Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Leaving Abu Dhabi (again)

“This Abu Dhabi adventure has lasted longer than we expected, hasn’t it?”
I posed this question to Mark yesterday as we were driving from mall to mall doing some errands, and he nodded. There is more of a sense of finality as we prepare to leave this time. But still … the door remains open. Mark will probably be back, maybe an 80% chance. For me, it’s more like 50%. But those are pretty good odds. People are always leaving. Then they come back.
We’ve been here for 10 weeks, living in a small hotel room on the 7th floor of Traders. It’s weird living in a hotel; like living on a boat, kind of. You learn how to keep out of each other’s way. We have a bit of water view  from the balcony, if I lean out. It’s a little place to call home, for a while.

Mark is at work during the day, so I have the room to myself. Except when the housekeeper, usually Sidath, a tiny, charming Sri Lankan man, comes daily to refresh the room.  He is always watching, and he’ll pop in while I’m gone somewhere. When I come back the bed is made, towels and water bottles replenished, and any strewn clothes neatly folded. Including underwear … which I try not to let happen. The second week, he asked if we like animals and when I told him we like elephants, he made an elephant with towels.


This ten-week trip has not turned out as we expected, mainly because Mark worked much longer hours than we anticipated. A project came up, and he’s been working overtime on the base, and even most weekends. We weren’t able to take any day trips. Whenever he’s been off work, he’s been exhausted. Usually, if he wants to go out at all it’s to the mall to look expensive watches …
… or cars.
So I’ve been on my own a lot. People at work have been asking Mark, ”How is your wife doing?” They felt sorry. But the answer is, I’ve been having a great time! The people I met when we lived here before – the ones who are still here, living at the Shangri-La, who haven’t left yet – are great friends. Girlfriends. I haven’t had this many girlfriends since I was in high school!
Whereas I was a bit isolated when we lived in the Al Seef apartment compound, living here at the Traders/Shangi-La complex means I have neighbors that I know, and there is always something to do: golfing, silk painting, coffee at Starbuck’s, canasta at Traders, handbag shopping ... and parties, especially Halloween and Thanksgiving.
It’s a group. The Real Housewives of Shangri La. You don’t have to live there to get in. But you do have to be there, sometimes.
This trip back to Abu Dhabi was, for me, all about realizing how connected I feel to this place, and the people I met here. After three and a half years, since we first became aware of the UAE, it’s grown on us. Changes happen so fast here, it’s like watching a kid grow up. When did that building get so tall? All finished, already? Or, finally?
But it’s the people, mainly for me the huge expat community, that make this place so dynamic.
We’ve been looking forward to going home since the day we got here. Ten weeks is a long time to live in a hotel. But now that we’re down to the last two days, it’s feeling very bittersweet. We’ll be home for Christmas, the family is coming to our house in Nevada, there will be snow – at least up in the mountains – and I’ll be enjoying all the improvements that have been made to the house while we’ve been gone.
But I now know that this connection to Abu Dhabi is permanent. There is blood in my veins, and water … and now, sand.

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