Forever Twenty

Today, I walked hand-in-hand with my husband up a Dubai sand dune… he pulled and I trudged. We areclay and aleta determined to do all that we can as long as we can. While trudging up the dune, I remembered my old friend Natalie who said that she had a 20 year old mind trapped in the body of an 80 year old woman and now I understand what she meant. My spirit is as strong as ever (or so I tell myself). I could still play racquetball and golf (if not for my knee injury from skiing). I could still do Body Pump “dead lifts” (if not for my back). I could still run (except for my foot problem).

My husband says it doesn’t matter as he seems to fit the topic of age into every discussion with anyone who will listen. Unfortunately,boys at ocean city 2004 as he brags about his age and our grandchildren (in picture), it becomes apparent that I am possibly as old as he.

I know it’s unfair to blame him, because my body is the biggest tattle tale. The lines in my face (wisdom). The sag in my chin (gravity). The pace of my walk (slower). But it’s not really about aging per se. There’s nothing wrong with aging if, as Natalie said… one has the mind of a twenty year old. It’s not even about vanity (won’t admit to dying my hair) it’s about loss.

I lament the loss of speed and agility, but I refuse to let go. I watch my students as their fingers fly across the keyboard of their laptop and their mobile phones. I can do all the same things… just slower.  I know that inside there is a 20 year old who is just as smart, strong, intelligent, and determined as ever.

I will continue to do it all (whatever “it” is) as long as this twenty-year old can hang in there.

Signing off from atop a Dubai sand dune. aleta2sand dune 2

The Memory Box

memory boxToday, my husband and I were on a tour with honeymooners and I felt like such a know-it-all. He (didn’t get his name) and Tess were basking in their love for one another. He recounted their fairytale wedding with horse drawn carriage, Excaliber car and all the trimmings. He had just purchased a video of the excursion and pictures taken by the tour guide for his “memory box”. I almost told him that forty years from now (assuming they are still married), he won’t remember where the box is or his kids will find it and throw most of their memories away while carting them off to the nursing home. But, I stopped my curmudgeonly self.

maldivesI looked at his fresh, unlined face and vaguely remembered when my life was ahead of me. I took a step back and let him tell his story. He couldn’t stop talking about Tess and the next stop on their honeymoon at the Maldives. While listening to his story, I was envisioning their future children and home. I saw the ups and downs of their lives and their children’s lives. I was again reminded of my father’s favorite saying “sweet mystery of life”, which I didn’t understand until much later.dad2 - head shot

 My father knew that life is a mystery that slowly unfolds word-by-word and page-by-page until the story is complete. There are fewer pages to be written in my book, but that young couple’s story is fresh, new, exciting and the ink is still wet.

So I genuinely listened to his story with my mind and my heart. I could see their story being written and I was glad to be a part of it… the black couple they met in Dubai.

Til next time.

Expats Create Their Own Fun

mosqueLife in the city means you never have to create your own fun, because there is always something going on. Life in the country means just the opposite. A city person, like me, would never have chosen life in Ras Al Khaimah, which is more country than city. It aspires to greatness with tall buildings and many more under construction. It even has a medium sized mall with another being built, but no matter how you dress it up… its still country. In fact, two blocks off the main drag, you’ll encounter goats crossing the street. I understand that if you hit a goat with your car then you must pay the owner.

expatFirst impression is to freak out because of so much “nothing to do”, but there are many expats here from countries and cities both large and small and they have been here for years, so I figured they had it all figured out, and they do. The “make their own fun”. What a novel idea. So different from checking the paper or web to see “things to do” this weekend. Here, you actually have to decide what you want to do and then create it. For example, there are weekly scrabble parties, golf, walking/running clubs, community theater, theaterand weekly barbeques. In fact, just about anything you want to do is here (except opera, art films, and things like that). If I can find enough interested people, I could start a storytelling group I’m sure this “make your own fun thing” is not new for experienced expats, but since my husband and I are “virgins” at this expat game, everything is challenging, scary, fun, exciting, weird.

Well next week we will begin to explore our new home by vacationing in Dubai for Eid.

Stay tuned.

Haggling: The Game of Gotcha

Friday market 012-2In the United States, prices are clearly stated on a tag so I know right away whether I want to buy or not. I know whether to walk away or not. I know whether I should look at another brand. In the UAE, I not only don’t know the price, but I have no idea what something should cost unless I have seen the same item in the US. Just another one of those things that drives me crazy!

Apparently many cultures love playing the haggling game of “gotcha”.  I don’t like this game, because I have no way of knowing whether I was “got” or not. Yesterday, my husband Clay and I had an opportunity to play the game at the Friday market near Al Manamah. My husband did what husbands do and took charge by haggling/negotiating on the price I wanted to pay for our wall coverings. They finalized on a price that was over the budget I had set in my head (but had neglected to tell my husband).

We then began what can only be described as a vaudeville routine where I was actually haggling with my husband AND the seller as they stood there waiting for me to decide on the price. As the day got hotter (110 degrees) and the sweat began streaming down our faces, I stood fast to my price. Finally, the merchant said okay.

Initially I walked away feeling like we won, but after further thought I could imagine the merchants laughing at the Americans who paid too much. Oh well, by the time we leave the UAE, I will be a pro at this game of gotcha.

Stay tuned.