Tuesday, 17 April 2018

When the kidults come to visit

Child 4 and 4a have been here on their holidays.

Most of the time it's just me and Peter and the cat and dog. Actually a lot of the time, it's just me or Peter and the cat and dog.

I like my own company, but I get bored and lonely. I guess what I actually like is just being able to do my own thing when I want and how I want, something I can't do when we have visitors.

At 46, I'd like to think I'm not old, but spending so much time on my own I get stuck in my ways, I have my own little routines and as Dubai is a vibrant and busy city with 5 tourists per resident, it gets busy, the roads get full, my stress levels go up and I retreat indoors.

The best way to see Dubai and explore the city is by setting off early in the morning. But 4 and 4a are in their early 20's and by comparassion they are party animals, night owls. Dragging them out of bed by 9am and having them ready for the day has been hard work. I've been going to bed later and I'm even more grumpier than usual.

After a day out they want to come home at 4pm, shower, rest, change and go back out at 6pm. I'm ready to get in my pj's by then having entertained all day, I'm hungry and get 'hangry' and having battled my way across Dubai already I really don't feel like doing it again at night when the traffic doubles, the number of people increases and everywhere is mega busy.

'You don't have to stay with us all day, just drop us off and we'll let you know when we want collecting'

So I took them to the Marina for 6pm and collected them at 9pm one evening. Of those 3 hours, I spent 90 mins dropping them off, going home, returning to collect them. During the 90 minutes of 'me time' I emptied the dishwasher, did a load of washing, walked the dog, cleaned the kitchen and swept up piles of sand from the house.

I find having visitors very tiring, I'm not on holiday, housework still needs doing and I have to adjust to being on my own all day, to accommodating others, not being able to just grab my bag and come and go when I choose, eat when I want and go to bed at my time of choosing.

I don't resent having visitors, I just forget what it's like living with other people.

Of course one of the benefits of people visiting is that as their unpaid tour guide, chauffeur and cook. I get free coffees, gifts, treated to dinner and lots of lovely company that I crave in a normal week and I get to book the activities and therefore choose the times and look forward to a day on my own as I send them off on a desert safari from mid day till 10pm. I also get to go places I wouldn't normally go to on my own, do different things and have new experiences.

Sadly when you're an expat with kids living in different countries, it's 'all or nothing' I've been learning to embrace time on my own, I have the freedom to travel to the UK when I want/need to and will be returning to the UK for the summer. Sadly, I still end up doing all the running around and the arranging or I just don't end up going anywhere. Although to be fair to Child 4 and 4a and their parents, they have looked after us very well when we've visited them in Northern Ireland

Dubai Marina Ferry Trip and the Souks of Old Dubai

One of my favourite day trips to take or send visitors to Dubai on, is the RTA Ferry from Dubai Marina to The Creek in Old Dubai.

The RTA ferry (Roads and Transport Authority) is one of the few places as a tourist you can view the whole Dubai skyline from and includes a trip around the The Palm.

For 50 AED per person, you spend 90 minutes in the Arabian Gulf, setting off from Dubai Marina (check times and prices on the website) arriving in Al Ghubaiba where you can catch the train, bus or taxi to return to your hotel.

You can of course do this journey in reverse but I'd recommend if you visit on a Friday to start your journey at the Marina as the Souks and museums don't open until 2.30pm.

Arriving at Dubai Marina, you need to exit on the lower ground floor with the Marina in front of you and turn left towards Pier 7 and walk approximately 500ms where you'll find the ticket office located right outside Carrefour and a lovely restaurant, La Gaufrette, where we often have breakfast of coffee and pastries before boarding the ferry around 10.45am. 

The journey takes you past the new Bluewater Island and the Dubai Eye, around The Palm, providing a fantastic photo opportunity of the Atlantis Hotel, pass the Burj Al Arab and along the coast to the new Dubai Water Canal. Stay on the ferry as we're heading to the Creek, you'll get to see the whole Dubai skyline which you can capture on an iPhone 5s screen and catch a glimpse of the QE2.

On arrival at Al Ghubaiba get off the ferry and turn right, following the creek side for approximately 200ms to Brjeel Heritage Guest House where I recommend you stop for a spot of lunch and use the toilets.

If you've visited Dubai before, are here for a week or are particularly interested in the history of Dubai you can continue walking along this part of the Creek, called Shindagha, where you'll find many of Dubai's Museumsincluding the official residence of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, Grandfather of the present ruler of Dubai. It is one of the oldest buildings in Dubai constructed in 1896. 

Continuing through with this trip, walk back towards the ferry and continue along the creek till you reach the Abra's. Where for 1 dirham you can cross the Creek on one of these wooden boots whose name derives from the Arabic verb 'abara' meaning 'to cross' These boats are also managed by the RTA. 

On the other side of the Creek are the Gold and Spice souks and are worth a visit. But I recommend if you want to eat or use the toilets, you do so on this side of the Creek. Return on the abr I'm going to take you to Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort, where you can explore the history of pearl diving in Dubai and it's development into what you see today.

To get to the fort after your abra trip continue left and you can meander through the Souk, which in my opinion is the best place to purchase your souvenirs from and pick up a pashmina or two. They is some pressure on you to purchase goods and to barter on prices in this area, but be polite and say no and carry on walking, it's fairly light hearted banter. 

Don't be tempted to wander off anywhere though with anyone offering to sell you 'good quality, knock off, genuine, fake Rolex or handbags' though.

When you reach the end, turn right and you'll see the Fort in front of you. Entrance is only 3 dirham. 

Don't be fooled by thinking there's very little there, in the far left corner there's a spiral walkway that leads you to an underground museum filled with the story of Dubai.

When you've finished your visit walk back towards the ferry where you can get a taxi, on the Hop on Hop off bus or follow the signs for the metro, to get back to your hotel.

If your time is limited in Dubai, I'd suggest you stop at Dubai Mall and visit the Burj Khalifa having pre booked your tickets (saves money and guarantees you a slot) from 4pm onwards. You'll need at least an hour to reach the Mall from here as the walkway from the Metro into the Mall is actually 1km long and then you need to go down to the lower ground floor in the opposite corner.

You can however (if we are friends on Social Media) give me a yell and I'll happily accompany you, if you pay for my coffee for the day.

Monday, 16 April 2018

I'm out of control

I'm done with being in control. 
I'm done with being everyone's 'go to' person. 
I'm done with taking responsibility.
I'm done with being blamed if things go wrong.
I'm done with being called a Control freak.

You see where others feel I'm control of my life, or feel I'm a control freak or feel that I just get things done, I don't actually see myself as any of those things.

I see a 46 year old woman, whose life is dictated to her by others. Other peoples needs, other peoples expectations. Like every other person in the world.

I don't live my life as I want. I'm a daughter, mother, wife. I can't have control over any of these things, as my mother, children and husband have their own list of needs/wants/desires and we all just have to fit together, doing things we don't want to do, or things we don't feel capable of, to be able to live together, however far apart we actually are.

I have no control over my kids lives. I don't want any. But I will help, guide and support them.

I have no control over my husbands job but I have literally followed him to the end of the earth to support him.

I had no control of my father's life or his sudden death last year and my mothers subsequent move to a flat.

Therefore I have no control over my own life, other than how I choose to deal with all the above. The only choice I have to have control over my own life is to live it on my own, but then I'd need to work and my life would be controlled by my salary and my employers.

We all have choices in life, we can make the right or the wrong choice, which could turn into the wrong or the right choice later down the line, even many years later. We can plan our lives with our choice of education, employment, decisions on where to live, who to date/marry, have kids or not have kids. But we have no control over external factors, other people and their impact on our lives through their deeds, behaviour, their wants and needs or education and employment choices.

We also have little control over our health. Yes we can eat healthily, not smoke or drink, we can exercise. We can also find a myriad of excuses to justify why we don't take better care of ourselves and we all know someone who ate well, exercised, didn't smoke and drink who died young, so it can happen to anyone in our minds.

I'm not good at delegating matters when it comes to my personal life. In my work life there is structure, predictability, clearly defined job roles. In our personal lives there is little of that. 

I'm not good at asking for help. Why? Because I often don't feel the need to ask for help, or too many times I've been promised help but it's been followed up with a string of excuses. It's easy to say 'just ask' but when you have asked and been let down, you just don't ask again. But this is often viewed as you don't ask, because you feel that other people just aren't up to the job, that they aren't as organised or as skilled as you. That they're not as capable as you, therefore you become a control freak, you won't let people help you.

But whereas I can't manage the effect of other peoples lives on mine. I can manage my own thoughts and feelings on how I deal with the lack of control in my life.

When I got married, had kids, I didn't make a sacrifice, I didn't give up a certain way of life. I made these choices. I didn't make these choices alone. When we became an expat, I made the choice to jump in feet first. Yes my husband said we could make a choice on whether we went or stayed. I didn't like the choice we made. I didn't like the decision to move to Dubai either. I had no control over a lot of things such as the actual relocation, the youngest having to return to the UK for boarding school. Yes there were other options, other routes we could've explored, but either way. I had no control over the fact that decisions and choices had to me made and I might not like the outcomes. Some decisions that felt wrong or right have since reversed.

I know I will always have to make decisions from the choice of restaurant where we eat to when we relocate to the UK and all the stuff in between. There are some things that others can't help us with, but their needs and wants will form part of our decision making, however they won't necessarily be part of the discussion or be able to take any part in our decision making. Such as the health of our mothers, our disabled adult child.

I have no control of my husband reaching 65 and having to retire and our relocation back to the UK at this point. We may choose to relocate earlier, we may have to relocate earlier. 
But I do have control how I choose to spend my time between now and then, how I react and behave and who I choose to ask for help. Just because I don't ask you, doesn't mean to say I don't have people to ask, who have similar experiences, who may actually be able to help in some way.

After all you're not going to ask a car mechanic to listen to your irregular heart beat, any more than you'd ask someone without kids to share their experiences of giving birth.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

My Sunday Photo - Week 172 - District Cooling. Keeping cool in Dubai

It's almost summer in Dubai. The temperature is hovering around 35c in the day and 24c at night. If you've never lived in a country with heat like this, you'll probably won’t have thought how we keep it cool enough to live in.

There's a huge difference between 2 weeks of holiday sun than to living and working in these temperatures.

When we lived in the UK, our central heating system was never notched up above 21c. I was in the UK this February when the temperatures plummeted below zero for over a week during the heavy snow and the country couldn't meet the demands of heating houses, offices and shops. Our boiler broke down in the house we rent out to our tenants. I purchased them 3 heaters to keep them warm while we waited a week for the gas company to repair and then install a new boiler. I was on hold for almost 5 hours on the phone to get the repair booked. In general as long as you have enough money, you can keep warm.

Now imagine living somewhere where the temperature is higher than 21c almost all year round, reaching almost 50c in June and July and work out how to keep cool. The aircon units have been switched on now and they will run pretty much 24/7 now until the end of November. Taking a cold shower isn’t an option as the cold water tanks can run out the tap at 42c.

Our Villa has separate air-conditioning units in the bedroom and 2 central units, one for each floor. We pay huge electricity bills up to £250 a month to keep cool.

But for apartment blocks, offices and Malls, the demand is high for multiple use so this is where District cooling steps in, with centralised production and distribution of cooling energy, via underground pipes to cool the indoor air of the buildings. They cool sea water which is then piped into the buildings where specially designed units use it to lower the air temperature through the buildings air conditioning system. It’s rarely any cheaper to use this method but it does allow the country to keep up with the demands.

In every district around Dubai, you'll see buildings similar to these below. It took us a while to work out what they were for.

Viewed from the Burj Khalifa, you can see the size of the building and the area it has to cool.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

One Daily Positive - Week 15 Sand Storms.

A fairly balanced week, got lots of jobs done, tidied the garden, met friends for coffee, lunch and dinner, spent time in the pool and started reading a book. I'm waking up around 6am and getting on with jobs around the house, walking Bob and drinking tea in the garden whilst blogging to make the most of the weather before I retreat indoors for the summer.

It's been an emotional week with Uncle Tim's funeral on Thursday. Torn between wishing I could be there, but knowing how difficult it would be, another part of my father gone and I'm not sure I could've said goodbye all over again.

It's also the teens 19th birthday today. This time last year we were all in the UK. Peter and I with the 5 kids. It had been 10 years since we were all in the same country at the same time. It was also the last time we had a whole family gathering while my father was still alive.

98 Sunday A lazy morning, took Peter to the airport as he's off to Cairo till Thursday with work. Called in at the garden centre on my way home.

99 Monday started early with a mammoth walk with Bob at 6.30am, did some washing and sat outside blogging. I was beaten indoors by 8.30am as it got to hot. Had a trip to Dragon Mart with a friend. Plans to chill out for the evening were rudely interrupted as my car broke down 2km from home and it was 2 hours later before I got home after recovery dropped me at the garage. Rush hour in Dubai is not fun.

100 Tuesday Visited the dog park with Bob for a couple of hours, did some washing, had lunch, went out for coffee,popped over the pool, tidied my shoe cupboard, made a start on some cleaning and did some batch cooking after sunset when it cooled down a little. I also applied for a job teaching at a local school.

101 Wednesday Another long Bob walk, then off to Mall of the Emirates to meet a friend for coffee and lunch. Moved the balcony furniture downstairs where it will be used, took Bob on another walk to wake myself up after sleeping all afternoon, then did some cleaning.

102 Thursday Took Bob for a 90 minute walk, Finished cleaning the house top to bottom, did a food shop and had coffee and drove home in a sand storm, went for a swim and got dinner ready for when Peter arrived home.

103 Friday went for a walk by the canal, but the heat beat us back after an hour by 10am, so it was breakfast, some shopping and BBQ after sun down. It's a dry 24 hours in Dubai, starting from 6pm tonight. That means you can't buy alcohol, although there is nothing to stop you drinking at home.

104 Saturday Took Bob for an early morning walk, then off to the Marina for coffee, home to an early lunch and chilling out for the rest of the day.

On the blog this week:

MySundayPhoto - The Opus Building, Dubai
BestBootForward, PoCoLo and TriumphantTales- What happened to pleases and thank yous? Managing mine and others expectations.
TriumphantTales and Animal Tales - Birthday parties for pets

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Birthday Parties for Pets.

Pushkins decided to adopt us on the 23rd March 2012, by the 30th we let her move into the house.

We have no real idea how old she is, but the vets estimate around 10. The vets also said she was a he also.

Bob was adopted by us on April 23rd 2013, he was 3 when we got him and his birthdate was registered as February 2010.

We don't have fixed dates for their birthdays, according to my facebook memories, it's been on different dates each year and is prompted my the memory.

Some years we've had McDonalds, or I've made pet biscuits, or just stuck a candle in a tin of pet food.

I don't invite other cats or dogs or people, I tend to do it just to post a photo on social media and 9/10 I'm on my own (I get bored easily). I don't buy them gifts (that's for Christmas) and besides they've just had Easter.

We did one year have a party for the Hamster.

Monday, 9 April 2018

What happened to pleases and thank yous?

I like to communicate with people especially outside of social media and I fear the art of communication, the old fashioned way, by writing letters, is a long time dead these days, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it. However I am going to be far more selective in future as to who I send cards, letters and gifts to as I feel this gestures of appreciation, good will and out of care and love are no longer wanted either.

How do I know this? By the lack of response to the physical presence of something turning up through the post that takes, time, care, planning and costs adiitional to the actual gift/card in terms of the time already spent. Compared to the response people will give to a Happy Birthday message left on Facebook, that takes no thought, no planning, no time and of which Facebook will remind you several times a day.

Sending a card through the post or ordering flowers or ensuring a gift arrives in advance has become an accepted thing for me to do. It will just be there, it’s something I always do. But I get absolutely nothing back from it in most cases. It could be said ‘one doesn’t give to receive’ and that is indeed the case, but when I’ve tracked an item at extra cost, received notification it’s been delivered, then wait 3-4 days before I finally contact the person and say ‘hi, did the xxx appear?’I get ‘oh yes it did’

However over those 3-4 days the people who have sent the Facebook messages ‘happy birthday’ have received a ‘like’ or a ❤️ in response. And I’ve had NOTHING/ZERO/ZILCH.

I have no idea why people do this. Maybe it’s because people genuinely don’t see why they should say thank you, they know you’ve tracked the item, therefore you know it’s arrived. Maybe they feel it’s a right, an entitlement, maybe it’s because they’re just so busy they don’t have time in their day to pick up their phone and say ‘hey Suzanne, thanks for the flowers/card/gift that arrived this morning/yesterday. It was really kind of you, the flowers are beautiful’ . Maybe they feel if they do that they’ll be expected to do the same back? I don’t know because when I ask them in several messages that I can see they’ve read, they finally answer with ‘yes, it did arrive’

My feedback suggests, me spending money is expected, me sending cards and arranging gifts to arrive on time is just what I do and there’s absolutely no need to acknowledge receipt or heaven forbid actually say thank you. So from now on, it’s just not happenening.

If you’ve got a good enough excuse why you can’t say thanks, let alone send me a card for my birthday or even send a message in Facebook at the beginning of the day rather than at the end when you realize ‘shit, I best send a message’ then it obviously doesn’t matter to you that much and therefore it doesn’t matter to me either. So I’ll just save myself the stress, the upset and the money and just not bother from now on.

It’s not about my expectations of a gift in exchange, it’s about politeness and good manners and more importantly when you live 1000’s ofmiles away it’s about keeping the avenues of communication open. A two way exchange, a response, not just a thank you or showing gratitude.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

My Sunday Photo - Week 171 - The Opus Building, Dubai.

There are some weird and wonderful buildings in Dubai. I see most of them from the Sheikh Zayed Road but it's difficult to get a photo when you're driving and getting in and out of Business Bay and parking your car, is hard work so it's rare I get to stop. These photos were taken while hubby was driving and he slowed down for me.

The Opus building was opened in January 2018 and designed by Iraqi born Zaha Hadid who died in 2016. It's her only building in Dubai. She was the first female architect to win the Prizker Architecture Prize. She is also responsible for the London Olympic Aquatics Centre.

The building features two glass towers linked by a steel and glass bridge at the top and a ground floor podium. It has 56,000 square feet of office space, nightclub in the basement, restaurants, ME Dubai by Melia and a boutique hotel. Zaha Hadid personally designed all the interiors and exteriors of the 95 meter building.

All I can think about is how long it takes to clean all this glass, especially in the nooks and crannies where the sand gathers.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

One Daily Positive Week 14 It's getting hot in Dubai

The weather is changing here in Dubai and with the move into summer comes the dust and sand storms. Not spectacular like you see in the movies, just a continuous dusting of sand in the air, on the cars and in the house all over the furniture. As we've had visitors, little housework has been done and there is a not so fine layer of dust everywhere.

I've had a lovely week with child 4 and his girlfriend 4a visiting and have been rushed off my feet. Whilst I'm looking forward to a rest, I will be spending next week on my own as Peter is flying off to Cairo for a conference, it will be a long and lonely week, but I've plenty of washing and housework to do and visits to dog parks.

91 Sunday Started the day at the dog park. Bob tore 3 of his 4 pads, no idea how. he really doesn't like having his paws touched so we had a bit of a battle cleaning them. Home, showered and took Dan and Alanna to Mall of the Emirates, some housework and then Peter and I picked them up and we spent the evening at Global Village.

92 Monday Off to explore the Creek, some lunch and home for a shower, change and sleep. Peter flew to Saudi. I dropped Dan and Alanna at The Beach and collected them later from the Marina.

93 Tuesday A visit to Jumeriah Mosque, Mercato Mall for lunch and then a visit the Dubai Frame. I've been to these places before so I took my laptop, blogged and sorted photos whilst drinking coffee. We spent the evening at Club Vista Mare on the Palm Jumeriah for an evening of fire and light shows.

94 Wednesday Back to the dog park in the morning. Dan and Alanna went on a desert safari at midday and I spent the afternoon cleaning the house of animal hair and sand, had a soak in the bath and an early night.

95 Thursday Peter arrived home in the early hours. Dropped Dan and Alanna at Wild Wadi water park. Visited the Souk Madinat for a coffee and book a table for dinner and the rest of the day at home, chilling out, collected them at 4pm, home, changed and Peter joined us for dinner at the Souk Madinat.

96 Friday Lazy morning. Dan and Alanna packed and we took them to the airport for their afternoon flight. Stopped off at Festival City for lunch and chilled out as I had yet another migraine.

97 Saturday Had a lie in, popped out to the Marina for breakfast and post child 3 and 3a's birthday cards to Australia, did a food shop, washing and a lazy afternoon with a BBQ tonight.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - After the fire. The Address Hotel and Dubai Mall and Apple Store
Going Green and PoCoLo - Earth Hour Dubai 2018
Best Boot Forward and Triumphant Tales - Why I don't believe in Luck

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Earth Hour 2018 Dubai

Dubai joined in with Earth Hour again. This year we watched from our friends roof top. Sadly not many residents turned their lights off, but the government switched off street lights, public buildings and malls and hotels joined in also.

Burj Al Arab and Jumeriah Beach Hotel with Dubai Marina in the background.

Business Bay and the Burj Khalifa. Some lights had to remain on for safety reasons, aeroplanes, helicopters and for the 24/7 construction works.

Why I don't believe in luck

Many people think I'm lucky to be living in Dubai, not working, where the sun shines and the financial freedom to support our children and to travel freely to visit them when I choose.

I don't think I'm lucky at all. I think this comes down to my husband having worked hard throughout school, obtaining a degree and choosing his career path that led him down the road of a working life abroad.

I've been told I'm lucky to have met and married my husband, but I don't think luck paid a part there at all, it devalues our relationship and says little about me really.

Saying my husband is lucky to have his job, undermines his hard work and his life choices. But then of course he did benefit from a free University education, but so did everyone else of his generation, including me, but I didn't take that route. I opted to go down that road with a student loan in 2005.

My kids are lucky though, they benefit from our hard work, but that luck is only the starting point, they have to make the next move, take that luck and continue to work hard, choose their own life paths and make their own choices.

My kids are not lucky because they have parents who can financially support them with their life choices, because we don't. We may have put our youngest through boarding school, but that didn't automatically buy him an education, he still had to physically and mentally put the work in. It hasn't opened doors into the world of work, he still has to go through the same channels as everyone else, application forms, interviews and rejections. He went to boarding school because his educational needs weren't supported in South Africa where we chose to live, it was a huge emotional and financial sacrifice to make that decision, but we weren't lucky we could afford that choice, we actually had limited choices.

Is he lucky because he can live in our 1 bed flat we bought while he waits to find a job? No. We only bought the flat because we needed somewhere to stay when we visited family in the UK, where I spend half my year, due to my husband working abroad. Our other children got to stay living at home in a family environment, got to come home from school/college each day to their family and a cooked meal. They didn't have to live on their own. Most of our friends with 18+ year olds either still have their kids living at home while they look for work or save for their future or are at University and can pop home on weekends. Ours can't, he's 3000 miles away.

I've been genuinely lucky twice in my life, where it hasn't cost me money or much effort. On both occasions involving free trips to sporting events. Filling in my personal details on competition forms and posting them off in time and relying on the 'luck of the draw'. I went to the Olympic games in Barcelona in 1992 and the Rugby 7's in Hong Kong in 2017.

I've never been upgraded on a flight, but I've had empty seats allowing me to stretch out and sleep on a long haul flight. I've managed to bag the last parking space right by the door when I've been running late for an event and I sat online once for several hours to get Peter tickets for the Led Zeppelin reunion at the O2 arena in 2007, but that cost me £300.