Swimmingly in the Desert


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. 20140904_090437_resized

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. 20140904_171724_resizedI 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.

20140904_182459_resizedI 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.






3 Comments Add yours

  1. Bernadette Miranda says:

    I am a disabled lady caring for my 87 year old mom, she has many health problems including dementia, this morning in my local newspaper I found an article about your story, it really hit me, coz no one here seems to realize that we caregivers need help too!!! I have not left my mom alone for even an hour for the past two and a half years and frankly it just gets to me sometimes!!!! all I can say is my sense of humour and faith in God keep me going from day to day, endlessly!!!!!!!!!!

    1. nancybercaw says:

      Hi Bernadette. i am with you! Please take time out for yourself whenever you can.

      1. Bernadette Miranda says:

        I do, by helping whenever and in whatever way I can, whoever may ask for help be it a friend or a neighbor or the daily help, and in mailing daily inspirational messages to a large number of friends,these messages I scan from various books from my collection, edit and forward, a lot of effort, but a great stress buster!!! 🙂

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