In my last post, I talked about my family's recent move. This time we've been "moving", as in physically around. Alot. Like, sometimes I wake up and don't know where I am, alot.
In Abu Dhabi, most of the expats (those are what we call people who are living in a country other than their own), leave the country for the summer. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is hot. The kind of hot that means your tshirt is going to be soaked before you can get from your apartment to your car and crank on the air conditioning. The kind of hot that makes you wonder if you are actually living on Venus, not Earth. I'm not kidding, look it up. Today, for example, though the temperature in Abu Dhabi is only 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the "Real Feel" is 135. Ouch.
The other reason so many of us leave is to spend time with all those family members and friends that we don't get to see the rest of the year. Abu Dhabi is a 15 hour plane ride from the east coast of the United States. And even though we've had a few people travel half way around the world to come see us over the past 4 years, most of our visiting takes place in the summer.
And that's where the fun comes in. Over the past 8 weeks, we have spent time in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Colorado, catching up with family and friends. I have dropped one daughter off at a camp in Illinois, went to a college orientation with my son in Boston, and swung by St Louis to pick another daughter up from the airport. It's been a summer of living out of suitcases, sleeping on couches and figuring out how many times we can load back into the minivan without screaming at each other. Through it all, we've been able to reconnect with those we love, and fill our bags and bellies with things we can't get in our host country. (Target and Taco Bell...ah, how we miss you!)
It's been a great summer. Soon, we will be boarding the plane to go back to what we now call home. It will probably feel more bittersweet than usual, since I'm leaving two of my teens behind this year (more about that in another post), but my heart will be full and I will be grateful for all the memories we made together over the past few months.
Here's hoping you all had an awesome summer as well!
Last month, my family and I moved. In Abu Dhabi, most people have two options when it comes to housing: you either live in a villa (known as a house, to us Americans) or you live in a high rise apartment building. For our first 3 1/2 years in Abu Dhabi, we chose the villa route. It was a big villa, walking distance to my kid's school, with a lovely rooftop terrace and so many bathrooms that even if all 6 of us had to go at the same time, there was never a line. The street itself was comprised of similar villas and housed families from all over the world. In fact, we were the only Americans on the street, which made us a bit of a conversation piece to our Syrian, Morrocan and Emirati neighbors.
It was a great place to live. But, we were ready for a change.
I knew that finding the right apartment could prove challenging. Most apartments aren't big enough to house 6 people. Many don't accept dogs. And, if I was going to be really picky, I wanted a view of the ocean. Not too much to ask, right?
Everyone told me I would hate apartment living. They said it's a drag to wait for the elevator, that hauling groceries and dog food and backpacks would get old very quickly. I explained that, though I appreciated the conveniences my villa afforded me, I wanted to try something different. As my husband put it, "We didn't uproot our family and move 8,000 miles, just to live in the same place for 15 years again."
One Saturday morning, as we were out walking George, we found it. The apartment that would be our next home. It checked most of the boxes: 5 bedrooms? Check. Walking distance to school? Check. Dog Friendly? Double Check.
Bonus? This view...
This one's a little fuzzy, thanks to the high humidity today and 105 degree haze, but you get the idea. Looking out over the Arabian Sea every morning makes waiting for the elevator worth it. At least until we see what the next adventure brings...
From the smell of fresh-cut grass to the feeling of sunshine on bare skin, spring is a season that is always a favorite. Baseball practice has started, summer vacations are being planned, flowers have been planted and the knowledge that your winter jacket has been put away until next year is beyond exciting. I think most of us would agree that spring weather is awesome.
Well, maybe not in Abu Dhabi.
As friends and family back home begin to plant gardens and plan bar-b-ques, those of us living in Abu Dhabi are starting to retreat back indoors. After six months of beautiful, spring-like weather, things are heating up in the Gulf. Yesterday, after I dropped everyone off at school, I took George out for our morning run at the beach. Though it was only 8:30 in the morning, it was already 85 degrees. Funny thing is, I was actually thankful that it wasn't hotter. After living here for 4 years, I know what's coming.
Abu Dhabi is an amazing place to live, and the weather is one of the perks...for most of the year, that is. By May, being outdoors in the middle of the day starts getting kind of dicey, and by July, you avoid it at all costs. A typical summer day will average around 110 degrees and that doesn't factor in the humidity!
Fortunately for me (and many people who live here) the heat is tolerated by going home for the summer months. Once the kids get out of school, we'll head back to the States, to see family and friends and enjoy some baseball games, cookouts and the smell of fresh cut grass. When we return to Abu Dhabi in late August, the weather will still be pretty unbearable, but at least we'll know what's coming.
February 24th was World Read Aloud Day. I was lucky enough to participate in the day's festivities by skyping with 13 different schools, most of them in the United States. (Which is kind of ironic, since I live in the Middle East!) Because of our 8 to 10 hour time differences, I ended up skyping with most of the schools when it was early morning for them, evening for me. Also, in order to fit them all in, I had to skype with some of them on days other than the 24th, making World Read Aloud Day more like World Read Aloud Week!
Each school was amazing. I skyped with some that were in big inner-cities, and others that were in small, midwest towns. Some schools were private and others were public. Though many of them had a very different make up of students, most of their questions were the same. All of them wanted to know when I decided I wanted to be a writer. (I was 8.) Most were curious about where I wrote. (At my desk, early morning, as soon as I'm back from taking the dog for a run.) They wanted to know about my character's names, where my ideas came from, who were my favorite writers, and if I was going to write more books.
And, many of them had the same ambitions. When I asked if they liked writing, most raised their hands. When I asked if they liked revising, most hands dropped. When I told them I felt the same way -- that writing is fun, and revising is work -- everyone laughed. We were all on the same page.
The point is, though each of these 13 schools had significant differences, the kids inside them had plenty of similarities, too. They asked the same questions, laughed in the same places and had many of the same struggles when it came to writing as I do. Even though their climates, class size and school structure varied, they had a lot in common. They reminded me that we are not all that different, if we are willing to look for the patterns and the consistencies.
Best part of World Read Aloud Day (Week)? These kids were smart. They were engaged. And they were kind. The twenty minutes with each group flew by. I'm already looking forward to next year!
When do you feel like a writer, for real?
My first book, SUPERHEROES DON'T EAT VEGGIE BURGERS, has now been out in the world for 6 weeks. It's still pretty hard to believe. I mean, after years of writing, and revising and REVISING some more, then trying to get an agent, then more revising, then trying to find a publisher...well, now it's a real book, with a cover, and artwork, and a dedication page, and everything. I'm serious. You can find it on Amazon. You can see it in bookstores. People have written me emails and told me they bought it and read it and had nice things to say about it. People who aren't even related to me and don't have to say nice things about it, if they don't feel like it.
Most days, I wake up and pinch myself. I stare at the copy that sits on my bedside table, its front smudged with fingerprints and the binding already soft because I've opened it so many times. I practically know the Library of Congress number by heart, but am afraid to flip past that page, for fear I'll find a typo that everyone missed. I love this book. But it scares me sometimes, too. It's no longer mine. It belongs to everyone now.
Books are amazing. Being a writer is a dream come true. I hope my blog can be a source of support, encouragement or at least entertainment, for other writers out there. Writing can be a lonely, frustrating and even scary business. But, it can also knock your socks off. Hang in there. It's worth it.