This blog recently auto-renewed itself. Had I been thinking ahead I might have returned the blog to a free state. Now I feel as though I need to make use of my inadvertent purchase. Like a new year’s resolution I move forward with naive determination. I’ve found myself ruminating on youthful experiences lately. The following is one of those. As I nag my children to get outside, to be adventurous, to put down their devices I’m drawn to my own childhood. Those were days of the Sega and Nintendo but we couldn’t download games from the cloud. We collected enough pop-bottles to cash in at the store for the deposit money. We walked clear across town to the video store and rented games that we played for as long as the rental allowed. I am left with a sense of nostalgia and longing for the 90s. Will my children tell stories like these?
My mother, at about 4′ 10″, is a small woman. She is also the strongest person I’ve ever met. I don’t use that saying as a rhetorical device or a platitude. At least, in terms of character, I’ve never met a stronger person. As a child it seemed to me that my mother was always dealing with one health problem or another. She managed her diabetes, had her gall bladder removed and battled problems with her thyroid. In addition to all of that she had 9 children. I was the sixth. Of my younger siblings I can only recall the birth of the youngest. In spite of her health issues and her many children I have never considered my mother to be sick or sickly. I do recall her taking naps off and on through the day but without fail when she was needed she was there.
My mother was the one to hold back the hair of a sick child and stay with them throughout the night. My mother would wait up for her children to arrive home late at night. More often than not we arrived home after curfew and we might get a reminder of that but it was always tempered. Those reminders were generally accompanied by a sandwich or some other food at an hour meant for sleeping. Her children were not acting badly they were just hungry or tired. I never once felt unloved by my mother. This includes the time she sucker punched me in the head. As a teenager, I was trying to kill a younger sibling for one reason or another and my mother put herself between the two of us. I’m not a big guy but compared to my little mother I was large enough. I could have easily brushed her aside and she knew it. That fist shocked me into a remembrance of who I am. That fist, believe it or not, was delivered with love. I believed it then as I do now.
If strength is observed in our actions and attitudes then patience is a clear indication of a depth of strength. My mother is masterful in this realm. I am certain that every one of my siblings could share many stories of the patience exhibited by our mother. In fact, I hope that they do. It deserves to be legendary. I’ll provide a single example. My mother came to pick me up once and deliver me to work. She was running a little late and so I was agitated that I would be late for work. I was a new driver but she vacated the driver’s seat for me. I was in a hurry. I was driving too fast and she reminded me to slow down and take it easy. I did not. In my rush I was changing lanes and while shoulder checking did not notice the cars ahead of me come to a stop where they generally would not. I remember my mother shouting my name in warning as I hit the breaks too late. I drove the car into the back end of the one stopped in front of me.
Except in that warning call my mother never raised her voice. We traded insurance information with those involved and I helped the person ahead of me clear their car from the road. They had been pushed into the rear of the person ahead of them. Their car was useless. Ours, however, was still road worthy enough to drive away. As I look back on this it strikes me that I climbed back into the driver’s seat and drove the rest of the way to work. I don’t recall a single word of reproach from my mother. There may have been some but they were delivered in such a way that I don’t recall them. Instead, I remember a mother who trusted me to learn from my mistakes even when those mistakes were fresh. I’d been upset with my mother for being late. Even after the accident and the time it took to deal with that I arrived at work on time for my shift. I’d been callous with her, judgemental and impatient. In the face of all of that she had been the opposite. I’m sure there have been times my mother lost patience but they were and are rare.
My mother is a faithful woman. She is believing and a practitioner of the art of Christianity. If ever there was a disciple of Christ it would be my mother. As a child the things I recall most about my mother is her willingness to help those in need. Even when, as a teenager, I thought our needs were greater than others my mother served. Sometimes I think people have taken advantage of her kindness but I’m not sure she would ever see it that way – or if she did she served them anyway, and that is all the more impressive. When my mother passes away, and I hope that is not yet for a long long time, she will enter heaven having worn out her body in service to others. I know that there have been times in my life where things could have ended in disaster for me had it not been for the prayers of my mother.
She is a religious woman but she never once pushed that religion on me. I remember when I turned eight years old and was baptized she told me that her work was done. She jokingly said that I was now responsible for all my choices and she could rest. It was a joke but it has stuck with me and in someways it wasn’t far from the truth. Her children are a stubborn strong willed bunch that have made their fair share of mistakes. To maintain the type of patience she exhibits one would need to adopt an attitude that would allow you to turn things over to the Lord.
I recall with fondness seeing my mother often reading her scriptures faithfully at the kitchen table. She would write out versus on sheets of lined paper and post them to the refrigerator door. She rarely said much about them but in my frequent trips to the fridge I was fed physically and spiritually. She wrestled me out of bed each morning as a teenager and drove me across town to our little chapel where I attended early morning seminary. The car heater never seemed to work in the winter but we went anyway. I never once felt compelled to go but I also never felt it was a burden for my mother to take me. God will not force anyone to heaven and my mother is a godly woman.
As she ages others might complain that she can be a little didactic in her conversations. My daughters don’t much appreciate her encouragement to conform to her understanding of modesty. I think a little of that is borne out of a sense of guilt that she should have spoken up more often with her own children. Mom, your actions have always spoken more clearly than your words and the fruits of your life’s work will continue to blossom and grow for many generations. You are loved and will be hailed by your posterity as a chosen and valiant daughter of God.
I can think of no greater testimony of the virtue of my mother than the lives of her children, especially her daughters. Without fail she has produced eight incredible mothers. My sisters’ children are all well loved and wonderfully raised. They are all good and wonderful people. I see a little of my mother in each of them. In many ways I had nine mothers. The Lord knows I needed them all just to become a remotely worthy man.
Thank you mom, for all of us.
I will miss so much more of the UAE than these 10 things.
#10 – Round-A-Bouts
At first round-a-bouts were a little intimidating to understand. I have a feeling there are quite a few people here trying to figure them out still. Once you get it, they are actually pretty awesome, but not in consistently high traffic areas. Traffic continues to flow, and if you’re not sure which way to go, just go around again. Rules to remember with round-a-bouts or ‘squares’ as I’ve heard them referred to, is that “whoever is in front, wins”. If you’re in front of the guy beside you, and you need to turn but he isn’t, you have right of way (don’t forget to use your blinker). Also, squares aren’t much different than intersections. If you want to take the 3rd exit, you get in the right lane to merge into the centre ring, and basically turn right. If there are 3 lanes going into a square, left lane turns left (and straight if there are 3 lanes coming out of the square), centre lane goes straight, right lane goes straight or right. When their are only 2 lanes going into a square, left lane goes left and straight, right lane goes straight and right. See. Simple.
#9 – Having a ‘Guy’
So this did make it on my list after all. You want a shelf hung, you call a ‘guy’ to hang the shelf. You need a light change, call a ‘guy’ to do it. Water my grass, the ‘guy’ comes by everything other day to turn the water on for 15 min, then turn it off again. Need your car washed in your parking spot, you can have a ‘guy’ do it at home, or while you’re at the mall shopping. Back broke off your chair, no problem, call the ‘guy’ to come and fix it. We’ve even had half a dozen mice, ant infestation, and a bed bug scare. We just called a ‘guy’ and the problem was solved. Think my ‘guy’ will move to Canada with me?
#8 – Full service…everything
Who wants to get out of their car…for anything. Gas, all full service, at every station except after 12:00am at some stations. Remember drive-in’s? You drove into the parking lot and honked, and someone would come out and take your order? I have never done this but I’ve seen it done and not only at fast food restaurants. I’ve seen people do this at grocery stores, hardware stores and other smaller places of business.
#7 – Spontaneous Holidays
The holidays on the calendar are tentative at best. Every once in a while an announcement is made that certain sectors will not be working on certain days. I’m sure it’s a rare thing. But we saw this happen twice within a week. This could also fall on my things I won’t miss about the UAE, as it makes planning difficult. But hey, a bonus day off is nothing to complain about.
#6 – Inexpensive Services
Our favourite service has been dry-cleaning. I get everything dry-cleaned. Quilts, pillows, James work shirts and pants, the girls dresses, carpets, sleeping bags. First of all my washing machine barely handles daily laundry for 5 let alone one quilt. Second, I don’t have to iron shirts when someone else does a better job for $1/shirt.
#5 – Security
We live in a large, gated community. There is a fence that runs around the entire University City. Inside that each separate University or College is surround by it’s own fence. Emirate police are posted at each gate entrance, randomly screening people who enter into the ‘city’. Faculty/Staff are separated from students by a fence as well. Guards are setup at A/C booths, or on patrol all day and night all over campus. It sounds like we’re really locked down, but for the most part you don’t ever see these guys though you know they’re there.
The community is also small enough that we look out for each other. My neighbours are familiar with my kids, as I am with theirs. When my kids go to the store, they know and talk to the people that work there. We’ve been surrounded by many friendly, caring people who watch out for each other.
#4 – Rain days
Rain days are another rarity, but a welcome one. It is quite the novelty when it rains here as the drainage system is poor to non-existent. Rain waters quickly pool in cul-de-sacs and round-a-bouts making instant swimming pools for puddle jumping. What’s more fun than swimming in dirty street water fully clothed?
#3 – 98% chance of good weather, every day
Planning a camping trip? Want to go to the beach or waterpark? No need to check the weather network to plan in advance. Even if it rains it’s going to be a good day for anything. Pick a day, and pack your stuff.
#2 – Camping when and wherever you like
No need to book ahead with the local government (unless you plan on camping in Dubai). If there isn’t enough space in your desired location just drive a little further and drop your tent. Don’t want to go too far off the road, no problem. I’ve seen tents set up just off the highway many times (not that I would want to camp there).
#1 – All-Inclusive Campus life
We’ve certainly been spoiled here at the American University of Sharjah. From the on-call carpenters and fix-it guys, to the full free access to community events and amenities (gyms, indoor and outdoor pools, grocery store, pharmacy, hair saloons, soccer fields, baseball diamond, cricket pitch, tennis courts, basketball courts) all with in walking distance. You really can’t beat the package we got here. Friends were easily made as we’re all in the same boat of being expats away from our families. All this made our initial landing here easier to bear, and hard to leave. I hope we are able to come back some day.
Things got a little crazy at the end of packing, and the computer was wrapped in a box before I knew it. Here are some posts that I wrote before the move.
6 months ago this post would have been way easier to write. Now that we’re weeks away, I honestly can’t withhold my excitement. The more I try to think about what I haven’t missed, the more excited I get to go back blocking out all those negative thoughts.
#10 – Temperatures below 15C
The area we are from, this is the temperature the majority of the time. It’s cold. Sure after a winter of -30C anything above +10C is t-shirt weather, but come on.
#9 – Gas Prices
When I started driving in 1996 gas cost $.49/L. I would complain about dishing out $25 to fill up BOTH of the gas tanks in my pickup. Gas in the UAE currently costs $.50/L. It’s been like going back in time 20 years! Except instead of gradual, painful inflation over time, we get to have our organs torn from our body in rapid succession just so we can afford paying $1.72/L (or whatever ridiculous amount they are charging).
#8 – Taxes
It’s been a simple pleasure to go into a store, grab a few items, and know EXACTLY how much you would be forking over at the till. No guesses on what qualifies to be taxed and what doesn’t, and how much tax you will actually have to pay. I’m pretty sure Canada taxes you to breath their air.
#7 – Allergies
Over the first 10 years of my marriage my allergies were gradually getting worse. Before we left Canada in Sept. 2012 I was at the point where I had to take Benadryl daily from May to September just to function. My sinuses would clog, causing me to have headaches, and puffy eyes and itchy everything inside my face (nose, mouth, throat). While in the UAE, I still have mild allergy symptoms in the summer, but I don’t have to take Benadryl to get through the day.
#6 – Frizzy, Staticky Hair
My hair is almost as long as it was for my wedding day (mid-lower back), and I wear it down. Almost always (except lately with the humidity) I wear it down. In Canada, my hair would be so staticky, flying all over the place in my mouth and eyes that I would have it up in a braid, ponytail or hat constantly.
#5 – Wet Snow
I like snow. It’s pretty when everything looks white and clean. I also look forward to when the snow first starts to melt and you know summer is on it’s way. It’s the 6 inches of heavy, melting snow rivers I don’t miss. Especially on our street where they don’t clear the snow during the winter. They just let it build up, than drop some salt on it to get things melting. Thanks city of PG. I guess you know how much I hate dry socks.
#4 – Kids in Separate Schools
Here in the UAE, my 3 kids were all in the same school. Easy peasy! Heading back to Canada, we’re heading back to 3 different schools. One in a French track school, one in English track school, and one in high school. Let’s see how long we last without a car this winter shall we.
#3 – Paying for Amenities, and stuff
Like I mention in another post, we have access to everything we need here on AUS campus with in walking distance and free. Back home we’ll be able to walk to the grocery store, and walk to church…and really I guess it will only take me 30 minutes to walk to one gym, and an hour to walk to the other. Why am I talking about walking everywhere? Haven’t I mentioned we don’t insure our car 6 months out of the year to avoid the craziness of everything entailed with driving in the snow? On top of walking across town (or hoping I make the bus stop in time) we have to pay crazy amounts of money to have access to these facilities – yay. Let’s not forget all the bills we will have to start keeping track of again. It truly has been like a paid vacation here.
#2 – Prices
For the most part, big ticket items cost about the same here (even after currency conversation of $1 CA = 3.50 AED). There are items though, that are a quarter of the price than they are at home. For example, gas here is 1.72 AED/L in Canada it is currently $1.72/L.
#1 – Nursing School
When we left Canada I couldn’t talk about nursing school without breaking down into tears. I was that stressed out about it. My last semester of school (before we moved) I spontaneously broke into full body hives twice, and ended up in the hospital with a Morphine allergy after being treated for Kidney Stones. It’s only been in the last few months that I have been able to regain control of my emotions when talking about nursing school. I hope I can keep it together a few more years and complete the program. BTW congrats to the UNBC BCN grad class of 2014! Wish I could have been there with you guys!
I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile about things I am beginning to miss about Canada. Now that we’re heading back, I’ve also been thinking about what I’ll also miss about the UAE. So there will be a theme to my next few posts.
My ultimate items are friends and family so I’m not going to include them on any of these lists. I just can’t rank how much I love those people! So here we go.
#10 – Slurpees
Who doesn’t want a huge glass of flavoured slushy ice on a hot day? Why hasn’t this become popular here?? I’ve definitely been craving slurpees since the day we left. Watch out Mr. G’s and 7-11, we’re coming for you.
#9 – Grocery shopping
Ever wondered what it would be like to go into a grocery store and find them out of stock of milk. Or cheese. Or ranch dressing. Or even that one kind of popular cereal you usually get. That’s what it’s like to shop here. It’s not even obscure speciality items, it’s hit and miss with the regular items you would expect to be in stock… always. I am looking forward to going to the grocery store and knowing I can get what I went in looking for. How easy was that to take for granted.
#8 – Polite drivers
Maybe I’ve been out of touch too long. I know there are still lots of crazy impatient people on the road, even in Canada. Generally though it has been my experience that when you put your blinker on in Canada to merge into a lane, folks either move over or slow to give you space. They DON’T typically speed up and swerve around you. Isn’t that a novel idea.
#7 – Falling snow
Not even at Ski Dubai can you experience falling snow. As a sci-fy geek and long time trekkie, driving through falling snow at night is the best experience (as long as I’m not the one doing the driving).
#6 – Left-hand turns
I completely understand why this isn’t possible in most areas here in the UAE. It’s the way people behave on the roads here. I’m certain car accident deaths due to left handed turns must have been substantial to make them nearly non-existent here now. Especially with all the issues we face with distracted drivers, I guarantee I feel more confident making a left turn in Canada than I do here.
#5 – Properly labeled and positioned road signs
Driving still feels like a fairly new thing for a lot of people here, including the local transit authority. They seem to be getting better though, or we’ve just gotten used to the way they post signage here. When we first moved here, I could not figure out where we were on a map to save my life. Lack of street names in English or altogether is part of the problem. The other issue with signage here is that sometimes there are just so many converging roadways in one spot that it’s difficult to get the signage placed in such a way that gives drivers enough time to determine which route will take them to their destination. This is frustrating in a country that forces you to drive 10 km’s out of your way to turn around if you make a mistake like that. So, good on you BC. At least you got that one figured out.
#4 – Screwing in my own lightbulb
It’s been handy having someone on call, at any time, to take care of whatever needed taking care of in our villa. I don’t mean like in Canada when you call the mechanic in a rental and they give you some lame time between 8am and 6pm 3 days from now. I send an email, or give a call and they are there in an hour, fixing my table, hanging my pictures, changing my lightbulbs. It’s amazing, I don’t know why I think I’m not going to miss this. At the same time, I like to exercise my independence while I’m still capable of doing that. I also think this mentality really feeds into the entitlement issues here. There are a lot of people here who could not function without service like this. They demand and expect this type of service. These people would not survive for very long outside of this bubble of the UAE.
#3 – Paddling a canoe
I’m sure I could have got myself over to the boat club and gone for a paddle up the beach on whatever I wanted to pay for, but it’s not the same. There’s a great atmosphere when you’re sitting on a lake, surrounded by woods, paddling a canoe. It’s peaceful, serene. Don’t think there are many places like that I could have found here.
#2 – Consignment Stores
Clothes are relatively cheap here, depending on what stores you’re shopping in. I couldn’t ever get into the groove of shopping in many of the stores here. The one consignment store I did manage to find was a factory filled with dumped goods. You really have to have vision to see the potential of items in this place. The clothing section, on an upper floor, was literally a pile of clothes that you climbed through. Value Village I missed your multitude of selection in brands, styles, genders. You are my one stop shop, where I don’t have to worry about how fast the kids will outgrow or ruin the clothes. Where I don’t get those feelings of buyer’s remorse. I can’t wait to replenshish my wardrobe.
#1 – Changing Seasons
Who knew living in a perpetual summer could be a bit of a downer. I found myself getting a bit teary eyed and homesick several months ago when I came across some beautiful scenic fall landscape photographs. Leaves fall all year round here, but the trees don’t change colours like they do back home. The trees here stay green, and the old leaves just turn brown and fall off. Raking leaves all year round really isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
Bonus – Light switches
The light switch in our bedroom drives me nuts. Maybe it’s just one of the many quirks of the poor layout of our villa, because it just doesn’t make sense. We have to open our door completely and walk into the room before turning on the light. Light switches for washrooms are typically located outside of the washroom here. So our toilet light switch is located on the wall, next to the door to our bedroom, right where I have instinctively, for 2 years, reached to turn on the light to our room. For the most part. Light switches at our house in BC are right where they should be. Yay for good planning!