Monday, March 31, 2008

Horses Are Beautiful

People look at the cast on my right arm, which I broke while riding, and they ask if I will ride again.

"Of course," I usually say with a smile.

From that point, only people who love riding think I am sane. The truth is, I miss it. But this injury has been more challenging than I anticipated. So I am on the fence as to what I'll do if this cast ever comes off. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I thought I'd post a few pictures of horse shows we attended (as viewers) this year and last year. All photos were taken by M at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Visitors Abound

Last Monday the Atlas in me reared its ugly head. A college friend I'd seen twice in the past 20+ years, his wife whom I didn't know well, and their four children were coming from eastern Europe to spend a week with us.
It must be noted that I live in a large villa that starts getting dirty as soon as the mop is put away. I also have a broken arm and six children. We haven't had a maid since January.
How would I look after 14 people with one good arm, a busy husband, and children of our own who are wonderful but seem to have amnesia when it comes to the virtues of tidiness?
To top it off, M's Very-Important-Boss was flying in from Washington, DC, and would visit us this week, too. The man is practically a legend in M's work sphere. I'd never met him before, so I was doubly intimidated.
That made 15 for dinner. I've taken some cooking classes in Abu Dhabi from a friend who's a retired chef, but I'm far from being talented in the kitchen.
So. I honestly don't know why I worry so much. The week went very well, even the night that M preferred take-out over my planned menu and then the Lebanese Flower had no drivers. (We opted for Chinese delivery, which was awful but noone seemed to mind. In fact, all were delighted I didn't cook - should I take that the wrong way?)
It was almost surreal to walk down a street in Abu Dhabi with one of my closest friends from college. I remember ambling along Washington DC streets with this fellow more than 20 years ago, comiserating about schoolwork and the ups and downs of our social lives, and laughing a lot.

Now my college chum and I have ten children between us. He and his family, Americans living in Moldova, were flexible and helpful. They were interested in getting to know the UAE. Their two-year-old daughter calls her mother "mamushka." (Pardon the spelling.) After a great but lengthy tour of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, their nine-year-old son hugged me at the Marina Mall and said, "Now you've brought me to another great place." Charming. My friend's wife was lovely; we had much in common and talked until after midnight more than once.

Our guests told us about Moldova, and we told them about Abu Dhabi. Yesterday, when I happened to meet a lady from Russia, I could discuss that region with more knowledge than before.

M's boss was as kind and gracious as a person could be. He had no ego, was a world-class listener, even with the children, and showed appreciation for even the smallest things I did for him. I got great satisfaction from overruling him when he attempted to help clear the dinner table.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Weather in Abu Dhabi

Above is a picture of myself and my children, on the street in front of our villa in Abu Dhabi, as we walked to the bus on the kids' first day of school last year. I chose it now because it represents typical weather at this time of year in Abu Dhabi. It's beginning to heat up here, but we know it will get much, much hotter and more humid.

Below is a typical view of the street in front of my New Hampshire home at this same time of year, after a snow storm. New Hampshire has gotten more than 102 inches of snow this year. Friends tell me that spring seems very far away in New Hampshire (below).

Can you see the Adirondack chairs M made? They're painted dark green, but are covered in snow on a wintry day in New Hampshire a few years ago.
When the snowing ends and the sun comes out, the view out the rear windows of my New Hampshire home is magnificent.Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 24, 2008

Winter Back Home

A dear friend called me in Abu Dhabi last night from our home town in New Hampshire. She said the snow has been "unbelievable" this winter, even for New Hampshire. At lunchtime where she was in the northeastern USA, the temperature was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It had been 0 degrees earlier that day.
Above is what a snowy day looks like outside my New Hampshire home.
When the sun shines after it has snowed, the woods behind our home look like a winter wonderland.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dressing Up In Abu Dhabi

My new favorite dress is one my dear Emirati friend (called Sunshine here) picked out for me. Actually Sunshine picked it out for herself, but it "needs a taller person," she said as she handed it to me in a shop in Abu Dhabi the other day.

It is a clingy, short-sleeved, knit dress in pink, black, and white. It has a deep v-neck in front and back, and it goes to the knee. Much sexier than my usual style. I could easily imagine an Emirati lady wearing this dress with her female friends; the women of the Gulf whom I've met are deeply feminine and stylish and love to dress up. But I wasn't sure I had the nerve to wear this kind of dress in my mixed-gender social gatherings.

Now our cultural style differences were confronting me head-on.

"I think it's too small," I said.

"Try it on," she said. Sunshine was covered -as usual when in public - in one of her elegant black abayas and shaylas.

I did. The dress was lovely, but I couldn't see wearing it further than my living room: it hugged my torso like a super-long girdle. The deep v-neck seemed to show more of me than any bathing suit I'd ever owned.

I opened the dressing-room door just a crack to show Sunshine, who was waiting patiently. She looked me over with her lovely dark eyes.

"Beautiful. Buy it," she said.

I bought it, not wanting to hurt Sunshine's feelings. But I'm glad I did: I wore it last night, to a fancy cocktail party on the water at a beautiful Abu Dhabi hotel. It was a perfect evening, weatherwise, and noone seemed scandalized by my attire, be he Emirati or westerner.

In the end, it seemed the perfect dress for a party in a cosmopolitan city.

Perhaps I'm advancing from merely admiring the stylish people around me to gaining the confidence to be stylish myself. The Abu Dhabi adventure continues.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Different Customs at the Clinic

Early this morning I arrived at the hospital for a check-up on my broken arm. That the waiting room was full of (Emirati) men and no women should have made me pause, but this always seemed to be the case when I went there: numerous men in the national (Arab) dress and me.

I tried to be nonchalant and took a seat.

Soon I noticed a man was staring at me. Then I realized he was actually glaring at me. Really glaring. I was dressed modestly and certainly not acting peculiar, so I decided he must have some kind of issue I knew nothing about. I picked up the newspaper, began to read it, and tried to forget he was there.

Then, at the receptionist's window, a light bulb went off in my head. Beyond the reception desk was another waiting room, and it was full of Emirati ladies.

"Am I in the men's waiting room?" I asked.

The administrative staff began giggling. The receptionist nodded and rather timidly answered, "yes."

Why noone bothered to tell me that I was repeatedly invading the men's waiting room, I'll never know. But I'm glad to think I added a little amusement to the staff's day.

Feeling a lot more comfortable upon entering the ladies' waiting room, I still did not blend in: every lady patient at this particular hospital is covered - really covered - in black.

But a nicety occurred that I haven't seen back home in waiting rooms. When a new patient came in the door, she nodded to the rest of us females already present and greeted us by saying, "A salam alaykum," and then all the other ladies would answer "alaykum salam." (Please excuse incorrect spelling.)

In a clinical setting, that small greeting/acknowledgement warmed the atmosphere.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Winter in Full Bloom

Petunias bloom in Abu Dhabi along an elegant side street near the public beach.

A closer look at the same scene.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Abu Dhabi Desert

Typing with my (non-writing) left index finger is beginning to get on my nerves, so I thought I'd just post a couple of photos taken by M instead. Above and below are the desert, of course, out near Al Ain. It's so, so, beautiful.
These were taken around sunset on desert safari. The man pictured above had given many people rides on the camels by dinner time.
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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Flowers To The Rescue

Outside the front of my villa I've planted four window boxes of pink petunias.

To the right of the front door, the flowers (in photo above), are thriving in the perfect weather of late. These beauties are planted in sand, with a light topping of soil.
When you have a broken arm, it is great to have beautiful flowers to cheer you up. They can distract you from the fact that the orthopedic surgeon continues to mention the possibility of surgery, that he off-handedly says your arm will hurt for three more weeks, and that he only smiles when you ask him if the cast might not really have to stay on for eight weeks.
(I planted all these flowers before I broke my arm.)Posted by Picasa