You can spot them in offices across Dubai. Their conversations start with ‘only six days, 10 hours and 57 minutes to go’; invitations to corporate festive gatherings are chucked straight in the bin and where stress once bent their figures double and darkened their mood, there is now a lightness in their step and even a hint of a smile. For these people are all winding down for the holiday season and in a few days they will be gone.
Though Dubai traditionally grinds to a halt over the summer as thousands of expats and nationals jet off to kinder climes, this year we are also witnessing a mass exodus at the end of the year. The combination of Eid, Christmas and New Year is emptying offices faster than the Stella McCartney rail at H&M.
But not everyone has the luxury of jetting home or away to some exotic location for two weeks of family torture or unadulterated pampering at a luxury resort. And one of those people is me. Rather than enviously watch my colleagues mentally counting the seconds until they are officially on leave, I have developed a different gameplan. I’m in it for the long haul. There are no cosy weekends away or parties with the family back home to look forward to. Instead the holiday season stretches out before me and all I can see is early starts and late finishes at the office.
It’s my own fault, I was too late with the holiday request form, everyone else got in there first. But the reality is not that bad.
Instead Christmas Day has now been pencilled into the diary in the same way a work meeting with a contact would be. I do actually have the day off; but my usual round of activities has been compressed into a tight schedule of present-opening, church, dinner, games and Christmas TV. Then it’s back to the office in the morning. New Year’s Eve will be squeezed around work deadlines and as for Eid – forget it.
But because I’ve made a plan and I know exactly how much time I will have at home with the family and how much time I must dedicate to work, I’m happy. Of course I’m sad to be missing carols by candlelight in the village square but in years to come, I will have memories of ‘that Christmas’ when I worked straight through.
In a way I see it a bit like a race. While others are doing the 3km run, I am running the marathon. I just have to pace myself (there is no letup in January either) with a series of pit-stops (weekends) to refuel and reenergise before I hurl myself back into the hard graft of the race. It’s going to be tough but I can do it.