Tuesday 27 February 2018

Living with an empty nest.

You might see this title and think, yep that's me, my kids have flown the nest, or you think, this will be me in a few years, but I bet most of you are counting down the days thinking you can't wait till the kids leave home.

I'll then take a guess at the ages of your children. In their mid to late 20's and older. 15-18 year olds or pre school children.

That's usually the response I get, from the parents of kids who are those ages, when I say I have an empty nest.

But what surprises most people is my age and the age of my youngest child.

I'm 46 and my last chick flew the nest in 2014. But it wasn't my youngest child. My youngest child was 13 when he left home to go to boarding school in the UK, as were living in South Africa. We're now in Dubai and as he turned 18 last year, he didn't join us, he's opted to stay in the UK and seek work there. You can read more in the Daily Mail about my experience as a mum of a child in boarding school (scroll to the last interview)

My kids also haven't gone to University, the eldest two boys left home aged 18 and moved away with their career in the army and in the hotel industry. The next child left aged almost 19 to pursue his career in the army also. There has been a clean cut off point, no coming and going over a period of a few years, just there one day as kids and the next off into the big wide world as adults.

I noticed some huge changes within a week of the being an empty nester there was fuel in the car and change in my purse. 2 months on and I was enjoying myself, days of 'me time' and no agenda, I could do what I wanted when I wanted.

Then it went all downhill, but we moved countries and life just got complicated in a different way, I didn't adjust to life in Dubai, I didn't want to invest all my time to have the rug pulled from under my feet when we moved on again. I blamed the children for not being here, for being able to use them to make friends, to get to know more about what was going on and the best places to meet people. I blamed everything on empty nest syndrome until right now, as I was writing this post (which is now a week a go) It's been 4 years since my last chick flew the nest.

I don't have an empty nest anymore, I just just have a new phase in my life that I need to learn to enjoy.

Monday 26 February 2018

Taking things for granted

I pretty much just do what I want on a daily basis. Peter is in work and I'm home alone, dog parks, lunch or coffee with friends, a bike ride or just stay in. I do the cleaning, food shopping and plan our evenings and weekends, whether we're going out, staying in and what we're going to do. Outside of this, I discuss with my husband my travel plans to visit family and friends to the UK, with the bulk of my trips covering the summer period, as leaving the house when it's nearly 50c is quite a challenge. Peter's work trips take priority and sometimes it means we can go 3-4 months without physically seeing each other. We also book my trips around family events, sadly sometimes this also includes family ill health and funerals.

Although I was due to fly to the UK last week, I ended up returning a week earlier for my ex SIL's funeral, my Uncle is also very ill in hospital after a fall and a heart attack, my father died suddenly last year and I've been in poor health since last June and have been seeing an oncologist who wants to run bone marrow tests once she's sorted out an iron deficiency.  However when I'm in the UK all of a sudden I have to adapt my fairly solitary life to accommodating others and it's a big change for me, I can't be away for several months and then just slot back in. My life moves in a different way, living as an expat and whilst I realise other people's lives are different to mine, they have little understanding of how hard it is for me to come home and just fit back in without a few hiccups.

Since last summer, there's been so much going on, that I've actually come to realise that while I don't take life for granted, I do sometimes take life too seriously and I worry too much about events that are out of my control. By control I don't mean I want or need to be in control or have to know everything that is going on, I mean things happen around me that I have had no influence on that have a direct effect on my emotional well being, such as other people's ill health and the loss of loved ones.

I feel sometimes that I'm the one taken for granted, that I'm always available, that I'll always help out. Yet when I say I need help, I'll often hear people say 'no one knows how to help you' I think I'm fairly good at saying 'I need....' or 'I'd like....' but it falls on death ears.

There's a lot of stuff I've been able to let go of since my father died, I've realised life is too precious to spend it being wound up over the silly stuff. However the 'silly stuff' still needs to be dealt with, people and things still need to be dealt with, I'm just handling them differently. You want my help from now on, you ask for it, but it doesn't always mean I'll be able to help, want to help, or have the time to help. I've started saying 'No' without explanation or without feeling like I need to offer one either.

I'm not going to allow myself to be taken for granted anymore, I'm not going to allow other people to project their issues onto me, I'm not going to let other people make me feel guilty for saying No anymore.

So if it's not important to you to get a card to me for my birthday, then I'll follow your lead and assume you won't mind if I don't send you one either. If I'm always calling and messaging you and you never initiate the contact even just to say 'thanks for the flowers or gift' that I send at considerable expense, then I won't send you anything anymore and you just won't hear from me, because when was the last time you gave me a gift for me to contact you to say thanks?

I'm not changing who I am, I'm just going to stop adapting to everyone else's needs and I'm going to look after my needs instead. I('m wasting my time telling people how I feel, so I'll just start treating them the same way instead and I'll stop letting people take me for granted.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes

Work started on the Dubai Opera House in April 2013. The first photo was taken in January 2016, shortly before it was was completed in August of that year.

The second photo is the completed Opera House, taken from a different angle, as when I started photographing projects in Dubai, I had no idea how the rate that the City would be growing when we moved here just over 3 years ago.

You can see the rest of my Construction 'before and after' photos of Dubai and around the world and buildings of interest I've photographed 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.
Week 163 New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Hoover Dam

Saturday 24 February 2018

One Daily Positive Week 8

Had a few close calls in the car hire. Went round a mini round about the wrong way, keep stalling it as it's manual, waiting for the pump attendant to fill the tank up and honked my horn in frustration, have been told off for undertaking, driving too close and flashing lights to make cars move out my way. It takes a fair bit of adjusting to driving back in the UK from Dubai. My biggest problem is I keep getting in the wrong side of the car and sitting there like a lemon trying to work out what I've done wrong. The centre console is on the left rather than the right also, and I keep trying to change gears using the door handle.

49 Sunday Took Mum to Newport for a bit of shopping and visited Uncle Tim in hospital, followed by cooking a Sunday roast for Mum, child 4 and 5 and making a picture board for Christine's funeral.

50 Monday Waited in for BT to connect Mum's new line but had to cancel as they weren't coming till nearer 1pm, so went to wish my niece a happy 7th birthday and we all had cake with Thing 1, 2 and 3. The afternoon was Christine's funeral. Such a sad occasion with child 4 & 5 carrying her coffin along with their dad, uncle, and their 2 cousins. One of them Steve her son. Beth paid a lovely tribute to her Mother and we all had a chance to catch up afterwards. I spent the evening with a friend.

51 Tuesday The boiler in the Malvern House we rent out broke down over the weekend and the agents called an emergency plumber, so cross, we have a home care agreement to cover these things, anyway I'm now out of pocket and an engineer has been booked for next Tuesday to replace the fan. Child 4 and I loaded up the car with 15 archive boxes of my Dad's stamp collection and drove up to Warwick where we've left them for a valuation for sale, then we had lunch before I left him at Birmingham Airport. Only 16 days till I fly over to Belfast to see him again. I'm sleeping at my Mum's as the teen has taken over the 1 bed flat I purchased 18 months ago as my bolt hole, somewhere to switch off and relax and get away from the stresses of life. I shall be so glad when his security clearance comes through and we can get him moved for his new job.

52 Wednesday visited my niece and ex MIL and helped them press some flowers from the funeral wreath to preserve for her Mother's memory, we'll turn them into bookmarks, cards etc. Saw another ex SIL for a catch up, did see a bit of her last summer when MIL was in hospital. Visited my nephew and we called in to see see child 2 and 2a who live literally over the road.

53 Thursday spent the day tidying and cleaning the flat, sorting stuff for sale, charity and the tip. Met a friend for coffee, had a long soak in the bath and an early night.

54 Friday Breakfast with a friend and the twins. Kath was my mum's neighbour, before my dad died, and she looked after me and the teen while the paramedics worked in vain the night my father collapsed, we've stayed in touch and have become good friends. Went to visit my Uncle in The Royal Gwent in the afternoon with Mum.

55 Saturday The teen and I went to visit child 1 and had a walk round Gloucester, called in at friends on the way back, cooked lasagna for dinner and went to the pub.

On the blog this week:
My Sunday Photo - The Hoover Dam 2002-2010
TriumphantTales and PoCoLo - Positives of Expat Life

One daily Positive Week 7 from Dubai to the UK


I had a plan this week of things I needed to do before travelling to the UK on Friday, which went right out the window when a) my migraine followed me over into Sunday and b) I lost the blog post and had to start all over again. So the plan this week involves Dr's (no surprise there) nail bar and hair cut, dog park, bath Bob, wash all his bedding, wash human clothes and iron, pack suitcase, meet friends for coffee, drink coffee, print photo's, clean house and food shop.

42 Sunday was spent mostly in bed, took my 2nd and last dose of migraine meds, followed by eating Mcdonalds and chocolate and drinking coke. It really does work for me. In the evening I drove Peter to the airport, he's off to Pakistan and then a minor miracle occurred, I took his car to the testing centre and was in and out in 25 mins with the vehicle renewed for the upcoming year. Went to bed at 10pm.

43 Monday I didn't wake till 8.30am, dressed, walked Bob and met an Instagram friend for coffee, although that may not have happened as we have no Instagram proof, did some washing, blogging and packed my suitcase for my trip on Friday.

44 Tuesday morning Peter arrived home and I headed off to My 2nd Home with Bob for his weekly run off the lead, did some more ironing and hung around waiting to take Peter back to the airport for his trip to Saudi called in at Ikea on the way back, geez it was busy and the roads...... more sad news from the UK. Dad's best friend had a fall and is in ICU. Tim grew up with my dad and him and his wife Pat have always been Uncle and Aunty to me and their children treated as cousins. Pat died a few years ago.

45 Wednesday I dropped Bob at Paw Parking, for his bath and doggy day care, went to get my hair cut and nails done, Doctors for yet another blood test and called into see a friend, collected Bob, who smells divine, washed all his dog bedding, cooked dinner and bed.

46 Thursday Peter arrived home in the early hours and went into the office late in the morning. I cleaned the house from top to bottom and had my photo's developed and did a food shop for Peter whilst I'm away. I had the choice to dine anywhere in Dubai this evening and I picked Mcdonalds. I couldn’t be doing with the traffic and getting dressed up.

47 Friday an early trip to the airport and a 7 hour flight into Birmingham, collected the car hire and drove straight to see my nephew and niece, arriving late at my mums. I had chips for my tea.

48 Saturday I collected child 4 and back to see my nephew and niece. Popped in to see 2 and 2a on route.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - The new Metro line for Expo 2020
Best Boot Forward - Taking water for granted

Tuesday 20 February 2018

The positives of life abroad

The trouble is, no one is really interested in the good stuff in life, it doesn't make for good reading/viewing. It's rare to find the newspapers full of positive stories, it's rare for 'soaps' to focus on positive things, usually everything is tinted with doom and gloom and even if there is a success story or something good to report, there's always 2-3 negative stories to run in the background.

A few weeks ago I decided to write about the positives in my life. I've been stuck in rut for so long now, with ill health and surrounded by the death of so many family and friends in the past 8 months, that I decided I needed to shift the focus and even if I didn't attract many readers or comments, that wasn't the point. My blog is for me, it's for me to reflect on and to keep a record of our lives abroad as expats.

I don’t like living in Dubai, it’s too hot, it’s a city and I’m ready to come home. But I don’t dislike Dubai. I didn’t feel safe in South Africa but I was heartbroken to leave. Both countries have caused stress in the terms of relocation, but that was due to poor management of the move. I feel isolated and lonely so far away from my family and friends.

But there are some benefits to living abroad and they will vary from different countries.
We had housing, cost of living, car and medical allowances in both countries, I could work in Dubai, I did for a year, but due issues with my health and having our children not living here, I now choose not to and accept that I won't be resuming my career while I'm here. Of course salaries are tax free in Dubai, the cost of living has risen in the past 3 years since we've been here but we live more than comfortably here, but I do shop around for bargains, it's a good habit to have regardless of the bank balance.

In South Africa, we just about broke even when we left, financially it was a struggle with the poor exchange rate, we were paid in local currency, sending back money to the UK for school fees, paying the mortgage, evicting tenants from hell. But we had so much fun, so many opportunities and so many visitors. We had the 2 youngest kids living with us, we saw wildlife in it's natural environment, we camped in Kruger National Park and in the Drakensburg Mountains, we also camped in a township, we caught the Shosoloza Meyl from Joburg to Cape Town, we drove north of Durban, where we experienced a whale watching trip that was out of this world. We drove the entire coast line of SA, the Garden Route, saw penguins on the beach and visited Namaqualand.

In Dubai, life has been very different, there's not so many places to explore here, but we've managed to save some money, we're no longer paying school fees, our UK mortgage is almost finished and we've had good tenants for the past few years, we bought a flat in South Wales so we have a base to stay when we visit family (although the teen is currently living in it, but where else would he have gone) we have the financial freedom to travel back to the UK when we need or want to, hire cars to make it easier to get around and not rely on the same people over and over and to be able to pay for boarding for the cat and dog while we take our trips.

In general our lives have been enriched from living abroad, our two youngest children benefited from living abroad also, meeting new people, gaining new skills, travel opportunities. Our other children, family and friends have had the opportunity also to expand their travel experiences by visiting us and accompanying us on many trips. We're better financially prepared for our retirement and future, we've funded the two youngest children with private education, we're able to provide support and security for all our children should they need it, although they don't actually ask for it. We've gained a wealth of knowledge we can share with family and friends, if they want to share from our experiences.

Living abroad has given us the desire to try just about anything, despite having all the same fears about trying new things, we know there's always a solution and most things can be overcome with a bit of advance planning and a bit more money in the bank.

But remember when we started on this journey, experiences and finances were something we didn't have to learn from and fall back on.

Sunday 18 February 2018

Hoover Dam Bridge. Old and New

As I'm in the UK at the moment, I thought I'd take a visit back to Las Vegas to show you another engineering feat that I was fortunate enough to have documented over a couple of years and that was the construction of the new road bridge diverting traffic away from the Hoover Dam.

Construction of the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge began in 2003 with the approach roads, the bridge itself in 2005 and opened on October 19th 2010. It spans the Colorado River between the states of Arizona and Nevada at a cost of $240 million.

At 900ft (270 m) above the Colorado River it is the World's highest concrete arch bridge.

For this project the first photo is from a print in the days before I had a digital camera. 

4th September 2002

30th August 2007

 27th September 2008

21st  October 2010

 The view of the Hoover Dam from the new bridge.

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.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Spa day for Dogs in Dubai with Paw Parking.

This is Bob. #BobTheDog. He is almost 8 and lives in Dubai with his two humans Suzanne and Peter and his not so friendly cat, Pushkins.

Both Bob and Pushkins are from South Africa and travelled to Dubai with us when we made the move here in December 2014.

Bob was rescued from the SPCA and has lived with us since May 2012.

Bob has adapted well to life in Dubai, sadly there is no where for him to run free other than in doggy day care, which we visit at least once a week. There are many indoor facilities in Dubai and a couple with outdoor space and swimming pools. Bob does however enjoy his twice daily walks as it's winter here, but when it gets too hot, we'll be spending more time in doggy day care.

When Peter and I travel aboard Bob doesn't mind his time away from us, however when I'm at home he follows me from room to room.

We moved house in December and until last month our garden was just a sand pit, making it difficult to bath Bob and he was getting rather smelly, so I've been taking him along to Paw Parking, where he can play with other dogs and have his much needed bath and get his nails clipped.

Here's Bob enjoying one of his baths, a rub down and a pedicure.

I'm not affiliated in anyway with Paw Parking, I'm just impressed with their facilities, staff, friendliness, prices, range of events and interaction on social media. I'm also very pleased that they are opening boarding facilities for cats from the beginning of March.

Monday 12 February 2018

Taking water for granted

We currently live in Dubai, at sea level with no natural river bodies or oases, there are multiple gorges and waterholes at the base of the Western Al Hajar mountains. The annual rainfall is 35 millimetres  Therefore ALL our water here is desalinated.

With 70% of the World covered with water only 3% of it is classed as drinking water without needing to be processed.

Prior to leaving the UK we lived in Malvern, home to natural spring water, that we used to collect in bottles to drink. Sadly the spring water became infected with bacteria and now it is advised that this water also should be boiled before drinking.

We've travelled far and wide and have always followed the advice for drinking local water, avoiding ice cubes and fruits with high water content such as melons and cucumbers. But we've never worried about bathing or cleaning our teeth. On a camping trip in Canada in 2015, we boiled the water from the lakes in Algonquin to drink, but not to brush our teeth. In Luxor last year we completely forgot about whether we should ask if the water was safe to drink and on family holidays to Turkey and Tunisia in the past decade, we spent the first few days telling the kids not to drink from the tap, but then we just gave up and no one got ill. The only times I've ever been ill due to poor hygiene was on a camping trip in 2000 when I contracted meningitis during a very wet and muddy April and from many visits to townships in South Africa where I was given food at facilities I visited and it would've been considered very rude to have turned it down, despite there being no water let alone refrigeration. 

Our only real problem we've ever had with water is the taste and the temperature. In Dubai in summer, the water was coming out the cold tap at over 40c, so we bought bottled water to use in a water cooler. We've moved house now, and our water tank is under the ground, rather than on the roof, but we're still using the bottled water for the kettle and cold drinks, why? because the tap water here tastes different, a bit woody. When I travel back to the UK I notice the tap water tastes different depending on what part of the country I'm visiting. The water from the tank on the roof or when it's not been used for a while does comes out the tap brown.

Water temp left from the hot water tank that is insulated and the temp on the right from the cold water tap in summer.

We lived in South Africa for 4 years in Pretoria. Currently in Cape Town they are facing the water being switched off in April/May due to the fact that they will run out completely by then, due to lack of rainfall in that part of the country and currently residents are restricted to 49 litres per person per day. I have no idea how much water Peter and I use per day, we don't think about it, despite living in a desert, because we have such good infrastructure here.

Many parts of South Africa go without water on a daily basis, having worked with children's charities in Gauteng and Bushbuckridge near Kruger National park, I've seen first hand how hard communities have struggled without access to water on a daily basis without relying on government water trucks delivering supplies to townships or people having to walk several miles a day to get fresh water. Families getting ill from drinking river water, not being able to keep themselves clean and washing clothes in rivers and streams often highly polluted.

In a world where most of us take water for granted, I think it's time we thought a bit more about our natural resources and what we can all do to reduce the amount of water we use. It might seem a bit extreme in a developed country to think we'd ever run out of water but all one has to do is think about Cape Town being the first city in the world to face having it's water run out in 2018.

Sunday 11 February 2018

New Metro Line for Expo 2020

Expo 2020 is coming to Dubai, so what are they doing to help people get there once they arrive here from all around the world? They're building a new line of the driverless train to reach Expo 2020 and it happens to be running right through the new area we've moved to in Al Furjan, the South of the City. They're constructing it up the middle of the road running from an existing station at Nakheel, which is near the Marina and the whole line will be completed in January 2019.

October 2017

February 2018

The last section of this piece of line is being lowered into place this week and as I'm off to the UK on Friday for a month, I expect on my return there will be further developments to the station they're building in the left of the picture. Having a station so close will be fantastic as it means even in the middle of summer when temps near 50c, I will be just about able to manage the short walk over there and will be able to access the whole of Dubai on public transport, from the beach to the Creeks to the World's largest Mall.

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 10 February 2018

One Daily Positive Week 6 Tour Dubai and Jebal Jais

And so we go around again.

I had so much stuff to sort this week. 2 flights from Dubai to the UK return for Peter. Change my flight to the UK and book a return from the UK to get back in time for child 4 and 4a to visit us, book car hire, 2 flights from Birmingham to Belfast and accommodation to visit child 4 and 4a first. Sort out buildings insurance for our rental property in the UK and email copies to agents and mortgage company. Arrange car insurance for Peter's car in Dubai and his vehicle renewal, book boarding for the cat and dog and make some medical aid claims for previous Doctors visits. Both me and the credit card are physically and mentally exhausted this week.

35 Sunday started with a house inspection, that turned out to be a full maintenance check of the property and the cat taking root under the oven, followed by a trip to take a photo and called in at a friends for cake. It is also child 1's 30th birthday today and child 4 and 4a went for Christmas dinner with my niece whose birthday it is also.

36 Monday I spent the day at home, the dog had 3 walks out of boredom, the cat spent most of the day on the balcony. I caught up with blog posts, did the ironing and sorted through photo's of my SIL to take back for my niece and nephew and I cycled to the coffee shop. I updated mum's address in my book, didn't see the need to cross dad's name out.

37 Tuesday another Dr's appointment, more antibiotics and I got caught in the first day of the Tour Dubai Cycle Race. Not complaining it's great to see some of the world's greatest cyclists/athletes in action while I'm going about my daily business.

38 Wednesday I met my friend for coffee at the Mariana for breakfast and a walk on the beach, I wasn't in the best of moods and on the way home via the supermarket I was sick, must be the meds. Had a sleep and felt much better in the evening, but spent the rest of the day in bed.

39 Thursday Foggy start to the day and Bob and I headed off to My Second Home for a run round for an hour, back home, some gardening, brushed the cat, changed the bed, washing and dusted, the house was full of sand.

40 Friday I woke up and felt like crap, every bone in my body ached, including the ones inside my head, if that makes any sense. Spent the day in bed until 2pm then Peter took Bob and I to a valentines day party at Paw Parking just for an hour, then it was straight back to bed.

41 Saturday I'm so over being ill all the time, although I'm not actually physically ill, just got a cough and feel very tired with every bone in my body aching. It's not stopping me doing anything, it's just slowing me down. Woke with a migraine. Peter had been wanting to go for a drive into the mountains so I decided what the heck I can sleep in the car and see something else other than the 4 walls of the house.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - More construction in Dubai, the new road layout for the Dubai Water Canal, before and after.
Going Green - Recycling in Dubai and South Africa 
Tweens Teens Beyond - Writing letters and communicating the old fashioned way
Triumphant Tales and PoCoLo - Poor customer service
Best Boot Forward - Stop procrastinating and getting things done
Letter to a stranger - Do you ever worry that you post too much online?

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Poor Customer Service and getting results online.

I'm getting increasingly fed up with up.

The last few times I've had a problem with major organisations and companies, I've followed the correct procedures, emailed the dedicated customer service team and waited for their response. Failing to get a response, where possible I've visited the relevant department and finally taken to Social Media, had an immediate response and the matter has been resolved within 24 hours.

Why have a customer service email and procedure to follow on a website when all you need to do is complain on twitter?

It irks me and it's not fair on people who don't use social media or have access to the internet and have to resort to being fobbed off over the telephone, after pressing a combination of buttons and being put on hold at considerable expense or being fobbed off face to face or even worse waiting for a reply via the postal system.

I visited several branches to obtain a deposit after a house move at the 'happiness centre' I left in tears on more than one occasion after being told all the paperwork they told me to have was incorrect and in the bank had a complete meltdown when i was made to obtain a ticket and queue 3 separate times to complete my banking needs and was in the branch for over an hour, as I had to see people in 3 different departments to change address and print a statement.

Living in Dubai I'm constantly comparing between here and the UK, whilst I find the above works pretty much the same in both countries, what I find different about Dubai is the service in the stores.

There appears to be an assumption in Dubai that all customers must be followed around the stores, closely by a sales assistant, muttering at you the entire time, taking your purchases off you and trying to get you to the counter or leading away from what you're looking at to show you something better and usually more expensive. This is for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, if they assist you with a sale, they may get commission on your purchase, secondly, if they're seen not to put packing your bags and serving you at break neck speed, then their manager will tell them off for not helping and thirdly because they think it's what we want or in some cases demand.

For me it feels rushed, I feel like I'm suspected of shop lifting. I like to browse. I may pick up several items to compare and then decide which one or two I would like to purchase. I might like to pack my own bags as I don't want potatoes put on top of bread or meat in with fruit or one item per plastic bag as I've actually brought my own bags with me.

Quite often though it is assumed you don't actually know what you want or what you are doing so they assume what you want and take over leading you down an avenue to purchase something you don't actually want or need. I don't speak any other language other than English and I'm pretty much in awe of people who do speak other languages, but often things get lost in translation or people just don't listen and it's difficult to get them to stop and work out what you are actually asking for without shouting at them to stop and listen.

But what irritates me the most is when I go into a relatively empty store, have dealt with most of the above and as I put something back on a rail or a shelf, before my hand has even left the object, the staff are right by your side, tidying it and lining it back up with perfection, making you feel like you're just an inconvenience and all it makes me want to do is leave the store and ruffle their window display as I exit.

Change is a big issue also for me as in no one ever has any and they think it's ok just to give you the receipt, since the introduction of VAT in January, unless the total is a round number, I'm no longer using cash and am paying by card, as I estimate I can save 2-3 dirhams a day which can add up to quite a considerable saving every year.

In Dubai there are 3 coins.

1 dirham
50 fils
25 fils

Prices are not set where it is possible to give exact change so a lot of rounding is done, if you pay by bank card you'll be deducted the 67 fils, if you pay by cash, they'll take 50 fils and let you off the rest.
Although sometimes if the total is 10.67 and you give them 11 dhs, you'll not get the change.

The cash machine dispenses large notes in denominations of 100, 200, 500 and 1000, yet the shops rarely have change for you. I was turned away from Boots trying to buy an 11 dhs packet of sanitary pads in an emergency and due to the fact I was using a UK bank card at the time I'd withdrawn 1000 dhs to save on costs and it came out the machine in 1 note. 

They will often force customers to use a bank card for small purchases, which is ok for me as I have a local card, but for a tourist, the charges can often cost more than the product.

A lot of companies are now charging VAT on products and services purchased prior to it's introduction earlier this month and it's causing a lot of arguments. We purchased a service agreement for Peter's car last year, there are 3 services left. At the time of purchase they were aware that VAT would be introduced, yet they waited until January 1st to ask for payment on all remaining services. Now in my mind that is not acceptable. It may be correct, but large organisations should in the name of good customer service, absorb these costs for their customers and only charge the VAT on newly purchased services. They're also trying to do it with gym memberships, purchased last year. Many companies have also taken the opportunity to increase their prices. At the car wash I was informed the price increase was due to the added 5% VAT, but in December the cost was 25 dirhams, now it is 36.75 dirhams, meaning a price increase of 10 dirhams for the same service, yet they're trying to tell me it's only gone up because of the added VAT.

I was denied access to speak with the manager at the garage, I called head office who informed me I had to speak to the manager, I called customer services who informed me I had to speak with the manager and despite telling them both no one made any effort on the desk to ask the manager to speak to me, they just then quoted the law about VAT at me on a loop till eventually I was forced to pay it as the garage refused to hand my car back to me until I did.

That is poor customer service and we will not be renewing the service agreement with them.

Do you have experiences with poor customer service? Does it always take longer to resolve an issue than it should? Is it the same where ever you are in the world?

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Writing letters: The art of communicating the old fashioned way.

In a post last week I wrote about why I share what I do online, mainly because I'm looking for interaction, sadly I just don't get the response a lot of the time that I'm after. For me, communication is a two way process and a 'like' on facebook just doesn't cut it for me. Since Skype was blocked this year in the UAE, verbal communication has come to a halt, to be honest that was pretty much one way anyway and I don't think our land line rings more than twice a year, we randomly call it just to make sure it is working.

At 46, I'm of the generation that can't live without the internet, but I also know how to live and survive without it. I also have many relatives who don't use social media and being from the generation where I wrote thank you cards for birthday and Christmas presents, I love to write and receive letters and since leaving the UK 7 years ago this month, I've been corresponding with family and friends all over the world. I have pen pals from the world of twitter who I've never met but we write on a regular basis and some of these friendships have had me traveling for meet ups, with my furthest distance travelled to date being a 14 hour flight from Dubai to Toronto to stay with Catherine and her family, known as Always a Redhead.

My two oldest pen pals are an old school friend, Sharron and I keep a shoe box of her letters from when we were 11 and I moved away up until we stopped writing around the age of 19 when boyfriends, work and children came along, but we're still in touch on face book. My other pen pal is my Dad's cousin's daughter Carol and despite us being on face book, we still change physical Christmas cards every year.

The postal system is much improved since moving to Dubai from South Africa where sadly most letters rarely made it in or out, but you'd be surprised with a bit of determination what you could do and I value those people who made extreme efforts and at great costs to keep those avenues of communication open and in fact still do.

A friends mother once stuck a UK 2nd class stamp on a Christmas card and it arrived in South Africa within 5 days, a cousin in Australia addressed the envelope as below and it arrived in under 2 weeks.

31 Valley Crescent

I have my favourite writing spot.

I have a variety of novelty pens.

I keep every letter written and a copy of every letter I send.

I walk to the post office in temps of 40c+ to get your letter or card to you.

I have a box full of note books, I use for blogging, pretty covers and inspirational quotes.

I have cards for every occasions and I have lots of paper.

I keep a record of birthdays, anniversaries and deaths and make sure cards and gifts get to people on time, even if it means leaving them in the UK with my mother months in advance. sadly this doesn't always work in reverse and it does upset. Too many excuses about lack of time, advance planning, the cost of postage and why bother if it's not going to get there.

But those who matter do make the effort, for which I am eternally grateful.

How about you? Do you like to receive post? Do you send letters and cards through the post? Do you have pen pals? Would you like another one?

Just drop me your address in a message on Social Media, I'm found under the name of Chickenruby on twitter, instagram and face book. I'd love to hear from you and add you to my address book.

Monday 5 February 2018

Recycling in Dubai

I'm not really sure what the deal is here in Dubai with recycling in Dubai. We have two wheelie bins outside the front gate a black one for general waste and a green one for recycling. 

The refuse collection comes every night around 9pm to empty the bin and re line it with a black bag. However they only empty the bin if it's full.

The neighbours regularly add rubbish to our bins if theirs are full and it seems to be an acceptable thing to do.

It's also perfectly normal to leave any unwanted larger items outside side your gate, such as furniture and other larger items.

These are often taken by the maids and gardeners and when we left a door outside the hinges and handles were removed for scrap by one collector and then the door taken later that day by someone else.

The gardener puts the grass and plant cuttings in either bin and our attempts at recycling tins, cans, paper and cardboard seem to be a pointless exercise as when the wheelie bins are collected they get thrown into the same lorry. People do however go through the recycling bins and recover cans and plastic bottles, I assume to sell on somewhere.

We have a collection of newspapers and leaflets thrown over the gate daily. the local free newspaper 7 days is very informative and I recycle them by making pots for sewing seeds in. We no longer get the newspapers and have since moved house, but the number of leaflets hasn't decreased.

 We also use 2 large bottles of water every week for drinking and cooking in, the tap water is brown and warm. I am still trying to find an alternative use for them, let me know if you have any ideas.
They're no good for growing plants in as the soil in plastic containers reaches 50c and the plants don't survive. (we've tried it)

 We could cut down a bit more with our recycling and although this looks like a lot of cold drinks in the fridge, that photo was taken after a food shop and will last 4-6 weeks when we don't have visitors and we do drink squash not just drinks from cans.

We take our own bags to the supermarkets but unless you pay attention they still pack into the free plastic bags anyway, leaving me to empty them and leave them behind.

There are clothing banks, often outside the mosques and some shopping malls and centres have recycling bins for batteries, energy light bulbs and mobile phones.

I'm also struggling to find places where I can drop unwanted goods off at and food that is nearing it's end date. It's not something we had an issue with in South Africa, everything was recycled and it was easy to do so. I guess this is just something I need to do a bit more research into.

Since moving to our new house the other side of Dubai, we've only been issued with 1 green bin which is for general waste, but I have now found somewhere to recycle cans, papers and plastic at our local Carrefour where I shop every week and we I have cut down on the amount of sugary drinks I have and the tap water here is drinkable if not still a bit warm, so only using one of the large bottles every 2 weeks or so.

It's been 7 years since we left the UK now and I still get cross at the lack of recycling and the amount of waste over here in Dubai. When I'm back in the UK, I have purple and pink bags for plastic and paper and a food bin that I use religiously. There's no way Im recycling food waste out here though, could you imagine the stench in the summer when temps reach 50c?