I’m enjoying a cup of hot soup on a 108-degree day because I have a cold. Otherwise, things continue to go swimmingly in the desert.
Except the cab rides.
Taxi drivers are notorious for weaving in and out of traffic at hair-raising speeds. Which is why we’ve picked our favorite driver, Xavier Francis from Uganda, to take David (and me) to school and home again every day. Besides the fact that Xavier is a nice guy and very cautious, his air conditioning works splendidly. Now, in the morning, I don’t have to call for a cab and wait. Xavier is downstairs waiting for us at 7:15 a.m.
One of the things I like about living in non-American and non-European places is the fact that daily life is more complicated. Errands take longer and demand more attention. A trip to the store requires that you search through new products and languages, as well as navigate new currency. Sometimes you accidentally buy a nightgown instead of beach cover-up. You find that you like 7-Up simply because it is ice cold and you are burning hot. Finding a solution to your problems, like Xavier, feels like a real triumph.
Perhaps more importantly, the sprinter in you (okay, that would be me) is forced to slow down. I enjoy a cup of iced coffee–or hot soup–more because my mind ISN’T darting in and out of my own thought-traffic. I have become the Xavier of my own neuron pathways.
I can slow down here because the moments yet to come will take considerable effort. I conserve energy, rather than expend it.
Yesterday evening, David and I spent two hours floating in the Gulf. When was the last time I was floating in water for any length of time? The water used to be a place for me to race. But the water here is a space for me to rest. Plus, I like the changing evening light on the water and hearing the other bathers speak Italian, Spanish, Arabic.
I also really like telling all the local Filipinos that I am a native Filipino too. Last night, I mentioned this fact to Jose who delivered pasta and meatballs to David while we were down at the beach. (Um, FYI, eating pasta on the sand isn’t a great idea.) Anyway, this was Jose’s reaction to my native country: “BUT YOU ARE WHITE!!!!”
We both laughed uproariously.
Yup. I’m white. Pink, actually, like my beach nightgown.
When I told Jose that my father was born in Manila and how my grandfather worked for MacArthur, he said: “You are part of Philippine history.”
That’s exactly what I like about travel–perspective can flip on a dime or a durham. Many of my expectations and preconceived notions about living in an Arab country have been wrong. Despite the somewhat white-knuckle cab rides, Abu Dhabi is an incredible calm, safe and peaceful place. I feel very welcome regardless of what I’m wearing or where I’m going.
I’m delighted to make these discoveries at every turn. Especially when Xavier is behind the wheel.