Friday, 20 September 2013

The Job Market Blues

It’s been a while since my last blog – It’s been a while since I felt the gravitational pull of the keyboard, tempting me to jot down my thoughts and experiences into an inventive, entertaining read.

So I sit here, on a scorching Friday morning, trying to break through the frustration that has created a solid force field around the creative juices in my head.  
Bits of inspiration are trickling through, but it’s not enough…so I am going to sit here and tell you the reason why I have lost motivation. Motivation for writing, that is.  
In the hustle of settling into a new city, I spent the summer glued to my laptop in an attempt to relax and de-stress from the endless cycle of job applications that went out and remained unanswered. It was becoming imperative to secure a steady source of income as things in the concrete desert did not come cheap.

As the molten afternoons turned into warm evenings, my inbox remained empty. Looking for a distraction, I surfed the internet until Wentworth Miller’s gorgeous features coloured my screen, and I found myself lost in an episode of Prison Break.
For the next 45 minutes, I forgot my financial predicament and enjoyed the brother’s battling for freedom. Over the next few episodes, a slow addiction began, until all too soon the series ended, leaving me back in Dubai with real issues to deal with. Craving for a new distraction, I focused my efforts on a blank Word document wishing for inspiration to hit me. When it didn’t come, I began applying for jobs I knew I had no chance of getting. At least no one could blame me for not trying.  
With the summer holidays over and school in session, I still had no luck with an interview and narrowed my search to fit around the school run. Two weeks on, I received an email from a school asking me to come in for an interview. Overjoyed, I confirmed a time for the next day and arrived 15 minutes early dressed in my no-nonsense formal teaching attire.
40 minutes on and I was still waiting for my interview with the principal. When I was finally called in, there was no apology from the woman in charge, who was busy perusing my CV. She began her round of questioning and it became clear that she had no idea what position I had been short-listed for. Her questions were irrelevant and I fumbled for a polite way to ask her why they had called me in.
With the interview over in seven minutes, I was shown the door and told to wait by the phone for an answer. I wasn’t stupid. The woman wasn’t interested and it was written all over her face. Dejected, I returned home and took my place at my desk, determined to work on my book. I simply had to find the energy to finish it.
I sat staring at another blank Word document. And an hour later, I had only written two sentences. The energy I was channeling refused to flow from my fingers. Instead, as if on auto-pilot I clicked onto a online-streaming website and selected an episode of Revenge. And just like that, over the next few weeks, I blasted through many hours and hours of programs such as The Client List and Pretty Little Liars.
Dispirited at not securing a job, I engrossed myself in the lives of the on screen characters and tried not to think about life in Riyadh, where getting a job was straightforward and simple. Spending so much time with my laptop was not only numbing my brain cells, but the knock-on effect on my body was breathtakingly shocking. The weight piled on and went unnoticed until a certain family member commented via Skype, “hey Mavie. You’re looking a little healthy, eating well?” they said.
Pulling myself away from the laptop I took a good long look in the mirror. Yes, I did look rounder. I knew how it had happened. The late night snacks and lack of exercise allowed the pounds to creep up unnoticed. Horrified, I sank to the floor, disgusted with myself. That was it - I had to do something about the couch-potato stance I had adopted. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself. If I didn’t help myself, then no one would.
The very next day, I enrolled in a gym class and forced myself to set a productive routine. One day at a time I would focus my energy and produce something constructive.
That was three days ago.  
And in that three days, every muscle in my body has screamed for mercy. I have managed to drop a few pounds and produce bundles of energy that has forced me to fill lengthy and complex job application forms.  
I have also taken the first few steps of getting back into writing. During the last few weeks, I have scaled a steep learning curb that has taught me to get out there and make an effort. I can’t control having a steady income, but I can control the things that matter to me; my family, my body, and my writing.
The Dubai job market is extremely competitive. Businesses demand the best from its employees. They want people with previous experience and relevant qualifications and rightly so. But what opportunities do ladies like me have? The ones who come back into the field after several years of rearing children? Don’t get me wrong – there are hundreds of jobs out there – but would you work for 2,000 dirhams a month? 9 hours a day?
Or would you take a position that paid 9,000 and above but required you to travel abroad with your boss?
There must be a balance out there somewhere. And for now, my search still continues…

What is the job market like in your country? If you are a mother, how do you handle the school run and work? Leave your answers in the comments section below.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Perfect Nusery for the Perfect Monster

If you knew me 15 years ago, you wouldn’t ever think I was capable of being a mother. Even through my early twenties I couldn’t imagine a tiny tot gurgling in my arms and soaking my clothes with drool.  When I fell pregnant, I thought I would carry on with life as I had done, never giving a thought to all the sleepless nights and endless trips to the supermarket, doctor’s and chemist’s that sat before me.

As soon as my first born could walk, I power-walked him to the staff cr̬che at my new job in Riyadh, eager to experience some alone time after 11 long months of being at home in a new country where I had little else to do. Although I was just a part time teacher, I took comfort in the fact that my son was in the basement nursery, not too far from me. It took two tear-filled weeks of crying and tantrums, me Рnot him, to get my son into a routine, but once he had settled, both he and I have never looked back.
Now aged almost seven, he has moved throughout the Middle East, changing schools as we have changed cities. Much to his grandmother’s dismay, he has never once, completed a school year in one establishment. But has that damaged his self-esteem? No, I think it has made him stronger. He has learnt and adapted to different environments with ease.
When my daughter was born, I knew she had to follow her brother’s footsteps and start school as soon as she could walk. Now, at the age of three and a half, she is begging me to take her back to school, citing that she is too bored at home. And why wouldn’t she be? She has spent the last five months at home in our new home, in Dubai. Now with summer almost over, and school’s resuming, I am actively looking for a nursery school that will give me exactly what I am paying for.
Like my house-hunt, my search started with the internet. Below I have listed some nurseries around Mirdif, hoping it would help anyone in the same situation as me. Prices are for the academic term of 2013 – 2014.

1.       SUPERKIDS NURSERY – tel: 04 288 1949 (Annual Fee: 24,000 + 2100 extra cost = 26,100aed)
Price is for child attending until 3pm. A small nursery off street 15. Friendly staff and a soft play area and paddling pool. Narrow outside play area, all around the villa, where kids up to age 5 can play. Lunch and snacks are included and are served in medium-sized kitchen. Downside is that classrooms are tired looking and the interior of the building is dark. Not worth the money as my daughter’s last nursery was of similar design and half the cost, even though it was in Riyadh. But I felt there were a lack of toys and furniture, so would not choose this option for my daughter.

2.      CRYSTAL VALLEY NURSERY – tel: 04 284 5519 (Annual Fee: 29,000 + 1000 extra cost = 30,500aed)
The price is for a child attending until 2.30pm. Centrally located next to Arabian Center, with professional staff. I did not go inside, so cannot comment on the interior.  Lunch and snacks are included in the fee.

3.      EMIRATES BRITISH NURSERY – tel: 04 288 9222 (Annual Fee: 31,200 + 2200 extra cost = Total 33,400aed with 1000aed returned at the end of the school year)
       The price is for a child attending until 3pm. No food or snacks provided. A large nursery located off street 71 near the small Spinneys. Professional staff who answer questions promptly. I didn’t go inside so can’t comment on the interior. But for viewings you can turn up at 10am or 2pm only.

     4.        SMALL STEPS NURSERY – tel: 04 2883347 (Annual Fee 17,250aed)
A small nursery in a villa. Tricky to find as it is off street 47 somewhere and if you are not good at directions then this nursery is not for you. The building itself looks old from the outside but the classrooms are a good size and bright. Toilets are not tailored for kids, there is just one standard bathroom for KG1 to use. Outdoor play area is filled with used toys.

5.      GEMS OUR OWN HIGH SCHOOL – tel: 04 2361335 (Annual Fee for KG classes 600 monthly + 1500 extra cost = Total 7500aed)
Located just outside Mirdif, in Warqaa 3, this school was a little hard to find. But once I got there I was blown away by the sheer size and opulence of the school. Deciding that my daughter was definitely enrolling here, I headed inside. Large classrooms, bright and airy reception. Friendly all Indian staff. Amazing price. But fully booked and no waiting list available. If you decide to go for this school, be sure to book your child’s place a year in advance.

6.     MIRDIF PRIVATE SCHOOL – tel: 04 2883303 (Annual Fee for KG classes 21,000 + 1500 extra cost = Total 22,500aed)
Located in the narrow fully congested road as all other major schools in Riyadh, this school will be a battle to get to. Short school timings. Large and impressive school, with ample parking. No teachers in sight, so cannot comment on them. This may be a contender, further investigation needed.
Taken from Mirdif Private School website
There are a few other schools such as the Uptown Taaleem school, but at 35,000 aed a year, I don’t see my three year old going there. Arab Unity School, is at the other end of the spectrum, at around 7,000aed a year, the school seems tired and run down from the outside, with only 4 and a half hours of school a day.
If you have any other recommendations, please do leave them in the comments section below. The sooner my child goes to school the quicker my blog posts will be :)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Book Review - INFERNO - Dan Brown

Seek and find - The message to Robert Langdon is crystal clear in Dan Brown's latest thriller; INFERNO. But somehow I can't help but wonder if that message was indirectly geared to his readers around the world - Seek and find...find the answers you seek in the final chapters of the book. 

Whilst working on the story, Dan Brown must have chosen to save the best for last, as up until halfway, I found plenty to distract me from Robert Langdon's baffling amnesia and endless questions. But shortly after struggling past the third quarter, things became interesting for an avid reader like myself, and I hurtled through the remainder of the book, glad that I had stuck with it. 

Brown's skillful writing provided answers to questions I had asked myself many times when something terrible plagued the news: Why does God allow natural disasters to wipe out scores of people? If there was a God, then why is there so much suffering? Never did I think overpopulation would be part of the answer.

With over seven billion bodies dominating the planet, it becomes easy to see why the world needs to re-address the balance. Over-population is not only depleting the planet's resources, but it will also kill us as a species, as in times of crisis, our inner beast emerges, fighting tooth and nail for what little resource is left. We, as a species, become animals. 

Don't believe me? Then take a look around. The world is crawling with humans. Humans who need food, clothes, transport and a habitable place to live. Supply far out-weighs demand and artificial methods are used to cater for the rising demand of a product. Let's take chicken for example. Just where does one get so many chickens? Why, they use drugs of course! Humans turn savage in an attempt to breed chickens faster and fatter. Do they care about the welfare of these defenseless animals? Stuffing them into cramped cages is only a means to line pockets and put food on their own table.

Another example, is when I went to Hajj. A large truck was handing out free drinks to the pilgrims, but instead of forming an orderly queue, people were crushing one another to get their share before supply ran out. Did they care about trampling on another human? No, they were only concerned with what went into their own stomachs. Humans are programmed that way, it's in our nature. And as Brown cleverly writes, when humans do not have enough of what they need, we experience one of the seven deadly sins; Greed, gluttony, envy, sloth, pride, anger and lust, which lead to chaos and destruction.

With the volume of humanity rising, factory production, waste and pollution are also increasing. Just how far can we go before the world pushes back? Natural disasters are a way of  resetting the balance, wiping out whatever we have created and destroying lives as a way to reduce the world's population.

With these thoughts plaguing me, I read on, nodding emphatically at the logic behind the so-called villain's plan at helping Mother Nature. As the final words swam across the page, I paused to let them sink in. Yes, we are breeding far too many numbers for a world as small as ours but is killing one third of the population off a solution? The genius of the villain's plan comes to light in such a fantastic way that I found myself rooting for the completion of his plan.

What began as a slow read in Italian geography, developed into a mind-blowing, thought provoking ride through the world of fiction, that strangely poked at the edges of reality and our future as a mass-breeding species. 

Text taken from Inferno
Have you read INFERNO? What were your thoughts? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. 

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hotcakes Houses. Part Three.

The rear of the jaguar sported a large dent. It was an old model, but something about the car told me the driver was ambitious. A go-getter that wanted to achieve results and reap financial rewards.
The driver skidded to a halt in front of a single storey villa. I stepped out and listened to the specifics as Raju recited from memory. The property was 15,000 dirhams over my budget – but I was willing to take a look as I had little choice left.
Single Story Villa
“Madam, you have unique taste, no?” Raju’s pleasant tone was a stark contrast to his words. Was that his way of saying I was a fussy client? I quirked my eyebrow and he backtracked smoothly.
“No…I mean… you like this property? It is good for you, will meet your requirement. Come…” Spinning around, Raju all but sprinted inside.
Once my eyes had adjusted to the dark interior, I allowed myself a small smile. The house was spotless. We were standing in the open lounge that allowed a clear view of the tiny concrete garden towards the back. The kitchen was modern, with black worktops and dark cabinets. Images of signing the contract floated into my mind and I wandered towards the bedrooms to pick out my future oasis, which would be strictly off-limits to the kids.
The bedrooms were situated on the left, and as I peeked into each one, the mental contract I was signing burst into flames.
“How long has this been on the market?”
Raju couldn’t be sure, but he guessed a couple of weeks. I nodded in understanding. No decent villa lasted longer than a day on the open market. And this property was no exception; although first impressions were deceiving, once a prospective tenant passed the large living space, they were confronted by three box rooms that made it impossible to distinguish which was the master bedroom.
The rooms were tiny. I couldn’t see my stuff fit into any of the neat pint-sized spaces before me. The London-sized box rooms left no room for anything except a bed. If I was paying double the rental rates in London, then surely I should get double the room size?
I peeked into the stylish marble bathrooms. They were average in size, with a modern white suite and beautifully grouted tiles. Was I willing to let room size come in between me and my future home? The sudden roar of a jumbo cemented the answer. I stood still as the windows rattled under the large aircraft that came to land above us. We were directly under the flight path.
“Do you have anything similar which is not under the flight path?” I shouted as the last vibrations melted away.
Raju tapped a finger to his temple and grinned. “It is not vacant, but next week okay?”
I shrugged. Why not? What other choice did I have?
Raju’s next house was near the Mirdif City Centre Shopping Mall. It was a large semi-detached only 10,000 dirhams above my revised budget. Raju asked me to wait in the car whilst he hurried off to speak to a small Indian man lounging on the grass outside. Within seconds, I was ushered inside the villa with strict instructions to remain quiet. The current tenants were asleep upstairs and for that reason I wouldn’t be able to view the master suite. Within thirty seconds, I had seen enough to know this was ‘The One’. The front door opened onto a large lounge with smooth marble floor tiles. My eyes followed the tiles to the kitchen that was straight ahead. Inside the square room were dark wooden cabinets and a marble countertop that matched the floor tiles. Out through the window, the blue expanse of the shared infinity-pool twinkled invitingly.
Raju indicated the maid’s room was just off the kitchen, and held the door open while I peered in at the high quality fixtures of the bathroom. The finishing of the lower level hinted that the rest of the house would also be to my liking and I took the stairs two at a time to the first-floor landing where the door to the master room was firmly shut. I tiptoed into the two other rooms with renewed excitement. Both were a little on the small side, but at least there was enough walking space around the bed and fitted cupboards to store most of our stuff.
Raju hopped from one foot to the other and I knew it was time to go. Back on the street, I glanced back at the three-bedroom villa that met all my requirements and knew it was time to call the Financial Controller. My husband.
Promising Raju a final answer by the evening, I headed back to the hotel in a much better mood, when I spotted a To Let sign glaring out at me. Wondering if it was a spiritual sign, I decided to follow it in case something better was on the market.
The signs led me to a compound that housed a handful of tall whitewashed townhouses. My limited experience told me the property was out of my price bracket, but something told me to go inside anyway, just to see what houses on the other end of the spectrum looked like.
Apparently houses on the other end were narrow and awkward. The layout of this particular property was a jumble of hallways and stairs. I peered up the narrow steps and decided this definitely wasn’t ‘The One’.
“Ah, Mrs Mavie!” boomed a thick voice from behind me.
Startled, I whipped around and came faced a familiar figure whose name escaped me.
There was a flutter of movement and three other men traipsed in from the kitchen. For an instant, fear shot down my spine, until I realised they were all agents I had met since my search for a villa began.
Each agent beamed at me.
“Who are you here with?” the first man asked peering around me.
“Ah, no one…” I faltered wondering if I should have lied. I edged towards the front door eager to escape.
“You increase budget? This is for 170,000. You like? This six big bedrooms.” The man clasped his hands, smiling encouragingly.
“Oh, no…” I forced a laugh. “I just saw the sign and thought I’d come and see inside.”
“You find anything else?” The tallest agent stepped forward. I remembered his name clearly – Vijay.
“Um…not yet.” By now I had stepped through the front door and could see the compound gates straight ahead.
“I show you nice villa?” Vijay was less than a metre away now.
“No, no thank you. I need to go, my husband is in the car…” I strode purposefully towards the car and locked myself in.
What were four agents doing in an empty villa? I had spoken to them all during the last couple of weeks but had no idea they all knew each other. Suddenly, I felt very stupid. Of course they would all know each other, they worked in teams! The men at the villa were all Indian, whereas Raju was Pakistani. That would explain his stealth approach to whipping me out from under Javed’s radar. It would also explain how Raju knew my requirements without me telling him beforehand. Did all agents discuss new clients?
Whatever their methods, I was glad Raju had the initiative to poach me. He didn’t get that Jaguar by sitting around waiting for clients to come to him. Raju had showed me the best villa in the least amount of time. And within a week of giving him the go-ahead, I held the keys to my new house.
In the weeks it took to locate permanent accommodation, I had scaled a steep learning curve. No amount of research could have helped dwindle down the number of properties I had seen. Even though the agents knew my requirements, they made a point of showing me the worst houses first. It’s called property turnover, where they try and get rid of the undesirable properties to the most clueless of tenants. If you find yourself in the rental market, be wary of getting side-tracked. Stick to your requirements, but be willing to make small compromises if the price is right. In some cases, like mine, none of the properties will cater to your tastes – and that would be the time to up your budget. The most valuable element to any house-hunt is to make sure you have plenty of time before you need to move.
Stand alone villa set far back from the main gate

Do you have any other house-hunting tips? Help out others by leaving them in the comments section below.
The road to Mirdif

Friday, 5 July 2013

Hotcake Houses. Part two.

Javed pulled up alongside my car.
“Waiting for me?” he smiled with all the confidence of a shady regular in a local bar.
“Javed?” I hesitated, brushing my foot against the gas pedal, in case it wasn’t the agent I was expecting.
He nodded. Biting my lip, I rolled up the window and followed him down the now familiar road, toward another villa that had come on the market.
On the phone, Javed had talked up a storm about the amazing villas he had lined up. And with a flutter of excitement I wondered if today was the day I would find my future home. Our first stop was a colossal villa on the outskirts of Mirdif, the exterior had me reaching up to remove my sunglasses. Surely, it wasn't pink? Javed jumped out the car and ran through the specifics of the villa.
"Wait!" I gasped, not sure if I heard right. "How much is the rent?"
Javed rattled a figure 70,000 above my budget and I reeled in shock. "This?" I threw a hand in the villa's direction. "Show me something within my budget..."
Javed cut the beginnings of my lecture off, "sure Madam. I just think, you like big villa. Just incase, I show you. Okay, come I have perfect small villa."
He hopped jovially into his car and gunned the engine.

I shook my head at his failed attempt to secure a comission. Did I look like the type to live in a pink mansion?!
As we turned into various streets, the previous excitement at seeing a small villa, was manhandled out of my body, by something that could only be described as disappointment. We were heading in the direction of the golden-coloured villa that I rejected just yesterday.
As the gaudy villa loomed ahead, Javed braked suddenly and I slouched lower in my seat. I would have to be brutally blunt if I was to get something to my liking.
“Seen it. It’s disgusting. I need something a little more modern. And clean…and in neutral colours…”
Javed’s eyebrows shot up. “Come…One more.” He signalled for me to follow.
Within moments we were outside a sandstone villa with a dark brown trim. I nodded my approval and stepped through the open gate. The foyer of the house was all I needed to see to have me reaching for my keys. I whipped the car keys from my pocket and tutted in disbelief.
The floor was strewn in litter and at Javed’s insistence, I edged towards the kitchen. It was brutal. Cupboard doors hung open to reveal chipped shelves and the worktop was covered in a heavy dusting of sand.
“Nope. Too dirty.” I snapped pivoting toward the front door. I had wasted enough time on properties like this. If landlords were serious about renting their villa out, then they should do a better job of presenting it.  I thought stamping my feet in annoyance.
“But Madam! The cleaners will clean it all. Nice nice!” Javed hurried behind me, but I wasn’t listening.
Reaching my car, I threw a final question over at Javed. “Do you have anything clean?”
He took a moment, then when the answer floated though his head, he gulped loudly.
“Call me when you do.” I took his wide panicked eyes as a ‘no’, and slid into the car.
Throwing the car into reverse, I backed out into the road. My mobile buzzed and I stomped on the brakes.
The number wasn’t familiar, but I answered it anyway.
“Hello, Madam. Are you still with Javed?”
Eh? I cast a nervous look around the empty street.
“Uh. No. Who is this?”
“I am Raju. I see you since a few days looking for house.”
I snapped the locks on the car door and checked the road again. Clearly I had a stalker.
“Yes?” I all but whispered.
“I have good villa. You want?”
“How did you get my number?”
“I know agents. I know people. You want villa? I show?”
That should have sent me running for the hills. “I do want…” I trailed off realising my English was becoming just as bad as his.
“Okay. Follow me. I come behind.”
Then the line went dead.
I checked the screen, it told me I had been on the phone for less than a minute. And in that minute, the adrenaline pumped through my body. I come behind? Behind where? I twisted in my seat and sure enough a red jaguar slowed to a crawl.
I waited until it pulled up alongside me.
Raju waved. He was a thin man in his twenties. He looked harmless enough, but didn’t all stalkers look harmless?
I didn’t have long to think as Raju shot off down the road and I followed, promising myself not to get out of the car unless it was worth it.
To find out what Raju had in store – check back next week!
Mirdif at dawn

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Hotcake houses. Part One.

I had only been house-hunting for an hour and my head was thumping a beat so loud that it made my ears ring. The scorching heat of the mid-morning sun filtered through the car window and I cranked up the air-con hoping it would keep my impatience at bay. I was waiting for my second contact of the day, an estate agent named Sabir.
He was already ten minutes late and I wondered how much longer I should give him. Already the first hour of the day was wasted on an agent called Farhan, who had the combined intelligence of a doorknob. Even after listening to my specific requirements, he failed to show me anything that met my two basic needs; three bedrooms and a fitted kitchen.
I had spent the previous day making a list of the agents to contact for the properties I saw online. But so far, what I saw during my research was not what I expected. The Internet only boasted the best angle of each house. They failed to capture the rotting woodwork, the outdated bathrooms, the dark and dingy kitchens and the lack of cleanliness. And for the tenth time that morning, I wondered how the landlords could command such an exorbitant amount for tenants to live there.
A sharp car horn broke into my reverie. Checking my rear-view mirror, I nodded at the man I assumed to be my contact. He gestured for me to follow and pulled out into the road. A few minutes later, we arrived at a dilapidated villa, a golden exterior with crumbling brickwork. Sabir gallantly walked over and stood by my car, waiting for me to exit. Instead, I rolled down the window and shook my head.
“Seen it.”
“Already?” he asked looking surprised.
I nodded. I had seen it an hour ago. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t gone in – I mean, who would want to live in a house that looked like it had been doused in vomit?
“Do you have any apartments?” I tried my luck again. I had already asked the same question to Farhan, but I wanted to double-check his answer with Sabir.

It turned our Farhan was right. The only compound that offered apartments, were in Ghoroob, a large compound that was managed by a dedicated team on-site. All other agents didn’t have a chance. Apparently, I didn’t have a chance either, as the waiting list for an apartment was the length of the Emirates Road.
With my hotel bill rising by the day, I was pushing hard at finding a place that was ready to move into. The last thing I wanted was to renew my booking at the hotel, as the one bedroom apartment didn’t offer enough space for my family. Moving quickly was fast becoming a priority. Just the thought of chauffeuring my son on the 40 minute journey through the early-morning exhaust fumes was enough to unsettle me. It was for that reason only, that I chose to rent a place closer to his school.
 The only area that was affordable enough was a town just south of Dubai airport, called Mirdif. With the airport a 15 minute zip up the road, and the school a 10 minute run, it was the perfect location to move into.

“Oh, yes. I have a good villa…come, come…follow,” Sabir’s smile was encouraging. Could he have the perfect villa for me?
I followed his car to Street 15. This side of Mirdif looked promising and my mood lifted. Soon enough we parked outside a modest semi-detached and wandered straight into the lounge. The spacious room led onto a fitted kitchen that had seen better days. The faded cabinets looked of low-quality, but I figured compromises could be made.
I figured wrong. Upstairs, all three bedrooms narrowed into a sharp point, creating an angle that would be impossible to furnish. The bathrooms, were dark, windowless rooms that had cheap fixtures and fittings. Each showerhead looked as if it was about to crumbled onto the mouldy shower tray below.
“How much is this?” I asked out of curiosity.
The agent quoted a figure 10,000 dirhams above my budget. I felt myself swoon. All the houses I had seen that day were in the same price range. And all of them fell short of my expectations. It became clear that if I was to get a decent place, I would have to up my budget considerably.
To find out what happened the next day, check back next week for the second instalment of my house-hunt in Dubai.  

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Final Adventure. Dubai.

Most of my readers would know, that Dubai is like my second home. Except now, instead of using it as an escape from the dreariness of Riyadh - I have moved here permanently.
Years ago, when my parents first brought me to visit relatives in the stifling heat of Dubai, all I could remember was the glare of the sun and the specks of sand that mangled my hair. Never did I imagine that I would long for the days when my passport would proudly bear the residential visa stamp that would grant me a licence to stay.
Just over a month ago, I got a long awaited taste of total liberation that Riyadh denied me. I was able to slide behind the wheel of my rented Chevrolet and tear down the immaculate streets letting destiny guide me through the heavy traffic that caused other drivers to honk angrily. Even their impatience couldn’t wipe the grin from my face, they probably took driving for granted, forgetting that there are some women who would give anything for that level of independence.
My first day here was spent re-acquainting myself with the steering wheel and getting my bearings. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t here on holiday and not to venture too close to the exciting attractions that would distract me from my mission. That mission was to get my son into a decent school. After a thorough search, it was decided my son would attend a school in the town of Mirdif. Armed with a GPS and an abundance of formal documents, I headed south to a beautifully built school that boasted a traditional clock tower.
A couple of hours later, my son had been assessed and accepted and I was asked to pay the eye watering fee that I came to know was standard for a western education out in the Middle East. As I stared at the invoice in my hand, I couldn’t help compare it to the one I had held just a couple of years ago back in Riyadh. It was for half the amount of what had just left my heavily dented bank account.
Walking through the school grounds, we were shown the many features that made the school what it was. Our guide pointed out the large assembly hall and the tiger turf that housed a football pitch as well as a basketball court. I just hoped the education would be as impressive.

On the way back to the hotel, I was sure to stop off at Uptown Mirdif where I would be able to buy the mandatory school uniform that would set me back a further two hundred pounds. Was that a gasp I just heard from your lips? If it was, then you did way better than me. My jaw almost hit the floor when the sales lady totalled up the purchase. Two shirts, two shorts, one school hat, one PE hat, one PE kit and one book bag couldn’t cost that much could it?
The sales lady grinned at me. She took great pleasure in letting me know that I was not just paying for a basic uniform, I was also paying for a swimming bag, trunks, cap and school socks to boot.
Carrying the uniform to the car, I decided that although school uniforms are a necessary evil, the extras that were tucked into my bag were just a way to extract more money from privately paying parents. I mean, why pay for a simple swimming kit when we had one at home?
Back at the hotel, we headed up to the pool to recover from the sweltering heat that was the culprit for my frizzy mop. As the cool water soothed over me, I planned for the week ahead.
To find out what happened with my house hunt, check back next week.  
If you are a parent, let me know where you are and what your child’s school is like.