How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, December 31, 2012

Back in the USA.... For Good.

It's a cold Georgia night and I am curled in my overstuffed living room chair.  A glass of white wine and a brimming over cupful of black bean soup seasoned with a bit of leftover smoked ham sits next to me on a narrow table. The table serves as my catch-all for everything from unread copies of this year's New Yorker to a printed out story written by a former student of mine. This former student brought me joy yesterday when she visited. She filled me with tales of this, her second year of college at my old Alma Mater. She described her professors and her classes. She talked about what she has learned in her Asian History class. She told me about an opportunity she has to fill a teaching assistant slot next term.  I am intensely proud of her, but oh, so envious of what lies ahead of her. This fresh girl, who is a clean slate; tabula rasa. Life will write its story and she will embrace it. To be twenty years old again and know what I know now. But all late middle aged people say that, don't they?  It's our litany.

As for what I have learned this year: that I am my family. That they are a large part of who I am.  That I cannot exist over 7000 miles away while my father's Alzheimer's steals away the last visages of his soul and his body; his life.

 I was supposed to fly back to the UAE this coming up Tuesday. I was to be back at school teaching my 10th and 11th grade girls on January 6.  But this won't  happen.  What I will be doing instead is spending precious minutes and hours with my dad at the Veteran's Administration Hospital. . He will smile at me from time to time. I will bring him home-cooked stews, soups, and casseroles in an effort to tempt his appetite.  I will file his nails, massage his feet, try to reach in and grab his memory with my remembrances of our shared past: the family camping trips to Canyon Lake Dam, the afternoons on the beach in Iraklion, the times he would allow me to tag along on his gigs in Texas while he picked his steel guitar, his driving me to seventh grade in a 1957 Chevy and me begging him to PLEASE drop me off a block from school so the other kids wouldn't know my "daddy" was chauffeuring me. I will hug my dad close, hold his hand while he sleeps, play gospel CDs to which he will occasionally hum note for note.  I will be here for him the way he was for me when I was a child. I will be here for him because I always knew that my dad loved me. Most of the accomplishments in my life have been driven by my need to make him proud of me. And he was. Always. That's why I'm staying.  That's why I will not be on that airplane Tuesday.

I did not out-process in the proper manner, so after January 6th I will technically be classified  a "runner" by ADEC.  If I had attempted to out-process in the proper manner I probably wouldn't even be sane by the time I landed in the U.S of A.  I watched, bewildered and confounded, from the sidelines while another teacher (who had an extreme family emergency) out-processed properly, and it was a nightmare. She spent her last two weeks running from ADEC office to ADEC office; collecting documents from the landlord, the electric company; running from ADEC office to ADEC office again (each office giving her fifteen different sets of instructions); duplicating missing paperwork;  taking hours off work to jump through ADEC hoops.  A Western admin advised me that just leaving the country, rather than going through the ADEC illogical red tape, was preferable.  This was as I suspected and only served to confirm what I already knew. So, I left. I sold what I could, left or gave away what I couldn't, and boarded a plane from Dubai to Atlanta for what was supposed to be a two week Christmas break. But, when I left I  had no intention of returning.

During my last month in the UAE I cried myself to sleep almost every night, held my breathe, sent semi-prayers (coming from an avowed agnostic, this is telling)  out onto the  universe, and tried to bargain with the collective forces of destiny so that my dad would not only be alive when I arrived back in Georgia on December 17th , but that he would remember me. He was. And he did. The universe heard me.

My fellow UAE teachers, forgive me, please. I know it makes it harder for you when a fellow teacher just up and "runs".  I hope my students, whom I will miss so very much, will forgive me also.  But I am where I need to be. I am home. And my dad smiled at me today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's a Dog's Life in the Publishing World...

What the hell is up with all the books about dogs? And they’re listed under the biography section on Barnes & Noble online. There’s “Until Tuesday”, “Dog is My Copilot”, “Soldier Dogs”, “Little Boy Blue”, Thunder Dog”, “The Lost Dogs”, “A Big Little Life”....  The list goes on and on and on.   I walk into the living room and glare at my dog, Truman, lying like a lump of snot on his staked out section of the couch and I ask him, “What? You can’t write a book and help pay for your own damn dog food?” He just looks at me, yawns, and goes back to sleep. 

I want a BIOGRAPHY about a person, not someone’s trumped up fictional version of what they think their dog thinks and feels.  But, I have to admit, the entire concept is sheer genius really. I mean, think about it. A dog can’t step up at a latter date and challenge the author. A dog can’t sue for libel or slander. A dog can’t demand royalties.  A dog can’t grant an exclusive interview with The New Yorker in which he/she vehemently states “That dumbass writer had it all wrong. I never drank out of the toilet bowl or sniffed Rover’s ass. The nerve”.   

I wonder if writing about the life of a hamster would sell? Only problem is that hamsters don’t live very long (two years at max) though, so writing about a hamster’s life would probably only result in a very short novella of sorts. And all they do is sleep, eat, poop, and run on that squeaky little wheel. Speaking of squeaky little wheels, did I ever tell you that a friend  of mine had a pet rat and she swore that one night she woke up and there was another rat running on the wheel? Not her rat, but  a common wild rat who had somehow managed to break INTO the cage so he could run on the wheel. She wore it was true. If you don't believe me, leave me a comment and I will send you her email address and you can ask her for yourself. But, I digress..

What about writing the life story of a common house fly and his struggles in Al Ain, UAE where he is killed by a crazed American teacher welding a blue fly swatter? With only a fifteen to thirty day life expectancy, less if I killed the S.O.B, I’m thinking flash fiction narrative.  But if one were to write about, say a Bowhead whale (which can live for up to two hundred years), the book could end up rivaling “War and Peace” in word count.  

So, I ask again, why all the books about dogs? What about whales and giraffes and meerkats? Methinks there is an obvious case of discrimination in the publishing world towards certain species of the animal kingdom. 

 He smells something rotten in the book publishing industry ... (but he did have his own T.V show at one time.)

Now back to Barnes & Noble online so I can attend to the arduous task of finding an interesting biography or two about an actual human being. I'll have to wade through all the dog books first, but I have $100.00 in Christmas gift certificates to spend. I shall prevail. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Own Little Chirstmas Miracle

Miracles come in the smallest and most unassuming of packages. Sitting with my dad today at the V.A hospital, our hands entwined while we listened to the old gospel classic, "The Old Rugged Cross", dad suddenly focused his eyes so that his gaze met mine squarely. He seemed to study me for a moment and then he clearly and precisely said, 'I love you".  This from a man who can no longer form a coherent sentence. 
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Zero Hour Nine P.M (Aplologizes to Elton and Bernie..)

This Georgia Girl is Home:
I'm back on Southern red clay. A fifteen hour flight from Dhabi to Atlanta, Georgia, and I'm not ashamed to say that when the plane's wheels screeched down on the tarmac of Hartsfield Airport, my eyes leaked great dripping crocodile tears.

Zero Hour, 9 p.m:
 I arrived at the Dubai airport at 9 pm and promptly checked  my bags.  Surprisingly, I didn't go over the baggage weight limit. By the time they allowed passengers on my flight to go past the gates it was already a little before 10 pm, and the plane was scheduled to leave at 11p.m. I was able to buy some chocolates in one of the shops, but nothing else. I was really trying to spend some of the 300 dirhams I had on gifts for people back home.

The security check at Dubai airport was pretty invasive. I was taken into a small cubicle where an Emirati woman copped a feel or two while another stood by unsmiling. In fact, neither one of them smiled or offered any indication that I was even a human being.  If someone is going to cop a feel, I at least want a damn smile. And it wasn't just me. Another American woman boarding the plane told me, "I fly this route about three times a year because my husband works here, but I have never been groped before. That was a first.".

 On Board:
 The plane was filled to capacity and I almost had to check my roll on bag because they ran out of overhead bin space on the plane. At the last minute, one of the flight attendants found a bin in first class for my bag, so I rode economy and my prescription drugs and bathrobe flew first class the whole way. I'm not sure if they were served free drinks and offered hot towels or not. I wasn't.

 I sat in a window seat in a row of three seats, so every time I had to stretch my legs or go to the restroom two men sitting next to me had to pause their movie or wake up to let me out. There was very little room to even move. I am 5'2" and weigh 110 and I was squashed. I have no idea how the poor man sitting next to me, in the middle,  even managed. He was an average sized man too. Not huge, by any means.

I took half a Xanax, watched four or five movies (I lost count) and dozed. I cried at the end of the movie  "Lovely Bones". Seems like I cried on and off the entire flight. I had only slept for three hours the night before, and two hours before I was to leave for the airport I locked myself out of  my apartment and had to have Mr. Ali, the building supervisor, knock off my door lock and replace it with a new one.  I was frazzled, anxious, sleepy, stressed, worried, and hungry by the time I planted my butt in row 47 seat J. And Arthur was starting to act up a little. Not a good combination of emotions and physical state for a fifteen hour flight.

The End:
But at the end of the flight, everything was worthwhile. After going through passport check and retrieving luggage that I could barely lift off the conveyer belt, I walked out into the terminal and there was My Jim waiting for me.  I ran to him, my luggage fell off the luggage cart, and I didn't care. I wrapped my arms around my husband and just sobbed. He hugged me and asked, "What is wrong?".  All I could say was, "I am so happy to see you". He humored my clinging, sobbing self. By the time I walked out of the terminal and filled my lungs with sweet Georgia air it was 7 a.m. I was dressed in sandals and a thin pair of wide legged pants.  It was 44 degrees.

Jim took me directly to Emory Hospital to see my boyfriend, Scott, who had had serious surgery three days previously.  It is a good husband who will pick his wife up from the airport and drive her to see her hospitalized boyfriend.  P.S Scott, come home before Christmas. The neighborhood is lonely without you... I need to see you get well, my friend.

After visiting Scott, my husband took me to IHOP to eat and then before we arrived home he pulled into the parking lot of Barnes & Noble and we went into the store and spent the next two hours in blissful book browsing. I was in heaven.  My husband is the perfect man. He knows what I need before I even utter a word. In yesterday's case, my boyfriend, bacon, and books. The three essential B's.

Seeing Mom again was emotional. She has been going through so very much lately. Back at her house I had dinner with visiting cousins (Jeneva cooked butter beans!) and met my new grandson Cash. As I grow older, I am finding that family is the necessary glue to my sanity.

First photo of Cash and Gigi together:

 I was in bed by 8:30 p.m and slept the sleep of the exhausted and jet lagged. Today I saw my dad at the V.A hospital for the first time since leaving Aug 23.  I am still attempting to process my dad's obvious and shocking decline. I can't even write about it at the moment..

But I am home, and my little dog is glad to see me, and I have dinner in the oven for My Jim. Almost all is right in my little world at this very moment.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

ATTENTION to Drivers in the UAE: You're Morons.

I just arrived home from my daily 50 minute drive from work. Surprisingly, I am alive.

People of the United Arab Emirates, you need major driving lessons, road etiquette lessons, and some common sense when it comes to operating a big ass container of steel that can go in speeds in excess of 150 MPH and, if you crash said big ass container of steel, it is going to cause you and probably someone else to die a horrible, bloody, flesh mangling death. You may be in an all fired  hurry to meet Allah, but I'm not. So, please slow your ass down and stay in your own damn lane. Please. Ever wonder why the number one cause of death in the U.A.E is traffic accidents? Stop and think about it...

Thank you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Seven Days Plus One

I'm leaving on a Jet Plane
This time next week I will be on an airplane at 28,000 feet, heading to Atlanta from Dubai. I'll probably be seated next to some smelly old man who snores. Sixteen hours non-stop. I can only hope and pray that smelly old snoring man misses his flight.. There isn't even a smelly old snoring man outside of my over-active imagination and already I am praying he misses his flight.

 Next week is going to hectic
In the meantime, I have 10th and 11th grade exams to grade Sunday during the day, work and 12th grade exams to grade Monday and Tuesday night, work and last minute packing Wednesday, and work and Global Village shopping (or should I say BACK to Global Village shopping) on Thursday. Sometime in that schedule I have to have henna applied to my foot and ankle. I just think it will look cool to have henna when I go home, plus it will make my daughter jealous that I have henna and she doesn't.

I am very sad that my friend Ciara is having to go back to Ireland due to a U.A.E snafu. She is a compassionate, caring person who has brought a lot into my life. She has shown me a real life example of what patience is, and she has liked me regardless of if I were being super-hyped-up me or Arthur-bit-my-ass-today me. Life just brings certain people into your life who are unforgettable. Ciara will be one of those people for me. Okay, Ciara, now you can cry. I did...

 Ciara, Suzanne and I hit the Al Ain zoo after work yesterday and had a wonderful time..

Entrance to the zoo:

Mr. Meerkat dude:

I decided this guy looked like his name was Herman. He looks like a Herman, doesn't he?

me and Suzanne.. "...but I'm not dead yet". She totally loves Monty Python as much as I do..

Okay, now conjure up the scene where the minstrel is riding behind Sir Robin in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Work with me here, okay?

"Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot. He was not afraid to die, oh brave Sir Robin. He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin. He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp, or to have his eyes gouged out, and his elbows broken. To have his kneecaps split, and his body burned away, and his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin. His head smashed in and heart cut out, and his liver removed, and his bowels unplugged, and his nostrils raped and his bottom burned off and his penis..".

Suzanne sooooo gets this.. and that's why she is my favorite tall woman person.

And I rode a camel. A very anti-climatic experience, I am sorry to say. Kind of like wanting to date a guy really badly for months and months only to find out on the first date that he is boring, pretentious, self centered, and not worth a plug nickel. But I rode a camel, so now I can cross it off my bucket list and go on with my life.

Post Script:
Next week I will see my dad for the first time since August 23rd. I have been warned that the change in his physical appearance is drastic. He has lost a  great deal of weight due to his all but absent appetite and his inability to remember how to open his mouth.  I am trying to prepare myself, but how does one prepare for that? I know that seeing my dad is going to shatter me to the core.

 Seven days plus one, and I'll be home.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Day in Dubai

I spent the day yesterday with Suzanne and her son Jarret, a really cool and funny young man who I love hanging out with.

Jarret with his baby Arabic Coke!

On the way to Dubai I had to take photos of all the tricked out cars. The Emiratis decorate their cars for National Day and today marks the 41st National Day, so everywhere I looked there were red, white, green, and black decorated cars plastered with images of the sheiks.

Suzanne set the GPS for Dubai Mall and we only got turned around eight times because road construction is so rapid in Dubai that the GPS devices can't keep  up. So, the GPS lady will say, "Turn right at the next roundabout" and there is no roundabout. Or she will instruct the driver to "Take a left in 100 meters" and there is no road to turn left on.. just a huge construction wall. But I knew we were heading for Dubai Mall, and the Dubai Mall is right at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, so how hard could  it be? Just look for the really tall ass building.

But...but.. IT'S RIGHT THERE!!!

Saw some lovely young Emitati girls hurrying through downtown Dubai and I had to sneak a shot.. I felt so touristy.

Under those abayas lurk some very expensive clothing, think along the lines of Dior...

The buildings in Dubai are beautifully constructed, and Dubai is an absolutely beautiful city that has EVERYTHING. Since I arrived here though I have read articles and heard people comparing Dubai to New York City.  I take offense with those assertions. There are no comparisons at all.  It would be like trying to compare a newly found polished diamond with a mine cut one from the 1880s; both beautiful, both multi-faceted, but in ways so different that they are apparent to the naked eye and the heart. NYC has a history, a feel of stepping into the past in some areas, a feel of continuity and legacy. Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station.

Dubai is sparkling new. No historical buildings, no places to go to remember the past. Dubai is a city intent on being the gem of the Middle East. Old money vs. nouveau riche. There's always a sweat coated mild desperation and barely suppressed inferiority complex that leaks from the nouveau riche. Dubai has that feel. The city hasn't possessed their great wealth long enough to grow into the old dowager who no longer has to flaunt her money or power to prove herself; she just IS powerful and knows it, as does everyone else- hate her or admire her. NYC is the grand dame dowager. Dubai is the mega successful dot com guy who grew up in rural Kentucky and wore hand-me-downs. So please, everyone stop trying to compare the two. Dubai will never be New York City. No city will.

Emotionally charged opinion based rant over..

But just look at the architecture of Dubai!

One can't deny the thought, creativity, and talent that went into building this city. It is breathtaking.

Suzanne, Jarret and I  finally arrived at the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world (why is there such an attraction to the BIGGEST in the United Arab Emirates? A more than slight Freudian phallic physiological issue going on, perhaps? But I digress..).

The Dubai Mall is four stories of shopping paradise. Dior, Versace, Lush, Guess, Starbucks, Levis, The Gap, Virgin Records, Hushpuppy and Clark shoes, Payless Shoe Store, Sephora.. I could go on and on and on. The mall houses 1,200 retail outlets, two anchor department stores, and over 160 food and beverage outlets (Red Lobster, Outback, P.F Chang's, The Noodle House, Chili's, McDonald's.. anything your palate desires).
Views from the fourth floor looking straight down and across the mall

Jarret was enthralled by the scope of the mall, and I almost immediately found a mega bookstore where I nabbed a book (surprise, surprise for anyone who knows me..)

And I had to go into Virgin Records. I just had to. And I had to buy a Beatles CD.  I was helpless to do anything but walk zombie-like to the check out counter, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band clutched tightly in my hand. It was fate.

And I was just as helpless to wander into Lush and stock up on Christmas presents. My God, I love that store!
 Ha! All wrapped so Mom, Stacey, and Lara can't tell what it is!!

I got hungry, so we stopped at P.F Chang's where we ate outside near the fountain. The hostess seated us behind a wall that blocked our view of everything. We had a view of a.... wall. After the hostess walked away, Suzanne, the fearless renegade, said, "Let's move over there" and proceeded to pick up her packages and leave the table for another one. Of course, I followed, protesting how "wrong"  this was, but that didn't stop me. I didn't like the wall either.
About ten minutes later when the hostess with the Mostest walked by to seat someone else she stopped at our now empty table, a look of puzzlement crossing her face, spied us at seated at the "new" table, and I just know she was pissed. You could see it. Well, Suzanne said she could see it. I tried to avoid the withering gaze of the Hostess with the Mostest.

We ended up having a nice dinner: dumplings, honey chicken and rice. Then we took photos to prove we had been there.

During dinner the fountian music started playing (Barbra Streisand and Julio Iglesias)  and the fountain put on a show in time to the music

A walk by the indoor aquarium, a quick sneak photo of an Emirati man probably waiting for his wife to finish browsing, a quick stop at Second Cup for coffee, and we were ready to head back to Al Ain.

National Day pride was dripping from everything. Sheik Mo looks very stern on this billboard. I think he needs to lighten up a bit...

  It took us ten minutes to get out of the vicinity of the Dubai Mall due to the perpetually confused GPS lady..

However, before we left Dubai, we had to make a quick stop at the airport to check on Jarret's ticket for next week because Suzanne hasn't been able to get through to the airline by phone.  She batted her eyelashes at the parking attending guy and he let us park for free (she is going kill me for writing that, but wait until she gets her eyelash extensions, there will be no stopping her).

After going into the airport and seeing it for myself, I now at least know what to expect when I fly out December 14th for Christmas: long lines and a security check where I will carry all my bags through before they check them. No curbside bag check in. Atlanta Hartsfield airport has spoiled me.

We arrived back in Al Ain around 11:00 p.m last night. Suzanne and Jarret went snorkeling today, but I sit here on National Day (Happy 41st National Day, United Arab Emirates!) holed up my little apartment because there is no way in hell I am going out with all the National Day craziness going on. A day to cook a good Australian beef steak and baked potato, read, watch an amazon movie, and start packing the gifts I bought. With all the Lush products I am going to have to pack, my luggage is going to be the best smelling that goes through security!

In the words of Dr. Seuss, (pardon me for twisting them a bit..) "Dubai was good. Dubai was fun. Tomorrow is another one".