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.



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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!

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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.


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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!

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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.

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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.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Too much of nothing

I can't seem to sit and write a blog post at the moment, I think there's too much of nothing going around my head for anything coherent to come out. So here is a mishmash of thoughts:

These long holidays are still dragging. I won't lie, it's been hard. Some days I think "Hmmm maybe it's not that hot outside, maybe we can go and have a little play or a picnic or something." Then I step outside and my skin nearly bubbles off and buckets of sweat pours off me. It really is just too hot to do anything outdoors, at all, even at night. We have all acclimatised pretty well and we do spend a little more time outside than we did when we first arrived in the middle of summer. The thing the heat is just unrelenting. There are no cool changes or southerly busters or tropical storms that bring even the slightest bit of relief. When the wind picks up it's blustery - it's like a hair dryer blowing full force in your face, with bits of sand for added pleasure. This lasts for months and months. I don't think it's anything you can really understand or appreciate until you've done it.

At least one a day, every single day, one of the kids is reduced to tears and says: "Why do we live in such a hot country?!" usually while getting in or out of the car.

I think if we didn't have kids it would be a huge amount easier. While you do yearn to get outside and just go for a walk or sit on the grass, you can survive. With the kids, it's difficult, there's only so much you can do. I think I can safely say this will probably be the last time I spend the majority of the long summer holiday here, the two weeks away was lovely but not enough to cure the cabin fever.

Every morning and every evening I'm gripped with the awful feeling "what am I going to do with them to fill another day?"

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As well as trying to fill the days and keep the kids active and happy, it's been very isolating for me. All my parent friends have left for the summer, so quite often I only speak to the kids for the whole day. If Skip is away for work (as he is at the moment ), then I probably won't have a proper conversation with another adult.

Poor Skip probably (definitely) gets his ear chewed of with mundane musings when he is around, which is just what you want after a long stressful day at work!


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On the positive side, the kids and I are spending a lot of good time together and there has been some fun and a lot of laughs. Time that I know I'll look back on with fondness.

Also, the kids are really looking forward to going back to school. I think they'll dive back into it very easily and we won't have the added transition of settling back in Dubai or getting used to the heat again.

It's also making us very excited about our trip back to Australia for Christmas. There have already been making conversations about going out on Grandpa's boat, possible sleepovers, catching up with cousins and friends.


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As I've said before, I'm not really a person who gets homesick. I miss people, of course, and there are times when I feel a bit sad or nostalgic, but overall I don't pine for Australia. Occasionally though something will pop in my mind and I'll feel a wash of emotion. Sometimes it will be really wanting to sit and chat and laugh with a certain person and other times it will be something quite silly. Like yesterday, I suddenly thought of raisin toast. Hot, buttery, delicious raisin toast. We don't really get it here ( I don't think) and I hadn't even thought about it at all, then suddenly all I could think about was raisin toast and I got the strongest pangs on homesickness. Strange.


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Someone from home the other day asked me if I still felt safe living in the Middle East. While there is so much chaos and confusion going on literally around us, I do feel very safe here. The vast majority of the time I feel safer living here than I do in Australia. I often leave my handbag unattended or my car door unlocked. People close to us attend church each week on land given to them by the government. They can worship without fear of persecution. People are friendly to me and my family.


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So that is what is going on in my brain at the moment.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

It just needs to stop

For the past few weeks, each time I pick up the paper that's delivered to my door each morning the first thing I see is the number. The number climbs higher each day and my heart sinks a little more.

Living in the Middle East means that the regional news splashed across the front page is often full of blood, conflict and horror. Bombings, executions, rockets. It's odd and hard to accept that my life here is so different from the people who live so close. For relief I click onto to news.com.au top news stories to find out what celebrity is doing something shocking and 14 Things I Never Knew About Where's Wally.

Since we arrived here the civil war in Syria has been constant headline news, as the bloody situation has worsened and hope faded I was surprised to return to Australia last year and meet so many people who had no clue that anything was happening. No inkling that there was refugee crisis in the surrounding countries as millions of Syrians fled. As Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd argued about the few piddly boats headed for Australia last year, millions of people made homes in tent cities that sprung from nowhere and are now permanent cities and ranking as some of the largest in countries like Jordan and Lebanon. Children forced to abandon school and grow up in less than ideal environments.

In recent weeks, the news in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has been pushed further back in the paper to make way for the devastation in Gaza. The news there has really affected me. Statistics such as 44% of inhabitable space in Gaza has now been destroyed, along with hospitals, mosques and schools. The only power plant destroyed meaning no electricity or water. Thousands of people dead, including many children. These are people who are poor. These are many, many people who live is a tiny area - one of the most densely populated places on earth. These are people who cannot leave. They are forced to stay and let rockets rain down on them.

How can the children who are living in Gaza today and experiencing the undescribable terror ever supposed to grow up and live lives without trauma and without hate?

Last night, I tucked in my kids - leaving a light on so the boogie man doesn't get them. I went to bed to read my detective novel, but I ended up looking at Twitter and reading a young girl tweeting out of Gaza. She talked about terrifying explosions and flashes of light outside her window. About the possibility of not surviving the night. Of having nowhere safe to go. This all during Eid, which is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. A time as precious to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians.

I lay in bed and thought about the families in Gaza. How they coped with no real way of knowing if they could keep their family safe that night or the next or the next. If only it was so easy as to just leave a light on.

I am not a supporter of Hamas, and I think many people in Australia would probably be surprised to know that much of the Middle East doesn't support Hamas. Whatever wrongs have been done, this obliteration of a whole community of people can't keep going. Innocent people with no way of escaping can't be left to have the crap bombed out of them. People seeking refuge in a UN school were killed today - this is the second time this week a UN school sheltering people has been hit. This is no solution.

The children who are having their lives destroyed, are living in terror and seeing their families killed in front of them, how can that breed anything but hate and bitterness. How many of them will want to seek revenge for what they will rightly and understandably see as unjust. And the circle of violence continues.

What is happening needs to stop. It just needs to stop.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Eid Mubarak!


On Sunday night, the new crescent moon was sighted (known as the Shawwal moon - the 10th month of the Islamic year) which signalled the end of Ramadan. On Monday, Eid al Fitr commenced. While Ramadan is a time of reflection, Eid al Fitr is a time of celebration. Muslim families get together to celebrate the end of the holy month with big feasts. Children receive new clothes and money from friends and relatives.

For us, it meant that Skip got an extra long weekend and we could eat in public during the day again. It is a lovely time of celebration in Dubai though. There are fireworks, feasts and celebrations across the city. Many people take holidays and travel. Everyone takes time off work to relax and celebrate. Friends and colleagues greet each other with "Eid Mubarak!"

In a couple of months time we'll celebrate the second Eid of the year, or Eid al Adha.

We've been spending this time off relaxing at home, swimming (of course) and going out for lunch. We've taken drives to Sharjah and Ajman (nearby Emirates) and swum some more. Enjoying quiet Dubai before it starts to fill up again and the year gets busy again.

Eid Mubarak!

Monday, 28 July 2014

The long, hot summer

The days and the weeks are stretching out faaaaaaaar in front of me. As far as I can see at the moment. Endless sand dunes that all look pretty much the same, the sky blue and the sun beating down, making any movement slow.

Every morning, after breakfast I say: "OK, kids. Get your swimmers on, let's go to the pool." As the weeks have progressed, they've moved from "Yay!" to shooting me looks like I've just said: "Let's go to the dentist and get fillings." I hurry them on before it gets too hot to go to the pool. While the water in the pool is chilled, the air when any part of your body is out of the water makes the whole mission almost pointless.

Then there are the middle hours of the day. What to do, what to do. We could go to the mall. We could look at the toy shops. For the past couple of weeks it's been Ramadan - so no lunch excursions or excuses for morning or afternoon tea or even a milkshake.

All our friends are away, so no playdates to fill in the long hours.

I flick through lists of 'Things to do with kids in summer' on the net. We've ticked off all of them. Kidzania, Magic Planet, Fun City, Fun Square, Fun Corner. There's kids shows at the mall but they all seem to be on at times which aren't Aussie kid-friendly (7.30pm and 9pm).

We've baked cakes and cookies. Made homemade burgers and pizzas. We've drawn and coloured and glued and cut. We've made cubby houses. We've built cities. They've sung and danced performances. They've played cards, iPads and computers. Did I mention we've swum?

In the afternoon, I suggest another swim. "NOOOOOO!" they cry. We head down to the park and attempt to kick a ball. Everyone is tomato-red and dripping in sweat after 15 minutes.

The longest, hottest summer in history! Five-and-a-half weeks to go...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Ramadan in the UAE



As you may, or may not, know, it's Ramadan at the moment. Ramadan is the Islamic holy month where Muslims are required to fast, reflect, spend time with family and give to charity and help others. It is one of the five pillars of Islam that Muslims are required to observe. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it officially begins when the crescent moon can be seen the naked eye.

So, what does Ramadan mean if you live in the UAE (and much of the Arab world), especially if you are an expat like myself? The first big thing is that Muslims are require to fast during daylight hours - so from sunrise until sunset they can not eat, drink or smoke.

In the UAE, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours, so restaurants, cafes and food outlets are closed. There are a small handful of restaurants in Dubai that have been given permission to serve food to non-Muslims, but these restaurants must put up heavy curtains so passers-by can't see in. There are still a few food outlets that will serve food and drinks for takeaway and offer delivery as well.

Most offices and work places will allocate a room where non-Muslims can consume food and drink. Fasting workers (and some non-fasting workers) work shorter hours during Ramadan, usually from 8am-2pm.

Music is generally not allowed during Ramadan and shops and restaurants are not allowed to play loud music. Dubai at present is quite literally very quiet. The nightclubs are shut and the malls are quiet. There are also very few people out and about. People go about their normal day but then spend time with family and friends.

The evenings are a different story. As the sun sets, the streets are empty as people go to prayer and then get ready to break the fast. The breaking of the fast is known as Iftar and it's tradition to break the fast with dates, as Muhammad did. Muslims gather with their friends and family to celebrate this special meal and non-Muslims also partake as the restaurants and hotels offer special Iftar buffets, even fast food outlets offer special Iftar meals. Iftars are a lively celebration. The meal before the sunrise is known as Suhoor.

It is very hot in Dubai at the moment (in the low to mid-40s), it's the long summer school holidays and with the restrictions of Ramadan many expats flee Dubai for their home country. For me, I wanted to experience Ramadan in Dubai. We arrived in Dubai for the last couple of days of Ramadan, but I wanted to experience while living here while it was happening. Yes, it can be a little tricky with the kids and trying to entertain them and yes, the city is extremely quiet. This can also nice. There is definitely a different feel in the city and it's nice to be a part of. Hearing the longer calls to prayer and the Quran readings in the evening. It reinforces the feeling that we live in the Middle East, which can be easy to forget at times.

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