Driving in the “new” Dubai is at best a bit like playing “Fast and Furious,” at worst a techno nightmare on speed. I think I’ve read somewhere that the roads in the UAE are the most dangerous in the world. Sheikh Zayeh highway is a ferocious speed way that shoots through the city in eight or sometimes nine lanes (one-way, thus sixteen to eighteen both ways.) The highway that’s never quiet runs through the city that never sleeps with overhead electronic sign boards that regulate the speed limit. The speed limit changes depending on the amount of traffic on it.
When we arrived here the first time we realized we’ll need some help ‘from above’ if we are to survive here – and so we downloaded updated Dubai roadmaps for my trusted Nokia navigator’s GPS. Only one problem : isn’t there always? The maps were last updated – it seems - in 2008, so quite often we found ourselves as a little red pointy arrow in the middle of the great yellow expanse, which in 2008 was still desert. Highways have morphed into super highways and suburban communities have mushroomed in places which are nothing but empty desert on our GPS’ maps.
For a while I would always return to the hotel from dropping Tinus off at the office by driving through the Dubai Marina Mall’s Parking area; “follow the green exit signs, two levels up, first right, second left, first right.” My road to the office would normally follow a road out into the desert, then a u-turn close to a lovely palace - which I never would’ve seen if not for Gertrude – our GPS’ female operator – to get back to Sheikh Zayed road, which I crossed “bearing left.”
One day on the way back to the hotel on the Emirates highway Gertrude said: “in 250 meters, at the roundabout, take the sixth exit.” I need glasses to see close-up but I still have good eyesight for far-away things, and I can see quite far – but there was no roundabout anywhere in sight, 250m or otherwise. We kept going.
And it was this, I think, that finally led to Gertrude’s breakdown. If you have a GPS you’ll know what I mean when I say you can hear the slight hysteria in the electronic voice at the third “turn around now.” Heedless we carried on, travelling on the Emirates highway, while Gertrude stayed silent, sulking somewhere on an electronic couch, probably eating a large box of electronic chocolates. But she had the last say: I can almost see her flinging the box of chocolates on the floor, getting up and stomping off to the console from where she speaks to us, grabbling the microphone and announcing: “AN ERROR HAS OCCURRED, YOU CAN NO LONGER REACH YOUR DESTINATION” with a definite ‘so-there’ in her voice.
A few days later, when we once again ended up somewhere we never planned to go, Tinus said he thinks it’s almost unfair to have a female voice on the GPS when the mapping is so “not fully coded.” So we have employed “James.” We are beginning to get to know our own way about more and more and we rely less on James than we did on Gertrude. I miss Gertrude, but I think she needs the time off.
Our route ahead seems to be calculated. Tinus has received his residency visa, we have found a nice villa, and are now waiting for Tinus’ boss to get back from Europe to sign his application for a cheque for the money to pay for the first year’s lease. We are waiting to hear from the school and we are in the process of applying for my visa, well, we first need to get our marriage certificate authenticated by the high court in South Africa, and we are busy applying for the pets’ import permits. The worst day so far, post chemo for Tinus was Tuesday. I have for the first time in two months been back to fairyland – my favourite facebook app – and got a really weird, yet surprisingly effective cure for Tinus’ post chemo symptoms - thank you Wendy and Safonia – Jelly Beans!!