Power games in the left lane

My rearview mirror flashed in blinding strobes as the Land Cruiser behind me almost rammed me at 80 kmph. I was being tailgated and the impatient driver’s trigger-happy finger on his headlights wasn’t about to relax.

But where to move to? There was traffic to my right, and anyway, his huge, ugly car meant I could hardly see if the right lane was clear. Changing lanes didn’t feel safe. I stayed put and gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles showed white. My heart rate sped up.

dubai-spaghetti-junction

Another problem with Dubai roads

I was already doing 20-over the speed limit and there was a bend coming up. For a moment, it looked like he might overtake on the hard-shoulder; he zigzagged to the left, then to the right, and finally zipped round me on the inside.

Then he came in front of me, and nearly stopped.

My foot slammed onto the brake, and my heart leapt into my mouth. I’m pretty sure it skipped a few beats. My throat tightened.

Behind me, the next car, thankfully, slowed right down and put his hazard lights on, two beacons of orange flashing urgently.

But what was the urgency? This, dear reader, exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Dubai roads: the road hogs with their blacked-out windows who have zero respect for other people’s lives, who tailgate aggressively, and who, like my one on my way home from work yesterday, was so filled with adrenalin he thought he’d teach me a lesson for not moving over and swerve in front of me and drive like a slug.

If he wasn’t in his car, behind glass and steel, and was instead walking behind me in the mall, would he walk right up to me until he was so close I could feel his hot breath on my neck, and then push me out the way? No he wouldn’t. So why does he think it’s okay to do this in his car?

I didn’t appreciate being bullied like that on my way home from work, MORON.

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Wordless Wednesday: The seafood restaurant 

  

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The school holiday whammy

That’s it: in my next life, I’m coming back as an expat child.

They get soooo many holidays. I mean, it is actually a bit ridiculous. My boys went back to school after two long months of summer holiday at the very end of August. They were in school for two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Then the government called Eid, and turned it into a week-long holiday.

For those who don’t live here, the UAE has a tendency to call holidays just when long-suffering mums really don’t want them. Case in point: the Expo win. Fireworks would have sufficed, but no. School (but not work) was cancelled as part of the celebrations. Helpful? Not.

Then there was the time it looked like it might rain, and the schools were closed. The day became known as Spit-mageddon:

Look at all this rain! Good job the kids were safe at home

Look at all this rain! Good job the kids were safe at home

This last week of holiday has felt like an extension of summer. Did those two weeks of school even happen? Or were they just a murky dream? A hallucinatory period of time and space in which to get things done. I might be being rather ungrateful for this holiday, but really we could have done without it – it’s still too hot to do anything outdoors; our new, half-built compound doesn’t have a pool; my oldest is spending too long on his computer; and I’m at that stage with my chatterbox youngest where I can see his mouth moving but can’t really hear what he’s saying and can do nothing but nod at whatever his moving lips are trying to assault me with.

I’m so ready for them to get back to school properly.

But … guess what? My youngest is back in school for two weeks, then there’s another week off for half-term.

Facepalm.

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The Dubai Fountain (in our bathrooms)

So, I mentioned the other day that there are some maintenance issues with the villas we’ve moved into. Happens all over Dubai with new builds – concrete gets poured down drains and sets; pipes aren’t properly connected, that kind of thing.

Our biggest problem has been the water supply; the water upstairs spurts out the taps in fits and starts, surges like a fountain, then slows to a trickle before drying up completely – just as you’re standing naked in the shower, semi-blind with shampoo stinging your eyes and soap lathered all over you. Stop laughing at the back!

I’ve called maintenance numerous times, and days ago gave up hope that the man with a mysterious blue watering-can might fix the problem.

Then on Friday, a breakthrough. After telling maintenance till I was blue in the face that I hadn’t used a drop of water for two hours (as they’d requested), a slow realisation dawns on his face.

“Ma’am, big leak,” says the handy man. His eyebrows snap together and he spreads his arms wide to indicate the size of the problem.

Right, now we’re getting somewhere, I think. Hallelujah!

We walk round to the other side of the pump room, and he stops still, staring. “You must move all these bricks. I work on this wall…”

bricks

You’ve got to be kidding? I think.

The serious look on his face suggests he isn’t, and I imagine the Dewa bill in horror.

“Erm, I don’t think I can move them all myself,” I say (it’s still over a hundred degrees outside, and even without any exertion, it’s exhausting being outdoors).

Blank stare.

“Where’s boss?” he asks.

“If you mean my husband, he’s away,” I say. I want to say that that’s what our husbands do – they fly away and leave us to deal with @*@$ like this, because by now – faced with the mountain of bricks, the heat and intermittent water  – I’m feeling really mean-spirited, even though I know my dear DH has done everything he possibly can to make this a smooth move.

We agree I can’t move the bricks, and he’ll come back tomorrow after I’ve got our gardeners back to shift them. (‘How to Train Your Gardeners’ – it’s coming soon, to Dubai cinemas!)

The next day, a small army of maintenance men show up. They dig and drill, and it feels like the mechanical whine is going off in my head, and then they beckon us round looking triumphant. “Fixed,” says the head man with a megawatt smile, pointing at a pipe under ground.

They turn the water back on.

WHOOSH! The pipe promptly bursts and the men all start shouting at each other.

It’s now two days later, still not fixed, and I think they’re all on Eid holiday.

This too shall pass, right? Like a kidney stone. But it will pass.

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Lost and confused

Moving house in any country comes with challenges, but after two international relocations, I thought a move within Dubai couldn’t be too hard.

Not so.

I’ve spent the past two weeks feeling quite lost, and that’s just in the house.

Not only can I not find anything, but we’ve switched rooms around and it took me about a week to get used to the new layout. I’d walk into a room, stand rooted to the spot for a few seconds, realise what I was seeing didn’t make sense, then back out to reposition myself on the landing.

Cookie cutter: I need a sat-nav in the compound

Cookie cutter: I need a sat-nav in the compound

Then, I step outside the villa, and feel as though I’m in a maze. The houses are identikit copies of each other, and the streets very similar – do I turn left or right out of our house to get to the roundabout that leads to the road that takes you to the exit? The compound is like a rabbit warren and I swear you could get lost in here forever.

I’ve struggled! I’m a creature of habit, especially on the roads, and so it was with some trepidation that I set off in the car to the supermarket for the first time. My pulse a little faster than usual, I made it there ok; I marvelled at the American-style, ample parking spaces; my eyes grew wide as I walked the aisles (it’s like a Super Spinneys!), then I got hopelessly, utterly lost on the way home.

There were no signs! I can just imagine the Roads & Transport Authority’s meeting. “Should we put a sign for the highway up? Tell drivers how to get onto the main artery from Silicon Oasis to Dubai?”

A cracking great laugh. “What would we want to do that for?”

But the great benefit of moving is the decluttering opportunity it presents. I’ve had Take My Junk out twice; we have a store room you can walk into; and the house actually feels lighter and less weighed down by seven years’ worth of kid paraphernalia. That, in itself, has made it all worthwhile.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]If you enjoy my blog, please consider buying my short e-book: Cupcakes & Heels – I don’t know how she does it abroadDownload it for 99p here. THANK YOU!

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Moving to Meydan: The new house rollercoaster

“So what do you think?” I asked, gazing at the lounge walls in our empty new villa. The smell of fresh paint tickled my nostrils as I waited for DH’s response.

I’d gone for three different colours (green, charcoal and beige; it’s a large room!) – a sort of tricolour effect, and he was either going to love it or hate it.

“Very nice.” DH’s eyes flickered from wall to wall. “Three colours … I see.”

So I gave him the spiel I always give him in these situations, which I’d learnt from my mother-in-law: “If you have a creative wife, you just have to say THANK GOD and let her get on with it!” I smiled and hustled him upstairs to see his office, where we’d settled on just two ‘manly’ colours.

Not an accurate depiction of the blogger (I paid a nice man to paint)

Not an accurate depiction of the blogger (I paid a nice man to paint)

I walked back into the spacious living room with its views of the park area outside, and felt far more positive about moving than I did when we got the eviction email four months ago. Something about the blank canvas around me made me feel calmer and more in control of my life than I’d felt in weeks. Left alone in our quiet, cloud-like space, I soaked up the peacefulness.

We moved in over the next two hot and sweaty days. Once all the bulky items had bumped their way into position, a procession of smaller boxes marched in, until finally the packers left and we closed the door. As the last truck rolled away, I stood in the living room and surveyed the now cluttered space. I’d started feeling a little deflated. The dusty scent of cardboard had replaced the smell of fresh paint. There were piles of boxes stacked against the walls, and instead of straight, linear lines and open space, there was mess and bubble wrap strewn around (the boys wanted to keep it to pop).

The day was fading to dusk and I flicked the light switches by the door. So many light switches. It would take days to learn what they all did. I padded around – my flip-flops slapping against the floor – and did some more unpacking, sorting, moving things around, trying to bring some order to the chaos.

The next day I loved the house again, then the day after I fell out with it again. A strange smell was emanating from the bathrooms, and aware of stories from fellow residents about pipes not being connected, things falling off walls, water leaks and even electrical fires, I made our first call (of many) to maintenance.

Let’s just say I’ve got to know maintenance pretty well since then. Fair’s fair, they’re fixing things fast, although the blank stare you get when you’re trying to make yourself understood – followed by the nod which confirms you’re talking at cross purposes – just kills me!

Once our taps, which are currently like mini dancing Dubai fountains with varying water pressures, surges and stoppages, are fixed, I think we’re nearly there …

My verdict: I love the house!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]If you enjoy my blog, please consider buying my short e-book: Cupcakes & Heels – I don’t know how she does it abroadDownload it for 99p here. THANK YOU!

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Info post: Refreshing a child’s bedroom

With such massive changes going on here in Dubai in the way staff are housed, I’ve decided to launch a new mini-series on how to get the most out of life in the Big D – because, let’s face it, things aren’t always straightforward when you’re living in the UAE, and there are often shortcuts or easier ways that can make the expat experience less bumpy.

First up, for those moving house right now, some back-to-school decorating advice for refreshing your child’s bedroom.

While getting your children excited about starting a new school year is easy, keeping them energised and inspired throughout the term can be another challenge. Toni Snyder, Colour Specialist at Benjamin Moore, shares some creative tips for getting their rooms and spaces ready for a productive year.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 23.38.08De-clutter: Most kids accumulate tons of tiny toys that I call bribes, i.e., kids-meal toys and the toys you buy on impulse or to get your child to do things. Get rid of anything and everything that isn’t of good learning value or inspiring, and whatever they have grown out of. Think of de-cluttering as ‘making room for growth and new knowledge’, so the more you clear, the more space your children have for a productive school year!

Creating spaces: Allocating spaces for separate activities will make a great difference in your child’s routine. Create a corner for homework and learning and be sure to position it far from the bed. Start defining a ‘study spot’ by using the colours your child likes, and painting just the study area. Try large triangles that start at the floor, or create mountain peaks, maybe even a huge pink polka-dot right behind the desk on bright white walls.

Chalkboard paint: Tint-able chalkboard paint is really fun around the study area, and can be applied in various colours, shapes and sizes to create an area for jotting down notes or drawing. Add a soft rug to the floor to give them a place to spread out a project, gather with friends, or just read. Be sure your rug follows the colour scheme and again, it’s fun to let them choose it.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 23.37.04Colour goes a long way: Colour is always the most budget-friendly way to change a space or create a lasting impact. However, it can be very personal and children tend to grow out of colours really quick, so talk to them and get their input. Decide on a colour palette and stick to it throughout the room. You may decide to go with monochromes, which are different tones of the same colour, to keep a clean and de-cluttered feel in the space. For example, if you have a girl who loves red, you may try a monochrome red-to-pink palette that incorporates the pinks she loved last year.

Paint a bright ceiling instead: To agree on what you want to see in their room, and what they want, I suggest choosing a handful of colours yourself and let them choose from your picks. Most younger kids will be drawn to red or vibrant tones you may not want on their walls, so get prepared before you take colour chips home. You may, as an alternative, let them choose a colour to paint the room’s ceiling while leaving the walls a clean white. An alternative is to paint two walls in their bold colour and use a less intense tone for the remaining walls.

Get the kids involved: Their ideas may surprise you. Let them hand-paint a great quote near their desk. Something inspirational like, “You can move mountains” or “A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear”. Allow them to help paint. Ask them where they want their bed this year. Take them shopping for a new desk or room accessories. Whatever changes you make, let them be inspired and be involved in their new space for a new school year and have fun doing it!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]If you enjoy my blog, please consider buying my short e-book: Cupcakes & Heels – I don’t know how she does it abroadDownload it for 99p here. THANK YOU!

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