Just the facts

I know I’ve not been great with keeping up on the blog; I’d apologize, but if I’m being honest, my absence has been more about sparing you the bellyaching and homesick stories. You know, Mom always says, if you can’t say anything nice, just zip it. It’s been zipped a good while.

Now, it seems, we’ve arrived at the best part of the year here in Dubai, and it’s about time I try saying something nice.

November has been a month of cool mornings and short school weeks. We’ve had parent-teacher conferences, American Thanksgiving, and this week, the kids have another long weekend for UAE National Day. The long weekends have been nice. Kids get an extra day to catch up on sleep, and we’ve been able to spend a day relaxing before the “real” weekend. Mbarek still has to work, so it’s been up to me to do something fun with Noah and Meryem, and we have. We’ve been to the Dubai Zoo (which we would not call fun, but educational in its own way). We’ve spent a long morning at the beach, building sand castles, catching jellyfish, reading books. The kids are doing just fine in school.

We’ve done a few other things over the course of the month. We took a road trip to Al Ain, which is just an hour and a half away, to see a more proper zoo, with humane habitats and proper vet care for the animals. This past weekend, we visited the Date Palm Festival at the Abu Dhabi National Exposition Center. It’s essentially a trade show for the date industry, which allowed us to taste more varieties of dates than you might have imagined could exist. So now we know the names of our favorites. Meryem “planted” a date palm, but neither kid was keen on climbing the date palm that was set up with climbing cables. We also got to try specialty sweets made from dates, date milk, and camel’s milk ice cream (delicious). We stopped at Shaykh Zayed Mosque for Friday prayers, but we have yet to take the tour of this breathtakingly gorgeous house of worship.

Mbarek spent one day fishing on a charter boat this month. I was invited, but had to stay home to meet the school bus. He accompanied his boss and a colleague to Fujairah, and they fished out in the open sea, and he returned late at night with about forty pounds of the freshest fish possible. We have since grilled mahi-mahi twice, and both meals were exceptionally good.

The children have made friends with a pair of sweet kids whose mother is also quite lovely, so I believe I can safely say, even with abundant caution, that we have finally each made a friend. They’re a global-expat sort of family, surely much better at adapting to places, schools, lifestyles and such than we are. At the same time, they are the most normal of people. The kids make up their own games together and do normal kid things like play with Legos, make-believe, draw and color, and swim. Their mom is happy to drink coffee from mismatched mugs on the front step and listen to the birds in the trees. We’re looking forward to enjoying the parks and beaches together over the coming months, until March rolls around and the heat and humidity return full force.

The school gave its nod to Thanksgiving with classroom celebrations followed by a day off. I brought the stuffing for Meryem’s class and watched, disappointed, as 25 or so 8-year-olds couldn’t manage to politely cue or behave through a picnic lunch on the green. I distinctly remember a Thanksgiving meal last year, with a class the same size and students a year to two years younger, including many with special needs, who behaved beautifully even when going back for seconds, in a little public school in Wisconsin. There really is value in being nice, and I’m thankful for kids (and parents) who know the difference.

We’ve planned a family getaway for winter break. We’d originally planned for Istanbul, but that changed when Mbarek was cautioned that a winter storm there could ground us to a hotel room. Instead, we are now looking forward to a week at the Dead Sea. I’m disappointed, since I was really looking forward to Istanbul. But the Dead Sea has its own ancient history, and maybe Istanbul can happen later.

That’s really all there is. Not a lot of news. Very little has happened–indeed, it seems very little happens overall lately, and I should be thankful. There are places in this corner of the world where a lot, too much, really, is happening, and it mostly amounts to suffering. Such places seem to surround us while we remain in our protective cocoon, where the worst we suffer might be loneliness, alienation, boredom and artificiality. It could be much worse.

So now, with December’s start in just a couple of days, I need to get on with my pool-lounging, patio-sitting, beach-walking winter and enjoy it while it’s here.

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