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!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Wheels on the Bus

I just returned from a wonderful trip back to Paris and Brussels after a 13 year absence. The stark contrast between where I was then and where I am now for me is something to behold. Here I am way out of my box with all the new experiences of late. Going back was going into my comfort place...old and established. History around me that is somehow a bit romantic in a sense. First, though, I had to get there...
Leaving Abu Dhabi to go anywhere out of the region( for the most part) means leaving late at night. Seems there's no changing time to make life easier and it's really no big deal...we just do is what it is. Matt dropped me off and I checked in with no trouble. I made my way to my gate to wait to be called for the first leg of this trip and had a seat. The place was buzzing with life...happy and as i found out, not so happy. I noticed a young woman crying across from where I was sitting and we locked eyes. It was a sad cry. I can't ignore her and tell her I was sorry patting my heart and offered her some water. She said no and with her eyes said she would be okay. Her family joined her treating her very kindly and then they left. I hope she's okay now. My itinerary had me flying into Doha with a layover of a couple of hours and then on to Paris. All of my flights were full and I made the best of it with my book and some hope that I could/would sleep on the planes. The flight to Doha is literally up and down...Matt told me the airport there was a small one so it would be easy to navigate. He got it half right! I would not call it a small airport, but I didn't have any trouble figuring it out and found myself on a bus being driven out to the plane with a virtual melting pot of cultures heading to places unknown...I loved it. Of course, I started watching and listening to what was going on around me at 1 o'clock in the morning and here are some of my thoughts and observations...
There are people everywhere. In all areas of the airport, in lines and in restaurants that are still open, I am struck at how well behaved the children are so late at night. There are people of all ages sleeping in awkward poses in seats in and around the various gates oblivious to what's going on around them. Announcements are made in lots of  different languages...very proper, clear, and polite. I made it down to where we were to board the bus to be taken out to the plane and wondered where everyone else was going? As we wait for the bus I see a group of men traveling together and wondered if they were going home from their jobs after a long separation from their families. I heard happy in their voices which is where that thought came from. I see a young couple in a corner talking and I couldn't help noticing the way he looked at her...ah...young love. He was gone...hook, line, and sinker. I remember that feeling! It's really dark out, but the darkness is dotted with the lights of the airplanes lined up on the tarmac getting prepared to leave. Some of them have lines of people climbing the metal steps to board. The airplanes themselves remind me of soldiers lined up ready to march away...lights blinking letting us know they are ready to go. I see many different colors of passports in the crowd and think about how busy life can be even in the quiet of the night. Even in this mishmash of languages around me for the moment, off in the distance I hear the familiar sounds of my own and somehow there's some comfort there.
I'm off to Paris to meet my close friend, Peggy and her daughter in law, Jenni. We have been talking about taking a trip like this for years and we are finally making it happen...even in my exitement of what's coming in the next few hours, I can't help but wonder what the bus in Paris has in store for me too?

Monday, March 19, 2012

All Things Familiar

I'm back!!

 I don't know why I stayed away so gets in the way sometimes, doesn't it? A lot has happened since I wrote last...I returned to Abu Dhabi the end of January, February was spent concentrating on getting our apartment to the point of being called home.. as was far. I accompanied Matt to Muscat, Oman for a magical overnight trip in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. We were with our buddies, Mark and Deb who lived there almost 20 years ago. It was so fun to see this special place through their eyes as they were so excited to see their old home, the places where some of their family stories were made, and their own surprises as they found some of their old familiar haunts still around. We found their favorite Mexican restaurant..(I love this stuff). A year ago I would have never guessed that Matt and I would have been in Oman in a very good mexican restaurant with a waiter named Lawrence!

Where would we be if not for those wonderful life exeriences! I do love the surprise of the unexected ones, but those daily experiences that are part of life that go unnoticed until they are no longer there are just as important. There's a sense of familiarity that provides a level of comfort that helps us exist. I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but lately I have been looking for those places here that fit into my needs of familiarity. Recently I had lunch in a restaurant not far from here that I have dubbed my "Spartans". Spartans is our hometown restaurant in Burke where we would go before and after ballgames or concerts, quick lunches, and/or was the fallback in case the kitchen at home was not in use on any particular evening. I have mentioned that Starbucks has invaded this part of the world and I find myself over there quite often when I'm feeling like I need a little bit of home. The people watching there is fabulous and I am beginning to recognize familiar faces and scenarios. When I was there the other day, I was watching a group of young arab moms and wondered what they were talking about. They were obviously having a good time and watching their watches as I imagined they probably had kids to pick up from some practice session of some or soccer? There were others like me, alone, reading the paper or on the phone enjoying their quiet. There was a group of men to my left having a business meeting...only in Italian and enjoying their coffee very much.  I noticed the Nine West shoe store was on my left and Guess Jeans was on my right. Ahead was Tiffany's and The Body Shop was there as well. The other day Matt and I were walking around and saw a family of 5 coming  our way. Dad, mom, and three boys...sound familiar? All the boys had a yellow shirt on and both parents were doing their best to keep up. We loved that one!

It's a good feeling for me to be able to recognize now the new familiarities in my life that makes life here more and more comfortable. I find now that the air is empty if I don't hear the call to prayer. If I don't see our young gentlemen who work the concierge desk, I miss the greeting that starts the day and if I walk passed them without acknowledging them, I hear about it. I can't tell you how comforting it is to look out my windows and down on the streets and finally know in any given direction what road I am looking at and where it goes! It feels good to be back here writing my thoughts down to share and hopefully give you a creative description of what everyday life is like in another part of our world that's not so different from ours. It's all finally familiar again and I finally feel like I am at home!