It’s not quite one place, but it’s not the other neither

One day, when I was trawling the internet for previously unknown information about myself* I found a review of a journal in which I had been published. The reviewer summarised my piece thusly: “Tracy Crisp on Dubai”. For a few days after I read that I was somewhat annoyed at the injustice of being reviewed in a somewhat dismissive tone by someone who hadn’t even read the piece closely enough to notice that I live in Abu Dhabi and had not once, in the entire piece, even mentioned Dubai, but what can you do, and life goes on, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing therapy to recover from the experience. Call the wah!mbulance and so forth.

While I have recovered from the injustice of it all, I am reminded of that review every time I go to Dubai, because the trip never fails to do my head in, and I find Dubai even more incomprehensible than I find Abu Dhabi (sorry if incomprehensible is an absolute state, of which ‘even more’ isn’t, technically, possible, but if you want to argue the toss about it, I challenge you to come and stay for a while, and I will take you down to Dubai, and then we’ll see what you think).

The distance between our house and the first place you might want to get to in Dubai is about 130 kilometres and the trip takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half depending on who is driving. The drive is mostly along Sheikh Zayed Road, four lanes each way (eight in all).

Sheikh Zayed Road is home to the world’s largest traffic accident. It’s on youtube if you want to see a 200 car pileup. I’m not linking to it. I try not to think too much about the accident side of things because the mister makes the trip a couple of times each week, and it doesn’t do to dwell on things.


So much for SMART goals (achievable, realistic and so on).

The difference between the two cities is simply described as the difference between Canberra and the Gold Coast. Abu Dhabi being Canberra and Dubai being the Gold Coast. If Canberra had more money and the Gold Coast had more steroids. But this doesn’t really do the difference descriptive justice.

I have spent a lot of time trying to think about how I could describe what it is that distinguishes Abu Dhabi from Dubai, but it’s going to take a bit more work. I’m having trouble with it, probably because I’m trying to describe degrees of incomprehension.

For now, all I can really say is this:

it’s not so much that in Abu Dhabi you wouldn’t see the world’s tallest building

an indoor ski field

or go through a gate to get to a mall that traces the steps of Ibn Battuta:

No, no, that hole leads to Atlantis, this is the one that gets you to the lands of Ibn Battuta (sorry):

And it’s not so much that you wouldn’t see a shop that specialises in pink camels

or, erm, these

it’s just that in Abu Dhabi you don’t.


*side conversation had during the composition of this blog post
‘Have you ever googled yourself?’
‘No.’ True and actual surprise on his face at the very thought.
‘I only asked you to confirm what I already knew.’
Seriously, that man is so fucking well-balanced it wouldn’t surprise me to learn I’ve been living with one of Earth’s as-yet-undiscovered magnetic poles.

Mwa ha ha ha ha

Last year when the note came around I said to the lads and the mister, ‘No, no we will not be part of the Halloween trick or treating the Norte Americanos are organising in our apartment complex’. I was all American Imperialism this and culturally inappropriate that*, but in the end, they joined the rounds because it’s pretty hard not to let your kids be part of a candy-fest when they can see it all happening outside their window, and not to mention the other parents sort of insisted that our children joined in and I ended up feeling bad because we were all take-take-take and nothing to give.

So when the mister went off to the do the shopping on Friday, I said, ‘Can you get some boxes of sultanas and some muesli bars that we can give out for trick or treating?’ and the lads are like, ‘What? Sultanas?’ and I was like, ‘You’re always saying, “Why can’t we have the little boxes of sultanas, why do we always have to buy the big bags?”‘ and they were like, ‘Yeah, but it’s supposed to be candy,’ and I was like, ‘Last year, you came back with FIVE KILOGRAMS** of compressed sugar between you, so this year I am saying you can go trick or treating, but I am giving out sultanas,’ and they were like, ‘mutter, mutter, mutter,’ but what can they do because me and the mister were agreed and you don’t want to argue too much with Mum when she gets like this because who knows what she’ll say next and obvs they aren’t going to be spending their allowance on candy that they have to give away and anyway they aren’t allowed to spend their allowance on candy.

Then we’re sitting at tea last night, and I said, ‘Can’t wait til trick or treating tomorrow night when we give out all those boxes of sultanas,’ and the lads said, ‘Muuu-uuum’ (except youngest lad had a bit more of the Mom to it, and in that explanation I was going to write Moooo-ooom except it made it look like he was imitating a cow, which he wasn’t) and I said, ‘Do you know the best thing about giving out sultanas? The best thing is that everyone is going to say to you, “Your Mom is hopeless and she only gives out sultanas” and I am not going to care because I am 41 years old and no longer care what others think about me, whereas you are 8 and 9 years old so you still care a lot about what your friends think.’ I sounded a lot like my own mother when I said that.

There was a tiny moment of silence and they looked at me with the look I particularly love which is all ‘fark, she really knows her shit’, and then they laughed as much as the mister and I were laughing, and one of them (but I don’t remember who) said, ‘Mum, you’re hilarious.’

And sometimes, not often, but every now and then, I’m exactly the mother I wanted to be.

*I just want to qualify, that I’ve been to Halloween parties in Australia and even organised one myself when I was young, and I’m not really into the ‘we’ll all be rooned’ carry on about whether or not we should have it in Australia, because why not, it’s just that it felt a bit wrong doing it here…I know, consistency, I’m totally on top of it
**yes, I weighed it, which just goes to show that sometimes instead of being the mother I wanted to be I’m just the mother I was always destined to be.

Always learning

I discovered an interesting thing when I was out on Thursday night. Did you know – and you probably didn’t, because why would you – that when I leave or enter the country, the HR person at the mister’s place of employment gets a text to let him know that I have left or entered. I think he gets a text about everyone whose visa is connected to the mister’s workplace.

Also, some misters receive the texts…I think this is an opt-in arrangement though, because the mister doesn’t get such a text (or so he says, and if he’s just saying it to save himself another conversation, well, I wouldn’t blame him, because how would it differ from any of the other conversations we have?).

I should, at this point, point out that this whole texting thing doesn’t hinge so much on being a mister as it does on being the person with the work-sponsored visa. If it were my employment which had brought us here, and I had subsequently sponsored the mister and the lads, then I would get the texts (we would also be living in a parallel universe where unicorns deliver toasted sandwiches and give foot massages, but that’s a whole different blog post, isn’t it).

I mention this, because the other day, I met a woman who has just arrived here, and we got to talking and one thing led to another and it turns out she is living in the same apartment building as another friend of mine used to live. So I said to this new woman, ‘Does your husband work for [insert name of large employer who has the tenancy for a lot of that building]?’. And she said, ‘Well, actually, I’m a single mother.’

I was mortified and of course I apologised. But my goodness me. I mean, on the one hand, sure I live in a society where such assumptions are more likely to be correct. But, far out, to have so quickly become someone who accepts such assumptions. And who voices them.

Must away, tennis parties to attend, gins to drink, that kind of thing.

I hope he’s wearing sunblock or he’ll end up a prune

So you know that I am in Australia enjoying the cool weather, but the mister is in Abu Dhabi writing proposals and going to meetings and looking at spreadsheets and so on. He tells me – by phone, not skype, because he can’t work it out, and how does an engineer not understand skype, like it was working dude, but anyway, and moving on – that it is very frigging hot. And humid. And he’s working hard.

But it’s not all hard work in his life you know.

No sirree. There be adventures.

For today, he and his friends are off to the

drumroll please

Festival of the Date.

Laugh? Fark, I nearly carked it.

Saturday morning, 10 am

Last night, I went to a party and had a very good time indeed. As a sign of my age, I can say, of the very same event, ‘I had a good time’ and ‘I do not have a hangover’. Though I did not get up and go to the 9.30 pump class.

Of course, I may never get invited to another party again, as the mister spent a fair amount of time talking about my, and my family’s, relaxed attitude to swearing. Apparently, he assumed that people would already know that about me. I am consoling myself by thinking that someone’s children need to be the source of such information and it may as well be mine. Not exactly the kind of parental role I was dreaming of playing, but there you go.

I don’t want you to think I’m starting to settle in here or anything, but I just thought I should let you know that I am at least trying not to be a complete misery guts.

The search for meaning

I feel the fragility of life more keenly these days than I ever have before. This is my age and the impact my parents’ deaths showing. But it’s being away from home as well. Living here, I am way outside my comfort zone on about a gazillion different levels (I know, you might not have noticed, I’ve been keeping it to myself).

If I were to tell you each of the reasons I feel uneasy here, for many of them you would scoff. No, really, you would. There’s the obvious reasons and one or two of them are big, important things, but mostly, it’s a never-ending succession of small, tiny, itsy-bitsy things that leave me, each day, flabbergasted, trying to understand, but increasingly certain that for me, the place is incomprehensible.

Look at this article for example. In the town where I grew up, lads, young blokes, however you describe them, would have done the same kind of thing. I’ve been in cars that were driven by boys doing dumb things. This is not a culturally-specific event.

Only where I grew up, it wouldn’t have been so…I don’t know, so in your face. And plus, we were a working class community, with not so much money to burn on the roads.

I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to say here, what conclusion I’m trying to draw. The mister drives along that road a couple of times each week, my mother died in a car accident, I have my own two young boys to guide, I like public transport…of course watching this makes my heart race, my breaths shallow, the shoulder muscles tense.

But there’s something more to it than that. Something about my powerlessness that re-awakens or, more precisely, reinforces, my uneasiness. Perhaps it’s just that all over the world, middle-aged women are invisible to young men in cars. And it worries me.

Interestingly, if we try to go directly to the clip on youtube from here, it seems to have been blocked, but we can view it through the newspaper just fine. I don’t understand.

The journey continues

From miscblogphotos

A rather cliched photo of Adelaide

Two days ago, a google search asked my blog

What the fuck am I doing in Adelaide

This cracked me up because I mean, really. Asking me that is a bit like asking the Man in the Moon, ‘Are there aliens?’

I wonder whether the person on the other end of the search had a look around and, if they did, what they thought. (yes, yes, I know there are site analysis programmes that could tell me this stuff, but they’re awfully confusing for a person like myself, and, because they just add another layer of procrastinatory potential, they are best left alone).

More generally, it is a source of endless fascination to me the way in which the internet is no longer used simply as a source of yes or no questions (do I have bowel cancer); or of statistical possibilities (what are the chances I will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s); or of factual information (how to make alpaca milk cheese); or of verification (slow as a wet wig?); but increasingly as a source of divination.

What the fuck am I doing in Adelaide?

I fully appreciate your desire to know, your feeling that there must be an answer, that if you only look hard enough you will find it. But really, I don’t know that google is the answer. Get a tarot reading, read your stars, stay up too late drinking too much with your friends, yell at your partner, read Jenny Diski, speak to whichever spiritual forces you believe. Whatever it is you do, if you are in that frame of mind, you need to get off the computer.

Computer says no

One of the resolves* I have made in an effort to be slightly less of a misery guts and slightly less self-absorbed and slightly more fun to be around is to slightly less often blame Abu Dhabi for my problems.

I think (though this is pure self-absorbed speculation) that it has been far too easy to blame everything on Abu Dhabi (and, by extension, the mister, though we won’t go into that right now, suffice to say, if you think your relationship needs a test, I can recommend a stint in Abu Dhabi…ahem…and moving on and so forth and etceteragh).

Sure, this is not my ideal location. Certainly, I am not well-suited to the Abu Dhabi life. Definitely, there are zillions of other places I would rather be. But that’s not Abu Dhabi’s problem. I do have a choice. I could leave. For sure, that choice, the choice to leave, would have its own limits and implications, but it is a choice I could make. I have more choices than ninety percent of the world’s population.

So, having decided that I will stay, I need to accept certain things. And I need to stop blaming Abu Dhabi for everything. Like tonight when I couldn’t remember the administrator password for the computer? A password so cunning, so mixed between capitals here, lower case letters here and numbers there that between the three of us – two sharp-minded lads and me – we could not remember exactly what went where. As I sat, fantasising again about a life lived elsewhere, as I sat, ready to cry with homesickness once again, I had one of those moments when you realise something.

I realised, that not living here would not solve this particular problem.

And the night got better from that point on.

*You know, I’m really not sure, are resolutions the same as resolves? Because what I mean here is that I am resolved to act in a certain way which seems to me is not entirely the same thing as making a resolution. Do you see what I mean?

I will make sure I’m up in time for a coffee before I leave

Prolly won’t have time to blog tomorrow, because I’m going to Dubai for a conference/training session with some highly skilled people.

I need to be at Jumeirah by 9 which, for most people, would mean leaving here by 7 at the earliest, because everyone except me drives at about 150 kms per hour.

I drive at the more sedate pace of around 120, partly because accidents do happen, and partly because our car beeps once it hits 120 (I’ve been told by other people that you just turn the radio up and you don’t even notice the beeping sound…erm…could not think of anything more hideous than driving at 150 km with a radio turned up to drown out the beeping…especially because the BBC world service in English doesn’t start until 9, and the classic radio cuts out about halfway between here and Dubai and the rest of the radio stations are just noise).

Now, if I drive myself all the way to the venue, it will mean negotiating the World Trade Centre roundabout. It all sounds very simple in the instructions I’ve been given. In my favour, I do have a good sense of direction, but working against that, I feel the fear in the traffic, and lose my nerve. Also, it’s very easy to miss a turn or make a wrong turn in Dubai, and then there’s nothing for it but to sit back and enjoy the ride to Sharjah.

So I think I will do what I always do, which is to stop the car at Ibn Battuta Mall or perhaps Dubai Mall, then catch a cab the rest of the way. The cab from Ibn Battuta Mall will cost a fair bit, but getting back onto Sheik Zayed Road out of Dubai Mall and pointing yourself in the direction of Abu Dhabi is extraordinarily difficult on account of the roadworks diversions. And it will be dark by the time I come home. I suspect Ibn Battuta Mall.

Do you know what I’m missing right now? I’m missing my house which is fifty steps to the tram if you turn left when you step out the gate, and one hundred steps to the bus if you turn right.