October 2007

Here I am – back in the Land of the Biting Insect!  We were attacked while we were still waiting for our bags in the airport… Horrible bite on my arm really swelled up the next day and made both my shoulder and my hand tingle at some points of the day!  Anyway, enough griping.  We’ve had a fantastic holiday – relaxing and lots of fun.  (G, unfortunately, has given up trying to work out what time zone he’s in and has woken each of the three nights since we got back at about midnight and stayed awake till gone 2am.  My nights’ sleeps this week: Tu- half an hour (on plane), W- 4 hours, Th- 6 hours, F- 5 hours.)

Enough griping on that subject, at least…  Got home to discover the house looking rather untidy, just as we’d left it – and somewhat dustier.  I was initially indignant, because we do have a cleaner: has she taken the time off, too?  How quickly one’s expectations rise!

And I am far too quick to think negatively about Lily.  I swing from thinking that she’s great and I could never cope without her to wondering if she’s laughing behind my back and trying to get away with doing the minimum.  I suppose this is partly because we can’t communicate.  She speaks a little English, many more than the two words of Arabic I know (E knows more Arabic than I do – but I’m starting lessons this week and am very excited!), but not enough to understand a complicated instruction like “This pile of clothes needs to be washed today, but only do these ones if you have the time.  Washing the floor in the sitting room is more important.”  It’s possible to get round this problem by drip-feeding instructions and requests during the day – but only if I’m around during the day.

Oh dear.  I do sound a bit pathetic.  I have a cleaner and no job and I’m still complaining?  I’ll try to justify myself in case you were thinking along those lines… 

Lily… Back in England, I used to…
does most of the washing up use the dishwasher.  I had only had it for a year or so, but it did make life a lot easier!
washes the floors hoover far too occasionally and make do with a thoroughly unhygienic kitchen floor a lot of the time.  With all the dust here, the floors get dirty in no time.  The house looked as though it’d been empty for months when we got back from our two-week holiday!
washes the patio areas and paths … well, I may have swept the patio once a year, but the garden wasn’t an extra room for the house in the way this one is – used at all times of the day, particularly for playing in the dirt or in the outside taps!  Nice combination…
makes the beds straighten the duvets.  It’s just a nice treat – I would never get around to doing it myself.
does the laundry use the washing machine – which needed no attention at all, unlike this one which needs five-minutely intervention.  What with all the dust and water play, things need washing more frequently here, anyway.  I must say, it is lovely to hang things out and have them dry in three hours.

Have I said too much?  Do I appear a slob as well as ungrateful now?!

And how do I fill my day when I have so little to do?  A good question.  I’ll write about that next time…

A splash of colour!Our gardenA splash of colour!

Before I head off for two weeks in cooler climes (and who knows if there’ll be a chance to write while I’m away), I wanted to show you our garden here.  The first picture is pretty much our view from the table we eat breakfast at, on our covered patio (complete with ceiling fan).  As you can see, we have plenty of path for ride-on toys, and plenty of grass for running around – the children don’t seem to notice the heat.  And the trees – date palms – are great for a bit of shade and to encourage the birds.

The second picture is of the bougainvillea growing next to our breakfast table.  I am quite proud that I now know what bougainvillea is when I come across the word in a book, say!  Quite lovely, isn’t ?

Right, that’s enough!  I have wasted about an hour trying to get these photos the right size and position so that they are actually visible!  If it doesn’t work this time, it’ll have to not happen (gloriously split infinitive, don’t you think?) – I need to pick up E from school!

Wish me happy holidays!

M is… looking after E and R so that I can have a bit of time to myself.  Bliss to have him here…

E is… very proud of herself for putting her face right under when she splashes into the paddling pool (in just about everybody’s garden, just about every afternoon).

R is… copying E’s every word and keen for E’s approval, but enjoying quality time in the mornings just with Mummy and little G.

G is… smiling at any faces he sees.  He’s also experimenting with smiling and making cute noises at ceiling fans and wall lights to see if he gets as good a reaction as the faces give.

I am… still on a high from my evening out yesterday (Pickwick’s again).  Grown-up talk!!  And we’re going on holiday for two weeks in North America (too many stops to list, in true family style) very soon now.  Yippee!

That’s my feeble attempt at a clever title! I thought I’d write about the bizarre car journeys I do, taking today as a fairly typical example of driving here.  First journey: taking E to school, I drive along a – what would you call it? – a dirt road?  No tarmac, anyway.  This particular one was unpassable in my non-4×4 car when I arrived – a massive puddle/lake stretched across it.  This has gradually subsided to mud and now dust, but it still doesn’t look much like a road and I feel like some offroading rally driver bumping up and down and steering sharply to avoid the worst of the rocks and sudden dips!  I can’t quite bring myself to go as slowly as the tuktuk in front, so I try a different route across – there are a number of diverging and converging paths.

Second journey: across to today’s playgroup.  Every day, someone hosts a playgroup at their house so that we mums have somewhere to meet up and see other adults!  From my house, I generally have to drive on Africa Road, which has to be experienced to be believed.  Try to imagine not a dual carriageway, but a quadruple carriageway: two lanes, barrier, three lanes, barrier, three lanes in opposite direction, barrier, two lanes also of oncoming traffic.  Okay.  To get anywhere on the other side of this monster road, simply do the following:

          Change lanes in two-lane bit of road so as to be next to barrier.  Wait for gap in barrier (it’s not far) and drive through it, merging with traffic in three-lane bit.

          Pull across three lanes so as to be next to next barrier.  Wait for gap in barrier and do U-turn, trying not to hit other cars doing the same thing and merging with traffic in oncoming three-lane section.

          Pull across three lanes of traffic so as to be next to the next barrier.  Be quick about it because you have – ooh, I’m hopeless at estimating – 50m maybe in which to get across.  Drive through gap in barrier, merging into two-lane traffic.

          Pull across two lanes, probably with only 20m to do it in this time, and turn into side road.  You’ve made it!!

Remember that if you hesitate, you will be beeped.  However, there is a certain erratic flavour to driving here, so don’t expect anyone to be watching what you’re doing, or indeed to be thinking much about what they’re doing.  Rules of the road apply only loosely…  It’s a lot of fun!

Third journey:  I have to tell you about this one, because it has a gun!  Stopping at traffic lights on the way to someone’s house this afternoon, I see men walking between the cars with things for sale.  Not flowers or papers that you might have in Britain – the merchandise seems to change from day to day (once I saw a man trying to sell a hatstand!), but there are usually phonecards, grapes, boxes of tissues…  I’m almost out of credit on my mobile, so I wound down the window to buy a phonecard.  Looked up from riffling through my wallet to see some excitement from the group of men at prospect of a sale:  they are all crowding round my window.  Thought process seems to be that if I want a phonecard, I must also be in need of a few boxes of tissues and maybe a toy rifle or two?  Pop pop! The man with the toy gun fires it through the window at me in what he must consider a persuasive fashion.  I laugh along with the others, actually quite relieved, because driving up to the lights I’d seen these men with rifles and not been quite sure who they were or what their role was…