How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's Four in the Morning In Abu Dhbai...

So, it's almost four a.m and I am not alseep. If I am, that means I am typing in my sleep and there's no telling what this entry will reveal...

Tonight I attended a meet and greet party at a teacher's apartment here in Abu Dhabi. I was able to talk to quite a few teachers who have been here awhile.  Even met a Alabama gal named Jo who hearts the Florabama and says "y'all" too. She teaches in Al Ain, the city where I will be living. Jo advised me on the best place to get a pedicure and even offered to give me the Al Ain grand tour and hang out with me awhile. That good ole Southern hospitality is a trait that even moving over seven thousand miles from the deep South can't erase. Her mama raised her right..The hostess for the party isn't Southern, but she must have some Southern heritage lurking in her bloodstream; she served mint juleps! Such a supportive group. It's amazing really.

It was a good day, but I still have quite a lot to do: go meet my principal (have no idea how I am supposed to do that since I don't have a car and my school is about two hours away from the hotel where I am currently being housed), clean my apartment (it is new and there is construction dust everywhere), order my furniture and arrange for delivery (once furnishing funds hit the bank), arrange for hook up of internet service, rent a car (will not rent it in Abu Dhbai.. must be in Al Ain before I do that), and I have to find some more long skirts and tunic like tops to wear to work. I am hoping that ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) will get all of us teachers moved to our regions shortly. Would be so much easier to get things done if I weren't an hour and forty five minutes from where I am going to live.

Going to the bank tomorrow to pick up my bank card. After that a lazy day at the hotel pool sounds good... Real good. I think it will be the last day of rest for quite awhile. All of next week is taken up with meetings after meetings, a la conference style.

Talked to Mom tonight and dad is doing well at the V.A. They are waiting on a nursing home placement to open up. He did okay at Emory, but the minute he came home, things got pretty bad. Mom hadn't been able to arrange for in home assistance before he came home and within three days she realized that she couldn't manage it on her own. To be fair to her though, in my small hometown there just aren't a lot of resources available to families of Alzheimer's victims.

Mom says she doesn't mention my name to dad because he cries whenever he hears it. He has become very emotional, but the tears never last for long because his memory is almost nonexistent.  Some part of him knows that I am gone. I really miss my dad. My real dad.  The one who used to talk to me about history shows he had watched on t.v. The one who used to grill hamburgers on Fourth of July. The one who would quietly and furtively push a ten dollar bill into my hand "for emergencies".
Fuck Alzheimer's.

Dad and my daughter, Lara: circa 1998

I think maybe I can sleep now. I have GOT to get on a better sleep schedule.  School starts September 9th. And I don't think they hired me to teach night school...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Week In Abu Dhabi: Does This Jetlag Make My Ass Look Big?

What a whirlwind past couple of days it has been. My brain is just now slowly cycling down from the constant spin.

I arrived at the Atlanta airport August 22 to find six other teachers waiting to board my flight. Made me feel safe and not quite so alone. We headed out on this great adventure together and they made everything less confusing and help create a sense of camaraderie. A very special group of teachers. 

The flight to Doha from JFK was uneventful. I watched Hunger Games and I Am Legend and tried to doze a little.  I also walked the aisles periodically to stretch. I peeked out the airplane window by sliding the shutter open a thin crack every once in a while, and it was almost like we were chasing the sun. Losing eight hours does something to your sense of place and time.. I am just now getting accustomed to knowing what the day of the week and the date is again. 

After arriving in Abu Dhabi at 11:45 p.m, going through security, and gathering our luggage from the carousel, we stepped outside and were hit with a wall of humidity like nothing I have ever felt in my life, and I live in Georgia, so think about that one for a second.  The humidity hung so thick in the air that the sidewalks were layered in a thin layer of water. The heat pressed in like a hot dishcloth and ripped the air from my lungs. "It's not the heat it's the humidity". In this case, that cliche saying applies.

I have now been here at the Fairmont Hotel in Abu Dhabi for six days. Those six days have been quite a ride and a half. The Fairmont is five star ALL THE WAY.  Fresh purple orchards are placed in the lobby every morning, the sand covered ashtrays (yes, they still smoke indoors over here) are stamped with a curlicue "F" every hour or so, I think. I mean, someone in this hotel is lurking about and his/her sole purpose in life is to make sure that "F" stays fresh.. Where is this person? I am going to hide behind a chair in the lobby and catch him in the act before I leave..

In the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel lounging on the Rhinestone Couch

My room at The Fairmont  Hotel

The staff at the Fairmont are extremely helpful and accommodating. There is a pool, beach, several hotel restaurants, a pool bar,gym,  and a shisha bar (“hubbly bubbly”- don’t think I’ll try it). The Grand Mosque graces the back view of the hotel like an oil painting.

shisha bar at hotel

The Grand Mosque

Day One August 24 
I was able to sleep the night before. Found I wasn’t that tired and actually went to the mall (Al Wahda) and out to eat. Who stole my jet lag?

Day Two August 25 
Hit the gym then off to the pool and the pool bar for a drink. 

pool bar.. tough life but someone has to do it.
doing my part for international relations.. Me and my new Canadian friend, Suzanne, at the pool bar.

After a quick nap up in the hotel room, Suzanne, her son, and I caught a cab and headed to the mall (Marina Mall). I do a lot of window shopping only...

Day Three August 26
Orientation and we received the keys to our apartments!! I have been placed in Al Ain, about an hour and forty-five minutes from Abu Dhabi City due east. I am so very happy about this. Al Ain was my first choice. In the afternoon, back to Marina Mall (seeing a pattern here?).

Day Four August 27 
     Buses were provided so the teachers could go see our apartments. Mine is brand new and I really like it. I am especially happy with its location (catty corner from an Abela Supermarket and near the Tawan Hospital!).  The apartment has two bedrooms and two baths. There are no closets anywhere in the apartment, which is very common here, so I guess I’ll have to buy a wardrobe. 

      The floors are all tile, and the kitchen has a place for a “cooker” (a stove) and a washing machine. No room for a dryer. They don’t use them here since there is no way to vent them outside with the way the apartments are built. You either have to dry clothes on a rack or get a washer/dryer combo that does nothing but turn cold wet clothes into hot wet clothes. 

The kitchen

The master bath

     After we got back from the apartment sightseeing tour, I rested a bit and then I went back to (you guessed it) THE MALL! This time to the Abu Dhabi mall and a nice dinner at the Mongolian Chinese Restaurant with six other teachers and Superman. 

On the road from Al Ain back to Abu Dhabi

Superman at the Mongolian Chinese Restaurant

Day Five August 28 
Everything caught up with me and I slept until 2:30 p.m. I finally got dressed, and another teacher, who has been here for a year, picked me up at the hotel in her car (thanks, Cindy!) and we went to another teacher’s apartment. We ordered takeout food and sat around and chatted, I picked their brains a little and laughed a lot.  They are funny, kind, sarcastic, irreverent, and all of them reminded me what it is that I like about meeting new people- the sense of discovery. Maybe I have found another Wolfpack... (but, Scotty, you and I are still a Wolfpack of two).

Day Six August 29 
I awoke fully and suddenly fifteen minutes before the scheduled wake up call came though at 6:30 a.m. Really surprised me because I didn’t go to sleep the night before until 2:30 a.m. The teachers all met in the lobby at 7:30 a.m as instructed and boarded buses for our medical checks. 

Steps to medical check
 1. Ride all the way across Abu Dhabi

            2. Go into a 24 or something story medical building that is crawling with people from every part of the globe receiving medical checks also. 

       3.  Sit and wait. 

      4. Get fingerprinted and photographed (somewhere in that building, at this very moment is a really bad photo of me… I mean BAD).
         5.  Sit and wait.

         6.  Have blood pressure taken.

         7. Sit and wait.

         8. Have sight medical exam performed (doctor basically asked what medication I was taking and why, had me take off my shirt, checked my skin and then asked if I was pregnant. Yeah.. right, lady, look at the hormone replacement therapy med again..).

        9. Sit and wait.
       10.   Have blood drawn. Two vials. I have a bad bruise on my right arm now. 

       11.   Sit and wait.
       12.   Have chest X-ray taken.

       13.   pee in a cup

1     14.   Go down to bus where I sit and wait for other teachers to finish and come down to wait on bus  with me.  Some of us wait for an hour and a half on the bus.

When we finally arrived back at the hotel, I went to my room, changed clothes, and hopped a taxi (taxis and buses are our primary modes of transportation at the moment) and went to THE MALL again with a couple of friends and one friend’s seventeen year old son who is here with her.   At the mall (Abu Dhabi Mall) I ordered Kentucky Fried Chicken and marveled at how they haven’t figured out the Colonel’s secret recipe yet..

view of Abu Dhabi and one of the Roundabouts (taken from shuttle going back to hotel today..)

Tomorrow I have to get my Georgia driver’s license translated so when my work visa comes though I can obtain a UAE driver’s license asap.  I then have to go to the Abu Dhabi National Bank at the Mushrif Mall and pick up my bank debit card (please, please, please..). Then on to Ikea to sort of get an idea of what type of furnishings I want for my apartment. All the new teachers will receive a housing allowance of 20,000 dirhams (about $5,500.00 USD) sometime in the next week or two. Group One got theirs today.

I found out through an email late last night that I have been placed in a school about an hour’s drive away from my apartment. I will teach 10-12 grade girls, like I was told in my interview.  The location of the school is very rural and right in the middle of the desert.  I am thrilled to get this “party” started and meet “my” girls. 

So, that’s the adventure for now.. Every day is go go go. Every night I chat with my family over skype.  And every day is one step closer to me getting back in the classroom where I belong, Inshallah….

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

'Twas The Night Before Takeoff...

Tomorrow at 4:45 my plane leaves from Atlanta. I will arrive in Abu Dhabi August 23 at 11:45 pm Abu Dhabi time. Guess this is the the REAL countdown, huh?

 Jim and I had to rent an SUV in Warner Robins in able to get all my luggage (three 50 pound bags) packed in. If we had packed them in the Z4 I wouldn't have had room to ride...

After we picked up the rental, we drove straight to Emory Hospital so I could spend time with Dad. He looked good today and smiled HUGE when he saw me. I leaned over the wheelchair and he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me and cried.  He is able to sleep all night now, isn't agitated, his appetite is back, and his muscles spasms and twitches are largely gone. We listened to Merle Haggard and Alan Jackson on the CD player, he ate peaches and ice cream (and all his dinner), and Mom and I took him outside to the courtyard for awhile. He really perks up when he's outside. He's always loved spending time outdoors. When I  left the hospital I held him and told him that I loved him, and he said, "I love you more than anything". 

Tonight I am spending the night at my brother's house 20 minutes from the airport. (Mike, I am going to jack the AC down to 72 degrees so I can sleep, so watch out for that next electric bill).

Bed time for Bonzo... Gonna go cuddle with My Jim.

P.S I have my correct passport WITH me. Superman made certain....

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Passport is Stapled to My Ass.

No, it's not really stapled, but believe me when I say I will have it with me Wednesday.. the NEW date I leave.

I received an email yesterday from the travel agency (after I emailed asking where my itinerary and plane ticket was)  informing me that I am booked to leave Atlanta on August 22 at 4:35 p.m heading to Abu Dhabi via New York and Doha, Qatar.  I am scheduled to arrive in Abu Dhabi August 23 at 11:45  p.m Abu Dhabi time. 

Tomorrow I am going to renew my driver’s license and obtain an international driver’s license, my one concession to actually doing something trip related this week. Since I missed my flight last week there hasn’t been too much for me to do. It was all done.. I did manage to lighten the luggage I am taking with me, but I still have my grits packed safely away in bubble wrap. Yesterday, I gathered all my teaching materials/supplies into plastic bins so I can store them away for the duration of my time away. 

I have slowed down since I missed my flight. I have tried to cook good meals for Jim and even watched a little bit of television with him (I am not a television watcher..). Last night we watched Puss in Boots- The Shrek Puss in Boots.  Jim and I set up the T.V trays in the living room and watched the silly cartoon of Puss while we ate BBQ chicken, butter beans, baked potatoes, and salad.

I walked twice this week: once with Susa, Lara, and Scott and then tonight with Scott. We got in about three miles each time. I am going to miss those walks. I am less stressed than I was August 9th, the date of my original flight.  I am less panicked, calmer and more in control.  I am in a much better place mentally and emotionally than I was a week ago.  And this time I feel better about leaving.

I was able to go with Mom to meet with the social worker at the V.A this past week and we started the initial paperwork rolling on a placement for when dad is released from Emory.  The facility we have in mind is a good one and is only four miles from my brother’s house in Fayetteville.  I am going to visit it with Mom before I leave Wednesday. Mom is still hoping she can bring dad home for a little while, but contingency plans have to be made for an uncertain future.  One thing I have discovered about Alzheimer’s is that the entire family has to live in the present, not think about the past, and yet have five different plans for the future . It’s a tightrope sometimes. 

Mom is in a better place about my dad illness, and she has worked through some of her grief and is actually getting stronger every day. There is an acceptance starting to take root inside of her. She is going to be okay. Of course, she is going to still have some very difficult, emotionally draining days ahead, but she has found her second wind.   Dad is receiving good care and Emory has finally gotten his meds adjusted to where he is sleeping at night. He is getting physically stronger each day and is even walking a bit with the assistance of the physical therapist and the nursing staff. His hallucinations seem to be less profound, and his shaking and jerking spasms are not as severe.
Dad still has bad days and will continue to have bad days until all he has left are bad days. It’s all the nature of the beast. I have no delusions about his prognosis. He is not going to get better, only worse, but now I feel confident that his quality of life will be stable for a while longer and that he will be taken care of.  Mom bought a portable CD player last week and today when she visited dad she played some Merle Haggard for him and she said he was keeping time with his right index finger and even trying to sing along. Music makes him so happy. It’s the little joys like music that we try to provide for my dad now. 

Sometimes I don’t know how much of my dad is still left, and then other times he surprises me. Today Mom told him that I missed my flight last week. He smiled at her and said quite plainly, “Good”.  Mom told me a few weeks ago that if dad were himself that he would be wishing me well on this adventure to Abu Dhabi.  I think my exact words to my Mom were, “Oh no, he wouldn’t. He would be trying to stop me and be mad as hell. If it were anyone else but me he would think it was a good idea, but not for his daughter”.   She mulled over my statement for a second and finally admitted I was right. And that’s the way it’s always been. My dad wanting to protect me, and me trying to break free and be my own person.  And it brings me a small measure of comfort to know that deep inside of my broken dad, I am still his little girl and he still wants to protect me. 

I am going to visit Dad Tuesday. I have to see him before I leave.  I will take a half pint of Breyer’s chocolate ice cream and feed it to him slowly so he can savor it. He so loves ice cream. .  Afterwards I will play a 50s music CD, bend over his wheelchair, hold him and pretend that he is teaching me to slow dance. I will be eight years old again for a precious few minutes.  I will then kiss him and leave.  And yes, if he were himself he would be arguing with me about my going so far away, but his heart would be proud of me for reaching out and grabbing what I want in life..  After all, I am his daughter.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Enny Meeny Minney MORE Tales of "Trying to Get to Abu Dhabi" (A Continuing Saga)

I spent the first part of the day today trying to reason with the travel agency that takes care of the flight itineraries for teachers going to Abu Dhabi.

It played out like this:
This morning I noticed there were a good many teachers in Group Two (the group I am supposed to be going with) leaving from Atlanta next week. They were posting that they had received their itineraries and were sharing flight days and times. I hadn't received mine yet. Little red alarm bells went off in my head and I started trying to get the email of a reliable contact person at the travel agency. My friend, Pam, gave me her rep’s name and email address (Pam received her itinerary this morning. Way to go, girl!!).  I emailed the rep and explained the situation:

My name is Teri Adams. I was to fly out of Atlanta, Georgia into Abu Dhbai on August 9, 2012.. I missed my flight.

Kelly, at Teachaway, emailed and told me I would fly out with Group Two anywhere from August 22 to August 25 leaving from Atlanta, Georgia.

I still have not received an itinerary or e ticket from XYZ travel. My last representative at your agency was Mohamad *****.

I already have my entry visa printed out that Mr. Mohamad sent.

If someone else at your angency has been assigned the task of taking care of my travel arrangements could you email me his or her contact information?

Please advise if my name is on Group Two list to leave from Atlanta next week. If not, I need to contact Teachaway again and contact ADEC.
Thank you,

About an hour later (it was about 10:00 p.m Abu Dhabi time) I received an email back that stated:

Dear Ms. Teri,
Greetings from XYZ travel!
Please be advised that once we will received your entry visa we will send your itinerary.

What the hell? THEY have my entry visa… I told them in my email that they had my entry visa.  I email back:

Your agency has my entry visa. I have my entry visa. Mohamad has my entry visa... Does ADEC have to send another entry visa to XYZ travel agency since I missed my flight August 9?

Attached is a copy of my entry visa…

Teri Adams

 Three hours later I receive this email:

Dear Ms. Teri,
Good day…
We will be sending your itinerary early on Saturday.
 Thank you…

So, I had to send my entry visa to the agency that first sent it to me so they would know they had it. Nowadays, the name of the game is PROACTIVE when it comes to customer service. 

And speaking of customer service:
It is my belief that the current state of customer service worldwide is directly proportional to the evolutionary process of the shrinking of brain cells caused by massive consumption of reality television. Everyone may not know exactly who Honey Boo Boo is (I had to google her last week and I am so very sorry I did...), but I’d bet my not-so-sweet-anymore-ass that each and every country has an equivalent.  Blame it on MTV and The Real World (circa 1992). They started it, and now thanks to MTV we have an entire generation that has been raised liberally on reality television, and they are in control of worldwide customer service. ‘Nuff said?

And I leave next week.. again. This time I am taking each and every passport that has ever been issued to me and tying them all around my neck in my own version of a lei... Pick a passport. I have several to offer, including a current one.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Still in Georgia...

My flight to Abu Dhabi left. I wasn’t on it.

I went to Emory Hospital to see Dad before my flight left. He seemed to be having a good day and he smiled wide when he saw me. I was able to spend almost three hours with him. 

When I left the hospital, I hugged him, I kissed the top of his head, I went out of the ward, made my way into the elevator and collapsed into a crying heap the minute the doors closed.  On the way to the airport, with my husband driving, I kept thinking this might be the last time I might ever see Dad. Fate, or whatever you want to call it, had other plans.

I reach the airport, unload my three bags, tip a sky cap, get my bags inside while my husband parks the car. I swipe my passport and the machine won't accept it. It directs me to speak to an American Airlines representative. There are only four people working the check in counters, so I wait. When the lady looks at my passport she explains that it is not valid. There are two holes punched along the bottom side of the I.D numbers on the passport. I don't understand. But finally I see the problem and I want to kick myself: the name on the passport is my maiden name. This is my old passport. I grabbed the wrong one.

Jim and I go sit in a row of airport chairs nearby to try and figure out if there is anything we can do. My flight is being delayed due to weather. I live two and half hours away. Jim and I decide to risk it. We rush back to the house, run in, get the correct passport and Jim throws a few items into a bag. We are in and out of the house and back in the car in five minutes. Another two and half hours and we are back in Atlanta, but my flight left at 7:30 p.m.  An hour later I learn that the people on the flight I missed are stranded in Chicago because they couldn't make their connecting flight out. I phone my brother who works for United Airlines in Chicago. There are five flights going out to Chicago tomorrow, August 10. If the Chicago people don't leave until later the next day, maybe I can still catch up with them. I call Royal Jordanian Airlines. They tell me that since I missed the first leg out of Atlanta, that they canceled the rest of my flights. It is hopeless. I am stuck in Georgia.

 I am despondent, angry (at myself) and incredibly frustrated. Jim is calm and cool and tells me everything will be fine. He doesn't get angry. He doesn't blow his top. He doesn't chide me for my error. He merely reassures me that these things sometimes happen.

Jim and I go to my brother's house in Fayetteville, about 20 minutes from the airport, to spend the night. I email the travel agency about the situation. They email back and tell me that I have to contact the Abu Dhabi Education Council and ask them to give the travel agency permission to reissue another ticket. I email ADEC. I email TeachAway (the company who recruits for ADEC). I don't expect to hear anything back from ADEC until Sunday, since Friday and Saturday is their weekend. Plus, they are right in the middle of Ramadan. In fact, I'll be lucky to hear anything Sunday. The next group flies out between the 22-25 of August. Looks like I will be around a few weeks longer.

     The sky cap who took my bags back out to the car in Atlanta told me that things happen for a reason. I told him I don't believe in fate. He told me he was wise man and to believe him.  I don't know what to believe or think. I only know that more waiting is in store for me. I am tired of waiting.

Before I head home to Cochran, I go back by the hospital and visit my dad. He isn’t having a good day. He has an I.V because he is getting dehydrated, and he is very agitated. Sitting in the wheelchair is hurting his back and he keeps trying to get up. He doesn’t even seem surprised or happy to see me. I stay for two and a half hours, but it is difficult. Two and a half hours I can't even begin to describe. I am able to get dad to eat half a pint of chocolate ice cream and drink two full cups of water though. I leave and dad is sitting at the table in his wheelchair swiping his hand at something he thinks he sees on the floor. Before I even exit the hospital I am sobbing.  My dear Jim holds me and pats me, but there is nothing he can do. I take half a doctor prescribed Xanax. About three quarters into the long ride back home I finally fall asleep.

Now I wait all over again for a date to leave, a ticket. Another goodbye with my dad…I don't know how many more goodbyes I have left in me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fifty-Four Hour Countdown to Abu Dhabi

In less than forty-eight hours I will be on the road to Atlanta for the beginning of my twenty-two hour journey to Abu Dhabi. Before I go to the airport I am going to make a detour to Emory Hospital and see my dad. I need to hug him, kiss him, and smell him.. 

 I’ve always had this weird thing about the way my dad smells. It is how I have identified him all my life. When he stepped off the plane from Vietnam in 1969, I didn’t believe it was really my dad until he picked me up and I buried my nose in his neck.  I don’t even know how to describe how he smells. It is just my dad; warmth and safety, and it is a comfort to me. 

photo taken December 20, 2009

I know I’ll leave the hospital an emotional wreck.  It is difficult to see Dad the way he is now, with the ravages of the Alzheimer’s so vivid and raw, and not be overwhelmed.  By the time I arrive at the airport for my five thirty flight, I hope I will have stopped crying, but then it will be time to say goodbye to my dear, sweet husband, and I know that will set me off into a tirade of tears all over again.

The one aspect I hadn’t thought about when I accepted the Abu Dhabi job was how emotionally draining these last few weeks at home would be.  My emotions have been a runaway roller-coaster.  The other 2012 Abu Dhabi teachers that I am in contact with have said they are on the same roller-coaster. I find myself crying at inopportune times. It’s a bit discerning because I have never been one to cry much, and I get angry at myself when I do.  Saying goodbye to family and friends; trying to decided what personal items I should take with me, while staying under the baggage weight limit; one minute being excited about my new adventure, and the next scared to death; sitting on the porch watching a sudden rain storm and becoming sad because I know I won’t see rain for a while; trying to come to terms with the fact that I will be so far away from my Jim; having to attend to necessary travel paperwork and last minute doctor appointments- have all  taken my emotions to a whole new level.

Today I will go say goodbye to my grandmother, retrieve a copy of my contact lens prescription, go to a 2:00 p.m appointment with my family doctor, pick up six months’ worth of my medications from the pharmacist and pack them in my carry-on bag (the entire weight allowance on that one bag- fifteen pounds- is going to be comprised mostly of medications. I’m going to look like a pharmaceutical rep going into the UAE), and spend some time with my daughter.  Then later tonight I am going to prepare a good meal for my Jim, and then sit down at the dining room table and enjoy his company and conversation.  Every second spent with him now is precious.. 

Last night I realized that I hadn’t packed my Bose computer speakers.  All three of my packed bags were already at the allowed weight limit of fifty pounds, so I did what any self-respecting music aficionado would do: I tossed out some teaching materials I had packed away, carefully wrapped the Bose speakers in bubble wrap, and packed them in the duffel bag where the tossed teaching supplies had been.  I can live without a lot, but not my music. And I want good sound when I listen to music. I want to hear every nuance and chord.  A woman has to have her priorities, after all. 

I have also decided to take one of my little Superman dudes along with me (I have several- it’s a sickness).  Little Superman Dude is going to be my traveling buddy, and his adventures will be recorded for posterity in photographs. So keep a lookout for Little Superman Dude in future blog entries.  Who knows? I might even allow him to write an entry or two himself!

On a happy happy note, my plumeria bloomed yesterday!  After almost four years of nurturing it, babying it, carrying it in and out of the sun, making sure the water level was correct, and yes even talking to it, it has finally bloomed! The flowers are almost blood red, and that old familiar sweet honey scent from Hawaii now fills my screened in porch. 

To all the 2012 Abu Dhabi teachers flying out today and tomorrow: do some recon for those of us coming in on later flights! You are our scouts.  And everyone remember to tie a purple ribbon on your carry-on luggage so we can readily identify one another.   We’re going to have to depend on one another from here on out.  Are you ready?????

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Countdown to Abu Dhabi: Six Days (And Some Musings).

It is a beautiful, bright Georgia morning. Jim is still sleeping. I made a cup of coffee, let the dog out, fed him, and am now sitting in my living room looking out the window in my living room. The window is massive and affords an unfettered view of the following: the sunshine bending her rays through the branches of the old live oak tree, Scott’s car keeping guard in his driveway (so he’s home today and I can go bug him!), the neighbor’s cat sauntering across the newly manicured lawn casting her eye about for a careless squirrel, the colorful almost twinkling rainbow bottle tree that stands between my yard and Scott’s.  This is the last Saturday morning in which to enjoy this familiar routine for quite some time... 

This time next week I will be in Abu Dhabi trying to figure out what in the hell I will do on Saturday mornings now that I won’t have a Georgia window to peer out of.  Next week, I’ll be encased in a multi storied (in more way than one!) hotel that will probably look down over a construction site or a road that is jammed with traffic.  I must video my current Georgia view so I can loop play it on my computer when the homesickness hits hard in Abu Dhabi . 

So many things still left to do before I leave. Small tasks: make multiple copies of my passport photos, mail letters I have written to friends, load money onto a VISA card so I won’t have to carry too much cash around, scan the hardcopies of my medical records, scan two workbooks that might come in handy in the classroom,  make certain all my travel papers are in order and placed into an accessible area in my carry-on luggage, get a final weight on each piece of baggage so I won’t have to pay over weight charges, phone Blue Cross and the pharmacy Monday morning and make sure all of my medications’ travel waivers are in order, buy an extra camera battery,  set up Skype premium, and load the Buffalo router onto my laptop. 

My initial flight itinerary was for August 8, but Nirvana travel agency (the agency handling the flights for the 2012 Abu Dhabi teachers) must have known that I would not be a happy camper with an almost six hour layover in Chicago because they changed my flight to August 9. So, now I am flying Royal Jordanian instead of Etihad Airlines. My updated itinerary has me leaving Atlanta for Chicago at 5:30 p.m., enjoying a brief two hour and twenty minute layover in Chi Town, and then boarding another plane for a twelve hour flight to Amman, Jordan.  In Jordan I will have another two hour layover, then board the final flight for the three hour journey to Abu Dhabi. My ETA into Abu Dhabi is fifteen minutes after midnight- The Witching Hour.. I already phoned the airline and booked my seats. Window seats all the way so I can prop my pillow against the wall and maybe at least snooze a little. 

I now have an extra day in which to enjoy my family, my home, my dog, my friends, my bed. The extra day means more times I can wrap my arms around Jim and hold him close. The extra day means I get to take my little dog, Truman, for one more walk. The extra day means one more opportunity to hug my Mom and let her know how much I love her. One more day to do the little things.  One more day to make sure I have all the essentials packed. One more day to drive to the local grocery store and see old friends (that’s where we congregate in my small town). One more day to water my flowers.  One more day to cook a meal for Jim. One more day to spend in our front room library, curl up in my reading chair, and get lost amidst the shelves and shelves of books that Jim and I have collected.  

One more day in which to watch the plumeria tree that I have been tenderly, almost obsessively babying for the past three years (the cutting arriving from Hawaii wrapped in tissue paper, tucked into my carry on luggage) in the hopes of witnessing the first white petaled  blooms. The buds are shyly showing themselves.  I am waiting anxiously for them to open before I leave. Each day I pass by the plumeria tree, touch the leaves and almost beg the tree, “Please, please, let me see the flowers before I leave”.

My Miley left this morning to go back to Florida. She almost breathed a child’s sigh of relief when she realized that I was leaving for Abu Dhabi after she left, not before.  She said she didn’t want me to leave her, but that it was okay for her to leave me.. When I come back Christmas, Miley will be back in Georgia for the holidays, and Miley’s new little brother will have made his grand appearance and will meet his Gigi for the first time.  Miley will be able to educate the small one in the wonders and sometime frustrations of having a Gigi who captures bugs in washed out mayonnaise jars, head bangs joyously to AC/DC , makes up stories about Blue Bubble Monsters, and convinces children that she can tell if they are truly hungry by the appearance of hungry bumps on their tongues. Now that Miley and I won’t be together, who will remind me how to view the world through the kaleidoscope of a child’s eyes?

Dad is still in Emory Hospital . I was so hoping that he would be home by the time I left. I don’t want to remember him in that hospital. I want to remember him sitting in the swing in his back yard, his face cocked to catch a late evening breeze, a content smile gracing his lips. Maybe it can still happen. Maybe.

I took this photo this past Sunday at the hospital. The love between my Mom and Dad is still alive and evident after all these years, and even through the ravages of Alzheimer’s.  This is what I will choose to remember.

This time next Saturday I will be exhausted by jet lag, my emotions will be raw, the enormity of what I have undertaken will begin to take root, my heart will miss the comfort of knowing that Jim is just a another room away, and I will be acclimating myself to the beginnings of a new life seven thousand miles from all I know and love.  Pretty tall order, but there will be other newly arriving teachers in Abu Dhabi walking in similar shoes. Other teachers missing family, keeping their trepidations and fears at bay, and attempting to navigate a new path.  In fact, several of them will be on my flights. I won’t be alone.  There is comfort in that knowledge. There is also comfort in the fact that some of the seasoned, veteran Abu Dhabi teachers have offered their support, knowledge and assistance to us "newbies".

This past summer will live forever in my memory as the summer that tested my resolve and strength. The summer I first experienced the crushing sudden loss of a friend to death and the ensuing grief; the summer I watched a best friend go through a horrendous second round of chemo and his, hopefully, final home stretch battle with cancer; the summer that the enormity and truth of Alzheimer’s was revealed in all its raw ugliness and sadness; the summer I made a decision that will affect the rest of my life. This is the  summer my heart broke, but was wired back into place by the love of my husband and the brightness and joy of my granddaughter. The summer in which I will finally spread my arms wide, close my eyes, and leap off the cliff. I don’t know what awaits me “over the pond” in Abu Dhabi. I am hoping it is positive and good, but one never knows.. 

We take chances, and hope for the best. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference”.
I keep repeating the above Frost lines like a mantra.

Thursday when I board the plane, I will choose my road with tears in my eyes and a heart weighed down by "what ifs", but with a discerning eye fixed on a new horizon and new possibilities.

I leap…………….