Traditionally, a vacation for me has been one where I can lay on the beach or on the deck and read and nap. As my career shifted from non-stop madness into semi-retirement, my vacation needs changed and my husband and I began to seek out more active vacations, and now we’ve finally found what I call the “continuous vacation”.
A vacation is a time to leave behind the familiar and explore the unfamiliar. Moving from the US to the UAE is a daily experience of exploring the unfamiliar. In other words, a daily vacation. Every day begins with a drive over semi-familiar roads but never knowing which way the traffic will actually flow. Because here in Ras Al Khaimah, the driving patterns are based more on where a driver wants to go than on where the driver should go. Most roads do not have curbs. Therefore, drivers are not constrained and can and do frequently drive off the road to get around traffic.
Along the road to work, one never knows whether goats will walk out on the road or continue to ogle from the side. Thereby, prompting drivers to politely honk to help them make up their minds. Then there are days when camels, cows, and/or sheep appear. In other words, quite a cornucopia of possibilities.
After 10 months here, I am still struck quiet when approaching the Persian gulf. I just can’t believe I am 15 minutes to the water. It’s always been a lifelong dream to actually live on the water, so this is pretty close to fulfilling that dream.
Every day is a vacation. Don’t know if I can ever go home.
Just finished reading a news article by Cheryl Rao with the same title. Essentially, she was having a debate with herself that all parents have at some point… how did we do as parents. If our parenting was judged by our children’s success, what grade would we receive. Like most things in life, we are our own best or worst critics. The parents of the axe-murderer or Bernie Madoff didn’t deliberately raise their children to go in those directions.
The problem is that if we say we are not responsible for the bad behavior of our children, because they had other influencers in their lives. Then we can’t take total responsibility for the good behavior of our children. This leaves us in a quandary. The other debate concerns the measure of success. Some parents will say “at least he didn’t end up in jail”. Some will say “at least she didn’t get pregnant”. While others are never satisfied, no matter what their children do… It is never enough.
At the end of the day, if we believe we did the best we could then we should give ourselves a break and enjoy our grandchildren. Because they are our second chance.
Ten months ago, when I arrived in the country, my husband and I were hectically running around trying to outfit our new home and generally getting accustomed to a new environ. Now, while preparing to depart, I find myself unwinding everything we put together.
The physical part is insignificant. Have already sold our stuff and am in the process of doing the usual mundane things like shutting off electric, phones, etc. The harder part is leaving newfound friends. In 10 months, we have made as many friends as we have made in our lifetimes, and we have a treasure-trove of friends back home in the States. So, you might ask how did this happen. Normally it takes a lot of time and effort to establish new friendships, and the older we get, the harder it is.
We don’t have small children which are frequently the catalyst for new relationships, and my husband isn’t into sports that might allow him to bond with the guys. The common bond here is being strangers in a foreign land.
Just this evening, one of my new friends was telling a story of a Chinese restaurant owner in the UAE pointing around his restaurant and saying “we Chinese…. they foreigners”. One of the “foreigners” then pointed out to him that anyone here who is not an Emirattee(someone native to the UAE) is a foreigner. It doesn’t matter where anyone is from. What matters is that non-Emirattees are all from somewhere else, so that is what brings us together. We work together. We eat at the same restaurants, and we shop at the same stores. No one has family or friends here, so we become one another’s friends and family.
Sometimes a small community can be a little too close with everyone knowing everyone’s business, but that can also be an upside. It’s nice to know that in case of good times (birthdays) and bad times (illness), there’s always someone there to celebrate with you or to hold your hand.
Selling the stuff is easy. Saying goodbye to friends is really hard.
Here I find myself nearing another decision crossroad… to stay or to come back. I’ve tendered my notice, but am considering other work options that could bring me back to the UAE. After being away from home for 10 months, I feel a desperate need to go back and touch bases with friends, family, and favorite foods while wanting to continue this amazing adventure where something new is added to life’s buffet every day.
Going for two interviews and my husband has cautioned me against a Freudian attempt to torpedo myself. He suspects that my desire for home may be so strong that I will subconsciously fail the interviews. I know from my husband and others that home is a myth and a comfort rut. I understand that everything at home is the same. I know that friends and family are doing the same things and saying the same things. I know that time has continued at the same pace for them while I was transported to another dimension where one earth-minute is equal to 10-xpat minutes. While the arms of my clock have been whirling by, theirs has been pretty steady and methodically plodding on. But, slow and steady can feel good. It’s comfortable.
Comfort can be like a siren song. Like being held in a mother’s arms and not wanting to leave. It’s scary out there so why not remain comfortable in our cocoons. The answer is that we miss so much in our cocoons. We are born onto a planet with so much to see, do, and experience. So, it seems a terribly wasted opportunity to remain in one place all our lives.
I will not torpedo myself. I will march forward and do my best so I can make the choice instead of them.
I’m old enough to remember when men tipped their hats as a lady walked by, offered their seats on a crowded bus, and did not curse in their presence. I’m also old enough to remember when things changed. The “new” woman didn’t want a man to hold a door open for her or remove his hat in her presence, because she was man’s equal.
Here in the UAE, time has stood still. In fact, it’s an extreme version of a woman’s role in the 1950’s USA. Everywhere I go, I am escorted or directed to the front of the line. I am not allowed to stand and wait for anything. One day I was waiting for a student in the lobby of a government office. After about 10 minutes, one of the male receptionists came over and asked if he could help me. He was very apologetic and a little upset with me that I had not come to him sooner so he could help me find my student.
The reverse side of this is the woman’s expectations. On another student visit, we were told that we could use a conference room for our meeting. When we entered the room, we saw that the table had been pushed up against the wall. Being an American “can do it all” woman, I immediately recruited the students (all women) to help me pull the table out so we could sit. They reluctantly helped, but we found that we couldn’t move it because one leg was crooked.
They then proceeded to call upon the men to move the table for them, which is what they would have done in the first place. It is interesting observing what they expect of men. While on a trip with about 20 female students, we walked through a doorway and a gentleman held the door for the first student. Their expectation was that he would stand there holding the door while all 20 students walked through… and he did.
I could get used to this treatment.
His leaving forced me to face my feelings. I had gotten used to his presence. He was my friend, my confidant, and my playmate. He was the one who knew all my secrets, my weaknesses, my insecurities. I knew not to take him for granted, but I did. Why shouldn’t I take his presence for granted. Why shouldn’t I take his love for granted. Why shouldn’t I take for granted the fact that he would always be there for me. But now… he’s not.
I awaken in the morning… open my eyes, and his side of the bed is empty. I sit down for breakfast and his seat is empty. When coming home after work, I want to vent the days frustrations, but he’s not there to listen. I walk without him. I shop without him. Now I do everything without him and it feels so empty.
As the time for his departure approached, I would well up with tears, and I said to myself … what is wrong with you! It’s not the end of the world. You’ve lived alone before. In fact, you lived alone for 20 years before you married. You know how to take care of yourself! Get a grip! Then I became even more weepy. When friends asked when he was leaving, my eyes filled. I was so out of control.
Proclaiming one’s love makes one vulnerable, and that’s the last thing I want to be so some part of me holds on to the belief that I can have it both ways. I can “kinda” love him. I know I love him, but I don’t want him to know how much, because then he can take advantage. I don’t want to love him too much because then I can be hurt if we break up. Stop…. Enough already!
I’m in love with my husband. Now…. I’ve said it. I knew it but I didn’t proclaim it. I felt it and frequently said it to him. In the normal course of things, there is an assumption that we love our spouses or significant others, but we don’t dwell on it and don’t really think about it until something changes. Until we are forced to feel our feelings.
In 36 days, we’ll be reunited when I return home from the UAE.