Becoming My Mother

20th anniversary at hilton resort and spa in rak 005Wonder how many years it takes to become one with a partner. Certainly more than five. Maybe more than 10. But, somewhere along the line after all the hurts, joys, tears, breakups, sorrows, and laughter, something begins to happen. Like most children, I had a ringside seat at the table of my parent’s marriage. As a child, I remember the major swings in their relationship, but as an adult, I began to appreciate and long for what they had.

Towards the end of their marriage, they became dependent on one another, but in a good way.  Mom’s eyesight was failing… so he was her eyes. Dad’s memory was failing…. so she remembered for him. Where one went … so did the other.  I never thought I’d say this, but Clay and I would be so lucky to have a relationship like theirs.

20th Anniversary at Hilton RAKOur recent 20th anniversary gave me pause, but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe because I don’t think about being married… I just am. Maybe because I see a glimmer of what my parents had in our relationship.  The 20th certainly seemed to have more significance than all the others. Of course, when measured against those who have been married 30 and 40 years, our little 20 is a drop in the bucket, but it’s our bucket, and we’ve been busy stuffing that bucket with all kinds of memories… birth of grandchildren, death of parents, cruises, moves, summer backyard pool parties, and lots and lots of fun stuff.

Many of those memories are saved in our electronic photo album that I searched for photos to frame as a gift for my husband. That search became quite a foray down memory lane. Pictures allow us a chance to re-experience a moment in time. To savor the joy of a grandchild’s smile while floating in the pool. Carl and Diamond in PoolTo relive a time when we danced on an anniversary cruise.

Having a compatible partner is a gift. I never want to take him for granted. I frequently tell him how important he is to me. He is my partner, my lover, and my friend. Maybe that’s why this 20 year milestone is so important. It doesn’t seem possible, but I love him more and more each day.

Happily on my way to becoming my mother 😉

Sweet Mystery of Life

mysteryIf you’ve been following my journey, then you know that I recalled my father’s saying “sweet mystery of life”, and that has never been truer than now. Before my husband and I uprooted ourselves by moving to the UAE, life was pretty predictable. Breakfast at the same time and place. Regular movie nights at the usual theaters, and occasional outings with the usual friends. Not much mystery.

Here in the Land of Oz ((fantasy region), everything is a mystery or has to be figured out or remembered. Lighting our gas oven rekindled memories of my grandmother lighting her gas oven with a wooden match followed by a loud WHOOSH that sounded like an explosion. clothesline 2Had to buy a portable clothes line dryer, and again, I was transported back to the time when everyone had a clothesline in their backyard. It’s hard to believe, but hanging clothes outdoors on a warm, breezy day was great “alone time” spent daydreaming, and the smell of clothes fresh off the line was akin to memories of fresh baked bread.

It’s a mystery why many things are done using old methods that have been solved decades ago by other countries. In fact, life in RAK is such a mix of 3rd world and 21st century that it sets one’s mind spinning with the incongruities. Beautiful walled villas, surrounded by bleak sandscapes with goats running free. RAK villa and sandA beautifully designed mile-long, waterfront park with carriages and brand new tourist buses like you would see in any USA downtown. Portions of town that could have been models for Disney’s World Showcase at Epcot center… except for the dust. One area of town clearly caters to the Indian expats with a square block of beautiful Indian fabrics for sari’s hanging along the storefronts. The second biggest incongruity is the education of young women for a workplace that offers few opportunities for those wanting to work. The primo example of an incongruity is a government that attaches “… great significance to education and learning…”, but disincentivizes nationals from working by providing stipends, free housing, free education, and free utilities to it citizens.

Life is a mystery that is full of incongruities…

What’s the Difference

monica and greg dinner partyAt a dinner party last evening, I was lamenting the fate of the Indian and Filipino laborers in the UAE. They make very little money (equivalent of $250 US/month), and work long hours (10 hr days, 6 days a week). The Filipinos manage to do it with a smile and a “yes mum”. Indian construction workers work without expression. Their counterparts in the kitchens and gardens will speak when spoken to. It harkens back to slavery. The Nationals pass by them as if they do not exist.

slaveryFor a moment, I know what it might have felt like for an anti-slavery person during the days of slavery in the North American south. Because the laborers are so oppressed, I go out of my way to speak and learn their names. On the other hand, I too benefit from their cheap labor. They clean our house, wash our cars, do our laundry, and sundry other tasks that we do not want to perform. Most of them are working here to send money to their families at home. A taxi driver explained that if he does not send money home to Indian then his wife and children will have no money. He has been here ten years and only gets to go home once a year. He is missing his children’s childhood.

Every part of my being understands that these workers are just like me. They have spouses, children, or grandchildren. They feel the same emotions as I do. I want to free the slaves, but feel powerless. Then the dinner conversation took a turn. A guest informed me that we are the same as the laborers. What? No way! I have a doctorate!indian laborer 2

The truth of the matter is that the only difference is that we are better paid. The Emirates import all of their manual and intellectual labor. They work us hard (20 teaching hours is unheard of in the US) and, like the laborers, we go about our daily work in quiet fear of crossing an invisible cultural line with our students.

A laborer by any other name …..

Critters Are Smarter than Humans

bird on balconyCritters are so much smarter than humans Sitting on my living room couch in Ras Al Khaimah… look out the door to the balcony and notice a bird sitting on the rail. It was then I became aware of how long it had been since I heard song birds out my bedroom window in Virginia. Hard to believe that only 6 weeks ago I sat overlooking a backyard teeming with life. The squirrels jumped from trbirds in treesee to tree, chipmunks chased one another across the yard, neighborhood cats took their daily walk through the backyard and birds fought over food at the feeder. Today, walking across campus, in this foreign land of infinite sand, I heard a cacophony of birds singing in the trees. In Virginia, this was an everyday occurrence. Here, in RAK, it was a moment of reflection on what I had stopped noticing and what I took for granted. But, more importantly, it was a sign that summer is turning to winter (110 degrees Farenheit down to 85). Critters have always been smarter than man. They know when to seek shelter. If left to their own devices, they eat when hungry, and leave when the weather is too hot or cold.

Man has evolved too far. We seem to favor intellect over instinct and intuition. Now beginning to see other critters return or awaken from their summer hiatus.

Critters are so much smarter than man.