Monday, February 28, 2011

No Job for a Lady

Roman Gladiators: Preferable to a job in PR
Another day, another 6 am start to man a client event. I won't bore you with the details for fear of a) boring you to death b) being unprofessional and revealing said dull event, just take it from me: you wouldn't take a day off work to attend. 

After managing client dramas (unnecessary) and a million ridiculous requests (exhausting) I  had a minute to switch on my Blackberry and check emails.  One of the four local ladies manning the help desk next to us sidled over shyly.  "What EXACTLY do you do" she asked.  "My daughter wants to work in PR or the Media, tell me what your job is like."  Having at this point been on my feet for three hours, I didn't hold back in explaining the gruelling hard work, long hours and mediocre pay. To say she looked aghast was an understatement.

"Just to be clear," she asked. "You sometimes work 12 hours a day?" Yes, I responded. "But I only work 9-1.30," she exclaimed. (I resisted the urge to strangle her, as she was so lovely.)  "My husband will never let my daughter work hours that long." (Are you listening, Dad???!!)

Not to be deterred, she tried to find the positive in the situation.  "But you enjoy what you do?"  At this point I had to break off to answer one of the myriad of questions that you face when the Media Desk is placed next to the Help Desk. My favourites so far have been: where can I get business cards printed/where are the toilets/how do I claim back my travel expenses/where is Hall 4, 6, 10/what is my 4 digit speaker code......

I didn't get to answer her question but I think she got a good idea of the answer....

Fast-forward another two hours and me and the gang of local ladies were all firm friends, this, despite the fact that they spoke little English and my Arabic is non existent. It got to the point where I was included in a variety of group photos, simply because: "You work so hard and this way we will always remember you."  Bless.  Joy in the simple things.....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Daddy Knows Best

Never too old to be a.....
I have a particularly wonderful friend here who has recently come back into my life after re-surfacing post-baby.  She's one of a kind: half Egyptian, half German, which makes for an interesting mix of crazy arab and detailed gerry.  She's sassy and streetwise and nothing about her is conventional.  Her lovely husband is a blonde cool Kiwi who is a giant ray of positivity. 

Sassy Streetwise chick headed to Goa last weekend to party with her friends, leaving her beautiful nine month old daughter with her husband - and why not?  Share and share alike...

I was with her today when she was re-counting tales of her adventures to two guys from the advertising agency.  Both are young, Syrian, western-educated, wearing the newest kicks and smartest street-styles: i.e they are cool.  As she told the story one of them spotted the obvious flaw in the plan. 

"Hang on a minute" he said.  "Haven't you just had a baby?  What did you do with her?"

"Well obviously I left him with my husband," she retorted.

Cool Syrian guy was literally open mouthed.  Flabbergasted.  Couldn't speak for a few seconds.  He didn't regain his composure at all.  As someone whose dad was an integral part of my life when growing up, from nappy changing to Christmas collage creation (hello dad!), his reaction was a bit of a shock to me.

"THAT," retorted Sassy Streetwise chick as we strolled away laughing, "is why I didn't marry an Arab."

I'm just saying.......

House Hunting

My beautiful pool. Be a dear and pass Grazia!
Ok, I'll admit it, I'm nosy (no shocked reactions?) so this week I've really enjoyed myself: I've been apartment hunting.  Not or me, which almost makes it more enjoyable, a bit like clothes shopping for someone else.

I think I have a pretty good grip on the various developments in Dubai; after living here for three years I've either viewed most of them as a potential resident or visited them through friends or randoms (the bathroom tiles at JLT with scenes of flying ducks were particularly offensive one confused hazy morning).  That doesn't stop me from loving a good root around other apartments though.

Things to consider when house-hunting in Dubai:

How many cheques? This won't make sense in any other country in the world, but here it's crucial. When I moved here 3 years ago, landlords demanded all your rent, up front. In one cheque. Crazy I know.  This meant that way back when, it was standard to hand over 25, 000 quid.  No wonder it took me a while to become a fan of this city!  Hello recession and this has changed, and thankfully, landlords are more reasonable. 4 and sometimes six cheques are the norm now. Not only does this mean you don't have to have such deep pockets, but it also means that you have some flexibility if you want to move.

What's the view like? Again, seems obvious, but it's building site central here and unless you live in a fully completed community, it's standard for an apartment to look onto a bottomless crater or neck-craning scaffolding. 

What's the finish like? I hate to sound like a princess, but we are spoilt here. Once you've had a brand new beautiful kitchen, and spotless gleaming bathroom, a shoddy tiling job or cheap doors just won't cut the mustard.  And don't even try to

How big is the pool and which way does it face?  After a 60 hour working week, sometimes a girl just doesn't have time to drag her sorry ass to the beach, so the pool/sun ratio becomes very important.  Likewise the number of sun loungers. Who wants to fight for a space when already wrestling with armfuls of celebrity gossip magazines and trying to maintain one's composure in a bacofoil bikini?

How close is the nearest mosque? I LOVE living in the Middle East and the call to prayer is one of my favourite ways of remembering where I am.  The sound of it wafting up to my balcony fills my heart with deep joy.  However, living right next door to one could be a problem - the first prayer is v early.  Luckily with ear plugs and modern windows, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The search continues.....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Take Me Away From All This....

Should I run away and join the circus?!
I just ate for the first time today. Time-check: approx 4 pm.  It's days like these when I long for an escape from being a wage slave.  Many years ago, when in the first throws of agency life, working 14 hour days, dry heaving in the car park as so stressed before work, and generally being run into the ground (hello House of Pain survivors!) I read this book.  It's extremely interesting; chronicling a variety of people who made a drastic career change, and what subsequently happened to them. The problem I had with the book was that there were no hard and fast answers.  I'm a solutions and actions kind of gal, so a summary of  "it works for some people, it doesn't for others" didn't really help my thought process.

As I ran downstairs to fetch an over-priced Costa sandwich (almost 5 quid, uk peeps, and it wasn't THAT good), I took advantage of the 4 minutes I had to myself without emails, calls and general pestering, and let my mind wander to alternative careers that I might enjoy.  The short-list:
  • Zoo-keeper: Yes I KNOW I bang on about this all the time, but it really was THE most fabulous day ever.  Downside: These days to even be considered you have to have a medical degree.  I do not fancy studying biology for 3 years to spend the following 3 shoveling shit, however lovely the animals are.  Also: Not many zoos in this region.
  • Hotel Receptionist: I spend much of my time on the phone, being nice to unpleasant people.  Surely not that much difference in the roles?  I also have great teeth for smiling at people all day long.  Downside: The uniforms.
  • Train Conductor: Lots of forms, lots of people to co-ordinate.  Making sure trains run on time.  Sounds familiar....Downside: No trains in this region.
  • Dog Groomer: This was oft discussed by me and the Sass PR babes: cute dogs, and being around animal type people all day who are usually bonkers ie great fun.  Downside: A glut of these in Dubai.  Potential biting issues.
  • Squirrel Trainer: I was reminded of this when recently re-watching the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. have you ever seen anything more hilarious! Downside: No squirrels in this region.  Potential biting issues as above.
  • PA: Extremely organised, making lots of bookings, dealing with difficult people and managing a diary like a menace.  hello,this is me every day!  Downside:  No desire to mother a grown man.
  • Artist: Back in the day I was all over art, and was always painting or drawing.  When time became more critical I limited these creative expressions to customizing my various apartments with homemade artworks.  Since moving to the Twilight Zone it's been lacking in my life.  Downside: Do I have to wear tie dye clothing and survive on a diet of gruel and hummus?
So, those are the options.  Not sure whether to be inspired or defeated.  Maybe the women in this region have the right idea: hold out for a rich husband to take you away from your life of stress and chaos.  Or as they also do, get married at 22 and let your life become stressed and chaotic for a whole host of other reasons!  In the time it's taken me to write this another 45 emails have arrived.  Best dash....

Medical Training

What's not to love?!
You may remember that I am one of those odd people who doesn't have their tv connected.  I say odd as I am often greeted by blank faces when I reveal this.  TV in this region is utter tosh, and very expensive to boot, so I gave up on it a long time ago.  Don't faint, I still have a tv and a dvd player, which means I basically get to choose exactly what I want to watch, when I want to watch it.  This has meant much rummaging through boxed sets, and also means that my apartment is an oasis of peace and quiet a lot of the time - I can't do the reflex action of switching on the tv as i walk in through the door.  It's bliss, really.  Friend of a friend recently took the step of removing their tv from the lounge all together and putting it in a separate tv room.  All over this decision.

Anyway, this month's obsession has been....E.R.  L got the entire boxed set for Christmas (that's 15 seasons, folks!) and we've been steadily working our way through them. I watched them all the first time around, but as they first aired in 1994, it's safe to say my memories are a little hazy.  Let's just say I partied hard at university!  It's been a complete treat to watch and I'd almost forgotten just how much I loved the show.  This group obsession has meant that our catch ups always involve a conversation about what's going on, who's with who, who's died, collapsed, been attacked etc.  We're casually dropping medical terminology into all of our chats over vino, and barking "give me the bullet" as we sit down to gossip. 

If you're a fan (and apologies if not, this will all seem super banal to you) I've just finished season 5.  Mark Greene's dad just died, and Carter survived a near fatal stabbing.  I've got through almost a whole roll of kitchen roll due to sobbing (why don't I have tissues?) and have stayed up way too late on many occasions as I just can't stop watching.  I swear I heard my ovaries squeak during scenes involving Doug Ross and small children.  I know the worst is yet to come as Dr Greene doesn't die until season 8. However the Clooney does make a reappearance in Season 15, so worth holding on.

Hmm maybe I should take a break.  I do sound a little obsessive.  Anyone have any boxed sets to recommend?!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Time Out

Exciting news: this week we have a public holiday: Prophet Mohammed's birthday, and we get a day off to celebrate.  When you work as hard as we do (and yes I KNOW I am not going down a mine every day, but sometimes it feels like it) you embrace these small oases of loveliness and make lots of plans.  Our options thus far have been:
  • Picnic in the park
  • Day by the creek - abra rides, strolls and lunch by the water
  • Lunch at a variety of beautiful restaurants (outdoor)
  • Beach
  • Beach
  • Beach
Not a bad list to choose from, really!  Given the recent cooler weather in Dubai, we're not entirely sure that beach is an option, so we've agreed that alarms are set at 9 am on Thursday. If it's blue sky and sunshine, we're getting heavily involved in bikinis, celebrity trash and sundowners.  It's been way too long since the bacofoil bikini got an airing.  Off to pray for sun....


It's not quite this cold...
A major occurrence last night: I slept without the AC on.  For the first time in 3 years.  This may mean nothing to those outside the city, but it's a major talking point amongst ex-pats as a gauge of what the weather is like.  Some people embrace a Dubai winter with gusto, shutting their AC off from November - March with no problem, but not me.  I'm extremely warm blooded, and could feel hot whilst locked in a chest freezer.  This can cause no end of problems when (ahem) sharing close quarters - for example a bedroom - with someone who doesn't like their nightly rest to resemble Siberia.

But this week it's been positively chilly, and after a launch event at the divine Armani terrace (do get involved if you haven't already), where gale force nine winds almost blew the fountains over us, followed by a trot home through aforementioned gale, I was ready for some heat.  After curling up under a blanket on the sofa as the wind howled around the apartment, I took myself off to bed. It was only as I drifted off that I realised the AC was off, and I just didn't have the nergy to switch it on.  I woke up this morning slightly flushed, but not having crumbled into the usual hot heap I would have done. Dubai winters: Love them!

Art, Right on my Doorstep

I've mentioned before just how much I love living in Downtown, so I won't bore you with some of the reasons why, again.  Today I was reminded why, again.  When I first moved in three years ago there were huge piles of what looked like rubble lying at the sides of the roads.  They weren't rubble, they were scultures, lying in disjointed pieces.  Slowly but surely they started being pieced together and placed along the beautiful Boulevard.

A couple of days ago we spotted something new, covered in tarpaulin.  We mused as to what it might be, and had almost decided on a camel (it had what looked like two humps, ok!).  This morning on my stroll to work there were red velvet ropes cordoning off the area in front of them- a very Dubai thing to do - you're hardly likely to need to hold back a crown of thousands in this situation - so we knew thats something was happening, and soon.

Luckily for my nosy parker tendencies we could see the event unfolding from my office window, and J happily provided the office with regular updates. "People are arriving! People are taking photos! People are taking off the tarpaulin!"  It was hard to tell exactly what the sculptures were from a distace, but a quick look on the internet revealed them to be:

'Together' by Syrian artist Lutfi Romhein features two sculptures – that of an Arab man and an Arab woman, chiselled to perfection. Clad in a flowing white dish-dasha, the male figure has been sculpted in Carrara marble from Italy, while the kandoora-clad female sculpture is made of black granite from Sweden. 

They're absolutely beautiful and I can't wait to have a proper gander at them on the way home from work.  Who says Dubai is a soul-less cultural desert?!