This time of year always seems to bring a lot of grumbles from my fellow desertpats. It’s as if everyone has become a little more neurotic, unsettled and we all seem to run towards the same hypothetical brick wall. Now I am by no means an expert when it comes to all things expat, but it does seem slightly odd to me that we are all simultaneously taking an inhale of uncertainty, deep breaths are being taken just to get through the day and mutterings of FFS ring out. So why is it that as desert weather changes, which makes life here more bearable, are we being thrown off course with the desert winds?
Looking back at posts from last year and chatting with both expats here and within my little online community, there seems to be one common thread, especially from those living in the Middle East……autumn. I am certainly the first to be relishing my desert life of sun sand and selfies, basking poolside and topping up the tan for at least 9 months of the year. It’s bliss and certainly a perk of desert life. So when the cooler weather finally kicks in (I say cooler we are still talking 34 degree days) life becomes a bit more accessible. As long as you start the day early, more and more outdoor activities can be pursued and I certainly feel like I get a bit more sandpit freedom.
However, as blissfully happy as I am with my beach days that seasonal change doesn’t quite have the impact as it would be back at home. As Insta and Twitter are filled with autumn perfection, golden leaves and wrapped up sweater fashions, us Middle Eastees simultaneously grown with a mix of delight and nostalgia. We are all feeling the same, it’s a group response, so much so that speaking to one desert girl yesterday was actually relived to know this seems to be a desert phenomenon amongst us expats. Listen, it is totally ridiculous, as I know most of my non desert readers would give their right arm to be poolside in October, and we are all being total sentimentalists. Whilst the perfect sweaters, golden leaves and pumpkins looks utterly glorious, I know full well these aren’t real British autumn days. I know I’d be the first to complain when,
it’s pissing down with rain, grey, miserable and I’m slipping arse over tit, on those golden leaves that have now become a wet mush!
Nah I’d be over it in all of about 10 minutes. So come fellow desert folk, let’s get our heads out of those perfect autumnal clouds and fall back to earth.
Along with seasonal change (or lack of), comes the inevitable time zone changes. As Britain falls back one hour, my time zone differential with home extends by one. Back home this was celebrated, as it meant an extra hour in bed, winter nights curled up with good ol British Saturday night TV and Christmas was one step closer. When you are abroad and you have a fixed time zone, this means that for the next 6 months, home is that little bit further away. One hour may not seem like a big deal, but its enough to make half my day done before you’ve woken up. Getting family FaceTimes scheduled before my dinner time and they’ve sorted the kids, can prove challenging. This also means that when I and others do go back to the motherland, we are awake and ready to go at 4am! Not a big deal to most, but it definitely adds another layer to this life, especially for those whose home country is further than mine and I guess another reminder………we just aren’t at home.
Ok, I have already mentioned the C word, so I may as well through it out there. Currently we are only 55 days away from what for me is a BIG DEAL. Whilst I know that the UK has definitely become over commercialised and that christmas cards come out just as the Easter eggs are being put in the bargain bins, I do think that when there is zero seasonal change, no real commercial buy in, due to this being a Muslim country, it gets tough. There are many desert girls that simply can’t afford to go back from the festive period, husbands have their “turn” to work (of course its a normal working day here) and so they do their best to do Christmas desert style. Sympathetically, I know for some its a struggle not have the festive celebrations, coinciding with Christmas jumpers, hats scarves, mulled wine and carol signing on the village green. This probably isn’t helping my fellow desert girls with their C word outbursts…..sorry!
Of course the other fall out from many not returning home for the holidays, is that now it has become very apparent that this means no sandpit escape. Whilst most had endured (sorry I meant enjoyed) 3 months with the kids, over a very long summer break, only being back a mere 7 weeks, it already is taking its toll. The kids struggle to get back into the daily structure of academia and mummies are trying to partake in weekly brunches once more. It all comes crashing down as half term approaches in what seems like no time. To make matters worse, this has meant for some, that holidays are split as senior schools take a different break from primary, so as the kids burn out, get half-term-itus as the break approaches, my desert girls struggle to maintain their usual swan like grace.
Everyone needs time out. Not just from the everyday but here in the desert we all crave a little change of scenery. Even our husbands struggle with the day to day frustrations of Middle East life, Kuwait especially can be somewhat claustrophobic as the activities are limiting and it can sometimes feel like your weekends are carbon copies of each other. A desert escape is needed, now and again, to recharge our enthusiasm for this life and enjoy a bit of “normal”. It’s not needed often but I can definitely feel that my impending trip back in 28 days (not that I’m counting!) will come at the exact right time, refreshing me to start 2018 with renewed focus for desert life.
So as you can see, the last quarter of the year, can annually seem like the hardest to handle. So many reminders of a life that was, our sentimentality and romanticism seems to divide our focus and shift our feet every so slightly. It seems to be indicative of the land of sand, it brings so many wonderful aspects to your life but it also brings a stark awareness of what is missing. Just like the desert, you can feel barren, isolated and that mirage of an autumnal oasis, can have you hallucinate for home but only for a split second.