Monday, 10 November 2014

Cranky pants

Why is it that some mornings you can just wake up in a bad mood. Everything and anything annoys you. Things that would normally make you giggle make you seethe. 

I'm was like that yesterday and nothing seemed to be able to shake me from my mood. 

I'm usually a pretty laid-back, optimistic person. I'm a lot less moody than
I once was. Still, there are days when the gloom and doom descends. 

I've talked to Aussies who have lived in the UK or certain parts of Europe and say the constant greyness gets to them. That they feel down and crave the sunshine and blue skies.

I'm having the reverse. Since we went to Europe in July, I haven't seen a drop of rain. Or even a dark cloud. Or really even a cloud for more than five minutes. Blue skies, sunshine. Blue skies, sunshine. Rinse and repeat. The temperature has dropped dramatically and I'm walking around feeling chilly in 28 degree weather and wanting to put on a cardi, but it's still blue skies and sunshine. 

I'm longing for a rainy Saturday afternoon. The type where it pours and pours and you can curl up with a book while the kids watch a movie. Put something in the oven low and slow. 

This black mood will pass, but it makes me realise that you need the rainy days to appreciate the sunshine. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Continental confusion

It's funny when you've grown up in a place, just the hint of cool in the breeze, the scent of jasmine in the air or a certain shade of the sky can tell you exactly what time of the year it is. The heaviness of humidity is always February, cool breezes and bright blue skies mean it's April, salty warm air means December. Straight away my internal compass is set.

In Dubai, I seem to spend a good amount of my time confused. Especially when the school year begins in Septemeber. The amount of times I've thought "Is is almost Easter?" and realised it's actually October. Or "Christmas must be soon" and it's June. Pretty much all of the time I need to stop and consciously think about what month or time of the year it is. Days, months and years blend together. They often feel topsy-turvy or upside down.

For many months of the year the weather is blistering hot and you dream of a cool breeze and being able to sit outside again. Just when you think it will never end the temperature drops dramatically and then it feels almost too cold. Ridiculous really when it's hovering 30 degrees, but after months of searing heat that coolness in the breeze brings goosebumps to skin with thin blood pumping below it.

The way you adapt to your environment can happen quickly, but the memories can also run deep.

A friend here and I often laugh about how we feel indecent if we venture out with our shoulders bare or knees exposed. Dresses that I once wore and felt were modest are now gathering dust in my wardrobe.

In Sydney, I wouldn't even think about wearing jeans for four months of the year, but they're pretty much year-round apparel now. It's amazing how quickly your mindset can change.

When the time comes to move again I wonder if I'll be still be caught in cross-continental confusion.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Only in Dubai part 5

I haven't done one of these for ages and ages, so I though it was high time.

Only in Dubai……

* do people gush to each other about the lovely cool weather when it's 36 degrees and there has a lot of gushing about it recently. Just this morning I took Darbs to the park at 8am and kept thinking "This weather is so lovely and cool", when I got in the car they said it was currently 31 degrees, I'm not sure how my thin blood will acclimatise to cold weather again!

* do you sit on your balcony and literally in the space of 15 seconds see a Lamborghini, a Maclaren SLS, a hot pink Ferarri and two Bentleys drive past.

* will you overhear a group of 8-year-olds earnestly discuss whether the best ice-cream comes from Paris, Rome or Llubjana.

* do you chuckle when the weather announcer on the radio predicts there is a slight chance of rain later in the evening.

* do your friends go to places like Sri Lanka, Istanbul and Jordan for the weekend.

* do you expect every meal out to be all you can eat and drink.

* do you see clouds and wonder whether the schools will close early.

* do you call to make an appointment with a specialist and are sitting in the specialist's office 40 minutes later.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Happy Halloween

Witches Hat cookies for the school bake sale. 
Last Thursday we were celebrating Diwali, this Thursday it's Halloween. The girls went off to school this morning brimming with excitement in their book character costumes (no scary costumes allowed, book characters only) carrying plates of witches hats and monster eye cookies. As Friday is part of our weekend, we'll take the kids to a Halloween party with some other school friends instead of trick-or-treating. 

From October to December there seems to be something each week to celebrate in Dubai - Eid, Islamic New Year, Diwali, National Day and Christmas. Then there are the sporting events - Cricket, Formula 1 and the Rugby 7s. It's a non-stop busy time. But I like it.

I know Halloween can be a little controversial in Australia, but I think it's a whole lot of fun. What's so bad about dressing up and eating lollies? The kids were all so excited at school this morning. There were more than their fair share of Spidermans and Elsa's, but there were also some fantastic original costumes too – one little boy came as Max from Where the Wild Things Are, such a simple costume, a grey tracksuit with a hoodie, a cardboard gold crown and a tail and he looked fantastic. The girls went dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and The Little Witch. Lil-lil's ruby red slippers were made by covering her normal shoes with shiny red wrapping paper and attaching it with contact – you could hear her coming from a mile away but she looked great.

I always try to explain the holidays they are celebrating and their significance, so I was amused to over hear this conversation recently between the girls:

"What's Halloween for?"
"I dunno. It's not Christian, Muslim or Hindu so it must be Jewish or Buddhist I think."

I hope your Halloween is full of treats and very little tricks. Happy Halloween!

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.

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