Wednesday 31 January 2018

Where are all the expats?

I've written before about meeting other expats when you move abroad and let me tell you it's not easy.

In the past 2 weeks we've met people who are moving to Dubai and they seem to be under the impression, like many before them and like many more to come, that they'll step off the plane and there will be someone stood there with a sign that reads

'Expats this way'

There's also an assumption from people who've never lived abroad that you just need to go and find the expat groups to make friends, it's easy.

Well that's easier said than done, because unless you work for an all British company (or company of your nationality) or you live in a compound that your company own. There is no such thing as an expat society.

In South Africa there were pockets of British expats and people would ask us why we chose to live in Centurion and not Lone Hill for example where the other British people lived. But when you looked into it, you realised they knew 3 or 4 other British people who just happened to live in that area, so it became a myth that, that was the British expat area. In Dubai only 21% of the population are locals, therefore everyone else is an expat and yes, we are all expats here because you can not obtain citizenship here and besides we call ourselves expats, not because we are British but because we are expatriated from our birth country for a period of time and will be returning one day, we are not migrants in search of work or immigrants who are never returning to our home country.

When we moved to South Africa, my husband was the only British employee of the company, in Dubai he is one of 2 or 3 and those other people have relocated here from other countries also. Just because they are British doesn't mean we are going to have anything in common and they have young children and their social lives and interests are very different from ours.

There are of course many other nationalities that my husband works with and we do socialise with them from time to time, but they are all much younger than us, mainly single or with small kids. Just because you're all living abroad doesn't necessarily mean you've got anything else in common.

I've been blogging recently about being bored and feeling lonely, I do have some friends here in Dubai and I quite often take the first step in arranging to meet up with others that I've formed an online friendship with. You have to remember that Dubai is a city and with city life comes traffic (lots of it) people work, have school runs etc and just popping round someones house or meeting up for coffee can quite often be a logistical nightmare here.

When we first moved abroad I joined every group going. I took advice from other expats and joined in with everything. There are numerous blog posts about joining a gym, searching face book for local groups, joining specific world wide expat groups, volunteering at your local school etc, but sometimes that is easier said than done.

In South Africa security was a big issue and meeting people online wasn't the best idea, however I did find some volunteer groups that I met life long friends through. Language can often be a big hurdle when it comes to meeting people and even now, the WhatsApp group still converse in Afrikaans from time to time, which excludes me from the conversation. It's not intentional, it just happens.

I find Dubai to be quite superficial, it's all about networking, whose husband can help who and what school your child is at, what job you do, handbag you carry and shoes you wear play a big part in making friends.

Of course that is a fairly sweeping statement to be making, but over the past few weeks, I've revisited the online expat groups throughout their websites and on facebook. Unfortunately these groups either meet in the evenings in bars as they are made up of people who work out here, or they're coffee mornings for 'Mums and tots' although I don't have any children living at home it doesn't mean to say I wouldn't have anything in common with some of these women, but I think it might look a bit dodgy if I turned up at one of their breast feeding support groups.

I've applied to join face book groups that look appealing but their community groups based on where you live and as I don't live in those estates I've been denied access to them. I do visit dog parks and play centres with my dog, I chat with my neighbours when I walk the dog several times a day and there's an open day at the local leisure centre soon I'll go along to.

There was a coffee morning near by this week, advertised as a British speaking group, 15 people attending and local. I thought I'd go along, so I went to register my interest to discover the only confirmed attendees were 15 Asian men, going by their profile pictures.

So you see it's not as easy as you think to just go and find the expat groups, but if anyone does know where these group of people are hiding, will they please let me know.

Monday 29 January 2018

Getting out of a rut and blowing my own trumpet.

If you've been reading my blog posts recently you'll notice I've been stuck in a rut and quite a negative one. I feel isolated and lonely and bored and quite frankly depressed most days.

I introduced a 9am rule to ensure I wasn't wallowing around in my pj's all day, something that happens easily when you don't work, your kids have flown the nest and you live 1000's of miles away from family and friends. I'm also taking steps to look after myself with exercise and eating better.

Having just passed the 7 year mark as expats (4 in South Africa and 3 in Dubai) you'd think I would have adjusted to life living abroad by now and got used to it, got on with it. I mean how miserable can it actually be living in the sun without a care in the world?

But I'm not an easy going person, I thrive on stress/deadlines. I had 5 kids at home, a carer, I did 2 degrees back to back (still need to finish one) I ran the local football club, sat on the PTA, had hobbies, baked and ran kids around the countryside to various activities.

When we became expats, we still had two kids at home, but I stopped working (laws in SA prevented me) I couldn't finish my degree (the OU wouldn't let me in SA) the eldest learnt to drive, there were no more school runs. I got involved with a couple of charities, I re established my identity, I made friends, I found a purpose, we got a cat and dog, the kids left home and just as I felt I was getting someone, we upped sticks and moved to Dubai, where I had to start all over again. New place, new rules, new friends, new routines.

But with the deep fear of having to give it all up again and risk everything I'd built up and move into the unknown, I've not settled into life in Dubai. I taught here for a year, but working full time and having a myriad of dramas back in the UK and with a husband who works long hours and is away a lot, I gave the job up, it wasn't working. I can't establish a routine other than back and forth to the UK.

I've tried the coffee mornings, I've met people online for coffee dates, I've made a few friends, but I know I'm keeping my distance and besides, try as I might I just can't keep my big mouth shut and can't (don't want to compete with the false world of living beyond my means to impress those who are living beyond their means.

I also find it hard it talk about the good stuff in my life, it feels like I'm bragging, showing off and besides people are much more interested in the doom and gloom anyway. In general it makes them feel a lot better about their own lives. I find people are happy to read about other people's problems but they're not so keen on actually listening to them. I also find when I talk about the positives in my life that people find it hard to understand I actually envy other peoples lives also.  I also share a lot of stuff online and I'm very open, which some people can find difficult to handle if they're more private about their feelings. Why do I share online? Because I'm lonely and I'm looking for interaction and feedback to know I'm not alone.

But for my own benefit and not to piss anyone off (if you are pissed off, deal with it) here is what is good about my life and why and what I can do to build on it. In general I tend to find when people blog/post about how wonderful their partners are or how financially secure they are, that usually there are deeper problems and that they are only fooling themselves, so here goes:

I love my husband and he loves me. We have a secure and safe relationship, where I can be me. I can scream and shout, I can cry, I can blame him for how I feel. I am safe to explore my feelings and emotions, he never holds these things against me. 

I have a good relationship with my adult children, we have regular contact and they will often come to me for help, advice and support. Usually they have already made their decisions, but they still run them past me first, this makes me happy, that they feel they can come to me without judgement.

I have a good relationship with my mother, it could be better, there are still a few hangups for both of us to let go, but since my father's death last year, on the whole I'd say I think as Mother and daughter, we've finally nailed it.

I have a handful of friends who I can trust with anything, who will and have been there for me when needed and know some of my deepest and darkest secrets. BTW hubby knows them all also.

Living as an expat allows me the luxury of not having to work, I accepted a few years ago that my career is not important to me anymore, I achieved something, I can hold a conversation about the workplace and if others want to judge or even exclude me on the basis that I don't have a job then that is their loss and they're certainly not worth my time anyway.

I have money in my pocket to do things. I can go for coffee, I can accept an invitation for dinner, I can buy new clothes, shoes, handbags if I want, when I want. I don't have to worry about saving up for Christmas. I can book a flight and hire a car when I need or want to go to the UK and not have to worry about family emergencies. I can spend money on the house and garden to make it more comfortable and enjoyable for me to spend time in. I could hire a maid if I wanted to do the boring tasks such as cleaning and ironing, but TBH, if I didn't have that to do, I'd be even more bored and I've got used to living in a show home. I'm proud of my home, I'm relaxed about hubby turning up unannounced with colleagues he's forgotten to mention are coming round for dinner or even staying the weekend.

I'm not frightened to try new things, tackle challenges head on, it doesn't mean that I don't get stressed or upset or sometimes even feel like I'm going to fail and sometimes failing. I'm getting better at asking for help and have learnt last year how to say no to people who just drain me and take and give nothing back

I am generally happy being me, with what I've achieved, how people will come to me for advice, based on my experiences in life, turn to me to get difficult things done and sometimes I actually admire myself for what I capable of doing and how I do manage under such severe pressure and stress on some occasions. I've just got to accept that being lonely isn't a bad thing, that it's ok to be bored. It's ok to do nothing, it's ok to spend the day drinking coffee and watching TV as long as I break it up with some exercise (walking the dog) and eating properly. It's ok to go out for coffee and eat lunch on my own, sit on the beach and anything else I fancy doing.

I sent this to my niece last week, I'm not one for inspirational quotes, but today it suits me also.

Are you lonely? or bored? What do you do to combat it?

Sunday 28 January 2018

Dubai Marina Then and Now

Believe it or not, these two photos were only less than 3 years apart. The top one in March 2015, the bottom one last week.

I was unable to return to the exact spot where I took the first photo as all I would have taken a photo of was a new skyscraper and I wouldn't have been able to show you the view to compare the difference, so I had to move round the next bend, but you can still see how much new development has gone on in such a short time. There's still so much more to be completed.

This year I'm focusing on Buildings and construction projects for My Sunday Photo. They will mainly be in Dubai, however I do have a lot of travel planned to the UK this year and I love visiting historical sites, castles and wandering around city centres.

If you're interested in the other construction projects I've been following you can click on the links below.

Week 158 Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.

Saturday 27 January 2018

One Daily Positive Week 4 and a tour of Dubai.

Last week I told you a little bit about myself, this week I'll introduce the children. As the year goes on they'll all feature in the blog and you'll be left wondering where these 'adults' have come from.

Child 1 and 2 are my step children, but we've all lived together since May 2000. Initially in 2 houses until Peter and I married in 2002. They consider themselves to have 3 brothers and 1 sister and refer to us as 'the parents' although the youngest calls me Suzanne, which seems to be a family trait as I always called my father by his first name and no one has any idea why.

Child 1 has profound learning disabilities, is 30 next month and she lives in a care home in the UK. Child 2 is 28 and 2a are getting married in June. Child 3 is 25 and 3a moved to Australia mid 2017 and are currently traveling and working their way around, they should be passing through Dubai in October. Child 4 is 23, joined the army and left home 4 years ago, leaving me with empty nest syndrome and a huge gap to fill. He's in the British Army and lives with 4a, when he's not deployed out in the Middle East. His medal parade takes place in March. Child 5, aged 18, lives in our flat in South Wales and finished his education in boarding school in the UK from the age of 13. He is waiting for security clearance on his first job offer.

I've included an extra photo this week so you know which one is which.
Top left Child 2 Andrew.
Top right Child 3 Jamie.
Middle right. Child 5, aka the teen, Alex.
Bottom right Child 4 Dan, 22.
Bottom left Child 1 Stephanie 30.

21 Sunday I've pretty much done all the jobs for January, was going to clean the balconies today but it's very windy, so pointless sweeping sand around. I sorted through some family photo's, tidied the rubbish from the garden, read blogs and commented and headed off to the Marina to take some up to date photo's for my theme of buildings 'now and then' for My Sunday Photo for next week.

22 Monday I had a coffee date with an instagram friend, after ironing, changing the beds, emptying the dishwasher, walking Bob, watering the garden and getting the car cleaned.

23 Tuesday Child 4 turned 24 today, there was a virtual birthday cake sent by photo and money deposited into his bank and a quick phone call. Sadly still no Skype in Dubai, it's at times like this I get upset. Peter's car needed servicing so he took mine to work and I hung around for the day, catching the train into Old Dubai and the Mall of Emirates until it was ready for collection at 5pm.

24 Wednesday I spent the day cleaning the house and some time in the garden blogging. I've been letting the cat out on a lead, she gets spooked easily with the traffic and runs back inside. I went to the pub for dinner at 7pm then some friends joined me for the pub quiz which we won.

25 Thursday I took Bob to the dog park and he went swimming after an hour of me throwing and him chasing the ball. Popped out to Ibn Battuta Mall to buy some warmer clothing for the evenings as I left all my winter clothing in the UK. In the evening we went out for dinner at The Beach and watched the fireworks that they've held every weekend for January for the Dubai Shopping Festival which comes to an end on Saturday.

26 Friday Intended to go to the beach this morning but woke up to heavy fog and Peter had arranged to spend time with a colleague who is moving to Dubai, so I joined them looking on a sightseeing tour of potential living areas. Went to Dubai Mall in the afternoon. Had invited friends to join us for a BBQ but they never replied to the message.

27 Saturday Had a call to go to the Doctors the other side of town for repeat WBC counts and was early so drank my coffee on the beach to complete the full tour of Dubai for the week. Spent the rest of the day in the garden. Peter decided we should test the garden out fully and we had a BBQ. 

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - Dubai Frame
Tweens Teens Beyond and Triumphant Tales - Why do i share so much stuff online?

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Creating a garden in the desert.

I've been gardening in Dubai for 3 years, growing a variety of things in the sand, from plants to fruit and vegetables from seed with varying successes. You can read more about my efforts at gardening and places I visit, in the Gardening tab by clicking here.

We moved house in December 2017 and all we had was a sand pit, patio and 2 steps down. Part of our rental agreement was to landscape the garden.

A couple of weeks after moving in and unpacking, I started paying attention to the neighbours gardens and I knocked on a few doors to ask if I could have a closer look. Everyone was keen to show me their designs, share their experiences and pass on contact numbers.

Once we'd settled on a contractor we were happy with I provided him with a simple design, agreed on a price, paid half up front for materials and he promised the job would be done in 5 days. 3 days later the work was complete and we were happy with it, so we opted to contract him to erect a fence as we were concerned that Bob may be able to jump the wall and to date we'd been unable to leave him unsupervised in the garden.

I explored the options for fencing, I wasn't keen with what the neighbours had erected, the full fence panels aren't actually permitted, the bamboo looks tacky as does the garden canes with artificial flowers and the other style of fencing wasn't that much cheaper than what we opted for.

Having priced up fence panels (there aren't many options in Dubai and they've very pricey) the contractor said he would make, paint and install them in a week and I'm pleased to say not only did he stick to price, design and deadline, but all the mess was cleaned up and all I had left to do was put the plants in we'd brought from the previous house and purchased from a local nursery.

The garden is finished now, plants are in, the grass is suffering a bit with Bob using it to pee on and the water pressure is low making watering a longer job than need be.

The cat has enjoyed her time in the garden on a lead with her new dog harness (she's a big cat).

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Why do I share so much stuff online?

This was something Peter and I were discussing this weekend. It's simple really. I can go days without speaking to another human being, other than a phone call twice a day with Peter when he is travelling or a shop assistant when I purchase a coffee.

I have no one to share things with.

I 'speak' to my mum several times most days and to at least one of the kids daily, but this speaking is in the form of the written word since Skype was blocked the beginning of this month.

Peter said it was the same for him, he only has me out here in Dubai and he doesn't feel the need to share what he does on a daily basis online. I reminded him he goes to work everyday, he's in an office where people will ask about his plans for the weekend or what he did this weekend, they will ask after me, the kids, the animals, how we've settled into the new house. Me? I don't have that.

I have a couple of friends who I occasionally spend time with, but not on a regular basis. Yes I could make more of an effort, but one works and the other is always busy with various activities and I sort of feel that I get slotted into their lives, rather than them choosing to spend time with me. It's not the kind of friendships where you just pop in or pick up the phone and say 'hi, you coming round for coffee?'

I have several social media accounts, 2 face book pages. One Daily Positive where I post a photo a day and link up with a weekly post with Project 365. I've just started my 4th year doing this. I started it to make sure I got out of the house every day and initially used photo prompts that encouraged me to explore Dubai after a recent move there. Chickenruby is linked to my Instagram account and I basically post photos on there which link to twitter also of anything and everything that catch my attention, make me smile, wind me up, tell a short story or just because. I tend not to use twitter too much these days, but pop over there from time to time and catch up with a few people. I also use facebook for connecting with family and friends back in the UK and around the world, but more for commenting, messaging and I post on there maybe only once a week.

However I blog 3-4 times a week and like everything else, I go by the name of Chickenruby, so called as I used to have a chicken called Ruby.

A long time ago I made the decision to only put on my blog what I get up to, hence my blog is all about me.
From time to time this has caused some discussion amongst family members ‘what about me? Are we not important in your life?
Well of course they all are. I’m a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, friend amongst many other things. A lot of what I do in life involves being one or many of the above. It also means a lot of what happens to me and what I do involves other people. Mostly my husband, my children and my mother.

I have a lot going on in my life right now and I'm not coping very well with it, physically and mentally. I had pneumonia all through the summer, autumn and now into the winter. My dad died last summer and I'm still struggling with this. My health is holding me back, I'm still doing stuff, getting stuff done, dealing with day to day life, even going to the pub in the evenings, but I'm slow, breathless and struggling physically.

There's an awful lot going on in my life and as usual I blog about it. I blog about parenting and my travels and adventures with my dog Bob. But I blog about what I get up to, how the above affects me, what I'm doing to support the teen with finding a job, helping my mum with selling her home and buying a new flat, about dealing with my health, about how my kids moving abroad has affected my life,

I try not to blog about what other people are doing that causes me grief, about their actions or lack of actions affects me, how their crisiticisms of what I'm doing or not doing hurt me. How they feel I waltz in and take over, how they will tell me how I make them feel, how I upset them, how I don't take their feelings into account, how I could just buy the teen a car, how the teen in their opinion isn't making anough of an effort, but if I tell them how their actions and words are in my opinion making things worse, how their solutions are easy to say but not actually practiable, they get hurt and upset and it just makes all the above worse and harder for me to cope with.

I know I choose to live abroad, but others choose to live where they do also, and whilst I dont critise their choice of where to live, I feel they critise my choice of where I choose to live my life. Whilst I've had a whole world of opportunities opened up for me, I also feel that when they say as 'one door closes another one opens' that for me it feels like 'as one door opens and I go through it, it then closes firmly behind me and I have no choice to go back, only to move on and I'm not always comfortable with going forward into to the unknown.

So basically I share stuff online to interact, to get a response, for feedback that I'm actually doing ok, for contact with the outside world. I can't just pop in to see people, but I can spam their timelines with what I'm up to.

Why do you share what you do online?

Sunday 21 January 2018

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.

Saturday 13 January 2018

One Daily Positive Week 2

I'm fighting boredom and if I'm honest loneliness also. If I don't acknowledge it, I get depressed. Dubai isn't like the UK, regardless of nationality, people just don't strike up conversations and friendships here, they don't just pop round with an invite and meeting up for coffee is like pulling teeth. do I keep sending whatsapp's, rearranging when they cancel last minute, it gets embarrassing.

Anyway I've spent most of this week on my own, with Peter working in Saudi. I've got an awful lot of stuff done and believe it or not I've actually been out the house house everyday, with the dog or on my own. Had lunch with a friend, visited the dog park, pub quiz with different friends,and several coffees (on my own).

7 Sunday The start of the working week in Dubai, did the washing and some cleaning and tidying up. Cycled to the local shops for a coffee, have fixed my panniers on my bike which means I don't have to take the car out as much.

8 Monday I got so much done today I almost completed my 'to do' list for the whole of the month, dropped Peter at the airport at 5am and worked non stop all day till 5pm when I had a bath and was in bed by 7pm. It rained during the night.

9 Tuesday Bad news day. But first I'd had a lovely morning, visited the dog park with Bob, lunch with a friend and a visit to the garden centre and I bought stamps.

10 Wednesday Spent the morning in the garden blogging, having breakfast and drinking tea. I ordered a cat gym for Pushkins last night from Souq Amazon and it arrived by 10am. Went out for coffee and wrote some letters, did some sewing in the afternoon and out to the pub quiz in the evening.

11 Thursday My 9am rule went out the window as I didn't wake up till 8.45am. I started cleaning the house, but it took most of the day as I hadn't got myself dressed, ready for the day. Not a good day all round for me. I took myself out for a coffee and wrote some more letters, but my heart just isn't in doing anything right now, did a food shop, had a bath and watched TV in bed. The fence panels were delivered to be erected over the weekend.

12 Friday Peter arrived home in the early hours. We went to Dubai Marina for breakfast and a walk. and just chilled out at home in the afternoon.

13 Saturday We watched with interest as the fence started to go up, it'll be finished by tomorrow, popped out for a coffee and stocked up the booze cupboard in Abu Dhabi. Beef in the slow cooker all day and looking forward to a full roast later on this evening.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo and this year I'm focusing on buildings. The building of the Dubai Eye.
Animal Tales and PoCoLo Moving home in Dubai with Pets
Tweens, Teens, Beyond. Triumphant Tales and new linky Best boot Forward My 9am rule to beat the boredom

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Moving Home in Dubai Part 5 - Pets

When we moved from the UK to South Africa, we had to re home our Chicken called Ruby and just incase you wondered where my blog title came from, now you know.

Our move within South Africa involved a cat, who had adopted us 6 weeks prior to the move, as we were staying within the estate and had advertised the cat far and wide for it's owners we took the cat with us and she stayed.

When we left South Africa 3 years ago we had a dog also and we moved out of our house 2 weeks before we left the country as our furniture was shipped. We kept the cat and dog in the property and returned during the day to the estate to be with them. The night before our departure we caged the cat just in case she decided that would be the day to disappear.

On arrival in Dubai, we were unable due to problems with our visas to move into our new home for around 10 weeks as we couldn't get our furniture released from the port, so for the first month, one of the kids camped out with the cat and dog in the new villa over night and I spent the day time there. After 6 weeks, the kids returned to the UK. By this time the cat had been let out and was coming and going through the kitchen window and I came to the house every day.

For this move across Dubai, we decided to put the cat at the vets for a week while we moved and we booked the dog into day care while the doors were left open as we were moving out and into the new property to stop him escaping and in general whilst the removal guys were comfortable around the dog, many nationalities and individuals are frightened and often won't enter a property until you've reassured them that the dog is not only locked in a room but does not have access to a key or can use a handle to get out a room.

Poor Bob didn't know if he was coming or going the first few nights, we located a space for his bed and food and water and that will not be moved, his routine of walks, feeding and bedtime stayed the same, but obviously he was unsettled and kept getting under our feet as we moved boxes.
We had to keep a close eye on his toilet habits as when he's new a new environment, such as on holiday or when he goes into boarding while we travel, he often won't poo for 2-3 days.

The plan was to keep the cat inside for the first few weeks, which is a shame as the weather is perfect to let her wander freely outside now. Once she got used to the house and we'd fenced the garden in we had planned to let her out. For now she just sits at the windows staring longingly at the outdoors.

Sadly the road we've chosen to live on is not as quiet as we'd hoped for and as they'll still building houses here, it's being used, often at speed at night, as a short cut across to access a dessert patch of land to the highway, while the new roads are being built.

There are already quite a few stray cats in this area and I've seen a couple of people walking their dogs. Sadly the local mall isn't pet friendly so there will be no taking Bob with me for coffees, but there are plenty of places and routes to walk him and I've enrolled him in a local 'stay and play' facility where I can get a coffee and meet other dog owners.

The cat has been displaying some strange behaviour, randomly attacking the dog, me and furniture, as well as hiding. She is obviously stressed.

So I've been giving her a lot more time and attention and playing with her more and she has settled quickly into her normal routine.