It may sometimes seem that all expats do is complain and look at the negative side of living abroad, away from home, away from family, away from one’s own culture and lifestyle. Dry your eyes, sometimes life isn’t all that bad in the Middle East and sometimes, just sometimes it can run quite smoothly. This is exactly what I thought on the day I had arranged to pick up with my pre-summer buddy from Khalifa City originally from Clifden Co. Galway. Glamorous, witty, outgoing and Irish, just the kind of company I fancied myself keeping. It had taken a few weeks to settle back into life in Abu Dhabi and it foibles, but this day all seemed well. The gardener arrived on the day he said he would, yes already my green finger promise was falling asunder but I reckon being willing to pay someone to do the work and rolling up one’s own sleeves, shows the same commitment to task at hand. My nail appointment was on the compound and I already knew the summer coral shade I was going to use, it would compliment my new Haviannas perfectly. .
Midday all was in the order, the coral colour came out beautifully, my new silver Haviannas were perfect with my snow white Capri pants and starched white sleeveless shirt. The stars were aligned. We had arranged to meet halfway for lunch to catch up after summer. On the way I decided to push efficiency into overdrive and call to the post office to collect the mail, most of which is re-directed from Ireland and none of which makes for happy reading. The postal system in the Middle East is via PO Box so you must collect your mail in a central office. Pulling up outside the post office, all seemed fine, the car park, I hasten to the add that the car park is a sandy space outside the building that is defined by any boundaries, paths or kerbs, there are a few worn tracks where most cars go, so pulling in and out is easy, just come off the road, wherever you like.
Arms laden with envelopes from Ireland,( it’s never a good sign when half of your post has a harp on the front of a brown envelope and the other half are the windowed white bank ones) this batch contained no light reading material at all, nothing, not even a flyer from Pizza Hut. Anyway determined to get on and enjoy the day that was going so nicely so far and eager to meet the friend, I sat back into the Jeep ( I will point out at this stage that I can all 4×4’s,”jeeps” and all vacuum cleaners hoovers, even if it’s a Dyson). I revved up again, and again, I didn’t move. Maybe there was a blockage, I slipped it into reverse turned the wheels a notch and revved again, no movement. A sinking feeling began to develop, both physically and emotionally. I stood out of the Jeep to witness the two back wheels buried halfway in sand. I did what I knew every man I knew would shriek at, I sat in and revved it goodo again, of course this deepened the problem and my plans were now looking well and truly sunk.
I waited for a time to see if someone, like a handy lookin’ kinda guy that could happen to walk past or pull up beside me but on clearer thought decided that there was more of a likelihood of a camel walking past than a fella with a couple of sand scoops under his arm. Kneeling down in my crisp Capri pants I started to scoop the dry as a bone dusty sand using none other than my brand new Haviannas. The sand sprayed on my face, hair, clothes and coral nails as I scooped relentlessly. A loud guffaw from behind and an arrogant Arab ( not as rare as the fella with the sand scoop) offered to help. Just the kind of attitude I needed when kneeling in the sand, sweat and dust having formed a crust in my hair, in 48 degree heat and late for lunch. He sat into the Jeep tugged the lever that said 4×4 and drove out with ease. Dusting down his Dishdasha, he walked away shaking his head and tutted, “expat women should drive cars.” Nice.