There were two distinct factors at arriving at my final decision. spark had been a finalist before,. This time, however, our software exclusive for parents’, was a GESS finalist for the second time. So, as one who doesn’t like to waste an opportunity, I decided to bite the bullet and exhibit too. I could then also justify the trip in order to meet colleagues and clients. Once the decision was made, I then faced the challenge of what I could actually physically take for my exhibition stand. I had to consider weight (flyers are not light) and size. Do you think it would be easy to find a suitcase or bag one metre long, big enough for pull up banners? It’s not easy at all! In the end, a bag was cut and customised luckily the bag got me there and back. As a consequence there was no room for anything else, so all my clothes, including evening dress, had to go into my hand luggage.
A friend gave me a traveller’s guide to Dubai, which would have been very useful had I had time to look at it. I did plan to cram my time with work appointments but saved the first day for sightseeing. I found a hotel within walking distance of the Trade Centre, where the exhibition was to be held and also to the hotel for the award ceremony. Much to everybody’s shock and horror, I hired a car. Everyone advised that this was the easiest route to suicide. So, now everything was organised and I was ready to go.
I had not been to Dubai before. The first thing that struck me was how clean it was. Coupled with this, some of the architecture is truly striking and the wonderful weather set the buildings off a treat. That wonderful weather was short-lived, as it rained, mind you this was for about 30 seconds. This must be a rarity in Dubai as I soon came across road signs warning me of ‘pools’. It took me a while to appreciate that this referred to puddles and I can only guess in Dubai these ‘pools’ are considered a major hazard. Most roads had multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic and it also came to some surprise that there were places for U-turns. These were in the lanes furthest to the left and the feat of somehow getting in the lane on the furthest right in time to take the U-turn is not for the faint-hearted but soon found that if I was not bold enough to force my way across the lanes then I would drive for many miles before the next opportunity.
There were some things I needed that wouldn’t fit into my hand luggage so where did I go? Waitrose! Yes, there is a Waitrose in Dubai. To my surprise, in the mal there was a huge aquarium and I mean HUGE with gigantic marine life of all descriptions – fish are my thing! So I spent some time, just watching.
Continuing on the ‘water theme’, my hotel had a lovely roof-top pool, which I had to myself most late evenings. This gave me time to contemplate on each day.
Another highlight was visiting a nursery that is using spark. I was eager to see how they organised outdoor play especially as the nursery was on the first floor. spark is in use in countries abroad but this was my first opportunity to visit one.
The nursery team were warm and welcoming; it was really good to meet the ladies I had been talking to over the phone from the UK. It was obvious they took pride in their work and they welcomed me to take photos to share with you. The morning children had left so no children were there but their absence made taking photos easier!
Indoors there were light airy playrooms and other small rooms, such as a music room. The large windows were attractively painted with murals that had the added benefit of keeping out the sun. The bright sunshine meant this didn’t darken the rooms like it might in the UK. I was particularly impressed with the outdoor area – a roof terrace but a large one and obviously used to the full. It was well equipped with learning spaces. A huge sail shielded children from the sun. At one end of the outdoor area there was a ‘greenhouse’, this contained recent planting projects. At the other end, numbered bikes stood in their corresponding numbered bays. There was a selection of climbing equipment, trampolines and a huge sandpit.
Later that day, I delivered a workshop to a small group of nursery owners, organised by our partners at Nursery Consult. I shared with them the benefits that sparkPRO could offer for their EYFS and showed some of the features that would particularly support their challenges. This was followed by me presenting attendance certificates and photographs were taken of the lucky recipients.
EXHIBITION & AWARDS
I trundled all the heavy and awkward items for my exhibition stand (pull up banners, leaflets, advertising boards) across the road from the hotel. These were heavy to carry so I strapped it all to my hand luggage bag, as that had wheels. My colleagues from Nursery Consult kindly lent me a large screen to display my films. I just had to go back and forth with the computers each day. It was a three-day exhibition, which brought people from far and wide. I met people from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, The Philippines, Nigeria and the locals from Dubai. The pace was relaxed, so although I was on my own, this wasn’t a problem. Some really good contacts were made and our conversations have continued.
It was great to see our software ‘in lights’ at the awards, we didn’t win but the whole experience was very positive and I look forward to going back!
After a last-minute meeting prior to going to the airport – I noticed my car. Just look at what model it was – spark!