When we lived in France, we would go for around three walks a day. One mid-morning, one late afternoon and one after dinner. Mostly we would up to “the cross”, as we called it, the end of the small road we lived on, marked by a metal cross at the edge of a vineyard. On this walk we would walk over two small rivers and pass our almond orchard. We would often (on the mid-morning walk) run into the postman, who would stop for a chat but then take our post home anyway to save us carrying it.
I hadn’t thought about these walks for a while until Rupert woke up the other morning and said “I’d like to go for a walk to the cross.” It was the weekend and I think he was wondering what we could do for the day. The heat is still pretty unbearable and so there really is a limit. It’s basically the mall, or stay at home or drive to Dubai and go skiing, in a mall. Faced with those options, a walk to the cross seems like heaven.
I think one of the most unsettling things about living abroad is the constant question of ‘when are we going to go home?’ It is becoming more and more difficult to make any kind of decision. The longer we stay here, the more complicated it becomes. The kids are now all in the British School where they seem to be blissfully happy. In fact Olivia says she won’t leave here until she has finished school. Bea is literally blossoming and comes home every day with house points. Leo is just about to get in to (fingers crossed) the football, rugby and cricket squads so will be utterly content.
As for us, well things are fine, obviously we can’t walk to the cross, but we do have more time to hang out with our children because the lovely Nirosa does all the domestic stuff, leaving me free to read Winne-the-Pooh (genius book), play tennis and write. I remember my stepfather once advising me never to move in with a boyfriend “because you won’t leave until it gets really bad”. Which I suppose is the case with us and going home. And unless we fall foul of the (sometimes less than predictable) law or disaster strikes, I can’t see it ever getting really bad.
There is that Latin saying, Solvitur Ambulando meaning ‘it is solved by walking’. I remember we used to chat about problems on our walks and often come up with solutions. When I walk alone I come up with plots and ideas for the book. We do walk now, but instead of rivers we cross major road intersections and instead of our almond orchard we walk past a royal palace. And of course one of the major topics of discussion is how long to stay here. Most often we come up with the same conclusion. A while longer.
The cross will have to wait. The good thing is, even if we don’t go back for another ten years, chances are it will still be there.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2011
Wow.. there’s actually a phrase for my saving grace – my friends and family, and particularly the boyfriend, who is subjected to it daily, wonder “Why do you insist on doing so much walking? Where do you go when you have to go?! What do you DO when you walk so much?”
It is so therapeutic, I feel it is the only time I can actually think straight, when the noise that awaits in the outside world finally stops. I think in a way we sort of have to focus on moving, or something else, to let us truly think freely, and process freely. Because that’s when you cease to control your thoughts, and deliberately focus on certain things. I find while I’m dodging traffic, and cyclists, and admiring the scenery, my thoughts are free flowing, and go wherever they please, without being dictated.
And that seems to be when the answers, and epiphanies, and clarity comes.
Very cool that there is actually a phrase for it. I am not so strange, after all. 😉
Do you not particularly like living in Abu Dhabi anymore?
Or is it just enevitable that you will part ways with it, and wonder when the “right” time is to leave?
Not so strange at all! I think it is a bad time here right now because of the heat, maybe I will cheer up once it cools down and I can do more walking…..
I’ve always noticed that if people stay beyond 3 years then they’re in the Middle East forever. Living here changes you in so many subtle ways that many find it very difficult to fit in elsewhere, especially back in Europe. I think you’re possibly going through the expat posting equivalent of the “7 year itch” period that supposedly hits relationships. You’ve been in AUH long enough for the novelty value to wear off so possibly – and maybe scarily – it’s starting to feel like home? Look forward to winter, it really can’t be more than a month away (though why is it still 41 degrees today?!?) and then you’ll perhaps feel differently?
Perhaps the answer lies in the reason you went out there in the first place – for the money and to be able to put all the children through good schools and still have a good lifestyle. Would you be able to go home and have all that? Also you seem to have enough holidays away from the heat not to lose touch with where you really like to be. And anyway one day the kids WILL grow up and you won’t need to stay on the treadmill unless you can’t bear to trade in your luxuries for a simpler life.