Sunday 30 March 2014

Baby, you can drive my car

One of the best things about being with someone for such a long time is watching them grow, change and develop. Skip and I were basically kids when we got together. Only just out of our teens.

Over the years we've changed so much as individuals and as a couple. We've done so many amazing, different and wonderful things (alongside many, many mundane things, of course). We've dreamt about things we thought would never come true. We've had things we could never have imagined come true.

When I met Skip he was a boy and now I look at him and he's a man - a wise man who can read people, who's keenly interested in the world, who works really, really hard for his family and has success and respect from those around him. He loves to read books now, he reads more than me and when I first met him he said it was 'boring'.

On the weekend, I got to help make one his dreams come true. We went out to the track and he drove a super car fast around it. When we were younger we to car shows and Skip would dream about driving a car like that, never expecting he'd get the opportunity to. It was nice to do that one small thing for him when he does so much for us.

My mother-in-law asked why I didn't have a go too and to be honest I got much more of a thrill seeing Skip's face as he pulled himself out of that sleek car than I would have had driving it.

Monday 24 March 2014

The constant chat up

As I've mentioned 18 billion (or so) times before, Dubai is a transient place. People are constantly coming and going. We've said goodbye to many people in the 18 months we've been here. It's a strange position to be in, I must say, to constantly have to build up your social circle, your family-away-from home. It's hard enough first time round, but having to do it over and over, well it's a tad monotonous.

You finally find people you like, that you connect with, you share these moments with, then suddenly they're gone. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just be hermits and forget about the whole friend thing, but then you'd slowly go insane.

I realised when I was at playgroup this morning, it's almost like being single again. With my closest Dubai friend leaving the country soon, I looked around the group of women and their kids and took a deep breath. Gotta put myself out there again. After being in a romantic relationship for more than 16 years, nervous chatterings at the church playgroup took me back to being in a nightclub aged 19.

I noticed a lady on her own, Darbs and her little girl were playing trains next to each other. She was alone. We struck up a totally uninteresting conversation about trains. Then we started chatting more and even started replying with "Yes! Exactly!"The conversation flowed effortlessly. Wow, I thought to myself, she seems really nice. I let my mind run away, imagining dinners, BBQs and other social events together. I turned to help Darbs with something and turned back and she was gone. I spotted her talking  and laughing with someone else. Was it the nasty stench of cheap Nescafe on my breath? Was my interesting conversation completely boring to her? Man, it sucks and playgroup doesn't even serve any G&Ts to help ease the nerves!

I was chatting online with another expat friend recently about the inevitability of saying goodbye when you're an expat. You forge these tight bonds and then it's 'See you later!' Most of them you'll probably only ever see again on Facebook.

Anyway, the vacancy sign is currently up and hopefully positions will all be filled soon for quite some time.

Thursday 20 March 2014


I'm a big fan of the movie Stand By Me. There was a stage when I could recite every piece of dialogue word-for-word, in fact, if pushed I probably still could. There's one part of the movie that I wasn't too keen on and that's when Gordie tells his latest story to the other boys called Barf-O-Rama, it's about a fat kid who's taunted by everyone in his town and gets revenge at a pie eating contents when he vomits up the blueberries pies and in the process sets off a chain reaction of vomit through everyone at the contest. The vomit was revolting and the fact that everyone's vomit was blueberries just didn't do for me.

I'll tell you something worse than that scene of the movie. It's when you have your own Barf-O-Rama in the back of the car. Yes, it did happen and, unfortunately, it's not the first time.

On the way to school one morning this week, Lil-lil piped up that she felt like she was going to vomit. She looked a little grey but sometimes says that she feels like she's going to vomit with no consequences so I wasn't too concerned. Plus, I was in three lanes of traffic so there wasn't a lot I could do.

We motored on when I heard a sound and saw some movement and some spray in the rearview mirror. Panicked, I grabbed around the car for something, anything, to contain the vomit. Unsuccessful I quickly dived into a slip road and pulled over. Dragging Lil-lil out of the car just in time for her to chuck everywhere. She was covered in it. So was a corner of the footpath, unfortunately I looked up to see we were right in front of one of Dubai's most famous tourist attractions not the best place to fall suddenly ill (sorry tourists, she got as much in the bush as possible). I got her back in the car, but the smell of chuck set off a chain reaction.

Darbs in his car seat start to gag and before I knew he'd spewed everywhere. This set off Goosey who also started to gag. I jumped out of the car again and got her out in time for her to chuck in the bush, keeping herself nice and clean. Darby continued to vomit. Good times, friends, good times.

Darbs screamed, shocked by the wave of vomit that covered him.

"This is the worst school run ever," I said, not really sure what to do next.

"Even worse than when the fire extinguisher went off, Mum?" said Goosey.

"Yes, even worse than that," I muttered.

Have you ever had your own Barf-O-Rama?

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Sealed with a kiss

After more than 18 months of life in Dubai, there are still plenty of things that confuse me. I don't know all the etiquette ins and outs. Often I feel like I'm probably making some large faux pas (and I probably am), but I do try my best.

One thing that always confuses me is the greeting. In Australia, I'd always give a friend (male or female) a peck on the cheek, perhaps even a hug if they're a good friend and I haven't seen them for a while. Here I never know what's acceptable, especially in public. Is it even legal to give an acquaintance a peck on the check when you run into them at the mall? In most cases, I let the other person lead, see where they're going.

But, it's not that simple. You see, where I'm from the standard greeting is a single peck on the cheek with perhaps a pat on the shoulder. Not so for the rest of the world. You see there is the European double kiss and, to be truthful, I find this a little off-putting. I'm sort of used to it now, but when I first arrived I had a nasty kissing incident. I greeted the friend with a single kiss went to pull out when they went in for the second kiss. In the movement, they managed to whack their chin into the corner of my eye quite hard (I thought I'd end up with a bruise). Eyes watering, feeling quite embarrassed, we stood there for a moment and quickly moved away. Now it's even more confusing with this person as I'm conscious to do the double kiss and they're conscious about doing the single peck.

And if that isn't confusing enough, I've noticed a rise in the triple kiss. Yes, that's right, the triple kiss. A kiss on each cheek and then a final kiss on the original cheek. Talk about confusing. I noticed I left someone hanging on the third kiss recently, at least neither of us ended up with a physical injury. I just can't go the triple kiss. I have to make a stand somewhere.

So greeting someone at a party can be fraught. Are we supposed to kiss, are we even allowed to shake hands? The kiss arrives and will it be a single, double or a triple? Then there's the friend who wants to drop the kiss altogether and just hug. Then there are those who want to handshake but only want to shake the tips of your fingers.

I'm starting to learn which nationalities like to do what, but then they'll always be the rogue Aussie who's been away for too long who has embraced the double kiss.

Perhaps it's best just to employ the Crocodile Dundee "G'day" with a tip of the head that Skip favours. It would make life a whole lot simpler.

Have you ever had a greeting injury?

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The change

Early this morning as I was buzzing around the house trying to find one of the girls a pair of socks for school, I stepped out onto our balcony and it hit me. The smell of summer in Dubai. A musty strange smell. It means one thing – winter is definitely over.

As I went to the supermarket to pick up the daily milk and bread, businessmen sat outside in the 8am sun sipping coffee before work. Beads of sweat appearing on the forehead. Not before long, morning brews will be drunk inside away from the early blazing sun. Winter is definitely over.

It may only be spring, but the coolness in the breeze has gone. People are panicking, trying to fit all the outdoors in that they can. One of the school mums remarked to me recently: "There's a lot of pressure this time of year, trying to make the most of the outdoors before the heat arrives." The morning radio tells me: "Get out there and do something, before you know it you'll be stuck inside saying 'why didn't I…'"

People are camping, there's al fresco dining, playing at the park, lazy strolls along the beach.

The change has arrived. Summer is coming.

Monday 10 March 2014

Cheerio Cheerios

It's a funny old life here in Dubai. Before we moved here I grilled some long-time residents what the supermarkets and grocery shopping was like. The standard reply was: "Hmmmm not that great really." and "If you see something you like on the shelves, stock up because you never know when it will be back."

Goodness, I thought, that's a little strange. When I moved here I was pleasantly surprised by the supermarkets. They're clean and plentiful. Bread is baked on the premises and is cheap. The produce isn't too bad seeing as almost all of it has to be shipped to our desert shores. Sure some of the brands were a little unfamiliar but there were plenty that were. You can even buy Vegemite and Tim Tams here, so we're not deprived by any stretch.

But they were right about one thing. Sometimes for no reason at all, something you love just disappears from the shelves. Something that has been in every supermarket and readily available and you thought there was no need to stock up on. Recently it's been Cheerios. My kids love Cheerios and they are no where to be found across Dubai. You can get honey-flavoured Cheerios but not the regular ones. Every time we go in to a supermarket we look, but alas they're not there. Who knows when they'll reappear?!

Then today I went to buy popcorn kernels. Regular old pop corn kernels. They had vanished. No signs that they'd ever been there although I buy them regularly (we always need a 'party' food to take to school for some event or other). Today I had to take the snack to playgroup and popcorn is a keen favourite for the toddler group. I had to resort to buying microwave popcorn and there were mutterings around the snack room: "This popcorn is salty." "Don't you think it's too salty?" "Who would put salt on kids' popcorn?" I had to hang my head in playgroup shame.

It's like a game, you never know if you'll be able to get the bean sprouts for that Vietnamese salad or if they'll have tinned beetroot. One week you'll find organic lamb kofta and fresh basil and then it will disappear the next. Meal planning is always a little interesting and requires you to think on your feet.

Until the Cheerios return, the kids will have to learn to love bran flakes and corn flakes and rice bubbles (or rice krispies as the non-Aussies call them). Hopefully the great Cheerio drought of 2014 will soon be a distant memory.

Monday 3 March 2014

Lose yourself

It's Oscar day and I was thrilled to see all the highlights as I scanned the news sites today. Once upon a time, I studied film at university and even had dreams for a few years about becoming a filmmaker. I loved watching movies, any kind of movies, new movies, old movies, subtitled movies, box office movies, whatever. I read about movies, I watched movies about movies. It was my hobby, my passion, my interest.

The other day, I was lying in bed on a lazy Saturday with Lil-lil and while everyone else was out and her brother was asleep, we watched old movies clips on YouTube. High Society, Meet Me in St Louis, The Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain and her delight was wonderful. She was mesmerised by the singing, the dancing, the costumes, the magic of cinema. She reminded me of me. It was about her age that I started watching old movies and loved them. My mum would rent them out for me at the video shop and I would be lost for hours in them.

It recently hit me that I don't watch movies anymore. Somewhere along the way I stopped. I read, I watch TV, I surf the net, but I don't watch movies. I'll sometimes watch a movie and then I end up falling asleep. So I watch half-movies now. Or I watch movies that I've seen a million times that don't take up too much brain power.

That makes me sad and I miss them. I miss being lost in the story and surprised by the characters. It's not like anyone is stopping me from watching movies. Sure it's harder to go to the cinema these days and it's easier to watch an episode of a TV show than committing to a whole movie, but really it's a shame that I've so easily given something up that gave me so much joy. And let's face it, it's not that hard to watch a movie is it?

So, a week or two ago, I checked the TV and there was a movie I'd wanted to see, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, so I watched it. The whole thing. Then last night I put the computer to the side, I checked the movie channels and lo and behold there was a movie that piqued my interest - Hitchcock with Antony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. And I enjoyed it.

So here's to reclaiming a little part of me.

Have you ever misplaced a little part of yourself?
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