Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's time to go home!

We are leaving early Friday morning for Sweden, for home, for midsummer. Elias can't wait, counting the days, not even tomorrow's pool party after school is distraction enough from the fact that soon, soon, he will be home!
We moved to Singapore when Elias was three. He has spent every summer in Sweden since then but I am still amazed by the fact that he considers Sweden to be home!
Joli doesn't have a clue. She thinks we are going shopping. And yes, we are, amongst other things. Like swimming in an extremely cold lake, visit Liseberg, stuff ourselves with falukorv, kaldolmar, matjesill and other Swedish delicacies!
Can't wait!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The other side of the story

A majority of the population here in Dubai are either from the Subcontinent or the Philippines. They sign up for one year contracts which entitles them one month annual leave and a paid ticket home every year. This means that most of them take their vacation only once per year, as it is too expensive to pay for tickets and sometimes the company will not grant them vacation until their annual leave is up. Most of them have families back home, spouses and children, elderly parents.
Despite the decrease in real estate prices and rent, Dubai is an expensive place to live in. Rent, school fees, food, electricity and water. Our company driver had to send his pregnant wife and young child home to India, cause the living costs are too high here. When his second child was born, he could not be there since he already used his annual leave ticket for this year. Another colleague missed the birth of his first child beacuse he just joined our company and had not accrued enough vacation days to leave. And my sweet friend and colleauge "L" is actually dreading to go home because returning back to Dubai and leaving the children behind once again is getting so much more difficult for every year. Back home, children are waiting, school fees are to be paid and often the husbands are not contributing enough to support the family. Money is never enough.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Culinary differences

Working in a country like the UAE has its ups and downs. It's frustrating sometimes, people don't give you straight answers, they can even tell you a lie to avoid an uncomfortable truth... I have learned that this is a cultural thing. And it's nothing you can do about it, apart from keep asking again and again and eventually, hopefully, the "real" truth will reveal itself.
A positive side is all the different people you meet, from all sorts of different countries and cultures. During our lunch half hour, we have girls from India, Yemen, Russian, US, Philippines and Sweden around the table. We take curious looks in each others lunch boxes, Swedish potatoes and Filipino Sinegan or Adobo, Indian curries and Russian pelmeni, all in one table. We taste, make comments (the main thing is wheather it's very spicy or absolutely tasteless). Indian food is very spicy and my boiled potatoes seem very bland to an Indian. We laugh, talk about cultural differences, mothers, boys and marriages. And we realize that we are not that different after all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Swedish Korean

I am adopted, from Korea. Something I share with thousands of other Korean adoptees around the world, I am far from unique in this sense. In Scandinavia, an adopted Korean does not cause any major traffic jams or anything, we are a quite common sight on the streets, in the shops, in the working life (at my previous work place, we were around four adopted Koreans). We have reached that age when we drag along a husband/wife (sometimes also adopted, sometimes Swedish, sometimes of other nationality) and a few children.
When I lived in Singapore, most people thought I was either Japanese or Chinese or Korean. Well I am neither. I have big tattoo on my left shoulder in Mandarin, I look like a Korean but I am Swedish. It was very confusing for the Singaporeans. The probably thought I was just mocking them when I answered their mandatory question: "Where are you from?". Sweden. No, it didn't really make sense.
Here in the UAE, it is about the same. Foreign adoptions is a Western phenomenon and here I face the same questions, the same doubts. Sometimes it's a bit annoying to be honest. Why should I explain my life story to people I don't even know, but why shall I on the other hand tell them what they want to hear (yes, I am Korean). Confusing. Because I look like a Korean, and that's how we label people, by their looks, I do that too!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Thanks to Katta, a mystery is solved! When my daughter Joli started Emirates British Nursery last year, it didn't take very long before they all started to call her "Joli B". I could not understand why, there was no logic to it, her last name starts with an "L". And yesterday, when reading Katta's blog where she mentiones about the fast food restaurant "Jolibee" in the Philippines, the penny dropped. Most of the staff are young, sweet girls from the Philippines so of course, with my daughter being named Joli, it was unavoidable to add the "bee" to it and voila, Jolibee!

A picture of a young Jolibee, from the playgroup in Dubai Festival Center, October 2008.
The funny thing is that she has started to call herself "Jolibee" when people are asking for her name!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More of Singapore

Windows/balconies, all of them different in design, colour composition and decorations, they can make the most dull street look festive!
Raffles Hotel, a classic you do not want to miss. It is like taking a step back in time to the colonial era of Singapore, a cold drink on the terrace, or perhaps Afternoon Tea in the salon? Located near the busy streets and next to Raffles City, it offers some sanity to all commercial madness.