Sunday, 21 January 2018

My Sunday Photo Week 160 Dubai Frame

Continuing the theme of buildings for My Sunday Photo this year, here's a new one, opened on January 1st 2018.

The Dubai Frame.

Seen from most locations in Dubai, separating the Old and the New. The frame is lit at night, changing colours through red, green, blue and yellow.

Open Sunday to Saturday 10am till 7pm although there is a ticket allocation for each day, so may close earlier when allocation is used. Entry fee is only 50 AED and they serve coffee at the top.

The frame is 150 meters tall and 93 meters wide offering a 360 degree view with Old Dubai to the north and New Dubai to the South.

On exiting the lift the guide tells you not to run or jump on the glass floor, the child in me wanted to ignore her, especially as it was something I was encouraged to do up the CN Tower in 2015 where I was 342 meters above the ground.

Old Dubai

New Dubai

Saturday, 20 January 2018

One daily Positive Week 3

This is my 4th year with Project 365, last year a lot of you got to know more about my family in the UK after my father died suddenly in July and I ended up spending almost 5 months over there. Quite a few new people I encountered through my blog were surprised to learn that I actually lived in Dubai and have done so for just over 3 years now. Prior to that we lived in South Africa with our two youngest children for 4 years.

I met my husband in 1999, we were married in 2002. We have 5 children between us who I will introduce at a later date and we have our family home in Worcestershire. I'm originally from South Wales, he is from Manchester.

We travelled abroad with my husband's job, leaving our 3 adult children in the UK. Our children are numbered as 1-5 with an 'a' added to indicate a partner. They are now aged 18-30.

I blog about my life as an expat, my travels and my experiences of parenting for the past 25 years and my adventures as a step mum. I'm a qualified teacher and have trained teaching assistants, customer services, retail and sex education in the UK and taught reception and nursery aged children in townships in South Africa to a private school in Dubai. I specialise in Child Protection and Special Needs with a focus on autism, although it's been many years since I've worked specifically in these fields.

Anyway onto week 3:

14 Sunday The first day of the working week here in Dubai, Doctors for me, a trip to the vets to re register the cat and dog with municipality and my car with the RTA, but first a coffee stop while I renewed my car insurance. Once the fence is complete I'll be able to take the cat out into the garden, she wore her new (small dog) harness all day without any hassle.

15 Monday Another airport run as Peter went back to Saudi, just for 1 night this time, the fence is almost complete. I visited Jumeriah Mosque with a friend, the fort in Deira and museum, lunch on the creek and walked on a glass floor 150ms in the air at the newly opened Dubai Frame and went round to see another friend in the evening. Bob spent the day at a spa.

16 Tuesday The RTA delivered my vehicle registration and I went to the Doctors at 10am, followed by a trip to Ibn Batutta Mall to buy a few bits for the garden, fingers crossed the fence will be finished tomorrow. No one came today to do the fence.

17 Wednesday Peter came home at 2am, the dog peed himself with excitement and confusion, then I broke a mug, the cat broke into the food cupboard, I didn't line up the milk with the cup in the coffee machine, I dropped the dirty cat litter tray, kicked the mop bucket over and ran out of printing ink so I went out for coffee, bought cake, made some dog beds for outside, blogged, watched TV, cooked dinner and had an early night.

18 Thursday Spent the day cleaning and did a food shop, coffee and cake was involved and I sneaked in a visit to the nail bar, an early dinner and early night and enjoyed time in the garden, just the plants to put in now and we're done.

19 Friday Peter had a colleague visiting so after dropping them in Dubai Marina I drank coffee while they made their way along the coast on the RTA ferry. Posted a load of letters for family and friends world wide. Came home to finish off the garden, but it was too dark to take photo's. I'd been looking forward to a long hot soak in the bath all day, but rather than a luxurious bubble bath, I just got a little cloud.

20 Saturday Spent the day at the golf in Abu Dhabi. This is something Peter and I like to do together, although when we get there I tend to sit at the 1st tee to watch the golfers tee off, then sit at the 9th green to watch them all putt, while Peter will follow a particular pairing for a while before we meet up at the 18th. Normally my dad follows at home on Sky in the UK when Peter and I attend sporting events, the last time was for the Rugby 7's in Hong Kong last April. I have a few freebies handed to me during the day which I usually saved and gave to my dad, no idea what I'll do with them now.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo Reflections
PoCoLo and Best Boot Forward What I envy in other women and why?
Tweens Teens Beyond and Triumphant Tales Assisting a school leaver into work

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Things I envy about other women and their lives.

I'm not jealous of other women, what I envy about other women is not a threat to me, therefore I am only envious of what they have not jealous that what they have means that they can take things from me.

I'm sure there are many women out there who are envious of me.

I am confident, I am friendly, I am 46 with no children living at home. I have a glamorous lifestyle, I live in Dubai, I don't have to work. I have a husband who provides me with a lifestyle where I am comfortable, can travel and don't have to watch the pennies. So how can I possibly be envious of other women?

It's not about insecurities or wanting things that I can't have, such as smaller breasts, or a bigger bum (or just a bum will do) having better teeth or being a size (or 2 smaller). Technically I could have that if I paid for it and made it a priority and joined a gym and changed my diet.

It's not even about wanting material things. For me, it's about friendships, families, a career.

I've had all that and now I have a chance at new adventures, but even that is wearing thin.

You see living abroad isn't one big holiday, I may leave in a dream holiday destination, but trust me the grass isn't any greener. the grass is artificial, and the landscape is bleak. No hills, just buildings, occasionally there may be a cloud in the sky and for one or two weeks a years we get weather, fog and rain. For 4 months of the year (apart from the 2 weeks of weather) I actually enjoy living in Dubai as I can go outdoors, it's chilly in the mornings and hot during the day. This means I get to vary my wardrobe, my routines, explore new places (Dubai isn't actually that big)

Why do I envy other women?  They seem to have their lives mapped out, it's not about material items, designer handbags or shoes, although I do wish I had a bit more style and grace about me, but to be honest I don't feel that comfortable when I'm in a dress and heels.

I envy those women who enjoy living abroad.
I envy those women with large friendship groups.
I envy those women who have their parents visiting them.
I envy those women who look fantastic with hair and make up all in place and looking good in whatever they've thrown on.
I envy those women who can eat what they want and not put on weight.
I envy those women with all the above and a career.
I envy those women who know how to valet park.
I envy those women who know how to use the spa/gym.

But behind everything I envy, I also see the bigger picture, the facebook pictures v's the reality of living abroad when you meet these women and get to know them.

The women who don't feel like they actually belong in the big friendship groups, who feel lucky to be part of it, then who bitch about others behind their backs.

The women who complain that their family members are a drain on them emotionally and financially but can't put that on facebook as they'll see it.

The women who spend a small fortune and get up an hour earlier than the rest of the house and spend all day reapplying make up and doing their hair to maintain that natural look.

The women who are controlling their diet, exercising, have an illness etc and or under immense pressure to maintain that shape and photoshop the arse off every image, quite literally. 

The women who are paddling like mad below the surface to try and have it all. Been there, done that. Raising kids, having a career and managing a home are not easy.

The women who can valet park and know how to use the spa/gym will always remain a mystery to me. I actually don't envy them, I am in awe if the truth be known.

So what can I do to tackle my envy? Well the one thing I do know is that I'm honest and realistic, which means I'm half way there. I really can't have it all. If I want my career back, a job, income, some independence, a sense of belonging, an identity, then something has to give. What would that be? My ability to travel back to the UK with such frequency. I'm back in March for child 4s medal parade, June for child 2s wedding. I'm spending the summer in the UK to escape the endless heat of Dubai. I'd have the finances to send for the kids and my mother, I'd be able to have more shorter flights to the UK, but then there would be a price to pay in terms of fatigue from travel, timezones and straight back to work.

I was in full time work in 2016, teaching. I had the summer holidays off, the shorter ones I decided weren't long enough to get to the UK for a proper visit. I had friends and family visit, I was working in the day, I was shattered in the evenings. I had to apply for emergency leave when family members died. It didn't work for me.

So what do I do instead? I've joined the expat groups, where I've felt nothing but envy for most of the above reasons, these women seem happy without a career, but are they really like me and it's all a front, they're just too embarrassed to say so? 

Am I too honest? Is this why I don't fit in? Are these women that I envy happy? Am I happy? Is it because I'm wanting more? Wanting to be different? Not accepting myself and the situation for what it is?

Even if I get what I want in life, living back in the UK, with my family near by and a carer, then want? Will I be wanting more anyway? Is that what life is about? Will I ever be happy or will I look back on the years we lived abroad wishing I'd made more of my time and just enjoyed it for what it was, an adventure?

Who knows?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Assisting a School leaver into work

Our teenage son, child 5, is privileged and entitled. He has benefited from a private education in a UK boarding school and on leaving school in July has moved into a one bed flat with all his bills being paid for by the bank of mum and dad, his current situation is unemployed. He is lucky, has no understanding of the real world and doesn't have anything to worry about, unlike other people's children who left school this year.

Sounds cushy, doesn't it? And those very words have been said to me on numerous occasions.

The reality is somewhat altogether different.

We live in Dubai, our son was educated in the UK, because at the time we were living in South Africa and there was no support for his dyslexia. There was no British Curriculum available to him until he was 16. Our older son, child 4, found out the hard way that whilst he finished Matric with qualifications to go to University in South Africa, that when his qualifications were converted back in the UK, at the age of 19, he had the equivalent of 5 GCSE's but does not hold English or Maths.

Sending our son back to the UK was not an easy decision. Both emotionally and financially. His teenage years have been spent in a bubble, no parent support, no freedom to get a part time job and no socialising in the evening in town with others, learning valuable lifeskill that his 3 older siblings had.

On leaving school in July 2017 having had applied for apprenticeships, we quickly discovered that the qualification he did at school enabled him to get straight into the world of work, however he had no work experience. All the apprenticeships in his area of interest and knowledge would just be teaching him the same course we'd paid for him to do during his last 2 years in school.

We didn't know this, we were led by the school, the promises they made for his future, but we weren't there to attend the parents evenings, ask the questions, meet the other parents and find out what the reality of all this was going to be.

I spent the summer in the UK, my job as a mum this year was to help him apply for jobs, take him to interviews, help him get a part time job to gain some experience and then get him settled into a place of his own. I was open an open ticket from Dubai and he was my only priority.

Then a week after I collected him from school, my father died and everything stopped.

The teen carried on applying for jobs, I ran him for a few interviews, but I didn't focus on him as I'd promised.

Now I'm back in Dubai, he has a few things lined up, a bit of part time work over the holidays. The only thing we're now paying for are the utility bills, water and electric. We have to pay the council tax, property management fees and insurances regardless of whether he's living there or not. We own the flat, no mortgage, it's our bolt hole when we visit the UK.

But it's in a small town in South Wales, with a population of 10,000 people, there is limited public transport, no train line and it is difficult for him to get anywhere for a 9am interview. He's applied online for all the local jobs, over 150 people applied for one at a coffee shop, he has no retail or work experience.

I'll be back in the UK in February, we'll do another online push together in Mid January to apply for jobs further afield so hopefully any interviews can take place while I'm over so he can attend them easily.

It's not just simply a case of finish school and walk into a job. An 18 year old still needs guidance and support to make the transition into the real world. Normally they get to do this from the safety net of home over a period of time. His brothers left home aged 18 and went into an apprenticeship and 2 joined the army, they do so from the family home, with guidance and support, with someone there to encourage them, help them fill forms and attend interviews. For us, it's very different this time round and will take a bit longer.

So I'd thank you to keep your comments in the opening paragraph to yourself, they're not helpful or even kind. We're doing what we're doing because he's our son and we have the ability to support him in this way. As a parent I'd rather have had him attend school locally, I'd rather be in the UK with him. But I'm not.

*update. Since I wrote this post over Christmas the teen has landed himself a job in the area of work he's interested in, it's a firm offer but he's waiting for security checks to come through before he gets a start date then we'll have to help him find somewhere to live.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Looking after myself

I implemented the 9am rule, it's working well. It means I have to be ready to face the day by 9am, regardless of whether I'm actually going out or not, it also doesn't matter whether I have a full face of make up on and my hair done or even if I go and have a lie down. I'm not timetabling and scheduling my life I'm just motivating myself to make sure I don't get stuck in rut, which leads to boredom, which in turn, from experience, leads to depression. 

My 9am is now in it's 3rd week, it goes out the window on weekends when my husband is home, he is my motivation then, and it is going well. I've almost completed the whole 'to do' list for January and been getting to bed early.

But there are another few things I need to work on, but this needs co-operationkio from my husband. He works, he is the one with routine, the length of time and order in which he does things in the morning, when he comes home from work, the time in between entering the front door and when he's ready to eat and what time he is ready to go to bed. I don't have a problem with this, however this doesn't suit me. I need to eat earlier, I need to eat less carbs. Peter doesn't always start/end his routine at the same time every day and I find it difficult to get up and start mine or eat earlier knowing I'll have to cook twice or he'll have to eat his warmed up or cook his own, or go to bed earlier without him, as he will travel away often during the week and with me spending so much time in the UK without him, our time together is precious.

I feel selfish if I do my own thing, but it's self imposed and I need to just get over it. Not feel guilty if I go to bed early, eat my main meal at 4pm before he comes home, go to bed early, spend the evening in a another room as due to a bad neck I can't spend hours sitting on the sofa watching TV, as much as I'd like to.

I've always batch cooked, we have 5 kids, I always made enough for 7/8 meals and froze the rest, now I cook for 4 every meal time and freeze 2/3 meals in individual pots. Peter will cook several meals over the weekend and freeze them also. Every morning I'll take a pot out the freezer for him and I'll make myself something fresh each day. This means I can cut down on the amount of carbs I eat, have increased my intake of fruit and veg and dairy products and actually eat less and have stopped snacking as much during the day. 

The mornings are sorted I get up and get on with things downstairs, dishwasher, walk Bob, etc after Peter brings me up a cup of tea to bed every morning. It's just the evenings. Peter showers, cleans his teeth and goes to bed. I can't help doing a million and one taks on the way to bed, followed by bathing, removing make up, moisturising etc which takes far longer than his shower and teeth cleaning.

Thankfully it's winter here in Dubai and both Peter and I love being outdoors. We have bikes, but rarely go for a bike ride at the same time, but we do like to walk the dog together  We like to get outdoors as much as possible. We've recently moved to a new house, 15 minute drive from the beach and we visit it at least once on a weekend, whether it's for a paddle, walk, coffee or all three. We used to live 1km from the beach, but hardly went there, why? because it was at the end of the road, so we could go there when ever we wanted, so we just kept putting it off. We also have a lovely garden, it's small, but more manageable, we've had it landscaped and in the process of having it fenced off, for privacy and so we can leave the dog outside without fear of him jumping the wall. We've also got two balconies, but we only use the one off the bedroom, it means I can sit out there with my tea in the mornings if I choose without having to get out of my pjs first and on a saturday, you'll find us out there, sitting in silence for most of the morning. 

It'll be too hot soon for the outdoor life and we'll have to look at other ways to get out of the house. I'll be spending the bulk of summer in the UK, it's just too hot for me here with nothing to do all day when temps are in the high 40's. Peter will carry on working and have a couple of trips over to visit me. It's fairly typical of what most expats do out here.