Sunday, July 01, 2007

They're Gone!

Ten months after they arrived, they left. And I feel sorry for myself. More sorry than usual.

It finally happened, and now the whole thing feels like a strange dream. My darling wife and children got on the plane to Manchester last night after a horrendous check-in queue and an over-weight luggage trauma. I was able to stay with them through the check-in, and it's just as well. I had to take 6 kilos of stuff back home with me. I said goodbye to them just before passport control, and the little girl started crying as I bent down to kiss her on the head. So we all had a go in the end. The boy had had a cry during our last ever meal as a family in Dubai; the wife had blubbed a couple of nights ago; and I was set off by a song on the radio on the way to the airport. Even the boy's teacher had a cry on his last day at school.

It's not like anyone's died or anything, and this separation is only for a couple of weeks, but it's like I said before - goodbyes are painful. It seems to get harder every time. I think what has made it even worse this time is coming back to the half-empty villa, with little reminders sinking their teeth into me as I look round; a bag of toy bricks here; small, empty beds there. I laid awake for a long time last night, feeling like I was i strange bed in a strange house. The lack of a night light shining through the gap in the door from the passage made me feel on edge. Coming back from work today was hard as well. I drove up to the villa, parked the car and opened the door. Instead of children running to hug me, I was greeted by utter silence. The lack of a TV to just turn on and fill the void doesn't help either.

Luckily, I don't have to stay here long. I've been given a house to look after for someone who is away. They have a telly at least, and there are no memories there.

I don't know why I feel so utterly saddened about it. I think I'm sad because I feel like I've failed. We decided that we can't stay here as a family and make any money, which is primarily why we came, but I can't help thinking that we should have tried a bit longer. The family enjoyed it here, for all its faults. My wonderful son had a fantastic year at his school, winning an Achievement Award and scoring really well in his SATs. I worry that he won't get the same standard of education back in the UK.

But then I remember when I suggested (almost half-jokingly) the return to the UK. My wife and my son were so excited at the idea. I know where their hearts lie. I just hope this taste of another life has given them the appetite for further adventures in the future - maybe when things are a bit more settled and secure. Maybe when I get on top of my health problems. Maybe when hell freezes over, eh? Always the optimist.

Like I say, it's been an experience for us all. And life is about experiences. Or is it about vainly trying to delay the inevitable? Or is it about experiencing as much as you can before the inevitable?

Dubai has been an eye-opener. It wasn't what I expected at all. I never expected the wafer-thin facade to slip away so quickly, as I realised that behind the malls and hotels and beaches, there really isn't much here. The shallowness of the place and the people, especially the Western expats, has really surprised me. I never expected to get so infuriated and frustrated at the bare-faced hubris of the driving, the completely shameless incompetence of the customer "service" provision or the obstinate incongruity and ignorance of the general public. I never expected four to five months of intense heat and humidity that bears down on you with the density of treacle, rendering even breathing a labour-intensive task. I never expected to see fleets of white buses that they wouldn't transport animals in ferrying Asian men from their frightful labour camps to building sites and back. I never expected the colonial-style pecking order to be so utterly enshrined in the way of life. I never expected my feelings to be so mixed, because on the flip-side, there is a lifestyle of luxury and privilege available. If you have the right money and the right background.

A good friend asked me a question before I moved here, and now I can see where he's coming from. He asked. "Who are they building it all for? Who is going to live there?" From a small desert settlement, this metropolis has materialised like a mirage from the barren sands of the Arabian desert. In thirty years, less time than I have been alive, this city has flourished in the most inhospitable of places, and it has only just started. The scale of the construction taking place or proposed to take place is truly staggering. The infrastructure is being added or altered as an after-thought. I don't understand how it can be sustainable. The power and water requirements for what is already here are staggering; the UAE being the one of if not the biggest consumers of resources per capita in the world. It just doesn't ring true. The powers-that-be have amazing visions of vast cities full of vibrant culture and a lifestyle to aspire to, but as I've heard said: In dreams begin responsibilities. I hope it doesn't all fall down round their ears, but I just sense that the place doesn't have enough backbone, enough foundation. It is all built on sand, after all.

I'm leaving Dubai shortly, and this blog has been a place for me to vent my feelings and record my life here. It was all my own opinions from my own perspective. I hope it has informed and entertained those of you who have stumbled across it. I might start a new one when I get to my new location. Who knows?

Bye for now.