Monday, September 27, 2010

Searching for the Bright Side.

So here I am.

Sitting in the same old desk chair, at the same old desk, as when I wrote the very first entry of this blog a few years ago. In the good ol' USA.

It's incredible how this adventure is ending almost exactly how it began: Daddy is away for an entire month (only this time he's selling off, as opposed to buying up, the items of our Dubai world)... PopPop and I are depressed and commiserating (thank goodness we have the ever-ebullient "Tess" around to lift both of our spirits)... and none of us quite knows what's next for us. In other words, an oddly familiar cloud of uncertainty, resentment, and despair is obstructing our view.

So in a futile attempt to alleviate the I-MISS-DUBAI blues (I get all choked up whenever I think of our utopian home life, Screamer's little soulmate, or my best girls whom I had to leave behind), I have cobbled together a list of twenty things I will NOT miss about Dubai. (Avert your eyes, C, M, M, and S back in the desert, unless you want to be reminded of the occasional annoyances that Dubai living has to offer.)

Therefore I am happily saying GOOD RIDDANCE to the following trivial inconveniences of UAE life, in no particular order:

1) military time on all the digital clocks. I am not that good at math anymore.

2) electrical plugs that require adapters, even right out of the box from a UAE store. I shudder to think of the cumulative time I lost aggravatingly opening and closing drawers in an exasperating adapter search.

3) temperature measured in Centigrade, and weight measured in kilograms. See item #1 above re: my math skills.

4) a marble and stone house in which the baby monitors' reception was spotty at best. Daddy and I probably would have had a much more lively social life had I been confident that ANYONE in the 3-story estate would have heard the occasional plaintive cry for a glass of water.

5) the hugely limited grocery store options, particularly as pertained to American brands. Glorious was the day when a sole package of Eggo waffles magically appeared in our local frozen food section... and long were the months before another box would materialize.

6) the jacked up prices on said American export items. The $14 package of Oreos (which I *bought*, mind you) will live on in infamy.

7) the kajillions of speed bumps. Sure, I quietly blamed the Z-Man for my nausea, but we all knew it was the roads themselves I was mad at.

8) roundabouts where traffic lights should be. As if I wasn't nauseous enough from the speed bumps.

9) streets with either no signs, or a miniscule sign like this: "Street 2." Thanks for making a handicapped sense of direction even MORE useless, Dubai.

10) infuriatingly shaped milk containers. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to take a photo, but you have to take my word for it on this one: the plastic cartons were just elongated cubes with a hole cut through the top for your fingers to (theoretically) go through. Supposedly it was designed this way to save refrigerator space but clearly, the true purpose was to maximize spillage.

11) no cell phone reception in the house.

12) ...and the companion item to #11: a cell phone company that was lobbying to build a cell phone tower about 20 feet from our BACK YARD. Suffice it to say I had already alerted the newspapers that I was planning a splashy demonstration to protest the first sign of breaking ground.

13) the 3-day suspension of radio programming whenever an important person died. I mean no disrespect here, obviously. But as someone who does not enjoy classical music, which apparently is the only thing allowed to be broadcast during times of national mourning, I absorbed every moment of that loss.

14) no electrical outlets in the bathrooms. It seems UAE architects do not use flat irons.

15) having to pay for shopping carts. Sure, it was only 1 dirham, and ok, you could get it back when you returned the cart, but oh come on.

16) phone numbers written without spaces or hypens. YOU try to remember 0506582394.

17) salons that only offer threading, but not waxing, of eyebrows. Since I was too chicken to try the threading (it supposedly shapes better but hurts more), I was left to my own pathetic plucking devices. For about two years.

18) cars that make an annoying ding! ding! ding! whenever you go over the local limit, and continue ding!ing until you slow down. Some of us have a need... for speed.

19) internet censorship. I bid an unsentimental farewell to this message:

"We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to the content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates."

I was just trying to view people's photos on Twitter, damnit!, but what I got instead was this:

And last but not least,

20) American Idol, always broadcast 24 hours after the live show, and long after the rest of the world had already found out that Kris Allen, tragically, had won. :)

So there you are. Back in America I now have more Eggo varieties than I could ever sample; a cell phone I can use in our home office while keeping our land line as a paperweight; and American Idol-- a.k.a. The World's Most Jump-the-Shark-iest Show-- soon coming to me live and in full Seacrest definition.

And to THINK that I was actually feeling depressed a few minutes ago!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spoiler Alert! Stop Reading If You Don't Want to Know How It Ends.

Right now I’m on an airplane.

Ten hours left to go on a 15-hour flight.

And I can’t sleep.

Usually, sleeping on an airplane is no problem for me. Especially when, on occasions such as this, I gobbled up a tablet of everyone’s favorite travel sedative, Dramamine.

But here I am. Everyone around me is happily dreaming. And my bloodshot eyes won’t stay shut.

Maybe it has something to do with the ordeal I’ve just been through.

You see, today I closed the chapter on our lives in Dubai.

I don’t even know where to start. This is hardly the blog post I was expecting to be writing at the end of the summer.

Do I tell you about the New Jersey hotel room we were staying in at the end of August, where, as I was lying in bed drowsily reading my book, Daddy came in after finishing a conference call and whispered, so as not to wake the children, “Honey, there’s been a development….”?

Do I tell you about the tears that involuntarily flooded my eyes as he began to form words like “restructuring” and “reassigned” and “not sure they want us to get on the plane next week”?

Do I tell you about my heavy, heavy heart as I excused PopPop and myself from our family going-away party, because I couldn’t bear waiting one minute longer to tell him of the news that was going to rock all of our worlds?

Do I tell you about the virtual fire drill that ensued once we realized that, whereas school in the UAE had not yet begun, our kindergarten here in the States had started two weeks ago?

Do I tell you about the manic 48-hour house hunt we embarked upon in the hopes of magically and instantaneously relocating our family to the part of town districted to the most acclaimed public school? Or the literal eleventh-hour decision to sign Sushi up for one of the most reputable—and expensive—private schools in the county?

Do I tell you about the funk that both PopPop and I quickly slipped into as Daddy boarded a plane back to Dubai for a company board meeting, and the two of us were left to contemplate the realities of a sudden relocation back to the USA? One we hadn’t planned for emotionally (we’d been having the time of our lives!) or logistically (see, i.e., schools... and homeowner PopPop’s recent renewal of his tenants’ lease, leaving him essentially homeless back in the States)?

How my head hurt, all the time?

The way I was constantly falling to pieces, at even the most fleeting thought of the life in Dubai that was astonishingly no longer ours: the superlative academic programs, our devoted “staff,” the international thrills, and the irreplaceable friendships, both on the adults’ part as well as the kids’?

In other words, do I tell you of my broken heart?

Well, no.

That would be silly. You all know what a broken heart feels like.

Rather, I wanted to remind you of that trite expression, “We make plans. Life laughs.”

Cuz let me tell you, we had big plans for this next year in Dubai, having every reason to believe that it would be our last. (Daddy had originally signed on for only a two-year expat contract, which would be coming due next month; later we had—I thought—all agreed to extend it for a third and final year.) (Apparently not everyone got that memo.) We’d planned to travel more around the region, taking better advantage of the ridiculously luxurious live-in help that we might never have again. We’d planned to have more friends and family come to visit us. We’d planned to watch proudly as an excited Screamer marched off to the “big kids’ school” with her sister Sushi, seeing as our school in Dubai, unlike the schools in our home state that adhered strictly to a September 1 birthday cutoff, was willing to place her according to aptitude and bump her up to the next grade level.

Yet there I stood a few hours ago in the overheated driveway of our beloved Dubai home— a dramatically sobbing housemaid clutching my shoulder, a conspicuously sniffling driver revving the engine, and two miserable cats wailing from their crates in the back seat of the car.

At the moment it almost feels like I dreamed the whole thing.

And yet the facts remain: PopPop and I are presently heading back to the USA, having spent a mere 36 hours in Dubai grabbing our most treasured belongings and saying a few agonizing goodbyes and gathering up the reluctant felines... while Daddy stays behind (like the unflappable head of the family that he is) to pack up the house, find new jobs for the maids and the driver, sell the furniture and the cars, and turn off all the utilities. The three kids, meanwhile, have been looked after for the past couple of days by the marvelous Supernanny and the equally extraordinary Mr. Supernanny (no offense intended, A; your alternative nickname can be The Hulk, because you’re so mightily muscle-bound these days), as well as my precious, generous, ever-the-lifesaver BFF "Kate" (as in Bosworth, because of her similarly striking two-toned eyes).

And somehow life just goes on.

This is not the last I want to write to you about Dubai—I need a few days to process a jumble of extreme emotions and complicated thoughts—but I figured it was time to let you in on what’s been going on.

Because in a way, you were on this incredible adventure right along with us.

I’m just so terribly sorry that there won't be more Dubai story to tell.

Which—in light of the overwhelming fear and uncertainty that punctuated the first several entries of this blog back in September 2008—leads me to believe that Life is having a big ol’ guffaw at my expense right about now.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy New Year.

Today I celebrated the Jewish New Year. In America.

What the heck are you still doing in America??, you ask, acknowledging that the school year is starting and we live in Dubai.

Well, friends, that's a story for another day. A long story. One I don't have the energy to share now. But I will soon, I promise.

No, today I just wanted to tell you about spending Rosh Hashanah in America, after nearly two years in the UAE.

It was, in a word, wonderful.

It was wonderful because...

It was the first time that my 5-year-old daughter could follow along in the prayerbook, and participate in the responsive readings.

The melodies and songs were all familiar, and even if I didn't remember the exact words, I had the gist.

So many members of the congregation went out of their way to welcome us, knowing of our travels and appreciating that for us, this was not just another high holiday.

My 3-year-old daughter was invited by a little boy from the temple summer camp to go sit with him and his family on the other side of the room... and she happily went, without once looking back.

None of my kids cried or fussed during the service.

We got to hear the shofar being blown, which, if you ask me, is always good luck.

Afterwards, we went to the home of my oldest friend, and were treated to a delightful meal that was warm and comforting and reminiscent of everything that means "family."

None of my kids cried or fussed during the long car ride.

I was celebrating in a country where the Jewish holiday was not ignored or tolerated, but, as evidenced by the widespread school closings, respected.

I didn't feel like I was missing out.

This year, I was on the inside.

This year... I am coming home.

I wish you and yours a year of joy, possibilities, and above all, peace. Shana tova. xoxo.