Sunday 31 March 2013

All good things...

I started writing this blog about 3.5 years ago, this is post 901. When I first started, I didn't really know what a blog was. I stumbled across Blogger through Google and started mucking around. I was at a really sleep deprived stage and feeling a bit isolated at home. I was thinking about returning to work and freelance writing, so I thought I needed some practise. I started tapping away on the laptop, the blog being a place I could store my scrawlings. I honestly never expected any of it to see the light of day. This was at a time when blogging was almost non-existent.

Somehow, I'm not really sure how, other bloggers stumbled upon my blog and started reading and commenting. I started reading their blogs and commenting on theirs. Some of these people are now blog 'royalty', others have vanished along the way. I started to like the feedback, I started to connect with these other bloggers and enjoyed having this interaction while being home, somewhat isolated. I made good friends.

I enjoyed having a hobby (my first ever one), something I really loved and looked forward to doing. Before, if you wanted to write as a hobby you scrawled on some paper and shoved it in a drawer. Here writing could be a fun hobby and shared with people who were interested in reading it. It felt lovely and it felt safe.

Slowly, I invited close friends and family to read. That's when I really enjoyed this blog, I enjoyed the writing and I enjoyed the comments.

Then about 2 years ago, I was made one of the Kidspot Top 50 Australian Bloggers and it was a real privilege. It was nice to feel recognised and be regarded as something other than 'just a mum at home'. It was a nice to feel that I was good at something and other people thought so too. That I had something to contribute. The downside was, as part of the competition, I had to publicise my blog. That was the first time that I really pursued readers, at the time it didn't really feel comfortable and I think it's never really sat right with me since. In some way, while I haven't actively pursued followers, I think I almost felt like I had to as part of the natural progression. Since then I've changed the way I've written, I've tried to ensure my blog was written entirely from my own perspective. While I've included my family and friends, I've tried to ensure they were bit players and that this was my story.  Sometimes I've succeeded and sometimes I haven't.

Over the past few months, I've felt less and less comfortable and motivated to keep writing here. I think I need to take heed of these feelings. I've felt obligated to write here and that's something I've never wanted. Blogging here just hasn't felt good.

I love writing and will always write in some form. I think now is the time to take a different direction. While I'll never say never, I think it's time to take an extended break from here. More than likely a permanent break.

Over the past few days, I've toyed with how I'd finish up. At first I thought I'd just stop, but that's not my style. Then I thought I'd put a small note saying thanks and goodbye, again not my style.

I want to thank everyone who has read and commented and given me lovely feedback. I want to thank all the wonderful friends I've met along the way. I want to thank you all for your encouragement and lovely words. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read my words.

In the future, I may resurrect this blog but turn it into something different. I may just start a completely different blog. I may not blog at all. In the meantime, I will be contributing to a blog written by expat Australian women called Wandering Women, it will feature stories about life as an Australian woman living overseas.

So again, thank you. And, ciao for now.

Thursday 28 March 2013

El Loco

I think out of everything that you can do for yourself, sleep is number one. Get a few hours of solid sleep a night and you can tackle the world. Don't? Well, the craziness of sleep deprivation can set in.

Sleep deprivation and I are no strangers, in fact, you might say we're good mates. Well, actually, not so much good mates as well-worn companions. If I can get 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, I'm going well and can cope with life as normal, though at present that's rare.

The past six-and-a-half years three months, my sleep has been broken and limited, which is painful. The past week has been more woeful. The past two nights, almost non-existent.

On Tuesday night (the wee hours of Wednesday morning) I found myself woken again and then emailing for a number of hours, trying to sort out issues back home. So a grand total of 3 hours of sleep of an hour here and an hour there. Last night was the same, an hour at the start of the night and then two hours at the end of the night due to an insomniac baby boy who was just wide awake for hours. So six hours in the past 55 or so hours, means I'm feeling particularly loco today.

Life goes on though and there are kids to collect from school, shopping to be done, dinners to be made, baths to be done, questions to be answered and maybe, just maybe they'll be a few hours of slumber as a sweet reward (let's face it, probably not). The knock-on effects of not sleeping properly touch every part of your every day life. I'm snappy at the kids and Skip. I'm not a fun person to be around. I make mistakes and bad judgement calls.

But I'm just one of many, many people not sleeping soundly. I often feel though, life would be so, so different if all my family could catch a few solid zzzs every night. I know life would be a lot more technicoloured.

I didn't want to write a post today because I feel completely crap and completely loopy. To be honest, I feel like I want to throw up. Then I thought, stuff it, I may as well write what I feel.

What about you? Is sleep an issue? How much sleep do you need to feel tip top?

Tuesday 26 March 2013

What I really need now

It feels like there isn't a moment in my life when I think to myself "What I really need now is...."

It can be anything from:

  • some quiet, alone time
  • some family time
  • a long lunch
  • to get down to business and get some jobs done.

What I really need right now is some fun. I can't remember the last time I had a huge amount of fun. You know, just silly, crazy fun when you laugh until your cheeks hurt. You don't think about dinner, bath and bed. You don't worry if the kids have eaten enough vegetables. Have we got enough nappies? Will that stain come out? Did I remember to buy milk? Better go to sleep before one of the kids wakes me.  Just pure fun.

When was the last time you really had fun? What do you really need right now?


Monday 25 March 2013

Damaged for eternity

The other night, the girls were in the bath and I was picking up some things in their bedroom next door.

I overheard this little gem of a conversation:

"I will love you for eternity!" said Goosey.

"Do you even know what eternity means?" replied Lil-lil.

"No, do you?"

"It means damaged," Lil spat out.

"What does damaged mean?" asked Goosey.

"It means broken. So your love is broken." Lil-lil assured her.

"Oh, OK then. Like how smoking damages you." Goose said.


Glad they got that cleared up!

Sunday 24 March 2013

From coffee to 'in case of an emergency'

Living as an expat makes relationships with the people you meet so much more intense. When you've lived in a suburb, a city, a country for many years you have a whole network of people to rely on. You can take your time getting to know new people and let relationships grow at a slow and steady pace. When you suddenly find yourself in a new city, a new country and a new hemispherse, that network is non-existent and bonds have to be made quickly and made strong.

On the first day of school, I had to fill in some forms. I reached the 'in case of emergency' section and they were after someone else other than me or Skip, I had to leave the line empty because I didn't know a single soul. Not one single soul.

As time goes on, school mums have to become more than people you have coffee with after drop-offs and work colleagues more than someone you catch up with for a drink on a Friday night. They become confidants. They become people you share holidays and milestones with. They are the ones who understand the frustrations, the loneliness, the excitement and everything else in a new land. They become your 'in case of emergency' people.

At a recent birthday party, a friend looked at the kids wistfully and said: "I hate these kids birthday parties, not because of the noise or the chaos, but because these kids weren't here last year and most won't be here next year. My kids have parties filled with people who they won't even remember in a year or two. It's just sad."

I'm a little more optimistic and hope that at least some of the people who we are forming these bonds with we'll know for a lifetime. The bonds must be made quickly but they will be long-lasting.

Seven months on and I have someone on the 'in case of emergency' line. I have someone I trust to leave my kids with if I need to be rushed to hospital. I have people who I could call at 2am in an emergency. It feels funny that I didn't know these people even walked the planet six months ago and that suddenly they are filling the places of family and long-term friends. That's the reality of being an expat.

Friday 22 March 2013

Thank God, it's Friday

Peaceful, calm and still. Not words I often use to describe this city, but that's what Dubai is on a Friday. It's fast becoming my favourite day of the week.

Friday is the first day of the weekend here and is the holy day in Islam. Years ago, the weekend used to be Thursday-Friday (and it still is in places in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia) but it was changed to Friday-Saturday to make doing business with the west a little easier.

By law, workers are only required to have one day off a week in the UAE and for a lot of people that day is Friday. Which means the city is very, very quiet. The roads are blissfully empty and I love soaking up the peace in an otherwise chaotic city.

For Muslims, Friday is a time to spend at the mosque and with family. It's a day where everyone seems to move slowly.

In Dubai, Friday brunches are very popular for Western expats. Every hotel in the city has a brunch, as do many restaurants, and it can be completely over the top and extravagant (one hotel has Chinese acrobats to entertain the kids, free flowing French bubbles and live cooking stations whipping up a world of food). There are other brunches that are a little more sedate.

Large open areas around town are filled with Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men playing cricket. Pakistani men gather to cheer on their favourite wrestlers, Carly captured this tradition beautifull in her post here.

For our little family, Fridays usually involve coffee at our favourite cafe, grocery shopping for the week and some times we like to go out for lunch, usually trying out a new Lebanese restaurant. We might take a swim in the afternoon or play in one of the city's well manicured parks. We may catch up with friends or visit one of the city's attractions.

Most small shops and tourist attractions are closed on a Friday or at least on Friday mornings, which has taken some time to get used to. Many a Friday we've turned up somewhere to find it a ghost town.

Yep, Friday is fast becoming my favourite day.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Happy mother's day

In most of the Middle East today, it's Mother's Day, the first official day of Spring I believe.

The girls have been excitedly doing craft at school, making cards, drawing pictures, doing performances. Today will finish off with a picnic at school with the mums being treated to coffee and cupcakes.

The highlights? Goosey singing the Spice Girls' Mama ( I love you) with her classmates, which made more than a few mums misty-eyed. The other was this gorgeous picture that Lil drew of me.

Goosey randomly told me the other day over dinner: "There is no way to be a perfect mum, but a million ways to be a good one." I was ready to ship off to Hallmark to start her career, but it turns out that was her line at the performance.

To all the mums in the Middle East and around the world, Happy Mother's Day. 

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Market day

Warning, this post will be completely boring to those who couldn't give a rat's about supermarkets and grocery shopping...

When you move somewhere different one of the biggest impacts on your daily life is where to shop, what to buy. Moving to Dubai has meant getting used to different supermarkets, different products, different ways of eating.

When I first moved here, I was surprised at how many of the same products I used at home that I could get here. Vegemite, Bega cheese, breakfast cereals, even Tim Tams. All the same familiar stuff. Living in a place with a large expat community means that we probably get more Aussie products here than we would in living in the UK or US. The one thing we can't get that my family loves are Vita-Weats (c'mon Arnotts, you can export Tim Tams, what about Vita-Weats?) and I would say that's about it. Although, I always say I'd love someone to send me a good flat white over, that seems to be missing here.

Then it's the all the other stuff. Working out where the best produce is, the good meat, the nice dairy. As pretty much all produce has to be imported to the UAE you can buy carrots from Australia, apples from NZ, onions from India, potatoes from Lebanon, sweet potato from the US, tomatoes from Holland, etc. Then because it's all a little strange I had thoughts going through my mind of "Are onions from India or potatoes from Lebanon safe to eat?"

Bread is different here too, but it's certainly a lot cheaper than in Australia. I rarely pay more than $2 for a loaf of bread, often less. Bread is the one thing I can only buy in certain shops as it's hard to get really good western-style bread loaves here. Bread goes mouldy here very quickly, so it's a daily purchase. I've noticed that the bread doesn't have preservatives in it. 

Chicken is one of the few local products you can buy here and it's very popular. Although chickens are a lot smaller here than they are in Australia. Average chicken is under 1kg. Australian beef and lamb is available to buy everywhere, and it's often cheaper and better quality than what I was buying at home. You can buy pork here, but only from certain licensed supermarkets and are kept in a clearly marked section away from the rest of the produce, usually behind a door marked "For non-muslims". Pork products come from the UK, France, Belgium and Kenya. You can also buy mutton from India or goat from Pakistan, I haven't been that adventurous yet.

The biggest change in our grocery habits has been having to visit more than one supermarket to do your weekly shop. We got to a more local, Arabic supermarket to buy produce as it's much better and much cheaper. Then we go to a more western-style supermarket that stocks brand name products and pork. 

Milk and dairy are locally produced or produce in Saudi Arabia. Although we do buy Bega cheese and some soft French cheeses. Milk goes off quickly here too, so that is something that is purchased daily as well. Again, I think it's the lack of preservatives.

Cooking meals has meant a shift in the way I think. Using new products and ingredients, not being able to get things like really good sausages. So bangers and mash doesn't pop up too often, but instead we're using lots of zingy herbs (corriander, mint, fennel), limes and nuts (cashews and pistachios) which are expensive in Australia.

Skip is a good cook and comes up with new ways to use the big bunches of herbs we can get for a few cents, the golden Iranian sweet sultanas, the big bags of pistachios. 

I'm not as imaginative, but I have cooked up this meal a few times lately, Baby Mac's Asian Mince Chicken, and it makes the most of the fabulous herbs and limes we can get here. Try this out, it's so easy and so tasty. 

So, seven months in I find I'm comfortable negotiating the food aisles, which was a little daunting at first. 

Do you have your favourite product that you just couldn't live without? Can you recommend any recipes to me? 

Tuesday 19 March 2013


Last Thursday night, Skip and I were celebrating the week's end by sitting on our balcony and soaking up the balmy evening. What usually happens on a Thursday night in our house is we listen to music, chat about life in Dubai and how far we've come, what we like, what we don't.

Skip said to me: "I reckon every Australian should come here for a little a while."

Me: "What? Like national service or something?"

Skip: "Where else can you work and deal with so many cultures and nationalities, it opens your mind. Changes the way you think about the world."

In my experience of Dubai, I have had nothing but respect from everyone I've come across. Every person, every nationality, every situation has been so respectful. Actually, I lie, I do remember one incident involving a drunken expat which was far from respectful, but I'll carry on. I found in Australia, being treated disrespectfully, even on a small level, was part of life. So, being treated with the greatest of respect is something I've relished here.

I realise and I've also discovered that this probably has to do with the fact that I'm a white woman. It also helps that I always try to be as respectful as I can.

Each day, I go in and out of our building dropping off and picking up the kids. I get to know the people who work in my building and I always smile and greet them. I'll make small talk in the lift: "It's hot out there today! Have a good day." Encourage the kids to say hello too. Nothing remarkable, but I noticed that every worker's face lit up when I walked in. I then began to notice that other residents never uttered a word or cracked a smile and the workers' faces would drop and they'd get back to whatever they were doing.

Now, I'm no superstar for saying hello. It's just manners. I think it's especially important to be nice to the people who are taking away my garbage and wiping away my kids sticky fingerprints. These are people you want on your side. I also know people better than me who leave gifts for the workers in the building, so no, I'm no superstar at all.

A little bit of respect and kindness for another human being can go a long way. Actually, it's the most important thing. Full-stop. No one is better than anyone else. We're all humans going through the same dramas, problems and issues. Treat people the way you want to be treated. It's that big and that simple.

Reading the papers yesterday was a little overwhelming. Ten years since the invasion of Iraq and in that time 134,000 Iraqis have been killed, 4,400 American soldiers killed. More than 60,000 people killed during the conflict in Syria, including many children. The Steubenville rape case verdict.

Just reading the comments section on any of the Australian newspaper stories and it's a depressing mish-mash of disrespectful, often ignorant and hateful, views.

It's all too much to take in most of the time. So, what can I do? Not a huge amount, but I can smile and treat people with kindness. I can teach my kids that it's wrong to degrade or humiliate another human being. I can let them know that they are important, just as every other human life is important. I can let them know that standing back while someone is being hurt or humiliated is not right either.

I can teach them that you should treat others they way you would like to be treated. It's a lesson as old as time but one that doesn't seem to sink in.

Just stop for a moment. Imagine what life would be like if everyone lived this way.

Do away with mistrust and suspicion. Turn the other cheek. Imagine that every other person that you come across is just like you - trying to put food on the table, trying to create a good life. Because that's what they're doing. We're all essentially the same.

Change the world one tiny small step at a time. Smile at a random stranger. Open a door for someone. Shrug off that person who cut you off. Start a conversation with someone completely different to you and really listen. Throw out your preconceived ideas.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Who knows, it might be you who changes the world.

Monday 18 March 2013

Keeping life interesting

Over the past few days we've spent a bit of time in the car. We had a fantastic weekend away to an oasis town in the mountains called Al Ain, which is about an hour or so drive from Dubai. Then yesterday, we picked up my sister-in-law from the airport who was having a quick stopover on her way to Europe.

This has meant the kids have spent a lot of time in the back of the car, chatting, asking questions and listening to the CD player and asking more questions. I can't remember how many times I've heard: "Muuuuum, I just want to ask you something..."

And the questions could be anything from: can we have McDonalds? Are we there yet? Why can't we fly to Abu Dhabi? What's St Patrick's Day? What's a lesbian? Why did Jean Valjean steal a loaf of bread for his nephew? Did Jean Valjean eat any of the bread himself? Why can't we have McDonalds? Are we lesbians, Mum, we love each other? Are we there yet? What's for dinner? Do they celebrate Easter in Melbourne?

Every single question preluded with "Muuum, I just want to ask you something...."

It's coming up with answers that sends me loopy because even a simple, correct answer doesn't always suffice. "But why?" is often the reply. Or "I don't think that's right". Or "Nawwwww, that's not fair."

Often the answers don't stay in their heads either. When I asked if they said Happy St Patrick's Day to their Irish friends, I got this reply: "I couldn't remember what it was, so I just said Happy Pirate Day."

I hope you all had a Happy Pirate Day.

Thursday 14 March 2013

My favourite time of the day

A beam of light falls across her face, her hair sticks to her forehead lightly wet with sweat. A few feet away, a smaller lump under a swathe of pink hearts rises and falls, the only noise is the hum of a quiet snore. I brush the damp hair away from her eyes.

I quietly flick the switch and back out of the room.

Slowly pulling down the handle, silver and cool in my hand, I pray that the click doesn't startle him. I tip-toe in and he snuffles and rolls over, sighing deeply before his shoulders return to their rhythmic movement. I tuck his grubby puppy under his soft, white chubby elbow. Standing in the  for a moment to soak in the peacefulness of his sleepy twitches, no doubt dreaming about his adventures in the sand.

I pull the door shut with a soft thud. My shoulders and back muscles ripple with relaxation. As the reality that another day is done takes over my body.

I collapse on the couch, an involuntary groan escapes from both my lips and the lounge. The heaviness of the day weighing me down. My head falls back and my eyes close shut for minute, before slowly opening.

The walls of the lounge room flickers a million different colours as the remote scoots past cooking shows, news channels and sit coms. I stretch out and let out a sigh that says a million different things.

What's your favourite time of the day?

Monday 11 March 2013

Ramblings of career, dreams and reality

Growing up and even in my 20s I used to believe that I could tackle things and instantly be fabulous at them. I remember wanting to be a scientist, that will be interesting I thought, and then I realised I wasn't as naturally gifted as I thought I was (ie I couldn't be a scientist without a lot of hard work and I didn't really like numbers all that much). Then I remember thinking that skiing would be nice, then I realised that there was a lot of snow involved and it was quite cold and I that I fell over. A lot.

I also remember thinking that I would be a truly wonderful mother. In reality, I try, but I'm definitely not as good as I thought I would be.

I was a mixture of naive and arrogant. I always wanted to be naturally talented or gifted at something, anything. I'm still waiting to find that talent or gift, somehow I think I might be waiting a long time.

Recently, I started a creative writing  course online, it's really interesting and I'm enjoying using my brain in a different way, but I'm not as good as I thought I would be at it. Not that I was expecting to jot down a few paragraphs and be hailed the next Virginia Woolf or something, I just thought I would be writing a little better than I am. It's a good reminder that, as with anything, you only get as much out of it as you put into and few of us are genuinely 'talented'. For the vast majority of the population, hard work is always required to succeed at anything.

I've never longed to write a novel, despite being told time and time again that I should. This course has made me believe even more that I probably never will write a long piece of fiction. It has, however, made me think more and more about writing something else. Not fiction, I'm not sure what. A memoir perhaps? Would anyone want to read that?

So far, my career has found me rather than the other way round. I studied journalism because I wasn't sure what else to do and some friends told me that I would be good at it. Then while I was studying I found writing feature stories was something that 'fit', that I could do without much struggle. I was then very lucky to get a job and then another and had a career in magazines that last more than 10 years. I was lucky as about only a quarter of my journalism class ended up as working journalists.

At the time I enjoyed working in magazines and I don't think there was any other career that would've fit, but it never felt like it was what I 'should' be doing. I've worked with people who devoured it, loved it, were passionate about it, that was never me. It all felt a little like a fluke, that I was pinching someone else's dream.

People keep asking me when I'll go back to it. There are lots of opportunities to work over here, but that time has passed for me. I keep a look out for that next, unexpected opportunity. It, of course, would be easier if I had a passion and knew what to look for or what to work towards. I'm optimistic that it will appear in front of me or tap me on the shoulder or I'll fall into it. I always find that it's things you've never thought about or dreamt about that can become your passions, so it's important to be open to anything.

How bloody blessed am I that I have an opportunity to look for a dream? How lofty is that? As I type, I have a lovely lady cleaning my home for me. She's working hard to support her two children. Beautiful children, she tells me, who she hasn't seen in two years. Two years! She tells me she's 'bad' and can't help but call them every day. I'm sure her dream would be just to tuck her kids into bed every night, see their faces as they tell her about their day. I hope that she can do that some time soon.

That's the things about living here in Dubai. There are people here living big, crazy dreams. Others who just want to put food on the table and give their family a chance at a good life. It's being inspired to live a dream, yet always remembering how blessed you are just to be able to watch your kids grow up. I'm hoping the key is being able to balance both.

Do you live your passion? Did you fall into a career or did you chase a dream? I'd love to hear about it. 

Sunday 10 March 2013

Downs and dunes

Thursday was possibly one of the most boring days I've ever had. I dropped the kids at school, I did washing, I put things away, I swept, I picked the kids up. They bickered, I yelled. I made dinner. Just as I was climbing into bed, before Skip was even home from his work function, I realised that I hadn't spoken to a single adult all day, except for a couple of minutes with Clint that morning. I felt really isolated and alone. I had one of those moments of "Why are we here? Is it worth it?"

Friday arrived and we excitedly packed up the car for a camping trip that we'd been invited on with some of Skip's work colleagues. The group met up and we poured over the books to decide where to head off to. I sighed a sigh of relief that the group seemed to be a good bunch of people.

We'd been fed, the cars were fueled and we headed off for some fun. Before long we'd turned off the main road onto a sandy track, the kids squealing with delight in the back. As we drove further the sand became softer and the dunes became higher. We drove up a dune and discovered another group of adventurers stuck in the sand on the other side. They were happily digging themselves out, one car had gone up and over a steep dune coming to an almost vertical stop on the other side, its bull bar and front grill dug into the sand. So we reversed and went off on search on an alternate route past them.

We flew through the dunes, before our car became bogged right at the soft top ridge of a high dune. The boys dug and pushed and got their own cars stuck. The kids busied themselves by sliding down the dunes on pieces of cardboard. After a while, all three cars we free and we were off again. "Now that was fun," Skip said grinning.

After a short while we found a clump of ghaf trees and a herd of goats feeding under them. A strange sight after the endless orange dunes. Skip and I were buzzing from the fun of the drive, the amazing scenery and surprises at every turn.

The kids scared off the goats and we went on to search for a place to put up the tents. We turned through a bend and found ourself in a pretty little valley with another clump of ghaf trees. Perfection. We pulled up, threw up the tents and went exploring.

That evening, we huddled round the campfire, eating and telling stories, the dark sky sprinkled with stars. Everyone was getting along fantastically. The kids roasted marshmallows and were happy sitting in the sand inside of being tucked up in bed. As we were chatting away we saw a light on top of the dune and some strange shadows. As the shadows got closer, we realised that it was a man wearing traditional robes guiding two camels. He stopped near our campsite and showed the kids his camels. It was just the most amazing moment, realising that there was nowhere else we could be but the Middle East.

The next morning, the girls raced up and down the dunes as everyone else tried to sleep. As the rest of the group emerged from their tents, breakfast was eaten and we set off amongst the dunes again. We were driving along when Goosey cried out "Camels!" And sure enough there were a group of five camels not far from our car. A bit further along, we found a man herding a big group of camels back to a farm. The curious beasts looked in the car window to a row a blue-eyed kids staring agog. We followed the camels along the track until it was time to turn onto the main road and head home.

Back among the cars and trucks, I was missing the sandy trails, especially when a car overtook us as we overtook a truck. Heart stopping.

Home and exhausted and orange sand in every pore and crevice, we were happy. Some Dubai days are dull and lonely and monotonous. Some days are frustrating and ridiculous. And then some days are pure magic, so surreal and beautiful you can't believe you're actually there, that this is your life. Some days you feel like your living something out of a book or documentary, but then you actually feel the sand between your toes and see just how soft a camel's coat can be and it's so much better than it is in a book or a TV screen. You find yourself in the dark chatting to someone who's walking through the dunes with a couple of camels. That was the moment when I answered my own questions from the night before. This is why we're here. And yes, it's most definitely worth it.

What you can't see in this picture is we're at the stop of a very steep dune...
Kids busied themselves while we recovered the vehicles.
The magic campsite. Truly a beautiful spot. 

Exploring the dunes in the cool of the early morning.

Sledding the dunes.

Spot the camel.

Driving with camels, kind of like dancing with wolves.
The camels actually look kind of cuddly!

Thursday 7 March 2013

Six months in...

It's been six, almost seven, months since our big Emirates plane landed and the five of us struggled out into the blasting 50 degree heat. Bewildered and overwhelmed about what we'd flown into.

It's been the fastest and longest six months of my life. We have crammed a lot into that time including Skip starting a new role, the kids starting a new school, creating a home, creating a brand-new life. Thousands of kilometres from everyone we know. Overall, I think we've done good.

Six months in, the newness and strangeness has worn off. Dubai is home. Six months in, Skip and I still have moments where we look at each and shake our heads and say: "I can't believe we live here!" I look over my early posts here and giggle at how clueless and wide-eyed I was. Such a veteran now, six months in.

Here are some thoughts on life in the Middle East, so far...

Do you miss Sydney?

I really thought, before I left, that I would miss Sydney. Her harbour and her crazy layout, but I don't. I miss friends and family, without doubt, but I don't miss Sydney as a place, not yet. I do, however, miss good coffee and good sushi, both of which are lacking here. Oh and I also miss good Chinese food, with real pork. I miss BYO restaurants too.

Has it been easy to make friends?
Yes and no. But overall, yes. The vast majority of the population here are from somewhere else, so people do tend to reach out to each other a lot more. Friendships are made and cemented much more quickly. You have to rely on your friends a lot more than you normally would as you don't have family or lifelong friends here. In saying that, I have people here that I already know I'll be friends with for life. In a short period of time, I've already been through a few 'big life moments' with some of them, something you'd never do with people you've just met.

The downside of this is that some of them are already starting the 'going home' talk. Whistfully planning their return to the home country and already counting down. It's a constant reminder that these solid bonds are going to have to dissolve a little, a lot sooner than you'd like.

For me, this is only the beginning of the journey, so I can see myself waving goodbye to good friends before I know it. It also means I need to widen my circle of friends.

What's the worst part of living in Dubai?

  • Being far away from the people you love. 
  • The heat – that crazy, crazy heat, which keeps you locked inside for many months.
  • The driving. The roads are brilliant here, the people on them, not so much. 

What are the best parts of living in Dubai?

  • Being immersed in a place that is so different to Australia.
  • Living in a place where I feel really safe.
  • Fabulous Lebanese and Indian food, oh my goodness, this I will miss if I ever leave.
  • Shisha. Sitting back, puffing away on flavoured tobacco is exotic and not something I do often.
  • Seeing how my kids have bloomed here and learnt so much.
  • Meeting fabulous people you don't ordinarily get the chance to meet.
  • Being in close proximity to the whole world. So much amazing travel to be done.
  • Getting a different understanding about the world. My horizons and my mind have definitely been widened. 
  • The positivity of the place - I love that most people love living here. It's made me realise how negative Australia can be, you're always hearing about how the place is going to ruin, the negativity from the politicians and the media is depressing. Here, the message is: Dubai is great, but how are we going to make it better? People genuinely love their leaders and I think the leaders really want this country to be the best place in the world. I may be a little naive, but it's a refreshing change.
  • Living near the water, that's always special. 
  • Discovering the beauty of the desert.
Six months in and it still very much feels like the beginning of a wonderful journey. I think there are years ahead of us to discover a lot more. 

Now, tell me, what do you want to know about life in Dubai. Please feel free to ask any questions and I'll answer them as best I can.

Monday 4 March 2013

The singing son

I've always loved singing. Singing in the shower, in the car, while cooking, while cleaning. Wherever. I've also loved singing with my kids. It's a great way to change their mood or get them interested in something or calm them down. Often they respond to song more than anything else.

So, it should be no surprise that I've raised a clan of singers. The Von Trapps they are not, but they do like to belt out a tune. Last week I met up with a friend who said: "I saw you driving up Sheikh Zayed Road last week." "Oh, did I look flustered?" She replied: "No, it actually looked like you were all singing." And we probably were.

Darbs has not been much of a talker, he says a few odd words and he understands everything we say to him, but he hasn't launched into much chat. At his age, Goosey was talking in long sentences. The odd thing is that he sings. He sings all the time. Most of the words that he does know are sung. He lives his life like a musical. Actually as I write these very words, I remember writing the same thing about Lil once upon a time on this blog.

Darbs can sing Gangam Style and his new favourite is the Work Song from Les Miserables. All day we hear him singing "Look down! Look down!" He wakes from his nap singing "Look down! Look down!" He pushes my iPhone or iPad at me and sings "Look Down! Look Down!" wanting to hear it. As we drive around town it's: "Look Down! Look Down! la la la la la la"

I said to Skip the other night as we pondered how odd it was, that perhaps he'll become a singer and we'll say "Oh yes, he was singing before he could talk!"

Sunday 3 March 2013

Guess what? I'm back

Well, it's just been a lit more than two weeks since I decided to put this little blog out for a spell. At the time, I really didn't know if I'd be back here writing. I really felt like this place had run its course. A wonderful couple of years, but I thought it was time to do something new or different, writing this blog was becoming a chore and I wasn't feeling comfortable with it. Within a couple of days of just not thinking about the blog, I knew I'd be back. I love this little world too much and I didn't realise just how much its become a part of me. After a week, blog posts that had dried up began swirling around my head. Over the weekend, I knew it was time to start writing again, so here I am, for better or worse.

It's been a busy couple of weeks in my world, I've started a course online, I've been an organiser for the school's international day celebrations, we've had parties and catch ups. One of the nice side effects of not writing here was that I suddenly started to receive more emails from friends and family at home, which was nice as sometimes it does feel like I'm in a one-way conversation, which can be lonely. So I did spend some time writing emails, instead of writing here. That was really lovely.

The school's International Day also took up a lot of my time the past couple of weeks. I was kind of roped in to help with the Australia stand. The day before the celebrations I was completely over it and was starting to wish I'd never put up my hand. Every day last week, I woke up on the wrong side of bed crabby and grouchy and not feeling the love at all.

So on Thursday morning, I got the girls dressed in their gear muttered to myself about 'bloody international day', packed up my Aussie paraphenalia and threw a big fake smile on my face as we went off. When I pulled into the school's car park, my misery began to melt. Kids dressed in national dress all excitedly walking through the gates was wonderful. When I stepped inside the school and saw the stands all lovingly decorated and the smell of food and treats wafting around it was enough to put a genuine smile on my face.

It was a brilliant day, the kids ran around testing new foods and learning about countries from Scotland to South Africa from Saudi Arabia to Sri Lanka. My girls claimed the Pakistani and Chinese stands to be the favourites of the day. There was a brilliant vibe in the air, everyone really keen to discover something new about where their class mates were from. Kids eagerly snapping up pieces of Fairy Bread and Anzacs biscuits from our stand and telling us they'd love to go to an Australian birthday party.

My favourite moment of the day was when the Koreans got up and performed a dance number to Gangam Style. I looked around the hall and kids dressed in Pakistani, Russian, Indian, Emirati, French, Belgian, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian and lots of other national dress were dancing and singing along having the time of their lives. It was truly amazing. Without trying to gush, it was the most genuinely harmonious display of national identities that I've ever come across. There was no overly nationalistic pride, there was no snide sniggering, there was only genuine interest and support for each other. It saddens me that there are probably few places on the earth that so many nationalities could come together and celebrate each other so warmly. We came home exhausted but in a good way.

So, now it's time to tackle another week. Deep breath and here we go.

Tell me, what have you been up to while I've been away?
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