There was a storm tonight. It was an amazing sight to see; the lightening crackling through the sky, a sheet of sudden rain and garden furniture being blown about by the wind. The storm has passed now and the air is fresh and clean-smelling, a relief after days of sultry, stifling heat.
You asked me in your last letter if the downturn is being felt in Dubai. At the time I rattled on about the ads posted in the Park & Shop and Spinneys supermarkets by expats leaving in a hurry, but nothing hit home as much as seeing two cars parked outside the girl's school this week which are obviously being lived in, stacked high inside with sleeping bags and what looks like all of the occupants worldly possessions. I read an article in the local paper this morning about people starting to live in their cars due to financial problems; it seems it's an issue currently being experienced by the many Indian workers for whom being made redundant is not cushioned with a decent pay-off and a Business-class ticket home (as is the case for Westerners).
I am constantly aware of how good I have it here in comparison to the many workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philipines who come here to work as labourers or housemaids. I interviewed some maids last week as a sop to Alpha and his OCD - it seems he needs someone to mop the floors full time (which my pampered life in Europe has not properly equipped me for) and who am I to argue if it's going to give me an easier life? Anyway, meeting all these women and hearing their stories practicaly broke my heart. The story of K, who came here three years ago to work for a Lebanese family; her hours are 7am to 11pm, six days per week, for the paltry sum of AED 1,100 per month (just under $300) and a flight home every two years. The story of D, a widow who has worked overseas since her 12-year-old son was a baby to pay for his upkeep and education in the Philippines - she sees him for a few weeks every two years.
There are many more stories just like this. The only thing I can do is hire one of these women, pay them a decent wage and treat them with the respect due to them as human beings - not something they all take for granted after their varied experiences.
How fortunate are we women in the West, in comparison? These women don't worry about the credit crunch making it hard for them to meet their mortgage payments, they worry that it will take away their livelihood which is the only way to ensure that their children, so many miles away, will have enough to eat and the basic schooling that will give them the chance for a better life.