Saturday, 24 January 2015

Week 4 One Daily Positive FMSPHOTOADAY SnapHappyBritMums Project365

It's week 4 and we are still living in a hotel, it's not been a good week for us, although on Thursday Hubbies residency visa was stamped, but due to the death of the King Of Saudi, The UAE has declared 3 days of mourning, so we can't make the application to customs now till Monday. Out of respect the TV and Radio stations are not broadcasting their normal programmes.

Child 4 of 5 returned to the UK on Thursday ready to start his new and own life with the British Army. We had planned to be in the house by now, unfortunately due to the visa delay it has meant that our son didn't have the opportunity to stay in the house with us as a family in our new home. It will be over a year before he gets the opportunity to come back out here and probably the same length of time before we see him again.

This is turning out to be a fantastic project for me and really keeping me motivated. I'm looking for the positive in every day and creating opportunities to combine the two photo prompts.

Day 18
#onedailypositive #ThisIs #FMSPHOTOADAY #Splash #SnapHappyBritMums #Project365
Yeah, good news, residency visa will be ready tomorrow then we can apply for customs to release our furniture and fingers crossed, this time next week we shall be in our new home. Todays photo is 'This is our new cooker and other bits and bobs that we've splashed out on for our new home'

Day 19
#onedailypositive #Homemade #FMSPHOTOADAY #WOW #SnapHappyBritMums
It's 9.20pm here in Dubai and I'm ready for bed having decided I can't be arsed with my One daily Positive and despite there being many wow factors to the day with the storm that blew a tree down in our garden and the localised flooding and snow in Abu Dhabi. But there is nothing handmade and that depressed me......yeah all our worldy goods are with customs in Jebal Ali and we've been living out of suitcases in hotels since December 12th all negativity.
So I decided I'll give #FMSPhotoADay a miss today and just go with WOW and my one daily positive is that it was cooler today.

Day 20
#onedailypositive #Window #FMSPHOTOADAY #ThisIsMe #SnapHappyBritMums #Project365

Moving to Dubai was my Window of opportunity to reinvent myself, my life, my clothes, my ambitions, finish my degree and return to work. I'm already applying for jobs, making contacts and networking and have a few voluntary roles lined up to get my foot back in the door. I need to explore the options of finish my psychology degree as I can't complete it with The OU as originally planned. I'm most comfortable with untamed hair, a bit of make up, a large bag, birkenstocks, jeans and a black t shirt, it is my uniform, my comfort zone. I don't do groomed, I don't feel comfortable in heels and a dress (although I can do it) it just isn't me. So I've decided over the past few weeks, since living in a hotel that #ThisIsMe dark circles under my eyes and a muffin top and just to except that this is how I am.

Day 21
#onedailypositive #InARow #FMSPHOTOADAY #KeepingWarm #SnapHappyBritMums #Project365

My pashminas bought in South Africa ready for moving to Dubai, so far I've not been required to cover my head or shoulders as I intended them to be used for, but instead used them to sit on at the beach and cover up in the evenings when it gets a bit chilly. I'm grateful I have more freedom than I anticipated

Day 22
#onedailypositive #Collection #FMSPHOTOADAY #Word #SnapHappyBritMums #Project365

Dubai Airport is my new collection point for family and friends, unfortunately I'm here today to say GOODBYE to child 4 of 5, who turns 20 tomorrow, who joins The British Army on March 1st and it's likely to be another 12 months till I see him again. My One Daily Positive is how proud I am of all our children and how happy it makes me to see them leave home and succeed.

Day 23
#onedailypositive #SomethingFarAway #FMSPHOTOADAY #Food #SnapHappyBritMums #Project365
Today is not a good day, it's my son's 20th Birthday and he flew back to the UK yesterday so I guess he's what is far away along with the rest of our children and all our family and friends. But keeping inline with taking a positive out of everyday and incorporating food, I've opted to post a picture of my favourite tea, that for the past 4 years in South Africa have been traded like gold dust. Here in Dubai I can buy most things, from most countries, some of it is very expensive as it's imported other stuff is made under licence here.

Day 24
#onedailypositive #PlayTime #FMSPHOTOADAY #BurnsNight #SnapHappyBritMums #Project365
Day 24 #onedailypositive #playtime #fmsphotoaday #burnsnight #snaphappybritmums #project365 My family on a daily basis now consists of hubby and I plus a dog and a cat and we can still have family fun on the beach without kids to entertain us. Finding a reference to Burns night was a bit more challenging until hubby asked why my bottled water bought in Starbucks is imported from Scotland? #BurjAlArab

Friday, 23 January 2015

The cost of living in Dubai

I have no idea how to budget here in Dubai, for starters we have no idea what our actual salary is going to be. Yes there is a contract but there have been additional costs involved in our relocation that have been unexpected in the way that a relocation works. So until we get in our house and start daily life, food shopping, utilities, going out etc we don't know what is cheap, what is reasonable and what is expensive.

A full tank of fuel for a BMW 5 series is AED 103, which is the same price as 2 and a half glasses of wine in a restaurant.

Forget the exchange rates, that doesn't matter when you're paid abroad in local currency, although you do have to keep an eye on them when you need to send money back to the homeland for things like school fees and house maintenance.

When we moved to South Africa in 2011 the exchange rate was R11 to the £, which meant when we left SA at R18 to the £ we lost an awful lot of money in regards to the sale of my car and the house rental deposit refund. But we only lost out because we were leaving and not reinvesting in SA.

It took me a long time to stop comparing prices to the UK, at first things were very expensive compared to the UK and now with the exchange rate things are cheaper. But when you are paid in local currency it's a slow plod uphill. We noticed that as the exchange rate altered so did the cost of living in SA, fuel, food in the supermarket, the price of cigarettes, still much cheaper than the UK but not cheap when you're paid in Rand.

The Rand went much further in SA than the £ did in the UK.

For example £10 = R175

For £10 in the UK you could buy a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of coke
The same items in SA would cost you R43, therefore making the cost of living in SA much cheaper than the UK, or was it? That was only if you were spending £'s in SA.

I now need to work out the buying power of the AED, I find the daily cost of living is similar to the UK, but rent is twice as much as the UK and 3 times as much as SA.

I bought a Macdonalds Happy Meal, a global product that is not regulated by tax, like cigarettes, alcohol and fuel. It cost AED 11 which converts to £1.95 in the UK and R34 in SA. The same meal in the UK is around £2.40 and SA is R24, but if you convert £2.40 to Rand you get R43 and back to AED is 7.5.

It will take me a while and I will get there, but until we have the first months salary, paid the first months bills we have no idea how much it actually costs to live here.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Stop pressing the buttons

I'm stood at the lift or the road crossing and 'YES, I'VE PRESSED THE BLOODY BUTTON, WHY ELSE DO YOU THINK I'M STANDING HERE?'

It has to be my biggest pet hate, especially when there are a number of people stood at the lift or at the lights and that one person has to wade in and start pressing the button numerous times as if the rest of us are divvies who then thank them after they've shown us how it works.

You might feel better because you've pressed the button hundreds of times, or you may believe the lift comes faster, or the green man lights up earlier because of your urgency, but it doesn't and it won't. So leave the bloody buttons alone, the rest of us know what we're doing, thank you.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Winter in Dubai? or just a marketing exercise?

It is mid winter in Dubai, now bare in mind we've moved from the middle of summer in South Africa, so we're not tourists arriving looking for some sun. OK I grant you it's a little chilly in the morning and last thing at night, especially if you're eating outside in a restaurant near the sea, but seriously? these are common temperatures, it's not that cold, in fact it's actually rather pleasant.

In South Africa the winter temperatures are the same in the day, but at night time it drops to zero and below and as soon as the sun sets it gets proper cold. The houses in SA aren't really equipped for winter there and as soon as the end of May approaches out come the winter clothes, hat, scarves, electric blankets, fluffy sheets and boots.

The trouble is though that during the day you will need to change outfits and end up carrying around winter gear and wishing you'd popped your sandals in the car rather than being stuck wearing boots at midday.

In Dubai though, a pashmina will do to take the chill off in the early mornings and evenings, in fact it's probably colder in the air conditioned malls than it is outside at night fall, but that doesn't stop the shops being full of winter clothing, boots, hats and scarves.

I'm sure it's a marketing device, lets make people feel it's cold during the winter by selling winter clothing, lets create the feeling of winter with snow scenes. Starbucks sell the 'winter warmer' coffees with seasonal syrups, iced gingerbread snowmen with scarves on.

It's an attempt to make you feel like it is cold so they can sell you stuff you really don't need.

I wrote this post 2 weeks ago, since then we've had storms and the annual rainfall fell in one go on Sunday and Monday this week. The temperature has dropped, the air conditioning has been adjusted and I'm considering buying a pair of socks, but I don't need a winter wardrobe.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Why it's important to pay volunteers

During my time living in South Africa, I was involved in volunteering and charity work. I didn't get paid for my time or my costs and neither did I ask or even expect to be reimbursed for my time and costs. You can read yesterdays rant here about fundraising and the need to get exposure on social media.

I visited hundreds of child care facilities, orphanages and school across Gauteng and what I discovered alarmed me.

This is a typical facility, they don't have tables or chairs and the blankets are placed on the mud floor.

For a child to be placed in day care in a township facility while the parents go to work for around R200 a day as maids and gardeners, the facility charge R250 a month per child. For this their priority is to feed every child, every day and to provide basic education. When you question the staff about any other funding they tell you there is none and that around only 30% of parents can afford to pay the monthly fees, so they rely on donations of food from people like me and many of my friends every month. They need people like me and my friends to tweet, blog, approach, ask, beg for food and donations for education, winter clothing and blankets. They then tell you that they are not paid either and most days they can feed the children just one basic meal. They often have 60+ children in a facility which is more often than not a shack, with no electricity or water.

Another issue other than the lack of finances is the lack of knowledge from the staff on how to teach and educate using the bare minimum of supplies. There are numerous facilities with donated toys, books and education supplies but no one uses them, they sit there like the play frame in the picture above, unused.

These are educational packs I designed and made and are used at several facilities, I did receive some sponsorship towards the actual cost of making the packs and I provided a week's worth of training and taught the teachers to cascade their learning to the other staff. It costs around R300 to make a pack, but if I was able to make more and get a sponsor the costs would be even lower. 

You can read more about the education packs here.

This short video shows you the pack in use

It costs a lot of time and money to train a good teacher, the staff have their matric and are desperate to go to University to do a degree in education, but no one will sponsor that and TBH if they did get sponsorship it is unlikely they would stay at that facility, working for next to nothing, when they could then get a proper job with medical cover and a living wage elsewhere. But they do need paying to teach, they need a reward, they need to have ownership. You can't feed 60 children a day without a cook, you can't provide the basic child care, let alone education without staff and most importantly you can't expect 1 person to volunteer and oversee several child care facilities, run HIV/AIDS projects, offer support to rape victims and look after vulnerable and orphaned children, full time without paying them their expenses.

Without these amazing people, nothing is possible

For more details on the work at The Viva Foundation and to make a donation visit here 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Want to climb a mountain/skydive for charity? Pay for it yourself

There are enough people living in Africa without the need for you to have to visit it to show the levels of poverty.

For 4 years I worked alongside some amazing volunteers, in a variety of projects, in townships, inner city and rural locations. Vulnerable children, orphans, people with disabilities. Fundraising, building schools, teaching, training, collecting and distributing donations. 

I gave my time, my fuel, my money, my energy. I raised funds, I asked people for donations. I collected 2nd hand clothes, pushchairs, bedding, mattresses, I asked friends to help me deliver larger items. I put people in touch with social workers, arranged job interviews, I took part in arts project in The Alaskan informal Settlement in Mamelodi, camping out for the night. Spent weeks begging for items to furnish for a school near Kruger National park then drove all the way there to drop the items off.

Yes, I asked my family and friends for money, but I gave them something in exchange. I spent days in a workshop for adults with disabilities learning to sew, threading beads, twisting wire to make items to sell to my family and friends. We made handbags, necklaces, key fobs, bunting.

I posted them to the UK, and with the money I was given, used it to repair equipment, buy arts and craft materials to enable the residents to make items to sell at their christmas market, their biggest source of income for the 140 bed home.

I wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but it was too expensive. I wanted to climb the mountain and blog and tweet about my experiences to raise money for sponsorship, but after looking into it, without a major sponsor behind me and without the social media coverage all I was going to do was raise equivalent to the cost of the trip, so instead of climbing the mountain I used the money on educational supplies.

Yes I sound bitter, Yes I am frustrated. I'm not jealous of you for being invited to Africa for a tiny glimpse of what it is like, I've lived and worked in that environment, my friends are doing it day in day out as volunteers, with no recognition and no reimbursements for their fuel, their time, their donations.

All I ask you to do is rather than give someone £5 to pay towards their trip to Africa or for their charity skydive or mountain climb give it to The Viva Foundation of South Africa to spend on education, feeding schemes, providing employment and training in their community. Support the work they do with families with AIDS, women and children who have been raped, orphaned children.
You can donate here.

They can provide you with a receipt, a photograph, a description of what they've used your money for and more importantly I guarantee every penny goes on that project.

You won't get recognition with hundreds of RTs, but you'll get a dam good blog post out of it and help to spread the real daily work that ordinary people do day to day and live amongst.

And when I next go out to South Africa, a place I called home for 4 years, at my own expense, I'll show you where your money was spent.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

My Sunday Photo - Fat, frumpy and frustrated

Having unlinked My Sunday Photo from Project 365, where I'm using prompts from FMSPHOTOADAY and SnapHappyBritMums and including a One daily Positive, I now have the freedom to post one picture a week that just sums up how I'm feeling, the weeks events or just a spur of the moment snap.

This is me

Feeling fat and frumpy and frustrated.

I've been living in hotels since December 12th since hubby and I were relocated from South Africa to Dubai. The children came with us, as did the cat and dog. The 15yo returned to school in the UK the end of December and the 19yo returns next week. We had hoped to be in our new home by now, all our belongings are either in Storage at customs or still in South Africa as is the case with our air freight.

Hubby and I have 3 suitcases of our belongings between us, it's amazing actually how little one needs to live with, however we are getting frustrated at our selection of clothes, accessories and foot ware.

Hubby needs a tie for a meeting tomorrow, so a trip to the shops is in order. I've done some shopping and I'm wearing a new outfit in the picture above, but I've put on weight. We are eating out EVERY day, I'm opting for salads, avoiding the pudding menu and minimising my intake of fizzy, sugary drinks, but the damage has been done.

As I dressed this morning in a short sleeved top, I realised I'm not at the stage of life where I must wave from the hips, new jeans were bought in a larger size than I needed and previously worn to accommodate the weight gain, flimsy fashion shoes are a no go any more as my feet are in terrible condition, blisters and hard skin. The trouble with buying clothes in a larger size is you end up with an ill fitting baggy crotch. I found somewhere to get my eyebrows tamed, I died my own hair but it needs a good cut and as for my nails, I'm tempted just to wear gloves and cover them up.

I feel stuck in no mans land, I don't even have a visa to live anywhere, I'm just on a tourist visa. Travel and life in hotels (however fabulous they are) isn't glamorous, it's tiring, inconveinient and bloody expensive.

I'm craving beans on toast for dinner, a sofa to lounge about on, I'm hate having to get dressed before I can leave my room, I really want and need to be able to open a window.

I know it's short term, I know everything will be OK, that I can loose weight, be reunited with my wardrobe and my stuff, but in the meantime, I just feel fat, frumpy and frustrated.