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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