Sunday, March 28, 2010

One man's loss is another man's gain

"One man's loss is another man's gain" is very true to me, because I have benefited a lot from other people's losses.
Sounds very sinister, eh? Let me explain.

After the March 2003 terrorist attack in Khobar, there was an exodus of expats from that small oil town. PokCik Sm1th decided to turn their Saudi office into an all-muslim one, so they started pulling in folks from other regions to replace the westerners that were now leaving. One of folks that were pulled into Saudi was my husband. I don't know whether Taufik would have been offered something similar if the need for a specific type of replacement were not required. (Given his performance, I'm sure someone would've offered him something eventually, but I don't think it would've been that soon).
The exodus of westerners also resulted in lower house rents and availability of places in the already limited number of international schools in Khobar/Dhahran/Dammam area. When we were leaving Khobar after 5 years of living there, our house rent had increased by 50% (with possibilities of further increases in the future) and we heard numerous stories of children of friends who were not accepted into their school of choice due to it being full.

We believe that we are experiencing the same thing in Dubai. As we are all aware, Dubai is also currently experiencing a downturn. If we were to move here a few years ago, the rent would've been much higher than what we are paying now. There would be less houses available. I don't think we could have even had the chance to look at a villa like that we are currently living in, much less rent it.
In terms of schools, even though Dubai has so many international schools, a few years ago they still could not cope with the large number of expat children in the city, so a lot of new international schools started popping up. Due to that, when more expats started leaving, more places are available at more schools (even though the schools would tell you they were full if you asked).

But rent and schools are not the only thing we are benefiting from. With expat families leaving almost every week, there is an abundance of used furniture, and *that* is like candy to bargain hunters (read: kedekut taik hidung masin) like my husband and I. Through our used-furniture hunting escapades we had met a few very interesting folks with different and interesting situations.

Adrian, who organizes polar expeditions (yes, believe it or not), sold us a set of 3+2 seaters and a what-i-hope-is-milo-stained sofa bed, for Dhs300. He had to downsize, send his family back home and move to an apartment.
Jill, who sold us a set of like brand new red 2+3 seaters for Dhs800 and 2 gigantic desert rose plants for Dhs100 each, was going back to South Africa because that's where her husband's work is taking him.
John (Actually, I can't remember his name), who sold us an extremely like brand new Ektorp 3-seater with matching stool (with storage space) for Dhs750 and his TV cabinet for Dhs200, had the saddest story of all. He was retrenched from his bank job. They had to empty the house by end of the month, and his family has to rent an apartment while he tries to look for another job. Failing which, he would have to go back home, survive on his savings and stay with his brother while he gets things together.

Sometimes I leave these houses with mix feelings. I feel sad for the situation that they are in, but I also feel grateful for the cheap stuff that I got. So it's like, "I am sorry that you are leaving, but I am glad that you are leaving me your stuff".

Not if you see who else benefits from the numerous garage sales that pop up around this area every weekend.
Garage sales usually starts around 8am, and as early as 7:30am, you could already see people hanging around the residence's gate. Most of them would be filipinos and indians/pakistanis/srilankans and 2 malaysians (*raising our hands*). Apart from the 2 malaysians, most of them are what one house-owner we talked to would call "Professional Garage-Sale Buyers". They come in, go through the stuff, grab what they want, pile them in front of the seller, and place their price. It is then up to the seller to agree or not agree and bargain for a higher price.
Most of them would buy used clothes, kitchenware and cutlery, decorative items and sometimes furniture and toys. I am guessing some of them would buy them for their own use, and some would buy them to bring back to their home country on their next holiday (I know my cleaner buys used clothes to give to an orphanage in her hometown). So I guess it is a good thing, because unwanted items do not go to waste and people who couldn't afford (or don't want to pay the high price) to buy certain types of items could have a chance to own one (albeit used) at a more affordable price.

As I said, one man's loss is another man's gain.