The Expat Calendar

AUGUST

We arrive in a limo jet with the clothes on our back. Oh, my, God, this place is hot! we say through perspiration. We heat ramen noodles in the hotel sink while we adjust to the noise, and the smells, and the scene. “Why did you bring me here!” we shout to our spouse. I need something familiar, I need my good friends, and I need my mother! We rush to organize paperwork we don’t understand.  You need what?!? I just gave you that now you need it again? I need to talk to what man? I can’t understand him. This is not how we do it in my country. We form lines and queues. Why did you butt ahead of me? Come on, I need this paperwork by next week or the school is going to kick my kid onto the street!

SEPTEMBER

We are still waiting on paperwork and heating ramen noodles in the hotel sink. Yes, our lives look fabulous as we lay by the pool but what else is there to do when we don’t have a clue? We are completely lost in a land we don’t understand. So don’t hate us as we hang out in a grand hotel and gather our brains that have turned to complete mush, while we fight to pull it all together in a system we do not trust. This is complete idiocracy we silently scream as we shake our fist to the man behind the counter. Will I ever have my identity back? My passport, my visa, my license too? We are down to a plea as we cry to the man. The kids are tugging our legs as they cry too. Please have some sympathy for us this place feels like a zoo.

OCTOBER

Ahhh, we have chosen a villa and our shipment will come soon. You have 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and maid’s room? You think we live grand but our neighbors are junk collectors who slaughter goats in their garden as our kids peer from their bedroom window crying out to stop them. We did not sign up for this. This is not the suburbs. People do not own peacocks, and 10 puppies, and erect large privacy screens 30 feet high, so we cannot accidentally catch a glimpse of their wives thigh. We lived in neighborhoods, and threw block parties, and mowed our grass. We shared power tools and shared gossip about what was going on about town, so please forgive us if we seem a little shocked, because this is not how its done where we are from and we need a little time to adjust to the goat slaughtering, the smell of curry and the ungodly heat of the sun.

NOVEMBER

Vroom vroom! This town is going crazy because the F1 is coming soon. People are talking, the place is buzzing, and we starting to get used to it now. We have our visas, our villas, our license, and our Emirates ID too. We feel like a person again and we are ready to have some fun too. The concerts are the hot topic; who is coming, who is going and how do we get the tickets. Our kids have friends and we have made some lovely parents from school. We are no longer crying for our mothers or our friends from back home, we are organizing Harvest Festivals, searching for canned pumpkin and making plans for Thanksgiving. We took a deep breath and started to get in the swing, we now have internet, TV and our preferred mobile phone. We are starting to like it here and not missing home.

DECEMBER

What the heck just happened? They are erecting Christmas lights! It looks really festive, this is really weird. Why would a Muslim country erect Christmas lights and sell Christmas trees? This is not what I learned from TV. Ahh, it’s not Christmas lights its the UAE National Day. This place will get crazy just like Mardi Gras; except it is all about the UAE and the celebration of its founding. We dress in crazy clothes, we eat traditional food, and we pet camels. There is a huge parade and the cars are decorated. It’s all about the UAE and how far it has come, while still hanging onto tradition and just having fun. We start to feel like we are apart of something different and that’s okay. We are beginning to feel like an expat in a good way. People are talking about holiday break and where they will go. The newbies will race home to celebrate Christmas with family, while the seasoned expats take off to Rome, or to some other far away place on the globe; and send their family a note to meet us over here instead of grabbing a plane to go home.

JANUARY

Whew! We all return from holiday vacation and we are recharged to tackle this country with new gusto. The weather is fabulous and now we are hooked. We can finally see it’s a wonderful life if we can overlook the disorganization, the drivers, and the kooky stuff. We’ve decided we like this place and the people as well. Being an expat is kind of neat. The people are inviting, and our kids love it here too. Living on the beach is fantastic and trying new food is easy when you live in a country so culturally diverse. January is the month to just kick back and relax and take in all the beauty this life offers us up. We swap stories of the countries we’ve visited and the people we’ve met and how to squeeze out every last drop of our newfound adventure and our new attitude.

FEBRUARY

We continue to bask in the beauty of it all and talk about far away places as we hang out on the beach sipping cocktails and listening to jazz, wishing we could share it with the people back home, if they’d just climb on a plane come visit us here. There’s nothing to fear it’s a safe place we say to them. Turn off your TV and listen to me. They have no idea how big this world is and the enormous beauty we see, as we try to wrap our arms around it all. It’s hard to explain to the people who can’t see it and we would love to share just one day with them. Please get on a plane before the weather gets hot. We beg for them to visit but many do not.

MARCH

The weather is still beautiful and we are enjoying this magical place. Someone is playing bagpipes on the beach. How awesome can that be? We take seaplane tours, we take desert safari trips, we take the kids to the sand dunes. We drive to Dubai, we go to Oman, we talk about the camel beauty contest and the camel races, we eat, we dance and we meet new people too. We join sewing classes, we taking cooking lessons on the beach. We drink gold cappuccino and take Mosque tours, we take helicopter rides and go to the zoo. We absorb everything this country offers and more as we count down the days that weather allows us to play.

APRIL

April is all about spring break. Where are you going? We organize with our friends. I think we’ll go to Thailand. I’m sorry but we’ve already been. Have you been to the Seychelles? We ask our friends. What side of the island has the strongest currents, should we stay in a resort or rent a villa? What country has the best food? Korea or Bali is what I have heard. We may go to Australia someone else said. No, you must go to Singapore if you haven’t already been. I know we seem like a bunch of spoiled children but what would you do if you were in our shoes? Wouldn’t you jump on a plane and go visit all these places if they were right there at your finger tips too?

MAY

Here comes the heat. We are limited now. We are beginning to wander back to the malls to catch a movie or an indoor ski slope, next door to Cheesecake Factory and the place that sells fizzy soap. We head to Adventure Headquarters and jump on the trampoline or just take a stroll, through the manmade entertainment that the UAE offers, to amuse us while the sun heats up to unbearable temps. The Emirates Palace, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab are just a few of the places we visit we it’s hot to keep us busy during the indoor season.

JUNE

We feel our lives winding down as we begin to finalize plans for the summer. Where we are going and who will see. How many cities will we visit and how long will it be? Who can fit us into their homes for more than a week? We are very excited to see our families and tell them about our lives in the UAE. It feels like an eternity since we moved across the globe and away from our homelands. How much we have changed and how small the world has become. We may sound like blue bloods as we tell our stories of things that many will never see, but to be honest, nothing feels as good as being home with our families.

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Thank You

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Thank you for everything you do.

For working in miserably hot conditions that would make others crumble. For leaving your families for an opportunity that some cannot comprehend. For all of the difficult work you do to make our lives more enjoyable.

Thank you for cleaning the toilets. The floors. The laundry. The sidewalks. The dishes.

Thank you for being kind.

The kind of person we feel comfortable allowing into our homes, our lives, and into the hearts of our children. The kind of person who has our best interest at heart. The kind of person we will miss when we return home. The kind stranger that does their job with a smile on their face.

Thank you for being that kind of person.

Thank you for being there.

There to carry our groceries and to clean our pools. To wash our windows and our car. To drive us around. There to manage the things that make our lives possible. To maintain all things that seem impossible. Being there to do the mundane. As we sometimes pass by without seeing you.

Thank you for being where you are needed.

Thank you for doing that thing.

That thing that is beyond understanding. The thing that springs from the ground and becomes a community before our eyes. The thing that nobody else really wants to do and the things you don’t fully understand. The things that we need but don’t realize it. The things you do knowing it will not be appreciated or acknowledged.

The things that make a difference.

Thank you for giving us a gift.

A little glimpse of the globe and a better understanding of our place in the world. Thank you for extending a helping hand with only the best intention. Thank you for the new definition of community and the lesson in compassion.

Thank you for your work which has created our beautiful memories.

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Mixology. The Best Cocktails

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Courtesy of Le Royal Meridien

Last week I was invited to a cocktail/mocktail master mixology class for bloggers. I must admit it was my first mixer and Samia, one of the PTA girls, agreed to join me representing the mocktail to my cocktail.

I had recently changed to a new medication which was leaving me feeling as disoriented as a sea-sick cruise passenger. I decided that maybe I should spare myself any embarrassment and cancel. So I sent Charlie the organizer a note. “I am sorry. Can’t come. In the process of letting new meds equilibrate. Not keen on making a fool of myself and since I cannot say no to a tasty cocktail, I must cancel.” Charlie responds, “Please come cocktails are tasty.”

So I went. I took a taxi to Samia’s place and she drove us to The Meridien Abu Dhabi which is the wrong hotel. Not the wrong hotel if you want to try out the new Greek restaurant (Opa!) but the wrong hotel if you’re going to join the bloggers at the Market Kitchen.

We drove a few minutes up the street to Le Royal Meridien home of the master mixology.

What a beautiful hotel. Unfortunately, in my time here in Abu Dhabi I have completely overlooked this fabulous hotel and all of its wonderful restaurants. Since we arrived late I wasn’t able to see the swimming pool which is a huge disappointment to me because I am on an official search for the most fabulous pools in Abu Dhabi. Hint. Hint. Le Royal Meridien.

I will also say, that my friend Laura used Le Royal Meridien to cater her masquerade party which was fabulous and the talk of the town for several days afterward.

Anyway, Samia and I climbed the stairs to this little bar above Market Kitchen which resembled the living room of my Italian aunt. If I were Italian and I had an aunt. It was super cozy, softly lit and the perfect place for an intimate evening. All around the place oozed Italian comfort. And the bar smelled like all of the fresh fruits we were going to use to concoct our mixology drinks.

From the beginning I knew things were going to be tricky because I was the only American at mixology. Samia is Canadian/Pakistani married to an American/British Pakistani. So she has the ethnic-mixology to converse that I do not. I should say thank you Samia for knowing Urdu. We would’ve been stuck in the lost corridors of Abu Dhabi without it. So I started the mixology night off not understanding anything anyone was saying. Could be due to the meds. Could be due to the fact that most of the other bloggers were British and although we share the English language we usually cannot share a conversation. I laugh as if I understand what they are saying and hope that they are not describing the recent event of their grandmother’s funeral. Life is not easy in a multicultural, ethnically blended city.

Anyway, Samia jumps into this mixology like she’s one of the crew. She’s chatting everyone up like she’s known them all her life. She’s like that regardless of where you take her. And there I was woozy on my prescription meds. “Gina I think you should go behind the bar and mix up a few drinks.” Samia said with her usual chatty smile which convinces you that everything is a good idea. I stumble by the bar past Bruno Valentino to begin my class in mixoloy when it occurs to me that there couldn’t be a more perfect name for the person who is hosting a mixology at an Italian restaurant than Bruno Valentino. Perfect. Although, now that I think about it, Bruno would be even more perfect as a silent Hollywood film star except those days are gone. Too bad for Bruno.

You might be expecting that due to my meds, limited communication with my cohorts, and the dark lighting of the venue that this blog post will end in a huge debacle and otherwise total failure. But it did not. It was an absolute success. Regardless of not understanding instruction or knowing what I was doing, both Samia and I managed to whip up some very tasty cocktails and mocktails. The rest of the evening was dedicated to eating some fantastic appetizers and drinking the very tasty drinks that I was promised. I will assure you that regardless of cooking skill, current medication routine or your ability to communicate, you too can mix up these tasty drinks. Give it a try.

Although I will remind you if you would like to visit and try the entire collection of fantastic cocktails from the masters please visit Market Kitchen at Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi.

I must say it was a great event and the Market Place is a lovely place to get together with friends new and old, and also with those you cannot understand. It makes an evening far more entertaining.

Thank you very much Mr. Bruno Valentino and the entire staff of Market Kitchen Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi.

The Market Kitchen has shared a few of the fabulous recipes for us to try at home….and when you’re finished mixing please invite me over.

 

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COCKTAILS.
Cucumber Martini
2 oz. Hendricks gin
0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.75 oz simple syrup
2 cucumber slices
2 mint leaves
Cucumber wheel and small mint leaf garnish

Muddle cucumber, mint, lemon juice, and syrup. Add gin.
Shake and double strain into chilled martini coupe.
Garnish with a cucumber wheel and small mint leaf

Ginger Margarita
1 vol oz Sauza Hornitos Reposado Tequila
1.5 vol oz Ginger syrup
.5 vol oz Cointreau
1 rim ginger salt
1 lime wedge

Rim rocks glass with ginger salt and fill with ice.
Pour all liquids into a mixing glass. Shake. Strain over fresh ice.
Squeeze lime wedge and drop into glass

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MOCKTAILS.

Cucumber Mint Swizzle
2.5oz fresh mint tea
0.5oz lemon juice
0.75oz simple syrup
0.25oz ginger syrup
1 barspoon chopped green apple
2 slice cucumber
6 mint leaves
Muddle mint, apple, cucumber
Add tea, lemon juice, ginger and simple syrup in a highball.
Fill highball halfway with crushed ice and swizzle until glass is frosty.
Fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice.
Garnish with mint sprig and cucumber slice

Strawberry Chamomile
0.5oz elderflower syrup
0.25oz simple syrup
0.25oz ginger base
2oz chamomile tea
3 strawberries
3 mint leaves in the shake
Orange and lemon wedge in the shake
Muddle strawberry with simple syrup and ginger base.
Add elderflower and chamomile
Add slapped mint leaves and orange and lemon wedges
Ice shaker and hard shake.
Strain into a cocktail coupe
Garnish with spanked mint leaf

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Kumquat Muddle
2oz sour orange
6 halved kumquats
6-8 mint leaf
Soda water
Muddle and dump into highball
Fill with ice and top with soda
Squeeze lime and drop into glass. Gentle stir.
Add 1.5 oz of Bacardi Light Rum for a Kumquats Mojito

Sour Orange 
Combine all the below
8 Vol oz Fresh lime juice
8 Vol oz Fresh lemon juice
8 Vol oz Fresh orange juice
6 Vol oz Simple syrup
6 Vol oz Elderflower syrup

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The 6 Girlfriends Every Woman Needs

cropped-1454943_10151811784198440_1420869117_n.jpgEvery girl needs a excellent woman in her life. Seriously, how can we make it through the chaos without a gaggle of girlfriends? They are there for us in a variety of ways. Maybe not the same girlfriend every time, but a different one for a different need or a different chapter in our lives. Where ever we find them or for whatever reason — life is always better with your girls.

THE 6 GIRLFRIENDS EVERY WOMAN NEEDS

1. Mamma Bear: She bakes cookies, wears mom jeans and she’ll babysit your kids when you’re out of town. If your plane crashes on the way home you’ll leave the kids in her trusted hands. She quilts, scrapbooks and does other crap like that. When she drives she probably doesn’t exceed the speed limit unless she’s rushing a feverish kid to the urgent care. She thinks dressing up is putting on lipstick regardless of whatever else she is wearing. She wears a fanny pack stocked full of bandaids and neosporin and totes a snack cooler full of orange slices and avocados. She’s an old-fashion mother who sets rules and sticks by them. That’s why you’ve willed both the kids and the insurance policy to her  —  who else could handle 1,2,3 more kids?

2. Mrs. Perfect: She is perfect. Period. She never has a hair out of place, mismatched clothes, or a handbag that isn’t perfectly appropriate. Rock climbing? There’s a bag for that. Rolling Stones concert? Something functional; yet just a little edgy. Her car smells like L’Occitane. Her closet is colored coordinated. Her sheets are sprayed with some foo-fooey, lavender-scented Pottery Barn scam in a spray bottle. She’s the perfect corporate wife who will win her husband a promotion by smiling appropriately at a dinner party. She’s the friend you call when you have no idea how to decorate your new house. She’ll match your drapes to your sofa and your pajamas to the bed comforter. She will go ape wild in Williams Sonoma whipping up a housewarming basket that is so gorgeous you’ll never want to unwrap it — so you’ll just sit it in a corner of the kitchen and dust it until the cellophane cracks open.

3. The Mysterious Girl:  She wouldn’t be caught dead doing strenuous activities like tennis and zumba. “I’ll catch you Pansies at the club.” She wears sky-high heels, tight pants and has every cosmetic compact produced by MAC. She is too cool for school and doesn’t try too hard at anything. She sits quietly when all the other girlfriends are cackling over something pointless. Nothing really bothers her and she behaves like nothing really surprises her. She’s level headed and doesn’t rush into things. When she loves you: she loves you dearly. But when you get on her bad side — you are there to stay. There’s always something secretive about her — kind of like she buries her past lovers in the back yard. She’s the friend you go to when you have really big problems because she’ll hide you from the authorities and she has a few “key people” on speed dial.

4. Miss Innocent: She wears a cross around her neck given to her by her grandmother when she was in 10th grade. She covers her mouth a lot because she is astonished by most everything she hears yet soaks in all the juicy details like a dry sponge. Strangely, she sings all the words to the most explicit rap music as she twerks till dawn at all the ladies nights. She doesn’t drink because it’s against her religion yet will shockingly light up a cigarette as if she’s had the habit all her life. She buys her clothes at the grocery store and still manages to throw it all together. She’s the girl that reminds you that life is good. Just roll with it, flow with it and everything will be just fine. She silently assures you that it’s okay to be yourself regardless of the situation, the location or the company. You are you and that is good enough.

5. Burpee Queen: On the otherhand, Miss Burpee reminds you that you are not okay the way you are. She’s the girl who shames you out of wearing sweatpants to the grocery store. Who challenges you to put on the heels that are way beyond your comfort zone. She researches the new cellulite cream and reminds you that you should use it. She knows all of the gym instructors by first name and spends her spare time flexing for selfies with a selfie stick. There’s not an ounce of fat on her tomboy body and yet she is still at the gym every single day. She does pole dancing, windsurfing, kayaking all with equal skill. You hate her. You love her. You want to kill her but she’s the friend who kicks you in the bum when you need it and is a living example that you can be better you if you just get out of bed and do it.

6. The Diplomat: Brings up the probing questions. She’s got the MBA hanging on the wall at home and had she’d not been more interested in having fun in life, might have went on to law school. She’s the one that keeps you in check. Did you ask this question? That question? Do you completely understand what is going on? She seriously never wants to be the one that rains on the parade; but then again, how do you know for sure that this is what it seems….she might ask. You love her because when you need to be serious you give her a call. When you need a confidante or an informal advisor, she’s there with her thinking cap on. And when you need to have fun. She’s there too. She’s cool, she’s calculated, and she’s J. Crew all the way.

 

Girlfriends. My girls are intelligent. Nothing gets past them. They enrich my life and they have a huge heart. Always quick to lend a helping hand to someone who needs it. They are nurses, teachers, marketing gurus, artists, and managers. Thick as thieves. Stuck like glue. Birds of feather. Six different countries. Six different languages. Together by choice or by necessity. My life is always better with my girls.

These are my girls. Tell me about yours.

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My Lovely Hate Mail

haters

Nunya, you wicked woman. Did you just show me some hate?

Who names their kid Nunya is what my friends said to me. A modern day Hooper Humperdink it’s so sad to see. Please go away. If you don’t like this place move. It not as difficult as it appears to be.

Nunya, just go away. I am sure most will agree. You’re ruining our picnic and our Friday brunch too. We like our chocolate fountains, our cocktails and brie. You’re a cloud over our parade — so Nunya go ahead and leave!

I’ll call my favorite company they will Delight-fully pack for you. They’ll have you out of here in a day or two.

Nunya, I don’t understand it. What are you doing here? This place isn’t for people like you. It’s best that you just stay home and keep your nastiness to yourself. Call all your nasty friends over and lock yourself in a room. Because the good people of the world want nothing to do with you.

You remind me of some toxic chemical or maybe the flu. There’s no way anyone can like someone like you. I mean seriously, you spent your time spewing out hate when you could’ve gathered some friends and had some hot tea and sweet dates.

Nunya, I don’t understand why you’re here. If I hated this place I’d seriously pack up and leave. I would shake this place off like it were a disease. But instead you took the time to blab a few jabs, at someone who intended no harm to you. I’m just a PTA mom writing down a few thoughts that happened to have a viral blog post.

Oh, god, I hate the haters. They really bother me. I’m told don’t give them the time of day, just let it bounce off. But for some reason it drives me up the wall. There’s something that I feel brewing from within. So instead of forgetting about it, I take out my pen. Nunya, I’m afraid I’m just like Taylor Swift. If you treat me dirty then I am going to spread the word — and then turn around and flip you the bird.

So go ahead Nunya, you little Hooper Humperdink.  It’s time for you to go. And next time please give it a little more thought before you publicly jot down all your nasty thoughts. Nobody is interested in your toxic smack or the craziness that circles around in your head. If you can’t come up with something sensible then do us all a favor and just go to bed!

 

Be Careful Over There – What?!? I Live in the UAE!

Be careful over there! my American friends said to me. As if the Middle East is simply one big mosh pit of danger, mayhem and debris.

Be careful doing what? I thought to myself. Choking on lobster, slipping on a marble floor, or poking my eye out with a canape skewer?

What exactly do they think could happen to me? — I LIVE IN THE UAE!

Oh, no, you’re mistaken. I don’t live in Saudi Arabia. I can drive here. It is fine. And I don’t wear an abaya. Although on a bad hair day it sure would be a snap. And if I decide to do so it does not effect my feminism. My human rights are not limited as you might think they would be. I just can’t look like a harlot when I’m walking the streets. So far that hasn’t been a problem for me.

None of the craziness you see on TV is anywhere near me or my family. This is the wealthiest place in the world. There are no beheadings or prison camps or things like this you might read. I am perfectly safe here — I LIVE IN THE UAE!

In the UAE, they prefer that I not scream obscenities or flip my middle finger at the crazy new driver that cut me off at the pass. Yes, in the States I would shout, shake my fists, and tell them to kiss my arse.  But I really don’t miss that privilege and it is okay by me, if we all focus on a little more civility. You see, it is a conservative place in many regards. They prefer if we all do not behave like total schmucks, lugheads or goofs. In fact, everyone here uses their manners and are extremely gracious; they call me madam and my husband sir and they go out of their way to please us.

They must be thinking about Iraq or Iran and they are as close to the UAE as New York is to West Virginia; although, you must agree, there is a huge difference between them. If you lumped New Yorkers and West Virginians together, any American would tell you they have nothing in common. They may be the same religion and in the same country but there is a world of difference between them. We live in a bubble, a very expensive bubble it may be; that separates us from the rest of the Middle East. Life here is grand we have no complaints. We live in a world of over-the-top excess. Free from the badness many nations face.

There’s no danger here. We are a very happy bunch. We shop and we explore and we eat fancy brunches. Tell the media how happy we are and to stop lumping Muslims together. There’s nothing threatening about being here. Get out your maps and look into it. Get on a plane and come visit us.

We are here of our own choosing we like our little Utopia. Please save your be careful over there for someone who needs it. We are living the dream. Please come and see it!

We love living in the UAE!

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5 Things to Remember When Your Expat Family Comes Home For the Summer

 “Gone Girl” was filmed in my hometown…how exciting! Stay tuned for more on this subject.

Whew! The summer has come to an end. And for most expats we are very excited to get back to our own lives. Not that we don’t love you. Not that we didn’t love visiting you. But the summer exodus to our hometown is absolutely, positively, exhausting with a capital “E”. Ever wonder how it feels to be a displaced person no place to call your home roaming from place to place? Well, we do. Not that we don’t love you. Not that we didn’t love visiting you. But coming home is kind of weird.

Continue reading “5 Things to Remember When Your Expat Family Comes Home For the Summer”

The Expat Exodus

It starts every year. It starts slowly you see.

The Expat Exodus is an annual event — and it’s free. It’s either free for the taking or a small charge that is nominal, there’s so much to choose from its almost farcical.

First people start with their boats, their cars and then move on to their bicycles. They snatch their kid’s toys and all unnecessary obstacles. As the weeks roll on they are selling blankets and breast pumps, clothes and shoes. Next comes hair dryers, air fryers, and everything else they can afford to lose.

The fishing equipment they’ve used once is gone. And so is the ping pong table made in Saigon. The potted plants will be snatched up so quickly you’d think it was cannabis or something else as addictive.

They barter and shove “Next please!” they shout. I must. I must — have that ugly couch!

They line up for miles to pick through the debris, of a once glamorous life like you see on TV. The sailboats, the yachts, the bubbly brunches and more; have been carefully chronicled on Facebook galore.

They came to this oil country dollar signs in their eyes, they bought Tiffany, Louis, Cavelli and Valentino. “Is there gold on my lip?” they ask with a smile. No worries mate, it’s only my joe. Let me lick my lips and wash down with prosecco.

Oh, don’t we wish the good times could go on forever. Yaallah — be a dear and go get the driver. The housemaid will carry the suitcases to the car. As they mentally prepare to go back to their flat in drab cold London, or boring St. Pat.

How do we go on without rose colored glasses, around the clock helpers, and dirt cheap gasses? Not to mention the around-the-world trips, the absence of jerks and all the other many, many, perks.

For years, the stories they will tell of their time in the desert and the land of the surreal – gold plated cars and tigers on leashes — champagne, cavier and aqua colored beaches.

Good bye UAE. We will miss you it’s true. But maybe now we can be a big fish too. We are not Sheiks, Sheikas, or live in ginormous palaces, but the children of countries just as rich in heritage, and history, with families who love us.

Khalas — we are finished! Shukran, we say. Thank you, thank you UAE for allowing us to stay.

pic by Brooke Laundry

pic by Brooke Laundry

 

It Was Absolutely Lovely… And Then We Showed Up

A Palace

I attended my first women’s gathering at an Emirati’s home. It was like a baby shower on steroids. It was a mix of about 40 local and expat ladies; friends, families and acquaintances held at the magnificent home of one of the local ladies.

It was pouring rain and Brenda, Samia and I all rode together in Samia’s car. We arrived like a band of hooligans. Rolling in like a pack of wet mutts. Unable to find a parking spot that wasn’t in the middle of a small pond, we kept pulling in and out trying to find a better option, and each time we struck out, the more embarrassed Samia became. It must be a South Asian/Middle Eastern thing because as an American, I found it all amusing, as a South African raised in the apartheid, Brenda found the puddle a small problem by comparison — but Samia wasn’t so nonchalant.

“Brenda, please pull your umbrella inside the car!” In the crazy, wind-blown, rain splattering event of getting from the car to the “palace” Brenda’s new umbrella was turned inside out and it resembled more of a white flag than it did an umbrella. While we were pulling in and out of unacceptable parking spots Brenda stuck her umbrella outside the car window as if a symbol of surrender.

“Brenda, please bring your umbrella inside the car!” Complete embarrassment was all over Samia’s face. “No, really. Please, Brenda.” Chuckling Brenda agreed.

“Look at this place!” Samia marveled. As I said — it was definitely impressive. But I had more fun watching the expressions on Samia’s face. It’s like she was entering the Taj Mahal for the first time.

“Oh, my, we have to take our shoes off before entering the house! What do I do? I don’t want to take my shoes off! I am 4’11 if I take my shoes off I will look 15 pounds heavier!” Perplexed and horrified with her choices Samia’s Middle Eastern Cinderella’s Castle fantasy quickly came crashing down. “Well, I guess we do not have a choice. We must take off our shoes.” Brenda offers up advice in her years of international diplomacy experience. “When in doubt; don’t offend.”

I followed Brenda and Samia inside and noticed that at these types of events proper dress is either formal or national dress. Samia is in her best shalwar kameez, looking like a Pakistani princess, and Brenda is wearing a modest African dress accessorized with a small cocktail purse. They reminded me that I am a lost soul. Americans do not have national dress and until events like this, it never seems to be a problem. Aside from a Budweiser/American flag bikini, American women do not have anything to wear that says: I am an American. This has always been a huge problem with the Miss Universe pageant. Every other country looks like a million bucks in their bejeweled national ensemble and then there’s the American girl typically draped in the some fashion modification of the American flag.

As we entered into the palace our hostess greeted us in a beautiful leopard print floor length gown with a neckline too tempting for even most American ladies. She looked absolutely stunning and in a million years, I never would’ve guessed this was the same lady that could easily sneak past me in the school halls without ever grabbing a moment of attention. One by one, they arrived draped in abayas and then slowly removing them to reveal ridiculously elegant and some rather sexy gowns. I sat there feeling somewhat prudish, definitely under-dressed, and embarrassingly boring in my simple Ann Taylor outfit.

We sat in the ladies majlis, a formal entertaining room off of the center entrance hall, which was decorated in a bold rose decor and offered a variety of seating options for more than 30+ ladies. I could tell this wasn’t the type of event that only occurs when someone gets married or has a baby, or some other typical life milestone; but instead, this rooms gets a lot of use — these ladies gather frequently and this room offers all the accoutrements necessary for a super swanky tea party. Hired Filipina ladies served up Arabic coffee, tea, and dates in exquisite dishes as I relied upon Brenda to fill me in. What is this? What will it do to me? And should I partake? Which basically means, will this have me glued to the powder room while I am here at this super swanky event?

The bell rang for dinner. Yes, I am not kidding. A. small. bell. rang. to signify that we should all move to the enormously large extended-family Lawrence of Arabia dining room. The table itself was huge. Ever practical me, I am thinking to myself how many immigrants did it take to carry in this massive hunk of a dining room table? It was certainly larger than an operating table. It would’ve definitely been large enough to hold both Jack and Rose from the Titanic. It’s too bad Jack didn’t have this table. He would’ve made it to New York. One thing I am eternally grateful for is the towering baskets of fruit in the middle of the table. Thank goodness there wasn’t a baby animal on a platter laying peacefully dead in a mound of rice, dates, and a few random cashews —that would’ve blown the whole thing for me.

I looked around the dining room table to see the look of confusion on the faces of the expat ladies. What fork were the other ladies using? I think I was using the wrong one. If Martha Stewart would’ve concentrated more on these tid-bits of Middle Eastern etiquette versus insider trading, I probably wouldn’t be in this quandary I am in tonight around the Lawrence of Arabia dining room table. But no, the American capitalist let me down, but then again, Martha was probably never invited to a swanky Arab ladies dinner party. One-up. Fist bump!

After dinner, some of ladies were touring the upstairs of the villa. And I almost joined them but I caught the gaze of an Arab princess. Maybe she wasn’t a real princess but she could’ve been one. She was absolutely lovely. Far lovelier than Princess Di. Sorry Brits, but she was much more elegant. And she appeared to be staring at my small trio of hooligans. Either in amusement, interest, or dismay, her eyes followed me as I snapped (pre-approved) pictures around the magnificent villa.

Brenda really wanted to go upstairs to-see-what-there-was-to-be-seen. “B, I’m not going up there. I already feel like a third-class citizen.” I said, half jokingly. “Seriously, I don’t want to look like an uncouth and uncultured troll that’s never seen the inside of a place like this….really, we shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves. Okay?!?……. Really, Samia is just now recovering from the earlier embarrassment.”

“Ladies, I think we should at least get a picture of the three of us before we go. Let’s sit on this beautiful sofa together. This is perfect.” Samia smiled elegantly in her national clothes.

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“Pardon me” I said. “Please, do you mind retaking this photo because it looks like I am breastfeeding my friend.”

OMG…….you can’t take us anywhere!

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*A very big thank you to our most gracious hostess*

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I Wouldn’t Have Married You

IMG_0020_2I wouldn’t have married you if it weren’t for that thing. The joke, the smile, the thing that caught my eye. That thing the gave me the idea that maybe you were the one. The one who could hold my interest for a very long time.

I wouldn’t have stayed married to you through the hardships and the difficulties if it weren’t for the pesto, the wine, the indie films and the travel; all of the things that make us a we. I honestly would’ve given up.

I would not have brought a child into this world if we didn’t see eye to eye. Sharing the same values, beliefs, and dreams about the future. I stayed with you not because I have to, but because I saw the commitment in your eyes when you kissed your child goodnight and the role model you exemplify every day.

Lesser might have left you as we shifted state to state deciding which keepsake stayed and which would be thrown away. If it weren’t for the laughter that awaited us and the moments I knew would strengthen us; I might have gestured my hands with enough. I am done.

I would’ve reconsidered this whole marriage thing if the obstacles and the hurdles seemed higher and more difficult than than the emotional rewards but you always had our best interest in mind and I believed in you.

I am married to you not because of the successes we have acquired but because of the growth, and the drive, and the accomplishments we leave behind as we set our sights on what will make our family stronger.

As I set here today reflecting on that initial day when you walked in with your introduction; I could’ve walked away or not given you the chance to stay but instead I took a gamble that would fill my heart and soul with happiness.

Happy anniversary.