and being called "love" instead of "madam"

* Asking how to get somewhere and getting an address instead of "Well you drive past the Address hotel and turn right at the Carrefour and you'll see a ramp, go past the ramp and you'll see two glass doors and a big pot plant, park in the righthand car park and then call me and I'll come and get you."

* Having to use indicators. Shamefully my use of indicators has dropped off, just like everyone else in Dubai.

* I'll have to remember how to reverse park. Something I rarely do these days.

* Re-learning my own language - being able to say "tomato sauce", "thongs" and "How's it going?" without receiving strange looks.

* Not receiving cheery "hellos" wherever I go.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The consequence of being on high alert

Over the weekend I read comments on social media and news sites, I felt disappointed and sick.

"You can't help but hate them all", "why don't they just go back to where they came from?", "thank god none of them live near me"

The anger and frustration that rises up in me when I read that kind of garbage is almost overwhelming. I feel so relieved and blessed that we're living where we are at the moment. I'm glad that my kids have friends of all colours and religions. That they get to understand that people are just people, no matter what god they pray to or what holidays they celebrate. That just because their friend's mother may wear a scarf over her hair or an abaya over her clothes doesn't mean they can't play together or that they should be afraid of each other. They're friends, they look after each other, they make each other laugh, they care for each other. People are people. We don't need to be scared of each other.

Tomorrow I will have coffee with other mums from our school, there will be Christian, Muslim and Hindi mums. All chattering about their kids. Supporting each other, sharing their concerns and helping each other out. There will be a lot of laughter. There will be more similarities than differences.

There are monsters everywhere, one culture or religion doesn't have ownership on that. One group, such as ISIS, doesn't represent a whole religion. Hate and fear can bread fast. Make sure that hate isn't bred in you. If you don't understand something or feel fearful or threatened by it, don't hide behind it, go and seek it out and try to understand it. Stop reacting. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. What does it feel like to be them? They probably want the same things in life that you do.

I could write pages on my politics and my concerns about my country going to war, yet again, to vanquish yet another evil. But I won't. I just hope that you, the individual thinks about these things and, most importanly, reads about them. And don't read about them in the Murdoch media, but search out people who know about this stuff, have lived in the region and know the region. Get different views and ideas from what this leader or that leader is telling you. Come up with your own feelings and thoughts.

The most sane thing I've heard a MP say in the past few days has come from Malcolm Turnbull:

"What do the terrorists want us to do? They want to get the community to demonise the whole Australian Muslim community. Those people who want to attack Muslims in general, attack Islam in general, are doing the terrorists' work. Because the strategy of the terrorists is to enrage the broader community [to attack Muslims] which will cause the Muslims to join the extremists . . . We must recognise that the vast bulk of Muslims here are good, patriotic Australians, and we must get our arms around them, because they are our best allies in the fight against extremism."

Monday, 1 September 2014

Summer marathon

Last minute school holiday fun of glow in the dark mini golf. 

Slowly the car park at Spinneys (the local supermarket) has been filling up again. Gone are the days when I could take my pick of a spot. The queues are returning at the check out. The malls too seem a little fuller. There are a few more people in the food courts and the play centres. You can hear: "How was your summer?" being asked around the place. People are returning to Dubai, getting ready to start another year. 

New school uniforms hang crisp and white in the cupboard. Fresh pencil cases with new pencils, sharpeners and rubbers lie in clean new back packs. Fees have been paid. 

After weeks of feeling the like the lone family in our desert city, familiar numbers are popping up on my phone. Messages requesting playdates and catch ups. Stories exchanged and "Boy, isn't it hot?" shared. 

Two more sleeps until the 6am rush begins. Rushed breakfasts, getting dressed and out the door by 7.10am. Two more sleeps until the bell rings, the anthem is sung and another school year begins. 

There are been tears and nervous tummies aplenty this week, along with excitement. Eleven weeks is a long time between school days. 

There has been intense boredom and frustration here this summer. There have been fights and aggravation. There has been talking back and attitude. There has also been a lot of fun and a lot of closeness. Door slamming and yelling has been booked ended with cuddles and whispers of ''I love you".

I feel nervous for the girls and they are thrown into another year. Meeting new teachers and classmates. Their school has swelled to almost 2000 students, so they are very little fish in a very big pond. 

The next two days will a be a mix of getting ready, having some last minute fun and sighing relief.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


Three years old, Darbs! So fast, yet so much has happened in those three years. It's strange to think that he's spent the vast majority of his life in the Middle East, in the northern hemisphere, a long way from Australia. He's celebrated ever one of his three birthdays in Dubai.

This day three years ago was so strange. Things were happening all around and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. I remember this very morning three years ago, talking to a doctor and saying "Are you really thinking of delivering the baby today?" and him saying "Of course. That's what needs to be done. It's already begun."

Even as I was being wheeled into the theatre, I remember thinking "Goodness, is all this really necessary. It all feels a little too dramatic."

I remember lying in recovery. Alone. Asking if I could go and see my new son and the nurse chuckling, "Goodness, no."

The following few weeks were surreal and strange and unlike what having a new baby was "supposed to be".

At the time I didn't realise it, but I think I was actually quite traumatised by it all. For a long time after, each night I would I lie in bed and I would relive every moment of those few weeks in my head. I guess trying to process it all.

Now, Darbs is the funniest little guy. Not one to cause a fuss. When people hear he was premature and in NICU they are surprised. He's sturdy and big, not fragile and small. I used to wonder if his dramatic start to life would impact him, but I really don't think it has at all. I think even as he gets older and hears about it, he'll be surprised.

He's the most delightful boy. He loves Spiderman and the Hulk and cars and diggers and Super Heroes. He's a boy's boy, despite being surrounded by pink and girls since he was born. He has an incredible imagination and is quite the comedian. We're all so lucky to have him here with us.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Trivial moments

One of my accomplishments as a school student was winning the game 'Current Affairs' on a fairly regular basis. Everyone in the class would stand up and pairs of kids would be asked a question the person who didn't answer correctly would have to sit. This would continue until one kid was left standing.

I always did OK at school but I wasn't one to excel. I never got top-of-the-class certificates or sporting awards or anything like that, so Current Affairs was my lone claim to success. To this day I love reading about the world - any type of news or information, fluff or hard hitting. A master of nothing, but know a little about everything. I love to speak to new people from all walks of life and I love to soak up that information. I'm the kind of person you want on your Trivial Pursuit team or at your Quiz Night. My brain could never remember the multiplication table, but I can remember that Agatha Christie's Ms Marple lived in St Mary's Mead. I never quite got long division, but I remember that the largest lake in the world is the Caspian Sea (the winning answer in a heated year 6 game of Current Affairs). A head full of fairly useless knowledge.

I look at Lil now and she's very similar to me in that way. She likes to watch videos on the internet about famous people - she's always telling me about civil rights activists and suffragettes and inventors. She's always asking me to turn the news up when it comes on on the radio and then she always has a million questions about it ("ceasefire? how on earth can there be a fire on the sea?"). She tries to look at the newspaper, but with the often confronting coverage we receive here I try to keep it away. What a privilege that is, there are so many parents who don't have that luxury - their kids see first hand the barbaric and the brutal. When she hears that there's protests in Pakistan, she wonders if her friend Anaya who's visiting relatives saw anything or if there's riots in Brazil she hopes her mate Fillipe is OK. The amazing thing about going to an International school and having friends from everywhere means she can take news and give it an anchor point.

Living in the Middle East at present, we really are the centre of world affairs and I find myself reading anything I can to try and understand what's going on in all corners of the region and why. I find it fascinating. Thankfully we live in an age of the internet where you can get all sorts of information at your fingertips.

I remember 20 years (and more) ago we used to laugh at the US news, it was so centred on themselves and celebrity - they lived in their own little bubble and didn't look past their own shores too often. Sadly, I think Australian news has gone down this path too. This week with so much going on everywhere in the world the biggest news stories seemed to be Sonia Kruger getting pregnant and Lara Bingle getting her boobs out in Hawaii. Thankfully, there's the internet so you can get information - if you want it.

My best sources come from Twitter. Find a good batch of writers around the globe and follow their lead. Many foreign correspondents have Twitter accounts and I find great links to news stories that way. Things that might not ordinarily pop up on your radar.

I suspect I'll always be a collector of random facts.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Two years...

This week marks two years of living in Dubai. Wow. It's gone really fast, but so much has happened and changed in that time. The kids have grown up and Dubai has become home.

I re-read my first post upon our arrival and it made me chuckle. So wide-eyed and naive.

It's funny as much as Dubai has become home and I feel comfortable here, there's still so much I'm still learning about this place and still so much that's new, wonderful and interesting. I get frustrated at parts of it, but at the same time I am still amazed by other parts.

Who knows how long we'll live in our adopted home, but here we are!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

On my mind

Things on my mind today:

Well, I'd probably living in a hole if I wasn't thinking about Robin Williams. I've always liked Robin Williams, Dead Poet's Society and Good Morning Vietnam are two of my all-time favourite movies. He's done some shocker movies over the years too (remember Flubber or Toys??), but overall he's always been there safely on the screen as far as I can remember. I loved Mork & Mindy as early as I can remember (I had two older brothers, so I watched what they watched) and I'm fairly certain that Popeye was the first movie I ever saw at the movies. It's strange to think that's it. Of course, I never knew him and it won't affect my everyday life, but it's strange when it's someone who's been a part of your culture.


I took the girls to see Barbie and the Secret Door at the movies today. I have to say I don't get the Barbie franchise movies - it's a fictional character playing another fictional character? Because the character of Barbie isn't actually in the movie, there's someone who looks like Barbie who's a princess (of course) living in a castle who offers riding lessons to all the children of her kingdom (of course) who modernises the court by doing some bad moves to a bad pop song (which I  now can't get out of my head). When I ask Lil about all this she just roll her eyes at me. I obviously know nothing.
Goosey did declare it the best movie she's ever seen, so obviously they know their market!


Even though it was Barbie and the Secret Door, there's something exciting about being in a cinema. As the lights go down and the previews begin, that feeling that you're about to get swept up in a story, I just love it. For whatever reason, it gives me goosebumps.


Today I asked Lil what she'd like for her birthday. Her reply? "I'd like two new suitcases, just for me, that I can take when I travel."

We've created a beast!


The other day, Darbs looked at a photo of me wearing, what I thought was, an elegant red silk dress and asked me: "Why are you dressed up like Lightning McQueen, Mum?"

Why indeed.


If you've never seen Dead Poet's Society, I urge you to go out and watch it now. It's brilliant.

Vale, Mr Williams.

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