Friday 27 September 2013

Wonderful weekends

This weekend I'm having one of the times I love best about living Dubai. Last night, Skip and I went out to dinner with some people from his work. We ventured into the old part of town and went to a Pakistani/Afghani restaurant. It was bustling with Pakistani families as we stepped in so we knew it was going to be good.

We ate a platter of BBQ'd meats – a whole lamb shoulder, fish, chicken, mutton, prawns – on a bed of wild rice with pistachios, almonds and raisins. Chutneys and bread on the side of course. We gorged ourselves and washed it down with fresh lime and mint juice. As we licked the juices from our elbows we chatted about everything from Aussie Rules to daily life in Beirut to a confused conversation about Turkey (the bird and the place).

That gave us enough of a break to go in for dessert. I didn't know any of the names but our host informed us there was sugar and milk; deep fried sugar in ghee and sugar and wheat. Now sliding into a diabetic coma, we paid up a pittance and then stepped into the warm night air. Cars and horns and people heading out to the mall or to play pool or a late night feed.

The temperature has dropped this week hitting a balmy 37 most days and 28-29 in the evenings. This is a blessed relief from the scorching summer heat and a sign that winter is on its way. As we stood outside of the restaurant an almost, almost cool breeze blew, so we paused a millisecond before hailing a cab.

This morning we rolled out of bed (our bellies still full from our feast the night before) and headed for Safa Park (I've written about this 64 hectare park in the middle of Dubai before). The kids rode their bikes in the cool of the early morning and we let our toes stretch in the soft grass.

You'd be forgiven for forgetting we are in the desert some days. 

After about an hour or so, we headed to the beach and rinsed the sweat off in the sea water under the sail of the Burj al Arab. The girls surfed on their boogie boards while Darbs jumped over the waves.

Best of we're not even halfway through the first day of the weekend. There's still plenty of fun ahead hopefully. A BBQ with friends this afternoon and then tomorrow catching up with some Aussie friends who are stopping over on their way to Europe.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

You're not the voice, but it's your voice

Since having kids, I find my ideas and beliefs and constantly being questioned (by them and me). Before answering a question, I have to think 'why do I think like that' because surely enough it will be asked by little people. It's forced me to think more critically about beliefs and ways of thinking that I'd just taken for granted. It's brilliant and, I think, made me a better person.

Now the elder girls are at school there is a lot of talk about "smart". Parents at pick up wonder who are the "smart kids" in the class, are their kids one of them and why or why not? My kids ask if they're smart and they question themselves if they are. I hear talk from other parents about their 'gifted' children, their challenged children, how much homework they do, how advanced or behind they are. Being smart or not smart, it seems, depends on where you're pegged on the chart by the people who are supposed to know about these things.

As an adult I come across people who like to wear their intellect as a badge of honour, they use it like a weapon. They use big words and are completely condescending to those who they don't believe are as "smart"as they are. They are smart therefore they are right. I tend to think that they're probably not as smart as they like to believe.

Then there are people like one of my best friends. Possibly the most academically smart person I know. She has a PhD, she's co-authored a book and has enough cudos to walk around wearing the "smart" badge. But she doesn't. She has empathy, she's curious, she's respectful, she listens. She doesn't always believe she's right. She doesn't need to prove to all she meets that she's "smart". When I was working at New Idea she would much rather talk about Brangelina than her research. She has the confidence in herself to tell you that Sex and the City 2 is a good movie (and that takes confidence!). She's cultivated her own unique voice. And that to me is what makes her really smart.

Recently, I was watching Dave Grohl on YouTube talking at a music convention. I love Dave Grohl. If you have a spare 40 minutes and want to be inspired go and check it out. The speech is aimed at musicians but it can be translated into any aspect of life. It's about the importance of finding your own voice and believing it. Loving it and nurturing it. Not listening to anyone else. He says that he was lucky to be left alone to find his - and it obviously worked as he's been in not one, but two of the biggest rock bands of the past 20 years.

Dave asks why is it up to others to tell us what's right or wrong or good or bad. If it's your voice, if it's what stirs you, then that's what's important. He says imagine if a young Bob Dylan was around today and went on a show like The Voice... And then goes on to say that Gangham Style is one of his most favourite songs of the past decade.

If it's what's right for you that's all that matters. What things we miss when they're categorised as good or bad or wrong. That we all have a voice and it's there for the taking if we want it.

In the car on the way to school the other day, where the kids and I do all our big talks, the girls were talking about religion. Living in the Middle East, it's a topic that comes up a lot. As I pulled into the car park I found myself on the verge of ranting. "The most important thing is not what other people believe, but that you respect that belief. Never laugh at someone's religion. Never make fun of what someone believes because that's them, that's their person, that's who they are," I heard myself saying.

It's a good lesson for myself, because I do sometimes believe I'm smart and right and know best. Don't we all? I'd like to think I'm smart, but let's face it I had to have some explain to me multiple times the premise of the TV show Deal or No Deal (I still don't really get it) and I'm the one still working out five minutes after I've walked way from the cashier if I got the right change or not. Rather than convincing others that I'm right or smart or know best, I should focus more on myself. Inspire rather than hit someone over the head with my "smarts".

So rather than encourage my kids to be smart, I hope I can encourage them to find their voice, their passion. Most of all I hope I can instil the courage to believe in that voice, to work at that voice and find the strength in themselves not to let anyone knock down that voice, because there will always be somebody who knows better waiting with that sledgehammer (and who knows, it might just be me). I hope I can develop their empathy and kindness, so they can inspire others. Imagine being not just able to dance to beat of your own drum, but dance to the beat of your own orchestra.

As for myself, I still want to listen hard and find my voice, my passion because I'm not there yet. As a mother, as a woman, as a person it's really easy to stop listening and stop looking. Instead focus on work or family or washing the dishes or washing the car. I don't think it has to be earth shattering though, a little bit at a time. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good, that inspire you, that make you laugh, that encourage you. Read or listen to something that ignites something in you. Put the smart phone, the iPad, the remote away and just be for five minutes. Then go stir things up. Time to put the listening ears back on.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Knick knack paddy wack

When our family moved to Dubai, just over a year ago, we came with just a suitcase each. Filled with just our clothes and a few precious toys and books. 

We had to fill our home with quick trips to IKEA and Home Centre (the local Freedom equivalent). Filling a whole home in a few trips is a tough ask. You have the basics - a bed to sleep in, a couch to sit on, plates to eat off - but the house is not quite a home. You need photos and trinkets and knick knacks.

It's these momentos that make a house a home. It's these things that have taken me a long time to collect and start filling the gaps. Now we feel properly at home here, and hope to be here for some time to come (inshallah, see I'm a local!), it's time to really put those memories and soul into our house. 

Here is what I've got so far...

Photos are the easiest and most sentimental way to decorate. We've got lots of photos from our travels and special occasions around the house. I'm always adding to them too.

Another cheap and easy way - vases from IKEA in our home's colour scheme.

Mirrors. Another quick and easy add on.

Some of Lil-Lil's artwork which are my fave. Colourful and sentimental.

This gorgeous woven basket was made for me by one of my oldest and closest friends. She's a super talented artist as well. This tiny gift brightens my day every time I walk past it. It wasn't made for the wall but us very at home there. It's beautiful and precious and sentimental. You can check out Michele's work, attend a workshop or even pick up an artwork at
I'd love one of her massive paintings on one of my big bare walls. One day...

This pewter container was given to me by my dad and has found its own special spot in our house.

This table runner was given to me by my brother and sister-in-law, it was bought from my cousins' home ware shop. It's also the exact colour of our house. The plant was a bargain buy from IKEA, it even lasted two months of not being watered in the middle of summer (Skip didn't realise it was plant?!)

Our kitchen wall art gallery is one of my favourites. It will change and get added to. The kids love it too.

Next on my list is some local artwork so we always remember this time and some Middle Eastern trinkets.

I'm not much of an interior decorator so what are your tried and true tips?

Sunday 15 September 2013

Cabin fever (aka a pox on your house!)

As I talked about last post it's bloody hot in Dubai at the moment. This means we're spending a lot time time cooped up indoors. To make things a little bit more difficult is the fact that the kids have had chickenpox. Lil-lil came down all spotty the first morning back in the UAE which meant a week at home. Then two weeks to the day, Goosey woke up itchy and unwell, which has meant another weekend in isolation (and at least another few days ahead).

This has led to a family who has seen the walls of our apartment for too, too long. Skip and I are starting to resemble Jack Nicholson in The Shining. It's not pretty. 

Sunday has arrived and Skip and Lil-lil have got to escape the house by heading to work and school, with, I might say, a spring in their step. The rest of us are looking forward to a pox-free weekend, where we may be able to have some fun (fingers tightly crossed that Darbs stays spot-free).

On the bright side, we did get our favourite takeaway on Friday night. The best Pakastani, nay the best food, you'll get and it was only 15 Aussie dollars. Best of all there was enough for two dinners. 

On an even brighter side, tomorrow I have to get the car registered. In Dubai, this means someone coming to pick up my car, taking it to get a safety check and then to the RTA to pay the fees and get the new registration. Then they'll drop the car and paperwork back to my home. How much easier is this??! No queuing at the RTA, no waiting around for a pink slip. That is definitely a win. 

What's doing in your house this week?

Friday 13 September 2013

Feeling hot, hot, hot!

There are three standard Dubai "things" that you always get asked about as a resident. Modest clothing, alcohol and the heat.

Yes, it really is very hot. During the summer months it's not unusual to hit 48 or 49 or even 50. This year has been slightly cooler. When I say slightly cooler there were less late-40s days than normal. At present the temperature is still hitting 41 or 42 with a low of about 30 at night. The two replies I get are, "we had a 46 degree day in Sydney this year", but imagine having that day for months with no southerly buster relief. 
The second is "but it must be a dry heat, so not that bad". Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it's humid during the summer months. Fog up your sunglasses, drenched in sweat humidity. It's quite odd one day the heat is dry and then one day in June it's like someone has switched a switch and it's humid.

The next question is "what do you do??" Well the place is really built for the heat, just as cold climates are built for thr snow. Everything is air conditioned, even the bus shelters. It is easy to escape the heat. What's not easy to escape is the cabin fever, especially with 3 young kids.

So we cope by going out early while it's still cool. And when I say cool, it's about 34 or 35 at the moment in the early morning. We head to the park or the pool and soak up as much outdoors as possible. 

During the middle of the day over the weekends, we go out for lunch or go to one of the huge mega malls. Otherwise we invite people over or visit friends. There is too much screen time. There are blind eyes turned to scooters being ridden in the house and kids jumping on beds. 

The super hot weather lasts about four or so months, then we are hit with bliss. The humidity disappears, the temperature drops to bearable levels and we all head outdoors. Alfresco dining, the beach, camping, walking, desert adventures. 

To tell you the truth, I don't mind the heat, though I do get sick of it. I do miss a good southerly. And I miss a rainy day. 
I do get sick of Darbs telling me 100 times a day that he's hot. I do get sick of doing the school pick-up in the fierce heat of the day and the freyed tempers and tantrums it produces every single afternoon. 

So for now, I dream of November and winter! 

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Home is where?

The past few weeks have been wonderful and strange and enlightening. Travelling back to Australia was fun but it was also hard work. Living out of a suitcase for 8 weeks, keeping control of 3 young kids in someone else's home and being separated from Skip was never going to easy. 

The strangest part was being in a place that's so familar, yet didn't feel like 'home'. I kept referring to Dubai as 'home' and that seemed to throw people. It was a great reassurance that we're right where we're meant to be though. Our life is here, in Dubai. 

It was wonderful seeing friends and family and spending quality time with them. Suring up the bonds and keeping them tight. It was lovely to see the kids reignite relationships with their own friends and family too. 

When it came time to leave, I wasn't sad. Rather, excited and relieved to move onto the next stage of our adventure.

Before we came home, we stopped off in Singapore with some old friends and had a ball. It was so fun to spend time with them, explore a new city, eat incredible food and see our kids become good friends. The best way to transition back to "real" life.

Now we're home. We've talked about how strange it is to feel 'home' in a place so far from home. A land I never expected to live in. 

There's no time for post-holiday blues as we've got many adventures ahead of us!
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