Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ma as-salaamah Abu Dhabi

I'm home now in the US - not at Port Zayed, overlooking the skyline of Abu Dhabi (as above).

So this is my last post. Ma as-salaamah everyone.

A friend asked me recently how it felt to be home. She'd heard that returning to one's own culture could be harder, even, than moving to a new culture. Without thinking I said I felt numb.

And that's about where I am. I feel apart from my day-to-day activities, as if I'm doing things but not experiencing them. When people ask if I'm happy to be home, I always say yes. I think I am, but I'm not entirely sure.
My time in Abu Dhabi softened me, allowed me to shed some earlier sadnesses. When I moved to Abu Dhabi I brought the one lesson I'd taken from losing loved ones - that life is short - and imbedded it in my mind and heart. I used it as a motivator to overcome my natural shyness and get as much out of my time in the UAE as possible.

But as I told this friend that I felt numb lately, I realized that I remain someone who shuts off sadness, who won't look at it or deal with it. But I do store it, way down in my heart. Whether I'll ever open it up and breath it in I don't know.

At the same time, I also feel great joy about my two years in Abu Dhabi. I had times there that made me incredibly happy, that reassured me about the world, about people, about the future. I found over and over again that regardless of our origins, people are much the same: we worry about our loved ones, about our health, about the future of our planet. We want peace, at least the vast majority of us do. And we want to feel connected.

What I take away most from Abu Dhabi are the friendships. Not only did I make great friends in Abu Dhabi, but M and our children did too.

I will also never forget the beauty of the place. The emirate of Abu Dhabi is magnificent. I never grew tired of the flowers along the wide boulevards, nor the palm trees along the Gulf. But the desert is what I'm really talking about here. The desert is ostensibly a brutal domain, with a harsh, unrelenting sun pouring down on a vast barrenness. And certainly this can be accurate. But the desert is also a place where one can feel incredibly free and peaceful. The seemingly endless rolling hills of sand, the dunes constantly being re-shaped by the wind, the powder-blue sky above the golden-tan landscape, and the surprising presence of animals, occasional flora and fauna, all made a deep impression on me. I felt both more serene and alive in the desert.

I didn't write much this summer, since returning home. Every time I started I felt my words were inadequate. But I set a deadline to end this blog.
So here it is, I say good-bye.

Thank you to anyone who bothered to linger on this blog. I wrote it for you. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for letting me share my affection for Abu Dhabi and the UAE with you. And thank you to everyone who wrote to me on the blog and on my email. I felt understood and heard when you wrote in. Once again, it was the gift of the human connection I so enjoy.

Will I ever return to Abu Dhabi? I don't know. I've just begun a master's degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. In addition, I am endeavoring to learn as much as I can about the Islamic/Arab/Asian world. For example, yesterday I took part in a two-day workshop on Afghanistan in Boston.

My imagination and my intellect were sparked by my time in Abu Dhabi. But most of all, Abu Dhabi, my temporary home, touched my heart.

P.S. My e-mail address is if anyone wants to get in touch. Now it's really ma as-salaamah, wallah!

Posted by Picasa


nzm said...

Frances: Many thanks for the insight and recounts of your life in AUD. I've been a non-commenting reader for quite some time.

As one who has also left the U.A.E. I can understand your feelings.

It's great that you also continue to learn about the Middle East.

I think that this is the greatest gift that living in the U.A.E. has given to us - the opportunity to live in an environment that offers new experiences, broader understanding and wider eyes.

In return, my gift to the U.A.E. and the Middle East is to teach, inform and educate others, who have not had the chance to live in the area as we have, about the region and all the wonderful things about it.

All the very best to you and your family as you settle back in the U.S.A.

Michele (nzm)

Seabee said...

Sorry that you're going Frances, I've enjoyed your postings.

It is hard to settle back 'home' after living in the UAE. In fact many expats don't go back home but move on to another country, as we did. And, again as we did, many are drawn back to the UAE. I don't think it ever leaves you.

Anonymous said...

Frances, such a beautifully written post, I truely enjoyed it.
I enjoyed reading your blog and found it refreshing to read that there are some who visit the UAE and are able to see the good thins about the country while living in it and after leaving it.

I really wanted to meet you before you left to Abu Dhabi, I emailed you and never got the chance to make the trip.

Maybe in your next visit.

Take care and let us know if you will start a new blog about your new adventures while in your country.


Eppler Family said...

What can I say?

It's not only that you miss your friends or neighbours - it's the other way round, too!

This December our family is forced to make a decision regarding our return to Switzerland. Will it be in two or in three years...? Earlier, or even later...?

You've done those steps successfully however your mind hasn't caught up yet. It might take a little while until the final clouds of sand have settled in your New Hampshire living room...

Wish you and your family all the best!

Dieter, Franziska and kids

Frances Gunnison said...

Dear NZM,
Thanks for the nice note. You said it best, the thing to do now is to share accurate info about the Gulf and Middle Easterners with others who are interested.
Dear Seabee,
I'm with you: this time in AD is with me forever. Glad you're back where you want to be. Love your blog.
Dear L,
Thanks, I'm complimented you liked my blog. I never wanted it to be a a "rant" about Abu Dhabi, there's plenty of that everywhere you go. It is too bad we didn't meet, I agree. All the best to you.
Dear Dieter and Franziska,
You hit the nail on the head again with that part about my brain not yet caught up with my body. Guess I just need more time. Good luck deciding how long to continue in AD. It does seem to agree with all of you. It was super being your neighbors.
All Good Wishes,

Ilka said...

Frances, thanks so much for this blog....I really enjoyed reading it and getting to you as well as Abu Dhabi.

ArtDesigNature said...

Hi Francis,

I started following your blog back in march when I was considering moving to AD. I did visit in April and although ultimately decided not to relocate [though may still do some art consulting in the Emirates] i continued following your interesting blog to the end [all good things...]

Your recent [lovely] pics ignited some good memories and I totally agree with your sentiments regarding the desert.

btw, hope your arm has healed completely
glad too you are continuing to focus on the positive aspects of the Middle East.

Kind regards from Montreal,

Michele Murphy

Frances Gunnison said...

Thanks for writing. I always liked it when you added your thoughts to my blog, thank you for that. I wish you all the very best. I will really miss this blog.
Dear Michele,
Sounds like you're happy with your decision not to relocate, at least for now. Will pass along your nice comment about the pictures to M. Re the desert, it's so completely different from anything I'd ever seen before, but it gave me a sense of peace that the mountains out west (in Colorado, Utah, etc,) gave me. All the best to you in Montreal.
Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...


I just discovered your blog and look forward to reading your posts (I hope I can get through them all before you potentially "turn off" your blog since you posted a goodbye). I do not see a button to select to contact you directly so I am leaving this comment.

Your posts may answer all my questions but just in case I wanted to contact you while your blog was still up and running. I may be jumping the gun but do not want to lose a contact to an ex-pat who lived in the UAE.

My husband is dreaming about a move to Abu Dhabi or Dubai and I am trying to catch up on the enthusiaiasm for this.

If you don't mind being an advisor of sorts, please contact me!


Frances Gunnison said...

Dear Lorrie,
Thank you for writing. My email address is Write any time.
Good luck with your search for info on Abu Dhabi and Dubai. A good online source are the major UAE newspapers:The National, the Gulf News, and the Khaleej Times. And of course blogs, which are great.
My husband, too, was the one who thought of moving to Abu Dhabi. I often think I benefitted at least as much as he did from our time there.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheryl said...

Hi Frances,

Somehow I missed your last post! It has been wonderful reading your blog and corresponding with you. I am sure you will see another email here or there pestering you for visiting ideas :) We are continuing to settle nicely in Al Ain and enjoying getting to know the UAE. Hopefully we'll be making a trip to Abu Dhabi soon.

Best, Cheryl

Frances Gunnison said...

Dear Cheryl,
Maybe you missed my last post bec it took me so long to write it!
Your blog (Al Ain Notebook) is very beautiful! A must read.
We visited Al Ain, but your photos make me wish I could go there again and see all the sites you've highlighted.
It sounds as though you are settling in really well. I wish you all the best in your time in the UAE.
Write any time.
Warm Regards,

American Muslima Writer said...

Hello and Goodbye to you. i really enjoyed your writting and pictures. I could always count on a very unique view of AbuDhabi and UAE whenI came to your blog. I will miss it. I hope you fondly keep the good memories you made here in your heart and let them heal your sadness in leaving. The desert IS such a beautiful place. If you never come to UAE again but remain in USA you might check out Arizona, it feels a lot like UAE minus the massive dunes (though there are small ones). I think if you give yourself a good writting spell to tell yourself almost journal style how sad you are that it will help. Acknowledging our pain helps us to move past it. You're a great writer and I hope that you continue to share your life with others.
Ma'Salama to you as well.

Frances Gunnison said...

Dear American Muslima,
Thank you so much for writing! I do miss AD and I also miss writing this blog. Your idea about keeping a journal is great, thanks, I think I will do it.
Last night I found myself in a video shop, perusing the foreign films section.
"Looking for something?" the owner said.
"I don't know, I just want to go far, far away," I said. Very telling I suppose.
Really, it is very beau here now: this morning white frost covered our lawn and made a lovely contrast with the green holly bushes and their cheery red berries that have just come out.
American Muslima I wish you all the best, keep up your great blog that I continue to enjoy. You offer a unique perspective on Islam and cross cultural marriage and more.

Salihah סליחה صالحه said...

Beautiful blog! I just found it. Welcome home. Happy travels always!


Frances Gunnison said...

Dear Salihah,
Thanks for visiting, and I'm happy you liked my blog. I just looked at your blog and enjoyed many of your posts.
All Good Wishes,

Flowers said...

Your blog is interesting. It seems that you had a wonderful tour at abu dhabi. It was nice going through your blog. Keep it up the good work.

All Abu Dhabi said...

Your post here really inspired me, I hope it's okay that I re-posted it here in my blog :)

Frances Gunnison said...

Dear All Abu Dhabi,
Thanks for posting my last post on your blog, that was quite something for me to see it there! (I wanted to leave you a comment but couldn't figure out how.)
In any case, I think your blog is very beautiful;I hope you write more often and post more photos because the blog world would benefit from both.
I wish you all the very best in all your endeavors.

Frances Gunnison said...

Dear Flowers,
Thank you very much. It was a lovely experience to live in AD.

Hanz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Canada flower shops said...

Nice effort, very informative, this will help me to complete my task.

SEO said...

The skyline of Abu Dhabi... just impressive. That's a beautiful city I can understand if you feel sad about leave the island. Actually I was there enjoying these
cruises in Abu Dhabi and I can tell I'm starting to think to spend some years there, I just felt in love with the city.

Good luck and I wish you all the best!

rosh said...

Ocassionally, I still come back to read this blog. It captures beautifully the sentiments I share.
I hope things are well with you Francis.

LoLy said...

WOW, amazing

Julian Si said...

Greetings from near the Corniche in Abu Dhabi ... Its wonderful to read about your experiences here :-)

All the best back in the US!

Anonymous said...


I have been reading your blogs to get insight on teaching abroad in Abu Dhabi. In August I will be moving there. Boy am I nervous. I was just wondering if you have any suggestions on what I should pack that I may not think about. Please let me know what you think.

Thank you,


AIDC INC said...

Great post. Working abroad is one of the most enlightening experiences out there and the lasting impact it has cannot be overstated.

Frances Gunnison said...

Thank you. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I wish everyone could cross the globe and connect with people from another place. It does amazing things to a person.

Frances Gunnison said...

Dear Rosh, I can't believe I missed your comment in 2010(!). Thank you and I'm honored because you are such a wonderful writer.

Frances Gunnison said...

To those who left comments while I was (probably) hiding from snow, mud, or black flies (not fair to New Hampshire - they haven't too bad recently) thank you! Julian, great to hear from someone on the Corniche as it is so beautiful. Amanda, you're probably an expert by now on what to bring when moving to AD, but my view of it is to bring as little as possible :)