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Tag Archives | change

mixer, memento: finding roots in a rootless life

I have a new coffee table. Big and square, it’s exactly the right height to rest my feet on while I sit on the couch.  I have a new dining table, too, and in the kitchen cabinet there’s a new mixer—one of those fancy standing mixers with an attachment for mixing bread dough. Of course, in the two years I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi, I’ve made bread exactly three times, so I don’t know if I’ll ever use that mixer.

I bought the mixer as a memento, actually, from friends who are leaving Abu Dhabi permanently. They’re going back to the States after eight years abroad and the mixer won’t work on a US electrical current. The dining table and coffee table are also mementos, purchased from another set of friends also moving away.

Most major metropolitan areas have expat communities, whether the high-end corner office types or the unskilled workers who clean those offices, but in Abu Dhabi, the population seems more fluid than it is in other places. Sometimes, in fact, living here seems like living in Chile under Pinochet: one day you’re nodding and smiling at the nice couple with the little dog who live down the street, and then it’s two weeks gone and you realize their house has been vacant for days.

Where did they go with that little dog? Across town? Across the globe? Back “home,” wherever that might be? Did someone get sick, lose a job, get a job, have a baby, split up?  I feel like I live in a city of unfinished stories and loose ends. Sometimes you get the full story: you say good-bye and all those other farewell things that you mean when you say them: “come visit,” and “we’ll visit,” and “there’s always facebook.” But more often than not, people just disappear; we notice for  a minute and then life swirls on.

I suppose on the one hand, the optimistic view of these transient relationships would be to see a web of friendships spreading across the globe and to imagine that children who grow up in expat cultures will always have a friend’s couch to sleep on, no matter where they find themselves.

But on the pessimistic other hand, this fluid community creates a kind of tentativeness: why invest in a new friendship if that friendship will soon become long distance instead of down the street? This question seems particularly pressing at my age, which is to say no longer in the first bloom (or even the second bloom) of youth: I’m middle-aged, frequently crabby, often tired, all of which makes making friends really hard. All that small talk and getting-to-know-you chitchat? Really, who has time?

Except, of course, as Simone Weil once said, “being rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Without friends and the sense of community that friends provide, can we feel rooted anywhere? Are we supposed to carry our roots with us, like trees at a garden store, each with its root-ball tenderly wrapped in burlap to make it easier to transport—and transplant?

I have just moved to a new house, with every expectation of putting down our own roots, and as if to literalize the metaphor, there’s a little garden, where come September, I’m imagining frangipangi and jasmine, maybe a pot of herbs in a shady corner.  I will cook for new friends in the neighborhood and try not to be crabby. Maybe I’ll even bake bread for these as yet unmet friends. After all, I have a mixer with just the right attachment.




for the first time in a long time, i’m joining the writers at yeahwrite: click the badge, read the work you’ll see on the grid: it’s good! yeah writer writers are like broccoli for your brain, but broccoli that sort of tastes like chocolate. Vote for your faves on the grid starting Thursday…

Continue Reading · on July 11, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, environment, expat, Travel

Monday Listicle: Ch-ch-changes…

I have no one to blame but myself. Last week, when Stasha asked me to propose this week’s topic, I thought writing about “changes” would be a good idea. This week, however, after living through a(nother) week of change, I’m wishing the topic this week were “things that are fluffy,” or something like that.

Far be it from me to back off from a challenge, however (or at least, I hate backing off in public. In private, I take the easy route all the time), so I will not write about bunnies, slippers, and cotton balls. I will do like the song says, “turn and face the strain.”

1. On August 12, exactly a month ago, almost to the hour, we landed in Abu Dhabi.  One of the reasons it feels weird to write “Monday’s Listicles,” in fact, is that today (Monday) feels like Tuesday. Sunday is the Monday of the Gulf region. Thursday night is like Saturday night; Friday is like Sunday–the holy day, for those who observe, and Saturday is..well, Saturday is still Saturday.  But Saturday night is like Sunday night, when you finally wade into the pile of work you brought home for the weekend so that you can bring it to the office on Sunday. Confused yet?

2. Pills. Pills are a change that has nothing to do with Abu Dhabi and everything do with–ahem–the aging process. Husband has one of those little daily pill thingys; I have a bottle of thyroid medicine next to the bed so that I remember to take it every morning (on an empty stomach).  Health. Health used to be something I didn’t notice. It’s sort of like money, health: when you have it, you sort of don’t notice it. It’s only in the absence that these things become important.  Husband and I seem pretty healthy, our pills notwithstanding (insert sound of knocking on wood here), but still. We’re in our late mid-forties and conversations with friends frequently go to a discussion of aches, pains, doctors, procedures.

3. Road signs have changed:

4. As have the displays at Ikea (although the furniture remains the same, as does, sadly, the daunting warehouse full of flat brown heavy boxes):

dishdashas hanging in a wardrobe display

5. I am now the mother of a middle-schooler. Which is impossible because just yesterday we brought him home from the NICU at a whopping four pounds.  How is that breadloaf size baby now scrutinizing his hair in the bathroom mirror in the morning and announcing (as he did on the first day of school) that “this year he will be paying a great deal of attention to his grooming.”  I have a child old enough to groom?  That sound you hear is my late-mid-forties slurping down the drain.

6. I live in a place where I can’t find chipotle peppers anywhere but  grocery stores have entire aisles devoted to ghee.

7. Family trips to the grocery store no longer end up in Union Square Park but somewhere a little more…salty:

8. Because my sandals will not be jammed into the back of my closet any time soon, pedicures have become a necessity rather than a luxury.  This is not a bad thing.

9. Caleb had to write a one-sentence clue about himself for a kids-in-the-class crossword puzzle they were doing. He wrote “This is a boy who loves soccer and loves to read.” Last year, at the start of first grade, we had to force him (bribe him, cajole him, wrestle him) to read his allotted thirty minutes a day.  His first-grade teacher won’t ever read this, but THANK YOU, Amy F.!

10. Change is everywhere in our lives, and as we slowly sink into real life, I’m sure there are more Big Changes ahead.  And then, in the face of all that change? Sameness: soccer tryouts started tonight, so there we all were, the soccer parents: chitchatting, phone calling, email checking, BlackBerry toting, cheering for their kids.  Just like home.




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Continue Reading · on September 12, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, Monday Listicle, NYC

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