Posts Tagged ‘life in Dubai’
Forgive my silence. I was on holiday.
Well, I say “holiday” but, as all expats know, a trip back home can, at certain points, seem more like a month in a Victorian workhouse than it can a holiday. For a start, the children are off school and, unless you either ship your full-time, live-in helper over to the UK with you or don’t mind your offspring ripping each other limb from limb through boredom, you have to come up ways to keep them entertained. Constantly.
The maid-less status also means there’s no help with the washing, ironing, cooking, washing-up and certainly no help spooning dinners into reluctant children’s mouths as they run full pelt around the garden (not that that should ever be happening, but…).
As if that in itself isn’t enough, I have the type job that doesn’t stop over the school holidays so I spent the last month entertaining children with my toes, washing clothes with my elbows and typing with my teeth while Googling ‘Fun things to do with children in London’ once I’d finally coaxed the little darlings into bed. Which, in itself, is an issue when the sun doesn’t set till 9.40pm.
But I’m not complaining. I do enjoy doing it all myself for, as the ads say, a limited period only.
One of the things that does tend to fall by the wayside while I’m in the UK, however, is beauty. Last night I flew back to Dubai with two children, three suitcases, two boxes of Playmobil, an inch of grey roots, a six-week-old pedicure and a rather embarrassing bikini line.
No surprise then that I was up at eight this morning, inhaling coffee and dashing off to a hair appointment I’d made over the phone from London.
“But you haven’t even unpacked!” DH muttered from the depths of our bed.
Priorities, darling: priorities.
There’s a compound in Dubai called Arabian Ranches. I call it a ‘compound’ as if it’s a dozen houses around a communal garden and pool, but what I really mean is several thousand houses divided into individually themed “villages” of a couple of hundred houses each, each with their own subsections of gardens and pools.
No-one knows how many houses it contains exactly. Some say 6,000. But what you need to know is that it’s big.
And, since Dubai “took off” again, Arabian Ranches has been doubling its cells like an amoeba on a reproductive frenzy. Every week, we see new “exclusive” sectors launched as the community’s boundary creeps steadily across the desert towards the Omani border.
At the weekend, the children and I drove down the side road, from which you can see the land pegged off for all the new sectors.
“Look how big the Ranches is going to be!” I said, as we drove on and on past great swathes desert about to be reclaimed by new developments called Lila, Rasha and Casa.
“Wow,” said DD. “It’s massive. It’s as big as Dubai itself. They can’t call it all Arabian Ranches! They should come up with a new name for the new bits.”
“Yeah! Yeah!” piped up DS. “They could call it something really cool, like… umm… Angry Birds Ranches!”
The children fell about laughing but, the more I thought about it; the more I thought about the frustrations residents will face as the community, with its paltry two exits and – to date – one small shopping centre, absorbs another x-thousand residents, I began to think DS had hit on quite the perfect name: Angry Birds Ranches. I think it could catch on.
- Wake with a grateful heart (as always). At 6am (not so grateful).
- Get showered, dressed and make DS’s packed lunch.
- Be out of the house by 7am with two kids and their relevant bags, snacks and sports kits.
- Drop the kids at school, come home, be at my desk by 8.15am.
- Work till 12pm, have lunch, work from 12.30pm to 2.30pm, cook supper till 3.15pm.
- Drive DD to dance class the other side of town while listening to her school reading in the car. Hang around for an hour, bring her home.
- Give the children supper while talking about their day, supervise DD’s homework, bathe DS, cajole DD into the shower, read to one or both of them.
- Put the children to bed (DH is travelling).
- Get changed (maybe brush hair and put on lipstick), run downstairs, set the dining table for my book club group: set out a cheese platter, grapes, crackers, wines, soft drinks;, plates, glasses, napkins; arrange the books, think about what I’m presenting.
- Host book club… kick out book club. Tidy up after book club.
- Fall into bed exhausted about 11.30pm (I hope – but book club can go on…).
Hats off to every other mum working the same kind of schedule – or more. And the Daily Mail wonders why women are Oblivion drinkers. Oof.
You know I’m a glass-half-full type of a girl? That I always try to see the best in things? I try my best to smile through Dubai’s red tape, and through the incompetence of too many customer service reps, but there are still some weeks that can be quite a challenge to the perma-grin.
As if it’s not enough just trying to shop and cook for the family, to pick up the kids and get them to the right places at the right time in the right outfits, Dubai seems to specialise in throwing glittery curve-balls just when you least expect them.
Here are some from the last week or two:
- · Trying to get an Emirates ID card for DD, who was registered with the authorities as per the law in 2009, back when children didn’t need ID cards. That they’ve since changed the law and she’s fallen through the gap means we got an AED 1,000 fine. Deep breath, Mrs D, deep breath.
- · Buying tickets to see the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory stage show in London. You’d think it would be simple but the system didn’t like my Dubai card, then changed its mind, accidentally double-charging me. Calls both to the bank and to the theatre booking company resulted in… big fat denial. Breath in, Mrs D, breath out.
- · Gerlie alerts me to a broken water pipe by the outdoor water tank. Water’s gushing like Niagara Falls; call Noah, there’s a flood. I have to switch off the mains supply. It’s Thursday. Thanks to my hearty recommendations, the plumber’s now so successful he can’t fix it till the following Tuesday. ‘And I’m sorry to tell you, the only water you’ll have is what’s in your tank.’ I’m no expert but even I know it’s not going to last till the end of the day, let alone till Tuesday. ‘What will you do?’ asks the plumber, sounding mildly concerned. Umm, deep breathe, turn off the irrigation, switch off the washing machine… and strike you off my list…?
- · Notice I’ve got slightly low air in the car tyres. Go to petrol station and try to fill them only to discover there’s a hole in the pump hose and I’m actually removing air from the first tyre, not filling it. Deep breathe, drive (slowly) on 12-lane highway to next petrol station with 20psi in the tyre. Squidge.
- · Host a play date: the mum turns up two hours late, well after DS’s bedtime. Hey, it’s Dubai, what’s two hours between friends? Deep-breathe, Mrs D, deep-breathe.
DH comes home Thursday night: the car tyres are pumped, the water pipe’s fixed, the children are fed, homework done, they’re in bed, the ID card’s applied for, the fine’s paid (but the theatre booking company still has double our money), the dinner’s ready. Heck, I even have makeup on.
‘Hi darling,’ he says, giving me a kiss. ‘Did you manage to get the TV fixed today?’
It’s a question that pops up a lot here thanks to Dubai’s decency laws, which require women to cover themselves respectably when in public places. Malls all display requests on the door for shoppers to dress “respectfully”; the children’s school even sends home regular missives asking parents not to present at school drop-off in such horrors as a Primark frock.
(I’m kidding – it actually forbids us from showing shoulders or knees and specifically mentions that ladies must not wear “shorts above the knee” – though surely then they cease to be shorts and become, I don’t know, culottes?).
Anyway, in addition to the decency laws, Dubai is, frankly, quite dressy. Many don’t want it to be so, and actively cultivate a stylish down-dressed, can’t-be-arsed look, but the fact remains that your average shopper in Mirdif City Centre presents better than your average shopper in Lakeside Thurrock. Fact.
But, around the house, chez Mrs Dubai, anything goes – usually khaki shorts (not of a Miley-Cyrus twerking kind of style), a white t-shirt and flipetty-flops. V comfy, v easy and perfect for cooking the kids’ tea.
And now I will get to my point. Yesterday, I realised that DD needed new passport pictures. To us Dubai-ites, passport pictures are like oxygen: if you fall below a critical number (at least four), you start to hyperventilate and come out in hives, so we popped out post-cooking and pre-eating supper to get some new ones done. I was, needless to say, not in the sassy pencil -skirt-and-heels ensemble I’d worn to school (covering the knee and shoulder, of course), but in the around-the-house khaki-shorts-and-white-t-shirt combo.
Seriously? It didn’t look that bad. In a sort of easy-going GAP way.
But, as we stepped into the garage, DD looked me up and down and said, “Are you allowed to wear that out? To the supermarket?”
And I imagined at once the community style police falling on me at the supermarket door: “Mrs D, Lady of the Ranches, one cannot go out looking like that. One is letting down the team; property prices are plummeting as we speak. Be thee home and put on a Marc Jacobs silk frock at once. Step up, Mrs D, keep our property values high.”
And you know what, lovely readers? That didn’t happen, but had it done, I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.