Tuesday 16 December 2014

Bound for Sydney

So the day has finally arrived. After 18 months away, the kids and I will be on a plane bound for Sydney. Just a quick holiday, but we're looking forward to it. 

There will be lots of visits with family and friends
There will be lots of laughter (probably a few tears too)
There will be lots of food - sushi, fish and chips, BBQ chook, good bread.
There will probably be some rain. 
I'm certain there will be lots of fun. 

Saturday 6 December 2014

A sense of adventure

The sun setting on the Burj al Arab. 
Yesterday afternoon, I sat in the late afternoon sun with a warm breeze blowing, the kids were running off their energy at a beachside park in the shadow of the Burj al Arab. As the sun began to slink down the sky I had one of those moments. Those little jolts when you suddenly think 'how on earth did I get here?'

Is it just me, or does this happen to you every now and again? It's almost like watching yourself from a distance. I looked at the kids, who suddenly seemed older, more grown up. I looked at the amazing view around me. I soaked up how comfortable and relaxed the kids were in this setting. They're totally at home and at ease. I thought about Skip flying 20,000 feet above Saudi Arabia at that moment on his way Lebanon.

It seemed like five minutes ago the girls were just babies and I was waving Skip off to Brisbane. Now these walking, talking, opinionated people are in my care and I'm waving him off to Beirut.

While living in Dubai is not strange anymore, I still strongly feel the sense of having a big adventure, which is terribly addictive. While I don't get to jet off to places like Beirut, I love hearing Skip's tales on his return. It's meeting new people and hearing their stories. It's venturing to a new part of town in search of a good meal and feeling like I could be in downtown Mumbai. It's knowing that being in the centre of the globe you could trek off to somewhere new with ease, even if you don't.

I often wonder when this feeling will end and the pull of 'home' will take over. Or if it ever will. Sure there are moments when you'd like nothing more than to sit and chat with family and friends. Or wish that the kids had a lush green backyard to play in. Or to laugh with people you share a long history with. At the moment, the pull of the adventure is still too strong.

Monday 1 December 2014

National Day 43

December 2 is the UAE's National Day. Forty-three years ago, the Emirates joined together and founded the country of the United Arab Emirates. National Day is a big celebration. The city becomes awash in the national flag, the colours red, green, white and black are everywhere. People decorate their cars in the national colours and pictures of the rulers. It's basically a big party and everyone's invited.

Today at school, one of my girls dressed in an abaya (the black national dress) and the other in the colours of the flag. They will dance and eat party food with their friends. There will be performances and they'll do art and craft. There may be camel rides and falcon displays. There will definitely be henna painting. 

In the complex where we live there will be a big party tonight. There's jumping castles, local displays, henna painting, lots and lots of food. There will be traditional dancers, coffee and dates. Of course, there will be lots of fireworks.

I love UAE National Day, there is immense pride from the Emiratis for their country. What I love most is that everyone is invited to feel the same pride and join in the celebrations. I'm not Emirati and never will be, but I feel lucky to share in this country. I'm thankful for the wonderful life this country is giving our family. I'm amazed at the hospitality the Emiratis share with the expats.

If we decide to go out and be part of the celebrations tomorrow, I won't need to worry about drunken yobs telling me to go back to where I came from. Instead there will be a look of pride from the locals that others are sharing in their culture. Because of this I know that this country will always hold a special place with me. How much better would the world be if others could adopt this way of thinking? The best way to create loyalty is share with each other. Next month we will celebrate Australia Day here and share a little bit of our culture and we'll all be richer for it.

Happy National Day!

Friday 28 November 2014

Friday thoughts

It's strange how one event, one tragedy, one story on the news can impact you more than another. We're now saturated in news, we don't have to wait for the evening edition we find out instantly on our phones, iPads, computers what's happening around the world. To the point where I often feel a little overwhelmed and tend to let the latest tragedy just wash over me.

So, every now and then I'm surprised why a certain story stays with me. I'm not a cricket fan, but I saw Phil Hughes play (alongside Sean Abbott) in Dubai in October. I'm not a cricket fan, but the Phil Hughes tragedy keeps playing on my mind and it makes me wonder why this story impacted me over another. The whole situation is just awful.


I was reminded last night of the benefits of a belly laugh. Wherever you are, whatever you do, a regular great big laugh that makes your sides hurt and your eyes water is essential for good mental health. Keep people around you who can make you laugh like this.


Preparing to go home is exciting and daunting. The kids and I haven't been back to Oz for 1.5 years, so it's kind of a big deal. There are gifts to buy, dates to plan and time to organise. The time will whizz by and I want to make sure we enjoy it and aren't stressed out about it.


This coming week is the National Day holiday. The city is being decked out in flags and everything you can imagine in red, while, green and black. The girls have been planning their outfits for the school celebration. It really is an exciting time to be in Dubai.


I'm really enjoying parenting three kids at the moment. They're all at great ages and so much fun in their own ways. You've got to enjoy these moments when you can.

Monday 10 November 2014

Cranky pants

Why is it that some mornings you can just wake up in a bad mood. Everything and anything annoys you. Things that would normally make you giggle make you seethe. 

I'm was like that yesterday and nothing seemed to be able to shake me from my mood. 

I'm usually a pretty laid-back, optimistic person. I'm a lot less moody than
I once was. Still, there are days when the gloom and doom descends. 

I've talked to Aussies who have lived in the UK or certain parts of Europe and say the constant greyness gets to them. That they feel down and crave the sunshine and blue skies.

I'm having the reverse. Since we went to Europe in July, I haven't seen a drop of rain. Or even a dark cloud. Or really even a cloud for more than five minutes. Blue skies, sunshine. Blue skies, sunshine. Rinse and repeat. The temperature has dropped dramatically and I'm walking around feeling chilly in 28 degree weather and wanting to put on a cardi, but it's still blue skies and sunshine. 

I'm longing for a rainy Saturday afternoon. The type where it pours and pours and you can curl up with a book while the kids watch a movie. Put something in the oven low and slow. 

This black mood will pass, but it makes me realise that you need the rainy days to appreciate the sunshine. 

Sunday 9 November 2014

Continental confusion

It's funny when you've grown up in a place, just the hint of cool in the breeze, the scent of jasmine in the air or a certain shade of the sky can tell you exactly what time of the year it is. The heaviness of humidity is always February, cool breezes and bright blue skies mean it's April, salty warm air means December. Straight away my internal compass is set.

In Dubai, I seem to spend a good amount of my time confused. Especially when the school year begins in Septemeber. The amount of times I've thought "Is is almost Easter?" and realised it's actually October. Or "Christmas must be soon" and it's June. Pretty much all of the time I need to stop and consciously think about what month or time of the year it is. Days, months and years blend together. They often feel topsy-turvy or upside down.

For many months of the year the weather is blistering hot and you dream of a cool breeze and being able to sit outside again. Just when you think it will never end the temperature drops dramatically and then it feels almost too cold. Ridiculous really when it's hovering 30 degrees, but after months of searing heat that coolness in the breeze brings goosebumps to skin with thin blood pumping below it.

The way you adapt to your environment can happen quickly, but the memories can also run deep.

A friend here and I often laugh about how we feel indecent if we venture out with our shoulders bare or knees exposed. Dresses that I once wore and felt were modest are now gathering dust in my wardrobe.

In Sydney, I wouldn't even think about wearing jeans for four months of the year, but they're pretty much year-round apparel now. It's amazing how quickly your mindset can change.

When the time comes to move again I wonder if I'll be still be caught in cross-continental confusion.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Only in Dubai part 5

I haven't done one of these for ages and ages, so I though it was high time.

Only in Dubai……

* do people gush to each other about the lovely cool weather when it's 36 degrees and there has a lot of gushing about it recently. Just this morning I took Darbs to the park at 8am and kept thinking "This weather is so lovely and cool", when I got in the car they said it was currently 31 degrees, I'm not sure how my thin blood will acclimatise to cold weather again!

* do you sit on your balcony and literally in the space of 15 seconds see a Lamborghini, a Maclaren SLS, a hot pink Ferarri and two Bentleys drive past.

* will you overhear a group of 8-year-olds earnestly discuss whether the best ice-cream comes from Paris, Rome or Llubjana.

* do you chuckle when the weather announcer on the radio predicts there is a slight chance of rain later in the evening.

* do your friends go to places like Sri Lanka, Istanbul and Jordan for the weekend.

* do you expect every meal out to be all you can eat and drink.

* do you see clouds and wonder whether the schools will close early.

* do you call to make an appointment with a specialist and are sitting in the specialist's office 40 minutes later.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Happy Halloween

Witches Hat cookies for the school bake sale. 
Last Thursday we were celebrating Diwali, this Thursday it's Halloween. The girls went off to school this morning brimming with excitement in their book character costumes (no scary costumes allowed, book characters only) carrying plates of witches hats and monster eye cookies. As Friday is part of our weekend, we'll take the kids to a Halloween party with some other school friends instead of trick-or-treating. 

From October to December there seems to be something each week to celebrate in Dubai - Eid, Islamic New Year, Diwali, National Day and Christmas. Then there are the sporting events - Cricket, Formula 1 and the Rugby 7s. It's a non-stop busy time. But I like it.

I know Halloween can be a little controversial in Australia, but I think it's a whole lot of fun. What's so bad about dressing up and eating lollies? The kids were all so excited at school this morning. There were more than their fair share of Spidermans and Elsa's, but there were also some fantastic original costumes too – one little boy came as Max from Where the Wild Things Are, such a simple costume, a grey tracksuit with a hoodie, a cardboard gold crown and a tail and he looked fantastic. The girls went dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and The Little Witch. Lil-lil's ruby red slippers were made by covering her normal shoes with shiny red wrapping paper and attaching it with contact – you could hear her coming from a mile away but she looked great.

I always try to explain the holidays they are celebrating and their significance, so I was amused to over hear this conversation recently between the girls:

"What's Halloween for?"
"I dunno. It's not Christian, Muslim or Hindu so it must be Jewish or Buddhist I think."

I hope your Halloween is full of treats and very little tricks. Happy Halloween!

Thursday 23 October 2014

Happy Diwali!

Today is Diwali - the Hindu festival of lights. Diwali is an ancient festival that celebrates the victory of good over bad, or light over dark. To celebrate, Indians clean and renovate their homes, decorate them in all sorts of lights (to remember that light always overcomes darkness), they also decorate with beautiful colourful designs. They celebrate by wearing new clothes and eating special sweets.

How do I know all this you ask? Well, approximately 50% of Dubai's population is Indian, so Diwali is very widely celebrated here. Many homes are decorated with lights, the supermarkets are decorated and sell special Indian sweets. This morning I attended a special assembly at the girls school where the Indian teachers wore their beautiful saris is a rainbow of rich colours. They lit tea lights (diyas) and explained to the kids about the significance of Diwali. At the end of the assembly the kids got up and danced to Bollywood music. There was a real feeling of celebration. It was wonderful to see the teachers from all nationalities wearing saris and abayas and dancing together.

Later in the class the kids will share Indian sweets and do Diwali arts and crafts. I truly love how the girls (and I) are learning so much about the richness of other cultures and getting the opportunity to share the celebrations.

At work today, Skip's office will order in an Indian banquet from everyone to share. So, Darbs and I don't miss out, I think we too will have Indian for lunch and buy some sweets to share tonight with everyone.

I know there are many Diwali celebrations around the globe, including a Festival of Lights in Federation Square in Melbourne this weekend, so I hope you get to celebrate too. If nothing else crack out the Bollywood music and have a dance.

Happy Diwali!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Eight is enough

Daydreaming in Italy. 

It's Lil's birthday today. Eight years old! How can that even be possible? And yet, I look at Lil and she is indeed eight years old. She's tall and lanky. She's got all these new teeth. Her face has changed shaped. She laughs a lot. I'm so proud of her.

Seven was a tough year for her learning a lot of life lessons, but I have a good feeling about eight. She has a good group of friends, she's well liked. She was just voted as her class representative on the student council. She loves school and being part of it all.

She still loves to sing and dance and draw. She wants to be "a famous artist, just like Aunty Shell". She tells me, "I want to paint my feelings and share them". She loves to learn about great people in history and is always giving me facts about Rosa Parks, Marie Curie and Queen Victoria.

She still loves spaghetti bolognese more than anything else, except maybe sushi.

She loves to travel and try new food (although she'll never try them at home) - giant sausages and prunes wrapped in bacon in Germany. Different pastas in Italy. Fish dishes in Slovenia. Rice and meat in Oman. She really wants a suitcase all of her own to travel with and gets excited about visiting new places – even if it's only a hour stopover! She has a long list of places she wants to visit.

She misses her family and gets nostalgic about all things Australian. She misses her Australian accent. Although she loves Dubai and loves to show people her adopted home.

She still wakes at the crack of dawn and sleeps in, well, never. No matter how late she's been up the night before. She's definitely a lark.

She's very sweet, very polite. She's very kind yet very dramatic and emotional. She loves to day dream. She can walk for miles without a whinge.

She's our Lil-lil.

Monday 20 October 2014

Only the lonely

Living in Dubai can be lonely at times. It's such a transient place, with people coming and going all the time, that you have to be 'out' and making new friends constantly. In the two years that we've lived here,  the friends who we've had BBQs with, spent weekends camping with, shared milestones with now live in places like Dublin, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Singapore and Montreal.

It can be exhausting always trying to be 'on', always trying to find like-minded people to connect with and share milestones with. I'm not naturally a person who feels comfortable striking up conversations with strangers. Being shy and, occasionally, socially awkward doesn't make it easy. Also not going to a work place each days, means that you really have to make a big effort to connect with people. Talking to strangers, turning up at groups, smiling at that person and making small talk to find that 'connection'. When you finally do reach out and make that connection, create that friendship and share those milestones, it's likely that they'll soon be packing their bags and you have to start all over again.

That's why it can be very lonely. It's very easy for me some days to only talk to the people who live inside the walls of my home. When those conversations centre around Spiderman, Zelfs and homework, it can make it lonelier. 

While it's nice to have met wonderful people and have Facebook friends all around the world who you can 'drop' in on, it's much nicer to have those friends to chat with at school drop-off, to call when you're completely confused at Mall of the Emirates and to laugh with over the weekend.

Expat life can be incredible, so rich and rewarding. The places you go, the experiences you have and the people you meet. It's unlike anything else. As with anything there has to be a downside and for me, this is it.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Endless oil

Recently, I found myself lying in a room in Karama lit only with dim, bare globe hanging from the ceiling. I was naked except for a towel, Indian muzack of Endless Love being pumped through the vents and my body was dripping with oil. I mean dripping with so much oil that I felt (and probably looked) like a rotisserie chicken. It had been massaged into every part of my body, including my hair.

A friend treated me to a very traditional ayurvedic massage in the Indian part of town. Not one to turn down an experience that I wouldn't normally get to have in Australia, of course I said yes.

We headed to Karama and went through an old shopping centre and up a dark flight of stairs and then through a set of winding corridors. Then through another small door where I was welcomed into the small massage room. After about 45 minutes of pounding and being scalded with oil and hot herb compresses and worrying where that oil and her fingers were going to end up, the lady masseuse left the room and I was left wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

Soon she came back, interrupting my humming to Endless Love, told me to wrap myself in my towel and follow her out of the room. Around through some more winding corridors she opened a door which let out billowing clouds of steam. She pointed me inside the room and shut the door behind me. I shuffled in, unable to see a darn thing until the shape of a person became clear. I hesitantly looked at them until I realised it was my friend and burst out laughing in relief. After a few minutes in the steam, I showered and attempted to wash the copious amounts of oil from my skin and hair.

Feeling strangely relaxed and once again dressed, if not a little oily. We set off for an Indian meal, a feast of prawns and crabs and chicken and lentils washed down with tropical juices.

I'm not sure if I will be heading back in a hurry, but it's just another one of those things to tick off the list.

Monday 13 October 2014

Can she fix it?

Not so long ago, I had to make a trip to Satwa, a lively area of Dubai filled with fabric shops, electronic shops, Indian and Pakistani restaurants. When you go there you could almost be in India or somewhere other than Dubai. I love going down there, but on this particular day I was on a mission. One of the girls had chewed (?!) through the cord on a pair of headphones and I wanted to find someone to reattach the plug. After a a short walk and a bit of guidance from another shop owner I found myself walking into a shop, filled to the roof of old TVs, stereos, ghettoblasters, old computer boards and all sorts of electronics. I watched in awe as the man behind the counter soldered and snipped and put the plug back onto the headphones in a matter of minutes.

It's funny how sometimes you never really notice parts of your own personality until someone points it out to you. Skip has always chuckled at me and my need to know how things works. If we go to a hotel, I'll need to work out the lights and how the windows open and if something isn't quite as it should be I won't stop fiddling until I work it out. The same goes with new appliances or flatpack furniture. Skip will leave them and know that I won't rest until I've got it plugged in, set up and functioning. I never thought it was particularly unique, but apparently it is.

Recently, we got a new aquarium and the pump/filter started making a strange noise, before I knew it I'd pulled the pump apart and was cleaning it out and trying to work out what was making the strange noise. I fixed it. Of course I did. Then the lid to the aquarium didn't fit properly and instead of taking it back and exchanging it like a normal person, I fiddled and played and melted and shaved until I got that sucker to fit. The pump started making the strange noise again at 2am today and I got up and started to fiddle with it until I made myself just turn the bloody thing off and go back to bed.

Another time, we bought the girls these cheap tablets, after a short while the on/off button on one of them broke. Before long, and much to Skip's horror, I had pulled the thing apart and tried to fix it. I think I may have even muttered the words: "If I had a soldering iron I could fix this properly," much to Skip's mirth. I fixed it though.

I love problem solving and seeing how things work. Like other people can't rest until a mess is cleaned up or the washing put away, I can't rest until I've worked out how something works.

As I watched this electrical repair guy in Satwa, just mesmerised as he worked, I realised that he had my ideal job. In a different time or a different life, I'd be happy as Larry sitting in my own little shop, soldering away, fixing things, solving problems. Making things that people had given up on work again.

If life had taken a few different turns, do have a secret skill (or quirk) that could have set you up in new job or way of life?

Friday 10 October 2014

Conversations with a three-year-old

Three-year-olds are wilful, they're frustrating, but most of all they are hilarious!
I'm loving having my little three-year-old around at the moment, I never know just quite what he'll say next.

Here are some of the best from recent days:

"Mum, I wee'd in my bed. It was awesome."

"Mum, I jumped like Spiderman off the couch. It was awesome."

"Mum, you look handsome!" (arriving home after a trip to the hairdresser)

"You're eyelids are all sparkly!" he said to a mum at school. "Do you like it?" she asked. "No," he said.

"Mum, I like chocolate. I can have some chocolate?"

"Mum, I like you."

"Mum, I fell off the couch and hit my head. It was awesome!"

When asked what he'd done that day he replied: "I got a hair cut with Dad. Then Dad bought me a Kinder Joy and I got a toy turtle." All well and good, but this actually happened about 6 weeks before.

"Mum, let's get out of here." At almost every occasion. Or every time I need him to do something: "I'm getting out of here."

I put on a Hulk mask at the toy shop the other day and he told me: "Mum, that's Hulk SMASH, not Barbie."

"I hate pasta for dinner. It's stupid. I really love pasta."

"Mum, is it my birthday today? Pleeeeeeeeease, is it my birthday today?"

"Mum, can we have a Ferrari? Or a taxi?"

" I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate sand." A bad thing when you live in the desert.

"Mum, I hate swimming. Can we go for a swim? Swimming is awesome."

"Mum, I want to go on holiday," he said in the car. Me: "Do you want to go to Australia?"
Him: "Don't want to go to 'Straya. I live in Dubai. I wanna go to snow."

Eataly, Cricket, Bunnies and The Farm.

We're about to start another weekend in my part of the world, but I feel like I'm still getting over last weekend. It was a biggie, I admit, five days all up.

We swum a lot and enjoyed being out in the cooler weather (although it's still about 38 or 39 most days). 

A lot of time was spent in the water! 

We stocked up on goodies at Eataly (http://www.eataly.com) an amazing Italian grocery store and restaurant in Dubai Mall, to enjoy over the weekend. Good bread, good balsamic, pesto and other yummies.

The following day, NRL grand final day, meant Aussie friends over for a BBQ to watch the game. After we'd filled ourselves with food and football, we trekked out to the Cricket Stadium to watch Australia take on Pakistan in the T20 match. Oh my goodness, was it hot. About half an hour into the game I thought I might pass out, I'd sweated so much. I renamed the stadium the cauldron of sweat and BO! We made it through the game though, Australia won much to the dismay of the thousands of chanting Pakistani supporters. 

I was amazed at how political the crowd was, they were more about supporting political powers than the cricket team. There was a lot of 'Go Nawaz, Go' being chanted and written on banners and T-Shirts (and I discovered Nawaz wasn't actually one players but the current Pakistani PM). The chanting and cheering continued long after the game finished. So that was a new experience for me and an education into Pakistani politics. I'd been reading in the news about Imran Khan and the riots that had been going in Pakistan, but I was surprised at how much it was being supported at the game. 

The sweaty stadium starts to fill. 
And we're ready for some cricket. A sprinkling of Aussie supporters in a sea of Pakistani supporters. 

C'mon Aussie!

The day after the cricket, we visited another amazing restaurant called The Farm. It's located in the desert dunes, but drive through the gates and you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in a tropical paradise. Tall shady trees, lush grass, babbling water features and ponds. The restaurant is a lovely combination of pavilions and outdoor areas. Skip and I took the girls and really loved just spending some time with them, without the three-year-old torpedo Darbs, who isn't really suited to a leisurely lunch. 

I'm not sure we're in Dubai anymore….

That night we had drinks and shisha on the beach of a resort close to our home with some friends. Feet in the sand, the scent of grape & mint flavoured tobacco in the air will always be Dubai to me. 

The last day was spent running errands, lazy breakfast and, of course, more swimming. 

Not bad, really, not bad at all. 

Saturday 4 October 2014

Fresh air, fresh thoughts

Being outside under the bluest of skies and fresh air is so, so good. 

There is something so restorative and invigorating about sunshine, fresh air, cool water and good food. Mix it together and throw in the people you love most in the world and there's truly nothing better.

That's what I've done the past two days. Swimming, eating, laughing, walking, reading and watching movies. The temperatures have dipped below 40 and for the first time in ages we've been able to go outdoors during the day. What a blessed relief that is. To just enjoy being outside and not in an air-conditioned mall. To watch the kids run and play (and still sweat because it's still pretty warm) on the beach is the best. It's so good for all of us.

Life has been busy with Skip flying to all parts of the world, visitors to show around, school and all the activities that that entails. It's refreshing to have time this long Eid weekend to relax. We started the weekend with Pakistani takeaway and chatting and listening to music until late, which is always fun. We woke up the next morning and, like every Friday morning, we headed to the pool. A trip to Dubai mall for a good walk and to pick up some yummy bits and pieces from Eatly, set up for a lazy afternoon of snoozing, reading and watching telly.

Today we went to the pool and ran on the beach. This afternoon I have some meat slow roasting in the oven to be served up with a zingy salad and washed down with something cold. Best of all there's no work or school to rush off to tomorrow, we can just do it all again….

Thursday 2 October 2014


The past few days I've become more and more annoyed. Do you ever go through one of those times when everything just seems hard for some reason? There seems to be extra bills, you can't get a car park at the shops, you get stuck in a really bad traffic jam, you put a stain on your favourite top, no-one answers your calls or emails, your drop your phone, you try to pay for something online and the site keeps crashing and money just seems to fall out of your wallet. It's not terrible, life-long affecting stuff, but it accumulates and makes just getting through the day a little frustrating. Then when you get frustrated you do stupid things that make the whole situation worse. 

This has been me this week. Feeling grumpy by life not going as smoothly as it could have. Then to add to it you open your computer and read stupid people saying moronic things and you wonder how they have the energy to get so wound up about matters that don't really matter. Then you read on and see that you're at war again in Iraq, for the third time in my lifetime (although there have been five wars in total in Iraq in my lifetime) and you wonder why leaders don't seem to consider that dropping bombs on people might not actually work in the long-term. (For example, Tony Blair saying that troops on the ground in Iraq were necessary and he knows because we face the same terrorists today that he faced after 2003 and they only way they eradicated them was by putting troops on the ground. Do you think he actually listened to what he said?)

I've also discovered there is a phenomenon in Dubai - you need to get out of the city every three months or you start to go a little bonkers. Yesterday I realised it's been three months since I'd had a break away from Dubai, so perhaps that was contributing to the craziness in my mind. As much as I love this city, it's good to have a little time-out now and again, come back refreshed. 

BUT, I've decided that I'm not going to be grumpy anymore. A getaway doesn't seem possible at the  moment, but we do have an extra long weekend to celebrate Eid al Adha. So my plan is to relax, have fun, laugh and enjoy myself as much as possible. There will be delicious meals, swims in the pool, perhaps a trip to Ski Dubai and a cricket match to watch (Australia vs Pakistan). 

A muslim friend told me yesterday that Arafat Day (which is on Friday) is a day where you should be peaceful, not raise your voice, think kind thoughts and say kind words. So maybe a practising a little of this will help too. 

I also plan to focus on the kids, because they're all at great stages at the moment. They're happy, healthy and confident. They're a delight to be around and say the best things. 

I'm also looking forward to spending time with Skip. This weekend will mark 17 years of being a couple. That's got to be something to celebrate! 

Eid Mubarak! And enjoy your weekend whatever you do. 

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Preparing for reverse culture shock

A great place to park the car. 

After 2 years in Dubai, there are so many 'Dubai' things that are just normal now, that I rarely even think about.

We're heading home for a holiday in a couple of months and they'll be all these things that I'm suddenly reminded of again. It's likely I'll have reverse culture shock and things that will seem different. Such as:

* A big empty block of land (sand) is not a carpark.

* Bottle shops. I haven't been inside a bottle shop since I was last in Australia almost a year and a half ago.

* Having to get out of my car to put petrol in it.

* Having to park my own car when I go out for dinner.

* The speed limit will be actually what the signs says instead of 20km more.

* When you meet someone new asking  "what do you do?" instead of"where are you from?" or "how long have you been here?"

* When you go out it's not all you can eat and drink.

* Having to pay $3 for a bottle of water instead of 25c.

* Talking to someone on the phone and they'll understand me.

* Going into a shop and being called "love" instead of "madam"

* Asking how to get somewhere and getting an address instead of "Well you drive past the Address hotel and turn right at the Carrefour and you'll see a ramp, go past the ramp and you'll see two glass doors and a big pot plant, park in the righthand car park and then call me and I'll come and get you."

* Having to use indicators. Shamefully my use of indicators has dropped off, just like everyone else in Dubai.

* I'll have to remember how to reverse park. Something I rarely do these days.

* Re-learning my own language - being able to say "tomato sauce", "thongs" and "How's it going?" without receiving strange looks.

* Not receiving cheery "hellos" wherever I go.

Monday 22 September 2014

The consequence of being on high alert

Over the weekend I read comments on social media and news sites, I felt disappointed and sick.

"You can't help but hate them all", "why don't they just go back to where they came from?", "thank god none of them live near me"

The anger and frustration that rises up in me when I read that kind of garbage is almost overwhelming. I feel so relieved and blessed that we're living where we are at the moment. I'm glad that my kids have friends of all colours and religions. That they get to understand that people are just people, no matter what god they pray to or what holidays they celebrate. That just because their friend's mother may wear a scarf over her hair or an abaya over her clothes doesn't mean they can't play together or that they should be afraid of each other. They're friends, they look after each other, they make each other laugh, they care for each other. People are people. We don't need to be scared of each other.

Tomorrow I will have coffee with other mums from our school, there will be Christian, Muslim and Hindi mums. All chattering about their kids. Supporting each other, sharing their concerns and helping each other out. There will be a lot of laughter. There will be more similarities than differences.

There are monsters everywhere, one culture or religion doesn't have ownership on that. One group, such as ISIS, doesn't represent a whole religion. Hate and fear can bread fast. Make sure that hate isn't bred in you. If you don't understand something or feel fearful or threatened by it, don't hide behind it, go and seek it out and try to understand it. Stop reacting. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. What does it feel like to be them? They probably want the same things in life that you do.

I could write pages on my politics and my concerns about my country going to war, yet again, to vanquish yet another evil. But I won't. I just hope that you, the individual thinks about these things and, most importanly, reads about them. And don't read about them in the Murdoch media, but search out people who know about this stuff, have lived in the region and know the region. Get different views and ideas from what this leader or that leader is telling you. Come up with your own feelings and thoughts.

The most sane thing I've heard a MP say in the past few days has come from Malcolm Turnbull:

"What do the terrorists want us to do? They want to get the community to demonise the whole Australian Muslim community. Those people who want to attack Muslims in general, attack Islam in general, are doing the terrorists' work. Because the strategy of the terrorists is to enrage the broader community [to attack Muslims] which will cause the Muslims to join the extremists . . . We must recognise that the vast bulk of Muslims here are good, patriotic Australians, and we must get our arms around them, because they are our best allies in the fight against extremism."

Monday 1 September 2014

Summer marathon

Last minute school holiday fun of glow in the dark mini golf. 

Slowly the car park at Spinneys (the local supermarket) has been filling up again. Gone are the days when I could take my pick of a spot. The queues are returning at the check out. The malls too seem a little fuller. There are a few more people in the food courts and the play centres. You can hear: "How was your summer?" being asked around the place. People are returning to Dubai, getting ready to start another year. 

New school uniforms hang crisp and white in the cupboard. Fresh pencil cases with new pencils, sharpeners and rubbers lie in clean new back packs. Fees have been paid. 

After weeks of feeling the like the lone family in our desert city, familiar numbers are popping up on my phone. Messages requesting playdates and catch ups. Stories exchanged and "Boy, isn't it hot?" shared. 

Two more sleeps until the 6am rush begins. Rushed breakfasts, getting dressed and out the door by 7.10am. Two more sleeps until the bell rings, the anthem is sung and another school year begins. 

There are been tears and nervous tummies aplenty this week, along with excitement. Eleven weeks is a long time between school days. 

There has been intense boredom and frustration here this summer. There have been fights and aggravation. There has been talking back and attitude. There has also been a lot of fun and a lot of closeness. Door slamming and yelling has been booked ended with cuddles and whispers of ''I love you".

I feel nervous for the girls and they are thrown into another year. Meeting new teachers and classmates. Their school has swelled to almost 2000 students, so they are very little fish in a very big pond. 

The next two days will a be a mix of getting ready, having some last minute fun and sighing relief.

Sunday 31 August 2014


Three years old, Darbs! So fast, yet so much has happened in those three years. It's strange to think that he's spent the vast majority of his life in the Middle East, in the northern hemisphere, a long way from Australia. He's celebrated ever one of his three birthdays in Dubai.

This day three years ago was so strange. Things were happening all around and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. I remember this very morning three years ago, talking to a doctor and saying "Are you really thinking of delivering the baby today?" and him saying "Of course. That's what needs to be done. It's already begun."

Even as I was being wheeled into the theatre, I remember thinking "Goodness, is all this really necessary. It all feels a little too dramatic."

I remember lying in recovery. Alone. Asking if I could go and see my new son and the nurse chuckling, "Goodness, no."

The following few weeks were surreal and strange and unlike what having a new baby was "supposed to be".

At the time I didn't realise it, but I think I was actually quite traumatised by it all. For a long time after, each night I would I lie in bed and I would relive every moment of those few weeks in my head. I guess trying to process it all.

Now, Darbs is the funniest little guy. Not one to cause a fuss. When people hear he was premature and in NICU they are surprised. He's sturdy and big, not fragile and small. I used to wonder if his dramatic start to life would impact him, but I really don't think it has at all. I think even as he gets older and hears about it, he'll be surprised.

He's the most delightful boy. He loves Spiderman and the Hulk and cars and diggers and Super Heroes. He's a boy's boy, despite being surrounded by pink and girls since he was born. He has an incredible imagination and is quite the comedian. We're all so lucky to have him here with us.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy!

Saturday 30 August 2014

Trivial moments

One of my accomplishments as a school student was winning the game 'Current Affairs' on a fairly regular basis. Everyone in the class would stand up and pairs of kids would be asked a question the person who didn't answer correctly would have to sit. This would continue until one kid was left standing.

I always did OK at school but I wasn't one to excel. I never got top-of-the-class certificates or sporting awards or anything like that, so Current Affairs was my lone claim to success. To this day I love reading about the world - any type of news or information, fluff or hard hitting. A master of nothing, but know a little about everything. I love to speak to new people from all walks of life and I love to soak up that information. I'm the kind of person you want on your Trivial Pursuit team or at your Quiz Night. My brain could never remember the multiplication table, but I can remember that Agatha Christie's Ms Marple lived in St Mary's Mead. I never quite got long division, but I remember that the largest lake in the world is the Caspian Sea (the winning answer in a heated year 6 game of Current Affairs). A head full of fairly useless knowledge.

I look at Lil now and she's very similar to me in that way. She likes to watch videos on the internet about famous people - she's always telling me about civil rights activists and suffragettes and inventors. She's always asking me to turn the news up when it comes on on the radio and then she always has a million questions about it ("ceasefire? how on earth can there be a fire on the sea?"). She tries to look at the newspaper, but with the often confronting coverage we receive here I try to keep it away. What a privilege that is, there are so many parents who don't have that luxury - their kids see first hand the barbaric and the brutal. When she hears that there's protests in Pakistan, she wonders if her friend Anaya who's visiting relatives saw anything or if there's riots in Brazil she hopes her mate Fillipe is OK. The amazing thing about going to an International school and having friends from everywhere means she can take news and give it an anchor point.

Living in the Middle East at present, we really are the centre of world affairs and I find myself reading anything I can to try and understand what's going on in all corners of the region and why. I find it fascinating. Thankfully we live in an age of the internet where you can get all sorts of information at your fingertips.

I remember 20 years (and more) ago we used to laugh at the US news, it was so centred on themselves and celebrity - they lived in their own little bubble and didn't look past their own shores too often. Sadly, I think Australian news has gone down this path too. This week with so much going on everywhere in the world the biggest news stories seemed to be Sonia Kruger getting pregnant and Lara Bingle getting her boobs out in Hawaii. Thankfully, there's the internet so you can get information - if you want it.

My best sources come from Twitter. Find a good batch of writers around the globe and follow their lead. Many foreign correspondents have Twitter accounts and I find great links to news stories that way. Things that might not ordinarily pop up on your radar.

I suspect I'll always be a collector of random facts.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Two years...

This week marks two years of living in Dubai. Wow. It's gone really fast, but so much has happened and changed in that time. The kids have grown up and Dubai has become home.

I re-read my first post upon our arrival and it made me chuckle. So wide-eyed and naive.

It's funny as much as Dubai has become home and I feel comfortable here, there's still so much I'm still learning about this place and still so much that's new, wonderful and interesting. I get frustrated at parts of it, but at the same time I am still amazed by other parts.

Who knows how long we'll live in our adopted home, but here we are!

Wednesday 13 August 2014

On my mind

Things on my mind today:

Well, I'd probably living in a hole if I wasn't thinking about Robin Williams. I've always liked Robin Williams, Dead Poet's Society and Good Morning Vietnam are two of my all-time favourite movies. He's done some shocker movies over the years too (remember Flubber or Toys??), but overall he's always been there safely on the screen as far as I can remember. I loved Mork & Mindy as early as I can remember (I had two older brothers, so I watched what they watched) and I'm fairly certain that Popeye was the first movie I ever saw at the movies. It's strange to think that's it. Of course, I never knew him and it won't affect my everyday life, but it's strange when it's someone who's been a part of your culture.


I took the girls to see Barbie and the Secret Door at the movies today. I have to say I don't get the Barbie franchise movies - it's a fictional character playing another fictional character? Because the character of Barbie isn't actually in the movie, there's someone who looks like Barbie who's a princess (of course) living in a castle who offers riding lessons to all the children of her kingdom (of course) who modernises the court by doing some bad moves to a bad pop song (which I  now can't get out of my head). When I ask Lil about all this she just roll her eyes at me. I obviously know nothing.
Goosey did declare it the best movie she's ever seen, so obviously they know their market!


Even though it was Barbie and the Secret Door, there's something exciting about being in a cinema. As the lights go down and the previews begin, that feeling that you're about to get swept up in a story, I just love it. For whatever reason, it gives me goosebumps.


Today I asked Lil what she'd like for her birthday. Her reply? "I'd like two new suitcases, just for me, that I can take when I travel."

We've created a beast!


The other day, Darbs looked at a photo of me wearing, what I thought was, an elegant red silk dress and asked me: "Why are you dressed up like Lightning McQueen, Mum?"

Why indeed.


If you've never seen Dead Poet's Society, I urge you to go out and watch it now. It's brilliant.

Vale, Mr Williams.

Monday 11 August 2014

Too much of nothing

I can't seem to sit and write a blog post at the moment, I think there's too much of nothing going around my head for anything coherent to come out. So here is a mishmash of thoughts:

These long holidays are still dragging. I won't lie, it's been hard. Some days I think "Hmmm maybe it's not that hot outside, maybe we can go and have a little play or a picnic or something." Then I step outside and my skin nearly bubbles off and buckets of sweat pours off me. It really is just too hot to do anything outdoors, at all, even at night. We have all acclimatised pretty well and we do spend a little more time outside than we did when we first arrived in the middle of summer. The thing the heat is just unrelenting. There are no cool changes or southerly busters or tropical storms that bring even the slightest bit of relief. When the wind picks up it's blustery - it's like a hair dryer blowing full force in your face, with bits of sand for added pleasure. This lasts for months and months. I don't think it's anything you can really understand or appreciate until you've done it.

At least one a day, every single day, one of the kids is reduced to tears and says: "Why do we live in such a hot country?!" usually while getting in or out of the car.

I think if we didn't have kids it would be a huge amount easier. While you do yearn to get outside and just go for a walk or sit on the grass, you can survive. With the kids, it's difficult, there's only so much you can do. I think I can safely say this will probably be the last time I spend the majority of the long summer holiday here, the two weeks away was lovely but not enough to cure the cabin fever.

Every morning and every evening I'm gripped with the awful feeling "what am I going to do with them to fill another day?"


As well as trying to fill the days and keep the kids active and happy, it's been very isolating for me. All my parent friends have left for the summer, so quite often I only speak to the kids for the whole day. If Skip is away for work (as he is at the moment ), then I probably won't have a proper conversation with another adult.

Poor Skip probably (definitely) gets his ear chewed of with mundane musings when he is around, which is just what you want after a long stressful day at work!


On the positive side, the kids and I are spending a lot of good time together and there has been some fun and a lot of laughs. Time that I know I'll look back on with fondness.

Also, the kids are really looking forward to going back to school. I think they'll dive back into it very easily and we won't have the added transition of settling back in Dubai or getting used to the heat again.

It's also making us very excited about our trip back to Australia for Christmas. There have already been making conversations about going out on Grandpa's boat, possible sleepovers, catching up with cousins and friends.


As I've said before, I'm not really a person who gets homesick. I miss people, of course, and there are times when I feel a bit sad or nostalgic, but overall I don't pine for Australia. Occasionally though something will pop in my mind and I'll feel a wash of emotion. Sometimes it will be really wanting to sit and chat and laugh with a certain person and other times it will be something quite silly. Like yesterday, I suddenly thought of raisin toast. Hot, buttery, delicious raisin toast. We don't really get it here ( I don't think) and I hadn't even thought about it at all, then suddenly all I could think about was raisin toast and I got the strongest pangs on homesickness. Strange.


Someone from home the other day asked me if I still felt safe living in the Middle East. While there is so much chaos and confusion going on literally around us, I do feel very safe here. The vast majority of the time I feel safer living here than I do in Australia. I often leave my handbag unattended or my car door unlocked. People close to us attend church each week on land given to them by the government. They can worship without fear of persecution. People are friendly to me and my family.


So that is what is going on in my brain at the moment.

Thursday 31 July 2014

It just needs to stop

For the past few weeks, each time I pick up the paper that's delivered to my door each morning the first thing I see is the number. The number climbs higher each day and my heart sinks a little more.

Living in the Middle East means that the regional news splashed across the front page is often full of blood, conflict and horror. Bombings, executions, rockets. It's odd and hard to accept that my life here is so different from the people who live so close. For relief I click onto to news.com.au top news stories to find out what celebrity is doing something shocking and 14 Things I Never Knew About Where's Wally.

Since we arrived here the civil war in Syria has been constant headline news, as the bloody situation has worsened and hope faded I was surprised to return to Australia last year and meet so many people who had no clue that anything was happening. No inkling that there was refugee crisis in the surrounding countries as millions of Syrians fled. As Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd argued about the few piddly boats headed for Australia last year, millions of people made homes in tent cities that sprung from nowhere and are now permanent cities and ranking as some of the largest in countries like Jordan and Lebanon. Children forced to abandon school and grow up in less than ideal environments.

In recent weeks, the news in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has been pushed further back in the paper to make way for the devastation in Gaza. The news there has really affected me. Statistics such as 44% of inhabitable space in Gaza has now been destroyed, along with hospitals, mosques and schools. The only power plant destroyed meaning no electricity or water. Thousands of people dead, including many children. These are people who are poor. These are many, many people who live is a tiny area - one of the most densely populated places on earth. These are people who cannot leave. They are forced to stay and let rockets rain down on them.

How can the children who are living in Gaza today and experiencing the undescribable terror ever supposed to grow up and live lives without trauma and without hate?

Last night, I tucked in my kids - leaving a light on so the boogie man doesn't get them. I went to bed to read my detective novel, but I ended up looking at Twitter and reading a young girl tweeting out of Gaza. She talked about terrifying explosions and flashes of light outside her window. About the possibility of not surviving the night. Of having nowhere safe to go. This all during Eid, which is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. A time as precious to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians.

I lay in bed and thought about the families in Gaza. How they coped with no real way of knowing if they could keep their family safe that night or the next or the next. If only it was so easy as to just leave a light on.

I am not a supporter of Hamas, and I think many people in Australia would probably be surprised to know that much of the Middle East doesn't support Hamas. Whatever wrongs have been done, this obliteration of a whole community of people can't keep going. Innocent people with no way of escaping can't be left to have the crap bombed out of them. People seeking refuge in a UN school were killed today - this is the second time this week a UN school sheltering people has been hit. This is no solution.

The children who are having their lives destroyed, are living in terror and seeing their families killed in front of them, how can that breed anything but hate and bitterness. How many of them will want to seek revenge for what they will rightly and understandably see as unjust. And the circle of violence continues.

What is happening needs to stop. It just needs to stop.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Eid Mubarak!

On Sunday night, the new crescent moon was sighted (known as the Shawwal moon - the 10th month of the Islamic year) which signalled the end of Ramadan. On Monday, Eid al Fitr commenced. While Ramadan is a time of reflection, Eid al Fitr is a time of celebration. Muslim families get together to celebrate the end of the holy month with big feasts. Children receive new clothes and money from friends and relatives.

For us, it meant that Skip got an extra long weekend and we could eat in public during the day again. It is a lovely time of celebration in Dubai though. There are fireworks, feasts and celebrations across the city. Many people take holidays and travel. Everyone takes time off work to relax and celebrate. Friends and colleagues greet each other with "Eid Mubarak!"

In a couple of months time we'll celebrate the second Eid of the year, or Eid al Adha.

We've been spending this time off relaxing at home, swimming (of course) and going out for lunch. We've taken drives to Sharjah and Ajman (nearby Emirates) and swum some more. Enjoying quiet Dubai before it starts to fill up again and the year gets busy again.

Eid Mubarak!

Monday 28 July 2014

The long, hot summer

The days and the weeks are stretching out faaaaaaaar in front of me. As far as I can see at the moment. Endless sand dunes that all look pretty much the same, the sky blue and the sun beating down, making any movement slow.

Every morning, after breakfast I say: "OK, kids. Get your swimmers on, let's go to the pool." As the weeks have progressed, they've moved from "Yay!" to shooting me looks like I've just said: "Let's go to the dentist and get fillings." I hurry them on before it gets too hot to go to the pool. While the water in the pool is chilled, the air when any part of your body is out of the water makes the whole mission almost pointless.

Then there are the middle hours of the day. What to do, what to do. We could go to the mall. We could look at the toy shops. For the past couple of weeks it's been Ramadan - so no lunch excursions or excuses for morning or afternoon tea or even a milkshake.

All our friends are away, so no playdates to fill in the long hours.

I flick through lists of 'Things to do with kids in summer' on the net. We've ticked off all of them. Kidzania, Magic Planet, Fun City, Fun Square, Fun Corner. There's kids shows at the mall but they all seem to be on at times which aren't Aussie kid-friendly (7.30pm and 9pm).

We've baked cakes and cookies. Made homemade burgers and pizzas. We've drawn and coloured and glued and cut. We've made cubby houses. We've built cities. They've sung and danced performances. They've played cards, iPads and computers. Did I mention we've swum?

In the afternoon, I suggest another swim. "NOOOOOO!" they cry. We head down to the park and attempt to kick a ball. Everyone is tomato-red and dripping in sweat after 15 minutes.

The longest, hottest summer in history! Five-and-a-half weeks to go...

Sunday 20 July 2014

Ramadan in the UAE

As you may, or may not, know, it's Ramadan at the moment. Ramadan is the Islamic holy month where Muslims are required to fast, reflect, spend time with family and give to charity and help others. It is one of the five pillars of Islam that Muslims are required to observe. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it officially begins when the crescent moon can be seen the naked eye.

So, what does Ramadan mean if you live in the UAE (and much of the Arab world), especially if you are an expat like myself? The first big thing is that Muslims are require to fast during daylight hours - so from sunrise until sunset they can not eat, drink or smoke.

In the UAE, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours, so restaurants, cafes and food outlets are closed. There are a small handful of restaurants in Dubai that have been given permission to serve food to non-Muslims, but these restaurants must put up heavy curtains so passers-by can't see in. There are still a few food outlets that will serve food and drinks for takeaway and offer delivery as well.

Most offices and work places will allocate a room where non-Muslims can consume food and drink. Fasting workers (and some non-fasting workers) work shorter hours during Ramadan, usually from 8am-2pm.

Music is generally not allowed during Ramadan and shops and restaurants are not allowed to play loud music. Dubai at present is quite literally very quiet. The nightclubs are shut and the malls are quiet. There are also very few people out and about. People go about their normal day but then spend time with family and friends.

The evenings are a different story. As the sun sets, the streets are empty as people go to prayer and then get ready to break the fast. The breaking of the fast is known as Iftar and it's tradition to break the fast with dates, as Muhammad did. Muslims gather with their friends and family to celebrate this special meal and non-Muslims also partake as the restaurants and hotels offer special Iftar buffets, even fast food outlets offer special Iftar meals. Iftars are a lively celebration. The meal before the sunrise is known as Suhoor.

It is very hot in Dubai at the moment (in the low to mid-40s), it's the long summer school holidays and with the restrictions of Ramadan many expats flee Dubai for their home country. For me, I wanted to experience Ramadan in Dubai. We arrived in Dubai for the last couple of days of Ramadan, but I wanted to experience while living here while it was happening. Yes, it can be a little tricky with the kids and trying to entertain them and yes, the city is extremely quiet. This can also nice. There is definitely a different feel in the city and it's nice to be a part of. Hearing the longer calls to prayer and the Quran readings in the evening. It reinforces the feeling that we live in the Middle East, which can be easy to forget at times.

Monday 14 July 2014

Secret Slovenia

Just a month ago, we decided to get away for a couple weeks. That seems to be our MO in the ME (see what I did there?). Organising holidays at a moment's notice.

We were guided by flight costs, which during summer are sky high. Anyhoo, we decided some time in Italy would be pretty darn nice, mainly because I found a cheap flight to Milan via Istanbul. After a few changes, a bit more research and chatting to an Italian friend I thought I had everything set. We'd even throw in a few days in Paris and Amsterdam at either end - busy, but exciting.

Then I discovered super cheap flights with Air Serbia and suddenly Croatia and Slovenia came into the picture as we said goodbye to Paris and Amsterdam. I'd heard lots of great things about Croatia, especially the Adriatic coast, but the coast of Croatia wasn't really on the way from Belgrade to Italy. Then I discovered this little tiny country called Slovenia. My mum had been and said it was lovely. Another good friend had said the same thing.

So after a little research I booked in two nights on the way to Italy in Piran. We were floored at how lovely and relaxed and wonderful this little seaside town was. Pure magic. How could Italy compare after this little gem?

Then after we left our wonderful Tuscan abode, we drove to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. Again we were blown away at just how lovely this city is. It's a small capital city with a population of around just 250,000 people. The centre of the city is all pedestrian access only so it's super easy to meander around the picturesque streets, and picturesque they are. Every corner of this city is pretty, there's not one grimy, yucky, grungy part. Every corner you turn is another postcard view. Best of all it's so relaxed. Everyone just meanders and stops for a coffee or a beer or a plate of something. The most laid-back capital I've ever been to.

We spent the few days we had here doing exactly that. Stopping for Slovene sausage or a plate of calamari. Wandering along the river soaking in the pretty. Then stopping again for a coffee. We took a boat ride up the river and felt the chilly summer air on our faces - "It's like winter in Dubai," Lil-lil said.

Skip declared that it was the most beautiful city he'd been to and I had to agree.

The thing I don't understand is how no-one seems to know just how nice this place is. Slovenia is definitely the secret gem of Europe and I'm so happy we got to discover it. We're hoping to get back again soon and discover the northern parts of the country.

Our last morning in Ljubljana the rain poured down and dampened my plans of taking the kids to play outside in the park for the last time for the next few months, the scorching Dubai weather making park play impossible. Instead we packed up the car, sad to be ending our Summer Europe adventure. Before it ended though we had to drive across Slovenia, Croatia to Belgrade, Serbia to catch our midnight flight home. It was my birthday so not too much celebrating, but the previous two weeks made up for it.

We're now back in sweaty old Dubai. Stinking hot and humid and set to hit 48 by the week's end. So for now, I'll look at these lovely picture and remember that cool summer breeze.

All the pretty and all the colours!

The gorgeous centre of Ljubljana.

On the river!

Look! Ducks!

The pedestrian-only streets make everywhere a top place to play. 

What you find on your phone after a five-hour drive.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Ciao, Italia!

We're home now after our European vacation, but I want to reminisce because it really was such a good time.

After falling ill in the Slovenian seaside town of Piran, the girls and I soldiered on. We still ate at the seaside restaurants, walked the tiny lanes and climbed the hill. Before we knew it, it was time to hit the road again. Sadly, we left this gem of a village, hoping we'd return again one day. Slovenia is such an amazing country, I don't understand why it's not more popular.

We drove to Italy, our first stop - Bologna. Why Bologna? Well, the kids love spaghetti Bolognese and the area where Bologna is is famous for its food - balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, parmesan - it all comes Emilia Romagna. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in Bologna the girls and I were really unwell. My face was swollen, my eyes were bright red - every time I looked in the mirror I scared myself, I looked like a vampire. The girls didn't look much better, I was scared that we frighten everyone.

Still, we soldiered on and walked through the centre of Bologna and it's beautiful terraces. We stopped into a trattoria and ordered tagliatelle al ragu (or as we know it, spaghetti bolognese) and a glass of Sangiovese for the adults. We were served by a stereotypical Italian man who made the kids laugh despite their illness. Feeling slightly revived we stumbled back to our hotel for another night of chills and fever.

The next morning we set of for TUSCANY! We rented an apartment in a tiny hilltop village in Chianti. Rolling hills covered in vineyards. Sunlight that kissed the green hills with a certain magic. Every window had an amazing view. As Skip said: "It's just a hill with trees. I've seen lots of hills with trees, but there's something so beautiful about this." The sunlight has to the magic ingredient.

We spent the next six days exploring the hillside towns in Chianti, visiting Florence, Siena, Pisa and San Gimignano and soaking up every minute of Tuscany. We drank Chianti Classico, we ate pasta and prosciutto and honey and olives. Everything tasted so good. Slowly the girls and I got a little better and could enjoy it all a little more. It think the gelato that we indulged in regularly definitely helped with our recovery. We visited villages and castles and marvelled at their beauty and their age. We were amazed at how friendly everyone was.

Those six days in Italy were really magical. It's so different to where we live in Dubai. We made sure that we soaked in every single moment. Our last day we visited San Gimignano again, the guide books laugh at this Tuscan town for being 'touristy' but it's such an exquisitely beautiful spot. The stone towers and the panoramic views were the perfect spot to end our Tuscan visit.

To be continued….

Staring at the view in San Gimignano.

Prosciutto everywhere!

A shop full of delicious things in Greve in Chianti,
with the standard wild boar perched out the front.

Walking the streets of Greve in Chianti under the Tuscan sun. 

The gorgeous view from our apartment, the lights of Florence appeared
every night like magic in the distance. 

Monday 30 June 2014

Knocked for six

I have a very annoying track record, one that really frustrates me. That is getting sick on holiday.

It feels like almost any time I go on holiday I get sick. And not just a little sick, but a lot sick.

There was the time we went to Disney World in Florida and I got measles. Then there was time I went to Expo 88 in Brisbane and got pneumonia. Good times!

I'm now in the most idyllic seaside town you can imagine, with glands swollen to the size of golf balls on my neck. Shivers and chills. Feeling like I've been hit by a bus.

Last night we ate at a little seafood restaurant. Calamari, sardines, prawns the size of my hands. Carafes of good wine and all I wanted to do was slide under the table. Sitting on the Adriatic, never imagining I'd get the chance to have such a simply good meal. Annoying to say the least.

So, go away illness and, please, do not strike anyone else in this family!
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