Friday, February 22, 2008

Third Trip to Emergency Room

Yesterday's riding lesson started out well but ended painfully.

I was excited because recently I've felt really comfortable riding and jumping. This is an activity I'd done a lot in the past but had left behind after college. Lately, my horse and I were like one going around the ring and gliding over the fences. I think I was happiest about the fact that I had no fear, that the whole exercise was a challenge I could meet.

But yesterday morning, about four paces after I cleared a fence, I lost my right stirrup. I couldn't slow my horse because I'd given her too much rein. I tried to hang on but I couldn't. Down I went into soft sand. I felt hurt but I tried to get up and crawl away from my horse in case she might step on me. Then I saw she was standing still, about two feet away. (Oh how I love that horse!)

"Frances, are you okay?" my teacher asked.

"I don't know," I said, feeling I shouldn't make too big a deal out of it.

He helped me stand up and brush off the sand I was covered in from head to toe.

"I think you're okay. Get back on and we go again," he said.

My teacher is a very nice man and an excellent instructor. He is from Morocco and speaks Arabic, French, and English - sometimes all three in a group lesson. I knew he wanted me to put the fall behind me by having a good finish to the class. But my right arm was killing me.

I drove myself to an emergency room and waited in the females' waiting room with about 12 local ladies covered in black. I closed my eyes and tried to keep my tears from spilling down my dusty face. Once again I found the emergency-room care to be excellent, though everything did take a long time. After two rounds of x-rays it was determined that I broke my arm, about two inches above the wrist, in three pieces.

About seven hours later I was ready to go home, my arm in a cast from the middle of my upper arm to the ends of the knuckles on my fingers. M drove me home and has been an angel ever since.

I can't ride or run or write long-hand, or do pretty much anything, for eight weeks.

But as usual, there's a silver lining to my incapacitation.

"I wish I could make you feel better, but I honestly don't know how to comfort the comforter," my 17-year-old said last night.

Everyone has been icredibly kind. My dear neighbors brought me chocolates and offered rides for our kids. My ten-year-old says he'll lead the kitchen clean-up for the next week. My 13-year-old daughter helps me dress and will wash my hair. My rambunctious eight-year-old says he will follow me from room to room, seeing what I need. What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Pendulum Swings Back Towards Center

When we moved to Abu Dhabi, I carried a lot of stuff with me. Yes, we put just about everything we owned in storage or in the dustbin. The stuff I'm referring to, the stuff I brought here, was emotional rather than tangible.

I carried my mother's death, my father's death, and my uncle's death to Abu Dhabi. Of course those events happen to everyone - I only mean to say that they influenced me to be less carefree. I also brought years of putting myself second to my family. I do not regret that - but I knew it had taken its toll on me.

I look back at who I was when I came to Abu Dhabi: I remember myself as a bundle of resignation, guardedness and fatigue. It was M's idea to come here; I merely cooperated. I read everything I could about living in the UAE and about Arab cultural awareness. I was neutral on the plan: life had taught me to expect disappointment, because being surprised by it was very hard to swallow.

As I look ahead to moving back to New Hampshire (United States) this summer, I know I am more whole now. I am stronger and softer at the same time. Abu Dhabi is an expensive place to live but some things here are quite affordable: having a maid, riding lessons, and sunshine. Friendship, too, has been easy.

To be fair, I had begun to emerge from the tidal wave of early motherhood before our 2006 move to Abu Dhabi. In 2004, I'd started a novel, I'd started to exercise, and I'd started doing things with my children rather than only for them.

But it was here in Abu Dhabi that I could catch my breath, rest a bit, and dive in to interests that were purely mine. Riding clears my head. The English-language conversation class is rewarding. Making friends with Muslims and Arabs confirms my hope that we are all the same, worried about our loved ones and the future. Writing I just have to do.

Living here has helped me get back to me, which in turn helped me get back to my family. (If you're still reading, you deserve a medal. I apologize for the record-breaking self-indulgence of this post.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

At the Beach, Abu Dhabi

(Above: my oldest and youngest sons at the beach, Abu Dhabi.)
Friday morning begins our weekend. While sitting in church, unable to understand the priest's accent, my mind drifted. I proceeded to concoct an entirely me-centered afternoon: after Mass I'd workout at the gym and then, I thought, I'd spend the rest of the day at the Arabian Horse Show.

I'd been to the horse show the previous night with a friend and really enjoyed it. (The Arabian Horse Show reminded me of the famous Westminster Dog Show, except the horses didn't look prissy and overly-preened, they were magnificent.) We saw the yearlings and the 13-and-over horses judged on their physical beauty and their gaits. All the yearlings, by the way, were bred in the UAE. Held outdoors at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, the horse show was free and attended by people of all ages, including a lot of locals. Because Abu Dhabi is so safe, it was a carefree atmosphere, wonderful.

So. At the end of a hectic Friday morning, after rushing to get the younger four kids to catechism classes and then all of us to Mass, we returned to our villa. It looked like a bomb hit it from the mad dash we'd made out the door. The disarray didn't bother me, though, since I was going out...

"Are we ever going to go to the beach?" my oldest son said, entering my bedroom as I made my bed. (Thought a little tidying up was the least I could do before making my escape.)

"It's a little cool," I said, trying to hold on to my plans. I turned and looked outside; it was cool, in the mid 60s, but beautiful, very sunny.

No sooner did he leave than my youngest wandered along as I eyed the mountain of laundry in the laundry room.

"I'm bored. There's nothing to do," he said. "Why can't we go to the beach?"

I don't know if he'd overheard his oldest brother, but regardless, the two of them gently asking such a small favor weakened my resolve. Off we went to the beach.

We had a lovely afternoon: it was a special time, I thought, to have my oldest and youngest children together, alone but for me, enjoying something as simple as the sun and sand of the Arabian Gulf.

I actually was cold that day as I've adjusted to the very hot weather here; I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt, a light ski jacket and jeans, but the sun warmed me to the core.

We went to a public beach off Khaleej Al Arabi and Al Saada Streets. A sign there says "No Hanging Around or Using Jet Skis," or words to that affect, but it seems that as long as people are quiet they are allowed to stay. There were small groups of people, some in bathing suits and some fully clothed, sun bathing or picnicing near us.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 3, 2008

In and Around Shaikh Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque

This weekend all of us went to the newly-opened Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This is the front facade. The grounds are still under construction.

I drive by the mosque often. M and I were excited to visit, but the kids, at first, weren't so enthusiastic. As soon as we arrived, however, they changed their minds. Immediately you feel you are in a very special place that the whole world will come to know.

We are non-Muslim westerners, but no one looked askance at us. We took off our shoes when we arrived; my daughter was handed an abaya and a shayla and I (finally) got to wear my abaya and shayla.

A close-up of one of the many beautiful columns.
I believe this is the main prayer hall. The carpet is the largest in the world; it was made in Iran and flown to Abu Dhabi in nine pieces.
Posted by Picasa

In and Around Shaikh Zayed Mosque, Part II

The rear facade of the mosque, from the left side.
The front facade, awaiting finishing of the grounds.

Inside what I believe is the main prayer hall, looking up at the ceiling.Posted by Picasa

In and Around Shaikh Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque, Part III

I liked this sign, which I saw on the way out of the mosque. It reads: "My Lord make this City one of peace and security." Posted by Picasa