I met A for supper at SoYum Hemelhjuis (if you still haven’t been gooooo!) one evening late last year and when I casually asked “so how was your day?” He had news: just hours ago that afternoon, he’d been offered a role in the UAE. I don’t think I could I could wipe the WHAAAAAAT off my face as I wished our lovely, attentive waiter could just disappear so we could talk.
We were keen right away. It was less about the exact location and more about the adventure. Back when we were young(er, lol) and mapping our lives out, a stint abroad was definitely on the to do list when/however it came – most probably an expat assignment for either (hopefully both) of us. When life happened and I quit corporate a few years back (for a couple of weeks/months/a sabbatical of sorts I thought at the time) and we had then decided take the gap to start a family, infertility hit hard for 5 long years. And nothing else mattered. Not. A. Damn. Thing.
Guys I can legit actually hear myself in my own head “but don’t you think you’ve spoken about this infertility thing ad nauseam now?” Well no. But also, yes. I’ll talk about as much or as little as I want to. If and when I want to. That was a sum total of zero just a year ago and pretty much all cards on the table now. And that may change again, I don’t know. But I don’t want this post to be about infertility except to say it lead me, us, inadvertently put our dreams, ambitions and l-i-v-i-n-g on hold for half a decade and we didn’t even realise it was happening.
We decided in principle that same night over dinner that we’d take it. And so I started our first piece of admin in preparation for the move – getting the twins passports – an adventure of its own if you can imagine! They were 6 months and finally had a (sort of) routine. Everyone’s health was good, I was getting back onto this here blog, A was landing his biggest campaigns ever on his blog (he has a day job loooooool, but coffee + photography are his passions turned side hustles), Gugu (our incredible nanny) had been with us 3 months now. Things felt under control. By farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr not perfect, but it just felt stable, like there was a little more oxygen in the air and we were finally not gasping. It was nice. Normal-ish.
We did plenty of research (YouTube was our fav), but what helped the most was speaking to friends, (ex)colleagues (thank you Sarah!) and even acquaintances we knew who’d spent any time living in the UAE on their perspective. We tried to get as much of a balanced perspective as we could – – making a point of also chatting to family who came back to SA less than a year after leaving for Dubai because they just couldn’t adjust & settle. People were incredibly generous with their time and I’m really so grateful to have had their trusted ear.
We’d both been to Dubai before a few times but only ever once together. And those trips were always passing through & turned into a staying a couple of days to explore – because why not?! But… a couple of days of business/vacation is very, very different vs. living in a place. As part of the package we negotiated for his new role we did a ‘look-see trip’ to the UAE early last December for a few days (to help us make an informed decision either way – pretty standard for expat assignments tbh) to scope out the city for ourselves: neighbourhoods, housing (apartment vs. townhouse etc), proximity to A’s office, schools, amenities and general cost of living etc. The trip was jam packed with a tight agenda and fortunately in the cooler side of the year for the UAE. By day we went from appointment to the next and by night we had lingering dinners over shisha and imagining our new life & family here. It was also our very first trip away from the twins (thanks squad-Aunties!). We got back to SA tired but excited and signed the offer that same day.
And then the journey of planning the move started right away. I tried to pull as much admin into December before the holidays hit. Then it was sourcing and choosing between a heap of quotes: moving companies, pet movers, handymen, estate agencies and and and… Of course A had lots of loose ends to tie up at the office (while still travelling!) and we both did in life too (selling cars, what to do with our home, insurance, policies arranging temporary accommodation in both cities) and in between it all we took our first family road trip to Durban, Gugu went on annual leave and we devoured pigged out on our last favourite SA’n meals. In Jan this year, with less than a month before our move A surprised me with a trip to Paris (my 1st!) for my birthday because ya’ll know he doesn’t do anything in small measures! I know, awful, poor me right?! If the change of location and the adventure that was waiting for me was a thrill, managing the logistics was definitely the worst part of it all even though it’s relatively cushy having a relocation agency and a HR dept on hand to lean on (not to mention footing most of the bills!).
I know there’s there’s aloooooot of details in between you might be wondering and Imma get into that in future posts soon, promise… What I can say is that right now we don’t know how long we’re here for. A got this brilliant work opportunity unexpectedly & it was a pretty cool step for both his career & also for our family’s goals. We’re super lucky that Gugu was keen to come along, so she’s here on a tourist visa and deciding if she wants to stay. We jumped right into viewing homes and getting the paperwork on our residency (actually quite efficient) done as soon as we arrived. We’re finally out of hotels (2 weeks in Jhb and 6 weeks in total here) – I know it sounds glam but it gets really tiring and we’ve now finally moved into our home! We (i.e. Gugu, twins & I) also had an emergency two week trip back to Jhb just 11 days after initially arriving in Dubai (loooooooong story and I won’t even get into – but all sorted now). Most importantly the twins are adjusting well – we chose a good age to do this I think. And of course Emma’s with us too for everyone asking – it took blood tests, vaccinations & weeks of quarantine but she’s here and she’s as unimpressed with us as ever, so all good!
We definitely already miss SA and people aside I miss foooood (I decided not to get into a list off what exactly I’m lissing for coz I need to actually leave the house and adult today). Oh and Dischem. I’m not over converting everything back to ZAR’s yet (its roughly x4) – and the way its going right now I don’t think I’ll ever stop bemoaning this because woooooow guys!
But for now I just wanted to say hi & that we’re actually starting to get a settled & feels a little less weird each time we call the Dubai ‘home’.