My New Best Friend

Having been in Dubai for almost 10 years now, I have seen a lot of changes to the local landscape: the tallest building in the world has risen through the desert sand; the bus-metro-tram system has made moving about in the Emirate a lot smoother; and the ambitious Dubai Water Canal project has transformed one of Dubai’s busiest hubs into a wonderland of walk- and water ways.  It really is amazing how Dubai continues to evolve.

For me, one of the most noticeable transformations (and for which, as a taxi mum, I am very grateful) has been the road network.  There was a time when work and school commutes = sitting in traffic and negotiating the eye watering, super scary roundabouts were a par-for-the-course pain.

The progressive, sprawling network has spread its magical motorways in every direction reducing commute times and keeping the traffic moving.  Spaghetti junctions that practically require a degree in Maths to skipper their multiple choice menus, ease the change in direction without having to drive half way to Abu Dhabi to do a U-turn and come back.

As a newbie, I was a nervous driver on the roads of Dubai yore!  More often than not, I got lost even though I strictly abided by the ‘new to Dubai driver’ rule of ‘Dubai – north, Abu Dhabi – south’.

A decade later, and one would think I would know Dubai like the back of my hand; that taxi drivers should be flagging me down to give them directions.  But that’s just the thing….just when you think you have mastered the road system, a ‘detour’ sign pops up and your trusty U-turn is closed forcing you to drive 25 minutes longer to get to your destination.   I have lost count of the amount of times I have driven parallel to the road I want to be on, pointing, yelling ‘that’s the road I want to be on’, but have no clue how to get onto it…..

Fully aware of my ‘constantly gets lost radar’, friends have suggested Google Maps.  The mere mention of the word ‘map’ sends me into a sweaty panic.  I can’t read  maps….hence the reason I generally get lost.  I believe you either have a ‘map’ brain or you don’t.  I don’t (except when it comes to shopping mall maps….for some reason, I have no problem finding the stores I want to visit!).

However, one busy Thursday afternoon (start of Dubai’s weekend)  I needed to get to DD’s away school netball match, and I had no idea how to get there.   Annoyed at not having had time to do my usual ‘reccie’ mission, I sat nervously in the school car park, practically praying my vague understanding of the school’s location from its website would be enough to get me there – on time.  That was until Google maps’ fan friends’ gushings about the life saving app were catapulted to the forefront of my navigationally challenged brain.

 

Cue: downloading.  Accompanied by a savvy co-pilot in DS1, we set off.

All was fine until we hit a major interchange and Google led me into the mother of all traffic jams.  The advised ‘right turn’ would have seen me end up on a central reservation.  The ignored, albeit questionable instruction left me stranded in weekend rush hour traffic, with a co-pilot desperate for a pit stop, and no chance of making DD’s game.  As suspected, it would seem one needs to be able to read a map to qualify to use this app (or at least have that kind of brain that I clearly do not have).

Burned by my smartphone guide experience, I reverted to my old fashioned way of asking DH (who has the map reading brain) to talk me through how to get there.

That was until a lovely friend recommended the Waze App.  Reading maps – be gone.  Google maps – be gone.  Waze will talk you through the journey and re-correct if you somehow manage to take the wrong turn (that’s me!).

Sounded like Waze and I could be friends.

Cue: Life transformed, and a best friend made.

Bob (my pet name for the Waze voice) and I get along famously.  I think it is because he reminds me of me as a parent.  He gives the instruction in a calm voice the first time.  I swear by the time he reiterates the instruction for a second time his tone has edged up a notch or two.  By the third attempt, he is screeching at me like an impatient fishwife!  But on the whole we are friends because he is clear and reliable.

There have been times when he thinks I drive a F1 car  – ‘In 600m, turn left.’  A split second later he will say ‘In 50m, turn left.’….Seriously????  I couldn’t cover that much ground in that time even if I were speeding…

But on the whole, I am happy to have met Bob and value his companionship on Dubai’s ever evolving road system.

 

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Pampered Pooch

As a child growing up with a pet pooch, I recall snuggles with a fluffy German shepherd, poos the size of cow pats that no 21st biodegradable poop bag could hold and enough moulted hair to knit a sweater a week!  Sure, I loved our ‘Baby’ as the 80lb fur ball of our family was affectionately named, but I have to admit, as a teenager fond of sleep, I dreaded the pre-school walking duty.

Now that I am one of the parental units of a family of three kiddos who only stay in bed until 6am (and only on the threat of having every device thrown out the window), walking our 1 year old rescue Baby in the morning before the desert heat sets in, is the least of my worries.

Who knew that poochy pups need more than cuddles, walks, water and food????

There have been numerous trips to the Vet to get the required vaccinations, as well as the meds to clear up a dicky tummy.  There has been the steam cleaning of the car after the trip to the Vet….and after Baby puked up his guts on the 5 minute car ride back home.  There has been the cost of installing a slatted, wooden garden fence to prevent his Houdini escape attempts.  There has been the paving of part of the garden to prevent him digging his way downunder.  There has been the trainer to help him to learn his place and stop him running out the front door in the direct line of passing cars.  There has been the cost of kennels when we go away for any amount of time.  On top of the kennels’ fees, there is the collection and drop off fee…..as poor Baby suffers from motion sickness, we arrange a van to pick him up from home and drop him back after his weekend of fun!  We have even re-installed a baby safety gate at the bottom of the stairs to stop the moulting, smelly wonder setting up camp in the kids’ bedrooms.

Throw in so called indestructible chew toys that my boy can obliterate in minutes, and the cost of owning a fur baby borders on that of having another baby!

My smug world of ‘I have got this sorted – you Poochie Poo’ was recently splintered  when a friend mentioned she had booked her pooch in for his regular grooming session.  Clueless, I raced home to Google what grooming of 4 legged babies entailed.  Seriously???  Shampoo, condition, ears cleaning, nails clipped and filed, some nether region action……all in the space of 30 minutes…….all for the bargain basement cost of AED300?????

Jeesh!  My own personal grooming doesn’t cost that much!! Where’s the cuticle clipping, waxing, threading, head, neck and shoulder massage???  I know I come back from the salon with a sense of ‘floatiness’.  I know fur Baby comes back from his uber pricey makeover looking for the next ‘treat’….Go figure.

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The best of both worlds

When summer arrives in Dubai, expat thoughts turn to cooler climes, fresh air and sometimes even the possibility of a few drops of rain.  We look forward to the things we miss from back home – family, friends, foods, shops, the familiar.  Today, as I crossed what is usually an insanely busy roundabout which requires one to take one’s life as well as the lives of the other passengers in the car in one’s hands to safely cross it, I was taken aback at how quiet the it was.   It was ‘early Friday morning’ quiet.  Crossing the roundabout was a breeze, and as welcome as the fresh breeze to which I am looking forward in the Emerald Isle.  The relaxing roundabout crossing got me thinking about what I will and won’t miss about my adopted home when we take our summer break.

I won’t miss burning off my fingerprints when I touch the steering wheel of my car that has been sitting in the desert’s blazing sun.

I won’t miss the ‘sand facial’ phenomenon.  Unlike luxury salon facials, the ‘sand special’ is a natural occurring facial that generally happens at pick up time.  Gusts of wind whip up mini sand whirlwind that has a magnetic like attraction to sweat and/or sun block glistening faces.

I won’t miss the amount of product my hair needs to avoid the 1980’s backcomb look.

I won’t miss the fact that my kids are cooped up indoors in air conditioned environments, growing paler by the day.

I won’t miss the sweating/drying loop that by lunchtime makes me feel like I have been working up a sweat in the gym all morning.

But,

I will miss our friends.

I will miss the relaxed pace of summer life in Dubai.

I will miss the adventurous array of indoor activities for kids wanting to beat the heat.

I will miss the beach with crystal clear, refreshing waters.

I will miss the temperature controlled pool a 2 minute walk from our house.

As expats we have the best of both worlds.

 

 

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When I grow up

As a 7 year old, I dreamed of becoming a teacher.  I remember lining up my dolls (and sometimes my reluctant younger brother) in old school style classroom parallel rows, and scrawling sums and spellings on my easel blackboard whilst lecturing my very attentive pupils.  By the time I was 12, and the TV series Fame hit our screens, I dreamt of being a professional dancer.  I would prance around my carpeted sitting room in my shocking pink legwarmers and my plaited towelling sweatband, believing I could dance as gracefully and look as cool as Coco and her co-dancers.  Dazzled by thoughts of actually being part of the Fame dance troupe, I persisted with my self imposed practice and continued to dance through the discomfort of the carpet burns.

Then somewhere around my later teen years, when school and exams swallowed up most of my time, my creative streak turned to more practical thoughts; thoughts about the future, about a steady career, about a profession.  And so to university I went.

Today as my kiddos grow, I watch their passions change and evolve.  I have watched my DD gravitate from a love of arts and crafts when she would happily spend hours elbow deep in finger paints and sticky glue to playing sports at every opportunity.  I have watched DS1’s love of rugby be replaced with a love of go kart racing.  I have watched DS2 overcome his dislike of swimming to be thrilled to represent the school’s development swim team.  DD dreams of becoming an international netball player with hopes of playing for England.  DS1 dreams of becoming a F1 driver or a footballer and DS2 dreams of replacing Johnny Sexton (even though he doesn’t play rugby!) as well as playing for the Irish football team.

Sometimes I find myself wishing I had listened to my wise 7 year old self (I retired my legwarmers and sweatband as soon as the next teen craze came along!).  When it is time for my kiddos’ to choose their paths, my advice will be to do something you love.  It’s not a job if you do something you love.

 

 

 

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The ‘P’ Word

Since last week the letter ‘P‘ has taken over my life.  The bouncy arrival of Teddy the Pup has also heralded the arrival of puddles of pee and poop and not to mention sleepless nights.  We had planned to adopt a rescue dog, but after attending an open adoption day it was clear we needed to be prepared to welcome a new addition, so we decided to first stock up on doggie paraphenalia.  What is it they say about best laid plans?

24 hours after our decision I agreed to adopt an adorable little chap we met at the adoption day because his previously agreed adoption had fallen through.  Not having had time to make it to the pet store, Teddy arrived to a pretty bare house.  He excitedly skipped through the door, his tail wagging at breakneck speed. Excitedly he zipped from one spot to another, sniffing everything on the way.  I was dizzy watching him explore his new home.  Cuteness overload. The kids were besotted and were even entertained by his lack of bladder control.

All day long fur baby owning friends had been advising me on how to get the newest member of our family settled.  Oh how things seemed to have changed……..a.crate to provide a secure place, ferberizing (wasn’t that a technique used to sleep train babies???), strict feeding and walking schedules…..but first I needed to buy puppy essentials!

A dash to the local pet store and AED2,000 later, I was sure pup’s comfy red bed and shiny playpen would make him feel welcome in his new home. I was even more convinced that an exciting day would have tired pup out…..oh I have so much to learn…..At bedtime we tucked the little mite into his oversized crate and I settled on the couch in the next room.  Within a matter of hours the crying and yelping increased to a crescendo of howling that could have woken up the entire neighbourhood, let alone the entire household.  My first attempt to let him cry it out was successful ( and a lot less challenging than when I tried this method with DS1!).   Alas, peace did not reign for long, and when DS2 appeared in front of me at 1:30am begging me to make the noise stop, I knew I had no option.

Cradling the scamp in my arms, I began pacing…..pacing and rocking the 2 month old pup to calm him.  Every so often I would gently place him on his welcoming bed whilst I collapsed on my lumpy couch beside his pen.  With every wimper, I stumbled to his side to soothe him before he began howling.  Dizzy with tiredness I prayed for the day shift to relieve me.

People say having a puppy is like having a baby.  After my first night shift with Teddy, I thought that too.  However, after a week of a minding a teething, nipping puppy who pees and poops everywhere yet who has insane energy levels, and who cannot be left alone for fear of using the couch as a chew toy…..I think having a puppy is more like having a mischievious toddler!

 

it-wasnt-me

 

 

 

 

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Doggie Adoption

For quite some time now DD has been obsessed with all things dog related.  I can’t quite pinpoint what triggered her obsession but I do know she has been relentless in her pursuit of pestering me to get a dog as a family pet.  Growing up I had dogs, and as much work as it can be, I always felt the rewards far outweighed the before-school-walk-in-the-Irish-winter-rain, the poop scooping and the shedding (did I mention my pet was a German Shepherd who required up to 10 miles of walking a day, enough food to feed a rhino, and a shovel to scoop the poop?!).

Almost 4 years ago when DD began nagging I found it relatively easy to respond to her volley of ‘when can we get a dog?’ questions.  I am actually riddled with ‘Mummy guilt’ at some of the early excuses I offered, but in my defence, I didn’t want to dash my daughter’s hopes of one day having a dog.  When DD first asked for a dog, my response was a blase ‘sure, we can get one when you are 27’!  To a 7 year old oblivious to the concept of time, her response was an excited ‘OK’ and a merry skip on her way believing she would be getting a dog in 27 weeks…..Needless to say, for a clever little girl, it didn’t take DD long to figure out 20+ years was a very loooonnnngg time to wait for a puppy!  Thinking quickly on my feet my next excuse was enviroment – ‘Dogs need space.  Our garden is not large enough.  The desert is a very tough place for fur babies.   Perhaps when we move to Canada (a one time pipe dream of mine and DH’s) we would have the space and the seasons.’

As she grew older it became easier for her to understand the true reasons for not having a dog in the desert, and as much as she still wanted a dog, she understood our busy schedules didn’t leave much time for a pet, and how that would not be fair to a poor pooch.  Even so, that didn’t deter her attempts to break me down and win me over.  When she discovered K9 Friends online…..she began bombarding me with photos of the cutest, most lovable looking dogs who have been kindly rescued by this wonderful organisation. Before long it got to a point where we would sit together and scroll through K9 Friend’s site choosing which dog we would adopt if we were in a position to do so, and always concluding we wanted to adopt them all.

Before the summer when I finished up work, I realised we were in a position to adopt a doggie….afterall, I now have time to walk, feed, scoop poop……and announced to the bambinos that I thought we should think about getting a dog.

The munchkins were beyond excited.  They have already named the latest addition…..well each has got suggestions….picked out a leash, bed and chew toys….they have practically drawn up the walking schedule!  They are full of promises regarding caring for their little buddy.

Most people who have/have had dogs have warned against it, particularly on the basis of our busy schedules and expat obligations of returning home for weeks at a time each summer.  When I asked a friend the name of her recently adopted dog, her reply was  ‘complete-pain-in-the-a$$-will-bleed-you-dry-you’ll-never-have-a-clean-house-again-or-a-lie-in’.  A very succint description of life with a young dog……but she was also quick to add how adorable he is and how much the kids (and even she!) love him.  That is a feeling I want the kids to experience.

Let's hope this is how happy they will keep their promises of walking!

In the meantime, DH is sitting on the sidelines quietly praying I suspect, that I will change my mind or just get an indepdendent, low maintenance pet like a cat!   He has washed his hands of the family pet, so I had better make sure our soon-to-be-latest addition doesn’t end up chewing on the furniture or relieving itself on the rugs!

 

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Back to School = Back to Taxi

Aside from my Netflix meltdown, the new school year got off to a relatively calm, civilised start.  Unphased by the early morning wake up call and long school days, my trio have slipped back into their school day routine with ease (and even more surprisingly without complaint!). So far they have been reacquainted with their new class teachers, caught up with old friends and made new ones. Their brains are delicately being coaxed out from their summer hibernation, back to the world of thinking.  So far, so good although, in all fairness the first week is a ‘H’ free week (no homework as such; wouldn’t want to upset the happy apple cart).

At pick up, my bambinos have been full of energy; chatting animatedly about their day.  This week really could not have gotten off to a better start.  As pleased as I am with the seamless settling in, I have been quite surprised just how quickly the school is willing to get back to work, especially when it comes to school sports’ teams.

Day 1 – return to school.  Schedule for school team trials issued by the end fo the day (Seriously???).

Day 2 – Swim squad trials for Y6.  Football trials for Y4.

Day 3 – Football trials for Y6 boys and girls (separately).  Swim trials for Y4. Netball trials for Y6.

Day 4 – Ker-ching…welcome to your new life for the academic year 2016/7……Enjoy (and BTW, organise it!)

I drive, therefore I am.

I drive, therefore I am.

Juggling 3 kids’ schedules is becoming increasingly difficult.  After swim squad trials DD announced ‘I think I made competitive squad’.  My shoulders visibly slumped.  Proud?  Yes.  Happy? Not so much.  I know that means at least one pre-school training sesh which means me getting to school for a 6:45am training session on top of an afternoon session which inevitably will clash with a sibling’s session. DS1 chimed in with his prospects of getting into the development swim squad...another early morning.  Apparently DS1’s footie training will be pre-school hours too…..fab!  Just waiting to hear about DD’s netball and footie…..and I haven’t even thought about the external activities….

I am not qualified to organise all of this…car pools…..here I come!!!

 

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