Monday, April 1, 2013

The Land of Now and Way Back When...

Make My Day!!! Dirty Harry you might ask??? No...the six year old selling postcards on the trail down to see the Treasury in Petra at 8 o'clock in the morning. So unexpected, but frankly, our entire trip was full of those fun little surprising moments. Once again in late February this year, we found ourselves with our fellow travelers, Bill and Sarah, on 'our next great adventure' into history and in the country of Jordan.
Piling into our van with our guide named Eid, we headed out of the city of Amman to begin our newest discoveries. Eid quickly became a friend as we could not get enough history and information out of him the entire trip. He was born in a bedouin tent outside of Amman, now married with three children, and had a laugh that was, in a word, infectious. Everywhere we went he was shaking hands with a friend and introducing us to worlds other than our own. We ventured into Karak, Petra, Amman, and Jarash welcoming the awe of going back into time and melding it with present day. Words like 4th century, 6th century, ancient, rocks of the ages, during biblical times, AD and/or BC were part of our daily conversation.
Driving all over the country, I noticed spring waking up and green starting to appear in the desert as areas of grass dotted the sandy and also very rocky desert hills. Modern day villas were sporadically sprinkled around the area and blended into the hills and herds of goats and sheep wandered about together patiently watched over by their owners...sometimes very young boys and sometimes very old men. We were curious about goats and sheep existing so well together and Eid explained that sheep are slow and the goats keep them moving...Oh.
Indiana Jones reintroduced us all to The Treasury (really a very large tomb) and we were excited to get down there to see it. Making that walk, time fell away again and it was easy to peek into the past as life continues on there as we might have imagined it back then. Donkeys and camels are still their modern day taxi cabs inside these mountain areas of life. Young children are working along side their mothers selling jewelry and handmade dolls to name a few, running errands, delivering quite a different life than what we know. The caves in these mountains that used to thrive with life are empty now, but their silence is loud with how they were lived in by families that only left them just over 30 years ago. I walked into one on the top of a hill and a visiting french choir was in it singing the most beautiful rendition of Frere Jacques I have ever heard. It was hard to leave. We walked into a recently excavated church where an even more recently excavated room full of scrolls had been discovered. The man who discovered this room was there and we had the honor of time with him as he described to us what it was like to find these pieces of history neatly placed in a trunk waiting to be discovered, letting us know what life was like back then. Walking between the walls of the mountains that encompass this area (from time to time) I would reach over and run my hand up and down the rock imagining the eras that those walls had witnessed. We laughed as we watched a couple of runaway camels bolt down the Siq (pathway to the Treasury) followed  by their 11 or 12 year old "supervisor" on the back of a donkey running at full speed behind the camels (waving his stick and yelling as if he could be heard) to catch up and the icing on the cake was the trip over to the Jordan River...walking that pathway to the water and letting my imagination go crazy with the history there...I can't even describe it... 
Here Roman ruins and telephone lines exist together...I's weird to use those words in the same sentence, but it's true. Cars and camels, grass growing in sand, bedouin tents and pick-up trucks, music in the rocks, and mountains that will forever remain quiet and strong...history-laden and thought provoking for years to come.
Bill and Sarah...Where are we going next?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Magic of Tea

It’s Saturday here in Abu Dhabi and I just woke up from a wonderful nap…a rare occasion, I might say. This passed week has been an emotional roller coaster as we are starting to say goodbye to good friends who are making that trek back home to resume their lives in the real world…(those of us here will understand that particular sentence all too well!) I can’t believe that so much time has passed and that we are at that stage of our adventure here. There have been many dinners, lunches, and morning cafĂ© conversations about this lately and for many of us, it’s a first time experience…saying goodbye is not fun!! No doubt about it, it’s not easy…nor is it any easier to do it for those of us who have done it too many times already. Knowing the literal and physical being with each other changes, places in the heart for these dear friends do not change and the good memories of what was here will now come into play for the most part over an email or a phone call and a very nice cup of tea. I know this may sound a bit too simplistic at this particular moment, but when I think of those people who through the years became my good friends…my best memories are surrounded by my time with them and a warm cup of tea.
Some of my fondest memories of my time with Carolyn and Sarah were on the road to Newark England on our way to the antique market. Those trips would not have been  complete if we had not included the cozy and small out of the way places we found on the search for a good cup of tea and scones. Weddings, baby showers, and rehearsal dinners have all been planned around Peggy’s kitchen table with our tea in hand and more recently Terry telling me I needed to meet my Nancy who has become my “partner in crime” happened over a lovely cup of tea. I have relived my story with my boys watching my friend Naz and her two young men over a cup of tea sitting on the floor with them rediscovering Big Bird and missing my guys at the ripe old age of four and two. And rarely does a conversation happen with my sister that a cup does not accompany our times together in person or on the phone. I go way back and think of Diana and Karen and getting to know them in our initial years in the Navy, wondering if I could do this as they was my example and years later offering tea to those young wives coming in who didn’t know what to expect… Yesterday several of us gathered to bid our friend, Terry goodbye. The event started with tea and conversation and ended with...tea and conversation.
 Tea and friendship...words that belong together. When tea is offered, no words have to be shared. It’s simply understood, don’t you think?

Monday, February 4, 2013


The literal definition of the word 'therapy' means 'curing' or 'healing' and is the attempted remediation of a health problem. In the medical field, it is synonymous with the word 'treatment'. Among psychologists, the term may refer specifically to psychotherapy or 'talk therapy'. Thank you Wikipedia for that...please take note that I used W because it was the first to pop up when I was curious to see what definition I would get in print and I liked what it said because it allows me to compare it to what MY definition of therapy overnight trip with my girlfriends starting with being sequestered in my car for 3 hours there and back with non got it...psychotherapy! There it is...the official definition of the ability to talk about nothing!!! How many times have the men in your life asked you...what DO you talk about!!! And the answer is (typically)...nothing...accompanied with a smile. Do we tell them that the word 'nothing' is code for everything...or do we just keep that to ourselves???

My friend Liz is moving back to the UK and my tennis buddies and I wanted to do a girl's weekend before she left. So off we went the other driving, Nancy navigating, and Liz and Talitha passing out the food! For me the stars had aligned and I was in my element. It had been way too long since my last trip with my girlfriends and I missed it! We headed out to the coast to an island called Sir Bani Yas. There were only 2 stops made...Our Starbucks companion lasted only  for so long! There was a ferry ride and arrival at our final destination. We had high hopes of a grand tennis game and time around the pool, but that was not to got in the way believe it or not, and we found ourselves with a guide out to their animal reserve looking at red deer and searching for giraffes. They have discovered an old monastery out there (built in 600AD) which we found very interesting and enjoyed being outdoors as a whole even though it was quite chilly and we actually experienced some liquid from the sky called rain. Questions were flying and our south African guide, Ted was happy to oblige. Returning to the resort, we headed for the spa for a quick steam and settled in. Now what??? Oh is where I discovered that women and pj's are truly universal. We ordered in, shared wonderful glasses of prosecco, and continued our non stop talking about everything...and our pajamas(said with a smile). The more we talked, the more we laughed. Watching these new and everlasting friends of mine, I important it is to our true wellbeing to laugh, cry, confess, and contribute with others especially with our girlfriends. We discovered things about each other that I found quite normal...three of us have always wanted to look like our beautiful, blond, tall, and gorgeous Talitha! One of us would like to experience larger endowment of her upper's that for tact??? One of us was panicked as the rugby score was not what it was supposed to be and one of us wished she had hair that would behave!

The art of laughing is so enlightening and in this setting, it was there and I realized how much I am going to miss us as we move on. Saying good by is hard. I wonder, though, can we just redefine it and say so long...till we meet again? Abu Dhabi and tennis brought this unique group of women together for a reason, I think. The physical being with each other changes, but feelings of the heart and friendship do not. There's a trip to reunite in the works and that helps letting go a little bit...something to look forward to! But lives will go on...I can tell you I will pay more attention to rugby now, will laugh with myself when I think of this wonderful experience with these wonderful women from different parts of the world remembering how we talked non-stop about...well....nothing (she said with a smile).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Color Redefined

I woke up to a strange phenomena the other morning. Looking outside our bedroom window I noticed there was no color in the sky and was quite surprised to see...clouds! The norm is to greet the morning with bright and clear blue skies off the 52nd floor. The temporary change of weather was surprising and was certainly a topic of discussion around here. That got me thinking about how we define our days by color.

The Arabian Gulf below us daily is a deep, rich profound sometimes that it creates the perfect background scenery for all the colors of the boats, beaches, and buildings that line up along the shore. The winter months are arriving and we can tell because as we speak, millions of pink, purple, and yellow petunias are being planted all along our streets. Before I would have never defined winter by the numbers of flowers blooming around me. My friend Deb and I were driving back from Dubai the other day and we both agreed that we had never witnessed a sunset more beautiful than this brilliantly large, and so blindingly yellow! It made the desert shine. The colors of the sky at sunset draped the sand and we had not seen brown become so vibrant as it was at that moment.

 Abu Dhabi will be celebrating their national day on December 2nd (as Disney would say) their own Wonderful World of Color. We see red, green, white, and black everywhere now. Nighttime brings many, many colored lights along the streets, lining business buildings, and homes along with flags flying large and small. We see an energy of pride and exitement seen in the lives of the emirates as they anticipate their day of celebration...these colors meaning everything to them for the passed 41 years. Color's as simple as that. Happy National Day!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Around The Table

Last Thursday was a banner day. It was the end result of many hours organizing a fun and first time event for a women's group many of us belong to here in Abu Dhabi. Those of us who worked it were quite proud of our accomplishment and once it was done, it was time for lunch!

Most events here revolve around food and aftewards a few of us found ourselves in the hotel restaurant sitting down to relax a little bit. I came in after the others were seated and already eating. I grabbed a plate, filled it up, and had a seat. I was so happy with the result of the day. I found myself sitting among friends and really enjoying myself. There were several conversations going on at the same time. It was normal fun the event was, our schedules for the weekend, husbands, kids, work schedules, travel plans, first thought a pretty normal scenario. But as I was quietly watching and listening, I realized I could have been in my favorite place back in Georgia or Virginia. But here were women (who just over a year ago didn't know each other) from Canada, Hong Kong, Lebanon, England, and the US (to name a few) sitting around the table proving once again despite the differences in our cultures, women will always have everyday life in common. Despite the harshness of the world around us, we will always wonder what to wear, what to feed our families, and how we will orchestrate the way for the ones we love...I like to think of it as cultural DNA!

Amazing things happen when we sit around a table. Once again Thanksgiving has reached out and has us all thinking about our families, friends, and loved ones. I am thankful for the opportunity to know my friends from far away places. You enrich my life. For all of us, our tables bring us together especially on this day. This year we will be looking out at our city of lights and many languages seated around a table with good friends once again from many different places in our world.

 From our family to yours no matter where you live...Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Time to Celebrate...

In a little more than a week, Ramadan begins. I've been watching the city get ready as the tents go up and ads in the paper appear getting everyone excited with impending Ramadan sales...sound familiar? Well, maybe not the tent part...sitting on the outside looking in, not eating all day does not sound like that would be an easy thing to do. So, my curiosity getting the best of me, I started asking questions. How can you do that? What about the kids and elderly people? Clearly my muslim friends have heard all this before and I hear excitement in their voices as it is explained to me. It is a religious experience spent with family and friends, enjoying meals together after sunset, praying together, and sharing spiritual reflection for one month. I hear pride in their voices too when I'm told it's their greatest religious observance practiced since their beginning. Ahhhhh...tradition. I am reminded of how we are bound by the traditions and customs of religion and history. History? Abu Dhabi celebrated it's 40th birthday last fall. I live in a country whose constitution is only 40 years old...amazing! I think about the newness of that melded with the Arab traditions of hundreds of years. From my apartment windows I watch building after building going up so quickly each one more sleek and modern than the last one. Being a country that works so hard at being innovative and competitive in this world of commerce and modern technology, old traditions still reign and the proof of that begins next Friday.

I will be in my home in Virginia when Ramadan begins and I will think about my friends who will be observing. I will wish them well and be excited for them in this all important and religious time in their world. I will think of the families together, businesses slowing down, the daily call to prayer, and the meaning of what Ramadan is to all of them. I'm sorry I'm going to miss it...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's Susan's Fault!

I now have the attention of my mother and she is going to wonder what am I blaming Susan for halfway around the to relieve her worries, the explanation is this...more than a few years ago my sister told me about a cute conversation she had with our niece about listening in on phone conversations...she was maybe 8 or 9 at the time and felt very strongly the only way to find anything out was to help herself to her mother's or her grandmother's phone calls when she could get away with it. It was a very serious conversation on her part and I'm sure at one time or another we've all been there...sorry mom! Listening in on other conversations on the surface can be and is considered quite rude...however, stay with me here...I have to admit that if I had not overheard certain conversations throughout the years and acted on them, I wouldn't be writing about the small world experiences that I've had today. Susan will be happy to hear that in a way I have taken her advice and thanks to her, appropriately, I am not shy anymore about tuning in or asking people too many questions because I believe we all are looking for the same thing...something in common and a friendly face in a place that's not so familiar...yet. The latest one happened not long ago in our sports complex where Matt and I go to torture ourselves in the gym on the weekends. I was with my friend and tennis mentor, Laurie that day and we sat down next to a very nice lady who was by herself at the time. We invited her to sit with us and we started talking. We found out that she is from Capetown, South Africa, but has lived in Abu Dhabi for the last 9 years and has family in the states...San Diego, Cumming, and Alpharetta Georgia!!! Here's the deal...Laurie lives in San Diego and I grew up in this area of Georgia and better yet...she knew where Hickory Flat is!!!! I have to ask the "nosy" questions!!! This happens to me all the time...I'll never forget the time we took the boys to was for Eric's 16th birthday in 1996 and we had just moved to Brussels. We didn't know anyone yet, so we drove over and spent a couple of days. He wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe so we did. It was a beautiful day and we were seated outside...over to one side was a group of men and women with southern US accents and of course, we got a kick out of that. We asked one of the ladies to take a picture of the 5 of us and started in with the "nosy" questions. They were a team in town from Lockheed in Marietta, Georgia attending the air show and she had known and had worked with Matt's dad ( who passed away in 1982). We had a wonderful conversation and Matt heard some fun things about his dad...was quite a gift for him that day. In 1999, Eric ran into an old high school friend from Virginia in a  gondola on a ski trip in Austria. You never know where the statement "don't I know you from somewhere" is going to lead you! I have a new friend here named Maggie who is from Chicago and through another conversation (with our friend Deb), I found out that her son went to school  in New York with Caitlin, our future daughter in law. There are others, too many to mention and just as fun. My sister in law, Jennifer accuses me (with a smile) of talking to to anyone, anywhere...must be a family thing as I say the same thing about her husband, my brother, Tim. I look at it this way, I have had some pretty interesting conversatons just because I said hi to a stranger. I have spent many hours passing time talking with folks I'll never see again, but sitting in a hospital waiting room or an airport for hours can be quite lonely and getting to know someone just for a moment can be a wonderful thing. So, thanks Susan!!! I love those "nosy" questions!