Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Creating a garden in the desert - getting ready for winter in Dubai

Winter in Dubai, means getting outdoors. I spend the summers in the UK as that's where our families live and as I don't work there's no need for me to get cabin fever stuck indoors when temperatures reach 50c.

Summer is very humid in Dubai of which the moisture helps the plants, shrubs and trees to grow. Peter mowed the lawn a couple of times.

The garden was overgrown, covered in sand and several repairs needed carrying out, the umbrella cover had disintegrated.

I lost several plants, the tree had to be cut back after a couple of days of high winds and some rain, typically after I'd cleaned all the sand up and had to do it all again....grrrrrr.

New shrubs were purchased, seeds have been sown, umbrella repaired and we're now enjoying the outdoor space again. That was until we had our annual storm and everything got covered in sand again, however it did help the grass seed to grow.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

A sense of community in South African Townships.

We left South Africa 4 years ago this month to move to Dubai, originally from the UK. We embraced life in South Africa to the full. Peter working, child 4 and 5 in education and myself getting involved in full time volunteering supporting vulnerable children living in poverty.

We had 4 wonderful years here and desperately miss our friends here and I visit as often as I can (twice a year) to continue with the hands on volunteering work, delivering Christmas gifts in townships in Pretoria. 

Last weekend I was in Soshanguve delivering gifts to 250 children, some of their housing conditions are heartbreaking as you'll see if you click this link.

This shack in the Alaskan Informal Settlement in a township called Mamelodi. This is home to a mother and father and 2 children. It is one room, where they eat, sleep and wash. There is no running water, there is no electricity, no toilet, no windows and the floor is mud.

So why is this shack painted like this?

4 years ago child 5 and I were working with an arts project to give the community a sense of belonging, to encourage members of the community to have pride in their homes, to join in, create some art, help and support their neighbours and create a sense of belonging and pride in their homes.

Child 5 and I camped in the community for the weekend, ate dinner, sang songs and was thoroughly looked after and entertained during our stay.

Can you imagine the whole landscape with shacks decorated? It would look stunning.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

One daily Positive - Week 49 A week in South Africa

A long, hot, tiring and emotional week in South Africa, delivering Christmas gifts in the townships and catching up with friends.

The food and drink here is amazing with a bottle of wine costing less than a small glass of wine in the UK and Dubai. A meal less than the price of a coffee. 

Life in South Africa is extreme. I've been staying with friends, who feed me, loan me their cars and braai for me. I've had Starbucks which is considered expensive here compared to the local coffee chains and I've visited children living in extreme poverty whose parents have insisted on feeding me also.

Peter arrived on Thursday and we're spending the weekend in a safari lodge.

*Braai - BBQ

335 Sunday Arrived at Johannesburg Airport at 10am, collected by my friend, went out for lunch and then taken to another friend's for the night.

336 Sunday Up early, car packed and off to Soshanguve, a township in Northern Pretoria for 3 celebration parties, handing out Christmas gifts in orphanages. We came across a family living here, we did what we could, but chucking money at the situation wasn't going to help. The older sister was recovering from a hang over.

337 Monday Having spent the night with another friend, I set off back to Soshanguve for the final celebration, this was a day care centre, the parents pay a very small daily fee to send their children there from birth to age 6 often 10-12 hours as it takes 2 hours by bus to travel into Pretoria or 45 minutes for me by car.

338 Tuesday I packed and delivered cartons of boxes to a couple of other volunteers ready for their celebration days, then headed off to a local mall for a Starbucks and to do some shopping, then visited a friend in the afternoon with her 6 week old baby.

339 Wednesday The day finished with a Braai at a friends and several glasses of wine, however it started with 3 x 30km trips to collect 473 donated Christmas gifts and deliver to stor_age whilst we decide what to do with them. There are many children left to receive but each box has to be checked and contents added, that will have to be the work of others.

340 Thursday I sourced and packed for 11 teens in an orphanage that a friend asked me for and sorted through a pile of 2nd hand donated items to give them also, in the afternoon I went out for coffee. They're load shedding in South Africa, as they've run out of coal and this means the power is switched off for 2-3 hours every day. No traffic lights, no power to the supermarkets. They remain open but I can't help thinking the freezer and fridge contents are suffering. There's also no power to the personal security with housing, leaving you feel slightly vulnerable at home.
Peter arrived in the evening and we Braai'd with our hosts.

341 Friday Peter and I drove round our old haunts then drove up to Hammanskraal. We're staying on a game reserve for a few days until I fly home on Monday night. We've booked a game drive on Sunday morning and ironically we were asked if we wanted to do a township drive into Soshanguve.

342 Saturday Had a leisurely breakfast, read our books, sat outside and chilled out till 2pm before heading off for 30 mins to a friends house for a Christmas Braai and a few drinks. Two of my South African BFF's.

On the blog this week:

Celebrating Christmas in the Townships
My Blogmas Christmas Tree
Reusing and recycling waste in South Africa 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

South Africa - Waste - reusing and recycling.

I'm currently in South Africa. I've really noticed the extremes of waste and recycling in Pretoria. From Starbucks to the townships and how those throw away items by some are a source of income to others. There's a lot more that can be done though. Houses have recycling bags for collection, but I've witnessed on many occasions both general waste and recycling being tipped into the same bin.

Preventable waste

Coffee cup in Starbucks, pre warmed with hot water, something they do also in Dubai and irritates the life out of me, the cost of heating the water and then just tipping it down the sink. They also automatically serve in a paper cup unless you ask for a ceramic one, even when you say 'to drink in'

Fast food take away. Box for the burger and put in a paper bag along with sauces and a tonne of paper napkins. Why put it in a bag when you're eating in? I've noticed more places using paper straws, but they just don't work with coke, it fizzes everywhere. Again all fast food places, all around the world.

Recycling and reusing

I love how these jeans have been up-cycled into flower pot holders. The weather in South Africa is perfect for this and I guess it would work the same in Dubai, not so sure how long this would last in the UK though.


This old car tyre and kids bike make a great feature in the garden.


Old wooden pallets made into book cases, coffee tables and planters. The workshop is on site on the side of the road, 

Then this. General household waste dumped on the side of the road, on the edge of every township. You see people picking through the waste for plastic bottles and cans that can be sold for recycling.

People walk for miles daily to collect the waste paper and bottles from the sides of the roads and go through people's bins at the end of their drive to sell to the recycling depots in order to make a living.

Monday, 3 December 2018

How do you decorate your tree at Christmas? Blogmas18

This is our Christmas tree. Christmas for the last 9 years has been in the sun with temps in the mid to high 20's. It's winter in Dubai, but you wouldn't think so. The previous Christmas's were in summer living in South Africa. 

It's really strange putting up the tree and decorating the house when the sun shines, the kids have now left home, but I still like to mark the seasons and festivities.

We were given this tree by my MIL 11 years ago, it's probably time for a new one soon, but the prices in Dubai are astronomical, a real tree retails around £150-200, so artificial it is.

Our decorations represnt our expat life. I'm Welsh and Hubby is English. Child 3 lives in Australia, the other 4 children live in the UK.

Christmas photo baubles, front photo is when they little, the reverse shows them as they are now.

We collect baubles from our travels, this year's additions are from Germany and Greece.

Lots of animals from South Africa.

We also decorate the rest of the house.

Anyone else have trouble with lights?  These worked when tested, by the time they were wrapped around the tree they'd stopped working.

There decorations are waiting to go up in the garden.

These decorations will go up in the porch out the front.

Stand still in our house and you'll get decorated.

Me Becoming Mum

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Soshanguve Township, South Africa, Christmas gift giving.

We lived in South Africa January 2011 till December 2014, since then I've returned many times to continue supporting a Christmas Charity with collecting and distributing Christmas gifts to children living in poverty in townships in and around Pretoria. There's so much more to just packing a box, it involves work all year round, from visiting facilities in rural townships, to collecting names, uploading information on the website, through to asking for individual donations as well as obtaining bulk donations, collecting, sorting and delivering the gifts to the children often in locations with no phone signal or GPS location.

A friend and I did 3 celebrations on Sunday, 200+ children. 2 facilities were new to us and took some finding, driving off road and round in circles, mindful of our personal safety. We arrived at the facilities to discover they'd enrolled extra children and we had to make magic boxes from our collection of extras in the car boot to ensure every child received a gift.

It's very emotional, it's hot and hard work (temps 35c) no running water, a long drop only to pee in and trust me, you really have to be desperate to use one. 

These are the children's bathrooms.

It's very rewarding though and we get to meet the most amazing and selfless people who support orphans and the most vulnerable children in society, often with no government funding. 

By bringing a child in their care a Christmas Gift we are supporting the supporters, what we do is very little in comparison to their day to day struggles.

For reasons of child protection I am unable to post pictures of the children.

Car loaded and off. Only in South Africa can packets of sanitary pads cause much excitement for young girls.

This is the home for one young boy. He lives with his sister who has a small baby and their disabled grandmother in one room, this is their kitchen where they cook on a make shift fire.

One fo the care providers receiving a box on behalf of a child. Of the 7000+ boxes collected when I was here in September/October, I was surprised to discover 2 boxes I'd personally packed from friends in the UK.

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

One daily Positive - Week 48 From the north to the south of Africa.

This week started in Cairo and has ended in South Africa and in between the Christmas decorations have gone up at home in Dubai.

It's amazing how airline safety and security varies around the world. In Dubai the security is very good. I beeped on the way out last week after removing my belt and shoes and placing liquids, laptop and camera on the belt for x-ray. I was patted down in a private room. In Egypt, we had 2 security screenings to go through, first was chuck everything on a moving conveyor belt and I accidentally sent my passport through so caused a bit of an issue. The second security check didn't ask for liquids to be placed in the tray and I was asked to dispose of my cigarette lighter. In Manchester they insist you remove all electronic goods including hair straighteners and in South Africa you're lucky if the security staff look up at you as they're too busy chatting.

It's been a crazy week weather wise and putting up the Christmas decorations one day, then the next gardening, followed by a morning on the beach.

329 Sunday Flew home from Cairo at midday, arrived home to a thunder and lightening storm and torrential rain, unpacked, put washing machine on and watched football in front of the TV all night.

330 Monday Collected the cat and dog from boarding and repacked for South Africa. Put the Christmas decorations up as I'm away Friday night till the 10th and my mum arrives the day after.

331 Tuesday Spent 3 hours at the dog park catching up over coffee while the dogs all played nicely, swept yet more sand off the balcony and in the garden, cooked dinner and sat in front of the TV wrapping presents till bedtime.

332 Wednesday Off to the bank to update my new visa ID details, took a few pictures of the canal for my blog, did some shopping at the Mall of the Emirates and sat in front of the TV all evening.

333 Thursday Back to the dog park again for a couple of hours, sorted out my other bank account which took almost 2 hours, thinned out some seedlings and had a bath while Peter made dinner. Packed my suitcase for tomorrow's flight.

334 Friday Had a lie in and headed off to the beach. Had a late lunch/early dinner and went to bed for a couple of hours before heading off to the airport at midnight.

335 Saturday Flew to Johannesburg, leaving Dubai at 4am, collected by a friend and lazed around in the afternoon, eating, drinking and catching up since my last visit in September. Got a busy week coming up with celebration days to hand out the Christmas boxes from my last trip.

On the blog this week:
The greatest construction project in the world. The Pyramids
Guest Post - In a no win situation. 
Making friends at the dog park
Advent Calendars for Pets

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Advent calendars for pets

I don’t care if you think I’m mad as I already know I am.

This year’s advent calendars for Bob, me and Pushkins. Purchased in the UK.

I’ll also be taking Bob to see Santa as I do every year.

Who says you can’t have fun when the kids leave home?

Me Becoming Mum

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

making friends at the dog park

This morning a group of women met for coffee and a chat, sitting outside enjoying the winter sun in Dubai. We meet every Tuesday and the groups is getting bigger, we don't socialise outside of these hours and we're not all connected on social media. We have one thing in common and that is our pet dog(s).

Mums meet for coffee, colleagues meet for coffee, dog owners meet for coffee also.

Whilst our dogs play, swim and run around, we sit and discuss the recent rains, kids, day to day life and upcoming trips and visitors and our plans for the weekend.

We have to deal with the occasional petty squabble between the dogs, but we're not constantly distracted with requests for the toilet, something to eat or drink and endless questions.

It's taken me a long time to settle into life in Dubai. In the UK I had the kids at home, met people through playgroups, activities and in the school playground. I also worked and studied and could always find someone to have a coffee with at any opportunity. In South Africa I started to feel isolated, no more school runs, after school activities or a job in which to meet people so I focused on volunteer work and within 18 months, I'd built up a network of friends.

We've been in Dubai for 4 years now, I was teaching for a year. I joined all sorts of groups and activities but never felt I fitted in. I have a couple of friends who Peter and I meet with regularly as a couple and one friend I meet up with for coffee and shopping, but my network in Dubai is much smaller than it's ever been and when these friends are travelling, I've feel isolated. It also hasn't helped that the last two summers have been spent in the UK and I've not been around much.

How do you make new friends?

In a no win situation with family

A fellow blogger and friend contacted me recently to ask to post anonymously on my blog. They are in a no win situation with their step son, their husband and his ex wife and would like some advice on how to manage the situation.

As step parents ourselves, there have been numerous issues over the years in regards to making sacrifices to not only accommodate the child, each other but the child's extended family and the other parent. It has caused tension, disrupted family life and caused arguments. However once our children reached 18, involvement with their other parent ceased as the kids were old enough to make their own arrangements and decisions.

But this blogger finds herself in an unusual situation, as her step child is a fully grown adult, who she had no contact with from his mid teens till his late 20's and is a virtual stranger to her, who is coming to live with her and her husband under an unusual set of circumstances and she would like your advice.

This is her story.

Our family consists of myself and three birth children DD1 DD2 and DS2. Plus my husband and his two children DS1 and DD3. I brought these children up along with their dad after their mum walked out on them when they were both quite young.
DS1 went back to live with his birth mum when he was fourteen and never spoke to us again for over fourteen  years, wanted nothing to do with us. Anyway she indulged him and let him away with murder through guilty feelings and he knew exactly how to manipulate her to get what he wants. He hates me and cannot be civilised when I am around. He is not a child but is a grown man approaching forty years old.
So anyway six years ago he was sent to prison for a crime he still says he did not commit, and due to events during the fifty three weeks after he was charged and before he went to court, I also believe he did not commit the alleged crime. But he was found guilty by the jury and given a heavy sentence as he would not admit his guilt.  He appealed his sentence and this first appeal was successful and this led to his sentence being reduced. This led to his right for a second appeal to get the rest of the charges changed to not guilty as well and make him a free man. Sadly the appeal system only pays for one appeal and so his second one is being done by a charity body but could take another five years to happen, and by then he will be out.
He is now due for parole early next year but will be released on licence as his full sentence has not been served. The idea had been he would go and live over three hundred miles away from here with his birth mum, a win win all round, he gets to live in a supportive environment while he adjusts back to what will become a new normal for him and he is away from the area the alleged crime was committed in. But as he is being released on licence the council who would be involved if he went to live with his mum say they do not have the staff to work with him and so he has to stay in the catchment area of the council he was with when the crime was committed, so this means he has to stay local to us. The faraway council will re-evaluate after three months, a process that will take a minimum of eight to ten weeks before they give their decision after the three months. 
Now I turn sixty next year and since all our children are grown and flown we are used to the house to ourselves I have to admit to being set in my ways to the point of being selfish as only I matter to me now. From being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it without having to worry. If I want to sit in my chair and sleep for an hour in the afternoon then that is what I do. Whether I make my evening meal at 4.30pm or 8 at night I do it when it suits me. If I want a long lie I can have one, if I can’t sleep and decide to get up and put the television on downstairs then I do it. I work twelve hour shifts at the weekends and want to come home have a shower eat my tea and go to bed without having to bother being overly civilised to anyone other than my husband.
The dynamics all change when you have other people in the house to think about. I work shorter shifts during the week and I am use to the bathroom being empty when I decide I am ready to go for a shower, be that  6.30 am or 8.45 -  there is no set time. I am going to have to consider he will want to use the only bathroom we have.
He likes to take up to three hours to make himself a meal dirtying every pan and utensil in the kitchen to do so preventing me being laid back and go with the flow. Having to clean up behind him before I can cook for us makes me not want to cook. He will not eat anything I cook and will not cook for us so there is not even that as  an option.  
I find it very stressful to have other people in my house. I can tolerate DD2 and her toddler daughter when they visit but the two or three days they stay is long enough for me, I like my space and freedom being just a couple allows us. I am glad to see the back of them as much as I love them. Other people make a mess, they move things, they dirty things and they disrupt my life. This stresses my husband much more than it stresses me as he does not have a job and therefore no escape from others being here. Him being stressed means I get the moans and complaints and he won’t do housework or wash or iron when other people are here which means all this falls back on me. I am use to him doing the housework while I am out, it works well for us. Means I do not have to find the time to do it.
When his mum had originally phoned to ask if we would take him in she asked us to take him for two to three weeks while she sorted him out a private rent. SHE then decided with no discussion with us that she was just going to leave him here for the thirteen weeks plus however long the council takes to make their decision.  No discussions no compromise no asking how we felt about it, just the decision she had made. To land him on us for months!!!!.  To say the least I am raging about it.
 But this is where it all gets messy and difficult. I know this makes me sound terribly selfish but for me it is not knowing an end date, it has gone from the two to three weeks we agreed to and now probably a minimum of six months or even longer because if the council in her area decide they do not have enough staff to deal with him then she says she will look for a job and move down here, and that will be even more months.
I could understand the two to three weeks as it is just after Christmas and she will have no money to pay for somewhere until the end of January. Even that will depend on him getting his own money sorted as we live hand to mouth week to week and I struggle for every penny that comes in so she is going to provide him with his money for his cigarettes, alcohol and food until his money is sorted and for all she earns more than me she is not rolling in it either. If it takes longer to sort out most private rented places are let for a minimum of six months so by the time money is sorted hopefully he won’t have another six months to be down here. So that is money she is not willing to pay out if he is going to be moving in with her.
I appreciate he is going to take time to settle to being free and the rehabilitation will not be easy for him so living with somebody will make that transition smoother. My husband (his dad) has said if son moves out then he will move out with him. I do not want to give up on a twenty five year relationship but I am not sure this is not going to drive a large wedge between us anyway as we will probably end up falling out over the stresses. Husband has said if I won’t have DS1 here then he will move out and borrow the money from his sister for a rented flat.
We live remote and I need our one car for work, but DS1 will not use a bus as his mother has indulged him all his days and run him everywhere he wants to go and does anything he demands at the drop of a hat. We had him for four weeks after the crime until his mum found him a property away from the crime scene and he expected us to indulge him in the fashion he was use to, and I refuse to as I don’t have the time energy or inclination. This caused issues with husband driving me to work and then taking the car. This works fine at the weekends, apart from the extra fuel costs which I cannot afford to pick up, as I work in one place but during the week I work in the community and can be at three houses in three different areas for my working day and not having the car there to move from job to job makes my day longer and makes me unreliable as I cannot give clients a time for my arrival. I do not see why I should change my life and make it more difficult to do my day to day tasks because his birth mum has a massive guilt complex.
DS1 refuses to be left home alone so anytime we want to go shopping or walk the dog then we have to trail him everywhere with us. There will be no “two of us time” always three of us. My time off is precious to me and I just want to go do what is essential when I am off and not trail here there and everywhere else as he expects to be able  to do while he is out anyway.. I appreciate this is all going to be strange for him and it is not what he wants either and the decision is out of our hands and that he needs time to settle back into life himself.
The other dilemma this leaves me with is DD2 lives over two hours away and is due a new baby in January and we were going to go north for a few weeks afterwards to help out, but I will have to go on my own as husband won’t leave DS1 behind on his own. It also means the house will not be big enough for her to come and visit so it could be months before I get to see my new born grandchild again after I come back. I cannot justify the fuel or time costs to go to visit with the two days off I have in a week.
So I really feel I am in a no win situation and cannot see any way out as it is going to be impossible to please anybody or everybody.
DD1 says she has work he can do, she has painting and decorating needing done that will help fill some of his time.
I feel it is going to be a long Winter, would be easier if the light nights were here and we could go walking the dog till late but not easy to do in the cold dark and wet.
I appreciate this makes me sound like a bad and selfish person but I truly am dreading it.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

A visit to the Pyramids, Cairo.

Well this is probably one of the greatest construction projects in the world, ever. It took 20,000 people 20 years working 24/7 to construct the Pyramid of Khufu also known as the Great Pyramid and Pyramid of Cheops. It's the only remaining Seven Wonders of the World.

I've been fascinated by the Pyramids in Giza since I was a child, when my father visited there with work and somewhere there is a photo of him sat half way up, in the days when tourism wasn't as prolific as it is now and one was free to wander and climb. I was surprised to see we could still climb certain areas and steps had been cut into the blocks to allow us to do so.

It was a very emotional trip for me also, as I can no longer share my travel adventures with my father of places both he and I have visited separately. As with all places we visit for the first time, until we get a feel for a country that is considered dangerous for tourists, we opted to book a tour guide and transport. I wasn’t impressed with our tour, it seemed a bit rushed. There were several fees to be paid, the tour itself that collected us from the hotel, entrance fee and the choice of entering the chambers of two of the pyramids. Our guide told us there was nothing inside to see and it was hot and difficult to get in and out, but seeing as we were here we should go in the 2nd pyramid as it was cheaper.

I’m glad we took the tour though it would have been a long walk up to see the panoramic view or get a horse and carriage ride up there which didn’t appeal.

On leaving the bus stopped briefly for a quick photo of the Sphinx at which point we opted to get out the bus to spend a bit more time there and get an Uber to meet friends later. We were warned none stop that we would get harassed by vendors, but our biggest problem was locals who wanted their photo taken with us. It was time consuming only, everyone was super friendly though.

We arrived around 10am and spent about 2 hours there, there was a distinct lack of tourists, I’d expected it to be very busy.

We've visited Luxor twice now, Valley of the Kings, Karnak and Luxor temple and have been to the Louve in Paris to see many ancient relics from this period. But this is my first visit to Cairo and I’m in love.

You can see on the other construction photos I've been taking around the world and in Dubai by clicking on the links below:

Week 158 Dubai Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 161 Dubai Dubai Marina 3 years apart.
Week 163 Dubai New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Arizona and Nevada Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Dubai Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Coventry Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 Dubai New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai The new extension of the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 Dubai Hotel fire After the Address fire 
Week 171 Dubai Unusual designs The Opus Building
Week 172 Dubai District Cooling. Keeping the desert cool.
Week 173 Dubai Can I visit the Burj Al Arab
Week 174 Dubai The Almas Tower
Week 175 Dubai The Cayan Tower
Week 176 Toronto The CN Tower
Week 177 Nevada The Paris Hotel 
Week 178 Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate
Week 179 A Wedding Our first child got married
Week 180 Dubai The World's Tallest Tower
Week 181 Dubai and Wales Al Fahidi Fort and Chepstow Castle 
Week 182 Dubai New Metro Station in Al Furjan 
Week 183 Dubai Ski Dubai
Week 184 Another Wedding
Week 185 South Africa Life in a township
Week 186 Austria Ski Jump 
Week 187 Dubai Green Plant Bio Dome 
Week 188 Dubai Update on the Metro Station
Week 189 Dubai My view from the balcony changed in 8 months
Week 190 Greece Just how instagramable is it?
Week 191-192 Dubai Before and After. 3 months out of Dubai
Week 193 Dubai Building a boat in the sky
Week 194 South Africa An African Sunset
Week 195 South Africa Building with boxes Charity work in South Africa
Week 196 Another family wedding and a year of travel
Week 197 Dubai What are they building now? World Trade Centre
Week 198 Monmouth Building work in South Wales
Week 198 Dubai The cladding is going on, on the metro station
Week 199 Dubai They're building on the beaches in Dubai
Week 200 Hong Kong Building with Bamboo
Week 201 Dubai My Week as a volunteer on the European Tour