Monday 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

I can't believe 2012 is coming to a close, the fastest year in history! And an incredible year for our family. This morning Darbs woke at 5am, so I threw him in the car and drove around Dubai to let the others sleep in peace. The only people out and about were labourers and passengers in Emirates cars heading for early flights. We drove out to the end of the Palm, back around past the Burj Al Arab, through the streets of Umm Sequeim.

After an hour or so, I saw a golden glow on the horizon - sunrise. The last one of 2012. I took a moment to reflect on the past 12 months.

Last new year's eve we went to the races with really good friends and then spent the evening with the kids. It was the perfect way to bring in the new year. I remember chatting about what the year would bring, but I had no clue of where we would end up. Life's good like that, it's a twisting tale of surprises, better than any film or novel.

I thought 2012 was going to hold a house renovation, Lil-lil starting and finishing her first schooling year. They were going to be the big milestones of 2012. I had a lot of dreams and expectations, but life had other plans.

Who would have thought that I'd spending the next new year's eve in the Middle East, in my new home? Not me, that's for sure. Who would have thought that Lil-lil would be halfway through 1st grade instead of finishing Kindergarten? Who would have thought Goosey would be at big school? Who would have thought that Darbs would have taken his first steps in Dubai? Definitely not me.

I'm ending 2012 feeling very grateful.
I'm so proud of my little family. I'm proud of Skip taking on a mammoth role at work and the goals he's constantly kicking. I'm proud of Lil's bravery starting school not once, but twice. I'm proud of Goosey starting school and doing so extraordinarily well. I'm proud of Darbs becoming the little man he is. I'm proud of myself for living the best life possible.

I'm grateful that I live in a place I love, learning new things every day and living a life I adore. I'm grateful that my little family is closer than ever, we're having adventures and enjoying some of the best days of our lives. I never could have imagined it 12 months ago. So, I'm ending the year feeling pretty damn lucky. Bring on 2013 and whatever it may hold.

My only resolution is to keep jumping in the deep end and making sure I keep out of my comfort zone, because when I do, sink or swim, I discover some amazing things.

A very happy new year to you. I hope it's full of joy, adventure and laughter. Thank you so much for reading and commenting (I do love comments) and sharing this journey with me. See you in 2013!

What did 2012 bring you?

The last sunrise of 2012

The Burj Khalifa in the sunrise over Sheikh Zayed Road

Burj Al Arab after the sun has risen

Wednesday 26 December 2012

And so that was Christmas

Christmas Day is done and dusted. Boxing Day is just another day here in the mid east. Skip is back at work. No lying on the couch eating leftovers and watching the Test or the yacht race. No backyard barbie with mates. Oh well, what do you do? We have plenty of other perks over here to make up for it, but you do miss those special moments and traditions.

Christmas Day was nice. The kids were up in the fives, wrapping paper flying everywhere. There was a lot of excitement and a couple of tears. The girls cleaned up with their presents, after very lean birthdays this year, we decided to splurge a little. Poor old Darbs didn't do quite as well but he was pretty pleased with his haul and had so much fun playing with his new toys.

I was very spoilt with some new PJs and nightie. A new scarf/wrap which is very handy over here for quick modesty cover ups. I even got a 'Number 1 Mum' badge. I was then completely stunned and thrilled when Skip presented me with some serious bling for my ears (after agreeing not to buy each other anything). Spoilt, indeed.

In Dubai, most of the big hotels will do takeaway Christmas dinners. With Skip just having the one day off, we decided to save time and stress (and let's face it, he does most of the big dinners) and ordered in. There was enormous turkey with all the trimmings, mince pies, pecan pies, pudding, cookies, even bon-bons. We ate all day, reminsiced about Christmas last year and having no idea where we would end up, wondering where we'll be next year. Then worked the turkey through as we watched the kids play on their new scooters. We will now be eating Turkey for the rest of the week, any good leftover ideas?

We chatted to friends and family on Skype and saw them in jumpers shivering in the cool Sydney Christmas weather.

We then collapsed in a food coma on the couch.

It was a nice day, it felt different from Christmas at home, but not in a bad way. It was so nice not to have to cook or traipse all over town.

I hope your Christmas day lived up to your expectations and that it was fun and stress-free.

Monday 24 December 2012

Christmas in Dubai

It's funny, as I run around the city, going to the mall and showing my mum all our haunts, you wouldn't know you were in an Islamic country. There are Christmas trees and decorations, there are lights and carols, there are countdowns and cheers. There's fake snow and reindeers and there's Santa.

Christmas is well and truly alive in Dubai. The girls sang Christmas songs at school and did Christmas craft. A couple of weeks ago, as I was buying decorations for our tree, I stood at the shelves wondering whether to get the gold or the silver tinsel and I turned to my right and saw a veiled woman buying up baubles and Santas. I turned to my left and saw a sari-clad woman doing the same. It seems that just as we were happy to celebrate Eid and Diwali, everyone else is happy to join in on the Christmas caper.

I love the tolerance of this country. It's not going to be like a Christmas at home, there won't be a Boxing Day, there won't be a trail of family to visit, and there are many people we are missing, but it's still Christmas. Santa makes a drop off in Dubai, so the kids don't miss out. We'll eat our turkey and trimmings, we'll open our presents and enjoy being together.

I hope you all do the same, wherever you are and with whoever you share the day. Have a wonderful and joyous Christmas!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

A dose of Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style is the most watched video on YouTube. It's approaching a billion hits. I'm sorry to say that our family has contributed greatly to this. In fact, when I heard that Gangnam Style was the most watched video in the UAE for 2012, I knew if was because of us.

You see, I have a 4-year-old and a 15-month-old who just love it. And I mean love. it. (The six-year-old is way to cool to like it).

Goosey has been known to break out in the Gangnam Style dance in the middle of shopping malls, the street, where ever she hears it – much to disgrace of her sister. Darbs on the other hand will hear the opening strains and will run from the other room and stand transfixed on the South Korean pop star and his equestrian dance moves.

Darbs can only say a handful of words but can sing the tune of Gangnam Style, should I be worried? He won't watch anything else on TV, forget Barney and The Wiggles, Psy is it. In fact, I've been known to put Gangnam Style on repeat just so I can make dinner in peace. This morning, Darbs woke at five am and to keep him quiet he watched Gangnam Style on my phone.

Last night, I knew the obsession was getting a little too much when Goosey pleaded with me to go to Korea so she could meet Psy.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past six months, check out Gangnam Style here:

So, are you a fan? Does it drive you mad? What's your favourite dance craze?

Monday 17 December 2012

Hitting the wall

This time last week I was spent. I can't remember feeling so exhausted or unmotivated in a really long time. We'd just come back from Austria so that definitely contributed, it was a great trip but it was tiring. I also had a bit of a bug, which didn't help matters. I think I was also feeling like the past four or five months had finally caught up with me. There has been so much going on, learning new things, carving out a new life, worrying about the kids, worrying about Skip.

It all culminated with me crashing. So, one day last week when Darbs went for a nap, I lay down and slept too, which I never do. That's how I knew I wasn't myself.

Slowly but surely I'm starting to feel normal again.


It's just a week until Christmas and I'm yet to buy a gift! Eep. It's strange being away from family and home at Christmas time. It will be a very intimate affair this year with just our little family and my mum. Some friends have already journeyed home for the holidays, so it will be a quiet time. Of course, Skip will have to work through it all too. It's just a normal week over here. So I am feeling twinges of missing people. Of missing long BBQs in the sun. Of missing January in Sydney, which is my favourite time of year in Sydney. Of catching up with loved ones.

I am looking forward to showing my mum around our new home and Skip's mum when she arrives just after Christmas.


Despite living in a Muslim country, we had a very festive weekend, starting on Friday with Skip's 'end of year' party. It was for the whole family and the kids got to go on jumping castles and play games and have their faces painted. It was the first Christmas party I've ever been to where there were no drinks!

Then on Saturday we went to a tree trimming party, where we gave and received tree ornaments.

Today, Goosey had her winter concert. She's been rehearsing for months and sang "Rocking around the Palm Tree" and "Jingle Bells" (the quintessential Christmas song that doesn't actually mention Christmas).

I hope the festive season is treating you well.

Sunday 16 December 2012

The right to change

Occasionally there is a news story that shocks you so deeply and stays in your brain, searing it with the details. Hearing the news about the Newton shootings yesterday was one of those.

I read about the terrible details of the poor students who were shot multiple times as they were in their classroom. Just six and seven years old. I then read a twitter stream of many, many people saying gun control won't change anything in the US, that people have a right to have guns, that they need guns, guns had nothing to do with this tragedy, 'don't you dare try to take my guns away'. I felt revolted, sick, putrid.

I saw the front page of the New York Times:

I saw that list of names, mainly girls aged six. I have a six-year-old daughter. I'm sure if Lil ever had the chance to meet them they would have played and giggled together. I'm certain those kids would have been counting the sleeps until Christmas, dreaming about what Santa would leave them under the Christmas tree. Just like my six-year-old. Watching Scooby-Doo and dancing to Katy Perry around the lounge room. Just like my six-year-old. 

Unfortunately, because someone in need of mental health care (that's another blog post) had easy access to a semiautomatic weapon, those kids lost their right to life. Lost their right to be educated without fear. Lost their right to be with their family.

I read a lot on the internet yesterday about 'the right to bear arms'. That the US was the free-est and safest country in the world because of this right. I'm certain those six and seven-year-olds didn't feel free. Or those cinema goers in Aurora. Or the more the 10,000 people in the US who die due to firearms each year. 10,000 people. That's more than three times the amount of people that died on 9/11. I personally believe that the US needs to look at guns as terrorist, because they are doing far more damage to their population and way of life than any terrorist does. 

As Australian citizen, I feel extraordinarily free. I don't fear being shot. I don't live in fear. I don't believe I need a gun to protect myself. In my 36 years, I've never fired a gun. I've never even touched a gun. The only guns I've ever seen are on police officers or military personnel. I believe guns are a privilege not a right. 

I'm not proud of some of the things that have and do happen in Australia, it's not a perfect place, and I rarely agree with John Howard, but the gun reform in 1996 was one of the best things to happen in our country. It certainly made it a much safer place. I think it's a fantastic example of what gun control can achieve. 

I'm not an American. I don't have live to in America. I don't presume to tell them how to live their lives. I just know that if six- and seven-year-olds in my community were being slain, I'd want something to change. If mass shootings were occurring regularly in my community, I'd want something to change. 

I just want to tell them, it can change. Use that much more powerful right of free speech. Speak out. Get rid of the guns. It can change. 

Tuesday 11 December 2012

National Day

Before we jetted off to Austria we had the pleasure of seeing Dubai come alive with the preparations for National Day. On December 2, 1971 the United Arab Emirates formed to become a country and this day is celebrated with gusto by the nationals and residents.

The whole city became awash in red, black, white and green. Every building had flags, cars were decorated and there was a buzz in the air. It was really lovely and the excitement was contagious. People here are really proud of their country but not in an extreme jingoistic way. Everyone is encouraged to celebrate being a part of this country and there was an inclusive feeling of coming together. In other countries I've been to national celebrations can have an uneasy, almost aggressive patriotism about them, but it wasn't like that in Dubai. Whether you're here for a short-time or a lifetime you're encouraged to feel part of the UAE.

The girls were so excited about National Day, their school began putting up decorations weeks in advance and they learnt about the Emirates, the sheiks and their city. They were encouraged to come to school in national dress or in red, black, green and white. The girls woke early excited to get dressed up and get to school for the performances and activities.

After a school assembly they kids shared a picnic of traditional foods and then they were free to explore the school where there were camel rides, a henna artist painting hands, a falcon trainer and women doing traditional cooking displays. There were Arabic board games and story telling in the library. There were even jumping castles and a fun fair.

I had to scoot the girls off early so we could take our flight to Vienna, but they kept the excitement up at the airport displaying their flags and badges and singing songs.

I can't wait to actually be in Dubai next year to see the full celebrations first hand.

The lights in our complex.

Cooking displays at school

Everyone loves Sheikh Mohammad. 

The girls dressed and ready for National Day celebrations.

The school decorations

Every building had a flag...

Or lots of flags.

It's not every day they have a camel at school. 

Sunday 9 December 2012

An Austrian adventure

We're home! To be honest, it was a wonderful week, but I'm feeling a little sick and a lot exhausted today.

Austria is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The historic and gorgeous buildings. The palaces and monuments. The picture perfect villages. The scenery that looks like it's come straight off a Christmas card. It's just stunning. Throw in the fact that you can buy juicy sausages with mustard and freshly grated horse raddish on the street and there is a gluhwein stall every few metres and you've got a happy holiday. Not to mention that Austria is the land of schnitzel and beer.

A sight-seeing holiday with three young children is tiring though. There is at least one child at all times who is upset or whining about something. If you're lucky all three will whine at the same time, usually when you're at the most amazing spot you've ever been. I won't lie, there were times when Skip and I saw a gorgeous wine bar or a lovely restaurant or an interesting museum and thought: "If only we hadn't brought the kids...". Or when we were walking through the Salzburg Christmas markets in the most beautiful square on a perfect winter evening with lights twinkling, the choir singing and all three kids crying. But that's life. Perfect moments are never really perfect.

On the flip side, there were magical moments too. Walking through Vienna and it starts snowing, Lil who had never seen snow falling before runs around a gorgeous square amongst the Christmas lights catching snowflakes on her tongue. Or when we chased squirrels around the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace, the kids all squealing with delight. Or when the girls dressed up as princesses in a real palace. Or when we stopped at Mirabell Palace in Salzburg after a snow fall the kids slid down the hill on their backs. Memories which are now burnt into my brain and which I hope that they (or at least the girls) will have snippets of in their minds.

Here are some snaps of our adventure:

I feel in love with the wreaths and decorations at the markets. Real wreaths made of pine, real holly, etc costing about $12. I so wanted to carry some home, but didn't think they'd last the journey. 

It was about now when I realised that as good as Converse are, they're really not made for snow...

We went to Christmas markets every single night we were in Austria. I still didn't buy enough decorations though.

Sitting in a 300-year-old cafe in Salzburg watching Skip and Darbs outside in the snow.

Taken from the 'Do-Re-Mi' steps in Salzburg. So pretty. Too cold for singing though...

Krampos is an old character who captures very naughty children at Christmas time and takes them away in his sack. Unsurprisingly Goose was not afraid and ran up to give him a massive hug!

I don't normally dress them the same, they chose their jackets and hats! 
Darbs sleeping as the snow falls. 

Eating spietzel at the Christmas markets in Vienna.

Eating wild boar at the Christmas markets. Kids LOVED this and you certainly can't get it in Dubai!

Princesses at Schonbrunn Palace.

Creating royal wigs at Schonbrunn Palace kids museum.

Lil catching snowflakes in Vienna.

This was breakfast one morning. Well, it was Sacher torte at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna and we weren't
the only ones indulging! 
It was only a week but we crammed so much in, it felt like much longer. I can't wait to go back one day.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Just to keep you on your toes

Life certainly likes to keep you on your toes, doesn't it? Often the routine day-to-day can become so routine that you could do it with your eyes shut.

Every morning in our house is pretty much the same. Breakfast, make lunches, yell at kids to get dressed, get dressed myself, yell some more at the kids "pack your bag, put your shoes on, brush your teeth, OK time for hair". We rush out the door at 7.10am and make our way to the car. It's ground hog day stuff. Except for today.

This morning went along as usual, we were almost at school, I was breathing a sigh of relief and Goosey was whining about having to go to school when all of a sudden there was a strange noise. Hsssssssssssss. The car was filling with a strange cloudy substance. Lil started screaming: "We're all going to DIE!"

I look down and see the fire extinguisher on the floor of the car had rolled and was now letting its contents go. I pulled over, started to get out of the car and realised that the handbreak wasn't on and the car was moving. Jumped back in, put on hand break. Got out. By the time I got around to the other side it had stopped. It was empty. The contents all through the car. A coverage of pink powder on EVERYTHING.

Lil and Darbs were crying. Goose was saying: "It's like snow!"

What to do? I kept going to school, assured the kids we weren't going to die.  Dusted them off and sent them on their way. Now I have a car filled with pink powder. This should make for an interesting conversation at the car wash.

Monday 26 November 2012

Turn, turn, turn

By accident, I read some of my old posts this morning, just clicked on something I couldn't remember writing and was suddenly lost for 20 minutes in the past. It's funny because I don't often read old posts, I should do it more often.

Reading things from earlier this year made me realise how much my life has changed, how much the kids have changed, how much I have changed.

At the beginning of the year, we'd just finished a beach holiday, Lil was starting school and the year lay out fresh ahead of us. Little did I know where the year would end!

We're living in the Middle East. Lil is onto her second school. Goose started big school. We've got a life here – a home, friends, a routine. Bloody hell, we're going to Austria at the end of the week. It's all pretty sweet.

I look at the girls and they have grown up years in the past four months. They're so much more worldly and mature. I know my mum will see a huge change in them when she visits at Christmas.

The past few months have changed me a great deal. My view of the world is so much broader. I'm more happy to throw caution to the wind. I feel like I've packed a huge amount of life into a really short amount of time. I've learnt that you can stop time slipping through your fingers if you want to. That there's so much life to live out there if you look. I've realised that I'm more of an optimist than I thought I was, I can be cynical but most of the time I think that things will be OK and I trust people.

I've learnt that opening yourself up and throwing yourself in the deep end is scary, exhausting and the best thing that you can ever do.

This is one of my all-time favourite photos that I took in January.
We were so ready for big things this year.  I'm so glad we took the risk. 

Sunday 25 November 2012

Centre of the world

One of many reasons we moved to Dubai was to travel. Moving to the centre of the world with Europe, Asia and Africa just a few short hours away was very tempting.

In Sydney, traveling overseas with 3 kids requires a lot of planning and a lot of saving. Tickets alone are thousands of dollars, plus living in a city as expensive as Sydney makes saving all the harder. It would be impossible to flit off somewhere for a week's break.

Skip and I have travelled a lot throughout Australia, both by ourselves and with the kids. There are few places we haven't been on the southern continent. So now we feel pretty blessed to have the world at our feet.

We're taking our first trip later this week and to say I'm excited is an understatement. We only decided to go 10 days ago so it all feels a little like a dream. By week's end we'll be somewhere that is as different to Dubai as you can get.

We're going to Austria! There will historic buildings and pork schnitzels and beer. There will be cold weather and mountains. There will be Christmas markets and chocolate cake and choirs. There will be Mozart and the Sound of Music.

So tell me, have you been to Austria? What are the must dos?

Saturday 24 November 2012

Noise and mess

When we're out and about with the kids, I often get told that I "must be busy" or "have my hands full".

Having three young children to me at the moment is noise and mess. The noise and the mess is constant.

As I write this, the three of them are sitting on the living room floor surrounded by toys "sailing on a boat". There is crap scattered everywhere. They must have hearing difficulties because they seem to need to yell at each other, even Darbs who can't really converse yet. I'm not stopping them even though the noise and the mess is getting louder and bigger because they're not hassling me.

Darbs isn't pulling at my dress and screaming at me. Lil isn't asking is she can paint, why can't she paint, it's just not fair. And Goose isn't asking for something to eat. This usually happens similataneously.

This non-hassling of me will probably be lucky to last five minutes. Then I will have to nag them to tidy up the mess for half an hour before I crack and tidy it up myself. But for those five minutes it's worth it. Kind of.

In the game they're playing Goose is playing the mum and I almost feel sorry for her, Lil is whining "Muuuuuummmmmm, the crocodile is going to eat me. Muuuuuummmmmmmm I'm scared. Muuuummmmmm."

This stage of parenting is intense. The drama, the fights, the neediness. Darbs is into everything - he "hides" things, it took me two days to find my shoes in the bottom kitchen drawer; he drags the garbage bin around the house and in a moment of silence I found him eating mouldy bread out of it (it's good for his immune system, right?). For Lil is everything is drama – "Oh no! My pencil is broken, my pencil is broken! What am I going to do?" she wails. For Goose everything is physical, she runs and jumps and tackles and falls and yells and rants.

There are two moments in the day, one when the girls are at school and Darbs is asleep. It's quiet and peaceful and I tidy up the mess, sweep up the sand. Then before long the whirlwinds arrive home and the mess returns along with the noise. Then that night they're finally asleep and it's peaceful again and I'm too exhausted to tidy up the mess or talk to Skip and nod off on the couch instead.

The boat has now been abandoned and they're a gang of vampires, chasing each other around the lounge room squealing. Darbs is pulling on my dress again.

They tell me I will miss the noise and mess one day, I'm not so sure.

They just spent five minutes on a leaky boat. I'm lucky just to keep afloat. 

Thursday 22 November 2012

It's raining in the desert

For the past few days there has been forecast of rain - will it? Won't it? It hasn't rained since the beginning of the year in Dubai.

Ominous clouds have passed over and I've thought "ooh it just might!". Then the blue sky has returned.

This morning as we stepped outside everything seemed a little fresher. The ground was wet! It had rained!

There was much excitement at the school park. "Did you see the ground? It rained!" The kids were moaning about how cold it was, you know being just 26 degrees and all.

The traffic reported giggled as she said traffic was slow on a major arterial due to a puddle. Is there anywhere else in the world where a puddle would be a traffic hotspot?

I didn't actually see any rain fall from the sky, but it is nice to see some clouds. The cloudless sunny blue gets a little tiresome.

Who knows when we'll see rain again.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

It's time to celebrate

You would be hard pressed to find a more multicultural city than Dubai. With so many cultures and religions in the one place, there are a plethora of celebrations and festivals. Wonderfully, Dubai seems to embrace them all. Since we arrived, there's barely been a week where there hasn't been some kind of holiday.

While the UAE is an Islamic country, people are free to practice their religion of choice. Islamic holidays are the official holidays and recently we've been given days off for Eid and this weekend for Hirji, which is Islamic new year. I must admit, I was fairly ignorant about Islam before moving here, I knew about Ramadan but that was about it. 

Whilst other holidays aren't officially celebrated, they are nonetheless celebrated with gusto. 

A few weeks ago, Halloween took over the stores here, there were decorations and displays. If you didn't know better you'd have thought  you were in the good old US of A. Last week, people were celebrating Guy Fawkes Night. On the weekend, the supermarket had displays for Diwali (the biggest Hindu festival of the year) as well as American Thanksgiving. This week, I popped into IKEA and it looked like Rudolph has vomited all over the place – there were trees, wreaths and baubles galore. 

For every holiday, the kids' school decorate their entrance way and incorporate the holiday into their learning. Yesterday there were flowers and lights for Diwali, a few weeks ago there was a massive display for Eid. I love that the girls are getting such a broad insight into other cultures and religions. Hell, I love that I'm getting this insight too. 

It's not just the schools, yesterday even Skip's work brought in a feast of Indian food served by waiters for all the staff to celebrate Diwali. Last night, feeling a little poorly, I went to bed early, but I could hear the Diwali fireworks and could smell the heady scent of incense and smiled. 

I think Skip is hoping that there'll be schooners and 2-up on ANZAC Day, somehow I think that will be pushing it! 

In any case, I can't wait to discover what we'll be celebrating next week!

Goosey's Diwali creation.

Tuesday 13 November 2012


The past week, the cracks of a long school term, moving to a new country and the lack of support are starting to become very present. 

I feel very, very tired. I feel like I've been "on" for months, no time just to sit back. 

I have had the hardest week I've ever had with Goosey this week. Every. single. thing. is an argument. Whether it's getting dressed, eating dinner, going to the park, choosing a book, whatever, it turns into a monumental argument. I know that she's tired – at school five days a week is a lot for such a little person. I know that she's had massive change. I know that she's utterly exhausted and needs a break. It doesn't make the crying and arguing and the defiance any easier to cope with. The defiance, oh the defiance! She's so stubborn. I know that part of it is breaking free of the rules of school too. But my artillery is run dry. 

I think we're all looking forward to Christmas, to having some time off from school, to having some grandmothers visit. 

It's been constant with the kids since we've been here and there have been a lot of nightime shenanighans too. As much as I love them, they're doing my head in at the moment. To be honest, I think I'm doing their head in too. At home, when things got like this they could visit their grandmothers, be spoilt for an afternoon or even a night. Skip and I could have some peace. The kids could have a break from cranky parents. We'd all be refreshed. 

Skip, feeling the tension, came home and surprised me with a restaurant and a babysitter booked for tomorrow night. I can't wait. It's so needed. Just not to be 'Mum' for a few hours. 

If you're a mum, what do you do to have a break?

Saturday 10 November 2012

When you take a wrong turn and end up in another country

We've been in Dubai for three months now and starting to transition from the moving/setting up stage to the exploration stage (as a good friend of mine put it). Yesterday, we decided it was well time we got out of town and started exploring our surroundings.

After getting some advice and pouring over maps, we decided that just a short trip up the coast was what we needed. Not too far and we could get our bearings. We packed for a day out and set off early.
We headed north through Dubai and Sharjah and then we missed our turn off and then we missed our plan B and found ourselves headed in completely the wrong direction. We saw a sigh for Hatta and we remembered that Carly from Confessions of a 30-something Woman had said it was a nice place to visit.

So we turned the steering wheel in that direction and soon we're driving through peachy-red sand dunes, cascading across the horizon. Dotted with campsite and dirt bikes, quad bikes and dune buggies going up and over the dunes.

Before long we arrived at a border checkpoint, we were going into Oman! Thankfully we had our passports, although the yellow-toothed border soldier was happy to just shake the kids' hands. Amazed that we'd taken a wrong turn and ended up in another country, we headed on our way and soon enough we were at another checkpoint and back in the UAE.

The scenery suddenly changed, the soft, silky dunes became rugged mountains and jagged rocked spilled along the side of the road. We arrived in Hatta, the temperature noticeably cooler and lovely breeze blew. The biggest attraction in town – the Heritage Village was shut until afternoon, so we set off for a local resort, where the kids ran and climbed hills. We soaked in the countryside, it was so nice to be away from the traffic and the skyscrapers. We found an old fort tower and Goosey was convinced Rapunzel lived and she yelled out "Let down your hair!" until her voice was hoarse.

Ready for lunch, the only place open was a greasy chicken joint, so we quickly ate and decided to head for home. Back through the mountains, a quick 20kms through Oman, through the sand dunes. The girls shrieked when they saw camels on the side of the road. The got even more excited when we christened our 4WD and took it for a slippy drive on the hot sand.

Soon we could see the towering Burj Khalifa in the distance and we were back on busy Sheik Zayed Rd.

It was so nice to experience something more of this country than just Dubai and has gotten us excited to experience more. As an Australian, it's still so amazing to take a short drive, take a wrong turn and unexpectedly end up in another country!

Lawrence of Arabia-type country

The changing landscape, rocky and sparse.

The sunny view from the top of hill.

The town of Hatta

"Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"

Thursday 8 November 2012

Like sands through the hour glass...

Many years ago, before we were married and before we had kids, Skip and I went on a camping holiday to Fraser Island with some friends. For those of you who don't know, Fraser Island is in Queensland, Australia and is the largest sand island in the world.

On our first night, suffering hideous sunburn and feeling queasy from drinking cheap sparkling in the sun, Skip announced that he really hated sand. For the next few years, this became a bit of a joke in our circle of friends - going to the world's largest sand island for a holiday when you hated sand.

Now, we're living in the desert and I have to confess – I hate sand. At first glance, Dubai looks like a city you don't feel like you're in the desert. Then you only have to drive a short distance and there are rolling sand dunes and there is absolutely no doubt that you're in the desert.

Even in the centre of Dubai you'll find a decent amount of sand – vacant blocks of land, car parks, just walking along the street. I've seen two cars get so bogged in our school car park that they've had to be towed out – up the wheel arches bogged in sand. So the prolific 4WD does come in handy here, even if you don't go out dune bashing.

The thing about the sand is, it's everywhere. I sweep and sweep up mounds (and I mean mounds) of sand every day from our apartment (and we're high up). Every surface gets a light dusting of sand in it. Our balcony ends up with a grimy mixture of sand all over it. After I bath the kids there is a substantial amount of sand left in the tub. I'm constantly emptying my and the kids shoes of sand. And it's different sand to Australia, it's fine almost silt-like sand and it sticks like concrete to your skin.

I spend my life feeling like I just got dumped at Manly beach and every crevice of my world is filled with, yes, sand.

Yes, we live in the desert.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Preferential treatment

Before I came to Dubai I was regaled with tales from many people who'd lived here about the rudeness of people, of people pushing in, of a general disregard of others. I prepared myself, I gave myself pep talks about being assertive (which I'm not) and then I arrived and had the exact opposite experience.

I had people hold doors open for me, Emirati ladies let me go ahead of them in queues, Emirati men would tell off people who attempted to push in, I've been pulled out of queues and given preferential treatment, cars stop and let me cross the street, people generally go out of their way for me. So, what made me so special? The kids. The fact that I had a baby or the girls with me. Children are 'it' here and mothers are special.

I must admit some days I feel like I'm pushing around a rock star as Darbs constantly gets waved to, hellos yelled out. I'll be standing somewhere and I'll suddenly look around and all the staff in a shop or restaurant have come out and are pulling faces at Darbs to make him laugh. Even the people who seemingly ignore us will stop and let us go ahead. It's so different to Australia, where generally when you take kids anywhere you're looked upon as being a bit of nuisance or nothing special.

I have to say, it's nice when the baby is screaming and people let you go ahead at the supermarket rather than just tsk and roll their eyes at you. It's lovely when people hold a door open when you're trying to negotiate a pram through instead of letting it slam on you.

I don't think I'm special because I have kids, but it's nice to get a little bit of help while out and about.

This is part of Dubai life that I really do enjoy.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Just say bidet, bidet and how ya going?

Dubai bathrooms are a little different to your average Australian bathroom. For one thing, every bathroom has a bidet or at the very least a hose. From the day we landed this has provided so much entertainment for our Darbs. The second you hear him go quiet or suddenly disappear you know exactly where he is.

At first, he'd just turn it on and splash the water, now he's perfected the art of spraying the whole bathroom and everyone in it. It's at just the right height for him. It's even more entertaining to him if one of his sisters happen to be on the toilet.

Thankfully the girls stay well away from the bidet after a nasty incident involving one girl trying to help the other clean up after using the toilet. Let's just say it wasn't pretty for anyone.

As Goose piped up and said to me the other day: "We don't like the bum wash, do we mum? We like toilet paper."

Here's Darbs in his favourite spot in the house:

"I'm not doing anything, I swear."

"But if I get my thumb just so, I can spray everything."

"Yeah, OK, it's awesome."

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