Tag Archives | home

Adapting to “home” … not quite.

The other day, I wrote a piece for The National, the English-language newspaper about “home,” or more exactly, the somewhat confused state of being multiply “homed.”  When we got back to Abu Dhabi after our time in New York this winter, I had the comforting, and somewhat disconcerting, sense that we were back “home,” even though we haven’t lived here for very long and even though most of the people we love in the world are back in the States.

The morning my article was due to come out in the paper, Caleb came in to wake me up in the morning. (Brief “I’m so lucky” sidebar: my kids wake themselves up in the morning a little bit before six, Caleb comes in to give me a kiss and tell me it’s “wake-up time,” Liam takes a shower, they get dressed, assemble their bags, play their computers, wait for the housekeeper me to make breakfast.)  He gave me my “wake-up” kiss and perched on the side of my bed.

First words out of his mouth? “When are we moving back to New York?”

Not all of us, I guess, have quite decided that we are “home.”


Continue Reading · on January 17, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, Kids

the things they carried (with thanks to Tim O’Brien)

Tim O’Brien has a fantastic book called The Things They Carried, about the talismanic objects that Viet Nam soldiers carried in their rucksacks.  We all carry things with us – things to remind us of the people we love, things to ward off danger, things to bring luck (and things to keep the baby quiet in Tar-jay, to amuse the restless fourth grader in the backseat, to bribe the recalcitrant pre-teen).

Expats carry things with them too, as they migrate from this “home” to whatever other country they call “home.” The journey isn’t as perilous as the journey confronting combat soldiers (although the customs line at JFK would terrify even the most hardened combat veteran), but still, we travel, cross-pollinating the flavors and comforts of our various homes as we go.

In no particular order, here’s what we carried back from the States this summer (not counting: new sneakers, Kiehl’s shampoos, several sets of ridiculously high thread-count sheets ridiculously on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond, and several vibrating souvenirs from BlogHer12).

Ortega Taco Spice Packets, because really, nothing gives that genuine Mexican taste like mixing orange-MSG-laced powder with ground beef (or as they call it here, Australian beef mince). Ole!

Maple syrup.  Maple trees aren’t precisely indigenous to the region, so syrup costs a fortune. Luckily, that ol’Canuck Trader Joe has big plastic jugs of the stuff, which here would cost 20, 30, 40 dollars.

Trader Joe’s Multi-Grain Pancake Mix. Actually, if I could, I would have packed most of TJ’s into my suitcase. But this pancake mix? Fantastic. Plus if you sprinkle an extra spoonful (or 2) of ground flaxseed into the batter and then put chocolate chips into the pancakes, your kids will never know.

Pepperoni. Greasy, salty, porky pepperoni. Well-laced with stabilizers, preservatives, and poly-syllabic words. We live in a country that has a vexed relation to pork, so finding real pepperoni is a tricky proposition.  “Turkey pepperoni,” which I see in some of the stores here just ain’t gonna cut it.  God never wanted turkeys to be pepperoni.

Real vanilla extract. Yes, it’s entirely possible I could make my own. No, I probably won’t ever do that. And no, you can’t buy it here easily because real vanilla extract is made with alcohol.  So c’mon over – we’re serving vanilla shots chez moi tonight!

Gross sugary toothpaste with Spongebob on the package, which is all that Caleb uses to brush his teeth. I don’t even know what the hell flavor this goo is supposed to be, but as of yet, Caleb has not graduated into minty-toothpaste age.  When he discovers in himself the need for winterfresh breath, I’ll know that he’s really moving out of childhood.

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa packets. Why my children prefer this stuff, with the hard flecks of marshmallow to the Cadbury hot cocoa that’s sold here, I have no idea. But the Swiss Missy is nowhere to be found, so into the suitcase she went.

Gluten for my friend Shannon because she’s just like that: others want gluten free but she goes the other direction: adds gluten to her bread dough and swears the bread tastes better. She said something about making me some bread in payment for toting these bags along …

I wanted to buy a waffle iron and bring it back, but Husband said something about voltage and short-circuits and plugs and over-the-weight-limit (the suitcases, not me), so I didn’t. But here’s a thing to contemplate: nowhere in this city, with all its electronics stores, hypermarkets, and upscale boutiques, can I find something as ordinary as a waffle iron. Is there some kind of waffle-fatwa that I don’t know about?

Our suitcases bulged, it’s true, but when we sat down to breakfast one morning with our pancakes and real maple syrup, while we looked out the window at the sun on the Arabian Gulf, it all seemed worth it: we had brought a bit of one home to the other.

Now I just have to figure out this waffle-fatwa. After all, I’ve got syrup.





Continue Reading · on September 20, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, food, NYC, Travel, UAE

Monday Listicle: Home

Home. That’s what Stasha is asking us to think about this week and as often happens, the listicle topic and the topic floating around in my own brain right now seem to mesh. I’ve been missing “home” a bit, even as I’m wondering where home is: is it with my mom, in Indiana, a state where I’ve never actually lived? Is it New York, where I no longer have an apartment? Is it Abu Dhabi, where I live in an apartment filled with furniture that belongs to the management company, not to us?

Maybe the answer is “all of the above.”

So. Given all these possibilities, a list about home.

1. Settled – we’re staying another year.  Unsettled – it still feels like new territory

2. Light – our living room has an amazing view of the Gulf, the city, the sky. Dark – the kitchen has walls the color of old oatmeal and no windows.

3. Spacious – to my squashed New York perspective, I think to myself we have a three bedrooms, which means the boys in one room, grownups in another, and one whole room for people to play computer games in, without mommy yelling politely requesting that they turn that damn thing game down.  Cramped – Liam desperately wants his own room; I don’t have a desk of my own; piles of paper are slowly coalescing around Husband’s desk like coral growing on a reef.

4. Decorated – there are silk drapes at the windows and alabaster light fixtures in the ceiling.  Overdone – I didn’t choose the drapes, didn’t choose the light fixtures, didn’t choose the rugs. It’s all better than what would’ve been here if we’d moved into an unfurnished apartment (windows with no privacy, bare bulbs in the ceiling, cold tile floors), but occasionally I want to chuck it all and start again with MY stuff.

5. Comfortable – the couch in the living room is perfect for napping or cuddling for story time.  Uncomfortable – the chairs that came with this dining room set are white leather with wood trim and give me a back ache. (Carmela Soprano would love them, however.)

6. Fragrant – we have sweet-smelling candles around, and occasionally I go into my dreary kitchen and cook good-smelling food. Smelly – the heat and humidity combine to create the fastest-growing breed of mildew you’ve ever sniffed: dishrags and washclothes can go from clean to euuwwww in about two hours.

7. Warm – sunlight streams in, an ocean breeze wafts in through the open window…eight or nine months a year. Freezing – the AC blasts non-stop the rest of the time; I keep a sweater draped over the back of my chair.

8. Loud – boys squabbling, music playing, and everything here pings: the microwave beeps, the washer beeps, the dishwasher beeps, the dryer beeps, even the damn fridge beeps if you leave the door open too long.  Quiet – unlike New York, where a constant barrage of sirens penetrates everywhere, the streets are quieter here, which means that the stillness in our apartment astonishes my New York ears.

9. Clean – the amazing luxury of a cleaning lady means no dust, tidy bathrooms, floors that aren’t sticky. Messy – socks on tables, homework spread on all surfaces, Very Important Lego Projects being built across the bedroom floor.

10.  Home – we live here.  Visiting – it’s an apartment in someone else’s city, not ours.

the sunset from our living room window a few months ago – no image manipulation whatsoever, I promise

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Continue Reading · on May 28, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, Monday Listicle

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