I celebrated our ninth month of living in Abu Dhabi by visiting New York. Not intentionally but as it happened, the only time I could line up doctors’ appointments, business meetings, and a flyby visit with my mother and sister in the wilds of New Jersey coincided with the nine-month anniversary of our arrival in Arabia. (Arabia. It sounds so much more evocative than “Abu Dhabi,” doesn’t it? Like maybe I’m going to ride off with Omar Sharif or Peter O’Toole at just about any minute.)
Nine months. If I continue my pregnancy metaphor, we’re due. When I was pregnant with baby #1, people with kids would say “your life is going to change…” and I would nod and smile and think to myself “maybe your life changed, suckahs, but I am a superior form of human and my life will go on like always, except I’ll have this charming bundle to look after.”
Bwahahaha. Hubris, my friends, pure and simple. Babies kick your ass (and mostly we love them for it); they make us better people (except when we have to read Thomas the Tank Engine for the 458th time); they are little flesh-wrapped bundles of hope that will, I think, despite what Dr Sears says, flourish even if we occasionally put them down or let them cry.
Nine months ago, when we told people we were moving to Abu Dhabi, they said “oh wow, Dubai sounds really cool.” The next question, inevitably, was “are you going to have wear a…y’know, a thing?” and they’d sort of flap their hands around their heads. They meant “veil,” but it looked more like “goalie mask” or “diving helmet.” And always, always, they’d say “wow, that’s going to be a big change.”
I’d nod and smile and say “mmhmm,” but inside my brain there was no hubristic nonsense. Instead there was “HOLY CRAP WE’RE MOVING TO ARABIA WHAT THE HELL ARE WE THINKING ARE THERE CHICKEN NUGGETS IN ARABIA MY KIDS ARE GOING TO STARVE.”
Despite my chicken nugget anxiety, we moved. Figured out how to move twelve huge suitcases, four people, and assorted carry-on bags half-way around the world (why yes, that was me you saw crouched in front of the departures counter at JFK, madly tossing things between suitcases trying to get the weight allotments right), figured out how to negotiate the grocery stores, figured out how to drive in a world where traffic laws are more like traffic suggestions, figured out that trying to make a strange place feel like “home” is almost as exhausting as having a newborn.
Nine months ago, if you’d asked me if we would stay in Abu Dhabi for another year, I would have laughed at you with the same incredulous laugh that you’d hear if you asked new parents when they were going to have baby #2: “We’re barely hanging on,” they’d say. “And you think we should do this to ourselves again?”
But then, you know, the baby smiles, it coos, it pats your cheek. It sits, babbles, drools, shoves oatmeal in its hair, crawls, and becomes generally the cutest baby ever in the history of babydom. And then one day, as you watch this Platonic specimen of babyhood scooch across the floor, the thought bubbles to the surface: why not another one, because if this one is so damn cute, what would a sister/brother look like?
And so it was a few months ago that I started to think, oh good lord, we just figured out how to live here. Now we’re going to move back? Liam no longer believes that we ruined his life by switching schools; Caleb can read rudimentary Arabic words; Husband loves the work he’s doing here; there are chicken nuggets in the frozen-food section of the grocery store. Being a typical mom-type person, I feel settled now that my family feels settled–and besides, if we moved, I would have to scrap this beautiful new blog design.
Do I really want to uproot again, move back to New York, give up our adventure before we’ve even really gotten started?
It’s been nine months; the new baby has gotten cute; we’re doing it again.
We’ve not officially told the kids, but our contracts are signed, so…expat life? Here we come again – or rather, here we stay. I guess I’m going to have to figure out a different metaphor for next year’s adventures.
One of the lovely support systems (safety nets? escape hatches?) that helped me adjust to life in Arabia has been the community at yeah write, curated by the amazing Erica (she of this blog redesign). click over using this button and see what’s brewing at yeahwrite this week…then come back to yeahwrite later this week and vote for your favorite posts