Month: February 2015
We’re six months in.
I remember in the early, foggy, difficult days, people said to us, “Give it 3 months, and things won’t feel quite so upside down.” And they were right. Even though things were still hard at the 3 month point, we all had our visas, we had internet, we had running water, we knew how to get around town, we found the stores where we liked buying groceries and the gas stations where we liked to fill up. It was a little bit familiar and a lot less overwhelming.
I also remember people saying, in the early days, “Give it 6 months, and it you will start to feel more settled.” And they were right. I feel it. It’s a subtle shift, but settled is the right word for it. This week I have two coffee dates with friends, I’m running DI practice at our place, Abby has ballet, the kids have drama, we have a homeschool co-op get together, we’re joining a small group, Dwayne has his third flag football practice and possibly a volleyball tournament on the weekend. Community and activity are both sprouting in our lives.
Also, it’s only 4 weeks until mom & Larry arrive, marking our first visitors, and transitioning us from newbies to tour guides. Now our minds are focused on our favourite things to do and see in the UAE, which has inevitably created in us this wonderful sense of “home” in a place that has so far only been “across the world from home.”
It’s funny because throughout the years, I’ve heard people say, about every town I’ve lived in, “What’s there to do in (insert city name here)?” People often think a city is boring or there’s not enough action for them. Sometimes this question comes from people who live elsewhere, but often it comes from people who live right in that very city. They grow bored or restless and believe it is because something is lacking in the city, instead of in themselves. It happened when I lived in Calgary. In Regina. In Selkirk. In Chilliwack. It happens here in Al Ain. But when you really think about it, it’s not the sites or attractions or stadiums that make a city interesting. It’s not restaurants or clubs or teams either. Cities, much like our own lives, are made interesting when we pursue passions and hobbies and relationships there.
Sure, sometimes old activities have to be swapped for new ones, but that’s our own issue, not an issue with our present location. We loved to go skiing a couple of times a year as a family when we lived in BC. We can’t do that here. But it’s not because Al Ain is lacking. We just have to learn to swap our snowy mountain pursuit with a sandy desert pursuit. So, we’ll go on a desert safari and swim in the Gulf. Whatever. We can find interesting activities. But the only real way to settle into a good life in any city is to find a place to serve, find a few places to have fun, and mostly, to love people and be loved.
That’s what’s happening here at the six month mark. Those are the very things we’re finding. Our blank slates are being filled. It took some time, but it’s looking beautiful. Now we’ll have to wait and see if what they said about the one year mark turns out to be true.
Irony. I publicly declared that I was taking a Facebook break so that I could focus on firmly planting both feet here in the UAE. I shared my 21st century affliction of longing to share unique stories and events from our life here with my social media network, but affirmed that my experiences would be just as valuable, even if the Facebook world never heard about them. The very next day, I ended up meeting Sheik Sultan bin Zayad in front of the victorious beauty pageant camels who were being doused in saffron at the Sweihan Camel Festival. C’mon.
This is kind of how my thoughts progressed throughout the day:
1.How the heck did we get ourselves into this crazy, awesome situation?
2. I can’t believe I can’t share this on Facebook.
3. Isn’t is just like God to give me this uniquely beautiful, surreal, middle-eastern experience, right after I committed to taking my mind off of what we left behind and focusing solely on what we have to enjoy here?
I’m not sure I can articulate how touching this day was for me. As we drove home, my heart was full, and I realized it was for a few reasons. First of all, we were extended such warm hospitality by every local we encountered, and were honored to meet Sheik Sultan.
Secondly, I had been dying for some face time with camels, who have still not lost their cute factor to me, and we were up close and personal with some real beauties.
And mostly, this was such an authentic and uniquely Arabic experience, which is one of the things I most want from our time in the UAE. I’m so grateful for every chance I get to soak up the beauty and richness of a culture very different from my own.
I’m a planner.
I like to plan ahead. I like to know what’s coming. I like timelines and knowing what to expect. Don’t get me wrong- I do have another side to me. The side that gets tired of predictability and feeling tied down to plans, but that’s just to keep people guessing. For the most part, I thrive on being able to see a good distance down the road.
But here I am, uprooted from my previous life, trying to get established in a new country, with a husband who is working in a temporary contract. Not only is Dwayne’s job temporary, but it’s…challenging. (I’m cautiously not filling in details here online, so trust me on this one.) So there are times when we wonder how he could ever stick it out the whole 2 years. On the other hand, there are times when we consider whether we could ever return to North American life. Now that we’ve pulled ourselves away from it, we realize that parts of it leave a lot to be desired. Life in the UAE is pretty sweet. And so we wonder if we’ll find ourselves here beyond the 2 years. And then we come across people who have worked in multiple countries and have learned so much from immersing themselves in various cultures and we wonder if our next stop will not be Canada at all, but an entirely different country.
We wonder and waver. We ponder possibilities. Each scenario has costs and benefits. Each has pros and cons. But every train of thought or conversation comes back to this:
We have no idea.
We have no idea what the next year and half has in store for us. We have no idea how we will be feeling next year. We have no idea what opportunities will present themselves or won’t. And especially, we have no idea what God’s Spirit will compel us to pursue from here.
I run scenarios in my head constantly, because, as mentioned, I’m a planning addict, but God has been showing me, over and over, that I simply cannot know. Why waste my time trying to figure it out and plant myself in a future that may never exist the way I envision it? What God wants for me is to live fully present in today. To be faithful with the gifts he has given me in this time and place and season. To tend the field He has put right in front of me.
So, while I’m missing the family we left back home, I am soaking up the unprecedented amount of time we have together as a little family unit. While I’m missing the deep, established friendships from home, I’m making the effort to reach out and invest in new friendships with a whole lot of amazing people who are not a 20 hour plane ride away. While I’m missing bacon and cheese and barbequing, I have fallen in love with falafels and hummus and shawarma…and my body is so grateful. While I’m missing the mountains and the greenery and seasons of BC, I wake up every morning to sunshine and chirping birds and a multitude of beautiful new places to explore.
My present is pretty great. I do not want to squander it by keeping one foot planted back in Canada and the other planted in an unknown future. So, I’m working on bringing both feet back right under me. Here in Al Ain. Today in February, 2015. I’m praying that God will teach me to number my days and leave the long term planning to Him.