Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Special Deliveries

The thing about moving abroad is you don't know what to take with you.

When we were packing, we weren't sure whether we'd be living in a tower block, a hut on the beach, or - as we eventually decided - a villa in the middle of the desert. We also had no idea about 'decor.' Indeed, when Mark first looked around our place it was an interesting yellow green colour, with a scary amount of wooden panelling:
Sadly, the pool table was removed at the same time as the slime coloured walls.

Anyway, inevitably, you don't pack half the stuff you need. So you have to go shopping. Which is nice. But then the shopping needs to be delivered. Which is not always so nice.

First, the Ikea delivery arrived, accompanied by three charming, if slightly sweaty, men who assembled the furniture at a speed that would put Craig from Big Brother to shame. After all their hard work they were starting to look a bit warm. So Rachel offered them a bottle of water.
There was silence.

The men put down their electric screwdrivers and began growling.

'No?' Rachel queried tentatively.

'Madam,' hissed the only man prepared to speak to such a silly woman. 'It is Ramadan. We are Muslims.'

Chastened, and too embarassed to confess she didn't realise fasting meant not drinking as well as not eating, Rachel speedily shoved the water bottle back in the fridge and went to hide in the car with the kids to eat lunch and to worry about the poor growly men getting dehydrated as a result of 'Benno' the shelves and 'Mikael' the computer desk.

The next day, a new set of men came to deliver some random furniture Mark had ordered, without telling anyone, from a woman on the internet. Rachel was a bit grumpy not to have been consulted, but decided to wait and see what Mark had bought.
  • Firstly, the men explained the light was broken but that Rachel should take it anyway as she would probably be able to fix it.

  • Secondly, they unrolled a beige rug that looked like a very old dog had been living on it for a very long time.

  • Thirdly, they handed over a box of melted wax, which had apparently been candles before being left in the sun

  • Finally, when she went to check the bed Mark had ordered for Jody's room, Rachel discovered the matress was about two foot narrower than the base.

All irritation forgotten, Rachel gleefully stored up ammunition to blast Mark with next time he wanted to buy any nasty man-furniture for the house.

Meanwhile, feeling newly educated about Ramadan, Rachel, Amy and the kids repectfuly drank their water in shoe cupboards and behind the sofas to avoid offending the Muslim delivery men.

An hour later, one of the men approached.

'Madam,' he said indignantly. 'These men, they work hard, they need water.'

Rachel decided she still had a lot more to learn about Ramadan.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Size is everything

We wanted a new telly. But in Dubai, you can't just buy a telly. You have to buy a big telly. So we bundled the kids in the big car, drove up the big highway, parked in the big mall and went in to the big electronic store to buy a big telly.

Following fascinating conversations about HDMI inputs, comparative contrast ratios, SRS technology, DNIe technology and 3D enablement, we chose a nice 50 inch Samsung because it was a shiny black colour just like the IKEA TV unit.

After being dragged off the shop's electronic bucking broncos by a fiercely moustachioed salesman, Dylan eyed our meagre 50 inches with a sneer and began fondly caressing the 103 inch TV beside it.
Jody, on the other hand, was more interested in a passing 103 inch polar bear.

Following a hard morning buying large televisions, it was off to Magic Planet. Because no self respecting shopping centre is complete without a huge children's adventure centre. After watching our new ten-year old friend Daniel scale the climbing wall, Rachel decided to give it a go, and show everyone how athletic she is. She did. By falling off the wall half way up.

Seeing an opportunity to demonstrate his physical superiority, Mark wriggled into a harness, and fell off the wall at the same place. But it wasn't his fault. His arms had turned to jelly. And he was sure that he had got a bit higher than Rachel. Honestly.

Unimpressed, Jody and Dylan decided to get to the top quicker by plane.

And then it was time to go and look for a big fridge freezer...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

School Daze

Sunday 7th September was Jody's first day of school. And Rachel's first day of driving to school. Jody was excited. Rachel was terrified.

Jody loves her new uniform - a cotton tartan dress, sensible shoes, white socks and a fetching blue hat that makes her look like she is going to join the foreign legion rather than year one.

The journey may have seemed to start badly, with an empty petrol tank, but it allowed us to experience the joy that is the Dubai petrol station. Firstly a nice man fills your car up for you, so you don't even have to get out. And then he only charges you 72 dirhams (just under £10) to completely fill the tank of a 4x4.

Jody's teacher was Miss White. To go with her socks. She liked school so much she decided to go back the next day.
And Dylan had his 'induction' at the nursery.

Dylan's teacher was Miss Gray. Sock distribution is going to be very easy.

The nursery classes have different names connected to undersea creatures. Lovely things like sea horses, starfish and dolphins. It came as no surprise to find out which class Dylan was in.
After Dylan's induction finished, Mark needed to take his car to work, so Rachel, Amy and Dylan called a taxi for 10.15.
We waited. The taxi didn't came. We waited some more. The taxi still didn't come.

Rachel called the taxi company who explained that the taxi driver had come, had called and had left when he got no answer. Rachel checked her mobile phone and found that the taxi driver had indeed rung. At 10.02. He had left before he was supposed to have arrived. Very Doctor Who.

The taxi company said they would order a non-time-travelling taxi. Forty five minutes later, no taxi. The taxi company explained that no drivers wanted to come out to Nad Al Shiba to get us.

This was understandable given that Nad Al Shiba is such a new area that it is spelt differently on all the road signs. In the first 100m after leaving our house are three signs labelled 'Nad Al Shiba', 'Nadd Al Shiba' and 'Nad Al Sheba'. The school is in the middle of the desert with nothing for miles (for those of you who have seen 'Holes', think Camp Green Lake).
Rachel did angry: no taxis came. Rachel did desperate: no taxis came. Rachel did terribly sad and very worried about small boys melting in the desert: no taxis came.

Rachel asked a local man standing in the car park to order a taxi. A taxi came.

By the time we got home, it was time for Rachel to drive back to school to pick up Jody. Still, it would soon be time to fill up the tank again.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shopping Heaven, Car Park Hell

The last few days of August and the first few days of September were shop-tastic, which inevitably involves a lot of driving when it's too hot outside to walk more than twenty metres.

Driving in Dubai is like an extreme sport. The highways are ten lanes across with no slow lane, lots of fast lanes and a mob of madly grinning faces trying to force you off the road. And not many motorways have a signposted minimum speed.
Trolley discipline is far better.

A trip round Ikea was much more enjoyable than the English equivalent - except when Mark got told off in the markethall for opening boxes to check things were the colour marked on the shelves. They were.

Not only did IKEA guys help lift things down from the shelves, they also rearranged our trolley to make it easier to go through checkout, and pushed the trolley to the Exit. And, as if we weren't already in Ikea Shangri-la, they also offered to deliver AND ASSEMBLE the heavy furniture.

Oh joy.

Random fact: 10% of the UAE population visited Ikea in December.

But, as they say, with pleasure comes pain. The Barbie car was so stuffed with lovely Ikea rugs, cushions, mirrors, placemats and various other 'essentials' it was impossible to see out of the back window.

Which was unfortunate, because out of the back window was a parked car.

Which just happened to be one of the most expensive parked cars in the vicinity - a brand new, full-spec luxury sports Range Rover.

Which was worth slightly less after we backed into it and smashed the brake light.

A brief stay in Dubai prison for leaving the scene of an accident did not appeal. Particularly following the Ramadan release of DJ Grooverider. So we folornly reported ourselves to a security guard.

Time to return to the police station.

But on the positive side, there was no damage to the Barbie car, and Rachel found the passports.

Oh We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside...

We had convinced Amy to come with us to Dubai with the promise of sun, sea and sand. So far she had seen lots of sun (48 degrees in the shade) plenty of sand (usually with cranes sticking out of it), but not a lot of sea. So Friday August 29th was 'take Amy and the kids to the beach' day.

So we packed up the Barbie car and headed for the beach. We had the pleasure of the company of Jody's huge doll because, "She really wants to come to the beach, mummy. She really does."

Unfortunately, Jody's doll was far more enthusiastic about the beach than Dylan, who got cross when he was told he couldn't throw sand at the people lying on beach.

He cheered up a little when he was told he could kick sand into the sea. Especially when he saw Jody paddling downwind.

The only problem with this particular Dubai beach was a slight smell of camel poo as we walked back to the Barbie car.

We finished a perfect afternoon by laughing at other people's cars getting stuck in the sand as we watched the sun go down.

Then we set off for home... But the Barbie car got stuck in the sand.

Visit to the police station

We woke up on Thursday, August 28th, and realised Rachel had lost all the passports. Mark was extremely impressed.

We went to meet the Dubai police.

The policeman explained that he only wanted to talk to 'the husband'.

When The Husband approached the desk, the policeman told The Husband to go away and come back on Sunday.

Then he saw that two of the passports were for "babies, ahhhh," and he became much more friendly.

So the policeman patted The Husband on the back and asked him nicely to go away and come back on Sunday.

Following that successful meeting, it was time to go and pick up the hire car. The car hire firm explained that despite Rachel's car being ordered six weeks ago, they didn't have the right car (nice, short-wheelbase 4X4) and only had a huuuuuuuuuuuuge couldn't-park-on-an-airfield type car or a teeeeeeeeeeeny crumple-in-the-inevitable-crash style car.

Rachel came over all Goldilocks and insisted on having a car that was 'just right'.
Rachel was ignored, and the car man spoke to The Husband. Eventually the correct car was located and Rachel got to drive home in her very own Barbie car...

Flying to Dubai

We arrived in Dubai on Wednesday 27th August at 6am (3am British time).

Mark was grumpy after his economy-class flight. Whereas Rachel, Jody and Dylan were relaxed and fresh after a fine night's sleep in Business Class...

... and jumped straight into their Virgin limousine.

Then jumped straight out again for Jody to be sick. Nice.

Still, the sight of the back garden - which was all pool, no garden - distracted everyone from their various woes. And Jody and Dylan metamorphosed into Carol Smilie & Spiderman.

We spent the rest of the day sleeping, swimming and arguing over what temperature the air conditioning should be set at.