Learning About Dubai

Ejo #148 – A Tale Of Two Cities

Dubai really is like no other city in the world.  Check out this post-covid promotional video if you don’t believe me. 

See, I told you!  Looks amazing, right?  Well, it actually is an amazing city, made even more remarkable by virtue of the fact that it has grown and developed out of nothing, in one of the least hospitable places on earth.  That the country even exists at all is testament to the vision of Sheikh Zayed, beloved father of the UAE.  And the city of Dubai, the shining star of all seven emirates, is evidence of the determination of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to transform the emirate that he rules over into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. 

In fact, Sheikh Mohammed has many ambitions.  His most recent philanthropic campaign is a drive to provide one billion meals to needy people in 50 countries around the world.  The Ramadan initiative, called “One Billion Meals”, aims to develop “long-term solutions to improve lives across the world, without any discrimination” by collecting donations from the public until enough money has been raised to provide the aforementioned billion meals to “women, children, refugees, displaced people and victims of disasters and crises”.  A noble cause indeed.  Unfortunately, the initiative does not include people living in the UAE, with the website explaining, “Charitable institutions and humanitarian associations within the country already engage in community campaigns and continuous projects that meet the needs of impoverished individuals and families in the UAE”.  Wonderful. 

Remember that video I showed you earlier?  Every single building you see in that clip, every swimming pool, every harbour, fountain, iconic building, highway, resort, metro, island, amusement park, aquarium, hotel and mall was built by the hands of immigrant labourers, predominantly from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.  It is through their blood, sweat and tears that this sparkly, shiny city was created and yet, for some reason, their faces are never represented in any marketing videos.  They get no kudos, they receive no recognition and they are shunted out of the way to live in hot, dusty, squalid labour camps, several men cramped together in a single room, the overpowering smell of garbage inescapable.  And that just really sucks because, despite being out of sight and out of mind, they are still here.  They are real people.  And they deserve a little bit of time and attention and kindness and respect, just like everybody else. 

So I want to show you their faces here. 

Dudes!

These are the men that the Sheikh doesn’t want to feed as part of his fancy One Billion Meals crusade because their needs are apparently already being met.  Charity, it would appear, doesn’t necessarily begin at home.  Or maybe feeding your own workers and providing them with better living conditions isn’t as strong a virtue signal to the world as a catchy slogan is (though in my humble opinion, it really would be).  So this Ramadan, as we have done for the last nine years, David and I and some of our wonderful, generous friends set out to provide these unseen men with a delicious, filling Iftar meal to break their Ramadan fast. 

Chaos.

I always get a kick out of being at these food handouts, witnessing the gratitude on the faces of the men, feeling the love that comes from giving to someone in need.  And this year did not disappoint.  This time though, there was a feeling in the air that was different.  Normally we hand out the meals from the back of a van on the street, but this time the meals, packed up in boxes, had been placed inside one of the dormitories.  That made it feel more intimate, and more personal.  We were in their world now.  It was also more chaotic than usual because guys from neighbouring labour camps had caught wind of the handout and swarmed the joint.  It always feels really bad that we can’t feed every single person who needs a meal, but that’s life I guess.  We were there to give food to the guys living in that particular dorm, and that was made a little tricky by the interlopers.  Eventually we figured out a system in which a representative from each room would approach and tell us how many men he was cohabiting with (usually between six and nine) and he would then be given the correct number of bags, each containing some dates, a piece of fruit, a bottle of water, some laban and a hot, tasty biryani.  That system seemed to work out OK. 

David and I stuck around after the food was gone because I wanted to take some more photos.  With the other volunteers no longer with us, we felt a little out of place, like we didn’t belong.  But I was never afraid.  On our way out, a few of the guys approached us and asked David and me if they could take selfies with us.  Of course we agreed, and before long we were surrounded by a throng of young men, taking photos, as if we were movie stars.  This was the first time we’ve ever personally interacted with the men we’ve given the Iftar meals to, and it was wonderful.  I hope to do it again next time, as it really made my day.

Our campaign to feed 2000 men was a drop in the ocean compared to the billion meals that the Sheikh wants to donate in his name, but for me what made this year so special were the fleeting human connections I made with those men.  I had the opportunity to chat to a few of the guys, and I made an effort to look as many of them as I could in the eye.  I got the chance to see them.  As people.  I smiled at a lot of them, and received many smiles in return.  And it was these beautiful smiles that truly uplifted me on that day.  The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been quoted as saying “Even a smile is charity.”  And if that is the case, then it was I who was enriched by the experience.  Because I walked out of that camp absolutely elated and exhilarated, walking on air.  I wonder if Sheikh Mohammed knows the feeling. 

My beautiful husband.
Six men live in this tiny room. They were kind enough to let me in to take a photo.
At the end of a hot, sunny day, the stench gets pretty bad.
This young man should be out having fun with his friends, dating, dancing, living his life. Instead he is essentially an indentured servant, working 12-14 hour days to send money to his family.
This guy is my favourite. There is a fragility to him, but at the same time a steely eyed dignity. I wish him well.

Ejo #139 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Zimmy Khan

TW//suicide

I met Zimmy in 2011, nearly ten and a half years ago.  I had just experienced two of the darkest years of my life and desperately needed help getting out of the deep, pitch-black hole I was in.  I’d consulted a couple of psychologists in Dubai, who had not been able to help me.  It’s the only time in my life I remember feeling such hopelessness, darkness, loneliness and desperation.  And then one day, I read an article in Time Out Dubai about a very special therapist called Zimmy Khan.  It felt like a dim light shining in the distance, and I ran towards it.  I checked out her website and wrote her an email. The subject header was “I Need Your Help”. 

Not only did Zimmy help me through that bleak phase of my life, she has, over the years, equipped me with tools that have allowed me to survive and navigate another decade in a city that drains my life force, being away from my family and friends, relationship ups and downs, career dilemmas, sometimes crippling social anxiety, and the devastating grief of losing my beloved Mum.  She taught me resilience, and she taught me how to have faith (a word I’d previously considered a profanity).   

I immediately fell in love with Zimmy as a therapist, and later, when it dawned on us both that we were spending the first 45 minutes of our sessions just chatting, I fell in love with her as a friend.  David calls her my guru because she helped transform me from someone who saw the world as an adversary, to be fought and challenged, into the woman I am now.  I am (mostly) at peace, I know who I am, I love myself, I am grounded, I am happy and I am open to receiving all of life’s possibilities.  I no longer feel alone, and I am no longer afraid.  Zimmy saved my life and I know it sounds like a cliché, but I am truly blessed to have met her and I am eternally grateful that she is my friend. 

Zimmy and me

It’s my great honour to introduce you all to Zimmy. 

Thank you so much Zimmy, for taking the time to (virtually) sit down with me and have a chat.  I appreciate it and I’m absolutely certain that my readers will enjoy it too. So, I started this post with an excerpt from an anthology you contributed to called “How The Phoenix Rose” in which you talk about your experience of severe physical and mental debilitation after suddenly developing a brain lesion in 2004.  Can you tell us about it?
I’d been working at JWT, one of the top global advertising agencies, in Dubai.  I’d been there for two years and was doing very well when I was suddenly hit with paralysis, and diagnosed with a brain lesion.  My mind has always been my savior and north star.  But the medications they gave me made me so weak, mentally, that I was not able to access my north star, my inner guidance, my mind’s ability to analyse and find solutions for me to heal myself; and that was the scariest part of the whole experience for me. More than the physical paralysis, it was the mental shutdown that made me feel alone and weak and hopeless. My superpower was taken away by the medications, and that’s why I stopped taking them, to see if I could still access my inner guidance. When that connection came back, I was able to heal myself through love and gratitude affirmations.

That sounds terrifying. Do you remember that time clearly, or has it faded with time?
Not as clearly as you would expect, because I live mainly in the present.  I remember things as a story, with minimal emotions.  I think I dissociate very reflexively from painful things, as a deep rooted trauma response – my analytical mind switches on to keep me safe and to protect me from feeling too deeply, and to just focus on what needs to be done to fix it, solve it or get out of it. I do remember the immense despair and fear that I went through, and also the great love and faith and peace that I felt for myself while saying the affirmations that healed me.  I really did feel like I went from wanting to kill myself, to everything will be alright, in a matter of only weeks.

Every hero has an origin story, and I wonder if that episode in your life is yours. 
The lesion did help me to honour my inner guidance more, and I will always feel fortunate about that.  But Chryss, I don’t see the lesion as my origin story, or even the catalyst.  It feels more like a very important fork in the road, but no, not the origin.

Are you happy to share your origin story with us?
I lost my mother suddenly and traumatically when I was only one and a half years old.  She had run away from her family to be with my dad while he was married to someone else. My parents married in secret, and for three years she lived as his second wife, whom no-one knew about; until his first wife found out.  Her brother murdered my mother to avenge his sister’s betrayal.  

Five month old Zimmy, with her mum and dad.

It was only then that my dad’s family learned about the whole situation, and of course they were in no position to care for me because the first wife had their loyalty.  My dad was also unable to care for me, and my mum’s family felt that she got what she deserved for disgracing them.  They wanted nothing to do with me as I was a reminder of their shame and loss.

Zimmy at six months.

Since the options were limited and my dad was concerned for my safety, he had to make quick decisions, and I was passed onto a childless couple who were our neighbours and family friends.  I was already quite comfortable around them and moved with them to Saudi Arabia soon after. Within a year my dad divorced his first wife, remarried, found a job in Saudi Arabia and moved there too. 

Zimmy at the age of four, with her biological paternal grandparents.

Between the ages of three and 15, I’d be with my foster parents during the week and spend the weekends with my dad and his new wife. I grew up knowing that my mum had died and that I now had two sets of parents. Both sets had their own baggage and issues and insecurities and wounds. I’m sure they all did their best to raise me as a team, but most of the time I felt alone, scared and unwanted, like a burden. I remember always being worried about something bad happening and feeling like I couldn’t trust or control life. I always needed to be on the alert and ready to fight. I never truly felt safe, or able to trust anyone, or have an irrefutable sense of belonging. So I became my own little unit – me, myself and I.  I always had the ability to talk to myself, to be there for myself and help guide myself through abusive experiences (physical, mental and emotional) in both homes, as well as feeling different at school.  

I found ways to work with my “defects” rather than allow them to defeat me. I used to analyse the other kids and try to figure out how to achieve the “desired result”, but in my own way. I created my own strategies on how to fit in and study better and focus better.  Things like doodling rather than taking notes in class, having music play while I did my homework and sleeping with books under my pillow. I always managed to get through with mostly As and Bs. School was very important to me as it felt like the only safe space in my life, and I wanted to do well and keep having that as my refuge.

By the time I became a teenager, with all the hormonal changes and bigger emotions, I was feeling very overwhelmed and suicidal. Even then it was my mind, my inner voice, my higher self that was my strength and got me through each day. I would have a pep talk with myself every morning: “Let’s do our best today, and if it’s not enough and things get too heavy, we can go to the top of that 15 storey building and just jump off. Don’t worry, we’ve got this, one way or the other. Just focus on one thing at a time and the day will pass”.  It was always “we” because that created a sense of belonging and connection, like someone had my back.  It is still “we” today.

I came to Dubai in 1997 to complete my bachelor’s degree in Business Management, with the intention of returning to Saudi Arabia to enroll in a Master’s program, and to wed in an arranged marriage.  And I was happy with that.  I was just so thrilled to have the opportunity to escape an oppressive family situation, to be independent, and get a higher education and live in a more open environment for a while.  During my studies, I was offered an internship at JWT, and after I graduated they offered me a job.  So I just stayed in Dubai. 

Well, I, for one, am very happy that you decided to stay. And thankfully (and miraculously) you fully healed from the brain lesion.  How did that whole experience lead to your evolution from high-flying advertising executive to life-saving healer and therapist?
I was so consumed with the miraculous outcome that I moved very quickly into delving into how the mind and body work together, how to be more than we’re taught we are, and how to access the superpowers that we all have. It was a rebirth for me, and a huge push towards my calling.  

I became keenly inter­ested in everything to do with “mind over matter”, “the power of thoughts” and “the attitude of gratitude”. Concepts that I had no prior awareness of, but that very naturally flowed through me and helped me to get my life back to its full glory. I made it my priority to study all that I could about these transformative powers that we all carry within us, and yet look for outside of ourselves.  It was this quest that trans­formed me from a hardcore, corporate intellectually-driven executive into a full-time therapist and healer. And it’s that exceptional and life-changing learning that I share with my clients in my sessions and workshops, reminding them to acknowledge all that they have to be thankful for, rather than focussing on the things that are missing.

There’s absolutely no question that you are special, that you do possess a superpower.  I attest to that and I happily recommend you to anyone that even drops a hint that they might benefit from your very special skillset. You have helped a lot of people. Do you think you were born with your superpower, or do you think that all the hardships you endured in your life helped to shape you that way? 
I think we are all born with these superpowers, and that is the real hallmark of being at the top of the food chain. We are the only beings that have the gifts of thought and analysis, and with that comes the ability to choose differently and to create different outcomes, to be better, to evolve. That is the superpower we all have. I don’t feel special in this respect, just really proud of myself for recognising the choices, and for choosing to be a better version of myself daily.

Life is bigger than us, and gives us both good experiences and challenging ones so that we can choose which ones we want to grow from. Some of us respond more to the painful push, and some of us thrive more when things are good.  So yes, my superpowers came to light due to adversity.  I wish I’d realised that I could have accessed them without the struggle!  But I think that learning so much about self-love, and finding these navigation methods, perhaps makes me a better therapist, and has helped me to create resources like The Happiness Project.  I’d sure like to think so. 

The other day when you were at our place for dinner you said something along the lines of, “I’m becoming mortal”.  What did you mean by that? 
I think that’s about progressively becoming a more feeling person than the mostly analytical one I used to be. I guess that comes with softening my armour and letting down my guard and starting to trust life and people, and allowing myself to connect, belong, love and live more fully. So yes when I allow myself to feel more, I do feel more human.  Vulnerable, but also more intuitive and alive. And I’m OK with that, I’m actually happy with that.  But sometimes I do become nostalgic about how in control I used to be.

Do you mind please listing the modalities you specialise in, for our readers, and what each one entails?  How can people benefit from them??  
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) go hand in hand as they are both related to learning how to direct our mind more consciously, rather than being directed by it and then feeling not in control of our thoughts and behaviours. So these are practical tips and techniques on how to reply to our negative, self-limiting thoughts, beliefs and programs by firstly becoming aware of them, secondly not fighting them but kindly and patiently shifting them to what would serve us better, and thirdly being consistent with the practice. This leads to a gradual but sustainable improvement in our mental, emotional and physical state of being, and gives us more energy and ability to be better versions of ourselves and to create a better life experience for ourselves. It also helps us to be more accepting and empathetic towards others.

Clinical hypnotherapy is used when there are deep subconscious wounds, fears, traumas or addictions that are creating pain in our lives. Sometimes we know what they are but we feel powerless to change or heal them; and sometimes we don’t even really know the root cause, but we know that no matter what we do cognitively, it just doesn’t seem to help for too long. So with this modality we connect with the subconscious mind, which has all the answers and solutions, and we heal the root causes from the past, so that they become disarmed and unable to create the pain in the present.  This is such a magical process and I am still in awe of how the mind takes us directly to the source, even when the client or myself have no idea what it is.  The healing that happens is so profound and long lasting, it still blows my mind. While hypnosis is still widely seen as just something to help with addictions and phobias, it really is much more than that and helps with healing traumas, PTSD, relationship issues, mental, emotional and physical illnesses too.

For energy healing I use a combination of the basics of reiki and pranic healing, plus my own intuitive interpretation. Energy healing modalities are based on the premise that we are all made up of energy and that everything that has form has an energy field.  How is my methodology unique?  I am able to get a sense of, and verbalise, the emotions that are creating the blocks in a client’s energy flow, and with their permission we work on allowing them to be released. This helps people to become more empowered and aware, and to be able to choose different thoughts and create lighter emotions so they can keep their energy system flowing better.

Akashic records reading helps us to connect to the client’s Super consciousness, the infinite essence.  Not just the conscious thinking mind or subconscious feeling mind that are limited to our bodily experience of life, but something bigger, wiser, made of love and connected to all that is. Through this modality, we access a “soup” of information that transcends time and space, and is made of our higher self (the part that knows our purpose in this life, and is a distillation of all the learnings from previous existences), collective consciousness, ancestral consciousness and so much more. The benefit is access to incredible love, wisdom, guidance and connection to something much larger and more powerful and comforting than we have ever known.  People also receive answers, solutions and healings during this process, giving permission to the therapist to access these through the client’s energy field, and to verbalise things that they may have been receiving through dreams, signs, gut feelings etc. but have not had the chance to really listen to, or interpret fully.

This is the newest modality in my portfolio, and the one that has truly challenged me to accept that I really am quite intuitive, and that I should trust and own this superpower rather than doubt or feel embarrassed by it. Since I come from such an analytical background, it’s been the most fascinating journey for me, first with energy healing and now with this. I know I heavily rely on my intuition, even when working with clinical hypnotherapy, but this really throws you in the deep end as there is almost no science to give you a sense of security. I used to be very hesitant, and actually avoided delving into it until the “call” became really strong and I decided to do a course, just to quell my curiosity.

During the course, my readings were really accurate and intuitive, and the teacher and students all wanted to work with me! So it’s almost like I had no choice but to embrace this facet of myself.  I slowly started doing readings, for close friends at first, and only after I felt more comfortable with this strange free-falling did I start offering it to clients.  It is a beautiful experience, not just for clients, but for me too, and I have never had a session in which I wasn’t touched so deeply that it led me to tears. The unconditional love, acceptance, encouragement and wisdom that comes through is really something special, and each client leaves feeling uplifted, happy, peaceful and more whole.  

Over the years, you and I have tried most of these therapies, plus some other, more experimental stuff.  Our hypnotherapy sessions helped me tremendously when we first started seeing each other and I was at a very low point, holding onto lots of shit.  I really enjoyed the Akashic reading you did for me in 2018, as it connected me to my yiayia, who died a year later at the age of 103.  My least favourite therapy was the past life regression (sorry!).  I didn’t really feel like I got much out of it (though it did inspire a short story, so perhaps that’s not quite accurate). 
The past life regression was your fifth session, and the objective was for you to have more discipline with your writing, and to enjoy it more. So we accessed a past life in which you had done that, to remind your cells, your consciousness, of how it feels to be that way again. Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel the past life session was more impactful than you may have realised.  I believe that it served the purpose of getting you to be more regular and disciplined with your ejos, and over the past few years I feel your writing has become deeper, and more open and honest.

Thank you so much!  You’ve definitely helped me become a better writer, and a better person.  After all these years, it’s still a wondrous experience for me to come to you feeling stale or blocked or stuck in some way, and walk away feeling like I’ve been fixed.  And for that reason, my absolute favourite therapy of all is your energy cleanse. 
Energy cleanses work really well with you as you are truly open and trusting with me and that’s all it takes to set things right, or to position them better, to create an easier flow. And thankfully you are aware of, and good at, self-regulating and you use your mind well, so we haven’t really needed extensive hypnotherapy etc. Would you please tell me what you like about it, and how it helps you and how you think it works?  I’m curious to hear your take on it.

To be honest, it all feels a little bit like magic.  And because we have worked together for so long I definitely feel that I can completely trust you, and trust the process, and let go and have faith that you’ll guide me in the direction I need to go.  Hypnotherapy is similar, but it feels like I need to do a little more delving into my own consciousness, and sometimes that feels clunky to me, like too much hard work (LOL, I’m so lazy).  When we do an energy cleanse, I just open the door to my sub-conscious and let you in, and let you do all the work.  I always leave your house walking on air, buoyant and buzzing but very clear-minded, and very happy. I want to thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me, over the years. I’m so grateful that the journey you took to overcome all the trauma and pain in your life led you to helping others overcome theirs. I’m so grateful that it led us to each other.
That really has been my driving force towards actively participating in life. Being there for others, and allowing them to use some of my learnings to heal themselves. So what you say makes me feel like I have been of service, and of love, and that you have helped me to fulfill my purpose. I really do love my work

If you feel that a session with Zimmy might help you in some way, you can get in touch with her at zimmy@epiphany-zk.com, or just let me know and I’ll set it up for you. She does in-person sessions in Dubai, as well as video sessions for clients all over the world.

Ejo #138 – My Green Babies (or Plants Are People Too): Part 2

A few of you have asked me for my top tips for keeping plants healthy.  In my previous post, I mentioned being careful about over-watering (just don’t do it!), re-potting and moving plants around to give them a new lease on life.  The other thing I regularly do for all my plants (except for Eugene, coz fuck that guy) is to wipe their leaves clean from time to time.  Dust (or in our case, sand) accumulating on leaves actually prevents plants from being able to photosynthesise, which can then lead to all sorts of problems.  I like to get some kitchen towel and sit down next to my babies and chat to them as I gently wipe their beautiful leaves clean.  Sure, it can be a little time consuming, but it’s also a special time, a time to bond and to just be with each other. 

Speaking of plant love, shamed by the revelation of my blatant disregard for one of my own plant babies, I’ve spent the last month trying to get to know Sally. Just giving her a bit of my attention. I haven’t been the best mother to her, in the past. But I want to change. I’ve tried to change. It’s taken her a little while, but I think she’s starting to open up to me. She’s starting to come around.

Be still my beating heart. Sally’s new baby shoot.


CHESTER

Macramé is so daggy, but I actually really love it.

Chester is a Monstera adansonii, commonly known as a monkey mask Monstera.  I bought him in a supermarket, where, surprisingly, most of our healthiest plants were purchased.  Nearly all the plants that have perished under my guardianship were bought in nurseries, so I don’t really bother shopping at garden centres anymore.  Chester and I went through a bit of a difficult patch for a few months because, for some inexplicable reason, I kept calling him Charlie.  It didn’t quite feel right, but he didn’t correct me either, so I’d say we’re both a little bit to blame for that nonsense.  Yes, it was awkward for a while, but we’re back on speaking terms now. 


PETER

The strong, silent type.

Peter is a Ficus elastica, also known as a rubber plant.  These guys have always appealed to me because I remember having one in our flat when I was a small child.  Peter isn’t a fancy kind of plant, and he’s always been an easy baby.  I think he’s pretty content to stay in the background and let the other kids steal all the limelight.  However, he is currently growing some beautiful new dark green, shiny leaves, which simply delight me (so maybe he is a little bit of a showpony after all).  When his new leaves pop out of their sheaths and unfurl into existence, I like to give them a little kiss to welcome them into the world (yes, I am affectionate with my children; probably the same way that you are with yours, so… whatevs). 

The magic of nature.


BILL
Bill is a trendy Ficus lyrata, more commonly known as a fiddle leaf fig.  I swear to god, you can’t even open a design magazine these days without seeing one of these hipsters sprucing up an interior.  In fact, when my sisters and I were styling our family home to put on the market a couple of years ago, we went out and bought one of these guys to zhuzh up the house. 

Sexy beast.

I very distinctly remember the day that Bill was delivered to our apartment.  David and I had gone out with a friend that afternoon and… hmm, let’s just say we’d had a little bit to drink.  When Bill arrived, I popped him onto the dining room table to admire him, and as soon as I turned my back, perhaps threatened by all the attention I was lavishing onto the newcomer, David decided to establish dominance by taking a large bite out of one of Bill’s beautiful, crinkly leaves.  I was not impressed, and promptly slapped a restraining order on David, which stands to this day!  He has visitation rights, but only when I’m at home to supervise.  And Bill still bears the scar of the bite mark on his lower leaf.  Whenever he gets self conscious about it, I like to show him my own scars and tell him that it gives him character. Parenting 101.


IVY
Ivy is a golden pothos, just like my work-kid LuLu, who you met last time.  For a while she was marooned in a land-bound pot, while I conducted high level negotiation talks with David to please, please, please let me hang some macramé pots from the ceiling.  Eventually he relented and drilled some hooks into our ceiling from which to hang the kinds of plants that like to hang around.  Ivy absolutely fucking loves hanging around.  She has grown so unbelievably fast since we put her up there, and some of her tendrils are now almost three metres long.  I have grand plans to trail her branches all around the living room, which is actually possible because they can grow up to 12 metres long.  Jungle living, bitches!!! 

She really loves just hanging around.


LOU
Lou is an Asplenium nidus, also known as a bird’s nest fern because they grow out of a central, fuzzy rosette that looks like … you guessed it, a bird’s nest.  Lou prefers to be referred to by the pronouns they/them, and we fully support that.  They were a land-based plant for a little while, but after I convinced David to screw the holes in the ceiling, we hung them up and they’ve burgeoned ever since.  In this photo you can see a brand new baby frond unfurling.  Tell me it’s not breathtaking!!!

My baby’s having a baby!!


TOMMY’S

What? Are? You?

The Tommy’s are (ostensibly) tomato plants.  These weirdos are actually freaks of nature.  I planted some of my Mum’s heirloom tomato plant seeds in October of last year, and a few of them sprouted leaves.  But I must have fucked up the timing, because these guys haven’t grown at all since then.  But they’re not dead, either.  The three that have survived have literally been this size for the last nine months. It’s bizarre.  It’s like they’re in some kind of stasis, and I’m here for it. I’m trying to keep them alive long enough for them to make it through summer, and maybe then they’ll start growing again?  Who the fuck knows.  I’m just winging it here, people, flying by the seat of my pants.  This is completely new territory for me.  Also: maybe science?? 


AZIZ
Aziz is a Zamioculcas zamiifolia, also known as a ZZ plant.  These guys are super duper low maintenance, which is why you’ll frequently see them growing quite happily under the bright, artificial light of malls and office buildings.  And that’s exactly what I love about Aziz – he is quite comfy sitting in the darker areas of the house, where a lot of other plants would suffer from the lack of light.  I’d been on the lookout for a ZZ for a really long time, and when I saw this charmer in IKEA one afternoon I literally jumped for joy.  He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?  I think the other plants get jealous of him sometimes because he sits in a spot I walk past frequently, so I’m always giving him a high five or whispering, “Yo Aziz, whaddup!”   The other plants need to get over it. 

Yo, Aziz!!


SHANE

Shane’s the chickadee on the far right. This photo was taken nearly 10 years ago. They’re in the bathtub because David and I were going on holiday. We aren’t the best parents in the world, but I’ve never pretended otherwise.

Shane is a Peperomia obtusifolia, also known as a baby rubber plant.  She’s one of the OG flora we bought when we first moved to Dubai.  She’s been with us a long time, and I don’t think any of the other plants will be surprised to hear me say that she’s my favourite.  We’ve been through a lot together; a lot of years, man.  She’s moved house with us, twice.  And, I’m not embarrassed to say that she spent a short stint in a foster home when David and I went to Australia for a few weeks in 2016.  Our friends Nat and Andy did a wonderful job of looking after her because when she came back home she started growing like CRAZY!!!  Perhaps the change of scenery triggered a growth spurt?  Who knows.  What I do know is that she started overflowing her pot with this beautiful, lush, dark green leafery, cascading down the side, a luxuriant waterfall of frondescence. 

This was Shane about a year ago, having a shower. Rapunzel of the plant world.

Last year I gave  her a haircut.  I think it makes her look younger and more youthful, and it’s definitely easier for her to manage.  And despite being the grande dame of the bunch, she’s still growing new baby leaves, like a plant half her age.  Shane is a great example of a babe that doesn’t need too much attention to thrive.  In the 12 years we’ve had her, I’ve never repotted her.  And I only water her once a month.  I hope that what I’m doing keeps working and that she sticks around for a long time because I just love looking at her, chatting to her, touching her and waking up every morning to see her at the foot of my bed.  I’m used to having her around, and I love her. 

This is Shane today. No, she hasn’t had Botox (but thanks for asking).


VERA
Vera is an Aloe vera, also known as aloe vera.  I knicked a little cutting from the walking track behind our apartment a couple of years ago and she grows like she’s on steroids.  We have to keep cutting her back as she frequently outgrows her pot.  I like having her around because her gel reportedly has amazing healing properties, not least of which as a soothing gel to apply to sunburnt skin.  I can actually vouch for this one, as I got quite a nasty burn last year and the only thing that made me feel better was fresh aloe vera gel. 

Vera’s a bit of a wild child.


RICHARD
Richard is an Ixora coccinea, also known as a jungle geranium.  We bought him when we first moved into this apartment, just over five years ago.  He could probably do with a little more care, but guess what?  I’m the inside plant parent.  Outside is David’s domain.  I’m not laying any blame here.  Dubai’s “outside” is horrendously hot and inhospitable for most of the year, and any plant that can survive for five years on our balcony is a fucking superhero in my eyes.  In fact, David has done a remarkable job of keeping all the outdoor plants alive.  While Richard definitely looks less vital than when we first got him, he still flowers quite abundantly during the winter months which is just glorious to behold, and which must mean that even though he’s a little bit abused, he probably likes it? 

A friend was over the other day and looked out the window and asked, “Is that a bonsai?”. No, I said, that’s just Richard.


LOLI, ELLIE & BARB

Barb and Ellie. Never turn your back on these bitches – they will shiv you.

These assholes are Yucca gloriosas, also known as Spanish daggers.  As you can see we treat them like absolute shit, and they repay us by brutally stabbing us every opportunity they get.  We get along just fine.  As long as David keeps trimming and watering them (coz I won’t go anywhere near the bastards unless I absolutely have to), and as long as they don’t perforate our eardrums or skewer our eyeballs (which are apparently amongst the more common injuries inflicted by these shitheads) then they can stay.   

Meet Loli (it’s short for Lolita). We keep her on a separate balcony for our own protection.