When I die, please bury me in a Poori.

pooriAs you ascend the B-gate stairs in London’s Heathrow airport a large billboard with a slinky girl walking the gangplank into the ocean announces that

“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us”.

I meant to take a picture of it, but my phone had died en route so I can’t check my memory, but I think I remember thinking that the girl looked like she was about to escape life so the words did not quite match the picture.  I could be mistaken as I’d just come off a flight on which I involuntarily shared my small seat with a man who kept flip flopping his fat onto my side of the arm rest amidst noises and other things that shouldn’t be let loose in a closed, confined space.  Needless to say my judgment could have been be clouded.

None the less I liked the slogan and indeed, in my determination not to let life leave me too soon – either dead or alive – I have done more than my fair share of travelling this year (this life).

I love to travel, I just don’t like getting there.  Planes aren’t my favourite but hey, a first-world problem that’s soon forgotten when I’m here, there or every where.  Right now the odds are stacked with me as I live in the flight-centre of the world and have a job that works us near to death but rewards most generously with vacation days.  Thank you Dubai and thank you teaching.

I’ve found out that the world is big, but it’s also small and the people that inhabit it are mostly lovely and all the same.

Same–same but different.  Maybe the colour, the culture and the cause differ but people are people – usually with one head, two arms and a couple of legs.  All have hearts and the same longing to belong while trying their utmost to make if from one end to the other of this mysterious thing we call life.  I love that travelling shows up the diversity and beauty of men and women in all their many forms…but mostly in the food we eat.

Food is one of travels greatest pleasures.  I’ll eat anything anywhere and am always game to try new things at any time.   I cannot stand to think that I may just miss out on some astonishingly delicious culinary creation as it quietly percolates in a bent out aluminium pot over a street fire in Kapala. Or a fried egg and cabbage on a chapatti called a rolex.  Or honey coated fried tarantulas in Cambodia.   Or the sickly sweet Snickers cupcake only America could conjure up.   And nothing beats the thrill of the three-for-one that comes with picking fresh berries in Oregon.  Three for me, one for the bowl, three for me, one for the bowl…  Yum!  And then there’s Indian food.  OMG – I close my eyes now and try to think of India.   I cannot even.   India cannot be contained in darkness behind the eye lids of a mere mortal.  It’s too loud, too colourful, too smelly (good and bad), too vibrant, and altogether too tasty for words. Oh India,  you stole my stomach and I can still smell your curries and I continuously dream of the puffed up flakiness of a poori – mouth fireworks of what tastes like a deep fried croissant disguised as perfectly puffed up deliciousness, the size of a plate and usually eaten with chick pea curry.

When I die please, please bury me in a poori.

On the opposite end of the scale, super-healthy Jordanian breakfasts take the cake.  Halva cake that is.  This ultra sweet mixture of tahini, pistachio nuts and honey, a melt in the mouth sensation served alongside boiled eggs, the sweetest tomatoes and  cucumbers with strong black (not so nice) coffee.

And then there’s coffee.  All over the world.

In my next life I want to be a coffologist.  (I don’t know if that’s a real word but you know…)  Ice cold coffee from a street-side hatch after a long bike ride in Vietnam is as good as the home made, Martin-move-over-Starbucks latte served in a thick hot glass, slowly sipped while savouring the exquisite view across the Puget Sound in Seattle.   And please take my word for it, Ikea’s bottomless coffee is oh so satisfying too.  Maybe that’s because it comes with a very agreeable price tag.  Just another thumbs up for Ikea.  (If you don’t already know of my love affair with this magnificent store click on blue above!)

The street side cafe’s in Sydney, the coconut ice cream of China, the freshness of the fruit in Skopje…. I could drool on and on, but the next plane awaits.  It’s nearly take-off time for the Philippines and if I don’t eat myself into that afore mentioned poori,  I’ll soon be back here with some more purple-words of wander.  Please watch this space,  I’ll be back after filling my face.

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Snot Balls for President

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I was catching up with a dear friend of mine across the pond in Canada the other day. We reminisced about the time we were living in Malawi (Central Africa) and used to go for long runs along rocky mountain roads and dusty tracks chatting incessantly to take our minds off the pain and strain that jogging brings with it.

She reminded me that I’d infamously taught her how to blow snot balls out of the side of her nose whilst moving merrily along.   As most runners can attest, this is a very necessary and serious skill and one that should be taught to every novice jogger right alongside how to tie your Nike laces and deal with stray ankle yapping dogs.

‘Struth.     Who’s got time for Kleenex anyway and what do you do with it once you’ve finished doing with it?

As Trudy and I chuckled across the Facebook miles my mouth muttered these words:

SNOTBALLS FOR PRESIDENT!

Which is exactly what we seem to be dealing with these days.

Snot balls. For Presidents.

One the eve of one of the most slanderous and nasty election campaigns the world has ever seen I find myself wondering why I’ve become so embroiled and opinionated about an election that seemingly has nothing to do with me. I am not an American. I am a South African who doesn’t even live in South Africa, but I did live in the States once, have visited the country many times and I’m immensely grateful that it was kind enough to college-educate our two boys and one wife in a mighty fine manner. I love and thank you for that the US of A.

At the same time, South Africa is riding a rough path with our very dis-honourable President of a few years too many trying to cover up and hide his corrupt self along with all his cronies. This man, who presides over a country of nearly 55 million with only a third grade education has managed to either destroy or steal whatever he put his hand to and them some. He’s a mess and sadly, so too is the country.

(So, what’s that saying about people living in glass houses not throwing stones…uhemm,  moving right along. )

I’ve never really considered myself politically astute. Or even really very interested. I find it hard enough to run my own life, never mind any body else’s. As long as my status quo is ok and unaffected, politics is something that other people do and get hot under the collar about somehow side stepping fairness and liberty for all.   Sure, I can hold my own in a political conversation – just as I can hold my own in one about flower arranging, the trend towards moral education or the price and privilege of eating Casu marzu – a Sardinian cheese that contains live maggots able to jump up to five inches into the air. And believe me I can negotiate my way through a dozen cupcakes and whether it’s a good idea or not to fight over a play truck parked near the building blocks in my classroom.  I’m never short of a word, but usually my words are found elsewhere and not in the political arena.
That was until this year. And these elections.   THESE elections.

I’ve read the reviews and listened to the debates. I’ve talked with my American friends from both sides and have often found myself lost in articles about Trump, his wife and children and the shenanigans they’ve got up to pre-election along with their father’s infamous past. Really…   Yes really.  I’ve marvelled at Donald’s guts and Hillary’s fortitude while cringing at the lipstick on her teeth during one of the debates.   And why? I really don’t know.   Maybe because its all been so debauched and uncivilised and just so un-American.   Maybe because the world has become such a small space and what matters there matters here too but mostly because I’m worried about our hard earned dollars stockpiled for retirement. What’s going to happen to the Dow Jones, people? Only time will tell.

So on the eve or what must be one of the most important days in world history, to my family and friends and all the peoples of the United States of America I say this: whether you are ecstatic or devastated at the end of the vote tomorrow, whether your democratically  elected president is a snot ball or a champion of change and hope, we are rooting for you because the world needs a strong America. We need you to win. And I trust that your faith in goodness and grace will prevail no matter what.

Please… go and vote well and in the meantime

God Bless America,

Land that I love

Stand beside Her

And guide her

Through the night

With a light from above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The missing ink of communication

IMG_4684A long long time ago (like almost 40 years) I was an exchange student to the USA. In those days the job and the title was prestigious, sought after and impressive.   Exactly to whom I’m not sure, but people raised their eyebrows (possibly in wonder), smiled politely, gave the equivalent of a high five and wished me well on my year abroad. It was also the only time I got really good grades in my final year of school (make that all my years of school) because I knew I had to appear “kind of bright” to get a look in. My mother, a college lecturer at the time, made extra wedding dresses and iced beautiful cakes to afford the ticket for me – her barely 17 year old, fresh-out-of-school daughter who was ever so ready to share her country and culture whilst embracing the American dream and thinking she could foster global understanding and world peace at the same time.

Oh the illusions of youth.

I’m not sure I managed to do any of those things.   My culture for one, as a white, middle classed South African girl was ignorantly flawed and full of the propaganda prepping received in pre-exchange student training. Here we were taught the intricacies of being your country’s best ambassador and all the pomp that goes with that. You don’t know what you don’t know and in hindsight I knew less than a little of the truth behind apartheid and the constitutional rulings by the South African government of the day. I still cringe. But that’s a story for another time; suffice to say I brought home a totally different perspective to the one I left with. S’truth.

What I did know, and still know now, is that some of my most treasured forever-people came into my life during that time.   Facebook has made it all so easy to keep in touch.   And Email. And Instagram. And Twitter. And Whatsapp. And Messenger. And Skype and Facetime. And all the other instant communicators in whatever form that have now become the norm.  This is a good thing. Yet…

40 years ago all we had were cripplingly expensive phone calls and letters – handwritten in pen and plopped into (usually red) post boxes on the corner. Sometimes they arrived two weeks later, sometimes a month.   Always the news was old but eagerly anticipated and every word devoured by the heart and often accompanied by a bit of a weep and much longing. I adored receiving letters from home and I loved replying with my own news too. My mother kept every one of my letters in a file and on my return I had a diary of my comings and goings to read and remember. Such a treasure. Another “mother” who kept many of my letters written post U.S., through my college years, wedding preparations, children, million of moves and right up to her passing a few years ago was a beautiful woman by the name of Barbara Lasley. This lady took me in when my exchange student days began to unravel and reveal the ugly side of being far from home and all alone. When things didn’t quite go as planned, logistically and emotionally, she held my hand, baked banana bread and provided me a school aftercare that saved my sanity and I’m sure my life. She became a treasured mentor and very dear friend and I remember so clearly our last conversation a few days before she left this earth. As sick as she was she still laughed down the phone and told me how fabulous I was.

I cried then, just as I cried a little today when a package from America arrived for me. It came from Barbara’s very kind son Scott who took the time and trouble to mail the photo album in which, Mrs L as I called her, kept every picture I’d sent her through the years and my handwritten letters. As I read through them, more than the content, I marvelled at my handwriting, which looks near perfect compared to my now degenerated, barely legible scrawl so rarely practiced when a keyboard is so much easier and quicker.

I wonder if anyone handwrites letters anymore or have they become the missing ink of communications? I’m fairly positive that emails and Facebook and the others do not have the lasting legacy of a longhand written, sealed and stamped letter. (I mean, move over Snap chat you’re gone and forgotten in just 24hours).

In 40 years from now, I’m quite sure nothing will be left of these words hastily banged out on a laptop. Indeed, nothing will be left of the laptop and quite possibly nothing left of me either. And who knows how people will communicate and keep in touch across the miles and indeed across the dinner table – if that even exists. Maybe Rumi was right when he said “Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”

I can only hope that this inner bond never disappears, as then there will most definitely be nothing to write home about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’ll be no red white and blue covering my profile picture

Not that there’s anything wrong with showing solidarity or as a symbol of unity and love in a crisis such as France is carrying right now.

Not that I don’t love Paris. I do, and am lucky enough to have had a few wonderful and wonder-filled times there. I love the culture and the café’s and of course the regality of that tall tower. Not that I don’t feel for the French. I do and have friends who live there forever and whom I was so grateful to see checked into the Safe in Paris Attack app.

I do love Paris. And I too, am desperately sad about the ruthless and merciless killings that have happened there.

I also love Beirut. I do, and am lucky enough to have spent time in that beautiful city where the white snow-capped mountains have at their feet, the clear blue of the Mediterranean. Where the people love and live LIFE in uppercase and you don’t have to go far to find a chocolatier and a beauty parlor side by side. The Lebanese, they get it – regardless of the turbulent past and a devastating civil war that lasted too long. These are some of the finest and most hospitable people on the planet.

So, I have to ask myself, why is the outcry against ISIS in Paris so much more vocal and visible than the outcry against ISIS in Beirut? I myself posted a prayer for the people of Paris and kept quiet the day before when suicide bombers killed 43 and wounded 239 in Beirut. Ouch!

Was it because mainstream coverage of the Middle East attack was minimal – every day blasé and passed off with a shrug and an almost-not-again sigh. As are the killings in Bagdad and Burundi. And Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nigeria and Sudan.   Maybe not all terrorist related but devastating loss of life, nonetheless. Each one of those that died, someone’s daughter or someone’s son. Mother, brother, uncle, girlfriend, best friend. Here today, gone tomorrow. Yes even those that bombed and shot and maimed and then took their own cheap lives along with a whole lot of others. They too were born and belonged once. Who knows their stories and how they got to the place where “ my ideology, worldview, religion ranks so much higher than yours and therefore I’m going to wipe out the collective you so mine can move up the ladder and gain more status than yours.” Who knows how or why their minds became so depraved, so callous that life loses all its value? Even their own.

Whatever, however, whoever the religion and politics pursuing the people of today. Much of which is so complicated I have no clue, but simplistically, doesn’t it all boil down to “us and them” in a world so fragmented and foreign we’ve forgotten to identify our own neighbours.

The ones we’ve alienated and failed to love or even like, living and moving right next door. Simply because they are Black or White, Christian or Muslim, Straight or Gay, Recluse or Socialite.

Oh God have mercy on us all. This, us, my mankind that you created in your image – that of unity and love. How far we’ve strayed from your goodness and mercy and selflessness. How far we’ve walked away from what is right and what is kind. Help me, help us.. please, to see the value and worth of each other. All the time. Regardless.

Now, if there was a flag representing all the peoples of the world, every tribe and every nation – that one I would fly with true conviction not only across my profile picture but from my roof racks and roof top. Standing solidarity and reminding me to think of all the peoples of the world who are having it hard and hurting right now. And to remind me that even if I feel powerless to stop ISIS in Cairo and the murderers in Cape Town, I can still show up and in some small way, help to change the day (week, life) of those around me.

And that flag would certainly carry the colours of kindness.

NO red flag kindness

Post the Posts – Thank you

Just when you thought the purple words turned yellow and scuttled off to find a place of safety and rest…. here they are back again, trumpeting forth in rhapsodic thanks to all of you out there who purposefully take the time and energy to read my crap ramblings.   As of today, more than 10 500 of you, dear readers have indulged me and oh-blessed-my-soul most bountifully.

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In the universe according to cyber writers this number is a mere blip and certainly nothing to write home about. Those big blogging boys out there – their figures screech into the half million knocking onto a million readers. Oh my. But right now, believe me, for the teeny 1.05 percent of that, I’m most grateful.

Not that numbers are everything or anything actually. I write because I think I have something to say – even to one person and because I enjoy playing around with words. I write because most times my subject impacts ME, in whatever shape or form that takes. And I’m all for shape changes – body, soul, spirit and community. I write because it takes enormous discipline to do so – and discipline, that necessary evil, usually spells a four-lettered word in my vocab.

I did the 31 days writing challenge because I’m driven by challenges and I hoped it would force me to sit down and tap out stuff on the keyboard.

Like Every.Single.Day.

Which it did and which is a miracle.

If it takes 21 days to form a habit it should follow that I’m now habitually sitting in front of my computer.

Like Every.Single.Day.

Which I am not, which means a bigger miracle is needed.

This very morning with a clear calendar I had grand plans to write a good few chapters of my book. After making my bed so I couldn’t get back into it, riding my bike, watering the plants and contemplating my day while sitting in the plant-watered garden, I rejoiced that I had the whole day ahead to get what goes on in my head – out.

Instead I found one hand cracking eggs and the other measuring coco. Baking requires no effort and it’s easy for me to do. I like easy so I do. Writing requires creative skills and lots of effort. So I don’t. At least, not often enough. Yet still, whilst mixing and making, the most profound and world changing sentences churn along with the beater – so impactful that, of course I’ll never forget them, until ten minutes later when I’m actually sitting at my desk.

They’re gone. Forever. Leaving the world a lesser place devoid of my brilliance.

And then…..oh look… Facebook.

Oh dear Lord have mercy for the rest of the day is a gonner.

Why?

Because I’m a writer. I have 10 500 reads here and others elsewhere therefor I have to be a writer.

And yet, putting off writing is one of the things I do best. Right up there with nail polish peeling, nose digging and staring out the window. I avoid writing like I avoid the back of my fridge – I’m fearful of what I might find there.

Letters, words and sentences take on a life of their own and what is planned rarely turns into what is presented. And it’s never ever perfect. Not even vaguely so. This torture is tiresome but yet I’m compelled to keep on keeping on. Regardless of the fact that others with far more fame and fortune write:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway

One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do—you can either type or kill yourself.” – Ann Lamott

Bleed and kill yourself? Hardly encouraging motivators those.

Regardless,  I’ll still keep on keeping on

And then…oh look…MYbook!

After all is said and done….go be a cupcake.

Five four three two one…its done. Done and dusted is this 31-day straight, writing challenge. Consistency is a discipline I’m ashamedly short on so, heck yes, I’ve just rah-rah-shaken the pom-pom at my successful attempt and given myself a halfway high five!

The other half plus full-on-two-handed-high-ten goes to the community, that has so graciously and gloriously allowed me into their places and spaces. Not one (ok the newspaper guy, but I like to think that was a time thing) of these precious people cut me off or cast me aside and all hail the mighty cupcake for cutting the ice, over and over again.

31 days pic for day 31

Everyone longs for attention and everyone has a story to tell.

Everyone can get attention by telling their story but not everyone has a place to tell it as too few are asking for the opportunity to listen.

And it’s these very stories that are so necessary, giving evidence to our existence and undergirding the holy humanity of our everyday lives.  And it’s in listening to these stories that we’re granted perspective and can put assumed thoughts into their rightful place covered with a huge dose of gratitude.

Stories need to be told just as much as stories need to be heard. Because it’s in both the telling and the listening that allows us to see the me in you, bringing with it the realisation, as Mother Theresa so aptly put it, that “the problem with the world is that we’ve just forgotten that we belong to each other.”

I’ve spoken to many more people than I’ve been able to document in this blog. Some didn’t want their stories told on such a public forum although they were eager to tell them, nonetheless.    I chose not to post others, as my inept words would never have done them or their stories justice. There are still more I would love to listen to and maybe some day I will. Perhaps I’ve focused too much on the hurting and hard-done-by, as conversely, there are many… many in this city doing well and who, in turn are being beautifully kind and extremely generous with their time and resources.

It takes all sorts to make a society and build a community. The rich and poor, the old and young, the black and white, the tall and short and pertinent to this particular city, the Alaskan, Argentinian, Australian and everyone in between.

What we have and who we are has very little relevance to what we have to give. Irrespective of circumstance we’ve all got a smile and a few simple words. We’ve all got the ability to eeek out of our comfort zone and cross the them-and-us barrier with bold bravery.

And … we’ve all got the ability to be cupcakes.

So please, I urge you to go now. Go create community with cupcakes. Either being or doing and watch then, for the beauty you will reap in reward.

I know, for this is my story over the last 31 days.

If They Come They Have to Go.

Expats in the UAE can never become citizens of this country, no matter how long they stay. They will never be domiciled or get an Emirati passport. That privilege is reserved for those people born to parents who are both full-blooded Emiratis.

Information is scant and unclear but it seems that as recently as last year, 2014, even children born to Emirati mothers and foreign fathers were not eligible to claim the navy-blue passport, the one with the golden falcon in its coat of arms proudly displayed on the front cover, as their own.  Although children born to Emirati fathers and foreign mothers could do so. That may have changed now and it seems names of half-Emirati offspring can be submitted to the Ministry of Interior for approval by a committee. Once passed, those named are granted citizenship but only after their 18th birthdays. This gives them full rights inclusive of free education, health benefits and guaranteed employment.

Which is great for them as citizenship comes with many rights and privileges – but not going to happen to foreigners.

Which means that if expats come then they have to go.

Which makes this a very transient society.

Which makes goodbyes and farewells an all too common occurrence in the community and the following quote much too close to home for me:

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”  Author unknown. 

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This very morning I bid a fond farewell, alongside many others, to a wonderful family of five who are trans-locating to Australia. They arrived in Dubai a little time after us and have contributed in every way to the community. They leave their mark on many of our lives and I know they will do the same down under. It’s highly likely that they’ll get Australian citizenship after four years and who knows if we’ll ever see each other face to face again.

I hope so…but only time will tell.

Until then, they move from my faith community to my Facebook community.

You know…that mighty fine, fabulously friendly and forever community.

The one I wrote about here.

A Little Time in Learning

The mere mention of the word SCHOOL here in Dubai is likely to evoke an eruption of emotions volatile enough to take on Mount Etna. It’s a hot topic and one that’s not going to die down very easily. People have children. Children need schools and school cost money – lots of it. Expats have limited choice as local schools are not open to foreigners and so its private schools, home schooling, boarding school or fractured families living across countries.

As an ex-fulltime teacher and now regular supply/substitute teacher I’ve seen the inside workings of the system and quite bluntly… teachers just don’t have the time necessary to accomplish what is needed or desired or dreamed of in an average school day. More and more is demanded of them – from the government, school leadership , the students and by their very nature, the teachers themselves. All of which means more and more time needed to tick the boxes simply to survive a day in a paperwork-plenty environment. I’ve never yet met a teacher who has closed his or her classroom door at the end of the day with everything crossed off the to-do list. There’s always much more required and still only 24 hours in a day.

So all that to simply say that since school is an important part of my community I really wanted to quiz a few teachers, but sadly, I could not find one that had the time to go beyond a sweet smile and informal greeting thrown over a shoulder attached to an arm holding and guiding at least two or three students.

I did manage to speak to some of the other staff though:

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Denise Kish, American: Head of Curriculum and Assessment:

Denise interviewed me for a long-short, sub/supply position at the school last year. She very professionally went through all the required questions and I did the best to answer as I should. At the end of the interview she asked me if I was interested in the job and I misheard her, hearing only “Are you interesting?” I repeated the question slowly as I thought it rather strange. ”Are..you..interesting?” Some sort of trick question? Interesting is a very subjective thing after all. We ended up having a good laugh and perhaps that’s the only reason I got the job. Denise can laugh and does so regularly. This is her second year in Dubai. She came here after a long and successful career as an educator in the US – in all the fields from teacher to Principal to consultant. Been there, done that and now looking for something different is how she ended up here. Different she got and she’s enjoying the challenge, as well as the fact that she’s also able to send money home to ‘educate’ her five children. A common thread for expats but this time it’s after the fact as they are all grown up and some have children of their own. She’s helping them pay off their college debt and will continue to do so as long as its necessary.                                                             Highly commendable.

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Jhoana A Nunag, Filipino: Teachers Assistant.

Jhoana has been in Dubai for eight years. She followed her Mechanical Engineer husband here, after he moved from Saudi Arabia. They have two children – a son studying like dad, to be a mechanical engineer in the Philipines and a daughter who lives with them and attends the Filipino School in Dubai. Jhoana owns land back home on which she would like to build a whole lot of apartments. Her dream is to return to the job she enjoyed most before she came out to be by her husbands side – owning her own business.                                                                                   Determined.

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MaGe Arroza Tavnio, Filipino: Bus Attendant and nanny is adored by most of the children that come under her nanny-care.   Her main job is to accompany the children on the buses to and from school but she gets fully involved in their little lives during the day too. She knows kids, she’s got 7 of her own as well as 3 grandchildren. Her husband lives and works in Saudi Arabia – where she has no desire to go. He drives a long haul truck between the Middle Eastern countries and she sees him every weekend, as routine drives bring him back to Abu Dhabi every Thursday. Maggi is bent on giving her children the best education she can and has two studying Criminology with two more still at school back home and the other three already working.   She says she has six years left of school fees after which she will spend a few more years in Dubai making some money for herself.                                                         Effective.

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Hazel Rumbaoa, Filippino:  Cleaner,  quietly and efficiently cleans up – over and over again behind the children. She swipes and sweeps, 6 days a week from six am to six pm. Sub-contracted out from the school, she has one month left on her two year contract and as her stay here has been hard and lonely she’s going home as soon as she gets her passport back and the clearance to do so. She’s not sure what to do next as jobs are in short supply back home and the pay minimal. She wants a rest first and then will decide on her future.                                                                       Efficient.

Name and photo withheld: Born and bred in Dubai but of Jordanian origin, Sara (not her real name) is one of the school admin team. She’s fluent in English, despite Arabic being her first language and amongst other things does some of the translation work for the school.  Sara is married with two children. She married her first cousin, although not specifically an arranged marriage in the traditional sense. She and her cousin were aware of each other growing up and at the age of 25, she told her mother that there was something between them. Her mother was initially not very keen, but Sara worked her over, which she then did, in turn persuading Sara’s father to agree to the marriage. And they’ve been happily married ever since.                           Interesting.

Deliveries on Demand

If you’re one with this age of instant gratification, what with a no-wait for anything and where fast, faster and fastest delivery of food are key words in your daily vocabulary, then Dubai is the place for you.   And if you are even vaguely that way inclined, let me give you a taster ….. those golden arches stretch across this city under the surreptitious name of McDelivery! You don’t even have to give Ronald a personal phone call.   Just get the app, set your address, choose your food, check out and you could be munching on a big Mac and having a French fry frenzy within a matter of minutes.

Each to his own, of course.

But just saying…..(I quote from a survey done and published in the National newspaper)

“More than 66 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women in the UAE are overweight or obese, according to a new analysis, prompting researchers to issue a call for action for the region.

The UAE and other Arabian Gulf countries must tackle obesity because the high prevalence rates – which do not seem to be levelling – will amount to a heavy burden on their societies, said Dr Ali Mokdad, director of Middle Eastern Initiatives at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the US, which analysed the data used in the study.

“That means more diabetes in a place where diabetes is a major problem,” he said. “That means more cardiovascular disease. That means more cancer.”

Even though these countries are affluent, the burden will be costly and place more pressure on government resources and families.

“They cannot afford to have the manpower to treat so many people with chronic diseases,” said Dr Mokdad.”

Enough said!

I’m certainly not laying the blame on the Macs alone. I think I’m safe to say that just about every restaurant in the city delivers and with the gruelling pace people live at, it makes feeding your face that little bit easier when food is only at the end of an order.

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Each and every day our garden gates are assaulted with pick-me-please-pamphlets urging us to push the buttons and call for anything from a burger

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to six course gourmet meals and with Christmas coming soon – please place your order for turkey and figgie pudding. Now. It will come delivered with hats and crackers, being pulled along by reindeer. (ok that one, only maybe, but then again nothing is impossible in this part of the world).

Admittedly this family are not fast food fans at all, but there is one delicacy we indulge in on a fairly regular basis and that’s a rotisserie chicken.   You cannot buy a raw chicken in Carrefour for cheaper than the cost of these little lovelies, complete with a side of flat bread, hummus, a small salad and garlic cream.

For the love of all things leisurely who would ever want to roast their own?

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Indian, Ismail Pallipesha Abdul Khadar comes from Kerala and has been bringing chickens round for the last eight years. He and Lincoln have established a fine rapport and there are hand shakes and smiles all round when he arrives. Tonight was the first time we’ve ever asked him about him. The smile soon faded and the story saddened. He rolled his eyes heaven ward with each sentence, at the same time placing his hand on his heart while punctuating his words with “In shaa Allah” over and over again. He has a severely mentally challenged child with heart problems back in India. He’s looked after by his wife and a second child, mostly from hospitals. Ismail works a 12 hour shift from 1.30pm to 1.30am, seven days a week, week in and week out. He sleeps, alongside 9 other men, in a flat connected to the shop. In the earlier days he delivered by pedal bike, but these days he has a car.  Much better, he says, because of the air conditioning in summer. He works for as long as it takes him to earn enough money to go home and stay for at least four to six months – thus relieving the burden on his wife. When he has more than enough money to build a small house in his village he will return home for good. “But, In shaa Allah, who knows when that will be, In shaa Allah”

There, with his wife and two boys,  he will survive by subsistence farming. In shaa Allah.

Drat…I’ve just remembered that I never asked him if he’d one day consider raising chickens. His answer would probably have been “Yes, In shaa Allah.”  Bless him.

Nailed it

South African men are macho. They eat red meat – mostly dried, drink beer – mostly cold and they play or like rugby. Alot.

What they don’t do is go to the beauty parlour. With their wives to get their nails done. Ever.

Oh no they don’t.

Arab men wear white robes. I don’t know what they eat and they are not supposed to drink so I assume they don’t, and they ride horses and drive cars.   Fast.

What they do, do is go to the beauty parlour. Without their wives to get their nails done. Often.

Oh yes they do.

Its called perspective, people.

So when my beer drinking, dried meat eating, rugby fanatical husband complained about in-grown toenails and the fact, (at that stage in his life but not anymore), that his beer boep was stopping him from reaching his toes at all, I did what all nice, inclusive wives would do. I invited him along to my Beauty Parlour.

Imagine that.

You can also imagine how much pain he must have been in, as he eventually relented as long as I made the booking and went with him and didn’t tell my friends, (of course I would never, ever do that) then all’s well that would end well.

Which it did.

So very well in fact,  its become a routinely monthly outing for my macho South African man and me.

Whoppeee!

Beauty Parlours are interesting phenomena here in Dubai.   Men use them often and women use them more often. Therefore they are in great demand and you’ll usually find one, or two or both as frequently as you’ll find a mosque. Like every square kilometer.

Men’s are full-on glass fronted, bright lighted with the interior totally exposed to the exterior. Women’s are blacked out, dim lighted and totally excluded from the exterior.

It’s all perfected, people.

We gave this one in the mini mall right round the corner from us a miss. For fairly obvious reasons…

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…and settled for Mary’s Foot Spa which has a male and a female shop right next to each other. Same, same but separate. This, so I could hold his hand and guide him right to His door, drop him off to do his in-grown, up-grown thing and I could go do mine through the Hers door.

Or so I thought.

But no… because hey ho, we found out that I, a female, am allowed into the male domain. To politely sit with my macho South African man while we both get our nails done.   He, a male,  on the other hand, would be drawn and quartered and dragged across the desert behind a camel if he dared enter the female section.

Perhaps this is prejudice, people.

Whatever.  It is what it is because that’s just the way they rock and roll here and thats ok…

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…because there we will be seen, my South African macho man and me, sitting side by side, in the big squishy chairs with this sweet serving and hugely smiling Filipino community, carefully cutting, cleaning and polishing our nails and

Its all just perfect, because we’ve nailed it people.