At the end of March I had the opportunity to travel to two new, and interesting places. Lagos (Nigeria in case there can be any confusion) and Beirut (Lebanon).
It was with much trepidation that I approached the first trip. After being promised (perhaps threatened with some might say) a business trip to Nigeria in 2000, and after having what felt like a gazillion injections in preparation for said trip, I never actually went then, or since. I had managed to dodge the bullet a few times, but I could put it off no longer. I wasn’t sure what to expect. People who have been to Lagos either love or hate it, there seems to be no middle ground. Friends of mine have expatted there, and say “never again”, yet I met an Irish lady recently who couldn’t wait to move back there, children and all. The stereo-types are numerous; I wasn’t sure if I would be conned, kidnapped or mugged, or all three. I was very aware that I needed to “be prepared” and so made sure my immigration contact was arranged, as was my driver. I had local phone numbers for emergency contacts I had never met (from friends) saved just “in case”. I was ready!
We just got home from a two week trip…ah…home. Yes that sentence, although confusing, is technically correct. This is the eternal problem when you are living as an expat outside of your home country. It gets very confusing when you are visiting said country and then talk about home when you mean the new place you are living, but everyone you are talking to assumes you mean your original home country. Or home-home as we would probably say in South Africa. And so it goes. Even I get confused in the end.
So where is home? Well the old saying goes “home is where the heart is” but in my case I have to say “home is where the cats are”! And so for the meantime it is Dubai. And it was great to get home and see the little monsters, and sleep in my own bed. We spent a few manic days in Johannesburg as we always do, rushing around trying to see everyone and do all the admin type things you can only do at home. And then we escaped to a small town just outside Kruger National Park, and vegged. Ate and drank way to much and caught up on sleep and reading. Heaven.
I really enjoyed my 8 day vacation in Paris, but of course its also nice to be home. Back in the sandpit and back with the kitties, who I missed tons. It is also cooling down now a teeny-tiny smidge which is fabulous news I’m sure you’ll agree.
Unbelievably, in 5 sleeps time, I will have been in Dubai for a year, and have been blogging about it only slightly longer than that! Honestly I cannot believe it. In some ways I feel like I arrived just yesterday, in other ways it feels like I have been here 25 years. For me feeling settled has a lot to do with making new friends, and we have been extremely lucky to have cultivated some wonderful friendships with some amazing people here. Of course this doesn’t stop me missing my “older” friends back home, not to mention my family. Whilst I think that good friends aren’t necessarily always the people you have known the longest, I do occasionally notice that there is something to be said for knowing people a long time. You can’t go out with new friends and do the “remember when” conversations like you might with old school friends or people that you have a long history with. Maybe that’s not a bad thing either actually, sometimes that can be all you have left in common with certain people. Anyway I digress, the point is that thanks to some great people, I am feeling content here in Dubai. The other thing that certainly helps is knowing where you are going, literally, everyday. I am not getting lost any-more, the street and place names on signs on the highway are no longer baffling and terrifying. This is a major relief let me tell you.
I don’t think I have mentioned it before, but I have joined a local literary circle or book-club. Well it could not be more different from my other, crazy, festively social book-club, where books are incidental and the wine and gossip is WAY more exciting than the literature. No, at Kutub we all read the same book, in either Arabic or English, and then we discuss it over fruit juice instead of wine. It’s very grown-up indeed, and very interesting 🙂