Sunday, March 28, 2010

No, that's NOT Panera! And other Dubai mishaps...

Last night we drove by the world's tallest building, struggling to point it out to Lukas in its utter darkness. Only later would we discover that the 206-story high Burj Khalifa was one of many Dubai skyscrapers switching lights off in recognition of the 3rd annual Earth Hour.

We certainly have an interesting answer for the question, "Where were you on Earth Hour 2010?"

But wait. You may be wondering what we're doing in Dubai, having written so often about "settling down" in Germany - following a number of years in The Netherlands and South Africa. Well, Tobi (my "better" half) is transitioning from a department that requires much travel, and one that requires considerably less travel. And until that transition is complete (hopefully in a couple months' time), his manager can request that he go anywhere, anytime. That anywhere and anytime is currently 2 months in Dubai. Having just spent a month in the U.S. without Tobi, the boys miss their Papa so much, so this seemed like the most logical solution. For a few weeks we're a big happy family - eating together, shopping together, and playing together - here in the Middle East.

Don't get me wrong, there are much worse places to spend three weeks. We're in a part of Dubai called the Jumeira Beach Residence, and it is a very desirable location... especially for expats. I have never seen so many expat moms living in one location. There are so many, in fact, that it makes meeting them and speaking with them all the more challenging. Here's an example. If I'm standing next to another expat with a young toddler in the grocery store, suddenly we're not the only people that share the same lifestyle... there are a zillion of us. Why should she talk to me? Sometimes I initiate a conversation, but other times (especially if there's a group of moms), it can be intimidating. Perhaps the most odd quality of these moms is the fact that they're usually accompanied by their nanny. Often, the nanny is walking or playing with the child, going down the slide or pushing the bike, and the mom is walking with a friend and chatting away. Am I on another planet? These same children typically attend daycare. So the Mom's are mostly "stay-at-home" moms, but the kids attend daycare, and when they're not at the nursery, they're looked after by a live-in nanny. Isn't that just a little mind boggling? I don't know whether to be jealous or saddened by this trend in Dubai.

But expat Moms, if you're moving to Dubai, everything you need is right here at Jumeira Beach Residence (or "JBR"). The beach, pools, playgrounds, daycares, grocery stores, Starbucks (FOUR to be exact), restaurants... all just outside the front door. It's pretty awesome.

And there is so much to do here. So far we've watched women in burqas roll down the ski slopes of Mall of the Emirates in a giant plastic ball, cruised down Dubai Creek on a traditional Dhow boat (nice, but I'd opt for something less group-oriented and more intimate next time), splashed in the ultra warm waters of the Persian Gulf, sipped on cool drinks at the Hilton Jumeira Beach swim-up bar (with the swim-up bar being a lifetime goal of mine that I can now check off the list), and so much more. This weekend we'll do a guided tour of Dubai, some "dune bashing", and a desert safari.

The downside of all this? If you thought Europe was expensive, you ain't seen nothing yet. Dubai is ridiculous. Vitamins for the kids and I (multivitamins and a kids Omega) would have run me US$150. Generally speaking, a simple lunch for two at an average restaurant runs about US$35. And we went to something that looked like a Panera yesterday, but that was so misleading. $68 later, we decided it was not exactly like Panera, afterall. And though there may be grocery stores out there that are reasonable, and there may be some foods at those stores that are not outrageous, I can't seem to get out of there spending less than $100 (for two very simple meals and one pack of diapers). Fortunately, in our case, the company is paying for lodging, otherwise doing two vacations back-to-back would be catastrophic.

But we don't take our money to our grave with us, and every new place that we experience enriches our lives in one way or another. The world is an amazing place, and traveling it with children is not a burden, but a privilege. I see things that I never would have seen, and I take time to appreciate the little things. And we can never take enough photos. Afterall, the only way that they'll remember much of this is through pictures. And these are memories to savor for a lifetime.

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