It seems like the blogosphere is bursting with posts about the sights and smells of fall: stunning leaves with vibrant hues of orange, red and yellow, delicious recipes featuring pumpkin and apple, funky Halloween crafts. Meanwhile, many Dubai bloggers are celebrating our version of fall. “Woo hoo! We’re below 100F! (38C)” “Yay! The treacherous, accident-inducing fog is here! That means cooler temperatures are right around the corner!”
Of course it still feels nothing like fall. Yes, October finally ushered in temperatures below 100 for the first time since April, but it’s still around 95F (35C). Spending the entire summer here really has put a different spin on living in Dubai, and through it all, I complained left right and center. But honestly, the thing that bothered me most was seeing the guys who work in the sun, day-in and day-out, even when the heat index was a mind-boggling 125F (52C). There are a seemingly endless number of men planting new flowers in medians and along highways, washing cars in countless parking lots across the city, and building Dubai’s villas, skyscrapers and mosques.
The ones I get to know personally, though, are the gardeners who come to our house every single day except Friday. Everyone who has any green space to speak of employs one, and they only charge 200dhs – 400dhs ($55-$110) for the entire month. Who knows how much they actually take home if they work for someone else like ours do. They ride their tool-carrying bikes around the city to get from house to house which affords no break from the relentless heat.
Do we really need a gardener? Not really. We have a small yard and a few pots. But these guys really want and need a job. They often ring the doorbell, hoping to steal another gardener’s job and astutely point out how terrible your yard currently looks. But let’s be honest, it isn’t all charity because it is really nice to not have to worry about watering anything, ever. We’ve had four gardeners in the two years we’ve lived here. Habib, Ali, Assad and now Waqar.
Many of them seem to know very little about gardening. Assad kept bringing me half dead, weed-like plants, presumably ones that other people had thrown out. I think he was doing this to get “tips.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him to stop or get rid of them, so every time I did dishes I looked out on the pitiful, misplaced plants that he had haphazardly planted outside my kitchen window. Just last week, Assad announced he was going back home to Pakistan, but he was bringing in his brother to take his place. Mysteriously, all of these guys seem to be related. My husband and I joke about this, so he asked Assad, “Hey, is Waqar really your brother?” His response: “Oh, cousin… maybe.”
Sometimes they can be exasperatingly creative in the ways they indirectly solicit extra cash, or annoying persistent when they ask for a job over and over. But at the end of the day, I respect that they persevere in a job that is so mundane and seriously uncomfortable, and where there is zero chance for upward mobility.
I often wonder about what their life is like here and about the life they left behind in their home country…