Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Being an expat has given us some amazing experiences.  Over the past three years the kids have learned how to ski in the Alps, floated in the Dead Sea in Jordan, and rode segways through the streets of Prague.  They have visited 16+ countries (the number varies because of school and sport trips).  It has all been just amazing.  But I now have another adventure to add to the list.  We are all going to be on TV!

HGTV has begun filming for a new show, Living Abroad.  It is a show that features American expats living in many different parts of the world.  One show will feature Amsterdam, another Paris, yet another Australia.  There are 11 cities in all.  And...Dubai is one of them.

In August, shortly after we returned from our summer vacation, the school newsletter had a short note announcing that HGTV was looking for expat families for their new show.  I filled out the brief application and sent it out along with a few pictures of the kids and the villa.  Towards the end of September I received a note from the HGTV casting director asking me to complete a questionnaire.  It was 8 pages long!!  I e-mailed that back in (all to Colorado) .  A week later on a Thursday night (10 PM), I received an e-mail telling me they wanted to "pitch my family to the network - tomorrow".  They asked for a short video introducing the family.   Because of the time, we were all sitting around in our PJ's watching TV.  I told everyone to get dressed - quick!  We had to make a movie.   Kevin took out his video camera and away we went!  By 11PM we were done, Kevin had sent off the video, and we were back in our PJ's!   The following week we received notice that we had been selected to be on the show!!

So, time to prepare!  Jim and I took some of our pictures we had purchased on our travels to be framed,  I went shopping for a few arab decorations and, of course, a new outfit!  Jim arrived home the day before the shoot and we hung pictures, dusted high places, and tried on clothes.  We were ready!

The HGTV crew along with High Noon Productions and a local crew arrived at our house on Friday, Octobober 25.  They arrived at 8 AM in two vans filled (FILLED) with cameras, lights, sound stuff, make-up, absolutely the works!   We began by showing them around the house.  Every room was shown and talked about.  Then the two producers sat down alone and made the decisions on where and what to film inside of the house.  (editorial:  I don't know if I would have made the same choices, but, hey....I'm not the star yet!)

The took Sarah and I into Brian's room, which by now had been converted into the make-up room.  We both were completely made up and hair done.  For me having eye shadow and liner is a major deal!  I felt like I had on 3" of make-up!   The boys just received a little powder to get rid of their shine!

Next they put the mics on Jim and I.  At this point, we were the only two "wired up".  We then all were asked to be seated on the couch in the TV room and just be casual.  The show host would come in and join us as if just stopping in.  She came in, sat down, and we talked about living in Dubai.  She asked us some very direct questions and then gave the prompt of "let's see the rest of the house!"  We all stood up.  Then we sat down and did it again.  Then we sat down and did it again!  Each time they director would say "looked great, let's do it again!"  They wanted us all in the same places so they could be consistent with the shot while editing.

After the living room scene, they told me they wanted to film my closet and bathroom.  So here is the part where I was pretty surprised.  Having shown them around the whole house, I would not have picked the closet and bathroom as highlights.  The reason they picked the closet was to give me an opportunity to talk about the "red card" I received while shopping in the Dubai Mall last year.  It was a card reminding me to dress conservatively.  The reason they picked the bathroom was to highlight the fact that there are no outlets in the bathroom and that I have an extension cord running from the bedroom, down the hall, and into the bathroom.   (editorial:  they told me to refer to the bathroom as a man's room because of the lack of outlets.  I think this is to add humor to the portion.  In hindsight, I would have preferred just referring to the area as being designed by a man...lack of storage and outlets.  Again....not my show!)

We then went down to the kitchen where they discussed my lack of cooking but my expertise in ordering in!  I had referred to this in my application when I talked about the food delivery options here and how they will deliver one "happy meal" to your house...on a scooter!  This segment was a bit scripted too, but no editorial from me this time!

Now came the hard part (for me).  They sat Jim and I down in the living room on our kitchen stools.  The producer asked us interview questions, told us to look at the camera while answering, and to answer the question with  the question.   I was SO NERVOUS!   The lights, the microphone, the camera, and the people watching just made the butterflies in my stomach go wild!   I kept saying over and over in my head...."sit up, keep your shoulders back, smile, don't giggle, answer nicely,stay positive, keep smiling".   OMG AND OMG!  AND keep your hands in your lap so that you don't touch the microphone tucked down in your shirt!    I so wish I had a do-over for that part.  I don't think my friends and family will be impressed at all with my interview skills!   I am not sure at all what I did say, but have been dwelling on what I did not say.  OK, I'll get over it!

After our interview, we all headed to Ski Dubai.  They wanted to film the kids skiing.  That was a long 2 1/2 hours of standing in the cold and snow for Jim and I, but it was so fun to watch the kids and watch the people watching our kids!  The camera man went down the slopes backwards filming the kids.  Sarah was skiing and the boys snow boarding.  They missed Sarah a few times because she came down so fast.  By the time we spotted her, her run was done!  The boys were not as quick, so they filmed them plenty.  They also filmed them going up in the ski lift.  The camera man sat on the lift in front of the kids and the hostess.  Then they filmed they tubing.   It was SO fun.

From Ski Dubai we headed to a small local grocery store.  None of the grocery stores here would let them take pictures inside except some little market.  I was the only one interviewed inside and was giving the hostess a tour of the Dubai favorites and odds and ends.  We took several shots in there too, all the time smiling and trying to cover it all.

After the grocery store shoot, the hostess and make-up artist left and the rest of us headed back to the house.  The asked Sarah to change into soccer gear and filmed her doing a brief training session with Jim   You will notice she is wearing her Friendswood Mustangs shirt in this segment!  Kind of a plug for our home town and, hopefully, her try-out for the FHS soccer team all in one shot!

They then told us that our kids are the only teenagers filmed in the entire show. I mean from every city.  They then did an interview with the kids like the one that Jim and I had earlier.  They asked them questions and told them to answer the question with the question.  "What food do you miss the most, Kevin?"  Kevin answers "The food I miss the most from the US is baby back ribs.". clever!  

The filming wrapped up around 6 PM.  It was wild.  It was crazy.  It was so fun!  The show will begin airing in the US in March.  They don't know when the Dubai episode will air, but have told us they'll send us a DVD of the show.

One more editorial:  While the experience was absolutely amazing and I am so glad we did it, there were so many things about living in Dubai that were not covered.   I would have loved to talk about and introduce Maris, our maid.  Tell how much she does, how inexpensive it is for live-in help, and how EVERYONE has a housekeeper.  I would love to talk about driving on Sheik Zayed Road, our 12 lane highway.  How driving here has made me such an aggressive driver.  I would love to talk about what I do at the school .    I am hoping that I was not asked about these things because another family will cover it.  There were 4 families filmed in Dubai. 

We love HGTV.  I now know that they do script many of the comments from people.  I do know they don't always film what you would want, and I do know that they have an amazing group of people working for them.   I can't wait for this to air.  I am so hopeful that everyone will gain a true understanding of life here.  The good, the bad, and the dusty! 

It was such a fun day!  I told the kids it was the best experience EVER!  They asked me if it was "better than the experience of being an expat?"    Another experience I would not change.



  1. WOW! this is so cool Carol, so happy your family will be on TV, i will wait for the Dubai showing at your house. you are right sometimes when watching shows we say, your'e kidding why did they say that, when it's actually all scripted.
    What a fun part of your adventure.

  2. Wow Carol! Your life just gets more and more exciting! We don't have cable so you have to share the DVD with us!

  3. This is SO cool. What a wonderful ambassador you have been and ARE for the joys (and challenges!) of moving your family abroad and doing it with grace, love, patience, and purpose! This show will undoubtedly be a blessing to many!

    The Corner On Character