Tag Archives | London

revolution shmevolution, I’ve got travel plans

When Husband and I were first daydreaming about our move to Abu Dhabi, the idea of being able to explore this part of the world enticed me.  I figured from our perch on the Arab Peninsula, we’d be able to explore places with our kids that we would never get to from New York. What Husband and I didn’t realize is that we seem to carry with us some kind of revolutionary force field, which causes unrest wherever we go.

This summer, we were in London. There were riots.

We planned to go to Egypt last fall. Perhaps you’ve heard? There’s a revolution there.  And we figured that exploring Cairo with a seven and an eleven year old in tow wouldn’t be the best idea.  Friends of ours report that for tourists it’s all fine–just avoid the Tahrir Square bit, they say; just stick to the touristy bits, they say.  And I’m sure they’re right. But you know? If they’re wrong, even just a little bit, and Something were to Happen? Perhaps I don’t have the soul of a true adventurer, but I’m just not willing to risk it.  Yes, getting caught in a cross-fire would make for fabulous travel stories (and blog posts!) but on the downside, there’s potential blood loss and bodily injury.

So we went to India instead for our November holiday and that was fantastic. And perhaps there was revolution fomenting in the streets–but the traffic is so bad that who would know?

And now we have cashed in frequent flyer miles and discount coupons for a short family trip to the Maldives. Yes. The Maldives. We’re going to visit them before they’re awash in the Indian Ocean, the first inhabited landmass to be claimed by global warming. I’ve wanted to visit the Maldives for years and years, and when Husband was edging up on turning fifty, we decided we celebrate (mourn?) that fact by going to an atoll. Originally, of course, we wanted to go without our children but we’ve got nowhere to park them for four days while we travel, so we’re bringing them with us. Liam’s only comment? “Are we going to have to do anything like museums or anything? Or can we just go somewhere and sit?

Isn’t it great how his global expat life has broadened his horizons and made him a voracious consumer of world cultures?

So we’ve got our tickets, got our resort confirmation (resort with a “kids club,” natch, because I am not spending my Maldives trip breaking up fights or playing Crazy Eights. I’m going to try and make this family trip be an actual vacation), and I even bought a new bathing suit.

Yesterday in the Maldives? They had a revolution.

All I can say is they’d better sort out their revolutionary atollian selves, dammit.  Screw personal freedom and democracy and all that nonsense. I’ve got plane tickets.

image source

Continue Reading · on February 7, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Travel

Monday Listicles: Places I Love

These lists have become odd echoes of my life these days: what I miss, yin yang, and now places I love…We’re living in a new place–a place I don’t yet love. There’s potential here–the gulf is beautiful, the gardens are lovely–but nothing has yet worked itself into my imagination.  So thank you, Stasha and Saretta (who chose this week’s topic) for helping me list through my life!

Herewith, a list. What places do YOU love?

1 .Mackinac Island, Michigan: the Shangri-la where I spent all my growing-up summers, roaming the woods with gangs of cousins. No cars are allowed on the island, which makes it a magical place to be young. I spent so much time there that even now I can conjure up the exact feel of the warm porch floorboards beneath my toes, the smell of wet cedar trees after a rain, and the unbelievable tingle that comes with swimming in the icy clear water. It’s also the place where Husband and I got married, thirteen years ago today.

the view from the front porch on a hazy day

2. A book. I’ve lived in books my entire life and I swear to god that one of the reasons I feel so displaced these days has more to do with reading on an ipad than with living in the Middle East. I like pages, dammit! Sorry, Husband, your wife remains firmly analog (except where her iphone is concerned).

3. The back deck of my mother’s house in Indiana. Okay, Indiana wouldn’t be a state I’d ever choose to live, but Mom’s back deck sits over a little creek that burbles through the woods and when we visit in the summers, the deck is a quiet oasis where we sit and talk for hours and hours (or until the wine runs out, whichever comes first).

4. My kids’ imaginations: Snow White, space marauder, archer, Jedi, knight… their inexhaustible creativity reminds me that we don’t (always) have to accept the limitations of the here-and-now. Liam as Snow White. He’s about 4 in this picture– if he knew you’d seen it, he’d have to kill you.

Caleb as a French knight (the helmet came from his aunt & uncle, via France).

5. The beach. Pretty much any beach, actually. It’s the constant presence of “beach” here that makes Husband hope I will soon fall in love with Abu Dhabi: after all, there are the Gulf beaches, right outside my window.  And, he argues, what’s the desert but a big ol’ beach in search of some ocean?

6. Kayaking on the Hudson River in New York: when I’m on the river looking back at the city, I can’t hear the noise of the traffic.  The buildings rise out of the water like miracles and I get a little rush of “wow! look where I live!”

7.  Provence. Is that a cliché? I mean, who doesn’t love Provence? Can I love it even though I only speak faux-French (and that, badly)? The tiny little villages clinging to the hilltops; the fields of sunflowers and lavender, the olive groves? The whole countryside is designed to seduce–I never wanted to leave.

8. London’s Hyde Park. I loved wandering in Hyde Park when we were in London last month. In Central Park it’s almost impossible to forget that you’re in the middle of a huge city—the tips of the skyscrapers poke into almost every leafy corner. But Hyde Park, you can wander away from the city and actually imagine yourself sprawled in a country meadow.

9. The New York Public Library at 42nd Street: the big one, with the lions.  I love the fact that my book requests funnel to the underground stacks through pneumatic tubes; I love that I can find pretty much any newspaper or magazine every published in its real or digital catalogs; I love looking at the amazing diversity of people clustered around the reading tables, each person lost in her own universe but all of us gathered together in the beautiful reading rooms.

10. Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island, New Jersey: Yes, “down the shore.” A non honky-tonk beach town, with huge white beaches, twisted pine trees, and the ethos of just about any beach town: slow down, ease up, flip flops are fine.

Continue Reading · on August 29, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Monday Listicle, NYC, Travel

Bon Voyage

Tomorrow we leave London and go to Abu Dhabi.  We’ve been talking and planning and worrying and wondering about this move for months…and now it’s finally upon us.

We left our apartment six weeks ago, almost to the day, and we’ve been floating every since.  A rather grand tour—Paris, Provence, London—but still, floating. Haven’t read a newspaper, haven’t read my New Yorkers (I’m hoping they’re stockpiled for me in AD); it’s both exhilarating and disorienting to be so out of touch with what’s happening in the world.

Six weeks of no deadlines, no appointments, no responsibilities (other than tracking down the nearest Pizza Express or noodle-selling grocery store for my kids’ dinner).  I’ve been hauling around drafts of writing projects in what I like to call the bag o’guilt (writing projects, syllabi for upcoming fall course, Important Nonfiction Book) and have done…none of it.  Made my way through most of the Jo Nesbo detective stories (brilliant! amazing! Makes you think “Stieg WHO?”), read a lot of wonderful blogs (Marinka! Kelcey! Varda! Stasha! Empress! Wendi! The Bloggess! Shari! but mostly? Floating.

The upside of this discombobulated floating is that we’re all ready to go. Ready to Get There, Be There, Get Started. Hell, we all just want to unpack.  It’s been six weeks of “oh yeah, that book/lotion/important file/power cord/folder is…well, it’s in one of the suitcases. We’ll find it in Abu Dhabi.”

Both boys have had some serious bouts of whining (okay, pretty much every day has had at least one or the other or both snarling and mewling about the hell that is his life) and there have been a few sobbing sinkers, but overall they’ve held up pretty well. Five different perches in six weeks, almost no soccer, and a LOT of walking, which Caleb claims is incredibly boring, because when you’re walking you’re not really doing anything. I guess we’re lucky they’re still speaking to us.

Tomorrow morning we head for the airport with our eighty-five thousand suitcases, carry-ons, backpacks, and shoulder bags, trailing cords and plugs and wires and chargers, like a kind of techno comet tail.

Tomorrow night we sleep in another hemisphere.

When we wake up, it will already be about 95 degrees and Ramadan fasting will have begun.

We won’t be in Kansas any more, Toto. And as for over the rainbow? Well…we’ll just have to see.


*the picture of the boys is taken at the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich. They’re straddling the Prime Meridian, which marks the divide between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.  That whole GMT, Greenwich Mean Time? That’s the line, right there.  Seems appropriate, yes?



Continue Reading · on August 11, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, family, Travel, UAE


Being on the road for a month has taken its toll on Liam. On all of us, really, but he’s been having what my mom calls “sinkers” on a pretty regular basis. If he were a girl, I’d say he’s getting his period, but he’s a ten year old boy, so I don’t think that’s the right explanation.

He loved Paris when we were there…until he hated the weird pizza, the strange hot dogs, and the bizarre toilet flushing mechanisms.  And he thought London was great, until confronted by traffic patterns and crosswalks that didn’t make any sense (to him), milk that didn’t taste like the milk at home, and more toilets with bizarre flushers.

At the root of his sinkers, of course, is a mixture of homesickness and anxiety. He misses his friends terribly and has written them postcards and emails, but you know? Ten year olds just don’t find much solace in written communication. Their texts to one another are a mixture of insults and soccer scores.  He’s really worried about starting his new school in Abu Dhabi: the other kids will think he’s a freak because he’s so small (and here’s why) he won’t find a soccer team, he won’t make any friends, when he gets back to New York his soccer skills will have eroded so badly that he won’t be able to rejoin his travel team.

The poor guy: I think his mental image of “London” was just a series of green fields filled with kids playing soccer and that he could just wander over and join a game. Alas, despite all time we’ve spent in parks, both here (and in France), we’ve not seen anyone playing soccer.

On the one hand, I want to shake him and say that pizza tastes weird because in Paris you’re not supposed to be eating pizza; crosswalks make sense for London traffic; hot dogs taste weird under the best of circumstances and milk is milk, so just shut up and drink it.  As for the funky toilets and why they can’t just flush like a good old US potty? I’ve got no answer for that.

On the other hand, of course, my heart cracks for him. It’s hard to live out of a suitcase for any length of time and to do so with the knowledge that you’re not going “home” but to yet another strange place is even harder. And of course he’s worried about starting a new school—we’re all worried about what’s next.

When he crashes and cries, snuffling into his pillow about being scared and lonely and sad, I sit next to him on the bed, rub his back, and tell him it’s all going to be okay, that we’re sure he’s going to make friends, find soccer, like his new school.

Usually I can soothe him to sleep and when he wakes up the next morning, his world looks less gloomy.

His anxieties feed my own, though, so that I lie awake in the dark while every terrible possibility (terribility?) floats through my head and the “what ifs” ricochet around my brain.

I’m sure it’s all going to be fine, I tell myself in the morning.

But in the middle of the night, I think, “what if it’s not?”

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Continue Reading · on August 7, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, growing up, Kids, Parenting, Travel

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