News flash

To my amazement and initial un-expectation, every single one of the people that I’ve chatted to over the past month have been most generous with their time and their lives. As I’ve skirted the small talk and gone straight for the big, they’ve humbled and honoured me time and time again with open and honest responses. Not an easy thing that…talking straight to a strange woman armed with cupcakes and a camera. But talk they did and for that I am so thankful.

That’s every single one of them, except these two…

Shieker MoserabIMG_8710

and name withheld IMG_8717

Not because they didn’t want to (I hope) but because they were working against time. See, these newspaper delivery men get commission for papers delivered and when your commission is only 20 UAE Fils per paper, you’ve got to get through a whole heap of news to make little enough money to buy a pie. I’ve just tried to work 20 Fils to American cents and I could be totally off here,(its late and maths isn’t my thing) but I think its around 5 US cents. Whether I’m right or wrong in that calculation, the amount remains minuscule and every Fil earned, an arduous journey.

Sheiker Moserab from India, delivers by bike. His own, bought and paid for from money saved in a previous job. He gets reimbursed for petrol but not for maintenance. His monthly basic stipend is insignificant so those papers delivered momentus. He parks his bike in a central spot and then scuttles from subscribed reader to reader to save stopping, starting and manoeuvering his bike in tight spaces. When his contract runs out with current company he would like to become a motorbike delivery person for Fedex or DHL.

In a time-tight fluster I forgot the cupcakes, but Sheiker turned that around and thanked me for talking to him and presented me with his gift – a plastic wrapped paper.  “Your complimentary” he said after which he jumped on his bike and took off in a puff of dust.

IMG_8713

What I got from the second manIMG_8729

was an Arabic paper or two, hung neatly on our garden gate.  He gave me his name but didn’t give me the chance to ask for permission to publish it, so out of respect I won’t.  These papers are all complimentary, so I’m not sure how much he gets paid and he certainly wasn’t hanging around long enough for me to find out. He was gone in a flash – probably trying to earn the next Fil.

Advertisements

Of Sutures and Surgeons

I didn’t take cupcakes with me today.   Who would dare to carry cup cakes into a sterile and supposedly health supporting environment? Where all that’s good and clean and fresh, minus harmful additives and other bad stuff for your body should be promoted.   Seems I was wrong, as there in all its glaring glory in the middle of a hospital reception area, alongside all the malaise and malfunction was a refreshment station promoting cups of coffee and this…

IMG_3367But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Let me just state before we get going here that I’m absolutely 100 percent fine. Thank you for asking and yes, I was in as an outpatient in this very large hospital ‘cos when you’re fair skinned and play with sun-fire you bet burnt. Probably a few too many times over my African childhood and now too, as I expose my shoulders to the rays, out there in the desert on my bike. I had to have one of those things with an un pronounceable name cut out. A one number basal cell carcisomethingorother and I parted company today.

No big deal.

What was a big deal; Dr Faruq M. Badiuddin MS, FRCS (Eng) FICS (USA) Specialist General Surgeon, Laparoscopic Gastrointestinal and Obesity Surgery. In short, the surgeon and his absolutely delightful garland of nurses that hung onto his every action and direction like their all time favourite grandpa was in the room – and it didn’t take me very long to see why.

As I was prepped, three amicable and so-sweet nurses, all from the Philippines and speaking in muffled tones through face masks, discussed their lives in general and their hopes in particular. They are treated well where they work. They are all happy and THE stare was not there as their eyes danced above the stretchy cloth keeping their germs in and mine out. All had immediate family living with them in Dubai and two had children, birthed here and living local with them.

IMG_3370

We talked the politics of corruption – same same in Africa as in Asia, the education or lack thereof in Presidents and the voting masses following them. We exhaled in the privilege of education and the price of living as an expat. We chatted as they scrubbed and opened surgical packs with their elbows and asked me to sign a million and one pieces of paper. And I marvelled, once again, at the gentle ways and nothing-is-too-much-trouble attitude of this gentle nation of truly beautiful people.

IMG_3372

And then it was time for Dr. Faruq to do his thing. Obviously held in high but relaxed regard by all the girls I could see now why his consulting room walls are covered with thank you cards from grateful patients. He’s as softly spoken as his skilled hands, which moved a needle and scalpel with the stealth of a soldier, around my shoulder. Since he was a captive audience, has accolades on his business card as long as my arm and, I assume, had sworn the Hippocratic oath I took full advantage of the situation and launched forth into my repertoire of questions.

The story that unfolded was worth so much more  than the inconvenience of removing a malfunctioning mole.

Dr Faruq is the youngest of ten children born to Indian parents who were both teachers.   His mother had her first baby at 14 and her last at the age of 42. During this time she also managed to educate herself and alongside her also-a-teacher husband, all ten of her children. Some have passed on, others are medical doctors, some are teachers, a few are professors and academics, some are in India and others scattered around the world. He laughed when I asked him if he knew where all his nephews and nieces felt at home.   He got his initial MS in India and then went on to specialise in London and America. He moved his young family – a wife, two boys and a girl to Ireland where he spent many happy years before moving closer to home and the sufficiently similar to India culture of Dubai in 1987.   He’s been operating here ever since. His children finished their schooling locally and the boys moved on to the US, where they still live now. His daughter is in Dubai. They are all grown up, and have children of their own.

Between all the oohing and ahhing of his family stories, the pricking, pushing and tugging of my skin and what seemed like buckets of blood being mopped, the chat moved to movies, and his all time favourite Avatar. I stopped him to yuck the bloody mess he held at the end of the tweezers and asked him why he was sewing nylon tread through it. “For the pathologist so he can orientate the growth with blah blah” I lost him there – and gave him the go ahead to proceed with movie talk. He related almost frame by frame to me, a total ignoramus in the movie world, the story of co-existence which lead us to discuss the genetic differences between a banana plant, a chimpanzee and a man and then without pause the failure of the thing that burns an open wound to stop it bleeding profusely. The nurses scuttled and plugged in and out this machine and moved that equipment around while Dr Faruq stood poised with instrument in hand, encouraging them and me along. I asked him why it didn’t stink and he said burning skin smells, internal stuff doesn’t.

I’m telling you, you can’t make these conversations up.

When all was said and done, the sutures secure and do-this-at-home instructions given, Dr Faruq told me to be kind to my shoulder, a hard working part of the body, as he gave my hand a fatherly pat.

IMG_3374

He opened his mouth to say something else when a knock on the door brought in yet another nurse from the general anesthesia wards. She said they were all waiting for, what I now claim as “my” doctor,  as she gently pulled then pushed him out the door amidst upbeat banter and big smiles. “See you in ten days” he shouted over his shoulder as the door swung closed behind him. I dressed, hugged the three lovely nurses and wished them well while wishing I had brought the biggest cake along, all covered in candles to celebrate the birth of Dr Faruq M Badiuddin  – even though it was not his birthday.

What a gentleman. What a scholar.  What a surgeon.

Sweeping the Streets

When the roads are quiet and the cars are few, it has to be very early morning in Dubai. Its also the only time street sweepers can do their job unhindered…

Well to a certain extent – the exception being when some random lady shows up and asks, firstly if you speak English and secondly if you’d mind having a chat with her. She comes armed with a camera over her shoulder, cupcakes in one hand and a notebook in the other and I guess she could look intimidating, although she tries very hard not to.

IMG_8705I got a “leetle English” and the customary head wobble from Ram of Rajasthan – a northern Indian state bordering Pakistan. I took that as an “okay, what do you want to say?”

An instant icebreaker for just about every Indian I’ve ever encountered is the game of cricket. And as South Africa had lost to India by 35 runs in a one day international, just two days before, Ram had plenty to motion and laugh about, his leetle English absolutely adequate alongside foot movements and imaginary bat-hitting-ball gestures. His movements were fluid and fast and clearly this guy had missed his true vocation in life.

As have so many others due to little or no education.

IMG_8708

Ram Chander is 31 years old with a wife and two little children of five and three back home. He’s been in Dubai for two years and earns $200 a month. I’m not sure if he understood what I meant when I asked him what he wanted to do next in his life, but he did manage to say that he would do whatever he could to earn any money but as he didn’t have school, maybe he would always have to sweep the streets.

This said with a resigned shrug of his shoulders and a smile on his face.

IMG_8706

Oh, how very much we, even those with only the basics in reading and writing have to be grateful for.

How very much.

THAT stare was not there.

IMG_8703

This morning, early, while the sun was starting to climb the sky and the party revellers were climbing into bed, I caught up with the garbage collectors in my community.

IMG_8718

I’ve been trying to catch them for a while but they come, pull, tip, push and jump back on the truck so fast its been a mission to get to them before they’ve already gone.

IMG_8719

The whole manoeuvre so quick I thought they wouldn’t have time for a chat and that they would be reluctant to eat cupcakes surrounded by such filth.

What rubbish and how wrong could I be?

I waited and watched for the truck and heard it long before I saw it. They are not quiet things these. The pffffssht of the air brakes, the squeal of the oil through the pipes as the hydraulics moan at the weight of the skip, shheuus, bang, clatter, shatter!

As per always, I like to ask permission before I shoot so looked up high to catch the driver’s eye. Next thing, the truck was idling and he was next to me, asking if there was a problem and if he could help. How come they so politely think they’re in trouble?

What ensued was a lively conversation peppered with humour and a huge heap of goodwill. These guys are such a hoot and the amicability between them and towards me tangible.   (Except when you want a smiley picture)

IMG_8721

Ifran Khan (centre), the driver comes from India. Rida Rasab (left) from Egypt and Khalil Mica (right) from Bangladesh.   They are all happy in their jobs and said they enjoyed working for the Dubai Municipality who treated them well. Their years of service – 25 years between them testimony to that.

Working a 7-½ hour shift; starting at 4.30am and ending at noon, they have one wife each, 1, 2 and 4 children respectively and send monthly money home. The usual story. Well partly, because this time there was a difference. Their eyes shone bright and although the life they live is not easy…

The stare, THAT stare – the one that gives just a tiny glimpse into a saddened and suppressed soul,  crying on the inside while still smiling on the outside – yes, THAT stare was not there.

IMG_8724

IMG_8726

Facebook – I LIKE!

fb images

Ok….this post had to happen at some time during these 31 days of Creating Community. Not that I ever created this particular community. I wish. All credit to one very-bright-but-dropped-out-of-school genius and now billionaire for doing that. Yeah, thank you Mr Mark Zuckerberg for one of my most treasured communities, which became all too dear to me when we first moved to Dubai and I was so terribly and painfully lonely. Yip. Just call me Nigel. Nigel-No-Friends. Facebook quickly became a haven where I could put something, anything, and everything up and have people like it. I was looking for all the likes I could get – as Nigels do.

I’ll admit it here. I’ll admit it there. I’ll admit it everywhere. I love, love, love Facebook and maybe/possibly/could be addicted. But that’s a very strong word, so I’ll just click the Like button. As in LIKE!

I LIKE Facebook – ok!

Middle-aged women really should not be attached at the hip to anything. Especially the hip things people say and do on Facebook because really… middle aged women should be crocheting colourful covers for the spare wheels of their caravans while deciding which sensible shoes will go with their beige seersucker twinsets and pearls.

But seems I’m wrong…

Granted it’s an old study, but in 2014 according to Google: “The biggest growth (in Facebook users) came among adults over the age of 55. Facebook added 12.4 million new users from this age range, a massive 80.4 percent growth. It’s clear that Facebook is getting older, which may be exactly why teens are abandoning it in favour of micro blogging networks like Tumblr and messaging apps like Snapchat.  After all, there is nothing cool about having parents and grandparents “liking” pictures of your friends.”

I think this is all too wonderful. You young ‘uns can have your Snapchat – at my age I like to have my pictures hang around a bit longer than a day, because I may not be hanging around for too many more days myself. Leave Facebook to us where we can find friends from fifty years ago and ask with arrant anticipation if they “Remember me?” And if they do – oh the jubilation ‘cos at our age we don’t remember much, especially where we left our now-ringing phones while we’re actually scrolling Facebook on them. Oh WhatTheFun of trolling old friends through the ages except when it becomes a 5,10, 15, 50 minute WTF-where-did-the-time-just-go exercise.

This is not a good thing. Especially as I spend almost the whole day in front of a computer wrestling with words and writing stuff. When said words are scarce, it’s all too easy to click across to Facebook and there, voila – a whole world of other peoples words and wonders wait. For me. To check them out.

Don’t get me wrong and to quote myself (can one do that?) “I’m so grateful for Facebook and the internet. I love the way that you can feed the world into its big mouth and out comes a Lego sized globe with everyone looking at everyone else – at the mere touch of a button.  But along with that comes a fickle non-reality.  That everything goes good with everyone all the time.  Few people put their ugliest moment up for all to see, and comment and share and like.   I bet you’d, heaven-forbid-dahling, never post a picture showing your dimpled belly, early morning drool face or any other such atrocity.  Have to look good, have to look better, have to look best! “ (Seriously Slapgat)

I’m the first to put my hand up here and state that I most certainly only put my best foot forward on my facebook pages. The early morning drool face with no make up, no problem – I’m over and ok with that but just look at the pictures in this post,   Beautiful Belles and you’ll see what I mean. Thatbestfootforward.com. I blush to admit that even this very morning, I was the one behind the camera, getting THAT perfect picture simply because my usual black yoga pants that hold-it-all-in where it should-be-held-in, were in the wash and my second choice has lost its grip giving me a soggy butt and knobby knees.

Oh how fickle the female.

Maybe Facebook is fickle too, but for me, it’s a mighty fine and  fabulously friendly community.

Connecting with our Commuting Community

At night as I lie in bed I count the airplanes, sky high and stacked up one behind the other, behind the other… just hanging and waiting for clearance to land at Dubai International Airport. One, two, three, four and fffiivve… asleep. Better than sheep because I don’t have to imagine anything, and at that time of night, please, no mind work needed.   The airport is close to home in more ways than one. Not only because it’s a ten (or twenty or thirty) minute drive away, depending on traffic, but also there’s probably a good chance that Carla, our cabin-crew-daughter-in-law is stylishly serving on one of them planes a-comin or a-go’n, as she does frequently on her world flips. There’s also another good chance that someone else we know is flying through Dubai and coming to connect.  (And if that’s the case I shouldn’t be lying in bed counting planes, should I?).

Dubai International Airport or DXB is the world’s busiest airport for passengers and the 6th busiest for cargo. In 2014, 70.5 million passengers and 2.37 million tons of cargo touched down or took off from a runway in this land-of-sand.

70.5 million people through this tiny country with an enormous airport and ginormous attitude. That’s 0.1 percent of the entire world population playing passenger through here, a year.

That’s a lot of people, people!

We too, get a lot of these passing passengers popping in for a dinner, bed and breakfast. One, two or all three of those things. I LOVE it. But just for the record and in case you’re coming – I don’t do the Burj, the ski slope or desert safaris. Oh no mam/sir.  Those you do on your ownsome! Been there, done that and didn’t get the tee-shirt because I already have too many of the same already. For the rest, you’re welcome.

So in our Commuting Community over the past few days we’ve had:

Namita Grace, seen here in front of the palace of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

IMG_8660

Namita is a pocket rocket of energy with a universe of ideas. We met by divine intervention when she was in transit from Seattle to Uganda two years ago and her plans did not pan out. Stuck with no money and nowhere to go in Dubai, she recalled my name from a casual conversation she’d had with a friend in the USA a while back.   Late at night she sought me on Facebook (Yay Facebook!), introduced herself and asked me what I thought she should do. Ten (or twenty or thirty, I forget what the traffic looked like that night) minutes later I was at the airport looking for a short little Indian girl, as SHE described herself, and of which there are more than many in Dubai. We miraculously connected because I was probablyinpurple and we’ve been firm friends ever since.

Namita, a Basic Medical Science graduate going on to do her Masters in Community and Public Health next year, is head of and initiator of an organisation called PHASE, which she’s successfully planting in developing countries, the first being Uganda. Amongst many things, she connects people and gets them doing awesome things, like some passing on skills and others learning skills, all local on local. An example being that of an expert vegetable gardener training students in the art of veggie gardens and then doing the actual ground work in thrown aside plastic packets. These new gardeners work with local health students in the slums getting food gardens going and growing in rubbish (i.e. those dreaded and dirty plastic packets often synonymous with an urban African landscape). Another project on the go involves Food Science Students, Animation Architects and Software Engineers all working together on a context driven animated video which will show and help people to understand how food affects their bodies and thus hopefully get them to eat said stuff growing in said plastic packets. Read more about Namita Grace at www.thephaseproject.org. She’s one amazingly fabulous “little” lady.

IMG_8667

These people need no introduction.

IMG_8697

Well known amongst many in Africa and across the US, they are to teenagers what mommies are to babies. Necessary.   Heading up Young Life Africa and the new Middle East region, and the parents of three teenagers and one young adult themselves, Steve and Dyan Larmey work tirelessly to train mentors in fearlessly loving on and laughing with teenagers – probably the most neglected sect of the population.   “Young Life doesn’t start with a program. It starts with adults who are concerned enough about kids to go to them on their turf and in their culture, building bridges of authentic friendship. These relationships don’t happen overnight – they take time, patience, trust and consistency. Loving kids regardless of their responses”

I was loved on as a struggling teen many many moons back when living in the USA and I’ve loved Young Life with a passion ever since. Some of my finest times and funniest memories are associated with camps, incredibly silly skits and screaming laughter as a teenager and since then connecting with teenagers.  I believe in Young Life and young lives and couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s coming to this region in whatever shape or form that looks like right now. I also couldn’t be more thrilled that that means we’ll also be seeing a lot more of Steve and Dyan just passing through or staying put for a couple of days or weeks or whatever as they become a regular part of our commuting community. Welcome.

https://www.younglife.org/Pages/default.aspx

Meet my Man

This guy:

IMG_4386The one I roll my eyes at so loudly even the neighbours can hear.

The one right under my nose but the hardest to love because he’s right up my nose.

The one who never-says-a word and doesn’t even try to keep up with my brain because it goes day and night pandering to the multi-personalitied mind of its own.

The one who helps look for, and clean the 15 pairs of glasses I have lying everywhere, but cant find anywhere.

The one who, in the interest of staying alive shops and cooks because I hate to do so.

IMG_1803

The one who makes us all laugh out loud and loves his daughter-in-law so well.

IMG_0360

The one who cannot and will not get an answer out of me for the first fifteen minutes of each day because my mouth is full of coconut oil – in the interests of good health.

The one who doesn’t need to speak to and get and answer from me for the first fifteen minutes of each day because his day begins at 3.30am and mine certainly does not.

The one who adores and lives in spreadsheets and who tries to get me to do the same – but no, bloody heck no, I’m not even vaguely invested in numbers and that’s why I married him.

The one who never reads a book, yet has a far better vocabulary and spelling sense than I, who reads copious piles of the things.

The one who goes to get chocolate after I’ve opened and shut the kitchen cupboards a million and more times looking for something sweet to eat and when he comes home gets accused of not caring about my sugar sensitivities.

The one who has only two pairs of shoes and some slip slops – meticulously removed, cleaned and polished each evening, but only after he’s tripped over and fallen head first into the 15 pairs Ive left  lying all over the house.

The one I fight with and sulk over aeroplane seats, but the one whose worked hard enough to afford the aeroplane seats in the first place.

The one who does a 300km per day commute and never complains, and when I do the moaning for him tells me he’s lucky enough to have a job at all at his age so we best  be quiet and be thankful.

The one whose genes joined with mine to make fit and fabulous offspring.

IMG_1345

The one who understands that women are complicated creatures and just rolls with the munches.

The one who loves the straight and simple things in life: the bush, a braai and a beer

IMG_2025

IMG_1573

The one, this one: Lincoln James Buck whom I married 33 years ago…. and so has to be the hero.

IMG_3327

A whole lot of sweetness and colour on top

Yesterday, while watering the plants on my pavement, as I do everyday, my neighbour-neighbour came out of his gate laden with suitcases. He’s often laden with suitcases. He’s a frequent flyer of note. We exchanged salaams and the prescribed how are you, your wife, children and where are you going this time? I got the usual answers back with an added extra – his baby was now walking and he wanted me to see. “Wait here, don’t go, I’ll fetch him for you. Wait.” Which I did as I stretched the hose to its farthest point. A few seconds later a beautiful and very mobile little boy was flapping his hands and slapping his feet in the pooled water, gurgling wet delight and wonder while daddy looked on popping with pride.

So far so good.

The conversation then shifted to across the road where all this construction stuff is going on. He lifted his hands in the obligatory Y shape and muttered about all the traffic the new residences would produce and how our once peaceful road would cope with the onslaught of two cars per flat, 50 flats per block, 10 blocks per… My mind zoned out. The traffic is bad enough with only one road in and one road out. Just a few more cars – mayhem.

And then…

The talk moved to the men in the middle of the road. The ones who’ve become my friends with whom I share waves and laughs and cupcakes. (You don’t know about them, read here) And my neighbour told me that he was going to call the council and complain about them.   Because they shouldn’t sit and eat on the road and they needed to be somewhere else. Anywhere other than under the only little bit of shade in this short stretch of street right in front of our homes.

I opened my mouth to object. I’m good at doing that. The no filter stuff my forte. But I shut it quickly enough as I suddenly saw myself with the same Y shaped arms and fast fingers searching for council complaint telephone numbers in my phone. I saw myself seeing these men as objects that needed to be removed instead of people with hearts and hope, merely trying to earn a fair wage to keep their families alive and learning back home.

I saw myself as I saw my neighbour. Not even three weeks ago before I started on this community thing… and I did not like what I saw back then.

Ashamed I shut my mouth and sat in the chair, under the trees in my gated garden. I heard the constant screech of the bulldozer tracks, the persistent pulse of the digger and the chug of the trucks moving up and down the road, one after the other after the other.

And I realized the noise has become music to my ears instead of a grinding to my soul. I thought about how each hour that passed with these noises meant another few dollars earned for these men – to send back home.

As I thanked Dubai for creating opportunities for people to work, us included, no matter how hard the circumstances, I realized that these people across the road had become my community – my extended family. They had welcomed me without question, much more openly than I had welcomed them and I was becoming fiercely protective over them. I reflected on how far I stepped out of my comfort zone and in so, had never felt more at home.

We are wired to link arms and share the hard shoulders on the road of life.   And I specifically think, that at a time such as this I was created to care with cupcakes. A very unremarkable deed, but one that has, indeed, changed my world and added a whole lot of sweetness and colour on top.

So, what I need to do now is go and bake a bunch for my neighbour-neighbour and his walking boy, the older children and his wife.

Watch this space…..

Hello, howzit and kissamee quick Saffa

When words like these come naturally and without translation.

south african slang

When food like this is standard fare.

IMG_2519

When a primary coloured flag is the table cloth, beaded animals the props and there’s biltong in a bowl

IMG_2522

Then you know that you’re home from home in your home. Even if its ten thousand miles and a continent away.

The South African community in Dubai is about fifty to a hundred thousand strong. Maybe more now as the only figures I can find date back five years – so just give or take a few tens of thousands.

However many, wherever people congregate, there is always someone saying something Soueffrican and it’s the English-ish language that connects long before the looks.

That and the fact that we kiss on the lips. Loudly and easily. As in a hello-how-are-you greeting. The direct, face to face, lips to lips, South African styled KISS!

Rowdy, robust and resilient – in the true sense of the word but it seems we’re one of the few countries that still partake in this heady custom, and even then it could be a dying practice. That’s if watching the youth of today is anything to go by as it seems they prefer the fist pushing, hand pumping and thumb locking greeting, as brothers in arms all done in a sassy sway and loud howzits. Like some ritualistic mating dance…and maybe it is.

According to credible sources kissing is a complex behaviour that requires significant muscular coordination involving a total of 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles. Its also right up there in your face and can leave you either nonchalantly and happily greeted or trying to discreetly turn your back to wipe away residual strings of spittle.

Maybe the latter is why many around the world have chosen to leave the lips and take on other forms of wordless greetings. Living in a country which hosts more than 200 different nationalities, the basic interaction of greeting can be confusing, if not highly awkward, sometimes bordering on licentiousness but mostly downright embarrassing.

The Americans are cool. They hug. Which takes on a life of its own from an A frame, front facing, butt-out posture with gentle tap on the back to a wholehearted embrace and a good few serious klaps* around the shoulders. Then there’s the moral hug…. heaven forbid that body and boobs touch at a time such as this. So it’s a sideways shuffle, one arm around the back and a halfway hip hustle, barely touching, all the while looking straight ahead and never, no, never making eye contact. Over and done in a second. Phew!

As much as hugging is a common greeting in the States, French people almost never hug. They kiss and if you think I’m going to go into the intricacies of the sexy smooch that goes with the nations name, I’m not. Use the Internet for that. French kissing excluded, they, along with other Europeans prefer the cheek-kiss greeting. This too has sub-sections as sometimes the lips make contact with the cheeks and other times it’s a vague, pretend movement of vinegar-puckered lips and a lot of hot air. This can be a once off lurch or a prolonged head bobbing motion of one cheek, one kiss, the other cheek another kiss and sometimes even and third or forth kiss kiss kiss – one on the left and three on the right. By the time you’re done with this ritual you’re likely to have banged heads, be exhausted and ready for rest, never mind the life and soul of the party.

In some places in the Middle East it is customary for men to greet each other by rubbing noses whilst it’s a total breach of protocol for a Western man to shake the hand of, or even vaguely touch a local lady in any way. Ladies can greet each other cheek to cheek and do so most enthusiastically.

It takes the recall of an elephant to remember the correct kissing etiquette and most times I don’t. This has resulted in many an embarrassing situation of an innocent greeting turning into a horribly skewed mouth mess with both parties recoiling in horror and the remnants of bright pink lipstick left perfectly placed on an earlobe or the end of a nose. Hardly the way to keep new friends or please people.

What are we to do … as greetings, in whatever form are an expected and appreciated part of every day life and an essential part of creating community.

Any and all suggestions welcome!

* klap – to give someone a good smack

The Bigger Picture

We’ve been expats for 18 years. Which means I’ve lived away from home-home and been a part of the international community for a third of my life.   It’s been an enriching and wonder-filled experience in every way, although not always a smooth or easy ride for any of us. However challenging, however hard, we’ve lived life and have stories to tell as we’re alive and kicking and living in Dubai. Thankfully, we’ve always been in the fortunate position of being able to choose where we live and how we live. We certainly did not leave our motherland under duress or because we had no other option. Not the case for many millions of others as right now the world experiences the biggest refugee crisis in modern times. My heart hurts and hangs in pain for these innocent people who have no choice but to run for their lives, many losing it in the process. Who can forget the pictures of those baby-boy bodies on the beach,  the terrified anguish of innocent children and the father who has watched his entire family perish right before his eyes? And maybe, like me you’ve felt powerless to do anything about it because its just so big and so un-beautiful.

children in distress

So, in honour of my international community, and as I reflect on the past two weeks and half way mark of this Creating Community Challenge, today I repost

What to do, when you don’t know what to do… about Syria and the world in a wobble

and trust that the extension of a hand,  the listening of an ear and the ever faithful cupcake, has been part of the bigger picture in some small, small way.