Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in the U.S.A. – Part One

Expats evacuate the Middle East during the hot, humid, stifling summer months. Families take extended holidays back to their country of origin. Wives go home for weeks, leaving husbands to tough it out alone. I’m enjoying five weeks in the U.S. while Mark is staying in Abu Dhabi and working. According to Mark, today’s temperature was 48°C or 119°F.

Yet I feel a little left out because I am missing the Ramadan experience. “Ramadan Kareem,” I see in posts and news stories. This means “Have a Generous Ramadan,” because Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, thanks, and generosity to others. Sometimes, with this crazy, fast-paced life we live, the idea of slowing down and reflecting is appealing. Mark tells me the streets in Abu Dhabi are strangely empty as Muslim people fast all day, not even drinking water. Then, as the sun goes down, they head out for Iftar, a large meal that breaks the fast. Shops that have been closed all day open, and many stay open all night. The grocery stores are packed, Mark says, like they would be during a natural disaster.

Mark’s Ramadan work hours are 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. But it’s too hot to be outside, and as a sign of respect even non-Muslims must refrain from eating and drinking even water in public during the day, so that makes going out even less enticing. Instead, he’s been watching movies and reading on the Internet.
What have I been doing, here in the U.S.? Too much to write long stories about, so here are some random thoughts and activities, with photos.
Kailyn 003

The first thing I did was check in with family, especially my granddaughter, Kailyn.

I thought perhaps returning home would make me feel disconnected after my long absence, like an outsider. I did feel a little bit out of phase when I first arrived in the U.S., but mostly because of lack of Internet in our house in Nevada.
Home was a welcome sight. Thanks to our gardener and watchful neighbors, it looks just like it does when we are home – except that the yard furniture is missing, put away in the garage.Two of the things I’ve missed the most are the blue, blue Nevada skies and the high desert sunsets.
Faye Luther 012

Home is Where the Art Is
Gardnerville 001

To get onto the Internet, I went to 88 Cups coffee shop in Minden for breakfast and Wi-Fi. What I did not know was that my oil painting teacher, Tina Tyrrell, would be teaching a class there at 11:00 a.m. What a happy surprise to see her walk in!

Gardnerville 003
Meeting Tina’s students and seeing them set up their easels and paints made me want to move right back and start painting with them. Tina introduced me to Bob, who is interested in boats, owns a sailboat and is working on a tugboat series. He’s a retired geologist who spent most of his career working in the oil fields in the Middle East. Small world! I got his email address so I can ask him geology questions about the landscape when Mark and I visit places.

I’ve produced one painting since we’ve been living in Abu Dhabi, which I brought back with me to get Tina’s advice on the final touches. The day after I saw Tina at 88 Cups, I went to the Tuesday class in Carson City, about 15 miles from Minden/Gardnerville. Since all my painting supplies are in Abu Dhabi, I borrowed from my friend Debbie. I had done the painting on a piece of linen canvas which I had cut off of a roll and packed in my suitcase. Now, thanks to Tina, the painting is finished, and I’ll glue it onto a board and frame it.

Sailing Lake Tahoe

The first weekend I was in the U.S., I was invited to crew with our friends Jim and Jamie Casey on their J124 Pleiades in the annual Tran Tahoe sailboat race on Lake Tahoe. As usual, the race was postponed for an hour until the wind came up. The slowest boats started first, so we were the last start. We got into a little altercation with the other boats on the starting line. Once we started we had steady, if shifty, breeze, took second place in the race, and celebrated with shrimp tacos afterward.

“Beer can” races are a summer tradition in the sailing world. These are (supposedly) relaxed and friendly “fun” races. So on Wednesday night I again found myself on Pleiades, but this time with a somewhat greener crew, including my Abu Dhabi pal Lucy, who is in the U.S. with her 93 year old mom, who happens to live in Fernley, Nevada. This world is full of coincidences. Jim and Jamie are always so gracious about taking people out on Wednesdays, so it was no problem when I invited Lucy.

We got onto the boat, and WHOA! Was it windy! With gusts in the high 20 knot range, we played it conservative. I wasn’t sure how I would explain to Tom if we lost Lucy in the Lake Tahoe mountain water, which is as cold as the Arabian Gulf is hot this time of year. The elevation at Lake Tahoe is about 6225 feet, and the water in the lake is all snowmelt. At that altitude the air is “thinner,” which means that 20 knots of breeze has less strength than 20 knots of breeze at sea level. Even so, Pleiades is a big, heavy boat with big loads and we opted to run downwind under jib and main instead of using the spinnaker. “Hang on, Lucy!” I kept yelling.

There was too much wind for sailing photos, but the view from the Tahoe Yacht Club is gorgeous.

Back to Nature – Hiking and Walking the Trails
My work with The Nature Conservancy and the Carson Valley Trails Association has given me a great appreciation for trails and wildlife. The photos in the following albums are from four hikes/walks that I have done since I arrived:

· Carson River at River Fork Ranch near Genoa, Nevada

I went on this walk with Charles Wolle, my neighbor. He is a U.S. federal judge, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987 and still working. And coincidentally, his brother William Wolle was the U.S. Ambassador to Abu Dhabi 1979-1981.

· Faye Luther Trail in Gardnerville, Nevada

This trail crosses the CA/NV state line. I helped build this trail with the Carson Valley Trails Association. The trailhead is just about 5 miles from our house. It’s part of a wonderful trail system that is being developed.

· Lake Winnemucca at Carson Pass, California with Jamie and Lucy

· Meeker Slough section of the San Francisco Bay Trail, in Point Richmond, California with my long time good friend Lori

Next stop: Disneyland, with Kailyn!

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