Thursday, June 24, 2010

Leaving Dubai...

Welcome everybody to our very first blog post on our brand new blog!

This blog will be used by Tim and myself as we head off on our next journey away from the sandpit of Dubai and straight into the unknown land of Uganda! We are really excited to see whats going to happen in this new season and chapter of our lives and this blog will contain those happenings!

Before we start writing about Uganda though...I think its important for me to reflect a little bit on the year that was. Its a popular saying you know, before we go forward, we need to go back....

I’m glad I moved to Dubai.

It has been an incredible experience and one I’m very glad I got to enjoy.

To be honest, I found the first 5 months incredibly difficult, but after my initial attitude and perceptions started to fade I found myself really enjoying life in Dubai.

I would recommend Dubai as a good place to live for a period of time. It will never be home, but it provides SO much to see and do that you really start to love the lifestyle after a while!!!

May I just say, that as as a young 24 year old who had only lived in California, Sydney and Auckland before, I was very apprehensive about moving to the Middle East!!!

We arrived here in August of 2009, it was sweltering hot and I was overwhelmed by how dusty and sandy and humid it was. Upon arriving, we were put in the old part of Dubai to live, in a suburb called Hor Al Anz – It was dirty and yucky and I was horrified that I had moved from my lovely beachfront rental to what looked like the most boring and dirty place on the planet. Let's just say, the brochures and pictures I had seen were nothing like my first impressions. Our suburb was a bustling area of sheisha clubs, sharwma shops and budget supermarkets. There was trash in the street and the place smelt like it. Our apartment was within a few metres of the local mosque and no-one told me that mosques make noise five times a day!

As if I wasn’t ‘on edge’ already, the sun set at 7pm that night and a noise that sounded like a call to war came bursting into my apartment. I was so freaked out and could barely even hear my husband next to me. The sound was so loud that I was certain there was a speaker in my home. Later, we found out that our third story apartment was indeed directly level with the mosque and as our windows weren’t soundproofed, I was up every day between 4-5 to the sounds of Muslim Men yelling. We also had no internet for two months and no TV for a few weeks. I know this might sound weird, but I grew up in a house full of happy sounds and lots of them – so to move to the Middle East where there was no family or at least fake noise via technology in my apartment was quite frustrating.

Anyways, the next two weeks were a whirlwind of me going to orientation at my husband’s work and making sure that I was looking for jobs on the internet there. I was privileged to be offered a number of jobs and ended up with a great one quite quickly after I arrived. As the months went on I VERY Slowly but surely started to settle in more and more. By February I can honestly say I was a very happy woman. I had got stuck into my awesome job, moved house and got some incredible bargains during the winter sales. I was back to ‘normal’ and feeling good about the city I lived in and the opportunities before me. I have stayed that way ever since and too this day am grateful for the incredible things I have been able to do whilst living in Dubai.

Dubai, is an interesting place of contradictions – remember it’s only really 30 years old! Nothing was here 30 years ago and growth has skyrocketed under the leadership of the late Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed.

On one hand, Dubai is incredibly forward thinking. They are at the top of their game and they are impressive. They have built the world’s tallest tower, an entire Palm Island made from re-claimed land and ‘a World of islands’. They have every shop a girl could want and the finest foods from around the world.

On the other hand, they have grown so fast that they struggle to keep up with international standards. Take for example the fact that you might live in a brand new building that looks stunning and is smack bang in the middle of the marina. It might look perfect on the outside, but the water is not turned on, and a 2 day promise turns into a 5 week wait! Take for example Etisalat the local phone and internet service provider. Getting internet in Dubai is an absolute debacle, followed closely by getting a car, getting a refund, getting a Visa, going to the doctor you name it... there is a general feeling here that things just don’t make sense. A simple question like ‘I am moving house, can someone please move my internet there’ becomes a tremendous issue involving fines, cancelling of the internet, two weeks of waiting. Take for example the fact that there is more construction going on here than almost anywhere else in the world – yet its built on the back of hundreds of thousands of Pakistani and Indian men that mainly work in slave labour type conditions and live in what looks like an overcrowded prison ground.

It seems backwards...something that is ironically mirrored by the way Arabic is written - from right to left, rather than how we do it - left to right.

They have a strong police force that will put someone in jail for kissing someone on the cheek (man to woman), yet they let people go 140kms an hour without a fine and children are not required to wear seatbelts!

Anyways, the wealth here is staggering, and this is proven every weekend by the lines some will face as they head to the malls for a carpark. A regular Friday night at Mirdif City Center will see over 40 cars queued up on the off ramps for the mall, waiting to be let in for a carpark. One thing I LOVE about Dubai is the shopping, its really amazing here. Every shop I have ever wanted from overseas is here and the malls are world class. I LOVE IT! The shopping is amazing here!!!

In my opinon, the best malls are Dubai Mall and Mirdif City Center.
Karama is a really fun place to go and bargain for cheap designer goods and you can get the best sharwas (kebab type things) from there.
Satwa is THE place to go for making clothes. Suits for men, dresses for women –just take a picture from a magazine and they make it perfect for you.
The best Water Park to go to is Aquaventure at the Atlantis - its amazing!
The best view in town is at NEO's at the Address Dubai Mall. Directly opposite the fountain and worlds tallest Building, its a must go to get a good view of the layout of Dubai.
The main road in Dubai is Sheikh Zayed - its huge and runs basically the entire length of Dubai through to Abu Dhabi.

Dubai Mall is a MUST see - head to the Fountain Show outside (every 30min) every night of the week. And the Aquarium inside, and Candylicious - opposite the aquarium.
On the weekends we spend most of our time at our apartment pool.

We do lots of barbeques with our friends and eat out more than we ever have. There is a real dining out culture here in Dubai and the multicultural food is world class. Most people hang out with their work friends during the weekends as they are the people we see the most! No one really has family here so your friends become very close to you. We are privileged to live in a villa that has 6 apartments in it. 4 of them contain our closest friends, so needless to say we see them on a daily basis and I LOVE the community aspect of living in Dubai. Each week we have mid week dinners and quite often my girlfriends will come down in their pyjamas or bathing suit and just chat on our couch for hours or eat a snack, borrow an egg, or invite me to do grocery shopping. I really love that about Dubai.

The beaches are also very nice – my favourite is Jumierah Beach Park../rent a white sun lounger and an umbrella and your set for a delightful afternoon.
My favourite restaurant is Bussola at the Westin on the beach. Just roll on up in your car for free valet parking and enjoy the best Italian food in the city. My cheap eat favourite is Ravi’s. Its in Satwa and run by Pakistani and Indian men and serves delicious food.

The driving atrocious. I have only lived in Western countries, so, granted, this is what I am comparing to – but seriously, I have never felt so angry on the roads as I have here. The law in Dubai stands that if a Local Emirati has an accident with anyone, the ‘anyone’ is at fault, regardless. The reasoning is that, if we were not there, the accident would not have happened in the first place.
Bullying is commonplace on the roads, and in quite a serious manner. I have personally been almost rammed of the road, and it would be an unusual day to not have someone flash their lights or drive up behind my car to try make me pull over. People beep when you are sitting at lights and they think its about to go green. People pull in and cut in after others have been waiting in line for hours. The majority of people drive large 4x4’s and think they rule the road. Lamborghinis and Porches and Bentleys are seen on a daily basis and not at all uncommon.

I’m not sure if you’ve had a Christian upbringing but the BEST place to go to church here in Dubai is Fellowship of the Emirates held at the Rotana Hotel in Media City. Run by Pastor Jim Burgess, you will not find a better place...the music, the preaching, the people, the food – its all top class and that church has been a lifesaver for me. I LOVE IT! Even if you don’t have a Christian upbringing I would recommend heading along to meet some new people and have a lovely Friday morning with people that look and sound like you.

There is not that much interaction with the local population here (apart from on the roads). The main people I speak and deal with on a daily basis are Expats from my work, Phillipinos and English speaking Middle Eastern People, from Lebanon, Jordan etc.

On the whole, I would have to say that I really like Dubai! Yes, its taken me a while, and yes I’ve had my moments but Dubai has so much to offer that little frustrations and annoying things just have to be laughed at and worked through. After all, patience is a virtue!

I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life in Uganda and I’m sure that too will come with many challenges. Feel the fear and do it anyway right, I feel thats becoming a bit of a life saying fo me....

Love HElen xo