Thursday, July 23, 2009
Every day on my way to work I pass the tallest building in the world and one of the largest shopping malls on earth. Today the sun is glistening off the shiny surface of the tower. I must admit, it's kind of beautiful.
I'm trying to concentrate on the good things that Dubai has to offer, since the summer sand storms, fog and 50 degree temperatures have me vomiting from physical discomfort. The malls are oases of air conditioning and I keep trying on designer wear to keep my spirits up, it's like therapy!
This is my first full Dubai summer. Last year this time I was gallavanting in Kyoto and Mauritius and wisely so. This kind of weather is enough to convince me once and for all that humans are not meant to live in the desert. My body is rebelling in every way - hayfever, heat rashes, exhaustion...
The sand is somehow sifting into my apartment and covering all my well chosen decorations with a thin layer of dust as though trying to make my life disappear. Suddenly I am questioning my decision to live here as I have never been this uncomfortable in my life. Is it worth it? Is life trying to test how much I would sacrifice for the opportunity to travel?
I vow to treasure every moment of my future that I get to spend in a leafy, mild environment. At least I am lucky enough to have options. Yet there are many people in Dubai for whom this is as good as it gets. Desperate people from unfortunate circumstances in the surrounding areas find salvation in Dubai - the ability to give their families a decent and stable life.
How people see and experience a place always depends on their own point of view and background. Clearly I have been so lucky, lucky, lucky in life but I also think that it is perhaps worth knowing what this kind of suffering feels like.
Making it through a summer in the desert woman alone will be one of my life's greatest achievements - but once is certainly enough. Where to next?
Sunday, July 12, 2009
We are not one.
As much as I would like to think that we are all more the same than we are different, there are way too many things that divide the human race. These days more than ever.
We fight wars. We discriminate. We enslave. This happens every day. In spite of great influences such as Madiba and Obama. There are people who take advantage of the rest of us, who try to find short cuts for their own personal gain and in doing so lets the whole human race down.
I am so disappointed by my fellow South Africans for producing fraudulent passports at the Home Affairs Office. The UK Border Patrol confiscated thousands such documents in the last year, some owned by wanted international criminals. What's just outrageous is that even Hollywood star Wesley Snipes had one until recently. Now hundreds of corrupt officials have been fired and new security measures have been put in place to save the status of the South African passport.
However, it's too little too late. A South African travel document is laughing stock these days and I've hit passport panic.
From 1 July 2009 South Africans need a visa to enter the UK. My passport is running out of pages and since the UK will not accept temporary or emergency South African passports because of security concerns, I now have to wait for a new one. There is no way to speed this process up and even though new technology have been put in place that allows Home Affairs to process passports within 10 days, it can still take up to six months.
This means I am entirely at their mercy. All I can do is wait, hope and pray that my new passport will be ready in time for me to make it to my godchild's christening and my 30th birthday gathering in London. I can't even imagine what it would feel like not being able to go because of a visa problem.
I love this world and everything it has to offer. Yet not being able to move freely within it is to me like being oxygen deprived.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Give me the Mediterranean Sea and my eyes are in heaven. All the way up the steep hill to the view point I am finding pieces of myself, here in Sidi Bou Said.
I pick a bougainvillea flower and tuck it behind my ear, remembering the bougainvillea gang of old. All the cool kids in the neighbourhood used to meet secretly underneath my mom’s giant bougainvillea tree. We were about 10 years old. Good times.
If that little girl could see me now she would be so proud. I am living our dream of travelling the world and writing about it. I own a few pieces of designer clothing. And I live in a minimalist, oriental style apartment just as I always imagined. Well, I would have loved to own the apartment but there’s always time for that. God willing.
In the bigger picture of my life everything is perfect. I should be dancing down the biggest mall in the world. Only, I’m not – because I keep going home to a place that reflects nothing of who I am and what I believe in. Yet Dubai is the base that makes it possible for me to lounge here in Sidi Bou Said having sweet mint tea with almonds floating in it and feeling completely at one with the sea and the sky and the characteristic doors that mirror their colour.
It all seemed to be a lot more profound with love in the mix. Yet now that I am single again the world seems to make a little less sense. Relationships are part of the adventure I guess. As long as I keep moving, staying true to myself and being brave enough to dream through the tough times I believe my life will be ok.
As my plane takes off the sky slowly turns pink in between the day and the night and casts that lovely lingering light. It’s my favourite time – the in-between part where it’s not day or night. It’s nothing really, but somehow it’s full of promise.
Change is a challenge and an opportunity. Whatever tomorrow brings, I know that there is always Sidi Bou Said and not only do I have bottles of jasmine, musk and amber to transport me there but I have etched off all the hopeful blues in the corners of my mind.