Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Before Leaving Abu Dhabi

Before we left Abu Dhabi, our eldest child graduated high school.
"What hotel is your graduation in?" a friend asked on the phone a few days before the big event.

"We're at the Intercon, how about yours?" I said.

It's a funny thing here (in Abu Dhabi), but all the high school graduations I know of took place in a swanky hotel. At home in the US, they are almost always held on the school grounds, either in the gymnasium or under a large tent erected for the day. After the ceremony, families go either home or to a restaurant. They have a large, "open house" family party for the new graduate. Even posh boarding schools follow this practice.

Our son's graduation ceremony was followed by a dinner dance at the same hotel. This was lovely, too, but had the feel of a wedding (an American wedding). It was also quite expensive and our younger children were not allowed to attend. (There was an age cut-off.) It was a nice evening, but I still vote for the American-style graduation.

*Our children attended an international school in Abu Dhabi. This post does not reflect local graduation customs.Posted by Picasa

Some Pics From Recent Activities

When our next-door neighbors from Abu Dhabi visited recently, we went kayaking on the Contoocook River in New Hampshire. We were a party of four parents and eight off-spring (ages 18 down to 9 years old). Each of us had his own kayak save for me and my ten-year-old son, who shared a double.

For more than three hours we paddled along nine miles of a slow and winding river. As if to add emphasis to the natural beauty we were experiencing, dragonflies soared and dipped above us on the water, occasionally landing on our kayaks.

There is something very pure about this kind of thing -a physical endeavor shared with such a range of ages. I just loved it. I think all of us did, especially we parents. (Those children of mine who read this blog are now groaning. Wait 'til you're a parent, I say.)

Another day we took a drive to the Nubble Lighthouse (above) in York, Maine. Very beau.

Of course all this touring required lunch beside a scenic spot along the water in Maine.
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Thursday, August 7, 2008


We sleep with the windows open, something we did only in the winter in Abu Dhabi.

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and a summer breeze brushes my face and I am cold. I can hardly believe it. This morning I peeled back our cotton bedspread and added a blanket over the sheet. At the foot of the bed I put a quilt, just in case the blanket doesn't do the trick.

In my effort to "re-bond" with my home, this morning I decided to work in the garden. The air was chilly and damp. We've had many days of clouds and rain. I put on a sweater, an old gray cashmere pullover that was my mother's. It felt nice. I remember now that it took me a while to find the right balance, vis a vis clothing, in Abu Dhabi's heat: to wear clothes that didn't make me even hotter while also being mostly covered.

Next I stepped into a pair of green rubber boots I keep in the garage for gardening. Suddenly I felt like Beatrix Potter's Mr. McGregor, when he finds Peter Rabbit has eaten all his lettuce: my right sock was stuck to the bottom of the boot. A chipmunk - or another animal from the woods - must have found a stray piece of candy, dropped by one of my children, and hid it in my boot for the coming winter.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Flowers in New Hampshire

Since I returned home I've been busy unpacking, painting rooms to suit my new tastes even as I talk to old friends on the phone, and seeing loved ones. I also took weeklong trip to Ireland to visit my grandmother and attend a writing workshop.

Then I had to face the fact that for a while at least, my travelling is over. Naturally I have mixed feelings about this. It doesn't surprise me that I miss Abu Dhabi since there was so much I loved about living there. In another post I'll discuss what I miss about living in the UAE.

For now I offer two pics of flowers growing in my New Hampshire garden. They certainly were a welcome sight upon our arrival home at the end of June.

In the photo of daisies above, in the distance is a large rock on our front lawn. Young children love to climb on it. They usually stand on the flat parts and sort of pose, as if they are royalty.

Above here is one of the hollyhocks blooming near the mudroom door. They grow to about eight feet tall. They're so sturdy they remind me of Jack and the Beanstalk's bean plants that grow into the clouds.

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Mount Kearsarge, New Hampshire

Our neighbors from Abu Dhabi, with their two teenage sons, visited us recently. Being that they're a couple from Scotland and Egypt, and have lived in the Middle East for more than 15 years, we tried to do quintessential New Hampshire activities with them.

The first day of their visit, both our families hiked a mountain a short ride from our home. It was a sparkling day, dry and sunny and not too hot. All we needed were sturdy shoes and a hat or sunglasses. Above is me on the way up the mountain.

Above is some of our party relaxing on the top of the mountain. It was a good five or ten degrees cooler at the peak and the views were magnificent.

In the very far distance you can see the outline of the White Mountains. Below are the evergreen trees you see all over New Hampshire.Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 1, 2008

Understanding Emiratis

It's easy to live in the UAE and co-exist with the country's "locals" but never get to know them. Some ex-pats are fine with that, but I was not. I was more than curious. I felt I wouldn't have really experienced this country if I never engaged with its people. Then I met "Sunshine," a nickname my local friend said to use for her.

I was more than fortunate to have made friends with a local and to meet her friends. For those interested in learning about people of the Emirates, the link below to an essay in The National, the new newspaper from Abu Dhabi, is helpful.

Respect: it’s the key to understanding Emirati identity
comment Bushra al Hahshemi
The National - News
22 Jul 2008

"The late Sir David Roberts, the British ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 1977-81, wrote in a foreword to This Strange Eventful History, the memoirs of another British diplomat, Edward Henderson in 1988: “A diplomat might speak excellent...read more...