Still going…

So, the container left yesterday. There were tears. There’s been a lot of tears this week, and tantrums, mainly in the car to and from places behind the relative safety of my sunglasses so I don’t upset/annoy/embarrass the very people I’m crying over. I’m trying to be mature about the whole thing. Trying not to sulk about leaving. Trying, goddammit, to leave well. (I rue the day I ever heard that phrase). But every time I think I’ve nailed it, something happens, and it’s the last time it will happen, or the last time I will go there, or the last time I will see that person, and my world comes crumbling down again.

I know London is going to be great in so many ways. It’s not going there that I’m sulking about, it’s leaving here. Although, I am sure, as long as it’s not pissing down with rain when we get there, that London will score heavily over Dubai almost instantly, in that it’s pretty much a guarantee I won’t have to stand unloading a container in 45 degree heat. I don’t think I have EVER been as hot as I was yesterday, sitting by the truck ticking off 265 boxes of our stuff on a bingo sheet as they made their way into their metal hulk of a home for the next weeks.No bottle of cold beer has ever been more welcome than the one I popped last night after it was all over. A friend swung by on a mid-morning mercy trip with 24 bottles of water after we ran dry in the house, took one look at the state of me and offered an oscillating fan on an extension cord from the garage, which I refused out of kinship with my packing team. I was okay. I would survive. Of course I regretted the decision around about school pick up when I had a six pack of salt-sweat marks on my vest top and a sunburnt forehead. But I didn’t dare complain, because at least I wasn’t the poor sod lifting my 265 boxes onto the truck. Those guys are amazing to do what they do. Bloody amazing. The bloke that came to pick up some of our furniture at the weekend spouting ‘sorry I’m late, I’m just waiting for my monkeys to turn up’ nearly got knocked out cold by me on the spot. Working in this heat, lifting and carrying someone else’s shit for a pittance of a pay packet…anyone doing it deserves a bloody medal, a hefty tip and a whole lot of respect.

So anyway, now it’s over, and it feels a bit weird because I actually have some time on my hands. As in, I’ve got a stack of things still to do, but I’m not running about like a headless chicken. I’m in purgatory, caught between one world and the next and it all feels very weird. So of course, I’ve spent the day closing bank accounts and shopping for teacher gifts and having a healthy lunch for once and generally trying to ignore thinking about the next bit: getting on the plane.

I don’t want to deal with it. I  keep thinking about it and wigging out. I know it’s just an emotional time and I’ll get over it, but I’m so tired of feeling this way. I don’t feel ready for a new adventure. I like this one, thanks very much. Another one just feels like a lot of work. But, inevitably, I’m slowly coming around to the fact that we just NEED TO GO. I know, deep down, that I’m done. I’ve said my goodbyes, drunk my own bodyweight in beer, made my peace with the fact that the next 6+ months are going to be exultant and arduous in equal terms, and now I just want to get there, get the keys, unpack, stop mourning my old life and get on with the new one. It’s so difficult, letting go, and this bit is the worst, when you know you are nearly on the plane but there’s still time left, which inevitably gets spent with dear friends that you end up even more emotionally vested in than you were before. It’s some kind of torture, then, to finally let go, and walk away.

Even though we aren’t planning a return to live, leaving is not a finite act. We have too many ties not to come here again. I lived half my adult life in Dubai and I can’t act like it never happened. I refuse to act like it never happened. It’s just too much part of who I am. But I know from bitter experience, it takes discipline not to cling on too hard, not to imagine that I can keep my life on ice and pick up where I left off when I pop back here for weekends or holidays. Especially in Dubai, where the expat merry go round spins in continuous motion, I can’t ever come back thinking that it – or I – will be the same as I left it.

Maybe it takes the experience, of leaving, and of being left, to understand and accept that moving on as an expat is bigger than simply changing countries, or going home. I know that when I leave Dubai, I cease to exist. Or at least, cease to exist in the way that I existed before. I will never be the same person again, as I am right now: not even close. That is the loss I am dealing with, that is the pain I feel, the thing that I am mourning.  And no doubt I will spend a large portion of the next few months figuring out where the balance lies: figuring out how to be happy and ‘at home’ in one place and the graceful alumni of the other. Figuring out who I am next.

But for now, I just have to remember to pack my sunglasses for the plane.

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On the road…again…

It’s a funny thing, this expat life. We are 4 weeks into our world tour and have just under 3 weeks to go, now (mainly) staying put in the same beds, and although I’m happy to be here, and the sun is shining, and my little boy is content, I’m a teeny, tiny bit homesick. For Dubai. Ironic? Rather. Here, in no particular order, is why:

1. I miss routine. School, work, social: I miss it all, for a variety of reasons but mainly because routine gives purpose and order and a kind of contentedness to life you don’t seem to get from living out of a suitcase for 2 months

2. I miss my quiet time. The bit where I come home from drop off, put the kettle on, and go upstairs to write for two glorious, uninterrupted hours. Or sit watching TV with a glass of wine when I’m home alone and the boy is in bed. It is a serious situation. I’ve even taken to doing the ironing just so I can get half an hour of time to tune out.

3. I miss my friends. I haven’t spoken to an actual peer, i.e. a person who shares my day to day existence for a month  except via the odd Facebook comment. It’s tough, not talking to the people you usually share the minutiae of life with. They are either sighing with relief or miss me too. (It’s debatable which).

4. I miss my bed. My glorious, comfortable bed. My bed in my bedroom, with my bathroom, and my wardrobe with all my stuff in it, with floors that don’t creak and walls that block out anything quieter than a fighter jet and air conditioning and occasionally containing a husband.

5. I miss exercise. Not that I ever do a lot of it, but I miss the idea that I could just pop to the gym whenever I wanted. I seem to lurch from one mealtime to the next while we’re away, so much so that I’m starting to feel absolutely sick of food. And as a result of relying on eating to fill my days, the relatively svelte bikini body I’d accidentally acquired due to stress appears to be disappearing amongst lunchtimes out, afternoon ice cream and mid morning muffins at the coffee shop as a substitute for any other kind of ‘routine’.

6. I miss pedicures. This is admittedly not going to win me any sympathy, but I would really, really like to get the dead skin filed off my feet and for someone to make my toes pretty again and give my feet a nice rub. If they could see about doing my hands and thread my eyebrows as well, that would be brilliant.

7. I miss my son. He’s here, with me, but he’s not the same little boy we have at home. He’s spent a lot of time feeling unsettled, disgruntled, and fed up with the lack of normality in his life. We expect so much of him with all this travelling and it’s really not very fair. I feel so horribly guilty for putting him through this upheaval every year. It’s the worst bit about living away.

8. I miss my kitchen. I want to flick through a recipe book, to shop and cook and serve a meal without getting halfway through and wondering if there is a can opener, or not being able to work the grill. I want to not eat lunch if I don’t feel like it, or eat 4 chocolate digestives with a cup of tea because they’re mine and I can if I want to.

9. I miss privacy. I’m surrounded at all times. I love everyone, they are my family; but I miss having precious hours of my day to sit and muse in silence in front of my computer, or to wander the shopping mall deep in my own thoughts, or sit in a car by myself singing, or not to have to put a bra on as soon as I get up in the morning for fear of running into a male relative on the stairs.

10. I miss myself. I’m on the road. I have no time to write, no chance of getting on stage and worst of all, I left my hairdryer in Dubai. I love seeing everyone, but I don’t feel truly like ‘me’ while I’m away from my home. Ironically this is exactly how I will feel all over again when I leave the UK and return to Dubai in three weeks.

And let’s be honest: I’ve got all year to enjoy my life in Dubai, but only a few weeks to make the most of this one. As a result, I’m enjoying every second of being home, before I go back there. I hope you are all having a great summer too.

Ruby x

Seven signs it’s summer in Dubai

1. Due to lack of fresh air and sunshine, your face has taken on a greyish, putty like consistency usually reserved for when you’re lying on the slab at the undertaker’s.

2. You don’t decide what to wear based on what you will sweat least in, just what will show the least sweat.

3. Your spare room is hosting a plethora of open suitcases containing jumbles of new clothes for the holiday bit of your summer in the Med/United States/Cornwall (delete as appropriate) and a collection of ancient light jumpers and jackets for cooler days in the UK that, for the eighth year in a row, you wish you’d replaced during the spring sales.

4. If you have to walk outside for any reason, you track shade like an overgrown scorpion.

5. You avoid going anywhere with a small child who can’t (or won’t) get in their car seat within the 30 second window you have to get their seatbelt fastened before you melt onto the pavement.

6. Your child actually says things like ‘can we turn off the television and go outside to play?’ And you actually say things like ‘no.’

7. You tell all the newbies that ‘it’s not as bad as last year’ because your sunglasses haven’t fogged up and left you staggering around blindly in the car park at drop off yet, and despite the fact that your mascara has slid down your face and landed on your cheekbones by 8.30am, you’re somehow convinced it isn’t.

 

The Inbetween

So we have just arrived home from a glorious 11 days in Tuscany, back to Dubai, Ramadan, blistering 45 degree heat and school holidays. Let me tell you, there is no greater shock to the system. I knew it was coming: on our final day we stumbled across the beautiful village of Montepulciano and sat in the sunshine eating lunch and sipping on a fine glass of vino, when from a shady corner a saxophone quartet burst into life, playing Carmen and Debussy amongst others. It literally bought tears to my eyes halfway through my Caprese when I realised it doesn’t matter how much we make the most of where we live, beautiful moments like this will never, ever happen here. We left Montepulciano and arrived at our hotel to find another mini music concert being set up for the evening, entitled ‘Love and Roses’. It was suitably corny – bongo drums and guitars accompanied italian-accented versions of Stevie Wonder and Judy Garland, and a couple of sopranos attempted the British Airways theme tune – but again, not exactly something you’d see pop up in the Madinat any time soon. Sigh.

We are pasta fat-tastic too, after gorging on all the fresh ham, cheese and vegetables we could lay our hands on. We drank our own bodyweights in Chianti. And of course, all this in the company of our family, playing volleyball in the pool, enjoying the sculptures littering the gardens of our villa and wandering through the great cities of Florence and Sienna. It was heaven, a tonic to the past month or so which has been hectic and stressful in any number of different ways.

But now we’re back. And Dubai, by contrast, is horrific. The traffic is awful, our friends are all gone and the air is heavy with heat and sand. This week reminds me an awful lot of the Summer That Shall Not Be Named, when I was eight months pregnant and stranded here in splendid isolation. Except I have a near-four year old now to occupy and a hell of a lot of writing to get done, and as it’s Ramadan I’m completely without daytime trips to coffee shops and lunches which is making things drag a little, to put it mildly. But unlike the Summer That Shall Not Be Named, I get to escape again in less than a week, to England’s green and pleasant land. And I don’t care if there is a heatwave or perpetual rain when I arrive, I will have another wonderful month of music, flowers, food, friends and family to soak up before we return.

Battening down the hatches

Firstly, a big thank you to new and old readers. I made it to 20,000 hits this week!

Secondly, the end of school is nigh, and reality is setting in fast. Could someone please tell me what on earth I am supposed to do with my son for the next nine weeks? Yep, you read right. NINE WEEKS. Hampered by the small matter of a degree to study for, we are unable to leave Dubai along with the other 200,000 expat wives and children this weekend, and instead will sit here for half of July, alone and extremely bored. I am still resolutely looking on the bright side, but several factors are now chipping away at my previously perky demeanour:

1. The boy has refused to attend summer camp at the local nursery because ‘nursery is for babies’. That’s my fault: in an effort to encourage him into his pre-school at the start of the year I announced nursery is for babies. Now he has taken me at my word.

2. Ramadan is looming, meaning the end of cafes, leisurely lunches and munching popcorn in front of the latest Monsters, Inc. Whilst we are escaping to Italy for ten days of it, we will be here for another two weeks afterwards. This rules out going anywhere for longer than a two hour time period unless I want to spend half of it dragging the boy into a toilet cubicle with me in order to swig water and the rest trying to avoid being taken out by zombie drivers denied food and water for hours on end in the middle of the summer in the desert.

3. The clement spring weather is definitely over. Now it’s just the same as it always is: unbelievably hot and humid. Touching surfaces with bare skin is not recommended unless you don’t mind losing the top layer, and outside, even for breakfast, is becoming a sweaty and unpleasant business = No more outdoor play.

4. The only outdoor play we can still manage is a spot of swimming. So what better message to receive yesterday than our club pool is closed for maintenance for the whole of July. Great timing guys.

5. I can’t find Wimbledon on the TV.

Nine weeks sounds so dramatic. It’s true, ‘only’ three and a half of them are in Dubai, and then we are off to enjoy the delights of rain and reality tv at my mother’s house for four weeks. But it’s enough to make me nervous, because I know with nowhere to go, no-one to see and nothing to do, with a nearly-4 year old insisting I am on tap to entertain him at all times, there is a limit to how much time I can spend pretending to be holding it together. The horrific realisation is dawning that everyone I know will be gone in a matter of days and my husband is travelling for work for much of the duration, leaving me very firmly in the ‘I only spoke to my pre-schooler this week’ crazy lady category specially reserved for trailing spouses in the desert in Ramadan.

It’s just another expat summer. And it starts tomorrow. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven signs of summer

Well summer is most definitely here in good old Dubai. I know this, because:

1. The air con in my car isn’t making the slightest bit of difference to how hot I feel until about 20 minutes into any given journey

2. I am continually torn between making conservative, middle eastern friendly wardrobe choices vs. putting on the skimpiest outfit I can find that still avoids the mutton dressed as lamb look (although clearly this is not a universally thought through decision judging by some of the outfits I have seen lately)

3. I am thoroughly irritated by the majority of people who I come into contact with – not the ones who are actually my friends and therefore decent, kind, considerate human beings, but rather the selfish, rude majority that seem to delight in crossing my path of late.

4. No one has conversations any more, it is just a series of questions surrounding leaving dates, summer camps and Ramadan

5. I found a dead roach in the kitchen today. Good news is, it was dead; these days I tend not to panic too much about internal pest control until a six inch diameter spider drops in for coffee or a squadron of the little cockroach critters take up residence under my sink.

6. I have opened excel up on my computer to start planning the great migration. I dream about being a wilder beast, I’m pretty sure they don’t need a spreadsheet.

7. My skin has assumed the sweaty pale pallor of a sea sick sailor, as the sun shines every day but its too damn hot to stand in it. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink springs to mind…

Traditionally this is never a great time of year. Everyone is fed up, hot, tired, homesick and busy as hell. I may have fallen into the whinge-trap myself for various reasons, some valid, some because I am an attention seeking missile when i’m unhappy, but mainly because I just need a damn good holiday. But there have been worse years. I’m not limping to the finish line quite yet. And with three weeks to go until we hit the beautiful Tuscan countryside, I feel I might actually get there this year with my sanity vaguely intact.

Vaguely. Don’t get excited. There’s still time.

Bring on the summer (not)

English: Glass of rosé Français : Verre de rosé

Summer coping mechanism no.1(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shame. On. Me.

Life has once again got in the way of blogging. I was reminded for the third Monday in a row that I have failed to write a single thing this month by the arrival of my fellow bloggers’ weekly summaries dropping into my inbox, and decided the time was ripe for plonking my first-born in front of Jake and the Neverland Pirates to post something, anything before yet another week flew by.

So here we are. For the eighth year in a row the summer has arrived in the space of 24 hours and caught everyone by surprise at just how hot it is, again. Why is it such a shock every year? I feel caught in some sort of Groundhog Day-meets-eternal sunshine of the spotless mind moment and while my brain struggles to come to terms with the fact that it really is very bloody hot out there, I am also panicking at my laissez-faire approach to summer planning which has inadvertently left me with a 4 year old and nothing to do for fourteen days in the middle of July, during Ramadan, in 45 degree heat and 80% humidity, with no one around, while I am trying to churn out a masters degree.

Bad planning, yes. The road to crazyville, sure. But this year I am trying a different approach. Instead of going very quickly insane for lack of human contact over the age of 4, I’m going to attempt to attack the issue head on. This involves spending large amounts of money on trips to the aquarium, dolphinarium, soft play centre, aquaplay, little explorers, the cinema, ski Dubai and quite possibly the ice rink, and swigging copious bottles of water in the toilets instead of hanging out in Neros. Not ideal, but it’s the best I can do. Weekends will, as a result, not resemble anything remotely like family time, but instead be a combination of tapping away at the computer and taking child free time in a dark room while my troubles are massaged away to dolphin music and my face is recreated as a wrinkle free, stress free, pimple free masterpiece. (WTF is the thing with wrinkles and spots, ladies? No one told me that was going to happen)  Evenings will alternate between frantic deadline driven scribbling and light consumption of rosé wine at the golf club to soothe away the day whilst still being able to face the next one. My theory is, take one day at a time, throw money at the problem, find things to make the boy smile, work hard and fast to get the writing done, try to forget the bit where I am melting, and have at least one adult conversation every day.

It won’t be the perfect plan, I know. There will be days when I am sure me and my son will be screeching at each other in splendid isolation, and times when I wish the work would do itself so we can escape to the uk sooner than planned, and moments where i think i will go completely mad from heat and lonliness. But an evening swim can do wonders, and a night out with DH to celebrate Iftar will be something we haven’t done together in years, and you never know, ice skating might be fun.

And when all else fails, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.