It’s all over! That’s it: no more school, for a very long time. I woke up this morning feeling like we’d gone into free fall: LB’s 5.30am wake-up call is more bearable when you know you can sneak back under the bed covers once the kids are at school. Take that luxury away – remove the routine that gives me space to work, shop, think – and I’m left wondering why the parachute didn’t open!
I’m sure I remember the summer holiday being six weeks or so back in my day. Here, it’s nearly double that. But most people don’t stay in Dubai. They escape the furnace for cooler climes, often for the whole summer.
There are a lot of good-byes flying around at the moment as people leave for their home countries – and a few to friends who are leaving permanently, too. So it’s a funny ole time of year. A mass exodus, families getting split up (while mums and kids head home, our menfolk have to stay here to work, of course), the stifling heat. Yesterday in school, it all got a bit emotional. DH did the last school pick-up and found himself in a classroom of teary-eyed mums. “Whoa,” he remarked later. “So much oestrogen.” And he was stuck until he got the report card!
I think the thing that has left everyone stunned is how fast the school year went – didn’t it just start a few months ago? BB learnt a lot, and so did I. Here are just some of the things I found out about schools here in Dubai:
● The school year is littered with holidays, including the Prophet’s birthday, National Day and Eid. Even the last day of this term was declared a public holiday, making the lengthy summer holiday even longer. Because Muslim festivals are timed according to sightings of the moon, dates are approximate and only confirmed nearer the time (so just when you thought the kids would be at school….!) BB has Christian holidays off, too.
● Kids love to give each other nicknames, like Apple Sauce (Abel) and Corner (Connor), because he liked sitting in the corner, in BB’s class this year. But when BB was given a nickname (Maxi-taxi), my goodness, he was upset!
● Some kids start school here with no English at all. They’re literally thrown in at the deep end and immersed in an English-speaking classroom. There may be some initial frustration, but it’s amazing how after three months, and some extra tuition, they’re talking English fluently.
● For his part, BB has had French and Arabic lessons at his international school this year – subjects that I may have to swot up on myself soon. My friend at sandboxmoxie.com was in a bit of a pickle earlier this year as her seven-year-old daughter needed help with her French homework and it was already beyond her. You gotta love Google Translate at this point.
● Next year, I’ll remember that when the school holds an International Day, to take it seriously – very seriously! The kids went to school in their national dress or colours (for the Brits, this meant football shirts!) and the mums created amazing concoctions from their home countries. Cup cakes in their national colours, elaborate dishes decorated with flags. My offering, some Pop Tarts (my excuse, I’d just started work!) clearly did not make the grade. Next International Day, I’ll be hard at work making Eton Mess, a Victoria Sponge, and cheese & pickle sandwiches.
● In fact, it’s amazing how patriotic you become when you’re living outside your home country. My prize for the best effort made for International Day celebrations goes to the school that had a bouncy English castle, a town crier, a beefeater and a soccer penalty shoot-out. How many schools in England would go to such lengths?!
● I now understand why my friends who are teachers are so wonderfully creative when it comes to entertaining their kids. It’s because they have to come up with so many bright ideas at school. A very popular school here (for which we’ve been on the waiting list for 2 years already and haven’t even had a sniff at!) put on a mock wedding this year. At BB’s school, they held a day where the kids dressed up as their mum or dad. The parents came in that day for a little presentation and when the teacher asked one boy who his daddy worked for, he replied – as though it was the most obvious answer in the world – “For money” Of course. Clever boy, he’s already learnt that it’s money that makes Dubai schools go round.