Credit crunch commute – 4000 miles

A different coastal - on the ferry in Abu Dhabi

A different coastal - on the ferry in Abu Dhabi

Our family of four is three again – Gavin has gone back to the Middle East after a month at home. It’s been a year since he began ‘commuting’ between Sedgefield and Abu Dhabi, a year since we realised drastic measures were needed if we wanted to survive in paradise.
The property boom, and the cash windfall accompanying it, left Sedgefield as quickly as it arrived. People who had lived here for decades sold their beach shacks and were millionaires, the shacks were razed and replaced by villas occupied for two weeks a year. It rolled on and seemed endless – you could buy something and sell it for double less than a year later.
We’re not naïve and have a pretty good understanding of the market dynamics relating to booms followed by busts. We knew we’d be left with a house we couldn’t sell at some point, it was as inevitable as the tide. But, you only ever really know to get off the ride when the merry-go-round has come to a stop.
We were hoping a year would be enough to see us through this downturn, but it seems that isn’t to be. The property market is dead, local work has dried up, and more houses are on the verge of foreclosure or being auctioned. School classes are getting smaller as people head back to the cities looking for work, marriages are dissolving as husbands sit at home, and life in paradise has palled for some.

We’re lucky that Gavin has the kind of skills he can sell elsewhere and that we can pay our bond and keep it all together. Even if keeping it together means we can’t be together.

Like most things you dread, it’s far from all bad. After five months of intermittent living in an Arab city my boys can point to Mecca and, now that we’re home, miss hearing the call to prayer as the sun sets. We’ve swum in the turquoise Gulf along with woman in black abayas. The first McDonald’s they ate was halal and they know what 50C heat feels like.

It’ll be good to go back to our old coastal ways, together again, but until then we watch, and wait, for signs of recovery. Inshallah.

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4 Responses to “Credit crunch commute – 4000 miles”


  1. 1 Lisa April 13, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    So bittersweet, this struggle within our communities, our hearts – to make something good, something that looks easy, something that is not easy. This post tells so much more than the story of your and Gavin’s commitment to living life where and how it’s worth living. Thank you for gently sharing that aching truth: wherever there is beauty, there is pain, and yet we carry it and forge on bravely.

  2. 2 poietes April 14, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    ” . . . my boys can point to Mecca and, now that we’re home, miss hearing the call to prayer as the sun sets. We’ve swum in the turquoise Gulf along with woman in black abayas.”

    In spite of the troubled realities of which you write, that one passage stuck out the most for me. It may be hard to feel as if you are lucky, but your family has been able to experience some true beauty.

    This economic crunch is affecting people all over the world, and even though we do not know each other, I can appreciate your comments about life being like a merry go round. It’s so good when it’s good, but then when it isn’t, it’s terrible.

    Prayers for you.

  3. 3 shoreacres April 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Apart from the economics of it all, a lovely, needed reminder to one who lives in the midst of terrible, cartoonish prejudice – there is beauty in the Muslim world, too. My time in Liberia granted me a few of the experiences of which you speak – the call to prayer, the willingness of a Christian hospital to allow the daily prayers – and one which I never will forget.

    Back on the streets of Monrovia during a six week visit, I couldn’t find an address. A young Muslim man helped me, and then carried me home with him to eat with his family. I still have the prayer beads he gave me, not to mention the memories.

    I did pause at the thought of swimming in an abaya. Surely you mean wading at the shore? I went into the water fully clothed just once, by accident. I thought I was going to drown, and don’t believe I’d try it by choice 😉

    • 4 Jeannine April 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm

      Yip, Linda, the women do swim in the abayas, black clouds of fabric floating around them. And, you’re so right, there is beauty in the Arab world, and humour too.
      Most of the cab drivers are Muslim, all expat Indians or Pakistanis, and they were happy with me as the married mother of two boys. But, my late 30s single friend working there gets endless gasps of amazement.
      This from her blog ‘A Canadian in Abu Dhabi’.
      Cab driver: Are you married?

      My friend: Ummm (hesitating while deciding whether to have the energy to lie) no.

      Cab driver: Oh my god.


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