UAE

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cage dive

Ever since I was a young girl, the ocean has intrigued me. It wasn’t until 2004 that I first dived (in Queensland) and then again in 2010 (in the Maldives). I was mesmerised. I found that the life under the ocean to be fascinating, intricate and integral part to our very existence and an instructor once told me that krill is the most important thing to humans. (Google it, it’s a fact!)

So when we moved to Dubai in 2012, imagine my excitement that Dive With Sharks was available in a Mall!

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Dubai Mall aka World’s largest Mall aka A billion squares of shopping aka you need 10 years to look at each shop, has also a Guiness World record  for the ‘World’s Largest Acrylic Panel’ in an Aquarium.

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

What makes this aquarium so special?

Well, the 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the largest suspended aquarium in the world.

It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Over 300 Sharks and Rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.

There are numerous ways for visitors to experience the main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 metres in length, 20 metres in width and 11 metres in height.  The website claims that:

  • The 48 metre walk-through Tunnel provides 270 degree views from 11 metres below the  surface of the tank
  • Visitors can go on a Glass-bottom boat ride, providing unique views of the tank from beneath their feet
  • Those who want to experience a dip in the tank can opt for a Cage Snorkeling Experience
  • And for the adventurous ones, a Shark Dive is a once in a lifetime opportunity, bringing you within inches of a large variety of sharks and rays

This last point was something that I was keen to try so on Sunday, I signed up, booked and paid. I was determined to tick this off my bucket list!

The booking and payment was simple enough, it was done via phone. Exchanged a few emails for medical forms and contracts and I was good to go. There was a choice to do a practice dive at Al Wasl Diving Centre or (for an extra charge) at the actual Dubai Aquarium. I selected to practice dive at Dubai Mall Aquarium, mainly due to time restrictions and although it was a big price difference, I didn’t have the luxury to be able to scoot around town.

I was very happy with this choice, because it meant that I got to know my diving instructor well and I could ask plenty of questions. I asked the obvious “Will a shark eat me?” and Ivan giggled tremendously and said “Probably not!” He explained to keep my hands to myself, follow him, do not wave manically and most of all to listen to instructions. And then he said “Don’t worry it’ll make good footage” and we laughed. For anyone living in the UAE, finding a HUMOROUS person is a rarity, so I quadrupled laughed.

After a ton of paperwork, we went through some testing and then it was time to get the gear on and practice in the cage!

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en

I was nervous because all of a sudden I needed to remember everything I was a tested on. “Remember to equalise…. Remember to equalise…..Remember to equalise……Remember to equalise…..” was on repeat in my mind.

OFCOURSE I forgot to equalise when I got into the water and immediately felt a panic.

However, Ivan was very, very patient and calm and within a second I held my nose and all of a sudden the pressure was fine. We practiced how to get rid of water in my goggles, checked my gauge, did an emergency procedure if I lost my mouth piece (I gripped that baby with all my might) and how to regulate my mouthpiece. It was very intense, so I recommend that you listen very carefully during the training session. I also recommend you ask any questions (however trivial they seem), because soon after this – the REAL dive happens.

When Ivan was satisfied with my 2 minute practice (alone) then I was ready. Side note: He said I was a very calm breather and I told him “Really?! Because my heart was beating out of my chest!”

He strapped on the Go-Pro and took some happy snaps. I was happy to let him take care of taking pictures, because frankly at this stage, I was beyond anxious at forgetting to breathe. Number One rule for diving: NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATHE. As stupid as it sounds, it’s a common occurrence.

We stepped into the Aquarium entrance, and like a superstar people wanted to take pictures with us! It was funny that tourists mistook me for a pro. With a weights belt strapped onto my waist, a heavy tank, and a million pipes, I just smiled, posed and moved along.

I must stop here and mention ever so gently: PUTTING ON A WETSUIT IS HARD WORK. One piece of advice, keep the shower water running – think, friction.  Also note, Dubai Aquarium is very hijab friendly and provide the appropriate wear for ladies who wear hijab.

Back to the dive.

Here I am:

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

My heart was racing, my hands were shaking and my legs were stiff. But I knew I had my 3 little munchkins waiting to watch Mamma swim, so I made a quick prayer and stepped into the cold water.

 

family waiting ever so patiently!

family waiting ever so patiently!

Ladies and Gents, let me introduce you to water pressure. This lovely concept will wreck havoc to your lungs, ears and sinuses if you do not descend slowly and calmly. Follow the instructors lead and make sure you signal the appropriate problem you have. Unfortunately, the fist 3 metres I went down too fast and I honestly felt like my head was going to explode. I panicked and started to rush up the rope. This is a no-no. Ivan again calmed me down and I somehow tried again. I descended ever so slowly and blocked out my fear. I concentrated on the task at hand and before I knew it, I had descended 35 feet and although my head felt heavy, I was breathing fine. Woohoo.

My view.......

My view…….

This is where the action happens. I saw every type of animal species there was and Ivan guided me around the tank. Yes there are sharks everywhere. Small sharks, big sharks. Sand Tiger Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and other sharks that I don’t know their exact name but somehow couldn’t stop staring at the teeth.



 

We swam around for 30 minutes and it was pretty magical waving to my kids on the outside of the tank. They were cheering for me and i wanted to smile (but water would enter my mouth) and I wanted to shriek with excitement (but sharks would probably have eaten me) so I ended up looking like this.

poses

Posing so calmly, but my heart was racing!

I highly recommend this activity for anyone wanting a thrill.

Cost: 1150 dh including training + 220 for video footage.

Till next adventure,

be happy.

 

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In 2012, my family and I packed up our bags and moved overseas permanently. By permanently, I mean we obtained visas as Permanent Residents in a brand new country – the United Arab Emirates. My husband’s work meant that we were to reside in Dubai and in 2015, we still call this place our second home.

 

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You always miss home. You always get a pang when family back home are doing something fun and nostalgia runs wild when loneliness is rife (usually during holiday season and kids hitting a certain milestone. Photos also trigger tears).

 

There are also times that you will feel like a foreigner, especially when you asked for tomato sauce or when people snicker at your use of the term ‘thongs’. However, there are 5 main reasons to counter-argue any depressing feelings you might have when you move abroad.

 

1/ Making friends.

 

Especially in a transient place like Dubai, you will master the skill of making new friends and saying goodbye to friends. Ofcourse with meeting new friends comes learning new things and experiencing different cultures. My friends nationalities range and I have met people from every single continent in one birthday party event. Do you realise how large the world is? You won’t, until you leave Australia and move abroad.

 

 

 

2/ You will learn about the literal meaning of unpacking your bags.

 

This is a big statement, I know, but it’s valid. In my first year away, I waited for happiness to come and knock on my door. I was in a brand new place, with magical opportunities at my doorstep. You would think joy would rain on me, right? Wrong.

 

I realised that the moving part wasn’t the hard element. I needed to get outside of my box and start living. I needed to put my old life behind me and start this new chapter. Old habits die hard, but I kid you not, they do diminish. I order with an American accent (no one understands Aussies) and I love the monarchy here. Crazy, I know.

 

It took me nine months before I purchased my first pot plant and it was then I realised that I kept worrying about not staying here. I kept wondering about when we would pack up and move. I made the choice to embrace the new opportunities that lay in front of me and put my Australian life on the shelf.

 

 

3 years later......

To a new beginning

To a new beginning

 

<—- The plant today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/ You will have a TON of time to spend with you spouse/partner and children.

 

This is especially the case if back home you had to divide your time amongst 497 extended family members. When we first arrived, we just stared at each other and thought “HOW MUCH TIME!!!” So, we did things we never would have managed too. We took the kids to the desert for a picnic, we travelled (see next point), we played board games every single night for a year, we hung up the phone every evening (due to time difference) and we were free.

 

Eid mornings were pretty special – the children were able to come with us to the mosque and were able to open their gifts quietly and play with them.

 

As for marriage/relationship, it is an incredible booster. It doesn’t get monotonous, don’t worry. You begin to appreciate your partner because they become the foundation to your life. It’s deep.

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4/ Travel.

Being in the middle of the world (and not the bottom) is INCREDIBLE for your travel desires. My 10 year old son’s passport is pretty impressive and I am proud to have ventured to places I could only have dreamed off.

 

In our second year of living in Dubai, we decided to Road Trip around the UAE. Before you scoff at the small size of the country, you cannot put into words how it feels to jump into a wadi surrounded by caves, camp on a beach or meet remote Bedouins.

 

In 2014, we trekked through 5 European countries and with 3 kids it was quite a feat. I will never forget riding our bikes past the Amsterdam Canals and picking up Danish scrolls in Copenhagen. There was the time we were stranded in Sweden, stuck in a massive rainstorm without shelter. Or the time we felt heaven on earth at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Did I mention how cheap tickets are over here?

The lines that outline Dubai.21012015_image5_R2150 The beach

 

5/ The value of family.

 

Being far makes you softer, your edges become less jagged and it’s marvelous therapy for a frazzled mum-of-3 (me) and a corporate junkie (hubby). We stopped groaning when our mothers called, and realised the importance of hearing about small, bizarre stories of childhood our fathers retold us. We prayed for Skype calls like someone prays for the lottery and when we receive a photo of family, we dissect it like we are in a laboratory.

dubai camel

 

If the opportunity arises, go for it.

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My kids walked in from school today, at 3pm as usual, and *shock horror* I was busy.

I was not at the door, ready to greet them, nor did I rush to their needs. I decided that it is OK to not give my children 100% of my attention all the time.

Now while some people will read the above sentence and want to call Social Services, let  me explain.

You see, I have tried all sorts of parenting – hands on parenting, co-parenting, organic parenting and old fashioned parenting. I’ve tried “talk to my kid for an hour before they go to bed so that they feel loved” and “pack only super-foods in their lunch box.” I’ve warned my husband to be “alert” when they are around and that we must NEVER be on our phones/computers/iPads and must absorb their presence. Yes, I said those very words.

And then I realised there is a tiny, tiny word that gets lost in parenting these days. Balance.

Balance can sort out the worst of days and can ease everyone’s guilt. People should try it more often.

Balance means that when your kid scoffs 5 Oreo biscuits, you remember the last 14,570 days of super-clean eating that has happened.

Balance means that bedtime can sometimes be a simple “good night love you” to your kid and that. is. all.

Somehow, with the plethora of articles and philosophies about parenting available to read and the shift in parenting styles to suit the 21st century, mothers and fathers have become inclined to always be on ALERT and this is a bad thing. A VERY BAD THING.

We will raise bad kids, folks.

I did NOT have a lunch box that looked like this when I was growing up:

 

lunch-box2

I had a cheese sandwich, some CC’s, a prima and a whizz fizz. And while I recognise that healthy eating is imperative and I strongly believe + maintain it, I will not succumb to cutting my kid’s sandwich in the shape of aeroplane because it looks “cute”. Nope. Won’t do it.

I am also done with the gazillion after school activities. Since my first child was born, I was always doing some class or signing them to some activity. It was freak-ing exhausting and I felt like a taxi driver. So now, I make my children decide on 1 or 2 fave things to do and THAT.IS.IT. Oh, and if they don’t show me over the top enthusiasm towards that particular activity – we quit.

Speaking of quitting, I was in a moral dilemma late last year. My 7 year old decided that she no longer liked Gymnastics. I’ve invested 3 years into classes and equipment and the ball breaking effort of doing her hair so perfectly for her classes and then one day, just like that she says “I don’t like Gymnastics anymore”. So for a week I tossed between: should I let her quit (and therefore teach her that quitting is OK), or do I force/bribe/blackmail her into continuing because I bloody love seeing all the tricks she can do?

In the end, folks, she quit. Was I sad? YES. Was I sad because I was losing a potential Olympic Gymnast? Nope.

I’m no psych, but I just have a feeling that being on ALERT for our children will decline their level of independent activity. And by independent I mean “it’s OK that mum is not watching you do the 62,534th cartwheel”.

Again, I must stress to those that forming a negative opinion right now, there is a balance. Let’s not chuck our kids on the street and say “GO FORWARD CHILD AND FEND FOR YOURSELF!” (imagine a heroic voice), but rather “I am here and I love you, but if your brother/sister has hit/annoyed you – work it out yourselves.”

It goes without saying that some days the balance is shifted more to one side – a sick child, an assignment due in the next day, whatever – then, by all means, we should get on board and help.

But if my kid cannot understand that mummy has a personality and that sometimes mummy has needs too, then I think I have failed as a parent.

Just my Tuesday thoughts.

Till next time

Be happy.

Everyone who knows me well knows how much I dread homework time here in Dubai. They give kids a truck load of homework, and especially more so when there is a school inspection coming up (which isn’t a total surprise because the school gets told when the secret inspection is going to occur. Go figure.)

And now that my little girl is in Grade 1, it seems like my homework schedule has quadrupled and I almost cried. Excpet I couldn’t fully cry because I maintain a “we love homework” policy in my household. *sigh*

So today, these were things that crossed my mind (in THIS EXACT order).