September: I crawl down the road behind the shiny new no-dents-in-the-doors 4×4 that carefully weaves its way across the three lanes of traffic using – OMG – INDICATORS to change lanes, and catch the driver’s eye as she ‘Mirror, signal, manoeuvres’ her way into the slip road to Spinney’s. She parks – within the lines – and nudges her door open so as not to disturb the car parked so precariously close to hers, before grabbing her recyclable reusable hessian bag collection from the passenger seat and encouraging her kids to make their way to the store. Once safely inside, she tucks her non-designer sunglasses into her non-designer handbag and consults her list. She spends hours wondering where the organic section is before realising there isn’t one, and does the same for ready-meals. She checks over her shoulders before she enters the ‘Pork for Non-Muslims’ section, even thought she’s perfectly entitled to be there, and hides the sausages and bacon under the rest of her shopping to avoid being detected by the Pig Detectives who haunt every supermarket checking passports for illicit pork consumption. (Okay, don’t panic: I made that bit up). She reaches the checkout and juggles her screeching kids, loading the conveyor belt at one end and packing her shopping at the other, whilst the jaded long-time expat behind her (possibly me) wonders why a) she didn’t let someone else pack the bags, b) why she didn’t leave her kids at home with the maid and c) how many weeks it will be before she leaves the hessian bags in the car and can’t be bothered to go back for them.
Ah yes, it’s September; the birth of a new generation of expats. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, wondering if it’s always this hot (yes, quite a lot of the time – and sometimes its hotter) and if people really do leave their kids with the maid in order to get their grocery shopping done faster (yes) – in fact they will wonder why everyone seems to have a maid and if it’s weird having someone live in your house who cooks, cleans and babysits on demand (yes, it is, until it isn’t, and then it’s just genius). They will no doubt stare aghast at the fashion parade that is the school run, shiver with horror at the cost of birthday parties for an entire classroom of over-priviledged children and wonder if manicures and pedicures are absolutely necessary on a fortnightly basis (again, you’d be surprised). They will join PTA and attend coffee mornings and zumba classes and slowly build a life along with the hundreds of other women going through exactly the same thing. One day soon they might meet me, and ask the standard question, and my answer will be ‘eight years’. They will raise an eyebrow, comment that they can’t possibly imagine being here that long, and they are only here for a couple of years. I will smile, and say ‘that’s what I said’. They will think they know better. But before they even know it, they will find themselves in a three year old car with paint chipped off the doors, skating through slow traffic at warp speed to make a nail appointment and swearing at the woman in her new 4×4 who is actually slowing down at speed humps. And then, newbie, you will know you have truly arrived in Dubai. Welcome. Have fun. Embrace it. And get your nails done.