Tuesday 17 November 2015

Just people

I wrote this post on Sunday morning when I was feeling a little weary and heavy-hearted. I wasn't sure that I would post it as it felt a little soon and writing it was more of an outlet for me to process my thoughts, but I decided this morning I would post. 

Along with most of the world, I've been shocked and saddened by the events of the past days. The horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut are difficult to fathom. I'm not going to comment directly on those as I don't feel that it's my place to do so here.

What I've read on news sites and social media in regards to these attacks have dismayed me. Vitriol, hatred and anger. I, too, despise the scum that perpetrate these acts. So, so much. But to me, those monstrous vile creatures that found sport in murdering innocent people are not representative of Muslims. It truly upsets me though when people believe so deeply that there is no difference between the monsters who pick up a gun or detonate a bomb and the more than a billion Muslims who are just trying live their everyday life.

 I live in a Muslim country and have done so for the past 3-and-a-half years. In that time, my neighbours have been Muslim. My kids' teachers have been Muslim. Our friends have been Muslim. The people we deal with day in and day out have been Muslim. In those 3-and-a-half years, I have been treated with kindness, generosity and respect. I have not been asked to convert, I haven't been attacked for my beliefs. Nothing has been forced upon me nor really expected of me, except for the return of respect that has been granted to me.

The shops in Dubai at the moment have more Christmas trees and baubles and tinsel than you can imagine. I can buy a ham and pineapple pizza from the supermarket if I want to. I can stop by a bar and have a drink if I so wish. My Catholic friends regularly attend mass at a church built on land gifted to them by the Muslim rulers. My Hindi friends go to the temple and hang their Diwali lights. There are no Muslims here calling me an 'infidel' or trying to 'strip me from my rights' or force me to conform to their ideals. Though if you believe what you see on Facebook or in the mainstream media, that is what they'd have you believe is the motive of every Muslim.

My kids, thankfully, are unaware of the attacks over the weekend (Friday is our weekend). Both Paris and Beirut are places that they know of, where their friends are from, where they dream they might visit one day. And thankfully, they haven't been exposed to anti-Islamic sentiment (nor anti-Christian or anti-Western sentiment for that matter). It is impossible to protect them from the news of conflict in Syria and Iraq (and Yemen and Libya) and they are aware that some of their friends and teachers are unable to return to the place of their birth due to the war. They've also seen the pictures of refugees treading the same path from Hungary to Germany where just a few weeks earlier they spent their summer holiday.

To them, Muslims aren't evil terrorists looking to destroy their way of life, in fact it's quite the opposite. A Muslim is the mum who hugs them tightly with a greeting in the school playground, a Muslim is the teacher who patiently explains multiplication and division, a Muslim is the friend they skip with in the playground and share secrets and dreams with, a Muslim is the doctor who gave them medicine and made them feel better, a Muslim is the nurse who snuck in a tub of jelly and ice cream when the hospital food was yucky. To them, Muslim people are just people.

To me, a Muslim is the friend that wiped away the tears when I involuntarily cried after receiving an appointment for a tumour biopsy, a Muslim is the mum who looked after my sick child while I raced to school to collect her, a Muslim is a woman who spent all day cooking food she thought I might like to welcome me into her home, a Muslim is the man who stopped during his busy day and changed my flat tyre in 48 degree heat, a Muslim is the parent who wishes me a happy Diwali and a happy Christmas with an enormous smile, a Muslim is the teacher who passionately educates my child, a Muslim is the lady on the plane who held my baby boy so I could eat my meal. To me, Muslim people are just people. I feel lucky to have people in my life of different faiths and races and nationalities, who put that all aside and treat each other as humans, as friends.

The scum who kill and maim and terrorise in the so-called name of Islam have zero in common with the Muslims I know. The people that I know here are sickened by the violence that is perpetrated in their name. A lot of them personally affected in some way or another.

So, for those you reading who live in Australia, US, UK, Canada or Europe. I ask you not to respond to evil and hatred with more hatred. The only way to eradicate and fight the evil is to join together, as humans, if not you're allowing the monsters victory.

Friday 13 November 2015

Stormy weather

Yesterday, we awoke to a one of those very rare overcast, rainy Dubai days. They literally only happen a couple of times a year, but when they do there is so much excitement!

As we arrived at school, there were shouts of "I think I felt a drop!", "It's so cold!" (it was about 28 degrees and 7.30am), "It's so dark!" I left them in their classrooms, their classmates buzzing with as much excitement as them.

As I drove home, a light shower started. I saw the windows of the car next me all come down and hands poke out of each one trying to feel a drop. As I drove past I saw an Arab family with their faces bright with delight, smiles sparkling in the dreary weather. I couldn't help but smile myself, loving that a few drops of rain could bring such wonder!

I turned on my windscreen wipers (after I remembered how to turn them on) to discover that they'd almost disintegrated over the summer from sand and extreme heat. They flipped and flopped over the windscreen making it harder to see than when I first turned them on.

I had expected that rain would be gone by the time I collected the kids, but it hung around for most of the day.

Today we woke up to sunshine, the city was sparkling as the rain had washed away the sand that covers everything all of the time. It felt clean and fresh. I love this time of the year, it's our reward for  five months of being stuck inside.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

The ancient world of the 1980s

Last weekend, my kids were excitedly telling me about this new movie that was coming out. "It has these kids and one them has my name!" says one. "There's a dog, too, with a bird for a friend!" says the youngest.

"Oh the Peanuts movie, yes, I saw that was coming out." I replied. "The dog's name is Snoopy and the bird is called Woodstock."

The kids stopped dead. "How do you know about it?" they gasped. Amazed that I might know anything useful at all.

"Peanuts is as old as the hills. I used to have a Snoopy when I was your ages. In fact, I think I even had two."

My kids are always amazed when I've seen a cartoon they like. "They had Scooby-Doo when you were a kid??!" or "You've seen Tom & Jerry before?!" They can't believe that something they think is so cool could've been around so long ago.

"Did you watch it on an iPad?" Darbs asks. This is when the eldest finally pipes up: "They didn't have iPads back then. They didn't even have mobile phones when mum was a kid."

This information seems truly amazing to them. No mobiles? How on earth did we survive? So I tell them tales about answering machines and home phones and just turning up and hoping you'd run into someone. About phones books and remembering people's numbers. About how their uncle was super cool and had a car phone. "But why was the phone stuck in the car?"

I tell them that I didn't have the internet and we had to write letters on paper, put a stamp on them and get the postman to deliver them. About taking photos on film and taking the roll to the shop to get developed. "But what if you didn't like the photos?"

Looking at their faces there was a mix of confusion and wonder like I was telling them something about a mystic ancient world.

After a moment, Goosey pipes up, "But how did you look things up if you couldn't Google it?"

So, I  launch into a tale of libraries and encyclopaedias. "Grandpa bought a set of encyclopaedias, which is a collection of big books filled with information. He bought them in 1967 so the information, especially the populations were a bit out of date, but that's all we had."

"What if you had to print out a picture for your project?" she asks.

"Well, we  photocopied them from a book at the library (in black and white, of course) or sometimes I went to travel agents and asked for old brochures," I explained.

I look over at Goosey who's tapping on the laptop to see she's made a Powerpoint presentation about why she hates her sister. Scolding her for the subject, but admiring her work - "I do like those swirly bits"

"They're called transitions, Mum."

They are indeed.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Grease isn't the word

One of the things I've looked forward to being a mum, is sharing my favourite things with my kids - books, movies, music. I've always wanted to share the things that I've loved, that have made me happy, that have shaped me. I know I'm not alone in this, I've heard so many other parents say the same thing.

The thing is, no much how much you love something or expose your kids to something, doesn't mean they're going to love it.

Last week, my eldest was home sick. We don't get a lot of time together, just the two of us, so I had the brilliant idea of watching a movie together. I imagined us snuggling up on the couch and sharing a cherished moment. Passing something wonderful on to my eldest. Something that would ignite something in her. The only thing was, which movie to watch? I wanted something that the younger kids weren't ready to share in yet, something I could share just with her. Something I adored, something I thought she'd adore. Little Women? Anne of Green Gables? There was a chance they'd be a little old fashioned, a little sedate.

Of course, Grease! Music, dancing, colour, energy. A blonde girl from Sydney, Australia transplanted to a new world. There was  no chance she wouldn't love it. Easy peasy.

Eagerly, I put it on. She watched. She was quiet, except for the odd comment "Are they smoking?! At school!!", "Those boys really like to misbehave, why do they want to hang out with them."

The credits began to roll. "Sooooo, what did you think?" I asked.

"Yeah, it was OK."

OK?! It was like it was Christmas morning and she'd opened up a gift I'd being dying to give and she just tossed it aside after opening it. I wanted to grab it and say "Well, you can't have it then!"

Instead, I have to suck it up and accept my kids aren't going to love everything I love. You can't plan those "cherished" moments. There's no accounting for taste!

Tuesday 6 October 2015

It's not a tumour (except it is)

A few months back, I was sat on a plane, heading home to Dubai after a fabulous trip to Australia for a wedding. We'd had a ball at the wedding and then a great few days in Singapore. Probably a bit too much partying and late nights so I wasn't surprised when I got a blinding headache on the flight home. I suffer from headaches, so it wasn't something new. I rubbed my head all over in an attempt to soothe the throb when I felt a lump, at the end of my jaw just behind my ear.

"Ooh a swollen gland," I thought. When I landed, I went to the doctor to get something for the severe headache and I mentioned the lump, just as I suspected he diagnosed a swollen gland. A few days later I developed a kidney infection so it all fell into place. I had been fighting off an infection. Simple. After large doses of antibiotics, I recovered from the infection. Then I noticed the swollen gland will still there. "I must get back to the doctor to check it out."

Finally a few weeks later, one free morning after dropping the kids at school, I decided I better get that lump checked, on the spur of the moment. Just in case.

"Just a swollen gland, I'll prescribe some antibiotics." "But I had all those antibiotics!" "hmmmm"

Taken to the room next door for an ultrasound, I was then asked to wait while he spoke to the doctor. I could see them talking for five minutes or longer. Called in, I was told there was something wrong with my saliva gland "do you have a history of any problems? Does your family? You'll need an MRI, you'll need it today." 

I didn't have it that day but the next. An hour of jack hammering in my ear. "your doctor will give you the results in two days".

Exactly 48 hours later the phone rang. "It's a tumour. You'll need to see the specialist."

Tumour? Specialist? Tumour means only one thing. Fear and tears and dread. Death and deformity. It all seemed like an overwhelming wave of certainty or uncertainty. Tumour. It can't be good. 

Arnold Swarznegger uttering "it's not a tumour" in my head. But apparently it is. 

"These tumours are most often benign, but they can sometimes be more sinister. They can be cancerous. I recommend a biopsy. Whatever it is, the treatment is the same. It needs to be surgically removed, they can't be left, malignant or benign."

Google told me these tumours aren't common. Not necessarily rare, but fairly uncommon. Google told me, if malignant, they can be tricky to treat. Google told me Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys had a malignant tumour the exact same size, in the exact same location as mine. He sadly died in 2012. Google told me the surgery could result with permanent facial paralysis and other weird side effects. I was terrified, to say the least.

I was admitted for the biopsy. It was painful, but not too bad. "We'll have the results in five to seven days." Two days later I got on a flight to Europe, for a holiday. Try as I might to ignore it, there was a black cloud hanging over me. I wondered if I'd actually return to Dubai. If the results were bad I would fly straight to Australia for treatment. Should I warn my friend in Ireland that we may not come visit them after all? Could I really have cancer? What if I do have cancer?

After a long weekend in Berlin we drove to Bratislava. My eye constantly wandering to my phone. Thinking, I should know today. As I put my bags down in our Air BnB apartment and logged on to wifi, I saw my doctor's name pop up with a ping on my email. 

"Samples indicate a pleomorphic adenoma." A benign tumour. I felt like 50 ton of concrete had been lifted from my shoulders. I burst into tears of pure relief. Benign in Bratislava. For more than two weeks I'd lived with this lump, not knowing if it was cancer. Knowing that it might be. Everyone kept saying "it will be alright" I daren't believe them, because what if it wasn't alright. It isn't always alright. 

My ENT in Dubai said it had to be removed because it would keep growing, as it got bigger it would be harder to remove and as it had already grown quite deep could affect the facial nerve. As it was growing deep, he couldn't remove it. All this meant I had to return to Sydney to see a highly-skilled surgeon, who repeated exactly what the ENT said, it needs to be removed. 

Wanting to avoid surgery, especially one that had risks, I read everything I could get my hands on. I could live with a lump on my neck. But they all said the same thing, these tumours have to be removed, especially in the location my was or they would cause more problems. 

So last week, after jetting into Sydney I went into hospital and had my lumpy little friend removed. I woke up in agonising pain, wondering why on earth this was necessary. Quickly though I began to feel better. Numb and sore at the same time, but better. I still sometimes brush my hair back from my face and feel a weird, spongy thing on the side of my head and it takes a few seconds to realise it's my poor, numb ear. "Who needs feeling in an ear?" people say to me, but I've realised I quite like feeling in my ear. It may come back. It might not. 

Once removed, the tumour was bigger than it was when I had the MRI. Further "proof" that surgery was necessary. A numb ear is better than a paralysed face or the benign tumour turning "sinister" as they can do. 

I'm now back in Dubai, after a whirlwind trip to Australia. Time to move forward from that time I had a tumour in my parotid gland. Incredibly grateful that I have the opportunity to move forward. 

Sunday 23 August 2015

European Vacation

We recently escaped the Middle Eastern summer furnace for a few weeks in Europe. The only problem was it seem that the heat followed us with Europe being struck with a heatwave.

We flew to Prague and at the airport jumped in a hire care and promptly drove to Berlin. With the help of a friend's sat-nav we found our way through the north of the Czech Republic. The sat-nav only came with a German-speaking feature, so I had to follow the map and give the directions, which kept leading up off the autobahn and onto tiny, picturesque country roads. Which were lovely and all but after a seven-hour flight we was just eager to get the three-hour drive over and done with and get to Berlin. I have to say, Berlin was a bit of culture for this Middle Eastern-living girl. People walking down the street with their shirts off and a large can of beer in their hands, doesn't happen too often (read, at all)  in the streets of Dubai. It's funny how all these little things jolt you when you've been living life one way.

Our first day in Berlin was a balmy 41 degrees. Which is not too bad in Dubai, where we have lots of air con, in Berlin where the buildings are built to keep the heat rather than out it was stinking hot! We just looked at it as a good excuse to have a few German hop-beverages. 

The kids were a little overwhelmed by Berlin, but they did love the Berlin Wall. Especially Lil-lil who was fascinated by the memorial and museum and spent many days afterwards filling us in about what she'd discovered about the wall. Which shows why it's so important to remember these parts of history. 

Berlin Wall memorial
Preserved section of the Wall
The imposing Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
After a couple of days we headed to Bratislava on our way to Budapest. A few people had told me not to bother with Bratislava, but it was a nice stop-off point and plus another country, so why not? I'm glad we did as I really enjoyed our time in Bratislava. Along the banks of the Danube is a new development with lots of nice bars and restaurants. We ate dinner while the kids ran around on the grass in the late evening sun. The next day we strolled through the beautiful old town and had lunch in a Slovakian pub before setting off for Hungary.

Old Town, Bratislava

Budapest has been floating around the top of my travel list for some time and I have to say it didn't disappoint. In fact, the only thing I was disappointed in was that we weren't staying longer. The architecture, the history, the beer, the food, the vibe, the people - Budapest has it all. The only thing that made it difficult was it was 41 degrees in Budapest too, which made it hot and sweaty seeing the sights. 
If you haven't been to Budapest and you get the opportunity to go, take it! It's a fabulous city! 

Hungarian Parliament House

Lots of Hungarian salami!

After Budapest, we drove to Vienna, on my birthday. We've been to Vienna before, but the last time we were there it was cold and snowy. We arrived on a warm sunny day and headed straight into town to wander around. The best part was having the famous Sacher Torte with a candle at the beautiful Sacher Hotel as my birthday cake. 

The following day we wandered around the city again in glorious sunshine. We met up with some friends who used to live in Dubai and moved back to Vienna about a year ago. They took us on a short bus ride to the hills on the outskirts of Vienna with an incredible view over the city. We wandered down the hill through the vineyards until we found a winery serving food and wine and had a band playing out in the vines. It was magic evening where everything was just right - the music, the food, the wine, the company, the weather. Everything came together just right, there's no way you could've planned it. It's moments like this that make you appreciate living overseas and the people you get to meet. We'd never have found this place if we were on our own. 

After Vienna we headed back to Prague for five days. We wandered the town, ate lots of Czech food, climbed the hills to overlook the city. The city was filled to the brim with tourists and there were times I felt like part of the herd. There were moments of bliss though, like discovering a tiny French market on Bastille Day where we ate scrummy French food. 

Pretty Prague

At the end of the five days, it was time for Skip to head home to Dubai and the kids and I to jump on a plane to Ireland. We were lucky enough to be invited to stay with good friends in Dublin "for as long as you want! The whole summer if you like!" I thought the whole summer might be the end of a beautiful friendship, so we opted for 11 days instead. 

These guys were really good friends in Dubai (and still now, of course) and within 2 minutes of seeing their faces in the arrivals hall of Dublin Airport it was like we'd seen them yesterday rather than a year ago. Lots of laughter and chatter. They took us all over Ireland, from east to west and south to north. We swam (well I dipped my toes in the chilly water), we climbed mountains, we boated, we hiked and rode bikes, we sat in pubs and we camped, we partied and heard live music. It was a brilliant 11 days. Our six kids altogether had a ball, running outside and adventuring and playing and scampering and trying new things. Just like a summer holiday should be, even if it didn't quite feel like summer to us desert-dwelling Aussies. 

We flew back to Dubai, with a quick one night stopover in Prague. Happily back to Skip and our home. Not so happily back to the sand and the heat. 

It was a beautiful escape. One of the biggest perks of living here in the centre of the world. 

Saturday 8 August 2015

Whatsappening in August

A few people have (no so subtlety) asked me recently when I was going to blog again. I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure if I wanted to even blog again. Sometimes you run out of things to say, sometimes you get sick of the sound of your own voice. Sometimes you edit yourself to the point where you wonder, well what's the point? I've had a lot of stories in my head recently, but they're not really for this blog and maybe that's just it! Maybe all these stories in my head need a new home and different space to play.

Yet, here I am typing so let's see what happens.

We are in yet another Dubai summer. Hot, dusty, humid, sweaty, oppressive summer. Quiet. Hibernation. Not much else to do but stay inside. Most of the city away in their 'home' countries, except for the Australians. For the Australians it's always the same - too far and too expensive and the wrong time of year to visit 'home', so it's a few weeks somewhere else and then sweat out the summer, swearing they'll never do it again (until next summer).

It's a strange time of year. You see Facebook posts of friends in the UK and then messages from other friends who are in Italy on their way to Scotland or in Russia on their way to Italy. You Whatsapp a friend you think is in town for a catchup and get a reply of 'Sorry! We're in Pakistan, we came back at the last minute won't be back until the end of the month.'

The other night I had a messages back and forth from a friend who is in Lebanon. She decided it was time to show her kids the place of her birth. There was talk of tanks and beaches and boredom and kidnapping. All as I lay in my bed and she sat in a hotel room 'that isn't four star' in a black out. A few weeks previously she messaged me as I lay in a tent in an Irish field in the pelting rain and she was in air conditioned comfort in Dubai. It can be surreal!

As August wears on there will be more messages, but they will start to be "We're back! It's soooooo hot! I forgot how hot. Are you around to catch up?" and "What day does school start again? Is it Tuesday or Wednesday? PS: It's so hot!"

As August wears on the kids will complain more and more every time I mention going to the pool or the mall. They may even get excited by the prospect of returning to school.

So I don't know if this qualifies as a blog post. But there  you go. I might even do it again. Crazier things have happened!

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Here, there and everywhere

For the first couple of years we lived in Dubai (we've been here almost 3 years, can you believe it?!), I lived in this strange state of confusion. In Australia, or more accurately - in Sydney, I knew exactly what time of year it was, there were constant little reminders that I didn't conciously realise I was acknowledging - the smell of Jasmine in the air, it's September; the sight of a glorious purple carpet of Jacaranda flowers, it's November; that cool crispness in the air and the sky is cloudless blue, it's April; the heady humidity, definitely February. What I didn't know at the time was, I'd know exactly where I was what needed to be done, the place in the year.

When I moved to Dubai and all these little indicators had vanished and the school year was suddenly topsy-turvey (not to mention the seasons), I found myself feeling constantly confused. In September I'd start thinking 'Is it almost Easter?' and in May I'd start thinking about Christmas. Then I'd have to stop and seriously think about what time of the year it was, had I missed someone's birthday? Quite often I would have to resort to looking at the calendar on the phone to remind myself. It was truly unsettling. 

I had resigned myself to feeling this way forever. Until last week, when we returned from a trip to Australia. I pulled up to Darbs nursery and instantly we both saw a palm tree laden with fresh green dates. "Look, mum! Peas on that tree," Darbs squealed. "No they're dates! That means summer is on it's way."

Then as I drove home I saw a bright, glorious flame tree in full bloom and instantly thought to myself: "It must be May!"

Later than same week there was a haziness and a heaviness in the air. Like an old sailor, I commented to Skip: "The humidity is definitely on its way, can't be far off."

I realised that I have been here long enough that I'm starting to recognise the different little nuances of the seasons. That I've been here long enough for it to become familiar.

Coming back to Dubai after a couple of weeks in Sydney was difficult. We stopped in Singapore on the way home to break up the journey, have a bit of a holiday and catch up with some lovely old friends. When we arrived back it took me about a week to get used to it, every morning there was those few seconds - "Where am I? Sydney? Singapore? Dubai? Is it a weekend? Do I have to get up? What's going on???" I even had a moment on the plane when the stewardess woke me for a meal and I thought "Where the hell am I? Who is this lady?"

Life has now settled back into the routine, sort of. It's always hard coming back after holidays, you dream about how you can start a new life where you've just holidayed. I always used to start googling real estate and jobs to see if we could make a new life where we just been. Romanticising that life would be better in that new locale. It's weird when you start holidaying where you're from. Thoughts of "Should we move back?", "What are we doing here?" creep in. Just like before, you start thinking about uprooting life again from the mundane everyday world.

It wasn't helped that I developed a kidney infection and was back and forth to the doctor. Then just when I thought it was over, was told I had to come into every day for IV antibiotics That doesn't make the re-entry to real life any easier!

As the days roll on, you settle into life again. Look forward to summer (well sort of). Think about end-of-school year concerts and exams. Prepare for Ramadan and Eid. Get ready to wave friends off until August. Life rolls on wherever you are....

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Spring into action

We're in the middle of spring break here. The kids have two weeks off school and it was definitely needed. With the long summer break we get long stretches of school term, this one was 12 weeks and my little ones were definitely exhausted. I think after our trip back to Australia, they started the term exhausted! The past few weeks there have been cranky kids galore and more tears than I thought possible.

We have been taking things fairly slow in the mornings, but the rest of the day has been jammed-packed catching up with school friends and soaking up the outdoors. On Sunday, we spent 6 hours playing at the park. Six hours! The weather was just bliss and the kids were having 'the best day ever' so we just stayed. It's almost like you can hear the tock of the clock ticking closer to summer and being unable to get outdoors for anything length of time, we're certainly making the most of it.

The girls went and saw Cinderella at the movies with a friend and then there was another picnic in the park, but with the temperature pushing 38 degrees we didn't spend another 6 hours in the park this time.

It really is the best time of year in Dubai, the weather is perfect. If you're ever thinking of making a trip here, late March/early April is the time to do it.

This morning everyone was moving even more slowly, relaxation taking over, so we spent the morning splashing in the pool and the afternoon pottering around the house, reading and watching telly.

Next week will be a rinse and repeat of this week and then we'll be ready to tackle the last term of school for this academic year as well as a brief trip home to Australia!

Wednesday 25 March 2015

When life trips you up

Last night I was busy in the kitchen when I heard a "MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMM!" from my three-year-old, screeching as only three-year-olds can. I dashed out and as I rounded the kitchen door my feet came out from underneath me, water spilt earlier by the three-year-old making it impossible for me to keep upright.

As if in slow motion, I could see my feet come up from off the ground, as I was about two feet up and horizontal to the ground my hip smashed into the sharp edge of a doorway arch. I hear a voice in my head calmly say, 'ooh that didn't feel too good, almost felt like a crunch, I wonder if there is blood and bones. Goodness what on earth is that noise?' The same calm voice in my head said 'Goodness that sound is coming from your mouth, I've never heard that guttural kind of scream before'. Just before I hit the ground, the same voice suddenly sped up 'I wonder if the kids will know how to call an ambulance, I wonder if I can drag myself and call Skip, Oh I'm sure it will be OK, it's just going to be annoying and all when we were on the homestretch to bed'. Crash. I landed with a thump on the tiled ground facing the opposite way I started from the bash into the arch.

As I slipped and was falling it was like the essence of myself had retreated into a little panic room inside my brain, disengaging itself from my body. Not wanting to be part of what was physically was going on. I could hear myself sobbing and gasping but it was like I was listening to someone else, as I calmly sat in the little room in my brain.

As I lay there on the ground the two parts of myself slowly came back together, the little panic room was unlocked and I slipped out. There was no blood or broken bones. I felt a bit sore and a bit shaken. In fact, I wasn't really hurt badly at all.  I lay there for what felt like ages.

The three-year-old walked out, half-undressed: "What are doing, Mum?"
I replied: "I slipped on some water you spilt."
"Oh, OK then," he said as he toddled off again, leaving me sprawled on the floor.

Finally, the two girls came out just as I was pulling myself up from the floor. "What happened, I thought you'd cut your hand off or something," the middle one said.

"No I just slipped over," I said,  "It took you a long time to see what happened."

"Yeah, I spose."

The funny thing is, although I felt sore and bruised, I felt lighter and a sense of relief. Just like when you're a kid and you graze your knee – you sob yourself silly before running off and playing again, happier than ever. Having a great big cry and letting all all the frustrations and boredom and stress and crap that's been built up get washed away by tears and pushed out by heaving sobs.

I read somewhere recently where someone said they had 'expat fatigue' and I nodded my head and said 'yes!' I totally got that idea and have been feeling it recently. Just tired of not having the support of family, having that old friend you can call in on, those times when you just want people you really know around you. Feeling a little worn down by that living in limbo feeling. Sick of having to put the effort in to make new friends in this round-about of a town. Those times when email and Skype and Facebook don't cut it and you feel like that communication line between home and here is dropping out.

Now, it's not like I'm ready to pack up and leave. You have funks and down times wherever you are. After a good sob, it feels like I've cleared the decks a little. Ready to pick myself up by the bootstraps and get excited about stuff again, because let's face it, there's always stuff to excited about.

Life is funny like that and our brains even stranger. Who knew that I'd literally have to crash to reboot myself.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Wasn't it supposed to get easier?

With Darbs starting nursery I had all these visions of free time to write and dedicate to the blog (not to mention quiet coffees and solo shopping trips). The reality has been vastly differently – once I get home and beds are made, dishes cleaned, washing done and put out, etc, etc and whatever pressing task needs to get done that day (bill paid, call made, errand ran) time has run out and I have to get in the car to start the school pick-up process.

Parenting is a funny thing. It's like that dangling carrot that it will get easier, better, less hectic once they 'get older' or 'go to school' or whatever. In some ways it's true, I will never take for granted being able to call out "Go to sleep!" and they actually do, oh how I wished I could've done that when they were babies (and for it to have worked). I also love being able to make dinner without a toddler attached to my leg, screaming for attention – I did that for far too many years.

I remember so many people telling: "Once they get older, it will get easier." And it does, sort of. And it kind of doesn't.

Now there are other things, more complex things. Things that can't be solved by just being in my arms or kissed better or being distracted by something bright and shiny. Once they go to school and grow up there are friends, cliques and navigating relationships outside of your family really for the first time. Along with that, there are broken hearts that their BFF is now someone else's BFF. There are classes and teachers and working out what they like and what they don't. There's not being picked for the team they desperately want to be picked for. There are sleepovers and playdates and knowing when is the right time to let go. There are school camps. There are tests. It's soothing anxiety. There's deciphering when something's really wrong and when to intervene or step back and let them have a go at doing it themselves. It's all the complex emotional stuff. It's knowing that they will remember how you reacted and responded. The thing is I can see things getting more complicated and complex as they continue to grow. I shudder at the thought of all the things teenage.

I think the past few months have been the most challenging of my parenting life. And I say that remembering months of rotten sleep deprivation, of having 3 children who liked to wake all night long. Instead of having babies waking me in the night, it's waking in the night worrying that you've made the right decision or that you've handled a situation in the right way. It's worrying that they'll be OK.

I think it's exactly that, at whatever age they are, be it 5 months or 35 years – worrying that they'll be OK. It's the constant state of parenthood.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Flown the coop

Darb's painting from his first day. 

This week, I packed Darbs off for his very first day of preschool (or as they call it over here, nursery). The lad was well and truly ready for this new adventure and I was glad that I was able to send him when he was ready and raring to go and also after I had found him the best place to go.

I have to admit I'm not one of those emotional mothers who will sob on a child's first day of school. I think I got a little nostalgic and my heart swelled when the girls started school, but then I went home to more kids who needing looking after. This time was different. I went home and the house was empty. Just crumbs and milk rings on the table from breakfast. Just unmade beds and silence. There were more than a couple of tears from me.

Darbs has been my constant companion for the past 3.5 years. He sat in the back as I navigated myself round Dubai for the first time, he accompanied me to IKEA, Home Centre and everywhere else to fill our new home. He's been there for shopping trips, doctor's visits and school pick-ups and drop-offs galore. I wrangled him while I've attempted lunch out with friends. We played in parks and swam at the pool. Where ever I've gone he's been there beside me as we've adjusted to living in a new part of the world with no friends or family. Now he's got his own little world and his own little life. A few hours a day where he does something without me. Don't get me wrong, I think it's brilliant and he's well and truly ready, it just feels a little strange to lose my little buddy and partner in crime.

He's gone off everyday to preschool, happy and excited and come home even happier and more excited to tell me all about his day (and yes, he does give me a blow-by-blow account). You can't ask for anything more than that.

Which means, it's a new stage for all of us.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Sand storm!

It's mid-term break here at the moment, which essentially meant the girls had a day off school (most other schools had a full week off). The kids and I had a brilliant day on Thursday, enjoying the fabulous weather and we spent the whole day in the park with some friends from school. The kids ran and played and burnt off loads of energy. I was looking forward to spending the whole day on Friday at the pool and beach, another full day outdoors.

I woke up Friday morning and looked outside, I wasn't sure whether it was fog or sand which had descended upon us. Hoping it was fog, I packed up the swimming bag. Fog is quite common here, especially at this time of the year. Except it wasn't fog, it was a sand storm. A fairly light storm and a soft breeze. I hoped it would soon pass. Except it didn't. The wind swept up and before long you could bare see a few metres away.

Sandstorms are fairly common here and in some ways they're just like a rain storm - they can come from  nowhere and blow off in hour, or they can sit and last for days. This weekend's storm just got worse and worse and by Saturday lunchtime and the wind was crazy and there was sand whipping around a full speed, you could barely see in front of you. I stupidly left some washing on my balcony, which was quickly covered in a thick layer of sand. In fact, everything on the balcony was covered in a thick layer of sand. There's even a light layer of sand over most things inside the house.

We popped out yesterday and there was sand blowing everywhere. It was whipping across the road. You can feel it in your nose, taste it in the back of your throat, it coats your skin and makes your mouth gritty. It blinds you. All in all it's quite gross.

Thankfully, by nightfall it had started to recede. The winds dropped and the world became visible again. We popped into the kids school and poor old Lucy's school hat (which is kept in her cubby outside) had turned from maroon to beige, so covered in sand it was. I can't even face going on to my balcony and it's going to take a big scrubbing.

Here are a couple of dodgy videos I took to give you a little idea of what it's like, it doesn't translate very well and feels worse in real life that it looks on these films. As you can see though, the gutters fill with sand rather than water!

Saturday 31 January 2015

Before your eyes

Dubai is famous for being the city that grew out of virtually nothing and to do it at breakneck speed. And it's true, it's still growing. In the past two-and-a-half years that we've been here, so much has changed. Whole suburbs have sprung up. Whole suburbs have disappeared with a shopping district popping up in its place. Skyscrapers have grown in front of my eyes in what seems like time-lapse mode.

After we returned from our Christmas break in Sydney, I was astounded to see that major roads had changed, buildings had grown, hotels had opened and I even had to ask myself if that speed bump had always been in front of my home (it hadn't). I was only gone for three weeks.

This morning we headed out to the desert. The kids were filled to the brim with energy that needed to be released and the weather, well the weather is bang on perfection.

We drove out and marvelled at the new road. The new housing developments where not long before had been empty vast desert dunes. There were cars, lots of cars, and bikes and people. Our little spot where we used seek a little solitary time away from the hustle of the city looked like it had been discovered. The first time we went out there I was worried we'd get lost, no chance now with the three-lane road, freshly painted lanes and gleaming road signs. Who knew our little track actually had a name!

It was still beautiful out there and it's still easy to feel like you're a million miles from nowhere. The distant rumble of a plane, but usually just the wind blowing across your ears is all you hear. The coolness on your feet as they sink deep into the dunes. The blueness of the cloudless sky contrasted against the beige of the sand. There really is no place like it that I've been. So tranquil.

The best bit is there is nothing that sucks the energy out of a kid than a couple of steep sand dunes. Somehow it's the opposite for me, being out there re-energises me.

It's funny, even our little spot in the desert looked different. And it wasn't the new road or the signs. The winds shift the sands and the dunes are steeper and closer together than they were last year. The winds of change definitely blow across this country.

Wednesday 21 January 2015


Timing is everything, they say. And it's true. When the stars align and everything is perfectly timed, there's no better feeling in the world. When you've made a decision you're a little unsure of and then everything falls into place around it, well it makes you feel like you've made the right decision after all.
Knowing when it's the right moment to leap or to hold back, I don't know if it's wisdom or luck but when you time it right you feel like a success.

At the moment, I feel like I just can't get the timing right. For instance, this week I had big plans - lots of things to do and achieve and make life that little bit better. Then discovering a child's bed full of vomit at 1am on Sunday morning, put all those plans to pasture. As the vomit spread through the house, ideas were pushed aside and then rain, lots of rain, made certain that nothing was going to go as I would have liked.

Being January, it's natural to think about the year ahead, all the things you want to do, need to do, goals you want to achieve. At the moment, 2015 is looking like a puzzle with a lot of mismatching pieces. I just can't see how any of it's going to fit together smoothly or easily. My timing feels completely off, there's lots of potentially good things but the dancers are all off beat. I feel like it requires a big shift or jolt or change of tune to get that timing back. It's not all dramatic but it would be nice to feel in time with the beat of 2015.

Friday 16 January 2015


Friday is a very different day now we live in Dubai. Friday is the new Sunday (well, for us anyway).
Friday is the holy day, the day of rest. No-one gets up early on a Friday. The roads are quiet on a Friday. A lot of smaller shops don't open until after prayers. Muslims go to Friday prayers and the roads around the mosques are full of cars and worshippers. Christians go to mass and  church services. Those who practise hedonism, worship at the ubiquitous Friday brunches, filling themselves with never-ending food and drink in opulent hotels across the city.

For us, Friday means lazy mornings eating toast, drinking coffee, playing on the floor and reading the paper. Perhaps venturing for a swim before it gets too hot (not an issue at this time of year). Friday means a trip to the supermarket. Sometimes it means lunch as a family, Lebanese being a Friday favourite – falafels, 'puff-up' bread, lashings of hommus, zingy fatuoush. An afternoon snooze is not unheard of on a Friday. Occasionally an afternoon swim or frolic at the beach. Maybe even shisha.

Friday evenings are the new Saturday night. Once in a while there is a party or a BBQ, more often there is the kids' beloved movie night. Takeaway dinner and knowing that we don't have to be anywhere too early the next morning.

Friday is without doubt my most favourite day of the week.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Blowing raspberries

A little over a week ago, I found myself wandering through Chatswood Chase on my own. I'd just dropped Skip off at the airport so he could fly back to Dubai for work and I needed to exchange a Christmas gift we'd bought one of the girls. Feeling sad - at Skip leaving, the holiday being almost over, processing all the events of the past couple of weeks - I wandered aimlessly.

Soon I found myself at Coles staring at a sign promoting a punnet of raspberries for $3.99 and I promptly burst into tears. Sobbing at Chatswood Chase Coles, early on a Friday morning. Pathetic really. I didn't really quite know why I felt so sad. At the start of the holiday, we'd seen the same sign and talked excitedly about all the things we were going to do on the holiday, Goosey saying she was going to eat a lot of raspberries. Then in the blink of an eye it was all over, as quickly as Goose ate those raspberries.

Strangely enough, during the two weeks we'd been in Sydney, I completely blocked out our lives in Dubai. It was like it didn't exist. I didn't think about friends here or school or things we do. I blanked it out. I was two busy visiting friends and family and enjoying life in Sydney. People at home rarely want to hear about life in Dubai, so it didn't seem strange not to think or talk about it.

Over the next few days I struggled to remember life in Dubai, it just felt so far away. Did this mean I didn't want to go back? Was I ready to call Australia home again? I didn't know, it all felt so strange. Especially as I wasn't sure I even wanted to go back to Sydney for a visit, before I left.

I boarded the plane home, still not sure how I  felt about our whirlwind trip. Was I happy about going back to Dubai or did some part of me want to stay in Sydney? Arriving back in the sandpit, exhausted from the flight, it took about half a day to realise that this is where I'm supposed to be for the moment.

It's not all fun and games. There are plenty of times when it's lonely, when you feel that sense of isolation, it can put a lot of pressure on. But for now, we're home.

Sunday 4 January 2015

A new scent-sation

The thing that has amazed me during this trip to Sydney are the smells and sounds. For the first few days the overwhelming scent of eucalyptus stunned me. I wasn't out in the bush, I was in the city, yet the smell was so strong. Living here, I had never really noticed it, coming back it was completely intoxicating.

Then there was the sound of the cicadas, their song deafening at times. In Dubai, you have the chirps of an expensive sports car, the splutter of an old truck or the roar of a jet, but no sounds from nature.

The other thing that has amazed me in the changeability of the weather. You can wake up to a glorious sunny day and just an hour or two later the sun in behind clouds and rain falls. Then there's the cool of the morning, the heat of midday and the another cool change in the evening. In Dubai, the weather you wake up to is the weather  you'll go to sleep to, it may vary a couple of degrees during the day but not much. Then there is the endless blue skies just itching for a cloud to cross it. On Christmas Day, it was a stunning sunny day, it was spent splashing in the pool before and after lunch. Then once everyone had gone home, the skies opened up and a storm bucketed down. The kids were amazed and ran out fully clothed and danced. Within a minute they were soaked to the bone and in heaven.

On New Year's Day, Skip and I stepped out to the car at about 6pm and this whole familiar sensation came over me. A hot road, a cool breeze, the smell of light rain on scorching concrete. It was summer in Sydney wrapped up in a little package. So different from Dubai, yet so familiar to me. A feeling, a sensation I didn't really know existed, let alone realise that I missed.

It's funny how these small elements of your environment can be etched into your soul, make you who you are without knowing. The smells, the breeze, the sounds can instantly tell me which time of the year it is in Sydney and in Dubai I often find myself confused - 'Is it March or is it November?' truly, I often feel discombobulated.

I guess it's like those times I've had Christmas in the northern hemisphere and it's been kind of disappointing as it hasn't felt like Christmas and it passes by like any other winter's day. There's no warm breeze or scent of gardenia in the air.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Home is where

Wow, what a trip it has been back to Sydney. It's felt like it's slid past my eyes in time-lapse. A blur of friends, family and fun, which has also been exhausting and emotional at times.

Before I came back, I felt quite apprehensive, I don't quite know why. Whilst there was part of me that wanted to see everyone again, there was another selfish part that imagined Christmas in New York or Paris. I think sub-consciously though I knew that a trip back 'home' would awaken all those expat questions - 'when are you coming back?''; 'how much longer will you be away?' and every other variation in between. When you answer (or don't answer, as they case may be) you feel like you're letting people down.

Being 'home' brings all the emotions bubbling to the surface. Questions of what it would be like to live here again. What are we doing? Where should we live? The fun and exhaustion of fitting a year's worth of 'visiting time' into two weeks. Of dealing with Sydney roads and traffic. Of one cheek kisses. Of incredible food that tastes amazing. Of laughter with friends. Of juggling time and visits and 'can we fit this in just one more time?'. Of grandparents doting on frazzled grandchildren. Of not sleeping in the same bed six nights in a row. And of it all being over before you know it.

So much is crammed in and you're caught in a swirl of 'catching up' on 18 months of Australian life. By New Year's Eve, I (and the rest of the family) completely hit the wall with not much left to give, with a list of things not yet ticked off, people not seen. Despite this the only thing left that I want to do is spend a little bit of quiet time with the kids doing the things we talk about doing when we're in Dubai - going for a sushi lunch, playing on our old park. Let's see if I can pull it off.

So, after a couple of weeks at 'home' we'll be heading 'home' in a couple of days. I'm already preparing myself for that inevitable thud back to reality.

Thursday 1 January 2015

A new year, a new me

Happy 2015! A brand new year, full of promise. I think it's going to be a big one. 2015? I'm certain we were promised flying cars by now, weren't we? It doesn't seem so long ago that I listened to Party Like It's 1999 and thinking it was so far in the future. Wow, 2015, I feel lucky to see you.

My resolutions?

To write more, both here and generally.

To read more, novels and non-fiction.

To travel more, to visit as many interesting places with my family.

To exercise more, yawn boring but needed.

To enjoy my family as much as I can, they are at such great ages and it won't last forever.

To focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative, I'm definitely getting better at this but a little more focus can never hurt.

A happiest of happy new year to you, please share you resolutions with me too.

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