Posts Tagged ‘expat’
Like most parents, I’m trying not to skip about the house singing as we look down the barrel of the new school term. Yes, my lovelies, after 10 weeks off, my little angels go back to school tomorrow.
Are you ready? I am!
I don’t mean mentally. I’ve been mentally ready for school for the last four weeks. What I mean is that I’ve done all the necessary back-to-school prep to get the kids off to their classrooms with suitably stuffed pencil cases and spanking new lunch boxes and water bottles, as well as kitted out in school uniform that’s correct, fits and is labelled.
And please, non-parents, don’t underestimate how much effort that takes, from the tedious “trying on” of old uniform (budget at least half a day if you’ve got an uncooperative wriggler) to the sizing of the new uniform, wherein the sizes printed in the clothes bear absolutely no resemblance to the sizes of the actual clothes meaning your child has to struggle in and out of four different PE shirts labelled anything from age 6 to age 14 in a room with an ambient temperature of about 56C (or maybe that’s just our school’s uniform supplier).
And that’s before we negotiate the social minefield that is admitting on Facebook that you’re ironing in the name labels as opposed to sewing them in tiny backstitch. Yeah. Hands up to that one.
We’ve also come up with a tick-box menu for daily packed lunches; we’ve baked “pizza rolls” for the days when sandwiches are just too “meh”; and we’ve pre-made batches of morning pancakes. We’ve shopped for snacks and agreed that, for one fussy eater (I’m looking at you, DS), school lunch is the only way to go (never mind about that camo-print lunch box I lugged back from the States in my handbag!).
It’s fair to say – it really is – that we’re ready for school.
But then I look in the mirror and realise that, in all the prep, I’ve overlooked one thing.
In the rush of sorting out the children – in the excitement of getting them back to school – I’ve overlooked my pedicure.
My toenails are pale. They are unvarnished. They are in their August resting state. They may be neat, but they are as bare as the day I was born. This, in the circles of Dubai school mothers, is social kamikaze. What woman allows herself to be seen within the school grounds without at least two coats of TITO’s London Calling? DH, my love, my sweet… you’re on drop-off duty.
October 23 will go down in history as Mish-Mash Day. It was, for my children’s school, the last day before half term, which meant that, as it was the closest school day to October 31, the younger half of the school usually celebrates Spooky Day – Hallowe’en to the rest of us.
This year, however, the school also wanted to fit in a Breast Cancer Awareness Day before October was out, so October 23 was also designated Pink Day.
And then someone else remembered it was Diwali. Oh, and that it was Egyptian Day for Year 4.
So what we actually had yesterday was a mish-mash of all four. The youngest two years dressed up for Spooky Day (we note that this seemed to include quite a few Disney princesses – spooky? Maybe). The senior school wore pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. The infants wore normal uniform but brought donation money and decorated pink cupcakes before they made lanterns for Diwali… and Year 4? Well, they came to school as spooky pink Egyptians. As I said: Happy Mish-Mash Day.
It’s around this time of year that the mums at my children’s school fall into two camps: those sticking with the school for another year, and those playing their annual game of school hopscotch i.e. switching to a new school.
It’s a curious division: while those staying wouldn’t dream of telling those how to live their lives, those leaving appear to have no issue droning on and on about how rubbish the existing school is, how weak the extra-curricular activities are, how inexperienced the teachers are and what a waste of money the whole thing is (I suspect because Archie didn’t get into swim squad). All this despite the fact that those to whom they’re speaking have just made the decision to invest heavily in another year’s tuition.
Obviously some people have good reasons to take their children out of a school – their child isn’t doing well, is being bullied, the commute is too long… maybe even the fees are too high. These reasons I understand.
But then there’s a whole gaggle of other mums, and these are generally the ones who’ll collar you at the classroom door and rage bitterly about how terrible the current school is. As I stand there, smiling politely in the face of such rudeness, I amuse myself by deciding which of the following categories each of these lovely ladies best fits:
The teacher-followers: The most understandable category. When some of the best teachers from your existing school all leave to set up a new school, it’s only natural, I suppose, to cling to what you know.
The friend-followers: Here you have a clique of mums led by a Queen Bee. Queen Bee says she’s moving schools, another follows suit and, before you know it, the whole group has talked themselves into a frenzy of “needing” to get their darlings out of that “hellhole”. I doubt half of them even know why they’re moving. (That reminds me, has anyone read The Hive by Gill Hornby?)
The Grass-is-greeners: With more new schools opening than I’ve got handbags, this is perhaps the most common group. It’s boredom – plain and simple. They’ve been at the school for a while. It used to be the newest and shiniest school on the block but now there’s an even newer and shinier school that’s not just a kitten’s whisker closer to home, it’s offering after-school horse-riding and an intergalactic space programme for the Infants. Bye, ladies! Happy horse-riding – until the next new school pops up – I hear that’s offering hot-air ballooning and a cultural exchange on Mars, by the way…
The show-offs: You can usually spot this group by the weight of their diamonds. Fully paid-up members of the Carat Club, their move is determined solely by the cost of the new school’s fees. As everyone else gasps in genuine horror – the amount quoted for a three-year-old to “learn through play” for four hours a day could keep a small European country afloat for a year – they wave their jewelled fingers in the air (causing their drivers to jump to attention) and drawl, “Well, y’know… nothing but the best for Archie…”
I attended the launch of a “creative space” the other evening. A4 Space, to be precise.
If the word “space” confuses you, you’re not alone: the reason I headed into the Bermuda Triangle that is Al Quoz in the dark was honestly not because my creative friend dragged me, nor solely because I like to support creative endeavours in the city, but because I wanted to know what a “creative space” actually was.
I mean – and I say this as one who frequently works sitting in cafés around Dubai – isn’t it just an arty-farty term for a café where you can use your laptop?
So. With Hamdan Al Abri singing, and a lot of people showing off some very creative hair, the launch night was by far the trendiest event I’ve been to in a long time. Now I’m the wrong side of 40, most of the events I go to in this town tend to be in the blue-and-gold carpeted ballrooms of five-star hotels and involve speeches, smart frocks, a blow-dry and lots of champagne.
But not this. Obv. A4 Space launched with sandwiches, juices, coffee, books and an awful lot of people rocking that “I just woke up looking this achingly trendy” look.
I was, as they say, a fish out of water (note to self: mess up hair before next going to a creative space. And wear flat shoes).
But what did I learn about the space? Well, it’s not only a “creative” space but a “connective” space. It’s a place where Dubai’s arty types – writers, artists, researchers and so on – can go to think, relax, meet each other, brainstorm or simply work in peace.
In essence, it’s a triple-storey industrially decorated room lined with bookshelves (yes, I donated a book) with a food counter at the back. It has different sections where you can eat, chill, plug in a laptop, work, loll about out on a bean bag or curl up with a book on a sofa. There are inspirational quotes on the wall. It even has what looked like the world’s most comfy cinema.
And, as I sat on the sofa in the corner of the top floor and watched all the arty types compare their Converse sneakers and ironic t-shirts, I think I got the essence of how it differs from somewhere like, say, mOre Café: in a “creative space”, you can pull “I’ve-got-writers’-block” faces at fellow writers rather than at unsympathetic waiters; you can probably turn up in your pyjamas with bed hair; and, best of all, you’ll never again have to listen to someone else’s children having a food fight while you write your opening line.
Creative types can find A4 Space on Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz.
I appreciate that in yesterday’s blog I may have sounded a little bitter about the distance I have to drive to and from school each day – sometimes up to three times a day.
It’s actually up to 138kms a day. Just on school runs.
It’s my fantasy that my children can cycle to our local school, which is 2kms away. But that won’t happen unless my husband ditches his job and gets a job working for Emirates (the children of EK employees have priority at my community school).
Anyway, today DS was telling me how much he loves me. We like the book ‘I
love you to the Moon and back’ and it’s become a bit of a family joke to make inter-galactic declarations about how much we love each other.
So tonight I said, ‘I love you to the Moon and back infinite times, plus to the Sun and back and then to Abu Dhabi and back. Then I love you to England and back every day for the rest of my life.’
Impressive, no? But DS trumped me with the ultimate accolade.
‘I love you…’ He said, struggling for words that were big enough, distances that were great enough… ‘uh… to school and back.’
It’s not just me, then.