On Tuesday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4AM and headed to the ANZAC ceremony held by the Australian New Zealand Association of the United Arab Emirates. I had found out about the event online, and figured it would be some little tinpot thing held in a backyard somewhere. In true Dubai style, we gave the address to the taxi driver and ended up being dropped off at the five star Westin Hotel Mina Seyahi.
It wasn’t like at home where, at least in Wellington, you roll up in whatever warm clothes are lying around your bedroom and hope not to freeze to death. Instead, most people showed up wearing very formal dress, some in suit and tie (and others in military uniform). Have you ever seen the movie “Interview with a Vampire”? There is a scene where one of the vampires is stuck in a hole in the ground, and knows they will be burnt to a crisp when the sun comes up and it hits them. For some weird reason, I kept thinking of this as we got towards the end of the ceremony, worried about the poor men in full formal dress melting when it hit 35 degrees.
The ceremony was actually quite well run, and similar in nature to those held at home (though with the noted absence of national anthems – I guess they would sound a bit tinny over the sound system if not performed live). Hon Simon Bridges happened to be in town to announce the New Zealand Government’s investment in Expo2020, so was involved in the ceremony. I didn’t manage to corner him to ask for a job, sadly. It had representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and the U. K. (conspicuously, no participation from the Emirati), and I imagine around 200 people showed up. They even managed to provide New Zealand style RSA poppies for a small donation, which I imagine were flown in with Simon Bridges or the diplomatic bag at the Consulate. Sitting outside in a lovely outdoor amphitheater where it was about 25 degrees at 5.20am was quite a surreal experience. Apart from the bagpiper hitting a few bum notes, all went well and it was nice to be surrounded by antipodeans and think about New Zealand for an hour.
Afterwards, a buffet breakfast was held, but we didn’t attend that. It looked lovely, but it would have been rather hot in the sun and Matt had work later that day. When I saw the notice for the event online, it asked people to bring ANZAC biscuits along to share afterwards, so I whipped up three batches of (pretty mediocre) biscuits, which I handed in before the ceremony. After the ceremony, they handed out fancy ANZAC biscuits from the Lime Tree Cafe to departing guests, and I saw my crummy contributions on the table at the 145 dirham buffet! Ah Dubai, as per usual, you make so much sense.
I saw on the news the ANZAC day celebrations at Messines in Belgium, near where I visited last month. It is 100 years since the Battle of Messines, and it would have been very interesting to spend ANZAC day in Belgium. However, spending it in Dubai was a different experience. It did make me think about the horrible conditions that the soldiers who fought in the desert – any desert, in any war – must have experienced. It’s bad enough getting out and trying to live your day to day life in a place like Dubai, and to actually be a soldier – with rudimentary equipment and supplies, and a lack of sleep and comfort – most have been horrific. Even being a soldier in one of these Gulf countries today would be a pretty crummy ordeal – as Matt often says when he looks out our lounge window over the high-rises, nothing is really supposed to survive here expect camels and date palms. It’s not made to be lived in.
For all my complaints about Dubai, its not a terribly difficult place for us to live. It’s frustrating (we spent a good two hours trying to sort out my phone with the mobile company today, with no success), and a bit boring, but we are in a fortunate position that we live comfortably. We live like we did in New Zealand within the confines of our apartment, and try to do the same as we go out. Living in a place like this does expose you to the struggle that other people around the world face, and make you realise how idyllic New Zealand is. Imagine living wage campaigners here! The maids that aren’t live-in are crammed into partitioned rooms, 4 to a double room, taxi drivers work all day, every day, for years on end. But for the most part, they come to Dubai because it is better than back home – wherever they started. It does open your eyes a bit. I may be bored without a job, but I have the luxury of not having to worry so much about the money I earn – we don’t need it to survive.
On that note, I haven’t been up to much lately, just applying for job after job and doing various activities around the house. Hopefully I will have some luck on the job front soon, but at the moment its just a numbers game. I suspect sometimes, if I apply for a PA role or similar, they see I am from New Zealand and imagine there is someone they can pay less. The heat has kept me inside, although hopefully this week we can pop out to the last Ripe Market at Zabeel Park before they shut down for the summer. We’ve found some terrible cheesy light show that looks like someone threw up Christmas lights all over the place, so might even treat ourselves to a visit to that cultural gem. Lucky us!