'What am I doing living in Dubai?'
'How did this happen?'
Sometimes this thought is triggered as I drive past the Burj Al Arab or the Burb Khalifa and I think 'this place is a dream holiday location for a lot of people and I'm just going about my daily business'
Usually I'm on the way to or from the vets, the doctors or a food shop.
The other times I'm ironing or sweeping endless piles of sand out of the house.
Life isn't actually any different from living in the UK or South Africa. But there are many things to take into consideration when you leave the UK shores.
In the UK I worked and studied full time, we had 5 kids at home. In South Africa we were down to 2 kids and I didn't work or study. By the time we came to Dubai, there were no kids, but I did work full time for our 2nd year here.
In South Africa I had to deal with issues around personal safety, worry about armed robberies and car jacking on a daily basis. So all trips out were planned, someone was notified of where I was going and when I would return. But I had the most amazing experiences from camping in townships, taking the kids to Kruger National Park. Catching the train from Joburg to Cape Town with the then 12 year old and travelling alone to see the Spring Flowers in the Western Cape.
In Dubai I have the freedom to go anywhere at anytime on my own, walk, drive, use public transport, but my world is much smaller and contained to Dubai which is a huge city, but I also have to contend with the oppressive heat, which does limit my activities.
Temperature in car after parking for an hour.
Living abroad means I spend a huge amount of time on my own. Peter is out the house at work from 8am till 5pm every week day and he also travels a lot which means I'm completely on my own. Whilst I'm safe here in Dubai on my own, compared to South Africa, I still have the odd fleeting moment of panic when I realise if I had an accident or was taken ill, that I'd have to manage in it alone.
In South Africa that happened a few times, but we had a wonderful network of support to turn to. In Dubai I pretty much have only one person who I could call on in my hour of need.
Living abroad is lonely, you're isolated from family back in the homeland. In South Africa we had issues with the internet and even lack of electricity at times. In Dubai all voice over internet is blocked. It makes communication difficult. But at least the postal system works in Dubai unlike South Africa.
We now consider the flight from Dubai to the UK as short haul, despite it actually taking 7 hours to reach and another 4-6 hours to get to and from our homes. From South Africa it would take 24 hours door to door, with a direct flight taking 12 hours, or a stop in Dubai involving 2 x 7 hour flights and a minimum 2 hour stop over.
So what do I do all day as a none working mother of 5 whose kids have all left home?
Well I do the house work, washing and ironing. I food shop. walk the dog, scoop dog poop and clean the litter tray, load the dishwasher and cook dinner. I visit the dog park, get my nails done once a month and pretty much do the same things as I did when we lived in South Africa and the UK, just minus having to go to work.
We're not here on holiday, this is our life. In South Africa we lived on a golf course over looking a small river and the 16th green. In Dubai we live in a villa near the Marina.
My instagram feed is a mixture of an photos of daily activities just with a glamorous backdrop.
I drop Peter at the train station when he travels for the week and after parking i'll get the tram to the beach and the ferry back to the Marina. To me that is just normal life now. I get used to seeing the big buildings, tripping over the tourists, coping with the heat, buying bleach to clean the toilets with from the mall and having a Mcdonalds for my dinner in the food court.
I post the pictures, rarely do people read the comments, they just see me in a holiday destination, having fun or showing off. Being envious of my glamorous life style. But the reality is I just popped to the local shops, I could've been sitting in a park in the UK, instead of a beach in Dubai or a nature reserve in South Africa. I go where I need to go to do what I need to do, it just happens to be 'exotic' in many people's eyes.
We rarely do brunches, we save them for when the visitors come, as they're expensive. We go out for dinner with friends occasionally, but we're not dining in 5 star restaurants. We go to the World's largest Mall on the weekends so we can get out of the house, but stay cool indoors and go for a walk.
It's 8am and I can only sit out in the garden till then or after 8pm when the sun has gone down. The air con is on, set at 25c, you'd not heat a house that high in the winter, the bills are huge. My cold water tap doesn't run cold, even in winter it's luke warm. So I go to the pool over the road for a swim. It's lined with palm trees and sun loungers. It's £400 a year membership. If I swam in the UK 3 days a week for 30 weeks of the year, I'd pay £360, so while it sounds luxurious to have gym membership, it isn't really.
I'm not complaining about life abroad, I guess it's more about expelling myths about how glamorous it is. At the end of the day it's still the shame shit, just a different City and a bit harder to get home when I need to.