The boys are all having a rest day with some of the parents and supporters today. Many are at the Atlantis on the Palm checking out the waterpark there. Tim Roberts and I have a tee time booked for a quiet round of golf later this afternoon but this leaves me a few moments just to try to work out why I Iove Dubai. And the start of this is that I do love being in Dubai and the UAE. The problem I have is I don’t really know why….
I have been here three times now, always at the end of March and beginning of April. And so obviously the first thing that is great is the weather. For readers of this not from the UK, February/March in England can be pretty grim, cold days, flooded pitches, dark mornings… None of these things are nice, so to come here for 10 days to bright sunshine, 30 degrees and blue skies always lifts my mood.
I am a pretty simple creature really and good food also makes me happy. I always seem to eat well in Dubai and once again I fear the bathroom scales will be taking a battering when I get back this time. Another “false dawn” exercise programme must start when the summer begins….
Dubai has some beautiful architecture. I love modern buildings (I stop off in Slough sometimes to look at the architecture of the Slough Trading Estate but please don’t tell anyone…..) and I love the focus on innovative design in Dubai and indeed Abu Dhabi. The Burj-al-Arab and Burj Khaleifa are two iconic buildings, only rivalled in my mind by the Taj Mahal. I love the twisted skyscraper at the Dubai Marina and love the thinking behind making a building like this. “We can do it so why not?” This culture of innovation, progress and looking ahead is very appealing to me. I find it energising to be in a place that seems like things are happening here. I love the mix of peoples, cultures and backgrounds in Dubai – to be honest I like it in the UK too – but here there is a real feeling of different people all buying into a common aim.
And last but not least, I love cricket. The tape ball cricket matches we played with some of the guys from the hotel the other day were awesome. On the next door piece of ground to our match, there was a group of men, all of whom looked to be of Pakistani extraction, running what I call a middle practice on a building site. They warmed up with a jog around the “outfield”, they then got some players padded up and then for a couple of hours, they trained. There was a mixture of ages from young adult to late middle age. The standard was variable and the outfield had construction trenches cut into it in places (as did ours but don’t tell the H&S committee at school)
I woke up early on the first morning here, around 6am and there was a proper tape ball match going on that I could watch from the hotel window. This had two teams, 8 a side perhaps, and although the standard was best described as rustic, they were clearly playing a serious league match. At 6am, on a building site. I love that! One fielder was sitting on a chair at gully but there was some big hitting, two demon run outs and everyone seemed to be having fun. I watched for half an hour until at 7.30am until both teams lined up, shook hands and presumably went off to work.
One thing Dubai has got to sort out is their addiction to the car. I have been three times over three years but the traffic gets worse and worse, the congestion is becoming horrible and the standard of driving is poor (that is being complimentary) Dubai’s government seems so progressive in many other areas so I hope that in next few years they can look to increase the number of electric/hybrid vehicles (all taxis perhaps?), reduce air pollution, introduce congestion charging. These things would make Dubai an even better place to visit. And would make our journeys on the roads slightly less traumatic.
I am half way through my week in Dubai – two books completed of the five I brought out – and more calories already consumed than required for the entire five day stay. I hope you will forgive a blog entry with a few thoughts….
Spending time in a totally new city like this does make me think about civilisations and my future working life. I am writing these words sitting overlooking the Arabian Gulf in beautiful gardens, air temperature approximately 30 degrees. My wifi from the hotel extends down to the beach and so I can work away here, topping up my sunburn and intermittently responding to emails from boys I teach and writing blog posts that a handful of people worldwide are reading. I am playing with Firefly which is my school’s VLE (virtual learning environment) and thinking how best to organise our departmental site. It does make one wonder whether as IT and #edtech improves exponentially I couldn’t spend more of my working life in a place like this. Slough has plenty to recommend it of course but it is hard not to think that in some ways, the quality of life might be better with British winters spent over here. Independent learning is a catchphrase much in use in my establishment at least so can I make a suggestion?
Why don’t we follow the model of continental football leagues and have a midyear winter break? Not a Christmas holiday but a period of 4 weeks (let’s call it February) when the school in the UK closes, everyone goes home and boys work independently using #EdTech. This flippant proposal has massive benefits – the school saves on heating and lighting bills, the boys get to develop more independence in their learning habits and I spend 4 weeks working out here every winter which would do wonders for my quality of life as well as my golf handicap. I would set tasks for students to complete, not run of the mill stuff, but extended pieces of work developing collaborative and research skills, with online tests to give students feedback. I would be available for contact six hours a day and could offer help/suggestions as to how to make progress in the various group and individual tasks set. Students would blog at the end of each day about the learning they have achieved that day to which I could offer feedback and support. I can see this proposal would pose difficulties for the Field Game program – how to get every round of Second Junior Sine completed so that someone wins the cup? – but apart from this, what’s not to like? This four week midyear break would also allow boys to build up work experience (where relevant) or work on community projects away from school. The learning they would gain from this would be immense, not restricted classroom learning but true, life-changing learning of the kind that too rarely happens in the frenetic and stressed world of the modern school.
My other thought here has been about the impermanence of civilisation. Dubai’s growth makes me think about what I see as the massive complacency in the UK. I wonder if this was similar to how the Romans felt sitting in their villas, surrounded by wonderful architecture in what seemed to them a thriving state. Everywhere in Dubai you see people working hard against the odds. To construct a city and civilisation like this in the desert in such a short space of time shows the ambition of these people and their leaders. Although we might not have Goths and Visigoths at the gates, it is not hard to see the challenge this growing state poses to our Western civilisation. Gause’s Law of Competitive Exclusion says that two species cannot occupy the same niche in an ecosystem, one will always drive the other to extinction by out-competing them for resources and perhaps a similar law applies to civilisation? Gillam’s Law – it has a ring to it, you can’t deny. Dubai is occupying the same niche as other large cities in the West – a business and trade hub with a growing economy and wealth creation to the fore – and from where I am sitting it is hard to believe that any Western city is in a stronger position to win in this particular competition. Are we prepared to work as hard as the immigrant population I see here?
There, two big thoughts for one day and it’s not even lunchtime. Remember Gillam’s Law, you heard it here first.