When I was a lot younger and, certainly, more naïve than I am now, I always pictured my prefect family living in the country near to where my hubby grew up. I met my husband just after school but there was just this instant connection and from really early on in our relationship I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Ten years later and that has not changed, if anything it was become an even stronger feeling. So when I pictured our little family, I always saw us living on a farm, our children having all the space in the world, with horses (that’s my thing) and helping Dad out on the farm. Somehow that vision could not have been further from the truth. Yes, we only have one son at the moment and although we are resisting all external pressure to have another child I will wholly admit that never in my life did I think that I would be an expat parent. Raising our child away from our families (scratch that, I did foresee myself raising my family very very far away from my then step father) and being a visitor to our home twice a year was not on my self made horizon.
But here we sit, I have a South African child born in the United Arab Emirates (it says so on his birth certificate) and has lived here for the almost three years of his life. Even though it was not how I thought it would play out I don’t think that it is going to effect him too much, although he may be losing out on the many wonders of growing up in the bush, he is gaining many experiences that South African children may not be exposed to at his age. This is also not a dig at South African parents because, if I had my way we would move home in a heart beat. But being in the position that we are in at the moment, we have to look for the positives that can be found in our current home. Yes, he misses his grandparents, aunts and uncles whom we can only see twice a year when we make the journey home. Even more so that they are all missing out on him growing up but the world is a lot smaller than it used to be 50 years ago. It is not so difficult for many of our relatives to hop on to a plane and come visit us here as well.
Daniel is growing up in the center of the new emerging world, he attended an international, multi cultural school where he is learning to speak Arabic and French (his Italian Great Grand Father may be turning in his grave, but oh well!) He has friends from South African, British, America, Irish, Lebanese and Uzbek decent and this is something that is so important in modern society, it opens his eyes to the multi cultural international society of today. Daniel is growing up in a safer, not crime free by any means, but certainly safer than certain parts of South Africa and we as parents have to vigilant of his whereabouts but we do not live in fear for our child. We are able to leave our doors unlocked so that the neighborhood kids can come and go through the different houses in our development but the UAE is also a bubble for our children. During the summer months it is very difficult for the youngsters because of the scorching heat so they tended to spend lots of time in doors, we try counter balance this by using the summer months to escape back to South Africa where it is winter time to spend time with our families.
Being away from South Africa though doesn’t mean that Daniel is not exposed to his culture, both Julian and I’s family have deep roots that are fundamental to how we function, he speaks to Daniel in Afrikaans and I am teaching him Xhosa, we have braais and many of our friends are South African, we teach him the local nursery rhymes and talk about our families everyday, of course Skype makes things a lot easier and when we talk about home he knows that we are talking about the farm. He has also started calling our house in Dubai number 17 rather than home as well. Although this may not have been what I wished for, he is getting the best of both worlds. He has his friends and family in Dubai and he has his home and family in South Africa where he often asks to go home to Nena and Papa, but our time in Dubai is not at an end yet and we are still going to be here for a few more year and , heaven forbid, another child.
So while we are here we want him to make the best of everything that is offered to him and to remember the time spent here as fondly as possible without forgetting who he is and where his heritage lies. I want to be able to one day say, I gave my child everything that I could and hope he is richer for it.