Question and Answer time

When do kids start school? Have you got a house yet? if so whats it like? Has it got a garden or just a pool? Do you have a car – do you drive yourself? Will you get a housegirl – will she live in? Whats supermarket shopping like – clothes, everything? Can you drink? actually I could ask questions all day. Cant wait to hear a bit more about it all. Enjoy – you lucky things. Love to all [excerpt from Marion’s email, to which I have yet to respond, see below]

The things I’ve been compelled to write about in my diary are, on reflection, probably not the kinds of things most of you (friends I mean) are interested in.  You know, simple observations like how payment for public transport operates entirely on an honesty system, whereby passengers throw a silver coin into an honesty box at the front door of the bus then proceed to get on the bus through one of the rear doors.  The bus driver can’t tell who’s paid and who hasn’t (and frankly isn’t interested), no-one’s going around checking tickets or the number of sections people are traveling, and wouldn’t you know it, as a result the bus is fast and efficient at getting people around.  In a country like NZ (where there’s a high likelihood you’ll be reunited with your wallet if you inadvertently leave it at a playground or library) it seems strange that we can’t trust people with something as simple as paying their correct bus/train fare.

These little differences are apparent only now while the country is new and strange.  It doesn’t take long until you stop noticing the changes, and instead memories of home become strange and foreign.

But I digress… in response to Marion (her questions are quoted above), and also my Father in law Alan who is keen for similar, relevant news, I duly respond in turn:

When do kids start school? The kids have had three days at school in total.  Cormac got off to a great start since the first lesson on the first day was P.E. and they were playing Badminton which he loves.  The other kids cheered him on and within a few minutes seemed to have found himself a little group of friends.  Liam, being that much younger and a little bit more reserved, looked quite lost the first two mornings among the great swathes of rowdy kids, and I had to steel myself from crying as I watched him standing there all alone.  But his determination to keep getting up in the morning and letting go of my hand and making his way to his line with his head up gives me great confidence in him.  Both of the kids actually – I recognise that what we’ve asked them to do in shifting countries and starting a new school mid-term is no small thing for them, and they’ve done us proud.  Meanwhile, Bobbie has donned her school uniform each morning and tagged along to the gates as keen as mustard, despite the fact that she doesn’t start there until September!

Have you got a house yet? if so whats it like? Has it got a garden or just a pool? No house yet, we’re still living in a hotel.  I’ve had a to chance to view the two properties that made the shortlist (Malc viewed around 50 last month) and both are great albeit with their own set of pros and cons.  One of the houses is on a compound with shared facilities (pool and gym, oh yes!).  I’d be happy with either house (any house!!), but the way negotiations run around here there’s a chance we might luck out on both and have to go back to the drawing board.  We’ll keep you posted! (PS pools are rare commodities, gardens even more so).

Do you have a car – do you drive yourself?  No car yet, Malc’s still in a rental too!  I’m getting around in cabs and buses.  Not a friendly thing in this heat, but generally speaking I can’t complain.  Taxis are abundant and cheap.

Will you get a housegirl – will she live in? Most three bedroom houses include a Maid’s room because by law you have to provide one for any domestic staff.  So I guess that if we do get a house-keeper she’ll live in.  Eehem.  I guess I’ll adapt ;). 

Whats supermarket shopping like – clothes, everything? Supermarkets around the world are an interesting thing.  I think in NZ we forget how densely populated the rest of the world is, and this can be most keenly observed when you step out of a New World aisle in the suburbs of Wellington and into a Carrefour aisle on the other side of the world.  Your trolley is not just a thing of utility, but a tank to be manoeuvred with precision and force.  How else can you be expected to battle your way through the crowds to pick up that hailed tin of chopped tomatoes (oh yes, that’s right, in a foreign country all you know how to cook at first is spaghetti).  Ok, perhaps its no different to Pak n’ Save mid afternoon on a Saturday – but how often do we choose to starve instead?  As for the malls – seriously, it’s a case of the ‘law of diminishing returns’ (the only concept in economics I ever did get).  A few shops are great.  A few more shops are excellent.  Tripple that, on five levels and three separate buildings, and suddenly you feel completely gorged.  A whole block of Black Forest chocolate is never as good going down as it looks in the wrapper.  There is also the small issue of exiting said malls.  Malcolm took us to one for five minutes, only to spend the following 45 minutes trying to find a way out.  In silence.

Can you drink? The particular hotel we are staying in is D-R-Y!  It’s like being in rehab (with Amy Winehouse in my head yelling “NO, NO NO!”).  As for buying alcohol generally, you have to get a license, with the amount you’re allowed being determined by how much money you earn.  It’s a bit grim, given that I am earn precisely nothing. 

On other updates, I’ve just spent the morning at the “Abu Dhabi Ladies Club”.  Pfft! I hear you say.  It all sounds so ladidah, and I had/have totally the same response.  But that’s the thing about making quick judgments about people or groups based on very little (and I’ve learnt this before) – you can cheat yourself out of an opportunity to meet someone who might become a really good friend one day.  For no other reason than just plain snobbiness.  I always remind myself how Heather and I bonded at the Mum’s playgroup in Apia – complaining, precisely, about the Mum’s playgroup in Apia.

Anyway, that ought to be plenty for now I would think!

Email me or send a message on facebook, and don’t forget to give me your address, I’m keen to make good on my promise to reinstate the lost art of slow-friendship.  There’s precisely 8 postcards of the UAE in circulation.  You could just get lucky.


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