Yesterday was ACBON Day. Not my favourite day in Dubai: Air conditioning back on day. And it seems to have arrived earlier this year.
It also coincided with what must surely be the best day in the school year: International Day, the day when everyone is proud to share their culture and traditions with their friends, and mums turn up in bosom-revealing costumes (the European ones, at least).
The children go to school wearing the national colours or traditional dress of their home country, then in the afternoon there’s a huge and colourful, cosmopolitan fair on the playing field.
Some 50 countries were represented out of the 85+ nationalities at the school, and browsing the stalls is always a culinary adventure: yesterday you could nibble on kimchi (from South Korea), Brazilian BBQ meat, a Victoria sponge cake (British), German Halal beer, Spanish paella and so much more, while admiring the Kiwi Haka dance and other performances from all around the world. There was a parade too, and the children had all painted flags that were strung up as décor.
It’s a wonderful afternoon – and you’d think all the parents would agree.
Apparently not so.
She was the first woman I met at the start of my stint selling coupons, for drinks and rides (and by rides, I mean the bouncy castle and slide. The amazing food was all provided by the mums, and was free).
“I want a dirham back,” she demanded. A shadow darkened her face. I couldn’t quite understand why she was so annoyed. Her forehead furrowed, and her eyebrows had hooded over eyes that blazed with anger.
Then her friend came over and wanted 20dhs back (the exchange rate, for those not in the UAE, makes a dirham worth about 18p and 20dhs about £3.50).
Ladies, let it go, I’m thinking. A dirham, really? The whole point of the fair is it’s a fund-raiser for the school, which presumably your children attend.
I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt (in Dubai, if you don’t understand someone’s behaviour, it’s always worth reminding yourself that their background is probably very different from your own – ie, they could be from war-torn Syria, or, if it’s a workman botching something in your home, he’s probably from a poverty-stricken village in rural Bangladesh).
But, no, it didn’t work. Their bling suggested otherwise, and they weren’t polite at all.
I’m looking around at all the hard, hard work so many parents had put into the afternoon – the cooking, baking, decorating, signage, assembling stalls, manning stalls for four hours.
While my co-coupon seller disappeared to ask if we could give refunds, I found myself bristling, then saying, “You know, everyone’s just volunteering here – the money all goes to the school.”
YOUR CHILD … YOUR CHILDREN … WILL BENEFIT, from things like iPads in the classrooms, and playground equipment. Except I didn’t actually say that.
“Aha,” she snapped back. “It goes to the parents.”
And I presume she meant the parents’ committee who’d organised everything – and I wondered, what on earth does she think they’re going to do with the funds?
Spend it all on gin?