Saturday 29 September 2012

Breaking my average

The other day I read a sweet post by a wonderfully special blogger called Cherie. It was about how everyone is good at something. It's an idea that I've always believed in and preached to others. It made me start to think about what I was good at. Really good at. What is my special talent, what is my thing.

You know what? I couldn't think of a single thing. That made me sad. At school I did well, I was bright and always in the top 20% but I never excelled at anything. Since then it's been the same. Perfectly average.

I kept thinking about it. Surely there must be something. If I asked my family and friends they'd probably say blogging, but I'm pretty average at that. I've been setting up our house and realised that I'm not as good at interiors as I thought I was. Fashion definitely isn't my thing. Even as a housewife I'm pretty damn average. I don't mind mess. I'm a lazy cook. I'm not good at exercise or sport. I'm not a hair or make-up person. I'm not arty or crafty.

The more I thought about it the more down I felt. I thought and thought and the closest I come was that I'm good at remembering trivia and I'm good at reading maps. Wow.

Being in a new country and having to start a new social circle from scratch I've had to think more about who I am. How other people see me. That old familiarity of old friends is gone. You meet people and almost have to sum yourself up in a few minutes. How will other people see me? How will they perceive me?

To be honest, I think all this thinking has made me realise how I've let myself slip away a bit. I've let the responsibility of being a mum and wife be too all-consuming. Which, ironically, isn't good for the kids or Skip, because who wants to live with a dull person?

So breaking the rut and the routine of home has made me realise that I need to find something I'm good at. Something that excites me.

Now, where to start....

Thursday 27 September 2012

Only in Dubai

Before we left Australia, some friends who had lived in Dubai said we would experience a phenomenon called "Only in Dubai"which is something that happens that leaves you shaking your head and saying: "Only in Dubai".

We've had many, many of these moments since we landed. Many moments when we've been told one thing and something else has happened. We've discovered that Dubai is the land of evens. When something goes wrong, something else will go right to balance it all out.

Here are some things I've discovered that may not be unique to Dubai, but certainly don't happen in Sydney:

* Delivery. Dubai is the land of delivery. You can get absolutely anything delivered. A cup of coffee. A packet of biscuits. Water. A meal. Furniture. Our hire car was dropped off and then collected from us. All delivered for free. All delivery quickly. We even got our new car delivered. There is one thing you can't get delivered in Dubai and that is mail. Yep, there is no mail delivery to homes here. Someone will go to the effort to bring a cup of coffee to your house, delivered free, but they can't deliver mail.

* There are times when you just cannot get someone to understand you. I was trying to purchase a tag for the car to pay the road tolls. Seems easy enough, but I went to the bank where the website said they were available and could not get anyone to understand me. I spoke clearly and by the end I was miming road toll, try doing that, it's not easy.

* Hypermarkets. They love anything to do with shopping here and being the land of the biggest and the best, people love a good hypermarket. A hypermarket is essentially a supermarket on steroids. In a hypermarket you can buy anything from freshly made wood-fired mannakish to groceries to appliances to diamond jewellery. Just don't forget anything as you're walking around because it will be a long hike back - these places are seriously HUGE. So if you need to pick up a necklace for a ball and some frozen peas this is the your one-stop shop.

* People will do things that just don't make sense. For example, yesterday I went shopping with Skip's EFTPOS card, when I handed it over to pay the cashier said "you need to sign". I explained that it wasn't my card so could I put in a PIN. "No, you need to sign." I again explained that as it wasn't my card I'd need to put in a PIN as the signature would be different. "No, you need to sign." I argued again and again "You need to sign." So, I signed and she accepted it. I'll say no more.

* The kids are considered special. Even when they're being feral. So many people will come up and chat and ask to hold the baby, especially men. In Sydney men will barely look sideways at the kids, yesterday Darbs and I were in a mall having some lunch and no less than six different men came up to play peekaboo, shake his hand, say hello or tickle his feet.

*Sydney is a pretty multicultural city, but nothing like Dubai is. Yesterday as I sat in that mall there were people of every nationality. There were Emiratis in traditional dress, a chic French couple, an Indian family, an American man bearing a striking resemblance to Willie Nelson, surfie teens in boardies, a Lebanese man wearing an Italia soccer jersey. It's brilliant and I love being a part of it.

* People don't leave messages. A missed call on your mobile is your message. I've been trying to get some water delivered and I called them to ask what was going on. Seems they called, I missed the call so it's my duty to call back that missed call even if I don't know who it is. I've been repeatedly asked by businesses 'Didn't you get my missed call?' If you don't call back the missed call, too bad.

* Yesterday as I picked up the kids from school the car park had an array of cars - massive Hummers, a Maserati, a fat Rolls Royce, lots of Mercedes, Porsches and BMWs. A change from the Toyotas, Fords and Holdens at home.

I've only been here just under two months and I'm really enjoying Dubai. Sure there are frustrating moments, sure there are lonely moments, but it is what you make it.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

School holidays saviour

My kids were disappointed to hear that it was school holidays back in Australia. "You mean all our friends aren't going to school?" Lil said.

"Yes, but you had quite a few weeks off yourself, remember?" I replied.

Last school holidays, one of the highlights was my friend and artist Michele Morcos coming to my house to do a workshop with the girls and their school friends. They had a great time and the first things that they hung up in their new Dubai bedroom was the bunting they created. I'm sure they look at them everyday with love.

Michele has told me that she's leading another workshop these school holidays and, believe me, if we were in Sydney we'd be there. Shell is so good with the kids, she's enthusiastic and lets their imagination run wild.

If you're like me and prefer to let your kids do the messy art stuff with someone else, at some place else then this is for you.

It's next Wednesday, October 3 and it's all about Botanical Printing, so your kids can get back to nature and get knee-deep in paint. Check out the website or Shell's blog and if you go say that I sent you and give Shell a big smooch for me.

Monday 24 September 2012

Early birds

I have two early birds. And by early birds, I mean early.

Lil has always been an early riser. As a babe she would always wake for the day at around 5am (even after multiple wakings during the night). Even now she likes to wake up in the 5s. I can count on one hand how many times she's slept past 7am. I can count on one finger how many times she's slept past 7.15am. In almost six years.

Goosey was slightly later. She likes to wake about 6-6.30am. Not late, but much better than 5.30am. There's something about starting your day at a time that has a 5 in it that is just crap.

Darbs seems to be following in his biggest sister's footsteps. The past three mornings he's woken up at around 4.30am. Yes, that's right folks. 4.30am.

I know I'm not alone. I know there are lots of parents dragging their fuzzy heads and their bleary eyes out of bed to squawking kids when it's still dark. Fixing cups of tea and bowls of weet-bix on autopilot.

This makes me feel better. I have to admit to gritting my teeth and biting my tongue when I come across that parent who tells me they have to drag their kid of bed at 8am every morning. I just don't want to hear it, OK?

It's not too bad over here, having to be out the door just after seven on a weekday morning means that at 5am the day doesn't stretch out too far in front of us. Getting moving early has it advantages then.

Still I'm looking forward to the day when I can have a little more time in the morning. Sure, my body clock will be completely stuffed up and I'll still wake at 5am, but at least I can roll over and read a book.

Do you have early risers? How do you cope with it?

Friday 21 September 2012

We have snow business in the desert

Yesterday I had a bit of a sniffle, then I started to feel a bit sweaty and feverish. Then I realised I wasn't feverish, the air con wasn't working. It was supposed to be fixed by 6pm last night, but 6am today it still wasn't on.

When you live in a city where it's 40 plus during the day, you really want the air con to work. Really.

So when we were sweating by 7am, we knew we had to do something. What else do you do when you're in the desert and need to cool off? Hit the snow of course! Yes, that's right, the heat hasn't gone to my head. A shopping mall just 5 minutes from our home has an indoor ski slope and snow park. Dubai at it's craziest!

We were the first people there Skip and the girls pulled on ski suits, poor old Darbs wasn't allowed in and had to watch the snow bunny activities through a glassed viewing area. Skip and I took it turns to go sledding and tobogganing. The girls had never seen snow before, and I still don't know if this really qualifies... Whatever, they had an absolute ball. To tell you the truth, this is my kind of way to do the snow. You go in, they give you all the gear, you hand it back when you finish, no freezing cold winds, not driving through snow, no cold wet gear.

This afternoon I plan on swimming and making a few sand castles with the kids. Where else than in Dubai can you ski in the morning and sunbake in the afternoon?!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

The school run, run, run, the school run, run

I've had a lot of people ask me how I fill in my days. The biggest and most time consuming part of the day is the school run. So here is how a typical morning in our house flows at the moment:

5.30am: Darbs wakes up and has some milk.
6am: Everyone else gets up. It's time for breakfast and lunch making.
6.30am: uniforms ironed and time to get dressed.
7.10am:  I try to get out the door. Actually getting in the car with bags and seat belts on can take up to 20 minutes some mornings.

7.20ish: We're off!
Everyone is very happy, as you can see.

The scenery is a little different from the Sydney school run...

Around the school it's a procession of 4WDs.

7.45am: The kids are deposited to their classrooms. By 7.50am they're singing the national anthem and starting their day. 

Now it's just me and him.

I pulled in for petrol. Didn't have to get out of the car and half a tank of fuel cost $10 Australian.
I love Dubai

Is it true that Keith is coming to do The Voice Middle East?
I'm sure he'd know all the words too.

Mmmm Camelicious...
Pull in to grab a coffee on the way home.

8.30am I'm home. Time to sweep the sand off the floors, which is the constant reminder that we live in the desert.

That's an average morning at our place at the moment! 

Tuesday 18 September 2012

When you least expect it

Things have been pretty good in our world. We're settling into our new life. Things are good, really good. There is lots to look forward to. Each morning I wake up and think: "Oh we are here, it isn't a dream!"

The kids are finding their places at school. Not without a little bit of turmoil, which is to be expected when you uproot your life to the otherside of the globe.

Skip is working hard and finding his groove.

Me? Well, I'm here. Doing the school run. Trying to make our home a home. I haven't been homesick at all. Well I wasn't until yesterday.

I picked up the kids from school. As I waited for Lil to come out of class, I saw groups of mothers chatting away in French, German and Arabic. I tried to smile and work my way into their conversation, but they nodded and went back to their chat.

When we got home from school I could see dozens of kids playing in the playground. The kids and I eagerly went down to play, burn off some steam and hopefully meet a few neighbours.

There were plenty of kids, but no other mums. Just nannies who'd split off into their nationality groups. I stood and watched and stopped Darbs from eating rocks.

All of sudden I had a pang. I wished I was at our park. I wished I was chatting with my oldest friend about preschool, or our renos (hey, we lived in the inner west) or gossip. I wished I could call in at my good mate JB's and she'd make me a coffee and we'd vent. I wished I could hear a knock at the door and it would be my mum calling in for a cuppa. I wish we could have dinner with our friends and laugh about inappropriate things until my cheeks hurt.

Sometimes, Lil is so intuitive it amazes me. She looked up and said "Who do you miss, Mum?" We talked about who we missed (according to Lil: "Goose misses Ollie. Dad misses Shane and Daniel. Darbs misses Saffron and Emily. And you mum, miss all the other mums") and it made it a little bit better.

I love my own company, I love what we're doing here. I know we'll meet friends here. Just sometimes I wish I could pack up a few people from home, because that's the hardest thing. No matter how many friends we meet and how good our life is, we'll always miss those special people at home.

Monday 17 September 2012

New location, new look

You may notice something a little different....

I decided, seeing as I was in a new location, that I needed a new look.

The wonderful Sharnee from Suck My Lolly created my new page.

What do you think?

Saturday 15 September 2012

Pinching myself

Late yesterday afternoon, as the sun started to slide down the sky and the fierce heat started to melt away, we went to our pool and beach. Our pool and beach!

We splashed in the tepid water of the gulf and the kids made sandcastles.

Feeling hot we decided to cool off in the pool. The water is chilled, making it beautifully refreshing.

We swam and played and laughed. I looked around and had to pinch myself. This isn't a holiday, this is our home.

How lucky am I. So lucky, I can't believe it. I don't know what I expected when we moved here, but I didn't expect this.

Friday 14 September 2012

Up, down and sideways

The past week has been busy. B.U.S.Y.

I've been up and down Sheik Zayed Rd too many times to count. We've bought furniture, we've waited for deliveries, I've had arguments, there have been stuff-ups galore. I've pulled my hair out, I've shook my head in disbelief. I've struggled to understand people's accents, they've struggled to understand mine.

There have been times when I've thought: "This is all too hard. What are we doing?" Others when I've thought: "This is awsome".

Best of all we're in our new home and we're loving it. This morning, being the weekend, we went down to the beach and swam and then cooled off in the pool. We had coffees and relaxed. And generally felt lucky and amazed that we now call this place home. I have to pinch myself some times.

It's so nice to be able to take some time to breathe this weekend, there has just been so much going on. I now feel like we can plant some roots and enjoy this place for what it is.

Before we left, my dad said to me: "This experience will be what you make it." So true. I plan on making it fun, memorable and the time of our lives.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Lump in my throat

For the past week, each weekday when the girls go off to school and Skip goes off to work I find this lump in my throat. It hasn't been there on the weekends, just when Darbs and I are alone in this place.

We've found somewhere to live and it's been a rush of finding and buying furniture. We came with just a suitcase, so there is a whole home for a family of five to set up.

It's a lovely place and I know that we're going to have a lot of fun and make a whole heap of great memories there.

But still that lump remains...

That lump is anxiety and nervousness.

It's worrying about the girls at school, hoping that they're settling in and don't have lumps in their own throats. It's remembering their little fingers digging into my leg as I pried myself away at their classroom door this morning.

It's the extra energy it takes when you're in a foreign place just to get in the car and find a supermarket. Or find a bed shop. Or find anything. It's making sure you don't turn the car into oncoming traffic or take a wrong turn and end up in another Emirate.

It's worrying that I'm dressed appropriately.

It's trying to find something for dinner in a supermarket that's different. Do I really want to buy that odd looking meat from Kenya?

It's worrying that Skip is finding his feet at work and enjoying it.

It's not having someone, anyone, to call and say let's catch up for a play and a coffee and a laugh.

It's looking at the mums at school drop-off in stilettos and full make up and wondering how or if I'll ever break into that circle.

It's all the things that you take for granted at home, that is second nature, that you don't even think about that suddenly need your energy.

I know that in time, soon enough, that the lump will get smaller and disappear. As the kids make friends, as I make friends, as I find my way around. I know that it's not a bad thing. I know that I'm learning and growing. I know that it will all be worth it. I know that I'll be glad that I've pushed myself. It's like the first of school or the first day of anything, the fear and the nervousness can be all-consuming but before long you can't even remember feeling that way.

But right now, right this minute, all I can feel is that lump.

Saturday 8 September 2012

IKEA re-hash

About 18 or so months ago I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with IKEA. In that post I vowed never to return. Today I went back, thinking maybe IKEA is different in the Middle East. I'm here to tell you it's not. It's just as frustrating, just as annoying. We had a whole apartment's worth of furniture picked out - lounges, dining table, beds, etc, etc. Most of it was out of stock. It was going to take 7 days to deliver, if we wanted it sooner we had to take it ourselves that day - what, all of it in our car? We had to wander around and talk to eight different people. It was stressful and crap

We ended up walking out with nothing. We went to another furniture store that had stuff that was better, just as inexpensive, one person could take our whole order (no wandering through massive aisles finding parts and pieces), nothing to put together and they could deliver in 48 hours. Best of all the place was empty, no elbows or screaming kids. Why do you make it so hard IKEA?

To remind myself, I re-hashing the post I wrote last year. I hope you enjoy it.

IKEA and the ex-boyfriend

I went to IKEA today. What a mistake! In fact, while driving home, I decided that IKEA is a lot like an ex-boyfriend. Confused? Let me explain...

The first time you go to IKEA you're head over heels. There's so much to choose from, all so inexpensive. It's mesmerising. That's it! You're going to shop at IKEA forever, there's nothing better out there. You can't believe how lucky you are to have found it. Sure it's a little annoying and there's no-one to help you. Sure it's a little difficult to find what you're after, but you'll work through it. Nothing's perfect, after all.

Then you go home. Not only do you have to do all the work putting it and keeping it together, there is very little in the way of instructions. Once together you realise it's not quite once you wanted and is also a little wobbly (from having to put it together yourself). Shortly after it begins to fall apart. You curse IKEA and vow never to go there again.

Time passes and you think 'Hmmm maybe it's not that bad'. After all everyone else seems to rave about it. Maybe you didn't put enough effort it, maybe if you try a little bit harder this time it will all work out better. 

So, you go back. At first you're mesmerised again. Look at it all, it's wonderful! Then suddenly you feel trapped and all the things you hate about IKEA come rushing back to you. Putting in all the hard work, having to do everything yourself, the cheap shoddy product you get for all your effort. Being treated badly or like you're invisible. Often you simply feel like they're speaking a totally different language.

Tears, frustration, anger. Worst of all you can't work out how to get out of this damn place!

So, this time, this time I swear I will never go back to IKEA again. I've managed to put that old relationship in the past and replace it with a much, much better one, now to find a replacement for my retail relationship...

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Be careful of what you wish for

A few days ago I started to worry about Goosey's first day of school. In UAE, they follow the British system and start school earlier than in Australia. So, Goose is going to school with her big sister. I was worried that her first day wouldn't be as special or memorable as Lil's. That with all the other firsts going on, this one would get lost in the wash.

I really shouldn't have worried. Goose will always make sure her presence is felt. 

Today was her first day and it started at 4.30am when Darbs decided to wake up. It then continued when Lil went to the toilet and slipped over in a large puddle of water, which I discovered had come from the roof.

While I was trying to sort out the leakage problem, Goose decided to give herself a new school makeover. She cut her hair. It wasn't just a trim either. She cut it ALL off, bar a couple of strands at the back that she couldn't reach. Her golden curls gone, she looked like a weird Billy Ray Cyrus type. This on her VERY first day of school. 

I love Goose fiercely. She's the kind of girl that marches to her own beat. She doesn't really care what others think. She's her own person. She's competitive, she's strong-willed, she's hilariously funny. She's the toughest person I know. She's ended up in Emergency from her own actions all too often. She's the only person, the only one I tell you, who would give herself a short haircut on the first day of school.

When she realised just how bad it was, she cried and said she wanted to go back to Australia. I did the best I could to tidy it up, she plonked her hat on her head and off we went. 

On our way, I suddenly heard a massive POP and then a thud. I had a flat tyre.

I called Skip. He was going to come and change it, but I reminded him it was 40 plus out and dusty. Not good when you're in a suit and have meetings to go to. Also, I didn't know if I could direct him where to go. The hire car company practically hung up on me, not before telling me they didn't change flat tyres. Our relocation agent said he'd love to help me, but he was in  Abu Dhabi.

I sat and thought. I'd never changed a tyre before. I looked at the tools in the boot. I looked at the spare tyre. Sweat started to drip off me after mere seconds.

All of a sudden a man pulled up behind me and before I knew it he was changing the tyre for me.

Woo hoo!

We made it to school.

On the way back, two cars collided in front of me on the main crazy highway. I had to swerve to miss them.

Nerves jangling. In need of a drink. I got home.

So I'm fairly certain Goosey's first day of school will be memorable. Not always for the right reasons, but memorable none the less.

Golden locks no more.
Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Best of all he didn't murder me. 

Goose decided to keep her hat on all day. I have no idea why....

The school is in the shadow of a landmark!

Monday 3 September 2012

Speaking a different language

Anyone who has travelled knows that different people in different places have their own ways of doing things. There's a shorthand, that if you're from out of town, you don't understand even if you're speaking the same language.

That has happened a lot here. Such as being told on Friday night that the real estate agent needed a large deposit urgently the next day, despite us not having a bank account and limited access to ATMs. It was just assumed that we of course knew this. Of course, we didn't.

Or being told that the kids' orientation day at school was on from 8am-12pm. I thought that meant they went to school from 8am-12pm, but no, we can turn up any time between those hours for a quick 20 minutes orientation. Thankfully I had called about something else and happened to ask.

There are so many rules and procedures and ways of doing things that are different from home, yet it's assumed that you know what's going on. I find that when I ask questions I get a big sigh, or an eye roll. It's amazing how you can hear an eye roll over the phone.

"Houses don't come with oven/stoves in Dubai?" sigh "Of course, not. Who wants a used oven?"

"I would like a pre-paid sim card, please." "Where's your passport?" "I don't have it, do I need it?" eye roll "Of course you need it."

Sigh. "You need to take your bread to the bakery counter to be ticketed"

Eye roll "I need the correct change"

Even trying to buy a lunch box has been a fruitless four day shopping extravaganza. Everything is matchbox-sized. And insulated or a cold pack? Forget about it.

It's that constant feeling of not-knowing-what-the-hell-is-going-on.

I'm learning fast.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Internet dating

Things are starting to fall in place for our new life. Skip's entrenched at work, the girls start school on Tuesday and we 'think' we've found a place to live. A place that isn't in the middle of nowhere, that isn't falling down and is actually pretty nice. Anyway more on that once it's confirmed.

Now that Skip and the girls are getting their lives sorted here, it's time to try and find my place here. I know exactly one person here in Dubai. That's our relocation agent and as nice a chap as he is, it's not a friend.

One of the challenges that I've been most looking forward to moving here, is pushing myself a bit. Socially, I'm crap. I hate small talk. I'm socially awkward. I'm not one of those people leading the conversation at a party, it's just not me. So landing in a country where I don't know a soul, I'm going to have to come out of my shell a little. Put myself out there. Get uncomfortable. Now, Dubai is probably one of the easier places to do this as everyone is in a similar situation. From what I've heard, people are friendlier and more willing to let a newbie enter the circle.

It seems that everyone knows someone who lives here. Before I left home, I was inundated with offers of email addresses and phone numbers from people who knew people. I've also had offers from kind people who've read this blog. Funnily enough, I've even had the girlfriend of a family friend email me. Why it's funny is that these people were people my mum and dad met when they were living overseas before I was born and then became lifelong friends. Their son is my age and his girlfriend (who I've never met) lived in Dubai. They all read this blog "Hi, guys!". So the expat circle continues on through the generations.

So, I now find myself in the strange position where I'm emailing strangers and saying 'Hi, I'm Corinne! Want to be my friend?' To say I feel like a loser is a complete understatement.

I do worry that I won't meet people on the same wavelength. I have read blogs on  Dubai mums that scare the crap out of me.

Despite this, I have to put myself out there, suck up my pride and do this or else friends aren't going to come knocking on my door. The girls will get to meet people at school and Skip will meet people at work, and I'm sure I'll meet people through those avenues too but I have to pull my weight.

Have you ever been in a position where you've had to put yourself out there? Have you made friends through cyber introductions (other than blogging)?
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