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

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.



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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.
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